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1st Wisconsin Cavalry
in the American Civil War

Regimental History

First Wisconsin Cavalry. — Cols., Edward Daniels, Oscar H. LaGrange; Lieut. - Cols., Oscar H. LaGrange, Henry Pomeroy, William H. Torrey, Henry Hamden; Majs., Oscar H. LaGrange, Henry S. Eggleston, Thomas H. Mars, Nathan Paine, Stephen V. Shipman, Henry Pomeroy, Henry Hamden, Newton Jones, William H. Torrey, Levi Howland. This regiment was organized at Camp Fremont, Ripon, and Camp Harvey, Kenosha, in the summer and fall of 1861, 600 men having been enrolled at the former place up to the time of the change of location in November. It was mustered in March 8, 1862, and left the state on the 17th for Benton barracks, St. Louis, for equipment. On April 28 it moved to Cape Girardeau, thence to Bloomfield, where companies were detached to various points in Missouri and Arkansas for scout and train guard duty. The companies were in several engagements, frequently with superior forces, and were generally successful, though at Jonesboro in August a small detachment was compelled to surrender to greatly superior numbers. At L'Anguille ferry, Ark., occurred one of the fiercest engagements of the war, when Maj. Eggleston, with 130 men, was attacked by 500 Texas Rangers, the enemy overwhelming the little company and only about 20 escaping. The regiment with the exception of detachments moved towards Helena and reached its destination early in August. It was ordered back to Cape Girardeau in September after terrible hardships, wading through swamps, without adequate supplies, drinking foul water, burdened by sick members, and being finally reduced to nearly half its original strength. It was ordered to Greenville in early October and on the 19th to Patterson, where it was stationed during November and December, engaged in dispersing guerrillas, picking up small bodies of the enemy and foraging. On Dec. 28 a small party of foragers was picked up by 400 of the enemy, and 200 infantry and 80 cavalry, including Cos. D and M, started in pursuit. The cavalry dashed into the Confederates and scattered their pickets in every direction. Co. D dismounted and drove the enemy for some distance. The regiment was stationed at West Plains, Pilot Knob, St. Genevieve and Cape Girardeau, successively, from Jan. 7 to May 31, 1863, and was engaged with the enemy at Chalk bluff in March. At Whitewater bridge Capt. Shipman and 40 men on guard were surrounded by 300 of the enemy, but they cut their way out with a loss of 6 killed, 9 wounded and 10 taken prisoners. The regiment was in the battle of Cape Girardeau, where it supported a battery, and pursued the enemy in his retreat. In June it was ordered to join the cavalry corps of the Army of the Cumberland. It reached Nashville June 15, took part in the movement toward Chattanooga, and was stationed at various points during the summer. It participated at Chickamauga, where it was engaged with the cavalry in holding the extreme right on the second day, and covered the retreat of the army. It was in a lively engagement near Anderson's gap in October, routing Wheeler's command and taking numerous prisoners, and it was also in a skirmish at Maysville, Ala. It then marched to Winchester, Alexandria and New Market, Tenn., engaging the enemy at the last named place and driving him across Mossy creek. In this action the regiment carried the enemy's position and captured a number of prisoners. In December it again repulsed a force which had advanced on Mossy creek, and it participated in the battle at Dandridge in Jan., 1864. It was also in the engagement near Sevierville, and was then stationed at Marysville, Motley's ford, Madisonville and Cleveland until May 3. It was in a severe engagement near Varnell's station with Wheeler's forces, was in the advance on Dallas, and as skirmishers, was under a fierce fire from the enemy's batteries intrenched in a spur of the Allatoona hills, being forced to fall back. A detachment under Capt. Comstock routed a force at Burnt Hickory, and held its position against the attack of a body of cavalry until reinforced. A battalion under Capt. Harnden charged a heavy Confederate force guarding a supply train, and forced a way through the enemy's ranks, but was compelled to fall back to the reserves, where the enemy was checked. This dash has been referred to as the most brilliant of the campaign. A detachment defeated a force at Acworth and occupied the place. A few days later the regiment was in a skirmish at Big Shanty, and it was in frequent engagements about Lost mountain until the enemy's retreat across the Chattahoochee river. It acted as part of McCook's expedition to the rear of Atlanta; attacked Armstrong's forces, 2,000 strong, near Campbellton, but was forced to retire. It moved to Marietta and from there to Cartersville, Ga., reaching the latter place on Aug. 12 and remaining there until Oct. 17, when it moved to Calhoun, thence to St. Louis to be remounted, reaching there Nov. 9. It left St. Louis Dec. 4 for Nashville and assisted in driving 2,000 of the enemy from Hopkinsville after a severe engagement. At Elizabethtown, Ky., Col. LaGrange with 20 men attacked a force of 400 and captured several prisoners. The regiments reached Nashville Jan. 5, 1865, then moved to Waterloo, Ala., and joined Wilson's cavalry expedition. The 1st Wis. cavalry was in the front ranks in a desperate assault upon a fort overlooking West Point, which was captured in a hand-to-hand struggle. On May 6 a detachment of the regiment under Lieut. -Col. Harnden set out to search for Jefferson Davis. At midnight of the 7th a negro gave a minute account of the whereabouts of Davis and at early dawn of the 8th Harnden set out, traveling 45 miles that day. Early on the 9th the detachment resumed the march and at Abbeville met Col. Pritchard of the 4th Mich. cavalry, who had been ordered to camp there, guard the ferry and patrol the river. At 3 o'clock next morning Harnden went forward, believing Davis to be near. The advance guard came upon armed men, who ordered them to halt, and opened fire. Harnden advanced with a large force and the firing became general until a prisoner captured by Sergt. Howe stated that the supposed enemy were Michigan troops under Col. Pritchard, who had selected his best mounted men after Harnden had frankly told him his mission and where Davis was supposed to be, and had proceeded at full speed to that point and surrounded the camp which held Davis, though the latter was not captured until after the regiments had fired upon each other. Many will ever believe the 1st Wis. cavalry entitled to at least equal credit for the capture. The regiment was stationed at Macon, Ga., until May 24 and was mustered out at Nashville July 19, 1865. Its original strength was 1,124. Gain by recruits, 1,056; substitutes, 83; draft, 278; veteran reenlistments, 61; total, 2,602. Loss by death, 366; desertion, 91; transfer, 67; discharge, 634; mustered out 1,444.

Regimental history taken from "The Union Army" by Federal Publishing Company, 1908 - Volume 4

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