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"History of Eau Claire County Wisconsin, 1914, Past and Present"
Chapter 13 - The Organized Militia
by Marshall Cousins
(-as transcribed from pages 199 - 205)
In the days previous to the War of the Rebellion no military organizations are known to have existed in this part of Wisconsin. The militia was organized on paper, however, into eleven divisions of two brigades each with two regiments to each brigade. The organization was complete throughout the entire state in that all officers from Colonel to Major were commissioned and assigned. It is hard to understand in this day why such an organization should have been planned as the population of the state was far from sufficient to fill the ranks to the maximum.
Eau Claire County, together with Pierce, Dunn and Pepin counties was in the territory assigned to the Second Brigade, Eleventh Division, Wisconsin Militia, and William P. Bartlett, still living, was commissioned a Major in the 43rd regiment. He has been a resident of Eau Claire for nearly sixty years.
This organization fell to pieces when troops were actually needed in 1861.
Under another chapter the military history of Eau Claire County in the War of the Rebellion is taken up. This paper relates only a militia or National Guard organizations.
From the files of old newspapers it appears an armed and uniformed military organization known as the "Sharpshooters" was organized in April 1875. From the Free Press the following items have been taken:
Free Press, April 26, 1875.
The Sharpshooters, a new organization deriving their being from the Norden Society, went through the first drill above University Square yesterday afternoon.
Only about fifteen had received their arms and the rest were not present, though quite a large crowd of spectators were. They made a handsome appearance marching and will no doubt make a fine volunteer company. They were armed with military rifles. G. L. Johnson acted as drill master.
Free Press, June 6, 1875.
Sharpshooters mentioned as in parade. Captain Sherman, Marshall of the day.
Free Press, December 23, 1876.
Colonel Kelley, of the Governor's staff, received an order a short time since to inspect the company of State Militia in this city, also the Clark County Zouaves.
The company at this place was inspected on Tuesday. Forty-six men appeared with accoutrements.
In the absence of the Muster Roll of the "Sharpshooters" the writer has been unable to locate any one who could give further information concerning this organization.
February 11, 1878, the City Guards were organized and it is understood several members of the Sharpshooters, which company had disbanded, joined the new organization. The following is a muster roll of the City Guards:
MUSTER ROLL OF THE CITY GUARDS W. S. M., EAU CLAIRE, EAU CLAIRE COUNTY, WISCONSIN
The arms and accoutrements were furnished by the State to the Company by they had to furnish their own uniforms. Shortly after organization a committee consisting of E. W. Allen, B. J. Demorest and Geo. W. Churchill was appointed on ways and means. They arranged for a play to be put on under the auspices of the Company. The title of the piece was the "Color Guard" and March 19, 20, 21 and 22, 1878, it drew fine houses at the Music Hall. Among many others whose names appear on the program as taking parts we find those of C. W. Lockwood, Wesley Butterfield, Frank R. Sebenthall, Judge M. D. Bartlett and Miss Russie Tinker.
The City Guard at one period during their activity went into camp on the Fair Grounds.
In 1880 the City Guard appear to have disbanded, for in the "Eau Claire Leader" of April 10, 1880 we find the following item:
"Eau Claire Light Guards will meet Monday night at the Armory at seven o'clock, to perfect the enlistment under the new law, and receive recruits to increase the numerical strength of the Company. By N. B. Rundle, Capt."
Military matters seemed to have lain dormant for many months but again on September 20, 1881, the "Leader" says:
"The Militia last night met only to disperse. The Chairman of the Committee on uniforms, Captain Wolf, has placed in the hands of Mr. Rust the subscription list, which will be referred to the principal business men of the city at his convenience."
Owing to the loss of the records the story of the struggle to re-organize and perfect the company cannot be told. Efforts however, were finally successful and the company was mustered into the State Service as C Company.
C COMPANY, 1885.
C Company was mustered-in June 29, 1885, by Captain John W. Curran, A. D. C., by order of Governor Jerry Rusk. Fifty-nine names were on the roll. The company took the place in the Third Regiment made vacant by the mustering-out of the La Crosse Light Guard. The officers were:
Victor Wolf, Captain,
Louis Babb, First Lieutenant,
Louis Schmidt, Second Lieutenant.
C Company attended the regimental encampments at Chippewa Falls, September 7 to September 12, 1885, and at Wausau, June 14 to June 19, 1886.
On account of internal dissensions the company was mustered out of the state service June 10, 1887.
Captain Wolf had tendered his resignation some days before. At an assembly of the company June 10, resolutions of respect and regard for the sturdy old soldier were adopted. Captain Wolf had served as captain of C Company, Eighth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, in the Civil War, with great credit.
Captain Wolf was born December 24, 1824, in Obendorf, Germany, and came to America at age of twenty-two years. He came of soldier family and almost at once enlisted in New York for service in the war with Mexico. Much to his disappointment his company was sent to Governor's Island for garrison duty, instead of into Mexico. In 1850, meeting Lieutenant Buckner, who later became a well known general, he asked him to intercede for him, and was sent to Florida as second in command, with a company of one hundred men, for service in the Seminole War. With H Company, of Fourth Artillery, he fought in the swamps and at Key West. Was discharged in 1856 after nine years and ten months' service. Settled in Eau Claire in 1858. In August 1861, was commissioned First Lieutenant of C Company, Eighth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and became Captain May 11, 1862, on the death of Captain Perkins, killed in action. This was the company that carried Old Abe throughout the war. He died at the age of eighty-five years, January 21, 1910, and was given a military funeral.
