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Wisconsin in the Civil War

A Lieutenant Colonel Describes Discharging his Troops at War's End

In 1861, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Fitch was a Milwaukee attorney when he enlisted in the Civil War. By 1864 he rose to command of the 21st Wisconsin Regiment and was leading it north during General Sherman's March to the Sea when the war ended in 1865. On June 5, 1865, he describes his regiment's last days in Washington, D.C., and the administrative work that fell to him when it was time to discharge his troops.

There is some little thing to be done almost every minute, and when it is in favor of some brave, quiet, modest, intelligent soldier who will at this late hour in the history of the regiment, thus perceive that his merits have not been overlooked, my heart swells with pleasure, until I forget the turmoil and dull routine of the day's work.

Yesterday we turned out to greet our old commander, General George H. Thomas. The air vibrated with cheer after cheer that we gave the grand, true soldier. Our regiment was on the right of the division. As this 'Rock of Chickamauga' took my hand and shook it with an honest grip, he asked if I had been well, etc. Ex-Governor Randall addressed all the Wisconsin troops in the Army of Georgia, as our army is called, and then there was more cheering. It is nothing but one continual excitement here, and I am anxious for peace and quiet.

[He later recalled that] our discharges were all dated on June 8, 1865, but we still remained in the United States service until arriving at Milwaukee, Wis., where we went by rail from Washington. A paymaster there paid each man what was due him on June 17th, endorsed the payment and date on his discharge, and handed the money and the discharge to him. Then we were out, and citizens once more, after a service of two years, nine months and twelve days.

Source: Fitch, Michael H. "Echoes of the Civil War as I Hear Them." (N.Y.: R.F. Fenno & Co., 1905), pages 275-276.

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George Henry Thomas.
General George Henry Thomas.

U.S. Library of Congress
Governor Alexander Randall.
Governor Alexander Randall.

WHI 57882
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