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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 12

(-as transcribed from pages 175 - 185)

The last company that went out from Eau Claire County for the Civil War was recruited in February, 1865, with Hobart M. Stocking as captain and Mark Sherman as first lieutenant, and was mustered into service as Company G, of the Forty-eighth Wisconsin Infantry.  I give below the names of those in this company who enlisted from Eau Claire county or vicinity.  I also furnish you a letter received several years ago from Captain Stocking, in response to a request from me that he tell the story of his company.  It is a very interesting and valuable addition to the Civil War history of Eau Claire county.  Although Captain Stocking was unable to furnish a war-time picture of himself, I was fortunate enough to find a small picture of him in uniform, which I am furnishing you with this article.

Following are the names of those in the company who enlisted into Company G, Forty-Eighth Wisconsin Infantry from Eau Claire county or vicinity.
  Captain - Hobart M. Stocking
First Lieutenant - H. Sherman
AMUNDSON, Hans     
KOPP, Andrew
AYRES, Warwick
KOPPLE, George
BAGGS, Francis C.
BARTZ, August 
BARTZ, Lewis
MACOMBER, Sylvester M.
BEAU, Joseph
MARTIN, Frederick
BETZ, George
MATTISON, La Fayette
MATTOX, George W.
MERGENER, Nicholas
BULLIS, Henry S.
BUSSEY, Charles J.
CLARK, Horace F.
OLIN, Manum C
CLARK, William
PUTNEY, Asabel
COLE, Henry E.
CRAFT, Howard W.
DAVIS, Stewart A.
SCHWANKEE, Christian
DENNY, Joseph
SHONG, John M.
EDSON, Sylvannus
SLOAT, James
SMITH, Horace H.
SMITH, James J.
FLAGG, Nathaniel Jr.
SNOW, Marshus L.
SPEHLE, Joseph
FULLER, Roland
HAINES, Benjamin F.
STONE, Horatio R.
HALL, William J.
SWAN, Sylvester P.
HAMMER, Phillip
THAYER, Charles
HIGGINS, Thomas C.
WARREN, Charles F.
HOLDEN, Alonzo E.
KAATZ, August B.
KENYON, Thomas F.
WITTEE, Frederick
WORKS, Obadiah
KIDDER, Squire B.
WRIGHT, George B.

Although this company went out near the close of the war, they suffered severe hardships and in common with the recruits who went earlier, they made good and were a credit to the county.

In the preface to his letter, Captain Stocking states that he was unable to find a picture of himself in uniform, but an Eau Claire friend of the captain has unearthed a small picture and I am sending it to you, also a picture of Lieutenant Mark Sherman.  I am sorry that I have mislaid the later picture of Captain Stocking, which is mentioned in his letter.

         By Capt. H. M. Stocking

         St. Paul, Minn., August 5, 1907

Mr. W. W. Bartlett, Eau Claire, Wis.

Dear Sir:  I neglected answering yours of the seventh ult., thinking I might be able to find some record which would refresh my memory and enable me to answer your inquiry in detail, but I have looked from "cellar to garret" and not a vestige of record can I find, nor can I find a photograph in uniform, so I send you today, under separate cover, a photograph taken a few months ago.  Forty-one years is a long time to remember, especially when one has been busy with other pursuits and interests, but I shall do the best I can.

The regiment to which I belonged did not put down the Rebellion nor force the surrender of Lee and Johnston.  We were late in the field and had barely left the state when Lee Surrendered.  I presume he got news of our muster and was afraid we might be marching his way.  It was my privilege to command Company G, Forty-eight Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, which I recruited at Eau Claire.  We were mustered in early in the year of 1865, either in February or March.  The company was the heaviest in weight of any which ever left this state; rank and file, the average weight was 153 pounds.  This included my drummer boy, who weighed 90 pounds, and myself, who weighed 93 pounds.  This distinction caused us extra labor during our first march through Missouri in April, where we literally carried the wagon train across the western part of the state.  My company being the largest and coming from the pineries, the colonel got the impression that we could endure, and whenever the wagon-train got stuck, which was often, he would ask me if I could take it out, and I think it is no exaggeration to say that I wheeled my company out of line each day a half dozen times or more and literally carried the heavy wagons and contents to good footing.  There was never a swollen stream to ford, and they were many, for it was a wet spring, that Company G did not take the advance and "set the example."  The colonel would say, "Captain, if you can take your men across there, half the regiment will follow the example; the water is deep and so cold that I dislike to order men to ford, but as your men are from the pinery and can stand hardship, if you will just take the lead you will oblige, etc."  We always took the lead.  So much for the reputation of being big and strong.  In this case it was a handicap.

