Return Home Page, Second Wisconsin
In November, 1861, Colonel Horace T. Sanders, of
Racine, received from the War Department authority to organize and infantry regiment, to
rendezvous at Racine. He commenced recruiting, but before his regiment was filled, a
general order of February 21, 1862, abolished all "independent organizations",
and the Nineteenth was placed on the footing of other volunteer regiments. It therefore
moved to Camp Randall, Madison, where its organization and muster into United States
service was completed by the 30th of April, and it left the State on the 2d of June, 1862.
The organization of the regiment was commenced at Racine, but the War Department, having designated Camp Randall as a place of confinement of several hundred rebel prisoners captured at Fort Donaldson and Island No. 10, the Nineteenth being the only military organization in the State, was transferred from Racine to Madison, and employed as guard over these prisoners. This duty they continued to perform until the prisoners were sent to Chicago in May.
Leaving the State on the 2d of June, the Nineteenth reported at Washington on the 5th, when Colonel Sanders was ordered to move his regiment to Alexandria, and from thence to Fortress Monroe, where they arrived on the 8th, and went into camp at Hampton, Va. On the 17th, eight companies proceeded to Yorktown, on special service, from which they returned to Fortress Monroe, where they found orders to proceed immediately to Norfolk, and arrived there on the 29th of June. Here Colonel Sanders was appointed Provost Judge, and the Nineteenth was employed as Provost Guard, and as patrol for the cities of Norfolk and Portsmouth. They remained at Norfolk until the 11th of April, 1863, when a detachment under Captain Sherff, marched out to the head of tide water on the west branch of Elizabeth River, and built some fortifications and about one and a half miles of rifle pits, working incessantly until the 14th, when orders came for them to move to Suffolk, which was then the extreme advance of the Union lines.
The regiment arrived there the next morning, and in the afternoon marched to Jerico Creek and encamped. About midnight four companies were ordered out and marched seven miles where they were put on picket and fatigue duty. Until the 21st, the regiment was employed at different points in constructing rifle pits, and corduroy roads, and other duties equally severe. For much of the time the men were without shelter at night, after working all day in the rain and mud. The men were kept incessantly at work for two weeks, at the hardest kind of fatigue duty, which, with the inclement weather, made sad havoc of the with the health of the regiment. On the 26th of April, the regiment was relieved from duty on the line of the river defenses and returned to Suffolk.
They remained at Suffolk until the 17th of June, when they marched to Norfolk, and next day embarked for Yorktown and encamped near the fortifications. On the 25th, they proceeded up the river to West Point, remained there until the 8th of July, when they returned to Yorktown and engaged in garrison duty until the middle of August. Then they moved to Newport News, where they remained until the 8th of October, when they embarked for Newbern, N.C., then in position of our forces, where they arrived on the 11th of October. Here the regiment was assigned to outpost and picket duty, Company A, being stationed at Evan's Mills, eight miles from Newbern, a fortified position consisting of an earthwork and blockhouse, with one piece of artillery. Company B, was placed on duty two miles from Newbern, with two pieces of artillery. The other companies were quartered in barracks on the south side of the Trent River, half a mile from the town. Lieutenant Colonel Strong was placed in command of the defenses on that side of the river.
The enemy made an attack on Newbern about the 1st of February, 1864. The assault on the defenses south of the Trent was successfully repulsed by the portion of the Nineteenth Regiment stationed there under Lieutenant Colonel Strong, assisted by a battery of artillery, and Captain York's command at Briar Creek. Company A, at Evan's Mills, was attacked by superior numbers, but they held their position until reinforcements arrived when the rebels abandoned their attack. The post at Havelock was abandoned, it being outflanked by the enemy and Company F was ordered to garrison Fort Spinola, and on the 20th, Company E was ordered to Fory Gaston on similar duty remaining until relieved by Company H, on the 28th of March.
On the 19th of April, a detachment of six companies was sent to reinforce the garrison at Plymouth, N.C., but that post was surrendered before reinforcements could reach them and the detachment returned on the 24th.
On the 26th of April, the regiment left Newbern, being ordered to report at Yorktown, VA. Landing at that point on the 28th, they were assigned to the third brigade, First Division, Eighteenth Army Corps. Colonel Sanders was placed in command of the brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Strong taking charge of the regiment. Leaving Yorktown on the 4th of May, they proceeded with the Eighteenth Army Corps, up the James River, and joined the army of the James, commanded by General Butler, and on the 6th, marched to Point of Rocks where they engaged in building fortifications until the 9th, when they took part in the movement to Walthall Junction, where our forces obtained possession of the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, and destroyed three miles of the track, returning to camp the next day.
