11th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment

The first company of the Eleventh Regiment was called into Camp Randall, Madison, on the 23d of September, 1861, and the organization and muster of the regiment was completed on the 18th of October, 1861 On the 19th of November, the Eleventh left the State for St. Louis, arriving there on the 21st, and next day proceeded to Sulfur Springs, twenty-three miles below St. Louis, on the Iron Mountain Railroad, where the regiment remained all winter, stationed, in detachments, for fifty miles along the road, guarding the bridges, and preserving the communications in southeast Missouri.

They were also employed in building block houses near the bridges, for their protection. On the 12th of March, the regiment moved to Pilot Knob, where it was assigned to the division of General Steele, who was about marching to join the forces of General Curtis, on White River. Leaving Pilot Knob, the regiment marched on the 23d, for Reeves’ Station, on Black River, thirty miles north of the Arkansas line, where it joined the army of General Steele, and was assigned to the Second Brigade, commanded by Colonel C. E. Hovey. Troops, about 8,000 in number, were congregated at this point, under General Steele.

On the 19th of April, General Steele commenced his southward march, by the way of Pitman’s Ferry, Pocahontas, and Bird’s Point, striking White River at Jacksonport, on the 10th of May, and moving thence to Batesville, on the 25th, where a junction was formed with the army of General Curtis. During this march, the means of transportation were limited, and the men suffered much from scarcity of rations, and the animals from want of forage. The country was so sparsely settled that it was impossible to obtain subsistence by foraging, and all the supplies had, to be transported from Pilot Knob. The country is described as a wilderness abounding in cypress swamps, and cane brakes, with a poisonous malaria infecting the atmosphere. The command suffered much from sickness and hardships on this march. General Steele’s division being the advance of General Curtis’ forces, left Batesville for Little Rock on the 23d of June marching by way of Jacksonport, at the junction of Black and White rivers, intending to stop at Clarendon, on White River, where they expected to find supplies, which were ordered to be sent up White River to that point. After marching about fifteen miles, blockades of timber, made by felling the trees in the road, were encountered.

These were soon cleared away by the pioneers. On the 3Oth of June, the regiment, while guarding a large forage train, encountered the enemy’s pickets, which they dispersed, and also had a brush with a squad of cavalry, and routed them. Encountering “timber blockades” wherever the ground was favorable to the designs of the rebels, and clearing them away in much less time than it took to construct them, the command arrived at Augusta, where the forces rested until the 6th of July, in the meantime celebrating the “Glorious Fourth” to the best of their ability. On the 6th, General Steele’s command left Augusta at eight o’clock, A. M., and passed over a low, level country, to Bayou Cache, near Cache River, where another formidable timber blockade was found. Soon after camping in a dense canebrake, they were greeted by rebel shots from the other side of the river.

The enemy was easily silenced by a few shells from the brigade battery. Working parties were sent forward in the morning, to clear the blockade. Company D, Captain Miller, Company I, Lieutenant Doane, Company H, Captain Christie, and Company G, Captain Partridge, of the Eleventh, with three companies of the Thirty-third Illinois, and a mountain howitzer, all under command of Colonel Harris, were ordered to make a reconnaissance in advance of the pioneers, in the direction of Peach Orchard Bluff. Company D was in advance, deployed as skirmishers. Reaching Hill’s plantation, the skirmishers were fired on. The command confiscated a ready cooked dinner, and also a couple of wagon loads of bacon and molasses. Taking the road to Des Arc, Colonel Harris, with the four companies of the Eleventh and the howitzer, moved rapidly forward. Proceeding half a mile, the enemy were encountered near a turn in the road. They fired a volley at the skirmishers. Companies D and I were immediately deployed on the right and left of the road, with the howitzer on the extreme left. Companies H and G were in the road.

The skirmishers were soon engaged with the enemy, and it was ascertained that a heavy rebel force was in front. Colonel Harris and Adjutant Lincoln were at the front, in the hottest of the fire. Companies H and I were ordered forward at a double quick. An order for the skirmishers to fall back on the battalion, was mistaken for an order to retreat. While Colonel Harris endeavored to rally them, he was wounded in the arm and leg, but still sat on his horse. The daring courage of their Colonel assured the retreating companies, and they rallied, and retreated in very good order, fighting, and doing good execution upon the ranks of the rebels.

