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Wisconsin in the Civil War

Three Wisconsin Officers Narrowly Escape Death

In spring 1862, Union forces in Washington, D.C., attempted to skirt Confederate defenses in Richmond, Virginia, by sailing along the coast and then advancing up the Virginia Peninsula to attack from the south. However, Confederate forces intercepted them at Williamsburg, Virginia, on May 5, 1862. More than 70,000 soldiers took the field with many casualties. Lieutenant James Mills of Company E, 5th Wisconsin Infantry, writes home to his wife in Janesville describing how three fellow officers narrowly escaped death.

Captain Wheeler drew his sword and showed himself a brick. Says he, "Go in boys, — give him he-l! Don't run for the devils," at the same time they were advancing on us six to one, and they were driving us back as fast as men could retreat and fight; but they having poor arms and our men the best kind, our men drove them back after two hours hard fighting, taking about 200 prisoners, and about 100 killed, which we buried today; we have about 50 of their wounded here, and any amount of arms of all descriptions and kinds.

Our Sergeant Hathaway, as the enemy was advancing, received a bullet in his knapsack, but it did not go through, but it went through six thicknesses of a double blanket, striking a copper rivet and giving him a good start ahead, but "Old Snapps," as the boys call him, turned around and shot the rebel colonel dead from his horse saying, "Stop your coming this way."

Capt. Bugh, of company G, was wounded in the hip, the ball going clear through him. It is a dangerous wound and he will have to be sent home. As Capt. Bugh lay on the ground, wounded, a rebel came up and was about to bayonet him; he caught the bayonet and turned it away, and at that instant a rebel major came up and would not let the rebel hurt him. Capt. Bugh then drew his sword and gave it to the major, and thanked him for saving his life; but as the major received it, he also received one of our Austrian bullets, killing him instantly.

Source: E.B. Quiner Scrapbooks: "Correspondence of the Wisconsin Volunteers, 1861-1865," Volume 3, page 193.

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Battle of Williamsburg.
Battle of Williamsburg.

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