The American Civil War (1861-1865), also known as the War Between the States or the War of Southern Ecession, occurred when eleven southern states broke away from the United States and formed their own country known as the Confederate States of America led by Jefferson Davis.
On April 12, 1861, Confederate forces attacked Fort Sumter, a military installation in the harbor of Charleston, SC.President Abraham Lincoln responded by calling for volunteers from each state to defend the Union.
Patriotic meetings were soon held in any building large enough to accommodate a crowd.Speakers encouraged all able bodied men to enlist.Since these new recruits were unfamiliar with military drills and tactics, they trained in the towns where they enlisted before marching onto Madison for further training at Camp Randall, ten acres of land a mile and a half west of Madison where Camp Randall Stadium sits today.
Though Wisconsin was a relatively new state when the Civil War broke out, citizens rallied to support the Union cause. The men joined the Madison Guards, an early militia unit formed at the state capital.The Madison Guards eventually became Co. E, 1st Wisconsin Volunteers.The first complete unit formed out of Sauk County men was Company A, 6th Wisconsin and was made up mostly of citizens from the Sumpter and Baraboo townships.Company A served in the famous Iron Brigade. Sauk County soldiers fought against such venerable Confederate generals as Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson and at such places as Antietam, Gettysburg, The Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, Hatcher’s Run and Five Forks.Sauk County soldiers were also present when Richmond fell in April 1865. Sauk County residents were also in the western theater.Nearly all members of Company D, 9th Regiment were residents of the town of Honey Creek, Prairie du Sac, Sumpter and Troy.The regiment was raised under an order authorizing the organization of an exclusively German regiment and fought at lesser known battles like Jenkins Ferry in Arkansas and Newtonia in Missouri.Sauk County men were with the 23rd Regiment as it fought in the Bayou Teshe Campaign in Louisiana.They were at the siege of Vicksburg with the 11th and 12th Wisconsin, participating in the terrible charge of May 22, 1863.Sauk County soldiers were in the Siege of Atlanta and Sherman’s famous March to the Sea.At the end of the war, Sauk County soldiers participated in the Grand Review of the Union Army at Washington D.C.
Sauk County contributed to 23 regiments during the Civil War.Of those, six had whole companies entirely made up of Sauk County men.
6th Infantry Company A 9th Infantry Company D 12th Infantry Company B and Company E 17th Infantry Company H 19th Infantry Company A 23rd Infantry Company F and Company K 3rd Cavalry Sauk County men also served in these other regiments:
In Sauk County, a total of 1,646 men served in the Civil War.285 never came home and many more came home with injuries.
Headquarters of Company A, 19th Wisconsin at New Bern, North Carolina
Sauk County soldiers in the field. Members of Co. A, 19th Wis. garrisoning a blockhouse and field fortification, probably in N. Carolina in 1862
Officer’s sword carried by Colonel R.M. Strong of the 23rd Wisconsin.
Closeup of the Sword Hilt
Star from the first flag that went to the Civil War with Company A, 6th Wisconsin Infantry.
Women's Roll in the Civil War
The years before the Civil War were a time of active reform movements.Women supported such causes as temperance (a social movement that attempted to reduce or eliminate the amount of alcohol consumed or produced in society) and abolition (the movement to end slavery and the slave trade).
This spirit of reform and independence continued into the Civil War years as women took active roles in the successful war efforts on the home front.
When Governor Randall made an appeal to Wisconsin women to aid in caring for thesoldiers, Sauk County women stepped up to provide medical and economic support. Women began meeting at homes to sew and knit garments for the soldiers.Soon, these informal meetings turned into aid societies with officers, rules, committees and regular schedules of work.
