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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"


Chapter 11 - Eau Claire County in the Civil War

by W. W. Bartlett


Part 11

(-as transcribed from pages 161 - 175)


A SILENT NIGHT MARCH

On the night of April 1, 1865, after dark an army silently marched in and occupied our breastworks and we were ordered to strike tents and prepare to march.  The orders were given in a whisper or very low.  We were told to put our cups in our haversacks, move our bayonet scabbards around toward the back, so that no metal parts would strike and rattle, to keep perfectly still, no talking nor noise in marching.  After forming in line we moved out a little way toward the left and rear.  Our guns were loaded and bayonets fixed.  We each had sixty rounds of ammunition.  We moved a little way in one direction and halted; then moved again and halted.  The night set in misty and so dark that we could not see except by the uncertain light of campfires and that made by burning fuses from shells passing overhead from both sides.  Just before ten o'clock at night of the first, I noticed by the fitful glare of the light made by the burning fuses of the shells, that we were close to the dark walls of a silent fort.  This was Fort Fisher.  We passed through a narrow opening to the left of the fort and against its wall, in the breastworks, just wide enough for one man, and out to the picket lines.  Moving as still as we possibly could, yet a body of seven or eight hundred men make some noise in walking, though we moved slow and picked each step as carefully as we could in the dark and rain.  The mist of the evening had developed into a light, drizzling Virginia rain, which kept falling nearly all night long.  The rebel picket line was alert and at every unusual sound fired toward us and cursed and swore and abused the Yanks.  We at once laid down and kept perfectly still.  We saw the vicious flashes of their guns, heard the bullets cut the air about us, the thud when they hit, and all but two or three of the officers hugged the ground.  Sharp picket firing had been going on this place for days and the breastworks on both sides had been held by a strong force.  The two armies were strongly entrenched all along the lines for miles, but our men, while it was expected they would attack at some point, were trying to keep the point of attack secret.  So every noise on our side was magnified by the enemy into an assault, so when we made any noise their whole force manned their works and began firing at us savagely as long as there was any possibility in their minds of there being any force there other than the picket line.  They had the range and if we were standing their fire would have got a good many of us, and as it was we lost a number of men during the fusillade.  We lay flat on the ground in the darkness and the rain from about ten o'clock for an hour and a half.  The firing upon us gradually ceased.  Those it made no outcry.  No other noise than the thud of the bullets when they struck the victims.  Two soldiers with a stretcher would noiselessly lay the man shot upon it and carry him away.  All those hit, whether killed or wounded, were removed at once.

A mistake had been made when we moved out through the breastworks.  We passed our left in front and when we faced the enemy the rear of the regiment was in front, so about midnight a whispered order was passed along the line, we got up and fell in, formed in rank, and changed front or countermarched.  Although we were as still as we could be, yet the little noise we made roused the Johnnies again and they again began to shoot us.  As soon as we were right in front we laid down again.  In lying down we broke ranks and this time I laid down just in front of Lieutenant Squires of Company G, from Black River Falls.  The rebels shot more accurately this time and we lost more men.  I felt the air cut by a bullet which passed over me and struck the lieutenant; a flesh wound in the lower part of his body.  He yelled, jumped up and ran the whole length of the regiment and fell and they put him on a stretcher and carried him to the rear.  The noise of the lieutenant aroused the whole rebel line opposite and gave them our location.  They fired on us a continuous rattling volley of musketry and yelled and yelled.  The anguishing screams of the wounded lieutenant made them cheer, laugh, damn us and fire at us with all their might.  They hit a number of our men, but the others did not cry out.  We hugged the ground closer than before if possible.  The surface sloped slightly downward toward the enemy and we moved ahead a little to be on a lower level and laid perfectly still while the bullets pounded the earth and cut the air about us.  About two o'clock the firing upon us gradually slackened and finally ceased altogether.  About 2:30 a.m., of April 2, we carefully and silently got to our feet and stood ready, each man a little way from his fellow waiting.  The rain had almost ceased to fall.  We were waiting for the order or signal to charge.  Our feeling was intense.  Nothing could be seen in front.  We knew nothing of the obstacles in our way.  We knew that when the big gun in Fort Fisher behind us spoke that we must charge the unseen enemy and kill or subdue them or die in the effort.