The enemy had his force on each side of the road, concealed in the underbrush. The rebels made a dash to capture the howitzer, but Captain Partridge, who had it in charge, rallied his men around the piece, and brought it off in safety. A short distance to the rear, the battalion halted, where, with the detachment of the Thirty-third Illinois, which had been brought up by Colonel Hovey, it again formed across the road. Here the pursuing rebels were met by a tremendous volley, which emptied many saddles, and caused them to retreat. At this time, a detachment of the First Indiana Cavalry came up, having heard the firing when some miles off, and charged the rebels with such determination and energy, that they broke and fled, and were pursued by our cavalry several miles, killing and wounding a large number of them.

The ground was held, and reinforcements arriving, the force camped on the battle field. The enemy’s force is variously stated at from 1,500 to 2,500, under the command of Colonel Albert Rust. Next day our forces buried over one hundred and fifty dead rebels. Their wounded had been borne from the field. They were armed with smooth bore rifles and shot guns, which were not available against the superior arms of the Union forces. This is known as the battle of Bayou Cache.

This being their first fight, the soldiers and officers of the Eleventh are entitled to great credit for their coolness and courage in facing such overpowering numbers.

The casualties, as reported, were 7 killed or dying of wounds and 38 wounded.

Leaving the battlefield, the command moved by way of Bayou de Vue, to Clarendon, thirty miles, over burning sand, and suffered greatly from a scarcity of water. Green, slimy water from the swamps, was the chief resource for slaking thirst, and hundreds gave out, unable to march further. Arriving at Clarendon on the 10th, they found that the boats with supplies had returned down the river. No alternative was left but to march sixty-five miles farther, to Helena. Suffering from want of food, and the hardships of marching through a country sparsely settled, the regiment, with the rest of Steele’s division, arrived at Helena on the 13th of July, very much exhausted. At Helena, the regiment remained until it was rested, and somewhat recovered from its recent long march. On the 26th, they moved with the Second Brigade, to Oldtown, 24 miles from Helena, where they were stationed, and detachments sent out to forage for supplies, and confiscate rebel cotton.

On the 30th, companies K, E, H, G and B were sent eight miles below Oldtown, to forage for cotton in Mississippi, had a skirmish with the enemy on the lst of August, and bad one man wounded. They were reinforced by Colonel Hovey, with some Illinois companies and a company of cavalry, and companies C and I, of the Eleventh, and marched five miles into the country, where the enemy were encountered, protecting a cotton gin, and a skirmish ensued, in which Theophilus Cross, of Company B, was mortally wounded, and Corporal John Hunter and George Beaumont, both of Company E were wounded. The expedition returned to Oldtown with over 400 bales of cotton. The regiment remained at Oldtown, engaged in cotton and other foraging expeditions, until the 20th of September, when the command, suffering much from sickness, moved to Sugar Point, in a dry and healthy location. Here Colonel Harris and Major Platt rejoined the regiment, having been absent on furlough, Lieutenant Colonel Wood being left in command.

Accompanying the return of General Curtis’ forces to Missouri, that General having been appointed to that department, the Eleventh arrived at Sulfur Springs early in October, where it remained until the 14th, when it moved to Pilot Knob, remained there till the 5th of November, and then moved thirty miles, to Patterson, where it went into camp. Here it was assigned to a new brigade, which was placed under command of Colonel Harris, and numbered the First Brigade, First Division, General Benton, Army of Southeast Missouri. In the latter part of November, they moved sixteen miles, to Black River, and were, during the winter, successively camped at Van Buren, West Plains, Middlebrook, and Pilot Knob, following the movements of the army of Southeast Missouri, which was engaged in general patrol and guard duty in the southeast part of the state.

March 11th, two divisions of the army of Southeast Missouri, under General Carr, were ordered to join the forces of General Grant, who was concentrating his troops near Helena, preliminary to the attack on Vicksburg. Marching to St. Genevieve, the Eleventh Regiment embarked with the rest of the brigade, and proceeded to Memphis, thence to Helena, and on the 22d of March, landed at Milliken’s Bend, a few miles above Vicksburg, where the First Division was assigned to the Thirteenth Army Corps, General McClernand. The division was commanded by Brigadier General Carr, and Colonel Harris was in command of the Second Brigade, in which was located the Eleventh Wisconsin.

