Student Essay, Colonel George Bryant.


This is a student essay on the activities of Colonel George Bryant prior to his command with the 12th Wisconsin Infantry. It was created by University of Wisconsin student Guy Ludvigson in 1967. This essay can be located in U of W River Falls, Wisconsin, student call number 338.

 

INTRODUCTION

Introduction

 Captain George E. Bryant was born in 1832. At the age of twenty-nine he was mustered into the service of the Union Army in Milwaukee, Wisconsin as a member of the First Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. {1} He was bent along with millions of Americans who fought for the North or the South on an experience which was to change the heritage of a nation, a people, and a man, George Bryant. Bryant did not play a very significant role in the Civil War in terms of military accomplishments, but an investigation of the experience of George Bryant contributes a great deal more in terms of a general understanding of a Civil War soldier. Bryant's background is sketchy until he became associated with a newly organized militia company, the Madison Guards. The first record of the Madison Guards appears in December of 1859. {2} From this juncture George Bryant and the Madison Guards became united until the company was mustered into federal service as Company E of the First Regiment of Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers.

 Certain facets of Bryant's background can be determined prior to his serving as company commander. He was a graduate of Captain Partridge's Military School of New England. He was also a lawyer in Madison, Wisconsin, prior to his association with the Madison Guards. {3} Bryant was a Republican, and on one instance he was nominated for a position as Alderman at a Republican First Ward Caucus in the city of Madison. {4} He initially served the Madison Guards as First Lieutenant, but due to the ill-health of Captain Crawford he was elected to the position of Captain. {5}

 [Pg.2]

 George Bryant was more than a leader of an independent militia company preparing for the outbreak of hostilities with the South. He served as an administrator of the myriad of detail which faced the organization and operation of the Madison Guards. Bryant also served as a military commander, and he participated in the skirmish at Falling Waters, Virginia, which was a part of the larger campaign at First Manassas. Captain Bryant's experience may not have been unique to a commander of a militia company, but his experience does provide insight into the overall structure of the Union army immediately following President Lincoln's call for Volunteers. The Union army was in a large part composed of these companies which had rallied to Lincoln's call for volunteers. Bryant displayed deep feeling of loyalty to the Union in his call for volunteers to join the Madison Guards in a proclamation which appeared in the Journal. He further exposed his sentiments in certain pieces of correspondence sent to Governor Randall. These few records provide evidence as to his philosophy regarding the War.

 Captain Bryant's experience with the Madison Guards can be divided into two general categories; the operation of an independent militia company, and the participation of the Madison Guards mustered into service in the First Infantry Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. The existence of the Madison Guards spans a longer period of time than the three month enlistments of the members of Company E. However, in terms of available evidence these two general categories serve to divide the experience of George E. Bryant between late 1859 and mid-1861.

 [Pg.3]

 Phase I: & Survey of Activities of the Madison Guards prior to its being

Mustered into Federal Service

Introduction

The annual meeting of the Madison Guards occurred on the first Monday in May, at which time the selection of officers for Captain, First, Second, and Third Lieutenants, Four Sergeants, Four Corporals, Three Directors, a Treasurer, and a Secretary took place. The uniform of the Guards was basically like that of the United States Infantry with such modifications as the company saw fit to adopt. The regular meeting of the company was held the first Saturday of every month at seven-thirty o'clock in the evening. In addition, drill was held weekly on Tuesday and Friday evenings. Membership in the company was received through the recommendation of any member of the company, and a vote by the majority of the membership in which any prospective member could not receive over four negative votes. This would not be an uncommon practice to gain admission into a militia. Then upon admission each new member was expected to pay one dollar in dues, sign the Constitution and By-laws, and pay twenty-five cents monthly dues thereafter. Fines could be assessed against members for absence from the business meeting, appearance on parade with dirty equipment, absences, from parade, leaving parade, drill, or a meeting without an expressed leave from the officer in charge. The first two offenses were subject to a twenty-five cent fine, while the last two would result in a one dollar assessment.

 The average height of the thirteen officers and sixty-three enlisted men just exceeded five feet six and one-half-inches. {6} This would be above-average for the

 [Pg.4]

 officers and men serving in the Civil War. Five feet five inches would be a more accurate average of all soldiers participation, in the conflict. At present the five feet six and one-half inches would be below the five feet nine inch average for present-day American servicemen.

 [Pg.5]

 The Madison Guards met with at least the avowed purpose of military preparedness, but in late 1859, and the early months of 1860, the company was primarily involved with the sponsorship of social events. "Preparation is rife for the Grand Ball tomorrow [sic] evening at Atwood's Hall. It will be the grand opening of a brilliant season. Young people are full of hope and gladness, with the dance upon the ends, and some not so young feel the same way. 'Let the wolf howl;" thus read an advertisement in the Wisconsin State Journal of December 22, 1859, to notify the populace of Madison of the forthcoming Christmas Ball. {7} The Christmas Ball was sponsored both as a social event and as a money-raising project. The report of the Ball Committee of January 21, 1860, indicated that Richard Lynch, the member in charge of ticket sales, returned one hundred and twenty-six tickets which he had received at the door. A profit of two dollars and fifty cents was realized on the Christmas Ball. The profit aspect of the Christmas Ball must clearly be relegated as subsidiary to social function in light of its minuteness. Though the Guards continued in their slim margin of profit, they managed to promote a very active social season. On St. Patrick's Day 1860, the Madison Guards participated in the parade. The Guards were responsible for hiring the band which played the appropriate marches. That evening the Madison Guards sponsored a party held at Atwood's Hall in Madison. The orchestra received twenty-five dollars for the evening's performances The Madison Guards maintained a full schedule of social events