Just before three o'clock the Johnnies had quieted down and ceased yelling and shooting at us.  At three o'clock in the morning of April 2, the big gun in Fort Fisher was fired.  We went in carrying our guns any way, every man paying no attention to what was being said or done by the rest; all charging upon the black darkness ahead.  We cleared the space from where we waited, some hundred yards to the rebel breastworks, tore openings through the abattis and were upon their breastworks as quick as we could run there, but not quick enough to avoid a shot from every rebel who could get his gun and get to the works.  A number of our men were killed and wounded, about fifty altogether.  We surprised the enemy.  After they shot the lieutenant and his yelling with pain caused the commotion at near midnight, we kept so still that they thought they had shot one of our pickets and so they had all turned in excepting the guard when we made the rush.  Most of those we got when we went over the works were dressed only in their shirts and drawers.  When I went over the works a Johnnie laid in his shirt and drawers only.  He had dropped on his knees and fallen over on his back, his head turned to one side, a good looking, strong, well built man, arms thrown out, his gun on his right arm, a bloody, ragged hole in his shirt just over the heart, dead.  He was the first dead man I saw that day.  A smouldering camp fire close by may have made the sight more impressive and the reason why I remember it so well, for I saw a great many men killed before the day was done, but none other made such a distinct impression upon me.  The point where our regiment struck and captured the enemy's line of works was much lower than on both the right and left, the bottom of a small valley.  The land was clear for eighty rods or more from their works to the timber in the rear.  In our line of works both to the right and left, at the top of this valley and about eighty rods apart, were two forts.  The bottom of the valley where we went in happened to be the point of least resistance.  We made so much noise and our line was extended so long and we went with such a rush that though the line swung around and struck theirs end on, yet they must have thought the entire army was upon them.  After the short resistance we drove them into the timber and our regiment was right after them.  My strength gave out and after we got inside their lines and most of the boys pursued the retreating Johnnies, I, with a few others, staid there at the works.  Fires flared up all along the lines and the rain ceased about us.  Most of the light, however, was from the flash of musketry and artillery.  Then it appeared that lines were waiting ready, back at our picket lines, the outcome of our assault, and when our regiment went in and drove the rebels at this point then there was no occasion for concealment and fires burned everywhere and especially to our right and left.  Other members of the regiment who did not chase the enemy gathered about me; some of Company K.  They came over the breastworks and our force rapidly increased.  There was no commissioned officer with us at first.

The flames shooting from the muskets and the two cannon in the fort to our right, and the screams of those shot, the angry yells of the attacking force and those defending, made the battle there fierce and hand to hand.  Our forces in front of the fort were wavering; when I called to our men to attack the fort on the flank and in the rear.  We sent a man over to those in front and we attacked with a rush and yells, shooting as we charged.  Just before we reached the fort, the Johnnies ran and the force in front went in the fort with a rush.  Just then the attack on the fort across the valley to the left, about eighty rods, began to develop.  The Johnnies were working their one gun to the limit.  The flash of musketry showed that there was a large force of infantry in there and that they were all fighting with frenzy.  Because of the darkness, I could not see the line of men attacking the fort, but the flashes of their guns showed it to be a large body and that it was attacking and was within gunshot of the fort.  I pointed out to those with me the fight going on at the fort across the valley and told them that we must go across the valley and help.  We rushed down the slope, more men joining us on the way, among whom was a captain of one of the companies of our regiments, with his naked sword in his hand, wild and excited, not knowing what to do.  I told him to put up his sword; that he could not do anything with that; to pick up a gun and some cartridges and come along, we were going to attack that fort up there on the left.  The ground was strewn with guns and cartridge boxes, and he at once armed himself and came along.  The wall of the fort on the flank where we attacked was ten to twelve feet high from the bottom of the ditch to the top, the side steep and sloping.  I told the men that we would run up the wall with our loaded guns ready, point the muzzle down inside held at arm's length above our leads and fire and run down in the ditch, load and run up and fire again as fast as possible.  We attacked in this way and looked sharp for any of them who would dare to show himself.  We made noise enough for a thousand men.  By the cries of pain from inside the fort, I knew that an occasional shot of ours was hitting.  The army attacking in front was pushing its force close to the fort, when cry for quarter came from the fort to us.  It told them to throw down their arms, put up their hands and come over and surrender.  They ceased firing; part of them ran away and some of them came out and surrendered to us.