On the 12th, taking part in the movement against Fort Darling, the right wing of the regiment, Companies A, C, D, E and F, were sent forward as skirmishers, covering the Third Brigade, where they remained all night. The left wing was engaged in picket duty. The lines were advanced next morning, and the right wing had six men wounded in a charge in a position in the front line. A general advance was made on the 14th, and the enemy's first line of works were successfully carried, the detachment having five men wounded. The right wing was sent to occupy a road in the rear of Fort Jackson, where they were joined by the left wing of the regiment on the 15th.
Taking advantage of a dense fog on the morning of the 16th of May, the enemy massed his forces and made a furious assault upon the right of our advance line. Burnham and Hickman's brigades were compelled to yield to the overwhelming numbers, but not until they had poured in a deadly and withering fire. The right wing was broken and driven back. Colonel Sanders in command of the center took command of a regiment of his brigade and attempted the support of Ashby's battery on the Pike. Every horse in the battery was soon killed, and the enemy succeeded at last in capturing it. The balance of Sander's brigade retired to a strip of woods a half or three quarters of a mile to the rear and formed a new line, with it's right resting on the pike near the Halfway House. This it did under a severe fire from the enemy, and with the assistance of Burnham's brigade, which had partially rallied, they succeeded in staying the enemy's progress on the right. This was done after a severe engagement in which the Nineteenth lost four killed and thirty-two wounded.
In the evening they returned to the entrenched camp at Point of Rocks, where Companies B, C and I were detached for duty at General Butler's headquarters, the balance of the regiment engaging in picket duty until the 17th of June, when they accompanied an expedition to the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad, where they destroyed three miles of track.
On the 20th of June the regiment was transferred to the Second Brigade of the Second Division, and subsequently accompanied the advance of General Grant's army upon Petersburg, occupying a position in the trenches before that place until the 30th, when they acted as part of the support of the Ninth Corps in the celebrated assault upon the enemy's works. After this they engaged in siege and fatigue duty in the trenches near New Market Race Course.
On the 13th of August, the reenlisted men of the regiment, 250 in number, were relieved from duty at the front, and left for Wisconsin, arriving at Madison on the 22d, where they received a furlough for thirty days. Reassembling, they again left the State on the 3d of October, for the front, and proceeded up the James River to Aiken's Landing, where they were assigned to the Third Brigade, First Division, Eighteenth Army Corps, and resumed their duties in the lines fronting Richmond.
On the 27th of October, with the division and a large portion of the Eighteenth Army Corps, the Nineteenth joined a reconnaissance in force. Leaving Camp at 5, A.M., with three days' rations, they took a northerly course, through a portion of White Oak Swamp and reached the old battlefield of Fair Oaks about 2 o'clock. The brigade in which the Nineteenth was located, was at once sent forward to charge a six gun fort, and in doing so, had to pass over an open plain three-fourths of a mile in width subject to withering cross fire as well as a direst one from the works they were charging. In crossing this open field or plain, one half of the brigade fell. The advance succeeded in reaching within one hundred yards of the fort but could get no further and as a protection, laid down in this position, and remained some two hours, vainly expecting supports to come to their assistance. About 5, A.M., the rebels charged out of their works and captured nearly the whole regiment. It went into the battle with 180 men and nine officers and lost 136 men and eight officers. The Adjutant General's records show 28 killed or died of wounds, 23 wounded, 3 officers captured. Ninety-one enlisted men were reported as missing, of which seventeen were killed or died of wounds and most of the others taken prisoner.
After the Battle of Fair Oaks, the remnant of the regiment, consisting of about eighty men, returned to camp at Chapin's farm, where they were joined by the non-veterans of the regiment, who had been some time engaged in provost guard duty at Norfolk. From this time until the 2d of April, 1865, the regiment was engaged in picket duty on the lines in front of Richmond.
On the consolidation of the Tenth and Eighteenth Corps, the regiment was assigned to the First Brigade, Third Division of the Twenty-fourth Army Corps commanded by General Devens.
On the morning of the 3d of April, the Third Division was ordered to assault the enemy's works in front of Richmond about 8 o'clock A.M., Lieutenant Colonel Vaughn immediately planted the colors of the Regiment upon the City Hall, being the first regimental colors raised in the city by the conquering forces of the Union.
The regiment was immediately placed on provost duty in the city and continued until the 28th of April, when it moved to Fredericksburg, Va., where it was on duty until the 24th of July, when it was ordered to Warrenton on provost duty, and remained until the 4th of August. It was then sent to Richmond where it was mustered out of service on the 9th, and on the same day, was ordered to report to the Chief Mustering Officer at Madison, Wis. The regiment arrived at Madison on the 15th, and was paid and received final discharge on the 27th of August, 1865.
Col. Sanders was brevetted Brigadier General for
Regimental Statistics: Original Strength, 973. Gain: by recruitment in 1863, 26; 1864, 156; 1865, 5; by substitutes, 54; by draft, none; veteran reenlistments, 270; total 1,484.
Loss: by death, 136; deserted, 46; transferred, 152; discharged, 345; mustered out, 805.
Quiner, Military History of Wisconsin, 1866