 [Pg.6]

 through 1860 and 1861. A late September ball was held, followed by a Thanksgiving Party at Dedication Hall. {10} The Madison Guards extended a cordial invitation to Mendota Engine Company No. 1 to attend the Thanksgiving Party. This invitation was returned in kind to the Guard to attend the Christmas Party sponsored by the Mendota Engine Company No. 1 held December 25, 1860. The Guard was to be allowed admittance, "free in uniforms." {11} This successful exchange of invitations indicated a close relationship of the Guards to the community. The paramilitary function of the Guards must at this time be relegated to a contingent position to their heavy social season. The company continued to record a slim profit for the sponsorship of succeeding events. Such was the case with the St. Valentines Ball which was sponsored by the Guard on February 14, 1861, in their armory. {12}

 The Madison Guards were plagued by high operating costs in relation to their assets, as were other independent organizations. This proved to be another obstacle facing the continued operation of an independent company. The Madison Gas Light and Coke Company provided the gas for the armory of the Guards. This service entailed that the company meet the expense of the gas consumed. The average gas bill for the first half of 1860 amounted to two dollars and forty-one cents per month. {13} This seems trivial, but not so in relation to the assets of the company.

 The Madison Guards changed the location of their headquarters during

 [Pg.7]

 their existence as an independent militia company. The Guards initially leased John Reynolds' hall on March 1, 1859, in the city of Madison at the annual cost of one hundred and fifty dollars. John RRyn6lds was also a member of the company. Following the expiration of the above lease, no understanding was reached with Mr. Reynolds. Reynolds considered a balance of two hundred and seven dollars and twenty-five cents as that amount due him. William Plunkett, chairman of the Committee on the Armory of the Guards, submitted a motion to the company station that each member promptly pay his indebtedness to provide for Mr. Reynolds' claim. The company felt that because of the high yearly rent and the adverse location it would seek to find more suitable quarters. The committee further submitted that after looking at the several buildings in Madison, the only place suitable at that time for the location of the company headquarters would be the hall adjoining the Armory of the Governor's Guard, the other independent militia company of Madison. Alderman Festner informed the committee that the hall could be leased for a yearly rent of one hundred dollars. 14 A month after a general assessment was requested from the membership to solve the indebtedness problem, the company was still faced with past-due rent problems from the building rented from John Reynolds. {15} This provides another indication of the financial condition of the company. The committee reported that the hall was rented until December 1, 1860. However, Mr. Porter, the landlord, explained that it would be possible to have the building vacated by November 1, 1860. The committee

 [Pg.8]

 agreed to rent the hall for one hundred and eighty dollars per year. The committee further recommended "a hop for the purpose of dedicating the building. {16}

 The financial status of the company was a recurring factor plaguing Captain Bryant and the Madison Guards. A large portion of the financial burden was born by the individual members, even to the extent that they were forced to purchase their own uniforms. Dues were levied against the membership every month, but, because of the extent of the operating costs, the company was rarely in a strong financial condition. The company maintained as the major portion of its assets: military tents, uniforms, swords, belts, and sashes. The average amount of funds in the hands of Secretary Reynolds in the months of September and November of 1860, was about twenty dollars. On December 1, 1860 the company was faced with an indebtedness of thirty-three dollars and forty-three cents. It is easy to for see the difficulty in meeting their rent requirements with such a barren treasury. At the same time the Guard held twenty-six dollars and seventy-one cents in cash with eighty-seven dollars and twenty-cents due from the membership. {17} The problem of indebtedness had reached such proportions that by the end of October, 1860, the company instructed Captain Bryant to present each member with "his bill of indebtedness." If the members of the company found it impossible to pay their indebtedness, Captain Bryant was further instructed to accept a promissory note payable on December 1, 1860 Secretary Reynolds was instructed to cancel each member's indebtedness who signed a note for its full amount as of November 1, 1860. {18} The greatest

 [Pg.9]

 danger to the continued existence of the Madison Guards rested not In external opposition, but in the problem of making good its financial commitments. The Uniform Committee of the Madison Guards reported on September 21, 1860, that three swords, sashes, and belts valued at twenty-four dollars were owned by the company, but were in the hands of three members. The committee desired further instructions before proceeding to demand their return from the delinquent members. Those members of the Guards serving on the committee were: John Reynolds, Joseph Iverson, John Hyland, Michael Contwell, and William Plunkett. {19}

 The Madison Guards was individually outfitted, but in the event that a member was forced to quit the company, the usual practice was for the departing individual to sell his uniform to the company. The company in turn sought to sell this uniform to a new member. William Dowling wrote the Madison Guards early in September of 1860, indicating that he desired to leave the company as he could not spare the time to attend the meetings. He desired to sell his uniform for a "fair valuation. {20} Various reasons for resigning from the Guards were given by departing members. One member who was forced to tender his resignation submitted his farewell in the following manner.