We were in possession of over a mile of the enemy's works, including two forts and three pieces of artillery and a squad of prisoners in immediate charge of the men that were with me.  The battle had begun to rage off to our left a half mile away in which large bodies of men were fighting.  It was an attack on the rebel line.  The Fifth Wisconsin had not yet returned from the timber into which it chased the enemy.  I wanted to hold our prisoners until the regiment returned.  Some of the men with me wanted to shoot them.  The prisoners were scared.  I would not stand for shooting them or typing them, but tried to get a guard of volunteers to take them to the rear and deliver them to the provost guards.  No one would volunteer, so I decided to take them to the rear myself.

On the afternoon of April 2, 1865, after the enemy had been drive out of their works to the left, and forced back toward Petersburg, and after numerous battles were fought, in none of which we were called upon to take part, a rebel battery in a grove on a high place inside the enemy's lines was shelling the Union forces.  Its fire was disastrous.  The gunners were very active and their fire accurate.  The Fifth Wisconsin was ordered to charge that battery and drive them out or capture them.  From where we were to reach the battery we had to move across an open field of rolling or undulating surface.  The regiment moved out in columns of fours.  My feet had become so lame that I could not keep up.  The regiment followed depression for protection.   Its course was zigzag, always going nearer to the battery.  I told the colonel that my feet were so lame that I could not keep up and so I would go straight toward the battery, which I did.  As soon as the battery saw that the regiment was bearing down upon it, it directed its fire against the regiment.  I went across higher ground and nearer the battery than the regiment and clearly saw them both.  The first shell they fired went over the regiment, struck the ground beyond and exploded.  They depressed the gun, and the second shell struck the ground near me, bounded above the regiment also, went in the ground beyond and exploded.  Both shells tore great holes in the earth.  The third shot got the range of the regiment and struck a man in the shoulder and ranged through the file of four men, literally tearing them to pieces.  The regiment charged the battery at double quick and it limbered up and went off at a gallop toward Petersburg to another high point and opened on us again just as we reached the ground where they were.  A few shells exploded over us, but we were not touched.  About four o'clock the army was formed in line of battle at right angles to the rebel works and as soon as formed, the left extending for half a mile inside those works and the right far beyond them, towards the Union works, the Fifth Wisconsin near the left, a general advance towards Petersburg was begun.  I took my place in the ranks, though I was suffering excruciating pain in my feet.  We moved slowly forward until about six o'clock, when we halted for the night, the whole line resting with arms at hand or lying on their arms all night.

Guards were detailed for camp and picket duty and the men of the regiment laid down utterly exhausted and slept with guns loaded and ready by their sides.  I could not sleep, so I volunteered as guard and was placed in charge of both camp and picket.  Towards night the commander of our brigade was detailed to serve as a member of a court martial and our colonel being the next in rank took command of the brigade.  At six o'clock that night he was detailed as general officer of the day for the army and reported at headquarters, where plans for the night were completed and he was charged to execute them.  By virtue of his position as general officer of the day, he was, while holding that position, in command of the army.  He rode along the entire line, followed by a long retinue of aides and orderlies, giving instructions to the several commanders, and back to headquarters.  The camp guards were posted, the pickets were also posted and each picket post sent out a vidette.  While I was trying to rest and after dark (no lights were permitted along the line) the colonel came down from headquarters on foot wearing the big red sash over his right shoulder, across his breast and ends crossing on his left side, the insignia of his rank as general officer of the day.  He asked me who was in charge of the camp.  I told him I was.  He said that he was completely exhausted and could not keep up any longer; that although it was contrary to the rules for him to sleep while on duty, he could not keep awake any longer.  I told him to get a blanket and wrap up so that his sash could not be seen and cover his head and I would call him if there was occasion for it; that I could not sleep and would watch for him.  He outlined his duties to me, gave me his password for the night, pulled off his boots and put them under his head, rolled up in his blanket and covered up so completely that he could not be distinguished from any one else lying there.  I jammed the bayonet of my gun down in the ground at his head with the butt of the gun straight up in the air as a guide and he went to sleep and I became the substitute general officer of the day for the Army of the Potomac, a position which a man in the ranks never held before or since.  As soon as everything was quiet, I went down to a little stream which ran across our line and pulled off my shoes and stockings and sat on the bank with my feet in the creek for nearly two hours.  This gave me great relief.  I did this tow or three times that night and my feet were much better.

