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Wisconsin in the Civil War

A New Recruit Discovers His Courage

At the Battle of Gainesville, Virginia, on August 28, 1862, the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry was outnumbered by a ratio of 10-to-1, yet it persevered through the battle. A recruit who only identifies himself as "H.B.R." describes the action that day.

I have on previous occasions murmured that the Second [Infantry] were slighted. I take it all back — we have had our share lately. We have been in four fights — two regular battles. The first two I will pass over — we killed many and lost but few. I found that I possessed one faculty that I was not satisfied that I possessed — I am no coward!

On the 28th of August, Gibbon's brigade had the most desperate struggle against large odds. The 2nd Wisconsin was the first regiment ordered forward, and amid the yells of the enemy. Grape, canister shells and bullets, the 2nd steadily advanced. It was near the old Bull Run field, and desperation seized the 2nd. Like lions the men fought; oh! Such a time. Our Colonel [Edgar O'Connor] was carried from the field to die; our Major [Thomas S. Allen] was wounded in the arm and neck; our line wavered, and we for the first time realized our situation. But look, we have one field officer left—Lieut. Col. Fairchild is still with us. He takes command, and with a cheer the 2nd press forward. With sleeves rolled up and his sword clutched in his right hand, he tells the men to sustain the good name they have at home. Brave men—the 2nd need no urging to do their duty. No man of the regiment left the field alone if able to walk off; all felt able to fight, and when darkness closed in we had possession of the field…

All fought well and desperately. When night threw her sable mantle over the bloody field, Col. Fairchild cast his eyes along our lines, and with tears in his eyes, he asks: "Where, Good God! Where is the Second? Have they ran? Have they scattered?" Tears gush unbidden from his eyes; the Major answers him. "Colonel, they are all here — all that's left — more than half lay on the battlefield!" As if a mountain's weight was lifted from his soul, he says: "Thank God the Second have not deceived their friends." We fought Jackson's tried Division – about ten to one — and they RAN!

The Second left the State with over one thousand men; we now number 150 muskets. The next day we marched to the old battle field. The 2nd and 7th were consolidated, and the two regiments numbered less than the 6th; and where other brigades could not stand, this brigade was ordered. We stood, we fought, and many died there, but no one turned his back. I came out of the fights all right, save one bullet went through my breeches, and gave me a slight wound on the right ankle, just to remind me that business was going on.

Source: E.B. Quiner Scrapbooks: "Correspondence of the Wisconsin Volunteers, 1861-1865," Volume 2, page 298.

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Officers of the 2nd Infantry eating lunch in camp. Seated, from left to right, are Surgeon A.J. Ward, Major Thomas S. Allen, 
Lieutenant Colonel Lucius Fairchild, and Colonel Edgar O'Connor.

Officers of the 2nd Infantry eating lunch in camp. Seated from left to right are Surgeon A.J. Ward, Major Thomas S. Allen, Lieutenant Colonel Lucius Fairchild, and Colonel Edgar O'Connor.

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Lieutenant Colonel Lucius Fairchild during the war.
Lieutenant Colonel Lucius Fairchild during the war.

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