I think I was one of the youngest, if not the youngest, officer who ever left the state.  I was mustered as captain two months before I was eighteen years of age.  I forced my age a year in order to muster.  The regiment was organized in Milwaukee at Camp Washburn, and early in March we were sent to Benton Barracks, Mo., to drill.  We only remained there one week and were then ordered west to garrison posts along the Missouri and Kansas border, where the bushwhackers were still troublesome.  Our march through Missouri was uneventful, save for the mud and water and the trifling annoyances of bushwhackers, who were hovering about our flanks day and night  Being infantry, we could hardly go after the mounted bushwhackers, and they were very bold at times, burning houses and pillaging and murdering frequently within sight of the command.  Before we could reach the spot to offer assistance they were mounted and off.

Our first stop was at Paola, Kan., where Companies G and F were detached.  Our stay was limited, however, as the night of the second day after being detached I received orders to proceed to Mound City, thirty-five miles south, with all possible dispatch and take command of the post there.  We made this march in thirteen hours.  At one point, "Big Sugar Bottoms," for seven continuous miles the water was from waist to shoulder deep.  It was a hard march and when I got there and reported to General Blunt by wire, I received in reply a complimentary dispatch, in which the general expressed surprise at the fact of our reaching our destination so soon, saying he expected it would take two days.  I was young and inexperienced and supposed the order which read "all possible dispatch" meant all it said, and I fulfilled the order to the letter.  We marched the distance in thirteen hours.  I don't believe we could have cut off two minutes from the time, as it was heavy footing, and while in many places the water was too deep to wade with ease, it was hardly deep enough to swim with knapsack weighting from sixty to eighty pounds on one's back.  We were ordered to Mound City to relieve a company of Kansas Jayhawkers, as the reckless Fifteen Kansas was called.  Captain Swain, a former captain of this company, who had a few weeks before been sentenced by court martial to a term in military prison at Jeffersonville, Mo., had made his escape and was in hiding.  A troop of regular army cavalry was scouring the country trying to find him.  The captain in command of this troop suspected he was in hiding in the vicinity of Mound City and that this company was shielding him, hence we were ordered there to relieve the command.

I arrived at Mound City and went at once to headquarters and found there in command a much bewhiskered officer, faultlessly attired in regulation uniform, who received me with much formality an addressed me as "orderly."  On reading the order he did not seem well pleased, and asked, "Where is this Captain Stocking?"  I replied, "Here."  With surprise and slight sneer he looked me over and said, "You Captain Stocking?"  I replied in the affirmative and forgave him the sneer, as I certainly was a rough looking kid, a beardless boy in fatigue uniform, without a strap or bar to indicate my rank, and my clothes literally bespattered with Missouri clay.  One could hardly blame the man for not wishing to turn over the command to such a youthful-looking tramp.  On recovering from his surprise he asked, "When do you wish to take command?"  I replied, "Immediately."  He said, "Surely not tonight."  I said, "You have read my orders, which say 'immediately.'  You can consider yourself relieved now."  He did not take this kindly.  I had a man shot on picket duty that night, and when we were rolled out at midnight the situation had me guessing for a time.  The night was dark as a pocket, with a strong wind and heavy rain,  and the location entirely new, as I was too tired to reconnoiter much before retiring that evening.  I really was at a loss to know whether it was an attack from Taylor's band of bushwhackers, which were operating in that vicinity, or a shot from some straggling horse thief who was trying to open the corral where the post was located.  I had the satisfaction of ordering a detachment of twenty-five men from the Jayhawkers to roll out and scout in the dark and rain until daylight.  I also reinforced the picket with mounted men from that command, which took the last man from their quarters and there was some swearing done on their part.  After the fullest investigation I came to the conclusion that my man was shot by one of these self-same Jayhawkers in a spirit of revenge or an effort to stampede the "Doughboys."  A stampede did not occur and I never was able to fasten the crime on them.  The one satisfaction I had was in keeping their company out all night in the storm.  They were a lawless bunch, and if I could ever have fastened this attempted murder on them they would have certainly received a sample of discipline of which they were in sore need, and with which they were not entirely acquainted.