Near midnight a noise as of moving bodies could be heard away out beyond the picket line.  I went out to see about it, out to the picket posts, out beyond to the videttes and from post to post.  When away out at the front I could hear noises like men tramping, wheels like those of wagons and artillery moving.  I carefully noted the direction it was taking.  I noticed that the noise was gradually increasing in volume, not from the cause of the noise coming nearer, but rather from those making the noise increasing in number.  I went back to the regiment, woke up the general with some difficulty and told him that the rebels were evacuating Petersburg; that they were running away.  He listened a minute and said, "Let them go," and drew his blanket about him and went to sleep again.  So Lee and his army got away.

The evacuation of Petersburg by Lee and his army, the Army of Virginia, was begun at midnight on the second day of April.  He retreated up the Appomattox river.  We learned soon afterwards that Richmond was also evacuated and the whole rebel government in full retreat.  From the beginning of hostilities the effort of the Army of the Potomac had been to capture Richmond and drive the rebel government out.  Every battle in the East fought by it had that purpose for its ultimate object.  The army under McClellan got almost there.  Then Burnside got as far as Fredericksburg.  Then Hooker was stopped and forced back at Chancellorsville.  Then Grant was stopped at the Wilderness.  "Baldy" Smith and Butler were turned back at Petersburg and on the James river.  In none of the many bloody battles theretofore fought, had the way been clear to Richmond, although many of them were among the most bloody in history.  Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the battles in the Wilderness, all failed to bring about the fall of Richmond.  They were each and all more bloody than the second battle of Petersburg, but by none of them was the enemy forced into a hasty retreat and the victorious army able to make a prompt and vigorous pursuit.  In no other battle in Virginia had the defeat of the enemy been so crushing or disastrous to it that it could not control its plan of retreat and take the necessary steps to recover from or repair the disaster.  While the enemy became less and less powerful at each successive battle, whether won or lost by it, yet if any one battle was the decisive battle of the war, that battle was the second battle of Petersburg, for it produced results that no other battle accomplished, the fall of Richmond.

Early in the morning of April 3, the army started in pursuit of Lee.  The Fifth Wisconsin, having been in front or first regiment to move the day before in the attack on Petersburg, was the last to move today.  Rations were issued to us, including about a gill of whiskey to each man.  I held my tin cup with the rest fro my share and all the boys knew I did not drink, some thought that I would divide it up among them and so I got rather a larger ration.  My cup was nearly full, but instead of passing it around, I turned it down my heels in each shoe and thereby incurred the bitter condemnation of some of the members of the company, who had a great liking for it.  I think this was the only ration of whiskey issued to us while we were in the service.  It was well toward noon when we began the march, in the rear.  About the middle of the afternoon we halted at a small creek to fill our canteens and rest.  While we were scattered along the creek resting and lying stretched out on the ground along side the road we were traveling, Generals Grant and Meade suddenly rode out of the brush along the road back of us and halted at the creek close by me in the road for a few minutes and talked with our colonel.  Grant looked happy.  The colonel congratulated him for the great victory won yesterday.  The general replied, waving his hand along the regiment: "To you and those men belongs the credit."

In the morning of April 5 we were ordered to report to Sheridan at the front at once and half rations were issued to us, that is, half the usual amount for five days, and about eight o'clock we were on our way.  We stopped to rest five minutes every hour, half an hour at noon, half an hour at midnight, half an hour at six o'clock in the morning of the sixth of April, half an hour at noon of that day, and about four o'clock in the afternoon we were at the front.  Company K was on the extreme right of the regiment and I was on the extreme right of the company and the regiment was on the extreme right of the line.  Many of the men had fallen out.  They could not stand the forced march.  The whole number in Company K then in line was twenty-six men and it mustered more men than any other of the companies in the line of the regiment.  Some of the companies had no more than half our number in line.

