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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
(-as transcribed from pages 143 - 152)
I give below the names of all in this company who enlisted from Eau Claire, Chippewa and Dunn Counties. As stated in the Free Press, quite a number in this company were from Buffalo county. I also give a summary made up from the official roster showing the fate of members of the company.
EAU CLAIRE COUNTY.
FROM CHIPPEWA COUNTY
FROM DUNN COUNTY
Killed in action, 5; died from wounds, 10; died from disease, 7; taken prisoners, 23.
In addition to the above a large number were wounded and some of them discharged on account of wounds.
Of the 23 taken prisoners, no less than 9 died in prison.
JAMES F. ALLEN.
Among the members of this company and who was also taken prisoner, was James F. Allen, a brother of C. L. Allen, of this city, and now a resident of Florida. At my request C. L. Allen wrote to his brother in Florida asking him if he would write something concerning his experience. I am allowed to quote his reply, which was as follows:
Florida, July 13, 1911 -- In regard to writing an article for
of my war experiences. Now my actual war experience, outside
prison experience, was very limited and covered a period of about
days, while in that time there was war enough to satisfy the most
spirits, for the length of time at least, it was too short a time on
to build a readable story unless supplemented by the imagination, and
know I am short on that quality.
"And when it comes to my prison experience, that is another matter entirely. It is a subject I don't like to think about, much less talk about and have been for forty-six years trying to forget all my prison life and its attendant horrors, and now to deliberately sit down and write about those terrible days, weeks and months (I was in the different so-called prisons ten and a half months) is more than I care to do, even if I thought I could write an interesting letter, which I can't. I am very much interested in the old war time letters being printed, with Ed's and Uncle Bill's and others."
McCann -- Among the names of those from Chippewa county we
name of that pioneer Stephen S. McCann. It was he who with
Thomas began the first lumbering operations in Eau Claire, in the
forties. At the time of his enlistment he must have been
A son of
Captain Graves, Wilbur Graves, is living in this city and is head
at the paper mill. The widow of Captain Graves, now Mrs.
is also now in the city. In response to a request I have
from the family the following brief account of Captain
was also from them that I obtained the excellent picture of the
which I am furnishing you today with the other material.
Graves, Company "K", Thirty-sixth Wisconsin Volunteers, recruited his
company; was commissioned in March, 1864; mustered into the service by
Lieut. J. H. Purcell.
weeks in Madison, Wisconsin, drilling his company. From
Captain Graves was ordered to Washington and on arriving there was
to join his regiment in Virginia, which at that time was the active
Graves and his men took part in the "Battle of the Wilderness," in
the Union loss was very severe. From May 5 to June 15, 1864,
Graves took part in one battle after another in rapid succession.
during this time that in a letter to his wife Captain Graves spoke in
to this six weeks' steady work against the rebels. The
is the substance of the letter:
He said he had been engaged with the enemy all night and had just come into camp for breakfast and sleep when he and his men were called out for duty again. These six weeks of continuous duty weakened him physically and during the months of July and August made many long marches. On the fourteenth day of August Captain Graves went into battle after having made a long and sever march. During the heat of the battle Captain Graves suffered a sun-stroke and was taken off the field. (During this battle the greater share of his company were taken prisoners.) Captain Graves was removed to a hospital at Petersburg and there passed away the twenty-ninth of August, 1864. -- Mrs. Harriet Graves Cleasby
1 Sept. 1914
Since the series of Civil War article was published in the Telegram of 1911, I have been fortunate enough to find a survivor of Captain Graves' Company K, of the Thirty-sixth Wisconsin, and have obtained from him his story of the company and regiment. Corporal Henry W. Butler is still living, in the town of Washington, a hale and hearty veteran. Although lacking but a few weeks of being eighty-eight years of age, he appears much younger, and it is a common occurrence for him to walk the four miles from his farm home to the city, and if necessary, walk home again.
CORPORAL BUTLER'S STORY.
The land down on the bottoms nears what was later Porter's Mills, was open to homestead entry and we made a trip down there. Shortly before there had been a flood, and saw logs and drift wood were scattered all over the bottoms or found hanging up in trees. We wanted none of that. At Jim Read's place I met a man who said he had a farm for sale, four miles out, two hundred and twenty-five acres, twenty acres broke, with a log house and log barn -- price seven hundred dollars. I went out to see it and bought the place, which has since been my home.
Chippewa Falls was then the county seat, and it was to that place that I went to have the papers made out.
I was married and had two children, my wife and children still in Dodge county. Returning there I remained until March, when, with a yoke of oxen and sleighs, with a prairie schooner top and a stove , we made the trip to Eau Claire, and it was not such a very long trip either, considering the mode of travel. My oxen were young and active, and we made the distance, about 175 miles, in seven days, keeping along with horse teams that were making the same trip.
