Civil War Letters of 
Sergeant Charles Wicksberg

Co. H. 26th Inf. Wisconsin Volunteers to his parents in Sheboygan County

Translated from the German script by Ingeborg (Mrs. Ernst) Wolferstetter, Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Historical Notes by:
Donald A. Woods: Director of Libraries: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Compiled and published by:
Alfred Wickesberg May, 1961


        I know you will want to start reading these letters right away, rather than this introduction. But first, it is probably best to get all the personal and historical background of Sergeant Charles Wicksberg that is available. In the wave of German immigration in 1848, two Wickesberg brothers, Friedrich and Karl, left Germany in April and arrived in the Town of Herman, Sheboygan County, in June.
        Friedrich was 36 at the time, and married. Four children accompanied them. Three children were born after their arrival in America. Karl was a bachelor of 29 at the time of the migration. After arrival here, he married a first cousin who was on the same voyage with him. The trip across was a rugged voyage of 52 days. The ancestral home was a hamlet named "Wickesberg", which is a mile and one-half from the village of Hueckeswagen. The latter place is 15 miles southwest of Elberfel, which, in turn, is 15 miles east of the metropolis of Duesseldorf.
        The name "Wickesberg" meas "Hill of The Battle," Family records go back to 1484, and the Village was probably founded around AD 800. Apparently, all the Wickesbergs on this continent have descended form these two brothers, Friedrich and Karl. The family of the elder brother Friedrich (my grandfather) consisted of the oldest child, Charles (the subject of this booklet) born January 11, 1841; Bertha, 6years old; August, 3 years old; and Juliana, who died shortly after the voyage. After settling in this country, other children were born: Anna, who died in infancy, Fred (my father) and Minnie.
        Like the other pioneers, the family hacked out a home in the wilderness of Sheboygan County. They did not expect and did not receive subsidy, and their way of life was earthy, primitive, harsh and filled with the fear of God. Charles took up carpentry. His tools are still available and useable. Reports are that he was human, like all of us, and that a broken love affair prompted him to his Army career. He loved life like the rest of us, but was destined to make the supreme sacrifice for his adopted country. His schooling was of the typical limited manner of the day. I believe he attended a parochial school at one time, since it was the only one available for a while. But to me, the letters carry a dignity and discipline and purpose seldom found now among the college educated.
        How the letters happened to gravitate to my dad I don't know. He moved many times and one of the ponderous objects that had to be lugged with us was a huge wooden chest that came across the sea. As a boy, I frequently examined it in the attics of the houses we lived in (freezing cold in winter, wilting hot in summer) and it was always full of fascinating treasures. Providence must have preserved the packet of letters from destructive and inquisitive children. A short time ago, they were discovered and examined.
        Reading the old German script was not easy and it baffled a lot of relatives that were familiar with the language. Very fortunately, I became acquainted with a competent and gracious woman here in Milwaukee who had the proper background and devotion to make a thorough and systematic project of translating the letters. She is Igeborg (Mrs. Ernst) Wolferstetter who was born and educated in German and who is intimately acquainted with Russian post-war rapaciousness. She was compelled to leave her ancestral home and seek a new home in America. Incidentally, she is familiar with the old Wickesberg home of Hueckeswagen, having skied on the hills of that area.
        I wish to express my gratitude to Mrs. Wolferstetter for her efforts.
        Some people collect stamps or watch birds for hobbies. Fortunately, I met J Civil War "buff" --- one of those fellows who are up on their Civil War history and read it like young kids like comic books. He is Dr. Donald L Woods, Director of Libraries, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, 2500 East Kenwood Boulevard. He read and studied the letters with relish and prepared the notes that accompany them.
        To Dr. Woods I am also most grateful for his devoted help.
        Reproductions of a few of the letters are attached. If anyone wishes to examine the originals, I will be most happy to show them.
        My thanks are also given to Nancy Brown, one of the secretaries at Server Products, for her kindness in typing.

Letter #1______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Milwaukee, October 3, 1862

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sister,

        I take my pen to let you know that we received our order to march out today We will definitely leave next Monday. They say we will go via Detroit to Washington. Then the sweet life that we have been longing for is going to start. Dear Parents, I do not have much news to write about, except that all of us are still healthy and happy.

Give my best regards to all relatives and friends.

I have to close now.

Very truly yours, Your Son,

                                                                                                    Charles Wickesberg

1. God will see to it that things go as they should Let the waves rage and roar (they will not harm you) as long as you are with Jesus.

2. He who worries because he thinks Jesus has gone from him Will torment himself until he learns to believe better.

3. Be strong in your faith that the best has been decided for you. If only your own will is quiet, you will be free from all sorrow.


        The Wisconsin 26th Infantry was organized by Col. William H. Jacobs at Camp Sigel in Milwaukee. It was mustered in to the United States service on the 17th of September 1862 and was composed chiefly of men of German birth or German parentage. The regiment, little over 1000 strong, left Milwaukee on October 6, 1862 and proceeded to Fairfax Courthouse, Va. and joined the 11th Army Corps under Gen. Sigel. The regiment was assigned to the Second Brigade of the Third Division.

D. A. W.

        We can only speculate on the circumstances that impelled a 21 year old boy to copy in his letter a hymn from his church. Probably he was overwhelmed with homesickness. The song was written by Johann Daniel Hornschmidt, 1675-1723, and was adopted by the so-called Bredergemeinde in 1740. This may be an old name for the E.U.B. Church in Germany. Today it is called The Evagelische Gemeinshaft. Mrs. Wolferstetter recognized the hymn.