Sheridan, with his cavalry, had brought General Ewell's corps too, and it had been handling him pretty rough, and he asked General Grant to send him the Sixth Corps in a hurry.  He was being whipped.  It was the Sixth Corps that whipped the Johnnies at Cedar Creek, in the Shenandoah Valley.  It was the Sixth Corps that Sheridan called for repeatedly to aid him in his fights down on the left of Petersburg, but Grant would not let him have it then.  It was the Sixth Corps that assaulted this same Ewell's corps at Mary's Heights at Fredericksburg, and the Fifth Wisconsin led in that memorable assault and captured the heights and drove this same army that we now faced.  From the time Sheridan with his troops, marched around the right of Lee's army and joined Grant's, or the Army of the Potomac, on the extreme left, he kept calling for the Sixth Corps.  He called for it before the battle of Dunwiddie Court House, fought March 31, was offered the Fifth, Warren's, but refused it.  He again called for the Sixth Corps before the affairs at Five Forks and Bradley Run.  He told Grant that he could break in the enemy's right if he had the Sixth Corps.  General Grant told him that the Sixth Corps could not be taken from its position in the line, and offered him the Second.  Sheridan's campaign with his cavalry and the Sixth Corps in the Shenandoah Valley had been very successful, so when his cavalry was put back near Sailor's creek, he had again asked for the Sixth Corps, and by Grant's direction, it was sent him.  In the note Grant wrote to Sheridan, he said, "The Sixth Corps will go in with a vim any place you may dictate."  So Sheridan sent word to Wright, commanding the corps, to hurry, and he says that "The gallant corps came up as fast as legs could carry them."  Wheaton's men (the Fifth Wisconsin was one of Wheaton's regiments) came up all hot and out of breath and promptly formed for the attack, and while the whole line promptly attacked the enemy and fought the battle of Sailor's Creek, which Sheridan called one of the severest conflicts of the war.  He said that it has never been accorded the prominence it is entitled to, because it was overshadowed by the stirring events of the surrender of Lee three days later.  It resulted in the capture of six generals and from nine to ten thousand prisoners.