Taking part with the Thirteenth Corps in its march across the peninsula, opposite Vicksburg, the Eleventh landed at Bruinsburg on the 30th of April, and immediately commenced the march towards Port Gibson, with the Second Brigade, which was placed under the command of Colonel Stone, Colonel Harris being sick, although he remained on the field and shared the dangers. Moving cautiously forward over the rough roads, the brigade advanced till about one o’clock in the morning, when the enemy were found in force near Magnolia Church, about four miles from Port Gibson.

Owing to the darkness, it was difficult to see the enemy; when found, however, an artillery fire was opened, and kept up for about two hours, when, the moon disappearing, operations were suspended, and the two armies rested on their arms until half past six in the morning, when the enemy, having selected a good position near the church, quietly awaited the approach of the Union forces. The fight now began in earnest, the enemy commencing the attack, supported by his artillery. The Second Brigade was soon in line, and the briga~de battery replied to the enemy’s fire. Other brigades were soon in action, the Second occupying the center, and the fight became severe. About ten o’clock, the enemy massed his force in front of the brigade, and advanced, with the design of breaking the center, when Colonel Stone moved his brigade forward in two lines of battle. Crossing a deep hollow, covered with brush on both slopes, they advanced close to the enemy’s lines, and opened fire with such rapidity and precision, that the rebels soon broke and fled.

Remaining but a few minutes on the field, the brigade moved in pursuit, and about a mile from the recent battle field, the enemy again opened fire upon the Eleventh Regiment, which was in the advance. The brigade was again in line, and the battery firing on the enemy.

The rebel batteries opened upon the brigade with great fury, and for half an hour it alone sustained a terrific fire from the enemy’s guns, when they were reinforced by other brigades and batteries, and the battle again raged fiercely all along the lines. The Second Brigade remained in front during the entire engagement, and did not retire until the enemy had, the second time, been driven from the field. Colonel Stone, commanding the brigade, spoke in glowing terms of the conduct of his troops, specially complimenting, Lieutenant Colonel Wood, who commanded the Eleventh, Captain Whittlesey, of the Eleventh, who acted as his Assistant Adjutant General, and Lieutenant R. E. Jackson, of the Eleventh, who acted as one of his aids. General Carr also spoke highly of the brigade, and personally complimented Colonel Harris, who, although too ill to command the Second Brigade, was present, and shared in all its dangers.

The casualties in the Eleventh, as we find reported, were 6 killed or died of wounds and 15 wounded.

On the 2d of May, the enemy evacuated Grand Gulf, and the Second Brigade was sent to that place, the Eleventh being employed as provost guard until the 5th, when the command marched towards Jackson, arriving within five miles of that place, when General Grant ordered a change in the direction of the march, towards Edwards’ Station, in order to prevent the forces of Pemberton, at Vicksburg, from attacking his rear. General Lawler took command of the Second Brigade and Colonel Harris again took command of the Eleventh. The division of General Carr was in the advance towards Vicksburg, and was present at the battle of Champion Hills, but was in the reserve, the First Brigade only taking part in the battle. The Second Brigade joined in the pursuit of the rebels, and was in the advance on the ememy’s fortifications at Black River Bridge. About 8 o’clock, on the 17th, the enemy’s pickets were driven in, and the Second Brigade, which occupied the extreme right of the line, pressed forward two miles, the Eleventh Wisconsin and Twenty-third Iowa in front. Company A, Captain Hough, was in the advance as skirmishers. These moved forward to a newly planted cornfield, which lay each side of the road. On the opposite ~Side of this field about half a mile off, were the enemy’s breastworks, extending along and behind a narrow bayou.

The skirmishers advanced into this field about 150 yards, and the line of battle was formed near the fence. The skirmishers opened fire. The order came to lie down, which was hardly executed before a volley of bullets passed harmlessly over the heads of those in line of battle. Several of the skirmishers were wounded, Captain Hough, of Company A, mortally. The Second Brigade moved forward to the right, till they reached a bayou within 250 yards of the enemy’s works. There being a bank along this bayou, the right of the brigade passed around to within sixty yards of the enemy’s works, the left being under cover of the bank. It was deemed impossible for troops to pass across that level cornfield, in the face of the enemy’s fortifications. An artillery fire was opened and kept up for two hours, only skirmishers and sharpshooters of the infantry being engaged.