These aid societies raised the money needed to purchase materials for their work by gathering subscriptions (a pledge of money) and by entertaining audiences, with tableaus (A type of play in which a group of people create still picture(s) to tell the story)
Some of the items women made and provided to the troops included:
Bandages - There was no absorbent cotton or gauze.Thousands of bandages were handmade by tearing old sheets into strips and rolling them into hard round rolls.Lint was provided for the bandages by scrapping old linen or cotton with a dull knife until it became a fluffy mass.Women also assembled charpies or threads pulled from white cloth and bundled into clumps.Both the lint and charpies were placed over wounds, under rolled bandages.
Garments – Women sewed uniforms, flannel shirts and undergarments for the soldiers as well as knit socks and mittens.
Blankets and Quilts – Women made bedding for the Union troops and often sewed their names into the coverings they made.
Comfort Bags containing pins, needles, buttons, thread, yarn and handkerchiefs were made for the soldiers.
Between 1861 and 1865, Baraboo and Prairie du Sac each sent 50 boxes of relief supplies, which included knit garments, blankets, reading material and bandages to the front lines.
In addition, women also provided food for the troops.In 1863, scurvy (a disease caused by a lack of vitamin C and characterized by spongy gums, loose teeth, and bruising under the skin and on the mouth, nose and throat) broke out among the Union troops and a call was made for each state to provide anti-scorbutics (a food or supplement that counteracts the effects of scurvy.An example is vitamin C supplements).Below is a list of some of the food sent to the troops by women on the home front:
Processed HorseradishDried Apples
Cabbages were made into sauerkraut
Potatoes packed into barrels with hot vinegar.
By November 1863, Wisconsin stood first among Union states in the number of boxes of anti-scorbutics sent to the Union troops.
Women also shouldered the burden of keeping farms and businesses running while the men were away.
Comfort Bag, ca. 1861
Handmade quilt, ca. 1860
The Iron Brigade
The Iron Brigade of the West was an infantry unit of the Union Army formed primarily of regiments from what are today the Midwestern states and included the 2nd, 6th and 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry.
The Iron Brigade was named for the disposition of its men who were known for their strong discipline, unique uniforms and tenacious fighting.The Iron Brigade of the West suffered the highest percentage of casualties of any brigade in the war.
The Iron Brigade of the West was also known as the Black Hat Brigade due to the 1858 style black Hardee hats the members wore instead of the traditional blue Kepis hats worn by most other units.
Civil War Musicians
Civil War musicians, either drummers or buglers, could enlist in the army without meeting the 18 year old requirement for a soldier.By some estimates, 100,000 boys younger than 15 enlisted in the Union army as musicians.300 were younger than 13 years old.
The musicians told the soldiers what to do during the day. From waking up in the morning to going to bed at night, the musicians literally sounded out a soldier’s day.
During battle, the musicians told the soldiers when to march, when to shoot and when to retreat all through their instruments.Musicians were also expected to help carry the wounded off the battlefield.
Even though these young musicians were part of the army, they weren’t allowed to carry guns.Instead, they were given a thin, straight sword which they wore fastened to a leather belt around their waist.
Civil War snare drum used by Charles Junge. It is said to have the signatures of his buddies inside.
FrankPettis (1850- 1918) was eleven when he enlisted in the Union army as a drummer boy during the Civil War.At the age of twelve he began military service with his father and served from February 22, 1862 to August 9, 1865.
Pettis was present for every battle his unit was engaged in - from Suffolk, VA, and Newberne, NC to the sieges of Richmond and Petersburg.
After the war, Pettis returned to Reedsburg and helped in his father’s tailor shop.When he was 20, he became a miller.
He was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) and the Reedsburg Drum Corps until his death on August 15, 1918.At his funeral the Reedsburg Drum Corps, with muffled drums preceded the hearse to Greenwood Cemetery where he is buried.
Hosea W. Rood
Hosea W. Rood recounts his service in the Civil War in a series of articles which appeared in the Baraboo News Republic during the early 1930s. Click his photo to learn more.
To learn more about Sauk County's involvement in the Civil War, visit another page on our Web Site. Click Here.