To our left, rapidly forming into line, was the first division of the Sixth Corps.  Before us was the valley of Sailor's Creek; the creek was at the bottom of the valley, about 80 rods from us; we were formed on the edge of the hill, which dropped down to a freshly plowed field, which extended to the creek.  On the other side of the creek, the land was more broken and rough with scattering timber to a Virginia rail fence, about 40 rods from the creek in the edge of the timber.  Behind the rail fence, with guns pointing our way, was Ewell's corps, extending in a long line, both to right and left out of sight.  It was 4 o'clock in the afternoon when Company K took its place on the right of the line, the officers all being present.  Captain Hall, Lieutenant Colonel Bull, who commanded the regiment, were in a group at my right; General Wheaton, our division commander, was in the group at my right, discussing the plan of battle.  General Wheaton stated that the plan was, as soon as a line of battle was finally formed and the men had got their breaths, to advance the whole line and attack the enemy where it lay.  After General Wheaton outlined his plan of attack, our colonel urged him to send in the Fifth Wisconsin against that line of rebels alone.  Wheaton refused, then with tears running down his face, the colonel urged the officers to let us go; he said we could whip them alone.  The colonel was so earnest and begged so hard, that General Wheaton finally, with reluctance, consented, saying to one of his aides that they would send troops in to support them.  We were required to charge a line of nearly 20,000 desperate men, armed to kill, across an open plain with no kind of a shelter and no protection.  We loaded our guns and fixed bayonets and all the commissioned officers and surgeons took their regular places in a charge in the rear and we moved forward in double line.  We were ordered to cross the creek, deploy in a single line, each man about two feet from his fellow, and to lie down until the order was given to charge and then to jump to our feet and rush the enemy's line with all our might.  The band played and filled the valley with its music; there was no levity among us.  We marched with our guns on our shoulders toward the creek and the enemy beyond, down across the plowed field until we were near the creek, when a few of the enemy began to shoot at us and wounded two or three men.  The line wavered and became crooked and some of the men lagged.  Lieutenant Colonel Bull, in command, halted the regiment, came forward to the head of the line where I stood and right dressed the line.  As the men formed in line again in the face of a fusillade from the enemy, and a great cheer from the Union line, we again moved forward and plunged into the yellow, rapidly flowing water of Sailor's creek, which was about hip deep and a rod wide, and hurried across.  Volleys from the whole rebel line were fired into us while we were in the creek.  It got several men.  We dropped down and hugged the earth as close as we could while they fired into us and kept up all the time the terrible "rebel yell."  We laid just long enough to get our breath when Colonel Bull passed the word along the line that when the order was given to charge, not to try to keep in line, but every man rush to the top of his speed and fight for his life and yell.  At the command, we jumped up and rushed for the enemy, yelling and firing, every man frenziedly fighting for his life.  We ran against a terrible storm of bullets, men dropping as they ran.  Those of us not hit rushed on over the crest of the slope and down at the rebels.  There could be but one or two results from our charge; we must drive them or they must destroy us.  As we charged down that slope at them, mad and firing and yelling, the whole rebel line in our front and near flanks gave way and started to retreat; they got but a rod or two from the barricade when some of them, their officers and men, yelled at each other:  "What are you scared at, there is only a few of them," and they jumped back to the fence and began again to shoot at us more desperately than ever.  In our charge, Company K had swerved off to the right; the general movement of the regiment was in that direction; the exposure was not quite so bad, but absolutely deadly everywhere, and just at this time I found myself among the men of Company B.  Every man about me was down and I got down.  Up to this time I had not fired a shot.  I tried to shoot, snapped my gun several times, but it hung fire.  There were none left for the Johnnies to shoot at, for most of those down were shot down, and those of us lying down for safety, took care to keep very still.  The ground all around me was littered with guns, and as I could not fire my own, I dropped it and selected a good looking one from those on the ground, and loaded it.  Firing upon us by the enemy slackened.  The Second Rhode Island were sent in by General Wheaton on the double quick to our relief, and that diverted attention from us.  A group of Johnny officers were talking off to the left behind their line, and I tried my new found gun on them.  I aimed at a man in the group and fired; there was a scream of pain, consoling words by others in the group not to mind, the shot was not serious.  A yell from the line, an angry order from an officer, "Shoot the d__n Yankee _______," and a fire in my direction, it seemed to me, of a hundred guns.  I have never been able to understand why I was not hit by that fire.  I felt the bullets cut the air about me; I got back a piece behind a tree, for I realized the danger I was in.  In looking about me, I saw Captain Hall, the only officer there on the field.  Our colonel came up, his feelings all cut up over the drubbing we got and crying like a child.  The entire regiment with their colors was captured by the Johnnies and recaptured later by the Thirty-seventh Massachusetts.  Over 80 per cent of the rank and file of the Fifth Wisconsin that moved down across the plowed field and attacked the enemy were killed or wounded.  The charge from the creek until we were -- done up -- lasted about five minutes.  Nineteen of the twenty-six in line in Company K were hit, and it suffered less than any other company in the regiment.  Every man in Company B, among whom I found myself, was shot.  I alone escaped.  Our colors were saved, but every man in the color guard was hit.  The artillery had shelled the enemy when they repulsed us and captured the Second Rhode Island and then the whole line charged the Johnnies and drove them.  Stragglers from the regiment kept coming in after the battle.  Some of us remained and gathered up our dead and buried them and helped pick up the wounded.  The company moved off with the balance of the regiment after the retreating enemy and we laid down and slept till morning.  This battle was not ended and the enemy in full retreat until night set in.  Sheridan, in reference to the defense put up by the enemy to our attack, says that they fought like tigers.  The result of the battle of Sailor's Creek was the capture of Rebel Generals Ewell, Kershaw, Barton, Corse, Dubose and Curtis Lee, and about 9,000 to 10,000 prisoners.  Another result quite as important was cutting off Lee's retreat south to join Johnston, and driving his army across the Appomattox river toward Appomattox Court House.