The Barland, Cook, Wyman and Robbins families were the only farmers in this vicinity. Sparta was our nearest trading point, and it required from five to six days to take out grain there and bring back a load of supplies. The land was new, and produced heavy crops of wheat and other grains, and prices were high. We got $2.00 for wheat, $1.75 for oats and $1.00 for potatoes. Our nearest grist mill was Duncan's, on Duncan creek, at Chippewa Falls. I helped to haul in the mill stones for the Peter Daniel's grist mill, which was later built on Lows creek, a few miles below my place, and about a mile above the present Coming's or "Silver Springs" farm.
Game was plentiful and although not a hunter, I would occasionally shoot a deer. They had a runway to the creek near my place. Bear and wolves were also plentiful, the wolves especially doing considerable damage to stock. Lows creek was a good trout stream in those days.
In the spring of 1864 a company was recruited for the Civil War, the recruits coming largely from the farmers in our neighborhood, and in Pleasant Valley. I enlisted with the others. Our captain was Warren Graves, a Methodist minister, who had lived in Pleasant Valley and had been preaching at different points in that vicinity. He was an excellent man, kind and considerate to the members of his company, and generally highly esteemed.
We left Eau Claire about the fifteenth of March for Camp Randall, and left there on the tenth of May for Washington. We remained in Washington only one night, and on the fourteenth took boat for Belle Plains Landing. After a half day on the boat and a day's march, we arrived at Fredericksburg. Just before our arrival a New York regiment had been sent out against some Confederate bushwackers who made a raid and captured several carloads of ham and hardtack. Being met with a brisk fire from the enemy, the New Yorker's came running back, claiming that the enemy were in greatly superior force. We were just cooking our supper coffee when the order came to fall in, and turn back the demoralized New Yorkers, also to attack the enemy. We were entirely successful in both, also recaptured the provisions. The battle of the Wilderness was practically over. From Fredericksburg we marched to Spottsylvania Court House, arriving there on the seventeenth, where on the day following we were held in reserve, and did not get into action in that battle.
It was the nineteenth, at Spottsylvania Court House, that our Thirty-sixth Regiment was made a part of the First Brigade, Second Division, Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac. In regimental histories that have been published, the battle of Spottsylvania Court House is given as the first engagement in which our regiment was present, but this is a mistake, as we had already taken part in the affair at Fredericksburg, as noted above.
On the twentieth our Second Corps under General Hancock, marched toward the North Anna. On our way we came to a Confederate fortification. Hastily throwing up some breastworks for ourselves, we lay on our arms until two o'clock in the morning, when the order was given to charge the enemy's works. Rushing over their breastworks, we found the enemy had already departed, leaving only a few pickets to give the appearance of occupation.
The battle of North Anna began on the twenty-third. On the twenty-sixth Company H and Company K were ordered to charge a line of rebel works, which we took. Our loss was two men killed, twelve wounded and one taken prisoner. Both the men killed were from Company H. The pioneer lumberman, Stephen S. McCann, was a member of our company and was wounded in this engagement.
From North Anna we marched to Cold Harbor, arriving there on the morning of the second of June, and on the following morning the brigade charged the enemy's works. Although starting out in the rear of the brigade, by a shifting about of the troops when near the rebel intrenchments, our Thirty-sixth Regiment was in the lead. Just at this time Colonel McKean, brigade commander, was killed, and Colonel Haskell, of our regiment, took command. Our lines were swept by a fierce fire from the enemy, and just as Colonel Haskell had given an order for the men to lie down, a bullet struck him in the head and he was instantly killed. His death was deeply felt in our regiment and in the brigade. Although only a young man, he was a thorough soldier and a first class officer. While in the act of putting a cartridge into my musket I was shot in the hand, shattering the bone. Although left with a permanently crippled hand, I was much more fortunate than my comrade, Biesecker, who stood just back of me, as the same bullet that crippled my hand struck him in the hip, wounding him so severely that he died a few weeks later. Our loss was heavy, much more so than that of the enemy. We remained in the vicinity of Cold Harbor until the twelfth, when we advanced toward Petersburg. The day after we left Cold Harbor some half dozen of our company were left behind and while hurrying along to overtake the company were captured by a band of rebel guerillas. One of those taken prisoner was James F. Allen, of Eau Claire, or Fred Allen, as he was called by his friends. He was a son of James Allen, who for many years had charge of the rafting of lumber for Ingram & Kennedy, and their successor, the Empire Lumber Company.
Although my crippled hand made it impossible for me to serve in the ranks, I did not wish to be separated from my company, so asked and obtained permission to do duty at regimental headquarters. This I continued to do until mustered out at the close of the war.