A. W. W.

Letter #2______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Washington, October 16, 1862

Dear Parents Brothers and Sisters,

        Finally, I found the time to let you know what happened to us up to now.
        We left Milwaukee at noon on the 7th of October, came to Chicago In the evening, then went to Toledo and Cleveland, and from there to Almeier through Donkirk. Harrisburg and Baltimore, we went to Washington. We arrived in Washington on Saturday and stayed there till Monday. Then we packed our belongings and marched to Fairfax Courthouse. Now we are stationed one mile away from there. We had to walk 20 miles in all. Fortunately, our knapsacks were driven for us. Now we got settled here as well as we could again.
        Yesterday, the 15th, Carl Schurz came to visit us. He talked to our officers, Then he left again, together with his staff.
        Today, we had the honor to see our General, Franz Sigel. We paraded be-fore him, he made a speech and told us how things would be here, then we gave him three hurrahs, after which he left. So we live here happy and healthy all day long. The worst is, we do not have any girls here. But we get along without girls too.
It is not as warm here as you might believe. I had thought it would be very warm here.
        Dear Parents, otherwise I do not have much news to write about. We are 20 miles away from Washington and do not get to see much. So far all of us are still happy and healthy.
        Have to close now. Give my best regards to all relatives and friends.

Respectfully yours, Your Son

                                                                                                    Charles Wickesberg

I have here a few postage stamps that I cannot use. Please send me some new ones instead, and pardon me.

Letter #3______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Throughout Gap, Nov. 4, 1862

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        I take my pen to let you know what happened to me up to now. Last Sunday morning we had to get up at 5 O'Clock. We were told we had to leave here. We shouldered our knapsacks and off we went. That Sunday and the following Monday we marched 26 miles, till we came to this place where we are stationed now.
Before we left I received your letter.
        We are now completely in secession country, and around here have taken away everything that they had from the secessionists.
        Where we are now, since this afternoon, there had, this noon, still been the enemy outpost. But they were driven away by our cavalry. We hear the thunder of the cannons everyday. And we can count on having to go into battle any day now. Our whole army is advancing now. Maybe you have heard about that already.
Otherwise, I do not have much to write about, except that I am as healthy as I ever was.
        Say hello to Frank and August Freund from me.
        I have to stop writing now. It is getting dark. Yours sincerely, Your Son,

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg

        Please write again as soon as possible. And please be so kind to send me some postage stamps because we cannot get any here.



    The 26th arrived on the 3rd of November near the Manassas Gap Railroad at Gainsville to establish a temporary depot of supplies. What Wickesberg refers to as "Throughout Gap was probably Thoroughfare Gap used by Stonewall Jackson to go to Manassas Junction after the Battle of Cedar Mountain in August. In this area, on the 2nd and 3rd of November, there had been engagements between Pleasanton's Union cavalry and Stuart's Confederate cavalry. At this time preparations were underway for General Burnside to take General McClellan's place as head of the Army of the Potomac.

Letter #4______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Stafforts Courthouse December 25, 1862

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        I take my pen this Christmas morning to let you know how we are.
        We have had a pretty hard time lately, because we had to march to Fredericksburg which was an eight day walk. But we were too late to take part in the battle. And we were satisfied with that, because the people were slaughtered for nothing.
        Dear Parents, I hope you can celebrate Christmas better than I. As I and another four men from our company have to leave today and work on the telegraph. l do not know how long that is going to take. The others have to do outpost duty. That is how we celebrate Christmas. I hope I will be in your midst next year.
Now a word to you Fritz and Mina. Please do not forget me. Keep are in your heart until I come home. And you should write to me sometimes and tell me how you are.
        My dear parents, I did not get any answer to my last letter. If the letter was lost or something else happened to it, I do not know.
        I do not have much news to write about. I wish all of you a very Happy New Year. I hope this war will soon be over. I think the New Year will bring peace.
        I have to stop writing now. And I hope these few lines reach you in good health as they leave me.



        The 26th was extremely lucky to miss the Battle of Fredericksburg on December 13. General Burnside had planned a fast moving attack on Fredericksburg before the Confederates could get ready. However, the pontoons for the river crossing were two weeks late, and by the time the Federal Army was able to cross, the Confederates under Lee were well entrenched in the hills surrounding the city with especially secure entrenchments behind the stone wall and sunken road at Mary's Heights. The union losses were over 12, 000, whils those of the Confederates were less than 4600 - a crushing defeat to Burnside.

D. A. W.

        Fritz and Mina, to whom he refers, are Fred, my dad who was eleven at the time, and Mina Mrs. Theodore Haase, who was nine. His fond hopes that the war would be over in another year were unfortunately not fulfilled.

A. W. W.

Letter #5______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Stafford Courthouse, January 1, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        I take the pen on this New Years Day to write you a few lines.
        We had a pretty amusing evening yesterday because our Brigade General Krzyzanowski had given our regiment a barrel of whisky and many a soldier was a little tipsy. Especially the officers. Our Captain came around at 1 O'Clock and wished all of us a Happy New Year, and said we should keep ourselves prepared because the Southern Cavalry was going to launch a surprize attack on us.
        Last Sunday afternoon we had to go, too, to have an encounter with the enemy. About 15 miles from here the enemy cavalry had attacked a small town, and we were supposed to help them. When we were 6 miles away, we heard the news that the enemy was beaten. And we went back home, where we arrived at 9 O'Clock in the evening.
        Dear Parents, this morning we received flour and molasses. And because I, the sergeant, and the corporal are in the same tent, I always get a little bit more than the others. So we baked some pancakes. That was the first time I had any as long as I am soldier. It is true the eggs were missing, but they still tasted very good.
        Now, I do not have much news to write about, except that our Captain just came to inform us that we have to start building our winter quarters, tomorrow. So, this winter everything is just about over. And I think they won't start again next spring. However, a person never knows how everything will go. Everyone just hopes for the best.
        Now, dear Parents, I wish you a very Happy and Blessed New Year. Remember me to Uncle and his family and to my Brother-in-law and Sister, and to old Carl I wish all of them a very Blessed New Year
I hope to get my wages during the next few days, then I can send you something. Now I have to stop.
        I am hoping that these few lines reach you being of as good health as I am when they leave me.