I have to announce to you that I am obliged to leave the state for Europe. I beg to present the company with my uniform as a gift. I also have a photograph perhaps the inspiration for the gift of the uniform which if I am worthy of it, I would like to have placed in the Armory. The amount of my debtedness I will remit immediately. I wish you to present the Company everyone [sic] with my best and most sincere wishes

[Pg.10]

as I trust they will always enjoy the laurels they have obtained, and I hope for it may be [sic] that I will be one among them again. You will please accept the assurance of my most profound respect.... {21}

James Law, another member of the company, submitted his resignation in a more matter-of-fact manner a he stated: "Gentlemen: Please accept my resignation." {22} The outbreak of hostilities between the North and South did not seem to affect one Richard Fulhand who announced on March 11, 1861, that since he was leaving town to seek a livelihood in the far West, he desired to tender his resignation. {23}

The problem of dismissal also came before the company as in the case of Arthur Callahan who failed to meet his financial obligations. A resolution was presented in which Callahan was cited for indebtedness "beyond the constitutional limit and having been notified by the Secretary of such fact..." said Arthur Callahan did not provide satisfactory reasons for his actions. The company then moved that Callahan be cited "for contempt and unmanly conduct" and be expelled him from the company. {24} This is the only instance on record of such action being taken against a member; therefore, it can reasonably be assumed that the obligations of the company were faithfully met.

George Bryant was elevated to Captain of the Madison Guards on July 28, 1860. The former Captain of the Guards, Crawford, had resigned because of his health. He had formerly served as First Lieutenant of the Guards. Bryant was instructed by A.W. Keyes, Colonel of the Eighteenth Regiment of Wisconsin State Military to notify the officers and members of his company of the forthcoming election

[Pg.11]

evening on July 28. {25} The same day, Bryant alerted N. J. Cantwell, secretary of the organization, to notify the members of the Guards to appear at the Armory at eight o'clock on Saturday evening, July 28. {26}

Serving as the captain of an independent militia company involved George Bryant in a diversity of activities. He was, for instance, to serve along with his company as part of the escort of the distinguished Senator from New York, William H. Seward. It was anticipated that, in accompanying Seward from his railroad coach to his quarters, the militia would perform in the spirit of a "complimentary escort to an eminent statesman and patriot. {27} Another task which fell for the most part on Bryant's shoulders was "the conveyance of suitable resolutions expressive of the sense of the company at the death of their late Captain Samuel Crawford." A committee was established of Captain Bryant, Lieutenant Plunkett, and John Byrne to compose the resolutions and forward them to the bereaved family of their deceased Captain. {28}

Keeping a running account of the activities of the Madison Guards is extremely difficult, but the Wisconsin State Journal provides a record of certain company activities. Notices of meetings were often given only a few lines of print in the Journal, reading simply that "The Madison Guards have a drill at their Armory tomorrow evening. {29} Some were more specific, reporting, for example, that the Guards would rendezvous at their Armory, then proceed to Thomas Reynolds' land for drill, following which a dance would be held to culminate the day's activities. {30} A June 26, 1860, insertion stated that, "Under the drill of Lt. [sic] Bryant this company is rapidly becoming one of the best disciplined companies in the State." {31} The appreciation of George Bryant as a drill instructor is also carried into other areas. A resolution was passed on October 27, 1860, in which the Madison Guards sought to convey to Captain Bryant their gratitude for the services rendered

[Pg.12]

to the company. "Resolved--That as a mark of our appreciation of such services we tender to him the use of the uniform and utensils now in his possession," so stated the feelings toward Captain Bryant's command. {32}

The Madison Guards anticipated the call for volunteers from the various states by President Lincoln. The Guards held a meeting at their Armory January 9, 1861, at which time Lieutenant Plunkett of the company introduced a resolution to the effect that "the Captain [George E. Bryant] be instructed to tender to Governor Randall the aid of the Madison Guards in case their services may be required for the preservation of the Union." It was seconded by John Reynolds and subsequently passed. {33} Governor Randall looked to the independent militia companies to fill the directive sent out by the Secretary of War in the organization of the "First three months Regiment." {34} Randall sent out agents to the various independent company commanders with orders to be prepared to muster their commands within twenty-four hours of the receipt of the order. Governor Randall further sought to ascertain if the men of the respective independent companies would volunteer and prepare for immediate federal service. {35} "The First Regiment [of Wisconsin Volunteers] was nearly completed from the old militia companies, recruited to required strength." {36} The Madison Guards held the honor of being the first independent militia company to tender its services to Governor Randall. The Governor replied with orders for Captain Bryant:

Sir: The offer of the services of your company to be enlisted into the service of the Federal government made some time since, is accepted. You will therefore proceed to fill up the ranks of your company to eighty men, and prepare for immediate service. Further instructions will be given in application at this office. {37}

[Pg.13]

Phase II of the Experience of the Madison Guards as they prepared for Action in Virginia

Captain Bryant was notified by William L. Utley on April 22, 1861, to have his company ready for departure to the rendezvous of the First Wisconsin. This was to take place at Milwaukee on Wednesday April 24th at noon. He was to present his command to the regimental commander, Colonel J.C. Starkweather. The adjutant General further directed Bryant to provide accommodations and board for twenty to twenty-five of his company at Jaquish's Hotel. {38} Captain Bryant, having been notified to fill the ranks of the Madison Guards, issued a proclamation in the Wisconsin State Journal calling upon loyal citizens to sign up for "the chance of promotion, the glory of a just war, and the consciousness that we are needed to protect our wives and mothers." Captain Bryant, in a very patriotic appeal, exhorted all able-bodied young men "to sustain our much loved American Union, and protect the integrity of "The American Flag." To Bryant all the above virtues of patriotism "should be sufficient inducements to rally to the standard of the Stars and Stripes." The Journal reported twenty-eight new enlistments in the Madison Guards following Bryant's proclamation. {39} This proclamation provides the best Insight into the political philosophy of George Bryant. He stood firm in his conviction for the Union, and he affirmed his argument on strong moral and emotional grounds.

[Pg.14]

The account of the departure and travel of the Madison companies indicates in one manner how the populace of Southern Wisconsin reacted to the War.