We garrisoned this post about four months.  Our duty here was light and rather uninteresting.  Bushwhacker scares among the native were frequent, as they were very nervous, having been frequently raided.  We gave them the fullest protection, however, and in return we were treated better by the citizens than we would have probably been treated in our own state.

In August, General Taylor, seeing the "jig was up," and that they could not divide the spoils with the troops then garrisoning the border, capitulated to our colonel, who was in command at Fort Scott, twenty-two miles distant.  He surrendered a band of 153 mounted guerillas, who were taken to prison at For Leavenworth.  This wound up the guerilla warfare, and there was no further need of our services there.

We were ordered to Lawrence, Kan., to rendezvous as a regiment.  We expected to be mustered out, but instead were sent west to relieve the Eighth United States "Galvanized" Rebels, who were garrisoning posts on the western frontier.  This service was scattered from Fort Ellsworth on the east to Fort Union on the southwest.  Fort Ellsworth was on the Smoky Hill Fork, and Fort Union was at a point about 100 miles southwest of Pike's Peak.

Companies E and G were stationed at Fort Zarah.  Our colonel with four companies was at Fort Larned, twenty-four miles west.  The remaining four companies in command of Major Butt were, I think, stationed at Fort Union.  A little excitement was threatened shortly after Captain Hutchinson of Company E took command at Fort Zarah.  The troops, who were rebels taken from Rock Island and other prisoners, officered by Union officers, and placed in the Indian service on the frontier, were really as bitter rebels as ever.  We had 800 of them assembled at Fort Zarah awaiting marching orders to Fort Leavenworth, where they expected to be discharged.  The order was slow in coming and the command mutinied and refused to do duty.  Captain Hutchinson ordered that the arms be taken from the men and they confined to quarters on prisoners' rations.  The men refused to give up their arms.  The situation was threatening and it required courage to meet it, as they were 800 to our 135; they occupied quarters and we occupied tents, but Captain Hutchinson had the nerve requisite, and me made good, quelled the mutiny and the troops did duty until their orders came.   Our service at Fort Zarah was strenuous if not exciting.  It consisted of the ordinary garrison duty and escort duty, which in some cases was very distasteful.  Colonel Dent was at the Big Bend of the Arkansas a few miles south, with a supply camp, issuing annuities to the Indians.  Bodies of chiefs and head men of the tribes would come to the fort, and the commander would give them a liberal body-guard in command of a trusty officer to protect them from the desire of revenge on the part of the soldiers, on their way to receive the presents of the government at the hands of  Colonel Dent.  The situation was further aggravated by the knowledge that a half-breed son of this same Colonel Dent was in command of a body of Sioux warriors, murdering and pillaging on the Platte route, only thirty-five miles north.  Stage coaches were held up, passengers murdered, the stock stolen and coaches burned by this blood-thirsty band.  Woe be to the straggling soldier who fell into their hands.  Some of the most fiendish tortures imaginable were meted out to these self-same soldiers.  We were lucky in escaping them, but they got some of the Seventeenth Illinois Cavalry and tortured them to death, sometimes in sight of Fort Fletcher, where a detachment of this regiment was stationed.

Being mounted, the tendency of the men was to straggle and hunt buffalo.  I had a party of twenty men, who had been kept busy getting wood for winter for several weeks, and who were enjoying the hunt which had been promised them, when we came nearly running into the jaws of this blood-thirsty band.  Some hunters discovered our camp fire and warned us of the close proximity of the Indians, and we stood not on the order of going, but "got" for the fort as soon as we could get our stock, which had stampeded, and run to the fort that evening.  It seems an interposition of Providence that saved us, for that very day the men had been hunting in parties of ten within a few miles of Fort Fletcher, and that same day the Indians captured two stage coaches, shot the passengers one by one as they were trying to escape, burning the coaches and running off with the stock.  They caught two soldiers of the Seventeenth Illinois Cavalry within sight of the fort and tortured them to death in a manner too revolting to put on paper.  Little wonder the soldiers were ready to retaliate on sight and that it was necessary to strongly guard the parties who came for annuities.  The father issuing annuities and the son murdering and torturing in the same vicinity was an aggravating situation.