I remain yours respectfully,

Your Son

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg

The correct address is:

                                                                                                    Charles Wickesberg
                                                                                                    C. H. 26. Regiment W. V.
                                                                                                    Washington, D. C


        "Uncle" is undoubtedly Karl Wickesberg, father of Julius, Hugo, ect. "Brother-in-law" is Carl Buscher, who married Bertha.


Letter #6______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Stafford Courthouse, January 18th, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        I take my pen to write you a few lines and tell you how we are. For four days already, we are waiting for our orders to march. When we will leave we do not know yet. Dear Parents, in my last letter I told you we would get money, soon. But it is all humbug. Everyone hoped for it longingly. I wish our regiment could go to Washington once and could act there as it pleased. It would hang Lincoln and the whole cabinet.
        There lies the poor soldier and is a little sick. If he had his money he would buy something for it and he would feel better soon. But now if there is something wrong with him he has to go to the doctor. And then he is really bad off. Because these are no doctors, they are human torturers. Well, I think I have written enough about that. Then there, these gentlemen, our officers. They do not deny themselves anything. Our aide-de-camp is donating 150 bottles of wine to the generals and staff officers this afternoon. But we poor souls do not even get one whisky.
        Dear Parents, you have written and told me you had ordered the Botschafter for me. But I have not received any so far.
        I have to close now, because otherwise I do not have much news to write about, except that it is pretty cold here now.
        Now, hoping you are as well when you receive these few lines as I am when they leave me. I remain your loyal son

                                                                                                    Charles Wickesberg

        Give my best regards to all relatives and friends. Dear Papa, please be so kind and send me some postage stamps.


        Who are we to be shocked at their desire to hang Lincoln? Lincoln, at the time, was just another politician to them and they spoke as we do now of our contemporaries. The gripes of these soldiers are familiar stories to me and to anyone who has ever served in the armed forces. Admittedly, the Army is more solicitous of its men today.
        "Menschenschinder" is a grand epithet of describe a crude doctor.
        The "Botschafter" is quite likely the church newspaper.

Letter #8______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Camp near Stafford Courthouse, March 7, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        Your letter, dated February 23rd, I received yesterday in the best of health. I saw from it that all of you are still healthy too, which makes me very happy.
        Dear Parents, you write about my having only half enough to eat. We now have as much to eat here as we can swallow. The talk got started when we went to Fredericksburg for the first time. On our trip there, we got five crackers and one ration of fresh meat in two days, once. But, of course, there we were far away from the railroad, and marching for a whole week because the road was so bad. Otherwise we would have enough to eat. And besides, they make a mountain out of a molehill up there at home.
        Dear Parents, you write about a chaplain. Yes, we have one. But I have never heard him speak, except when someone gets buried, and then very little.
        Otherwise, I do not have much news to write about, except that I am a corporal now. Say hello to Brother-in-law and Sister and to old Carl. We have very changeable weather here now. Now rain, then snow, now warm, then cold. And so things go. I think it is going to get warm soon though.
        Hoping that these lines reach you as heathy as I am when they leave me.

I remain, with best regards

Your loyal Son

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg

Letter #9______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Camp near Stafforts Courthouse, May 21, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        I cannot wait any longer before I write to you and make our standpoint clear about how it went in battle.
        The Christliche Beobachter writes that Schurtz's division and the whole 11th Corps in general ran away in wild flight even before the enemy bad fired one shot. That is not true. Our regiment was in front and was attacked first. We stood firm. And first receded after we saw the superior force of the enemy and were ordered to recede. We fired about 8 or 10 shots. And then they still say we ran at the sight of the enemy and did not fire a shot. And there they say we ran away out of our trenches. I would have liked to see some trenches. We were standing in front of a bush. About 70 steps and no canons or' anything else with us. Now, all of a sudden the enemy comes. Some of us are boiling coffee, some are sleeping. Suddenly the noise starts. And the bullets come flying right in our midst. But like lightning we were in battle formation. And stood there cold blooded and shot at the Rebs.
        It was all General Howard's fault. General Schurtz was going to give us reinforcements and give us some cannons to help us. But that coward, I cannons call him by any other name, said he was going to try it first with what we have here. He is a Yankee, and that is why he wanted to have us slaughtered, because most of us are Germans.
        He better not come into the thick of battle a second time, then he won't escape.
        All the papers write lies. There are a few of those (either drunken or run-away) scoundrels who have those things put into the paper. In time the truth will come out. The papers here in the vicinity have come to see the truth already. And I think the Northern ones will come to see it soon, too. I wish all those big mouths in the North had to join the Army, then things would be different. I think the opportunity will still present itself yet.
        I want to close now. Because this enclosed article from the weekly New York State (or City) paper will contribute the necessary comment. Hoping that these few lines reach you in the same good health as they leave me,

I remain your loyal Son,

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg


        At the Battle of Chancellorsville the 26th bore the brunt of the rebel attack led by Stonewall Jackson after his famous march around the perimeter of the Federal Army, catching General Hooker completely unprepared in this area. Jackson was fatally wounded by his own men during the night as he was returning with his staff after the attack.
        The Wis. 26th was stationed about a quarter of a mile from the extreme right of the line west of Chancellorsville along the Fredericksburg Pike facing south. The main brunt of the battle was expected from the east so that no action was anticipated at the right of the line. However, Jackson's march was visible to the Federal lines and Gen. Howard was warned that the Confederates were building up strength on the right. These warnings were disregarded as Hooker was certain that the rebels were in retreat.
        Because of the suddenness and ferocity of the rebel attack, the 26th's brave stand was brief and it was forced to fall back. Confusion resulted and the advance had not stopped until it had reached the main part of the army at Chancellorsville House. Hooker was wounded by a shell bursting near the house as he was leaning against a pillar, resulting in his demoralization until after the battle. The German soldiers were blamed for not having held their lines and they smarted under the stigma of this defeat until the Battle of Gettysburg the following July. D. A. W.