The departure of the several companies for Milwaukee was characterized by public proceedings at their several localities, and these pioneer soldiers of our State were greeted by enthusiastic cheers of thousands of their neighbors and friends as they departed from their homes and friends ... to accept the duties and dangers incident to a soldier's life.

The Wisconsin State Journal correspondent who traveled with the company to Milwaukee stated that the men of the two Madison companies -- Governor's Guards and Madison Guards -- would rather fight a regiment than say good-bye again. The writer, in describing the scene, states:

They, [the volunteers], were used to seeing the tears of soft-hearted women, but to see men weeping was more than they could bear. Repeatedly, as the thought of leaving friends came over them, eyes once dried would fill afresh. Still all remained resolute. They had counted the cost and had no wish to turn back. Of such stuff are heroes made, The honor of Wisconsin is in safe hands. God speed them. {40}

The men of the company boarded the designated cars of the Milwaukee and Prairie Du Chien Railroad in Madison and started their journey to Milwaukee. At Stoughton a large crowd gathered, and a thirteen gun salute was fired. At Whitewater the volunteers met crowds cheering them from doors and windows near the track. Arriving at Milwaukee the employees of the railroad stood in line

[Pg.15]

beside the track and gave three cheers to the men of Madison. Colonel Starkweather met the troops and marched them to their quarters in Burchard's Hall. {41}

Immediately after arriving in Milwaukee, the company underwent several necessary adjustments in an effort to get accustomed to their new surroundings, and they trained in preparation for their movement to the East. The independent companies which arrived at Milwaukee on April 27, 1861, were first provided with temporary quarters in several of the public buildings and halls until the facilities at the Fair Grounds could be prepared for them. This camp would subsequently be named "Camp Scott" in honor of General Winfield Scott who was commander of the Federal troops. {42} The Wisconsin State Journal, in emphasizing the high caliber of men training in Milwaukee before disembarking for the East, stated that "There are no less than eight or ten lawyers" among which was Captain George E. Bryant. The uniforms worn by the men of the First Regiment consisted of grey pants with a black stripe and frock coat. The caps were grey with a black cord in the pattern of the Seventh [New York] Regiment. {43} On May 7th the Journal reported that the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Wisconsin Infantry Regiments were reconstructed into a brigade with Rufus King appointed as Brigadier General. {44} Correspondence arriving from Camp Scott was reprinted in the Wisconsin State Journal providing the families and friends of the troops and citizens of Madison with a first-hand account of the activities

[Pg.16]

of the men of Company E, formerly the Madison Guards. Such an account in the Journal gave a description of the mess-room as being fifty-six by ninety feet with "a kitchen attached." Meals were furnished for thirty-nine cents per day. On Sunday morning, [May 13], the volunteers received the remainder of the money sent from Madison which had been withheld. The ladies of Grafton, Wisconsin, sent needles and thread to be used in sewing rips in the men's uniforms. "Much to the pleasure of the men the needles were threaded in advance by the ladies." {45}

Secretary of War Simon Cameron ordered Lieutenant J.B. McIntyre of the First United States Cavalry to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to muster into federal service the First Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers on May 17, 1861. {46} The Madison Guards, numbering sixty-nine men, were then mustered into service. Captain Bryant was only twenty-nine years old at the time. {47} The First Wisconsin signed for a three month enlistment which was indicative of the majority opinion concerning the length of the war. The three month enlistment was to prove to be very inadequate for the prosecution of the war.

Serving as company commander, Captain Bryant was also called upon to act as liaison between the citizens of Madison and his men at Camp Scott. The Journal reported in its April 26th and May 20th issues that Bryant had arrived in Madison and was willing to "transfer parcels to any members of the Madison companies who were stationed in Milwaukee." {48}

[Pg.17]

The Camp Scott correspondent of the Journal provided an interesting account of the life at the Camp. The men were reported to be "quite cheery" in the face of a storm which had blown as hard as any the oldest inhabitant of the area had ever seen. Guard duty was reported to be nearly impossible in the face of such a fierce wind. Provisions supplied for the Camp Scott encampment for May 19th were five hundred pounds of beef steak, four hundred and fifty pounds of pork, four hundred pounds of port steak and two hundred fifty gallons of coffee. According to the reporter "all the provisions were of the best quality." The men were frequent patrons of the newsboys, because they sought to learn any news indicating when the First would be sent forward. {49} Card and ball playing were the common amusements in camp. Chess playing was undertaken by a few. "Music and dancing were also common as ladies from the city [Milwaukee] were frequent visitors to the camp." A mock court martial would, on occasion, be set up for some alleged offense providing "laughable proceeding" for all. {50} The correspondent indicated a growing impatience among the men for remaining in Camp, "devouring fat pork and beans, wearing out our handsome uniforms, soiling our fine caps..." when the overwhelming sentiment favored moving to the front. Word finally reached Colonel Starkweather at Camp Scott from the War Department notifying him to be prepared to march within two hours notice. The Colonel conveyed the message to the men who had been drilling on Spring Street near the Camp. On being informed, the men broke out into a tremendous cheer.

[Pg.18]

"It was difficult for the officers to keep the men in the ranks until the regiment reached the parade grounds .... {51} In analyzing the caliber of the officers at Camp Scott, the correspondent wrote:

The officers of the different companies with few exceptions, are all capable and efficient men. Captain Fairchild is very active and attentive, but Captain Bryant is acknowledged by all to be the best commandant in the Regiment. He never makes any display whatever for the purpose of having people notice his military qualifications; if the company he commands will only appear well he is satisfied. {52}

This is an extremely strong affirmation of the effectiveness of Captain Bryant. His character takes shape as being an extremely warm and personable individual with those qualities necessary of a knowledgeable and respected leader. The reasons for Bryant's being requested to command the Twelfth Wisconsin Regiment following the expiration of his three month enlistment become more evident.