The Sixth Corps had proved to the enemy by the bloody battle of Sailor's Creek that it was able and in position to prevent the rebel army from retreating south without exhausting its entire strength to defeat us.  The victory and the capture of most of Ewell's corps by us had released the cavalry from its embarrassed position, and Sheridan again at once placed it across the enemy's line of retreat.  The cavalry moved out in the right after the battle was over and part of the Sixth Corps was sent out also to support it.  This force was fairly across the enemy's line of retreat and it had either to turn north, cross the Appomattox river and get that stream between its army and us or fight another pitched battle at once.  Fighting was on all the time, day and night, but the opposing forces were moving on both sides, the enemy in retreat and our troops pursuing.  The sound of the rattling fire of musketry kept up during the night after the battled and kept moving away toward the west.  The Fifth Wisconsin moved out in the rear of the Sixth Corps very early in the morning.  Stragglers, members of the regiment, both officers and men, who were unable to keep pace with its two days' and nights' continuous forced march to take part in the battle, kept coming up until, when the pursuit of the enemy began after the battle was over, most of them were with the regiment.  In helping to bury the dead and care for the wounded I became separated from the company and was not with it when it marched with the regiment, and about a dozen of us started out to join the army next morning, without rations.  The sound of musketry had turned from west to north and was moving in a northerly direction, miles away from us.  We started toward the sound of firing, across the country the shortest way, not following the line of march of the army, keeping together as protection against guerillas and bushwhackers and looking for something to eat.  We sighted a mansion surrounded by fields and negro quarters and other buildings.  We cautiously reconnoitered and found that the place was not guarded.  We went there and asked for enough food to last us until we overtook the army, which we offered to pay for.  They told us there was not a mouthful of food on the place.  The woman and two or three younger children, were sitting together on the porch and lying on the floor of the porch in their midst was a young man, the son, bleeding from several wounds he received the night or day before, suffering.  His father and mother showed the anguish they felt and the children sat quietly, tears running down their faces.  They expected if they did not provide us with food that we would burn their buildings.  We put our pickets to guard against surprise and began a search.  In a store-room filled, as they said, with empty barrels, we found a barrel of flour at the bottom of the pile.  One man found a pail of lard in the basement.  Two or three chased down a few chickens that had been overlooked by former raiders and we had the old negro mammy cook some frying flapjacks and chicken.  Artillery and musketry sound off the northwest was very heavy.  We each took a portion of flour and piece of friend chicken and moved fast toward the sound of the guns and overtook the regiment at Farmville, on the Appomattox.

The Johnnies had crossed the river at Farmville and fired the bridge and made a stand there, but our men had charged and drove them out and put out the fire.  The Fifth Wisconsin took no part in that skirmish.  Up to the beginning of the war, Farmville was said to be the largest primary tobacco market in the world.  There were huge warehouses there filled with all kinds of manufactured tobacco when the troops hit the town.  The troops halted there for a while and when we struck the town, just after our regiment had come up, the streets were literally carpeted with pig tails, twist, plug and other styles of tobacco.  The lovers of the weed were in the seventh heaven.  Davis, of Company K, emptied all his clothes from his knapsack and filled every inch of it with tobacco, making a load that staggered him, but he was one of the happiest men in the army for a while.  Some of the buildings were set on fire and destroyed.  The continued pounding by the cavalry of the outskirts of Lee's army was crowding it en masse, and we were put in motion again.  By rapid marches were pushed across his front, or on the south side, of his troops, in line of battle on April 9, 1865, in the edge of timber with a wide open field between us and his army.  We stacked arms and with broken ranks were right by our guns, ready in an instant for any movement of the enemy, which we knew was just beyond the timber across the field in front.  We all realized that the critical time was at hand; that the only chance for the enemy to escape was to break our line; that his escape meant aid for Johnston and the defeat of Sherman.  Cheers came ringing down the line and with them word that Lee had surrendered.  This report was premature, but for the time it set the army wild.  The report was soon contradicted, but later in the day another report came that he had surrendered, and this proved to be true.

After the surrender of General Lee we marched back to Burksville Junction and went into camp, from whence we expected to be transferred to Washington to take part in the grand review, plans for which were begun.  We had hardly gone into camp when the report came that President Lincoln, his cabinet and General Grant had been assassinated.  The report had a peculiar effect on the troops.  The Sixth Corps continued under the separate command of General Sheridan from the time it was sent to him by Grant to help him out of the hole that Ewell had him in at Sailor's Creek, and he was now doing his to be allowed to go to Washington so that he could ride at the head of his army in the grand review, but General Grant ordered otherwise.  The terms that Johnston had gotten from Sherman for the surrender of the army was not satisfactory, and Sheridan, with the Sixth Corps and his cavalry, was ordered south.  The march to Danville was a forced march, the only incident of special note on the march were the extraordinary beauty of Southern Virginia, across which we passed.  We had scarcely reached Danville when Johnston surrendered on the same terms given Lee, and the effect of our march was completed.  After Johnston's surrender, the Fifth Wisconsin did guard duty on the Southern railroad, guarding Confederate government property, which was being gathered up and shipped, generally to Washington.  After the property had been shipped we were marched to Washington by the way of Richmond and Fredericksburg.  We marched to Arlington Heights and camped there.  We were impatient to be mustered out and go home, but we had to remain there until the accounts of the officers and men with the government were squared.  Finally an officer came over from Washington and condemned our tents, guns and accoutrements.  After remaining in camp at Arlington for some time, we were finally ordered home.

J. F. Ellis.

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