At length the infantry were ordered to charge. They rush into the level field, while the enemy’s fire sweeps relentlessly through their ranks. Onward they press, the dead and wounded strewing their pathway. The rebels pour in a deadly musketry fire from their entrenchment’s, which does not stay the advancing foe. When they arrive within fifty yards of the works; the rebels break and flee, and the next moment their breastworks are in our possession. The Eleventh Wisconsin was the first to leap into their works, and pursue the flying rebels. Their retreat across the Black River Bridge was cut off, some few swimming the river and escaping, but the rest were soon compelled to surrender. The Eleventh regiment alone took more than a thousand prisoners. The flag of the First Missouri Infantry was captured by private Roswell Clark, of Company F.

The casualties, as reported, were 3 killed or died of wounds and 8 wounded.

Moving from Black River Bridge the next day, with the Thirteenth Army Corps, the Eleventh took its position in the trenches before Vicksburg. The division was placed in support of two siege pieces and two pieces of the First Wisconsin Battery, Captain Foster, which opened fire on the enemy’s works on the 19th of May.

In the celebrated assault on the 22d of May, the division of General Carr, occupied the centre with Smith’s division on the right, and Osterhaus’ on the left, with Hovey’s as a support. Each regiment moved forward as far as possible, in battle line, without exposing itself. Bayonets were fixed, the signal was given and the regiments rushed forward at a run. Thick and fast fell the iron and leaden rain from the enemy’s works. Many fell but still they pushed on, and soon reached a deep gully down which they descended, crossed through the canebrake in the ravine, and mounted the steep slope on the opposite side,from which the enemy had cleared the timber, thus affording no protection from the terrible fire which swept the whole hillside. This surmounted, a similar ravine was yet between them and the enemy’s works. Here the fire of the enemy swept the ground from right to left. It was impossible to cross this second ravine under such a storm of fire, and the regiment was ordered to lie down, protecting itself by the slope of the ground. Here the regiment remained till night, firing as they lay, when they withdrew, carrying off most of their wounded. Many of these, however remained until the 25th, before they could be removed.

The casualties reported were 38 killed or died of wounds and 69 wounded.

After the charge on the 22d of May, the Eleventh were continually on guard or fatigue duty, during the whole period of the siege, and were obliged to occupy the trenches every night, and enjoyed the luxury of sleeping in tents only twice in the whole time. This round of duties was interrupted on the 2d of July, and the regiment marched to Black River Bridge, to prevent a rebel raid on the rear. The rebels recrossed the river, and the regiment returned to the trenches, and the city was surrendered next day.

The casualties during the siege, in the month of June, were 3 killed or died of wounds and 6 wounded.

The Eleventh, with Carr’s division, took part in the march of General Sherman on Jackson, after the surrender of Vicksburg. On the 13th of July, the enemy was driven to his works, and on the 17th, the city was entered by our troops, the enemy evacuating the place during the night. The division of General Carr was employed two days in destroying about five miles of the track of the Mobile and Mississippi Railroad. They returned to Vicksburg, and went into camp on the banks of the Mississippi, with the Thirteenth Army Corps, on the 24th.

In the skirmishes on the 12th, the Eleventh lost 2 killed, 1 wounded.

Lieutenant Colonel Wood resigned on the 7th of June, and Captain L. H. Whittlesey was commissioned Lieutenant Colonel. Major Platt resigned on the 9th of July, and Captain Jesse S. Miller was commissioned as Major.