Early June saw diverse events at Camp Scott. One of these events was a dress parade held in honor of the birthday of General Winfield Scott. Three recruits were sworn into service of Company E of the First Wisconsin on May 31, 1861. The three new members of Company E were: Beverly Jacobson, W.W. Bird and Joseph P. Wilkers. Mrs. George Bryant and Miss Kate Byrnes arrived at Camp Scott on June 3rd from Madison, bringing gifts for Company E among which included a brown linen Havelock for each man in the Company. The

[Pg.19]

Madison Guards seemed to be especially blessed on June 3, 1861, as several young ladies of the Fourth Hard School and six ladies of the city of Milwaukee gave the company "a large number of pies, cakes, work-bags, and other each niceties. {53}

Captain Bryant was not fearful of taking a stand on a particular issue, especially if he felt bound by his conscience to speak. The Camp Scott correspondent, known as Moote of Granard, refers to an Ensign in his June 3rd dispatch as being forced to beat a hasty retreat in the face of a superior officer. This officer was in disagreement with the Ensign's rebuke of a private for his refusal to purchase a hat. Captain Bryant wrote the Journal on June 5th stating that the Ensign had been done an injustice in the Journal article. "The Ensign spoken of acted perfectly right, and his conduct in the matter met with my entire approval," stated Captain Bryant. {54} Company E had been in Milwaukee at Camp Scott for nearly two months prior to receiving their orders to be transported to the Fast. When the news finally reached the men and the citizens of Madison, a huge ceremony was planned in conjunction the departure of the First Wisconsin. The first group of Wisconsin soldiers was moving East to fight the War and the citizens of Wisconsin, sought to give them a triumphant farewell. The front page headlines in the Journal on June 8, 1861, notified the residents of Madison that the First would be disembarking for Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The

[Pg.20]

Journal article contended that the First would undoubtedly march from Harrisburg to join the army at Chambersburg and have a share in taking Harper's Ferry. Friends wishing to journey to Milwaukee to bid farewell to the men of the First would be given half-fare rates according to the Superintendent of the Milwaukee and Prairie Du Chien Railroad. {55} The eight hundred and ten men composing the First left Milwaukee on a special train of the Chicago and Milwaukee Railroad. The regiment left Milwaukee about noon on June 9, 1861. A large number of people were present to witness the departure of the men. Governor Randall delivered an address at the depot as the men prepared to board the train. Following his address three cheers were given for the Governor, the state, the city, and for all the friends that were present. {56}

In describing the caliber of men making up the First the Cleveland Leader announced that the Wisconsin Volunteers were "exceptionally strong and robust looking." The drill proficiency of the First was accorded to be equal to older and more experienced regiments. "The men expressed themselves ready to proceed with great haste to the actual battle front." {57} The First arrived at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, on June 12, 1861. The correspondent travelling with the regiment in a bit of a sidelight referred to several cases of poisoning which occurred from drinking "secession milk." He further cited a rumor among the troops which claimed that the capture of Harper's Ferry was very imminent. The First was attached to Major General Patterson's command.

[Pg.21]

The correspondent reaffirmed the exceptionally high morale of the regiment as they daily anticipated some encounter with the enemy. {58}

Three month enlistments were to play a vital role in the Union plan of battle in the Summer of 1861. General McDowell sought to utilize the ninety day enlistments as he aspired to move against Bull Run on July 9th... McDowell's philosophy was "better use the men while they were available." Mc Dowell considered militia regiments poorly trained and, in most instances, commanded by men totally without experience in war. He contended that if he could organize them into small brigades with each brigade being led by a regular army colonel, he could be more assured of their performance. {59} The First Wisconsin was a part of McDowell's plan as it was part of the large body of three month enlistments.

The First left Chambersburg on Sunday June 16th, and boarded freight cars to be transported to Hagerstown, Maryland where the men took up residence at Camp Patterson. At Hagerstown, which was approximately twenty miles to the South, the First was introduced to Governor Hicks of the state of Maryland. Major General Patterson gave a speech in which he emphasized the necessity of pressing hard against the Southerners. He complimented the First and the state of Wisconsin on the fine appearance of the regiment. At eleven o'clock on June 17th, the First forced a march to Williamsport

[Pg.22]

which was nine miles from the camp at Hagerstown. The regiment returned on the evening of the 19th of June. The cause for the march was a rumor maintaining that a large body of Southern troops were before Williamsport. {60} In their little excursion the First crossed the Potomac, and, as no bridge was present for their crossing, the men waded waist-deep through the river. {61} At Hagerstown the First was attached to the brigade of Colonel Abercrombie. {62}

A member of the First Wisconsin wrote the Journal from Camp McClue at Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, about "the sober realities of camp life." The eight weeks of regimentation, within which was included a steady diet of pork and beans and frequent exercise, resulted in stronger stomachs and greater muscle. While at Camp McClure. R. B. Van Slyke, the Assistant Quarter Master General of Wisconsin, overtook the First and Proceeded to exchange their paper money printed by Wisconsin bands for specie at par. The possession of Wisconsin bank notes had proved to be a serious burden to the men composing the First as they were being heavily discounted by out of state banks. The result was that the soldiers were forced to suffer from their inability to purchase extra supplies. {63} While stationed at Camp McClure Captain Bryant became disabled with a sprained ankle and temporarily was unable to perform the duties of company commander. {64} First Lieutenant Plunkett carried on the duties of the Captain for the few days in which Bryant was disabled.