Kit Carson, the famous scout and delightful man, later went into camp five miles north of us on the Walnut.  As guests he had for a time the secretary of the legation of Belgium and the assistant secretary of the legation of Prussia, whom we often entertained at mess.  Both were trying to enjoy the hunting of buffaloes, but they had some sad experiences, the Belgian shooting his horse through the neck by accident and getting a bruising fall when the horse went down.  They soon got tired of the sport and returned to civilization at the first opportunity.  We enjoyed their visits very much, and when they left us they gave each officer an urgent invitation to call on them should we ever visit their country.  It was my privilege to command an escort for Kit Carson on his final and successful effort to complete a treaty with the five war tribes, and which was accomplished after days of, to me, aggravating parleying at a point called Plum Buttes.  Each day's council would be broken up by the defiant chief of the Arapahoes, who had a white woman prisoner for his squaw and he refused to give her up, which was one of the conditions of completing the treaty.  About 4 p.m. each day he would mount his horse and ride off, and all the chiefs would follow him, breaking up the council.  The soldiers were very impatient, and the last day I suggested to Carson that we murder the whole band.  He replied, "No, no, for God's sake, put that out of your head.  They will come to time in the end," and they did.  Of this patient, persistent, quiet man I can only say he was one of the most delightful companions and straightforward, determined men I ever met.  He believed in the Indians, or pretended to, and they swore by him.  He deserved their confidence.  This treaty was signed and peace reigned for a time.  How long I do not remember, but for the few days we remained on the frontier it was safe to travel without fear of losing one's scalp.

Early in December we were relieved by regular troops and started on our homeward march.  Here let me say, that I believe that for exposure and fatigue, no troops ever made such a march in America.  The night before we left Fort Zarah a foot of snow fell.  Our first two days' march was uneventful, the weather, although cold, was not severe.  The morning of the third day a blizzard struck us, which continued almost uninterruptedly for four days.  The first day the mules would not face it and we had to go in camp at the end of a five-mile march.  Having only drawn enough rations to make the march, which, if my memory serves me right, was twenty-four days, we could not tarry or we would be out of supplies in that vast wilderness of snow and upon a bleak plain.  The second day we started with a shovel corps of fifty men, who were relieved by a fresh detail of men each hour, and we literally shoveled our roads for eighty miles.  The wagon master would take his riding mule by the tail and start him out to find the trail.  When he floundered the men would shovel him out, and they were shoveling him out most of the time.   The snow was from three to thirty feet deep.  Every ravine or depression in the plains was filled.  Some of these ravines were twenty to thirty feet and often of greater depth.  At night we would cut out a hole in the snow for our tents and pitch them.  Companies E and G had only dog tents, properly called shelter tents, and these would often be covered up in the morning if the wind was high, making it snug and comfortable during the night, but "Oh, what a difference in the morning," when the cook's detail would roll out and make a fire of wet elm, over which the cook would brew hot coffee.  Men would take a cup of coffee in one hand and hardtack in the other and make a large ring about the fire and take a dog trot and keep it up until coffee and hardtack were consumed, then off for the day's tramp.  Only one day did we lose the trail entirely.  That night we camped about three miles south of a rocky prominence on a high sugar-loaf hill, which, if I remember right, was called Chimney Rock.  When I went to the wagon train to get a shovel to shovel the snow away so I could pitch my tent I met the wagonmaster and said to him:  "I thought we passed north of that rock when we marched out."  He replied: "You did, the road is at the north, but I tell you, captain, no landmark ever looked so good to me as that very rock when I sighted it this p.m.  I was lost all day."  I replied that I did not know it.  He said, "Of course you didn't know it.  It was all I could do to fight the panic within me.  Should I have let the situation be known there would have been 500 men in the damndest panic you ever heard of, and hell would have been popping.  I am just truly thankful to be here tonight."

