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Dictionary of Wisconsin History

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Term: Cutler, Gen. Lysander (1808-1866)

Definition:

b. Worcester County, Massachusetts, February 16, 1808
d. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, July 30, 1866

Lysander Cutler was colonel of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry and one of the leaders of the famous Iron Brigade.

Early Years

Little is known about Cutler's childhood and upbringing. He was born in Worcester County, Massachusetts, and moved to Maine as a young man in 1828. He received training in the Maine militia during the 1830s and came to Milwaukee about 1856.

Civil War

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Cutler was one of few people in Milwaukee with previous military training. He was commissioned colonel of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry and began forming his regiment in July 1861 at Camp Randall in Madison. He was 53 years old, and his age and experience commanded implicit respect. "Our old Colonel Cutler," wrote a junior officer at the time, "is a strict disciplinarian and will tolerate no nonsense."

Cutler led his regiment into some of the worst fighting of the war. He fought in the battles of Gainesville, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and the Wilderness. He was severely wounded three times, at Gainesville, Fredericksburg, and Weldon Railroad. His brigade opened the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, and suffered the brunt of the fighting on the first day.

During the war, a visitor to his tent described Cutler as "an elderly gentleman, spare of frame, with silvery hair, a beard nearly white, and beneath heavy eyebrows of an iron-gray color, are keen, penetrating dark eyes. His step is somewhat uneven, owing to a severe wound received at Gainesville. From behind a somewhat grave and severe aspect, shines out a kindly, even genial manner that wins you at once."

He was appointed brigadier general in November 1862 and brevetted a major general in August 1864. During the war he commanded various regiments, brigades, and divisions at different times. He was wounded for the last time on August 21, 1864, and resigned his command three weeks later. For the last nine months of the war he was assigned to recruitment duties on the home front. He resigned in July 1865 and returned to Milwaukee, where he died a year later.

Links to learn more

Cutler's wartime service is summarized briefly on page 986 of E.B. Quiner's "Military History of Wisconsin" (Chicago, 1866).

Rufus Dawes' memoir, "Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers" (Marietta, Ohio, 1890), contains dozens of descriptions of Cutler and quotations from his official reports.

Original documents related to Lysander Cutler

[Source: Dictionary of Wisconsin Biography (Madison, 1965); Love, W. D. Wisconsin in War of Rebellion (Chicago, 1866): 972; Milwaukee Sentinel, July 31, 1866; Dawes, Rufus. Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers (Marietta, Ohio, 1890).]
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