[Pg.23]

The Battle of Falling Waters, Virginia, was preceded by the withdrawal of the Confederates under General Joseph E. Johnston from Harper's Ferry. {65} Following the Confederate withdrawal from Harper's Ferry, the Journal correspondent with the First wrote how disgusted the men were at not having the opportunity to put the long hours of drilling and training to use against the Southerners. {66} Major General Patterson sought to cross the Potomac with his army -- about eighteen thousand men -- and force the Confederates from the lower Shenandoah Valley, but General Scott "turned down his plan rather brusquely ... and sent a series of rather confused orders which left the old general somewhat muddled." Patterson did better with McDowell in terms of understanding his function in relation to McDowell's advance on Richmond. Patterson was to keep Johnston from joining General Beauregard at Manassas. But again, Scott stressed caution in pursuing Johnston, and if the consequences seemed too risky, Patterson should lead his army toward McDowell. Patterson was thus induced to be extremely skeptical of entering into combat with Johnston because of Scott's directives. Johnston used his light cavalry under the command of JEB Stuart to deceive and hold Patterson at Harper's Ferry while he took his army to aid Beauregard. {67} General Patterson crossed the Potomac, at Williamsport, on the second day of July. Bruce Catton describes the march of Patterson's forces across the Potomac as "a six-hour parade of men tramping down to the river bands playing, splashing thru [sic]

[Pg.24]

bright water, and moving off into wooded valleys on the Virginia side. As the First moved across the Potomac companies A and K were deployed as skirmishers. "After crossing and marching a few miles, the rebels, under Colonel Jackson, were encountered at a place called Porterfield's Farm, near the village of Falling Waters." {69} An advance guard of Southern pickets had deployed themselves in houses, barns, and a wooded area nearby, but, according to the Journal correspondent, "they [Confederates] were forced to retreat in the face of Union artillery." The correspondent praises the conduct of Company E, Madison Guards, for their part in the affair. Company E "charged bravely upon the advance posts of the enemy, and drove them back under heavy fire." {70} The enemy was pursued for two to three miles by the Eleventh Pennsylvania and the First Regiment. The fight was over before the rest of Patterson's command made its appearance. {71} Company E was especially active in the July 3rd activities, as the Confederate sharpshooters opened upon a heavy fire on the company. The First was finally given the order to spread out to the right and left as skirmishers of the main body. Company E led the charge as soon as it was noticed that the Confederate pickets were retreating. "General Patterson said that the Wisconsin boys did nobly, having without scarcely [sic] any assistance, put a rebel force of some five thousand to flight." The General went on to state that he desired a whole command comparable to the "Badger boys." {72}

[Pg.25]

The view of General Patterson that the First had put a Confederate force of five thousand to flight Is not wholly correct, as the Confederate plan was not to meet the Union force on the field of battle but to delay and deceive them. Johnston succeeded in keeping Patterson near Harper's Ferry and away from General McDowell. At the same time he was able to merge the main body of his force at Manassas and provide Beauregard with increased manpower to aid in the defeat of the Union army. The first man wounded in the Falling Waters encounter was Color Bearer Fred Hutching, of Company E, a resident of Madison. {73} Writing to the Journal the correspondent serving with the First writes that he is quite disgusted with the account of the battle of Falling Waters as described in the Baltimore Clipper. The Clipper accords Colonel Jarrett's Eleventh Regiment to make the attack on the Confederates. The correspondent replies that "there is hardly a word of truth in this report," and continues to reaffirm his earlier report of the engagement. {74}

The First remained encamped at Martinsburg, Virginia, for two weeks until July 15, but they were-always seeking the opportunity to move against Johnston. Reinforcements arrived steadily, and by July 7th the division approached thirty-five thousand men. On the 15th the First Regiment moved toward Winchester, Virginia. The Second Brigade took a commanding position on Bunker Hill where they remained until the 17th. On the 17th the whole force,

[Pg.26]

under Patterson's command, began marching toward Winchester but were ordered left when about five miles from that location. The next day found the First at Clarkstown, twenty-two miles from Winchester. "General Patterson at this juncture abandoned the attempt to hold Johnston in check as ordered by General McDowell, and thus the rebels were able to reinforce Beauregard..." {75} The Journal correspondent with the First did not attack Patterson for his failure to pursue Johnston's force which had hurriedly left the Winchester area to proceed to Manassas. Subsequent historians, such as E.B. Quiner, wrote that General Patterson "was soon after mustered out of the United States service, and was permitted to retire to private life, without any investigation as to his misconduct. {76} Patterson's intentions would appear to have been honorable but his deployment of troops in the plans before Manassas was lacking of purpose because of Shortsightedness. It is questionable to what extent this shortsightedness was bred out of Scott's confusing directives.