The company kept up its organization and remained an independent company until again mustered into the Guard as L Company, May 13, 1889. It was through the efforts of General Griffin, Senator William A. Rust and Captain Hobart M. Stocking, assemblyman, the company was again admitted to the state service. General Griffin was the mustering officer, and he, Senator Rust and Captain Stocking all made addresses following the muster.
The officers at this time were: John Beisang, Captain; Christopher Schlosser, First Lieutenant; Otto H. Kitzman, Second Lieutenant.
During the two years the company was out of the state service it built an armory costing $12,000.00. This building was located on Railroad street, between North Barstow and Dewey streets. It was burned December 31, 1890. Another armory was at once built on the west side of North Barstow street, between the C. M. & St. P. tracks and Eau Claire river. The building was 72 feet front by 186 feet deep, three stories in front part, with drill floor 70 by 120 feet, and cost $25,000.00. This armory was burned February 15, 1902.
Captain Beisang resigned and was succeeded as captain by Christopher Schlosser December 20, 1893; Otto H. Kitzman being promoted to first lieutenant and Peter Schlosser to second lieutenant on same date. L Company was again mustered-out of service June 30, 1896.
The company reorganized with the election of Otto H. Kitzman as captain, C. L. Brown as first lieutenant and George L. Prehn as second lieutenant. Lieutenant Brown served but a short time when removal from city caused him to resign. Lieutenant Prehn was promoted to first lieutenant and Karl A. Franklin was commissioned second lieutenant. In a few months Lieutenant Prehn resigned on account of leaving the city and was succeeded by Lieutenant Franklin and August Wuerch was commissioned second lieutenant.
Following the must of the First, Second, Third and Fourth Regiments into the volunteer service, the state began the organization of other regiments of the National Guard, to be prepared for another call by the Washington Government, and Captain Kitzman's company was assigned to the Fifth Infantry, as B Company. It was mustered July 25, 1898, by Captain George Graham, of Tomah.
The service of the Fifth Infantry was not required by President McKinley, and the regiment was mustered-out in 1899, on the re-entry into the Guard of the First, Second and Third Regiments, Wisconsin Voluntary Infantry. On the failure of E Company of the Third Infantry to reorganize, B Company was transferred to the Third as E Company, on the recommendation of Captain J. M. Ballard.
Lieutenant Wuerch resigned in January, 1899, on removal from the city, and was succeeded by Wm. J. Kessler on May 16, 1899. The officers at the time of the transfer to the Third Infantry were as follows:
Captain O. H. Kitzman, First Lieutenant Carl A. Franklin, Second Lieutenant Wm. J. Kessler.
On January 16, 1902, Earle S. Pearsall was commissioned as captain. This was his entry into the Wisconsin National Guard. He had served with the First Nebraska Volunteer Infantry in the Philippines, and had been a resident of Eau Claire for about two years at the time he was commissioned. He is still in command of the company. Other changes in the commissioned staff are noted in a list further on in this article.
Captain Pearsall had been in command less than one month when the armory burned, February 15, 1902. He secured quarters for the company in what was known as "Putnam Hall," where they made their home for several years. They are now occupying a small hall on the second floor of a building on River street. The quarters are entirely unsuited for military purposes.
Few matters of particular interest have occurred in the history of the company since 1899, other than the loss of the armory. The company has attended the annual encampments. It was with the regiment at the manuever camp at Fort Benjamin Harrison, September 21 to 30, 1898.
September 14, 15 and 16, 1911, the company participated in a special military camp on the State Fair Grounds, Milwaukee. This was by invitation of the State Fair Association.
A call for service was made in the fall of 1911. On Sunday, October 8, late in the afternoon, Captain Cousins received a telephone message from Major Williams, at Camp Douglas, advising the governor had ordered Company D, of Mauston, Captain Witherby, and Company E, Eau Claire, Captain Pearsall, to Black River Falls, Jackson county. That city had suffered great losses by flood a few days before and the troops were required for the preservation of order and protection of property. At 10:15 P. M. Captain Cousins wired Madison as follows:
Adjutant General, Madison, Wis.
E Company, three officers and forty-nine men, left for Black River Falls at ten tonight. Will send other men tomorrow morning.
Major Williams had been ordered from Camp Douglas to Black River Falls and was in charge of the troops and relief work. For some days the companies were on duty and rendered valuable assistance.
The officers and men of the company have made repeated efforts to secure a suitable home and it is hoped that in time an armory will be erected. At the present E Company is the poorest provided of any company in the regiment for quarters.
OFFICIAL ROSTER OF E COMPANY, THIRD INFANTRY, 1899
Otto H. Kitzman . . . . . . . . . . . . July 25, 1898
Earle S. Pearsall . . . . . . . . . . . .Jan. 16, 1902
Karl A. Franklin . . . . . . . . . . . . . July 25, 1898
Thomas W. Gruber . . . . . . . . . . .May 5, 1902
Charles W. Dinger . . . . . . . . . . . Feb. 28, 1909
Karl C. Kraemer . . . . . . . . . . . . .June 13, 1909
Richard F. Sortomme . . . . . . . . . July 5, 1914
Wm. J. Kessler . . . . . . . . . . . . . .May 16, 1899
Edward D. McMillan . . . . . . . . . . July 14, 1902
Chas. W. Dinger . . . . . . . . . . . . .Nov. 29, 1904
Karl C. Kraemer . . . . . . . . . . . . . Feb. 28, 1909
Harry O. Hanson . . . . . . . . . . . . .June 13, 1909
Richard F. Sortomme . . . . . . . . . .July 11, 1912
Carl H. Johnson . . . . . . . . . . . . . .July 5, 1914
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