We reached the vicinity of Petersburg on the fifteenth of June and the day following occupied the first line of the enemy's works. On the seventeenth our regiment was held in reserve. On the eighteenth we charged and drove the enemy from their second and heavier works, following them through dense woods to an open field on the opposite side of which were their main defenses. It was while charging through these woods that Lieutenant Galloway, of our company, was killed. He enlisted from Chippewa Falls, and was a thoroughly good and efficient officer. In the afternoon our regiment charged across the open ground and our Colonel Savage, who had succeeded Colonel Haskell, was mortally wounded as he was climbing over the enemy's breastworks. In this charge our regiment lost nearly one-third of its numbers in killed and wounded. As it seemed certain death to either advance or withdraw, the survivors of our regiment lay down on the ground and by scooping holes in the soft ground got what protection they could until darkness allowed them to leave the field. In the skirmishing around Petersburg our entire first brigade on the twenty-second was flanked by the enemy and nearly one-half of its members captured. Through the skill of our officers the Thirty-sixth Regiment changed front and escaped capture, but lost several killed and wounded.
Our troops were then moved back some distance, where we went into camp and remained several weeks.
The colonel of Pennsylvania regiment from the mining district had proposed an underground mine under the enemy's works to blow up their fortifications and aid in the capture of Petersburg. General Grant had sanctioned the plan and by the latter part of July everything was in readiness for the explosion. In order to divert the enemy, Grant marched a part of the troops, including our regiment to another plane and made a demonstration, then quietly brought us around in front of the fortifications to witness the setting off of the mine. This took place on the thirtieth of July. It as an awful sight, even to us who had seen considerable of the horrors of war. I did not want to look. Mangled bodies of men, flying timbers and earth rose into the air as from a volcano. You know the result. It was a failure. On account of delay in getting troops across the pit, or crater, the enemy had time to rally. Many of our own troops met their death in trying to cross and Petersburg was not taken.
The Weldon railroad, running south from Petersburg, was of extreme importance to the enemy, and Grant was determined on its capture. One force, including our regiment, were sent north of the James river to threaten Richmond, while another was sent south of Petersburg to capture the railroad already mentioned. We met the enemy on the fourteenth and had a severe engagement, our regiment loss being three officers and twenty-eight men killed and wounded. Grant's plan was a success and the railroad was captured, but the enemy continued to make desperate attempts to recapture it. For several weeks there was almost continuous fighting along the railroad south of Petersburg. Reams Station was on this road only a few miles from Petersburg. On the twenty-fifth the enemy attacked the Union troops at that place. The Thirty-sixth was stationed in a deep railroad cut. Although not successful in recapturing the road, at one time they drove back the Union lines and hemmed in our Thirty-sixth Regiment, whose position allowed them little chance to escape. A few did cut their way through, but a large part of the regiment were either killed, wounded or taken prisoners. Captain Graves, of our company, was overcome by heat and exertion and died in the hospital a few days later. He was succeeded as captain by First Lieut. Joseph R. Ellis, also from Pleasant Valley. My old neighbor, Patrick O'Donahue, of Pleasant Valley, who enlisted the same day as myself, was one of the number captured. He survived his imprisonment, and was mustered out with our company, but his health was shattered, and he died a few years later. Some of his descendants are still living in this vicinity, but they have dropped the "O" from their names, which is now Donahue.
General Gibbon was not satisfied with the part taken by the Thirty-sixth Regiment at Reams Station, and without stopping to examine into the matter, issued an order depriving the regiment of carrying the national colors. A thorough investigation was later made, with the result that General Gibbon was ordered to personally present to the regiment a new set of colors. This was done about the first of November.
On the twenty-fourth of October our brigade marched to the left, and on the twenty-seventh reached the enemy's fortifications at Hatcher's Run. Company A of our regiment advanced and captured the rebel picket. This was followed by a general engagement in which the enemy forced their way through the Union lines, cutting off communication between the two parts. Captain Fisk, in command of our regiment, saw the danger, faced the regiment to the rear and ordered a bayonet charge. We doubled up the line of the enemy and put them to rout, capturing a large number of prisoners. General Eagan wrote a letter to the Governor praising the work done by the regiment under Captain Fisk, and stated that we had captured more prisoners than we had men on the field. Our regimental loss was some fifteen wounded and missing. After this engagement we returned to our former location, where we remained until mid-winter. Early in February we had another engagement at Hatcher's Run, then went into winter quarters and remained there until the last of March. We then moved against the enemy's works, capturing one line after another, including prisoners and guns, and early in April learned that Lee's army was in full retreat. One entire second corps followed, crossing the Appomattox on the seventh and on the ninth were present at Lee's surrender near Appomattox Court House.
We saw no active service after this, but what did remain of our regiment went to Washington and took part in the grand review, then returned to Madison and our homes.
In the fall of 1864 still another company was added to the credit of Eau Claire county. The leading educational institution in the early history of the village of Eau Claire was the old Wesleyan Seminary, which stood where the high school building now stands (1914). Principal Shadrach A. Hall went out as captain of this new company. Like the Whipple company, this one was also made up to take the place of another company in a reorganized regiment.
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