In the reorganization of the Thirteenth Army Corps, the Eleventh was designated as the First Regiment, Second Brigade, of the First Division, which was placed under the command of Major General C. C. Washburne. The Thirteenth Corps was transferred to the Department of the Gulf, and left Vicksburg for New Orleans on the 13th of August, and was subsequently ordered to Brashier City, a place ninety miles west of New Orleans, on Berwick Bay, and the terminus of the Great Western Railroad. Colonel Harris was again in command of the brigade. Moving to Berwick, the Thirteenth Corps was employed until the 3d of October, in preparations for the “second Teche expedition:” then leaving Berwick City, and marching to New Iberia, there awaited the appearance of the Nineteenth Corps, under General Franklin, which was to take part in the expedition. Here the First and Second brigades were detached, and sent to St. Martinsville, where the enemy’s pickets were encountered. They were driven in, and the Eleventh formed in line as skirmishers, covering the column, and entered and took possession of the town. The command then marched to Bayou La Tortue, where it bivouacked, and next day moved to Vermillion Bayou. Nothing occurred during the remainder of this expedition, of historical importance. The brigade returned to Berwick City on the 10th of November, having performed a toilsome march of 215 miles, over bad roads, through a difficult country, during cold and stormy weather.

Taking part in General Banks’ operations in Texas, the Eleventh, with General Washburn’s division, embarked on a steamer at Algiers, and landed at Brazos Santiago, on the 23d. Companies A, C, E and G, were landed it Point Isabel, when a violent storm arose, and the balance of the regiment was unable to land. It proceeded to Mustang Island, and disembarked. Crossing Aransas Pass, they bivouacked on St. Joseph Island, with orders to reinforce General Washburn, at Fort Esparanza, fifty miles distant. Here the men suffered much from want of shelter, and the island afforded no fire wood. On the 28th, they commenced their march through the deep sand, carrying five days’ rations and fifty rounds of ammunition. They reached Fort Esperanza on the 2d of December, much exhausted by their severe march. Being joined by the missing companies on the 7th, they marched to Ducrow’s Point, on Matagorda Peninsula, where they received their camp equipage, and went into camp. On the 12tb, they proceeded to Indianola, and took possession of the place.

The regiment remained on duty in the vicinity of Matagorda Bay, and Indianola, until the 11th of February, 1864, when, upwards of three-fourths of their number having reenlisted, the regiment was mustered as a veteran organization. The nonveterans were temporarily transferred to the 23d Wisconsin, and the veteran regiment embarked for New Orleans, on their way to Wisconsin, on veteran furlough. Reaching there on the 23d, they were detained for want of transportation, until the 10th of March, when they proceeded up the Mississippi River, reaching Madison on the 21st, where they were welcomed by the State authorities, and received a new set of colors.

The men dispersed to their homes, and on the 23d of April, reassembled at Camp Washburn, Milwaukee, and again left the State, reaching Memphis, Tenn., on the 29th, where they were detained by General Washburn, and went into camp. Here they took part in General Sturgis’ expedition into Western Tennessee and northern Mississippi, also participated in that General’s skirmish with Forrest’s cavalry, and returned to Memphis on the abandonment of the expedition.

The regiment moved down the river to Carrolton, whence they proceeded to Brashier City, where they arrived on the 19th of May. Colonel Harris was placed in command of that important post. The regiment remained at Brashier City until the 26th of February, 1865. During its occupation of this position, for nearly nine months, the Eleventh Regiment was employed in the usual guard and outpost duty. Frequent expeditions were sent out, up the adjacent streams and bayous, for the capture of rebel boats or supplies intended for the rebel army, and for destroying the enemy’s communications. In June, seven companies of the regiment went on an expedition up Bayou Teche, and encounteied a body of the enemy’s cavalry, which they put to flight, and pursued to Pattersonville. Companies E and K, under Captain Lewis, were successful in capturing a band of rebel cavalry, who were engaged in destroying the railroad and telegraph lines. Companies A and G, under Major Miller,went up Bayou Long, and destroyed every description of craft which could be made available for the transportation of rebel troops. In July, Company F, under Lieutenant McConnell, proceeded in a gunboat to Grand Lake, where they destroyed a number of flatboats, which were being constructed by the rebels. Frequent reconnoissances were made into the adjacent country, Major Miller and Captain Wyman proceeded with two detachments, on gunboats, to Grand Lake, and after effecting a thorough reconnoissance of the country, returned with a barge loaded with bales of cotton.

On the 10th of August, Lieutenant Colonel Whittlesey was on detached duty at New Orleans, leaving the regiment under the command of Major Miller.