General Patterson's command moved from Charlestown to Harper's Ferry on July 21st. Company E was dispatched to Edward's Ferry along with Company C. The men of Company E felt that they would serve out the remaining days of their enlistment in their positions at Edward's Ferry. {77} Company E arrived at Edward's Ferry, a short distance upriver from Harper's Ferry, on the 23rd of July. Four companies were located there: companies C and E of the First Wisconsin, and two Maryland companies. Captain Bryant went out on a scouting

[Pg.27]

expedition on August 2nd to confirm any Confederate positions on the Virginia side of the Potomac. While returning across the river, Bryant was surveying the opposite shore with his "glass." Stepping from a house on the opposite shore a rebel picket fired on Bryant. The ball hit ten feet away, and, according to one Mr. Jefferson, this was an indication of the poor Confederate marksmanship. Captain Bryant fired five rounds with his revolver at the house and sent two men, Stone and Allen across the river that evening to burn the house and barn. Stone and Allen were fired on several times in their mission but succeeded in setting fire to the house. {78} On another occasion, the men of Company E exchanged several shots with Confederate pickets while on a scouting expedition across the river. When the Confederates came over to the Union lines under a flag of truce, it was learned that two of their number were killed and one wounded while Company E had but one horse wounded. {79}

The Journal correspondent indicated that the men of the First would probably be starting for home around the 20th of August. He seemed quite sure that after a week or two of rest and relaxation the majority of the men would re-enlist. {80} "Proceeding to Wisconsin, the regiment arrived at Milwaukee, and was mustered out on the 21st of August." {81} Portion of the Madison companies making up the First Regiment returned to Madison on August 22, 1861. About eighty-five returned by train. Captain Bryant was expected to arrive in Madison August 23rd. {82}

 

[Pg.28]

Conclusion

Following their arrival in Madison several of the former members of Company E of the First Wisconsin had re-enlisted for three year terms of service. E.B. Quiner described the action taken by Governor Randall toward the returning members of the First in the following manner: "Wailing- himself of the experience of the officers and soldiers in their short service in the field, the Governor appointed several of them to official positions in the new regiments." {83} Bryant was promoted to the rank of colonel and placed in command of the Twelfth Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. "The Twelfth was organized in October of 1861, at Camp Randall, Madison ... with orders to report at Weston, Missouri. {84} The regiment was there assigned to form part of General Lane's "Southwest Expedition." The Twelfth was next ordered to the Tennessee theatre. The Twelfth ultimately formulated a part of Sherman's march to the Sea through the heart of Georgia and the South. Bryant participated in numerous combat engagements before he was mustered out at the conclusion of the war. His service record was very commendable, and his name was placed before the War Department to be advanced to the rank of Major General. This commission failed to be approved before the conclusion of the war.

An account of the experiences of George E. Bryant during his associations with the Madison Guards and Company E of the First Wisconsin provides a peculiar insight into the activities of a Civil War soldier. It is a peculiar insight in the sense that Bryant's activities were not common place of a usual Civil War

[Pg.29]

soldier who has received the historians' interest. Bryant's experiences ranged from presiding over a meeting in which the topic of interest was a discussion of a forthcoming social event to leading his company in combat. Bryant's activities prior to the call for Wisconsin volunteers are the more diverse, and, consequently, they provide the greater interest. In analyzing the scope to which Bryant became involved in the Madison Guards, it can be inferred that his commitment went deeper than merely a social relationship. Bryant's back-round prior to his association with the Guards is virtually unknown. Only a very brief summary is available. Only when Bryant came in contact with the Madison Guards prior to America's national trauma does his character begin to become known.

From Bryant's reaction to certain situations such as a willingness to stand behind a fellow officer in the face of newspaper criticism, it can be deduced that he was a man of strong personal loyalties. Loyalty to his men, but also loyalty to a cause -- the preservation of the Union. Bryant's correspondence does not include any tirades against the institution of slavery. His correspondence does engender the feeling of strong personal conviction for the Union cause. He was respected and trusted by his men as was evidenced by statements sent back to the Wisconsin State Journal. His ability to lead his men was constantly reinforced during the period of his three month enlistment. George Bryant cannot be considered a vain individual in the sense that his correspondence sent to his superiors usually included a strong commendation

[Pg.30]

of the conduct of his men and junior officers. First Lieutenant Proudfit, from all indications, held the highest personal regard for George Bryant as a friend and military commander.

The three month enlistment of Captain Bryant was not spectacular in any sense. There were no grand battles or reviews during that period of service. Company E did participate in military action and had one of their number killed in action before Falling Waters, Virginia. The consequences of the participation of Captain Bryant and Company E were extremely minimal if nonexistent in the general context of the war. Bryant does not exemplify a hero in terms of deeds performed, but he does exemplify a hard working and dedicated soldier. Company E is indicative of an independent militia company raised in a small Northwestern town for the purpose of preserving a nation which had fallen apart at its very foundation. Company E, though., of limited existence, performed admirably, and it was undoubtedly a tribute to a city, a state, a nation, and a people.

[Pg.31]

Footnotes

1 Muster Out Roll of Captain George E. Bryant Company E of the First Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. Frank H. Bryant Papers, Area Research Center, Wisconsin State University at River Falls. (Hereafter cited as "FBP" and the date of entry).

2 Wisconsin State Journal, December 22, 1859. (Hereafter cited as Journal).

3 Letter, Company GIs Provost Marshall to Abraham Lincoln. Germantown, Tennessee, February 14, 1863. FBP, loc. cit.

4 Journal, March 29, 1861.

5 A Motion by Andrew Sexton of the Madison Guards, May, 1861. FBP

6 Constitution and By-Laws of the Madison Guards with no date. FBP

7 Journal, December 22, 1859.

8 Report of the Ball Committee January 21, 1860. FBP.

9 Receipts for music, March and April 19, 1860, from H.A. Dyke.

10 Ball Committee, October 2 and December 1, 1860.

11 Letter, Charles G. Mayers, Fireman Mendota Engine Company No. 1 to Captain George Bryant. Madison Wisconsin, December 11, 1860. FBP.