The 11th Army Corps in the battle near Chancellorsville.

        From a letter that an officer of the 11th Army Corps sent us, we take the following statement about the attack on the right wing at Chancellorsville: You probably have learned all about our doings and goings on here, through the papers. Yet, since most of these accounts are incorrect, or, better put, a pack of lies, I would like to try to present the truth as clearly and closely as possible to you.
        Our Corps, consisting of about 12,000 men, formed the outermost right wing of the Army, while the left one was leaning against the Rappahannock, from which we were about 12 miles away, the line that we (the 11th Corps), occupied was more than 2 miles long, and the distance to the next corps was just as far. We were practically hanging or resting in the air, and the Rebels would have been regular donkeys, if they had not used this opportunity. They were very well informed too, and took advantage of this situation. The attack was so strong and complicated that even a bigger corps would have had to yield. It seemed to me that most of those guys were drunk, because they ran into our fire, jumped into our trenches like devils not fearing death. They fought with the courage of desperation. Our Corps missed Gen. F. Sigel. Yes, I believe if we had had him, this would not have been put into such a senseless position, or if we had to go into this position, everything would have been set up differently. We would probably have attacked in the afternoon, already, and would not have waited until the Rebels had concentrated their forces and could attack us with overwhelming superiority of 40,000 men, drawn up in close ranks.
        The poor Corps now has to pay for the stupidity of the commanding generals. Hooker and especially General Howard have to be blamed for this defeat. Both received several messages, telling them that the enemy is marching and concentrating a great body of troops at our right flank, however, nothing was done about it. We remained where we were. Even our reserve artillery was not put into position. And now to the question whether we fought or not. Our Corps lost 1/4 of its men, they being dead, wounded or missing in action. Our Brigade, which brought about 1400 men into battle has more than 300 dead and wounded and about 80 missing. The Corps stood firm about 3 to 4 times, and I did not notice anything resembling panic. About 2-3 hours after the battle, already, the whole Corps was reassembled again, and took its new position in the battle line. For a calm observer and an unprejudiced judge, I hope that is enough the first division could not resist the hard thrust and fell back, we incorporated them into our lines and opened fire. However, we too, had to recede because the Rebels were at our flanks almost in back of us.
        From the 12 cannons that we are supposed to have lost, erase the one in front, then you have the truth, and these 2 cannons were made useless. Capt. Dilger lost one of them, and Capt. Hill the other. Besides that the latter lost 3 Caissons (powder wagons). It is a lie, too, that our people threw their guns away, but almost everyone did throw their heavy knap sacks away. They did that right away, as soon as the battle began, since no-one can fight with those knapsacks on their backs.
        As far as our Regiment is concerned, we suffered the loss of 4 officers and 58 men. That is more than 1/4 of the Regiment as it was standing in the battle. My company, composed of Comp. A and C, 45 men strong, lost 16 men

Letter #10______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    USA General Hospital West Philadelphia,
                                                                                                    July 6th, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        The reason that I am in the hospital is that I was wounded on my right arm, - my wrist. It is a light wound and the bone is not hurt. We had a hard time these last 3 weeks, because the battle was fought in Pennsylvania and we had some strenuous marching to do. We left Brooks Station on June 12th and marched towards the Potomac. We crossed the Potomac on pontoon bridges and went into Maryland. Marched through that whole state and then went into Pennsylvania and arrived at the battle field on July 1st. That same day we had to march another 10 miles yet before we came to the place where we were supposed to stay.
        We were wet as cats, hungry as wolves our thirst was satisfied by the good citizens when we ran in full gallop through their town. The small town where the battle was fought is called Gettysburg, and it was the bloodiest battle that has ever been fought. But, as the papers say, the enemy is receding completely now and they certainly will have a bad time of it yet before they can cross the Potomac.
        When we, the 11th Corps, joined the battle the 1st Army Corps was in line of fire already. And now there were only these two Army Corps fighting and no other troops available. Then the enemy was too strong for us and we had to yield. The bullets came as thick as hail, That is where I got my bullet too.
        When we came back and a woman saw my bloody hand, she called me into the house, washed my wound and bandaged it. And then I had to stay for dinner yet, which did me a world of good.
        In the meantime, the cannonballs were flying into the town. The next day the whole thing started over again. But then we had more troops and the enemy was repelled. I do not know whether they are still fighting. But this much I can say: It was one of the greatest battles that was ever fought. Our Regiment was almost completely annihilated. The papers say only one of the officers escaped unharmed. He has command over everything now. But I want to stop now. If it is possible, I will try to ask for a furlough and come home once. Say hello to Brother-in-law and Sister and all my friends from me. Hoping these lines reach you as healthy as they leave me.

I remain your loyal son,

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg

US General Hospital, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


        The 26th arrived at Gettysburg early in the fighting on July 1st and made a brave stand north of the town. Still feeling the defeat at Chancellorsville, they were determined to establish a reputation as a fighting regiment. They were out numbered but held until the 119th New York on their left was turned and an orderly retreat was made. They fell back across and open field under heavy fire, and after passing through the town, took a position of rear guard along a stone fence while the army took up its position on Cemetery Hill.

