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Wisconsin in the Civil War

Lincoln Addresses Wisconsin Troops after the First Battle of Bull Run

On July 23, 1861, President Abraham Lincoln, Secretary of State William H. Seward, and General William Tecumseh Sherman visited the troops outside Washington, D.C. Only two days before, Union forces had suffered a humiliating defeat at Bull Run in Manassas, Virginia. The 2nd Wisconsin Infantry had lost 30 soldiers, 125 were wounded and 65 were missing. In this excerpt, an unidentified writer describes Lincoln's exchange with officers of the 2nd Wisconsin Infantry.

While on the ground President Lincoln, Secretary Seward and Gen. Sherman drove up in an open carriage. Shouts went up and in half a minute the boys were all assembled around the carriage. The President made a sort of lackadaisical speech to them; said that they had done well in the fight, and though not as successful as he could wish, he hoped for better luck next time.

"Abraham, we will give you the men, do give us better officers," said Lieut. McLain [McLean], of the Janesville Company. "We are ready to fight, but for God's sake give us officers who know something to command us," said Capt. David McKee, and the men gave a unanimous cheer.

Lincoln hesitated, and said, "Here is your General," pointing to Sherman, "and if your officers do not suit you make your wants known to him." The horses at the cheer that these remarks elicited, got restive, but Secretary Seward arose and said: "The Wisconsin Regiment did nobly in the late fight, and so well is the President pleased with their gallantry that he has today accepted the Seventh and Eighth Regiments from your State."

Source: E.B. Quiner Scrapbooks: "Correspondence of the Wisconsin Volunteers, 1861-1865," Volume 1, page 124 (from an updated article in the Milwaukee "Wisconsin" newspaper).

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President Abraham Lincoln.
President Abraham Lincoln.

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1st Infantry printed stationery to be sent from camp.
William H. Seward, Secretary of State during the Lincoln administration.

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