12 Journal, February 1, 1861.

13 Gas Bill from the Madison Gas and Light and Coke Company to the Madison Guards. July 1, 1860.

14 Report of the Committee on the Armory, September 4, 1860. FBP.

15 Receipt for the rent of the Armory from John Reynolds to Andrew Sexton, October 27, 1860. FBP.

16 Committee reporting on the renting of Atwood's Hall, October 27, 1860. FBP.

17 Report of Secretary John Reynolds, December 8, 1860. FBP.

18 Motion passed by the Madison Guards with no date. FBP.

19 Report of the Committee on Uniforms, September 21, 1860. FBP.

20 Resignation of William Dowling, September 10, 1860. FBP.

21 Letter, George Killride to George E. Bryant, Captain of the Madison Guards, October 16, 1860. FBP.

22 Letter, James Law to Madison Guards, December 1, 1860. FBP.

23 Letter, Richard Fulhand to Madison Guards, March 11, 1861. FBP.

24 Report, "Dismissal of Arthur Callahan," December 1, 1860. FBP.

25 Letter, A.W. Keyes, Colonel 18th Regiment of Wisconsin State Militia, to George E. Bryant, First Lieutenant Madison Guards. Madison, Wisconsin, July 26, 1860. FBP.

26 Letter, George Bryant to M.J. Cantwell, Secretary Madison Guards. July 26, 1860.FBP.

27 Letter, W.H. Watson to Captain George Bryant of Madison Guards. August 27, 1860.FBP.

28 Resolution, Secretary James Reynolds to Madison Guards. March 1, 1861. FBP.

29 Journal, January 11, 1861.

30 Ibid., June 23, 1860.

3l Ibid., June 26, 1860.

32 Resolution, Madison Guards to George Bryant, Captain of the Madison Guards. October 27, 1860. FBP.

33 Resolution, William Plunkett to the assembly of the Madison Guards. January 9, 1861. FBP.

34 E.B. Quiner, The Military History of Wisconsin (Chicago, 1866), p. 49. (Hereafter cited as Quiner).

35 Ibid., p. 49.

36 Ibid., p. 50.

37 Letter, Alexander W. Randall, Governor of the State of Wisconsin, to Captain George Bryant, Commander of the Madison Guards, Madison, Wisconsin, April 16, 1861. FBP.

38 Letter, William L. Utley, Adjutant General of the State of Wisconsin, to Captain George Bryant, Madison Guards. Madison, Wisconsin, April 22, 1861. FBP.

39 Journal, April 17, 1861.

40 Quiner, P. 53.

41 Journal, April 26, 1861.

42 Quiner, pp. 53-54.

43 Journal, April 27, 1861.

44 Ibid., May 9, 1861.

45 Ibid., May 16, 1861.

46 Quiner, P. 54.

47 Muster Out Role of Captain George E. Bryant Co. E of the First Regiment of Wisconsin Volunteers. Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Nov 17, 1861. FBP.

48 Journal, April 26 and May 20, 1861.

49 Moate of Granard, Camp Scott corespondents, Journal, May 21, 1861.

50 Journal, May 25, 1861.

5l Ibid., June 3, 1861.

52 Ibid., June 4, 1861.

53 Ibid., June 4, 1861.

54 Ibid., June 6, 1861.

55 Ibid., June 8, 1861.

56 Ibid., June 10, 1861.

57 Ibid., June 14, 1861.

58 Ibid., June 17, 1861.

59 Bruce Catton, The Coming Fury (New York, 1161), I, pp. 440-441. (Hereafter cited as Catton).

60 Journal, June 25, 1861.

6l Ibid., June 21, 1861.

62 Quiner, p. 424.

63 Journal, June 21, 1861.

64 Ibid., June 25, 1861.

65 Shelby, Foote, The Civil War (New York, 1958), I, P. 57.

66 Journal, June 22, 1861.

67 Catton, pp. 441-442.

68 Ibid., p. 444.

69 Quiner, p. 250.

70 Journal, July 8, 1861.

7l Quiner, p. 424.

72 Journal, july 9, 1861.

73 Quiner, p. 424.

74 Journal, July 17, 1861.

75 Quiner, p. 425.

76 Ibid., p. 250.

77 Journal, August 3, 1861.

78 Ibid., August 9, 1861.

79 Ibid., August 8, 1861.

80 Ibid., August 8, 1861.

81 Quiner, p.425.

82 Journal, August 23, 1861.

83 Quiner, p. 89.

84 Ibid., p. 574.

Bibliography

Books: Primary

"Adjutant General's Report," Annual Message of the Governor of Wisconsin and Reports of the State Departments for the Fiscal Year Ending September 30th, 1861, (Madison: Smith and Callaton, State Printers, 1861).

Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Wisconsin for the Year 1861 (Madison: Smith and Callaton, State Printers, 1861).

Roster of Wisconsin Volunteers, War of Rebellion, 1861-1865, Compiled by the authority of the legislature under the direction of Jeremiah H. Rush, Governor and Chandler P. Chapman, Adjutant General (Madison, Wisconsin Democrat Printing Co., 66).

The War of the Rebellion: A compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 130 Volumes (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1880).

Quiner, E.B. The Military History of Wisconsin (Chicago: Clark and Company, Publishers, 1866).

Books: Secondary

Catton, Bruce, The Coming Fury (Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company, 1861), Volume One.

Foote, Shelby, The Civil War (New York, Random House, 1963), Volume One.

Manuscript Materials

The Frank H. Bryant Papers--1792-1905, in Area Research Center, Wisconsin State University, River Falls.

Newspapers (Microfilm)

The Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Wisconsin, October 12, 1859, to August 26, 1861.