D. A. W.

Letter #11______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    U. S. Army Hospital, West Philadelphia
                                                                                                    July 14, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        I take my pen to write you a few lines and let you know how I am. My wound is getting better.
Last week I went into the city of Philadelphia once. But that is the biggest city I ever did see. I believe more than 25 thousand flags were displayed because that was the day the news came that Vicksberg surrendered.
This hospital was built for 3,000 men and it is just about filled up now.
        Everything is very nicely arranged here. In the center of the square where we take our walks is a beautiful fountain from which the water bursts 15 feet high. And then there is a music band that plays every night till 8 O'Clock. We have a nice reading room here, too, where we can get all kinds of books and papers, and where we can play all kinds of games, like dominoes, nine men's morris, and there is some kind of viewing box where we can see lovely pictures, they are seen through a magnifying glass and look like real life scenes.
There is a nice piano, too, that is being played every afternoon, and church hymns are sung. Other songs are sung too, but everything in English. And there are always 3-4 girls who play the piano and let their beautiful voices be heard. Even if those games like dominoes and nine men's morris are children's games, they are still entertaining for the soldiers because they do not have anything to do and do not know what to do with their time. Otherwise, I do not have much news to write about either, except that I am still pretty happy and healthy. Give my best regards to Brother-in law and Sister, and to Uncle and his family.
        I would come home once, but a person does not get any furlough here, even if one stands on one's head.
Hoping that these lines reach you in good health

I remain your loyal Son

                                                                                                    Charles Wickesberg

The correct address is:

U. S. Army Hospital, West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Letter #12______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    West Philadelphia, July 28, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        Your letter, dated the 17th, I received yesterday, in good health, and from it I saw that all of you are still pretty happy and healthy too. That made me very happy. Dear Parents, I cannot write much news, since one day is just like another here. I wish the hour would soon come that I could get out of here again, but I still have to stand it for another 14 days. The food is bad on the average. If one did not have bread, one would have to go hungry, because everyone is out to make money, We seldom can go to the city. and then we only get a pass for 6 hours. And Philadelphia is so big that one can get lost very easily. And if we are a few minutes late, it means the guardhouse for us, which is a dark hole, and not very pleasant to have to be in.
        Besides, we are treated like prisoners and not wounded people. When we are recuperated and taken out of here, we are accompanied by so many guards, it is cruel to watch, as though we were the worst criminals. And everyone is thoroughly glad when they get back to their regiment. Such a situation can make life pretty miserable. Dear Parents, otherwise I do not know much news to write about. I wish to God the war would be over soon because I would like to come home now, and live with you. But I must have patience.
        The weather is pretty wet here, and the farmers had a hard time harvesting their crops.
        I have to close now. Hoping that these lines reach you as healthy as they leave me, I remain

Your loyal Son,

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg

        I received the three dollars all right. I thank you very much for them. Give my best regards to Brother-in-law, Sister, and to old Carl, and to Uncle and his family.

Letter #13______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Camp near Warrenton Junction,
                                                                                                    September 11, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        I take my pen to let you know that I am back with the regiment. And I feel much better now than in the hospital, because now I am with my buddies again. There is nothing much happening here because the army is standing still now. There often are battles between the cavalries; they had one last Tuesday and another one today. We could tell by the cannon fire that it was the cavalry.
        Our regiment got paid twice now. And I did not get anything. But I borrowed 10 dollars from someone. When I get money now, it will be for 6 months. Then I can repay the loan.
        There is nothing new going on here. That is why I want to close now, hoping that these lines reach you as healthy as they leave me.
        Say hello to Brother-in-law and Sister. Best regards to you. from your loving son,

                                                                                                    Charles Wickesberg

Letter #14______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Camp near Tennessee River, October 2, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        You are probably surprized to receive a letter from here. But it happened this way: After we had been on our journey, traveling by railroad for a week, we came to Rosenkrantz's army, for part of the Potomac army joined Rosenkrantz's army.
        On this journey, we came through many a state. We left Virginia, went through Washington to Maryland, to West Virginia, from there to Ohio. From Ohio to Indiana, from this state to Kentucky. From Kentucky to Tennessee. From Tennessee through a corner of Georgia to Alabama, where we are stationed now. Maybe we will stay here for a few days until our guns arrive. They are not here yet. When they come, we will go ahead, since we are still 30 miles away from Chattanooga, where Rosenkrantz's army is stationed.
        It is still pretty warm here. In Virginia they started having hoarfrost already. But here we do not have to worry about that yet.
        Dear Parents, otherwise I do not have much news to write to you. If I wanted to write down all the towns that we passed, I would have a lot to write yet. But 1 shall wait to do that next time, because I have such a bad desk today. A book and my knees are my desk.
        Dear Parents, I would love to have a letter from you soon. I have not had one since I left the hospital. With this I want to close. Hoping that these lines reach you in good health Say hello to Brother-in-law and Sister and all relatives.

Finally, my best regards to you from your loving son,

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg


        In September the 11th and 12th Corps were transferred to the Army of Tennessee and on October 2nd arrived at Bridgeport, Alabama. The regiment engaged in fatigue and other duties until October 27th, when it crossed the Tennessee and assisted in repelling the enemy's attack on General Geary at Wauhatchie. The Battle of Chickamauga had been fought on September 20th and the Federal army under Rosecrans had been pushed back to Chattanooga, and was now bottled up by Brags army and was on a starvation diet. Gen. Thomas' famous stand at Chickamauga held back the rebel army until Rosecrans could reform his beaten troops at Chattanooga.

