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Wisconsin in the Civil War

Army Chaplain Performs Crucial Services

After capturing Atlanta, Georgia, in September 1864, General William T. Sherman marched 62,000 troops eastward to the Atlantic and all communications were cut off. On November 9, 1864, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Fitch, 21st Wisconsin Infantry, recalls how Chaplain O. P. Clinton was entrusted to carry many soldiers' savings back home to their families, in case they did not make it home themselves.

I think it was about $27,000 that Chaplain O. P. Clinton carried back with him in greenbacks. He rolled them up in his blanket and strapped it tight. He kept this roll either in his hand, or at night, under his head, until he reached his home at Neenah, Wisconsin, and then sent each family of the soldiers the amount due it, according to a list of names and amounts he had taken before leaving the regiment. The blanket was fuller of greenbacks than the ordinary army blanket was of graybacks [lice]…

I looked upon that trip of the chaplain's as a great source of good discipline to the regiment, in thus taking temptation away from the men, and at the same time, carrying joy and comfort to several hundred wives and children in the far away homes of Wisconsin.

The fact is, the least duty of a chaplain in the army, was preaching. His usefulness lay in just such acts as this; in cheering the sick and down-hearted; visiting the hospitals; writing letters home for the disabled; distributing mails; and generally in looking after the physical, mental and moral welfare of those who were unable by reason of the hard life of an active army, or want of knowledge, or carelessness, or any other cause, to do such things for themselves.

Source: Fitch, Michael H. "Echoes of the Civil War as I Hear Them." (N.Y.: R.F. Fenno & Co., 1905), pages 230-231.

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Group portrait of Major General William T. Sherman and his generals taken shortly after the Civil War in May, 1865, in Mathew Brady's studio.
Major General William T. Sherman and his generals after the war

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Preliminary study in oil paint of the Battle of Atlanta cyclorama picturing confederate Civil War soldiers drinking from canteens.
Preliminary study for Battle of Atlanta cyclorama

WHI 26106
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