Strange as it appears to me up to this day we lost no man on this march.  Our drum-major, a man well along in years, and John Wilkinson, a very large man, standing 6 feet 3 inches high and weighing 325 pounds, both gave out, and we put them in the wagon and covered them with blankets and left them at Fort Riley when we reached that point.  I supposed that both lost their feet, but I met Wilkinson in West Superior twenty years later with both feet attached.  He said the drum-major lost his feet, but he saved his, although they were not so good as he would wish.  Our colonel froze his face so badly that both eyes were temporarily blind and we left him at Junction City, the border town.

He arrived in time to join the regiment before we left Fort Leavenworth and came back home with us.  He was a young, sturdy man, who was duck-legged and could not wade through the snow, so he stuck to the saddle, and this came near costing him his life.  It is said that a man  can stand more than a mule.  This march proved this assertion to be true.  When we left Fort Zarah we had thirty-six six-mule teams, as fine animals as I ever saw and in prime condition.  When we reached Fort Leavenworth all but four teams were condemned as no longer fit for service and sold under the hammer at auction.  The only thing that saved our command was the fact that we had so much transportation.  This wagon train was returning empty from a trip to the West and was assigned to our men.  We had been on the plains for months and nearly every man had one or more buffalo skins and wolf pelts, and here were transportation facilities enough so he could bring them home, as well as all his clothing and heavy blankets.  Under ordinary conditions a man would not have been allowed transportation for half the luggage each soldier had, and these same skins saved the lives of the men.  Halters and ropes were stretched along the wagons attached to the box, top bows, or any place where a hitch could be secured.  A guard was stationed at each wagon to keep men from riding, as they would have frozen to death if they had ridden, but the halters and rope made a hold for the men and they could catch on and drag themselves through the snow, which was from knee to crotch deep, thus making the march  and keeping warm at the same time, otherwise not half the command would have survived the first eighty miles of blizzard and deep snow.

When we arrived at Fort Leavenworth after twenty-four days' march we were a little battered, but still in the ring.  We were mustered out as soon as we could get our muster-out rolls made and turned over our camp and garrison equippings.  We were discharged at Madison, where we received a grand reception on our arrival on the ninth day of January, 1866, if my memory serves me right.

We did not put down the rebellion.  We were never in a pitched battle.  If we had been I would tell you of it, even if we ran, for " 'tis better to have fought and ran, than never to have fought at all."  Lee may have surrendered sooner having known that the doughty Forty-eighth Wisconsin was under arms.  I am not informed as to that.  We did not smell much powder, except as we shot down the unsuspecting buffalo and wolves, but we had a lot of hard marching and we were "Johnny on the spot" when orders came for any kind of service.  Of course there is no doubt but that General Taylor hustled to make the best terms he could when the Forty-eighth Wisconsin relieved the Kansas Jayhawkers.  This may seem a joke, but there is room for truth.  The Jayhawkers were sometimes accused of whacking up with Taylor and his men in the divvy of stolen horses and other plunder.  The Forty-eighth was there to protect lives and property, and I have never heard them accused of appropriating either people's stock or conniving at the acts of the guerillas, or sharing the spoils with them.  So General Taylor may have thought his occupation gone once we entered his domains.

As soon as the Indians found that this "unwhipped" regiment was assigned  to garrison duty on the frontier there was "nothing to it."  The five war tribes simply capitulated as soon as they could be induced to give up their white women prisoners and be sure they would be well fed and cared for during that cold winter.  Colonel Dent was liberal with the annuities.  Both of these conditions may have had something to do with it, but I think that the fact that "that Wisconsin regiment" was out there praying for a chance to shoot something put the final touch to the conditions and induced them to lay down their arms and take no chances until the grass was high enough for feed, and the roving deer and antelope returned to their usual haunts.

What I have given you is history as I recall it, but not much of it is war history, and I doubt if any of it will be of service to you.  To be honest, the nearest we ever came to a fight was to bury the dead at the Battle of Mine Creek.  Our service with bushwhackers and Indians was inglorious and unsatisfactory.  We, however, endured hardships and experienced enough fatigue to make us rejoice at the opportunity of returning to -- if not more peaceful haunts -- at least more congenial.

Respectfully yours,

H. M. Stocking.

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