D. A. W

Letter #15______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Camp near Bridgeport, Alabama,
                                                                                                    October 17, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        I take my pen to let you know how I am and how things look around here. Thank God, so far I have been healthy. Only the last few days I did not feel too well. But now I am just about all right again. We had pretty bad times here already. The whole army was on half rations. And then the things we got were rotten yet. The crackers, for instance, had worms in them. And we did not have anything else except that lousy stuff and a little coffee with it, and a little bacon. But everyone who had only a penny left bought himself some bread for it. Because there are bakeries here.
        We sometimes had pretty bad food already, but it never was as bad as now. But the best thought is: it does not last forever. For it is getting better already, and I hope it will become better yet. Last Sunday we had to go on a little fide. The night from Saturday to Sunday, around 11 O'Clock, we had to get out. Everything so secret and quiet that we did not know what it meant. We had to get ready, and off we went to the railroad. We were packed into the railroad cars like sardines. Into oxcars and horsecars, nobody cared where. Then we left. After about a 35 mile ride, we had reached our destination. And we were supposed to take a few hundred Rebels prisoner, where there were no Rebels.
        There is a big hill where the railroad goes under ground for about a mile. Three air holes have been made in the middle. The night before, some Rebels had been there and thrown stones and wood through the air holes. The guards that were there had been afraid and had hidden and did not fire a shot. Those guards should be put before a firing squad. Around 4 O'Clock in the afternoon, we went back home in another train. Thus ended that story.
        Dear Parents, now I would like to ask a favor of you. I would like to have some thing sent. There is terrible mud here after it rains. And I would like to have a pair of boots. If I want to buy some here, they cost me 10-12 dollars. And then they are not very good. You will get money soon. So please send me a pair of good pig's leather boots, size 9. You know how they have to be. With double sides, but not too clumsy. And then I would like to have two wool shirts, the sleeves not too short, and a scarf, a handkerchief and a towel. The shirts should not be white. Then I would like to have 1/2 pound of pectoral tea. I wanted to buy those things here but they would be more expensive then if you buy them. When you send the things, you have to send them by Adams Express. Inquire at the post who manages Adams Express. Then you pack the things into a box and close it securely.
        With this I want to close, hoping that this, my letter, reaches you in good health, Say hello to Brother-in-law and Sister and all relatives. Best regards to you from your loving Son,

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg

Letter #16______________________________________________________________________________

        Dear Parents, be so kind and have the boots made by Charles Schmit in Sheboygan. He has always done my cobbler's work. He lives right across from Festwirt.

With love, your son

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg

The correct address is:

                                                                                                    Charles Wickesberg
                                                                                                    Co. H. 26. Regt. Wis. Vol.
                                                                                                    Murfreesboro, Tenn.

Letter #17______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Lookout Valley, December 19, 1863

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        After such a long time, I take my pen to let you know how I am. I received your letter dated November 30th alright and saw from it that all of you are still healthy.
        That made me very happy. As far as I am concerned, thank God, I, too, am still happy and healthy. On November 22nd we left our camp and marched to Chattanooga. There we remained till the 23rd around noon. The troops that were there had to perform drills in the morning, That was done to deceive the enemy. The prisoners told us that the enemy thought that General Grant wanted to inspect the troops and see them march past him. They never dreamed that a battle was going to start.
        On the 23rd of November around noon, the regiments marched out with flags waving. The enemy could see everything we were doing. It did not last half an hour and the firing started. And it did not take more than an hour before they brought 80 to 100 prisoners up here. We were still near Chattanooga and were waiting for things to happen. Around 3 O' C lock we, too, moved closer, but we did not get into any battle. We made fortifications and lay behind them, but did not participate in a battle.
        On the 24th we heard the news that Lookout Mountain was won. It seemed that the hurrah-calling did not want to end.
        On the 25th the whole Missionary Ridge was taken and General Bragg was forced to retreat. On the 26th we followed him. He had destroyed everything He had burned everything at the railroad stations. They left their ammunition and everything and ran away as fast as they could. 60 to 70 prisoners fell into our hands. We had the good fortune not to get into any battle. But instead we had another job to do. We heard that Burnside was in trouble, and we had to march to Knoxville. On our way to Knoxville we captured several prisoners. On the 29th of November we came to Cleveland, the 30th to Charleston, on December 1st we marched to Athen, on the 2nd we came to Philadelphia, on the 3rd we had to march 4 miles and reached Landon that is at the Tennessee River.
        Here the Rebels had left 300 sick and wounded soldiers behind. At this place they had let 4 locomotives and 40 cars run into the river. They had destroyed a lot of ammunition and other weapons. On the 5th we marched to Louisville, that is 14 miles away from Knoxville, yet. Here we received the news that Longstreet was defeated. So we marched back again and came back to our old camp on the 17th 0 the 16th we had to match until 12 O'Clock midnight. And it was raining all the time. We had to wade up to our knees in mud. During the whole time we got our food from the enemy and the farmers.
That is about what happened to us. Now, in closing, I wish you a blessed Christmas and New Year. I pray to God that I can celebrate the next with you again.
        The box that you send me, the quartermaster will bring to me from Nashville. When you write to me again, let me know if you received the money.

Best regards from your loving

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg

Say hello to Brother-in-law and Sister and to old Karl.


        On October 23rd, General Grant arrived at Chattanooga and took command from Gen. Thomas. Supplies began to arrive down the river and a build-up for offensive action was begun. There followed the renowned battles of Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge on November 23rd, 24th and 25th, in which Bragg's army was dislodged and routed. According to regimental historic, the 26th took active part in these battles, but according to Wickesberg's letter it acted chiefly as reserve, giving the troops a chance to see an historic vengeance dealt by the Federal Army.

