Wilson B. Colwell
La Crosse Light Guards
One of the
most trusted and admired officers of the Second Wisconsin during the early War, Wilson
Colwell was the Captain of Company B, La Crosse Light Guards. This photo, taken at the
Brady Studio is more casual than would be expected as his baggage had just been lost at
First Bull Run.
Those that knew the captain often recalled that he loved his pipe of tobacco and remembered fondly his sitting down where a shell hit his company at Blackburn's Ford and lighting his pipe. When the choice of the spot was questioned he stated that it was a good spot as "lightening never strikes twice in the same place.
After Captain Colwell's death, the following was written by one of the men of Co. B.
The Tobacco Road
That is a fine pipe in your hand,
My friend. Is it still lit?
With weichsel stem and silver band-
What will you take for it?
O, sir, you know not how high
This pipe by me is prized,
Or you would never ask to buy
What is so idolized.
He who gave me this souvenir
Now sleeps beneath the sod-
Than he, no braver soldier, e'er
For freedom drew his sword.
Lend me your ear and I will tell
How this hero lost his life;
In freedom's holy cause he fell
'Mid the battle's fiercest strife.
'Twas an evening in September,
When we charged famed "Turner's Pass,"
That we found our brave commander
Lying bleeding on the grass.
A comrade gently raised his head
To see if there was life;
But alas, the vital spark had fled
With his last words, "Oh, my wife!"
Before we ceased our cannonade
Into the South Mountain's door,
A wail went from the Iron Brigade,
Brave Colwell is no more.
This was our gallant hero's name
Who in the van of battle fell,
We'll ever glory in his fame,
And his deeds with rapture tell.
And now while memory shall live
And men with age grow ripe,
All the gold that you can give
Could never buy this pipe.
(Captain Colwell had been married
to Nannie Hammer of LaCrosse at the Congregational Church in 1858. Her parents were natives of Bedford Co., Pa. and her
ancestry traced back to a member of the Pa. Assembly who witnessed the ringing of the
Liberty Bell when it announced the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The
Colwells had 2 daughters, one of whom, Maggie, died in Washington D.C. before her father
was killed and the other, Nannie, who lived at home with her mother. Mrs. Colwell
remarried in 1867 to Rev. C. P. Dorset, an Episcopal minister and had 3 more children.
Capt. Colwell's comrades remembered him by naming the LaCrosse G.A.R. post after him.