The non-veteran of the Eleventh arrived at Madison on the 25th of October, under command of Captain Lang, of Company C, and were mustered out of service.

In January and February, the regiment was engaged in building the fortifications which had been projected at Brashier City; one hundred men being detailed for that purpose daily. On the 26th of February, the Eleventh Regiment left Brashier City for New Orleans, where it was assigned to the Third Brigade, Second Division, General Gerrard, of the Sixteenth Army Corps, which was destined to operate against the City of Mobile. Colonel Harris was in command of the brigade, and Major Miller commanded the regiment. On the 9th of March, the Sixteenth Corps embarked for Mobile, reaching Dauphin’s Island on the llth. Proceeding up Fish River, and thence towards Blakeley, the regiment acted as guard to the train, while the main column of the Sixteenth Army Corps joined in the investment of Spanish Fort.

On the 3d of April, the division marched from near Spanish Fort, to the support of General Steele at Blakeley, and took position on the extreme left, thus completing the investment of the place. The Eleventh was thrown forward as the support to a skirmish line, with instructions to advance as close as possible to the enemy’s works, connecting with the brigade on the right then to intrench and hold the ground. This was accomplished, the skirmish line occupying a ridge, in front of the ememy’s works, about 900 yards distant, closely supported by the Eleventh, and working all night throwing up rifle pits. On the 6th, the Eleventh Wisconsin, and One Hundred and Seventy-eighth New York, were ordered to throw forward a line of skirmishers still nearer to the enemy, and drive them into their main works. This was done with slight loss, although the men were exposed to a heavy fire of artillery and musketry. The main line moved forward to the first line occupied by the skirmishers, and zig zags were commenced towards the second skirmish line. On the 7th, the Eleventh Wisconsin was relieved except one company on the left, acting as sharpshooters.

On the 9th, the division was ordered to move on the enemy’s works in two lines. The Third Brigade occupied the centre, the Eleventh Wisconsin, One Hundred and Seventy-eighth New York, and the Fifty-eighth Illinois forming the first line and the assaulting column. Just before 6 o’clock P. M., the signal was sounded by Colonel Harris. Breaking from their concealment the gallant regiments composing the assaulting column, rushed for the rebel works. The Eleventh Wisconsin, under Major Miller, was in the advance, and was the first to reach the parapet, and fighting hand to hand, succeeded in breaking the rebel lines and were the first to plant their flag upon the works of Blakeley.

The gallantry of this charge will be understood, when the reader is informed that in order to reach the enemy’s works, it was necessary to climb over the fallen trees and obstructions which the enemy had looked to for protection, exposed all the while to a tremendous fire from the enemy.

Lieutenant Angus McDonald, of Company A, was highly spoken of for his gallantry in a hand to hand fight in the ditch before the enemy’s works. He had nothing but his sword, but succeeded in felling several of his foes, when he was shot in the thigh, and bayonetted in the shoulder. The gallant conduct of the Eleventh Wisconsin, elicited the highest encomiums from those who witnessed their daring and bravery in this last struggle of the Confederates.

The casualties at Blakeley were reported as 21 killed or died of wounds and 40 wounded.

After the capture of Blakeley, the regiment marched to Montomery, Ala., where it remained doing garrison duty until the 23d of July, when it returned to Mobile and was assigned to provost guard duty till mustered out on the 5th of September, when it embarked for home, reaching Madison on the 18th of September, where they were welcomed at the depot by Governor Lewis, but declined a public reception as they were much fatigued and desired to reach home.

Colonel Harris was brevetted Brigadier General, before be left Mobile, for meritorious services during the war.

Regimental Statistics: Original Strength, 1,029. Gain by recruits in 1863, 72; in 1864, 263; in 1865, 24; by substitutes, 62; by draft in l865,147; veteran reenlistments, 363; total, 1,965.

Loss: by death, 348; deserted, 25; transferred, 9; discharged, 19; mustered out, 1,264.

Quiner, Military History of Wisconsin, 1866

Chris

Christopher Wehner is a Civil War historian with his M.A. in United States history emphasis the American Civil War. He is a published author with two books, numerous journal and digital media media publications to his credit. To contact chris, cwehner -at- soldierstudies .org

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