Letter #18______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Lookout Valley, January 17,1864

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        Just now I received your letter and saw with regret that you did not get my letter that I wrote you on December 19th or 20th, when we returned from our long journey.
Dear Parents, God be praised and thanked, I still enjoy the best of health. And I was glad to hear that all of you are still happy and healthy too.
        Dear Father, you write that it is so cold up there with you and that you have so much snow. That is not the case with us here in Tennessee. Up to now, we have only had one quarter inch of snow. But it cannot hold itself here. Sometimes it is a little cold. But up to now the frost did not penetrate 2 inches into the mud, yet. The weather here is about like April or May up there.
        You know just as much about the battle being fought here at Chattanooga, through the papers, as I can write you. Our division under General Schurz's leadership was especially lucky. We did not participate in any battle.
        After the battle was over, 3500 men had to march to Knoxville to help Burnside. For Rebel Longstreet was pretty strong against him. But when he heard that we were coming, he retreated and we went back to Chattanooga. But Knoxville is 110 miles from Chattanooga. And this march lasted almost 4 weeks. The consequences of this march were that many men had no shoes anymore and had to walk barefooted and many got sick.
        During this time, we were cut off from all communications. And we had to survive through food that farmers gave us or that which we took from the enemy. Once we were so close behind them that they let 2 locomotives and 42 railroad cars run into a river from a high bridge. And a hospital with 300 sick and wounded men fell into our hands.
        Otherwise, I do not have much news to write you. Right now we are in our winter quarters and have to guard the railroad. I still have not received the box. It must be at Bridgeport where we were before. Yesterday the railroad went to Chattanooga for the first time again, So the boxes probably will come soon. Up to now, they had enough trouble just getting food through. We will not get any money for 2 months this time. So it is probably going to take 4 months until we get money again. Mine is all gone now. That is why I would like to ask you to send me 10 dollars. I found out that the letter containing the 5 dollars was opened in the hospital and when they found money in it, they kept it. Dear Mother, I hope, God willing, the war will be over soon. Please pray for me as long as it lasts, and trust in God, He will bring everything to a good end. With this thought, I want to close. I hope these lines reach you as healthy as they leave me.

Say hello to Brother-in-law and Sister and all relatives.

Best regards from your loving son,

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg

Letter #19______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Lookout Valley, January 24, 1864

Dear Brother-in-law and Sister,

        I received your letter, dated January 9th, on the 20th in the best of health and saw from it that you, too, are saw pretty happy and healthy, which made me very happy.
        Dear Brother-in-law, you write to tell me that it is so cold up there with you. It is altogether different here. I think if we have such weather for another 4 to 6 weeks, we will have leaves on the trees again. And if I compare the cold, frosty state of Wisconsin with this, then I am sometimes glad not to be there. Because I thoroughly dislike being so cold. We once had a quarter inch of snow, but it had to leave faster than it came.
You write again I should go to old Abe and ask him for a furlough so I can build a new house for you. But that will not happen yet. If you had not told me that it is so cold there, I might have made it. That is the first reason. The second is: there are too many copperheads up there with you, that could tempt one too easily. And the third is that a girl could turn one's head, and one would get married. And that would be the worst evil of all, yet. because it is better for a soldier if he is no wife. And so I could five you a whole dozen of reasons and evils. But it is not necessary. First the Star Spangled Banner has to wave through all the states of the rebellion, and Jeff Davis and his pals be exterminated. Other wise, I do not have much news to write you.
Say hello to Kornelius Brass and his wife. Say hello to Father and Mother and Sisters and Brothers. And now, finally, best regards to you and your family from your Brother-in-law.

                                                                                                    Charles Wickesberg

Greetings to your Uncle.

Letter #20______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Whiteside, Tennessee, April 10, 1864

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters:

        I received your letter, dated March 30th, yesterday in the best of health, and saw from it that, God be praised and thanked, you too are still happy and healthy, which made me very happy.
        Dear Parents, It was all some misunderstanding in the last letters, so let us forget about that.
        I did not receive the box, and probably will not get it anymore. There are at least 5 or 6 others in our camp from Town Rhine whose boxes did not come either. They must all be lost. The best you can do is to go to the express office once and see if you can get some sort of refund. You have a receipt, do you not? The weather is pretty rough. It rains almost every day. The month of January was nicer than it is now.
        If we should believe the papers, then the 11th and 12th Army Corps are supposed to join the Potomac Army again. They also said that our regiment and two others are supposed to be the only ones to go to the Potomac Army. Today, the 12th of April, it is raining all day long again. Yesterday it was a nice day.
We were on picket duty, and it was just the day that the poor people should get food here. But yesterday they were not allowed inside. Because a few of those who got food here were caught once. They made a complete plan about how strong we are here, and in which position we are. I do not know what kind of punishment they got, but one thing is for sure: Nobody will be allowed to enter here for a while.
        Otherwise, I do not know much news to write about. The peach trees are in full blossom, and there are many of them here. If we should be lucky enough to stay here during the summer, we would have enough fruit to eat. But I am not very hopeful about that. With this, I want to close. Say hello to Brother-in-law and Sister and to old Carl.

Best regards to you from your loving Son

                                                                                                    C. Wickesberg


This is a receipt that I get from the Wisconsin State Treasurer after the has been delivered.

Dear Parents,

        Since the first of January I am a sergeant now. Please be so kind to send me 5 yards of blue ribbon, one half inch wide, but no silk. Take a newspaper or an American Boebachter, pack it in there, put a 2 cent stamp on it, and it will reach me, I am sure.

