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Wisconsin in the Civil War

Wisconsin Farm Boys Evolve into Real Soldiers

When the war broke out in April 1861, there were very few professional soldiers in Wisconsin to train and lead the new recruits. The first regiments, sent to protect Washington, D.C., spent much of their time drilling. They also socialized with troops from other states and engaged in good-natured competition about their expertise. As time passed, Wisconsin's raw recruits evolved into true soldiers. On April 24, 1862, Adjutant Edwin E. Bryant of Monroe describes how the 3rd Wisconsin Infantry changed after spending nine months in the field.

But they are not the tender plants now that they were on entering the service. Then a march of 15 miles a day with knapsack used them up. Now they can march their twenty miles in a half day after a cup of coffee and an hour's nap, be up and out reconnoitering. Then they were thrown into a whirl of excitement by the discharge of a gun; now they are cool, collected, subject to no militia panics.

Indeed their dialect begins to show the technology of their new profession. Does one get worsted at repartee, his "battery is silenced." Is he the victim of a practical joke, he is "outflanked." Is he observing anything, he "makes a reconnaissance."

If he seeks to make himself agreeable to the Secesh girls, he "storms the breastworks." He don't eat his rations, he "surrounds" them. He has no stomach, but he glories in his "commissary department." If he goes on foot he "marches," if he rides, he is "furnished transportation." He is never sick, but on "sick report" or "in hospital," never unwell, but "unfit for duty."

In short, the cant phrases of civil life are ignored and military terms are used instead and often with very apropos significances.

Source: E.B. Quiner Scrapbooks: "Correspondence of the Wisconsin Volunteers, 1861-1865," Volume 3, page 20.

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Fortifications around Washington in April 1862.
Fortifications around Washington in April 1862.

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The 3rd Infantry leaves Fond du Lac.
The 3rd Infantry leaves Fond du Lac.

WHI 45176
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