                                                                                                    C. Wickesberg

Letter #21______________________________________________________________________________

                                                                                                    Lookout Valley, Tennessee, May 1st, 1864

Dear Parents, Brothers and Sisters,

        We just received our orders to march, and tomorrow we are off to the front. The 11th and 12th Corps have ceased to exist and the 20th has been constituted from them. And w our regiment was assigned to another brigade, and we are out of the Jewish brigade. And we have profited by it, inasmuch we now have able and fit regiments on our side that can be depended on.
        Our brigade has 5 regiments with 3 music bands. Last week we had field practice; it was a nice thing to participate in and to listen to.
        In any case, by the end of the week, we have to deal with the Rebels. The weather is nice and warm, and the trees are clad in their full green dress. Otherwise I do not have much news to write to you any more.
Say hello to Brother-in-law and Sister. Best regards to you from your loving Son

                                                                                                    Carl Wickesberg

The address is:

                                                                                                    Company H, 26. Rgt.
                                                                                                    Wis. Vol. 3. Brig. 3.
                                                                                                    Div. 20. Army Corps
                                                                                                    Chattanooga, Tenn.


        In preparation for the Atlanta Campaign the 26th was transferred to the Third Brigade, Third Division, of the Twentieth Army Corps, and moved by Snake Creek Gap to Resaca, Georgia. On May 13th it formed a line of battle before Resaca. Gen. Johnson's rebel army was 18 miles north at Dalton guarding Buzzard's Roost and Tunnel Hill, the narrow pass through which he expected Sherman's army to go. However, Gen. Thomas earlier had discovered the passage around Johnson through Snake Creek Gap which would enable Sherman to put Union troops at Johnson's back. Young Gen. McPherson was dispatched with 20, 000 troops to take Resaca where only 3, 000 rebels were guarding the town. However, McPherson was not aggressive and decided that the forces guarding Resaca were too strong so he began building defenses instead of attacking. This gave Johnson a chance to reinforce Resaca.
        On May 15th a major battle took place in which the 26th attacked through a valley of heavy pines against the well fortified enemy works. The enemy fire was heavy and the 26th was forced to turn back to its own lines. It was in this battle that Sergeant Charles Wickesberg was killed.

Letter #22______________________________________________________________________________


                                                                                                    Near Atlanta, Georgia September 2nd, 1864

Mr. Charles Wickesberg, Howard's Grove

        Enclosed I send you the death certificate of your nephew who unfortunately had to die too soon. I did not know the address of his father. So I hope you will forgive me if I have to bother you with the request to give it to him.
        I have sent the necessary papers to the settlement in Washington, already, where he (the father) can assert his claims.
        By the way, I have to remark that your nephew owes 6 dollars to a sergeant of my company. He had lent it to him for the purchase of a watch He would be very grateful to you if you could send him this sum.
Sergeant Nytes of Sheboygan is in possession of the watch and will deliver it to you.

Charles' assets are as follows:

Wages for 4 Months (Sergeant) $68.00
May 16                        $10.00
Clothes Balance               $15.75
Outstanding Months            $75.00

Less money for clothes        $13.81
Remains the Balance          $154.94    

Respectfully yours,

Karl Schmidt, Captain Co. H. 26th Rgt., Wis. ???


FOOTNOTES, Letter No. 21 --- September 2,

        The 26th was engaged in almost continuous marching or fighting until the fall of Atlanta on the 2nd of September, which accounts for a lapse of over three months between Wickesberg's death and the notifying letter from his captain.
        The regimental statistics for the Wis. 26th Regiment are:

       Original Strength          1,002
       Gained by Recruits            87
       Loss by Death                284
       Loss by Desertion             31
       Transferred                  125
       Discharged                   232
       Mustered Out                 449

Donald A. Woods
Director of Libraries
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

        Sgt. Charles Wickesberg, Co. H. 26th Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers was enlisted on August 15, 1862 at Sheboygan for a three year term. He was mustered into the military service of the United States on September 17, 1862 at Milwaukee.
        He was appointed a corporal March 15, 1863 and a sergeant January 1, 1864.
He was wounded at Gettysburg July 1, 1863 and at Resaca, Georgia, May 15, 1864. He died of wounds May 16, 1864.
        He is buried in grave 570, Section K, National Cemetery, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
He was twenty-one years of age when enlisted, had blue eyes, brown hair and was 5' 10-1/2" tall.
        As I said, on the trip across, Charles, the oldest child, was seven and his little sister, Bertha, standing on deck beside him, was five. Little August was a toddler of three. One can imagine how these kids must have marvelled at everything.
        Well, Bertha married and had a big family. The fourth generation adds up to at least 60. The fifth is like the sands of the seashore---too numerous to count. And so they go on.
        A Confederate bullet ended Charles' life and any progeny. Such is war. Not only one life is thrown away, but countless others in the future.
        Let no one talk about the glory of the Civil War. As in all wars, there was no glory.
        There was only profiteering, denial, disease, work, sorrow, separation and an animal existence whose ultimate objective was death.
        He delighted when they had enough food to make pancakes, even without eggs. His wound in battle was treated by a friendly housewife. For being wounded in action, he underwent indignity in a hospital guardhouse.
The message of his superior to his parents, notifying them of his death, carried the insufferable request to pay up a $6.00 debt incurred in buying a watch!
        If it is any comfort to you, the nation today takes care of its wounded and its veterans a little better. Both our killing and our care of the wounded are now done much more efficiently.
Charles and 600,000 other young men (2% of the country's population at that time) died because the leaders of the day were too pigheaded to settle things by reasoning together. It was a horrible price to pay for the luxury of stubbornness.
        You may now say, "Gee, this fellow went to a lot of work preparing this booklet!"
        No, it wasn't work ..... it was fun. But if it had been work, so what? Isn't it well for us to stop and consider with gratefulness and appreciation the sacrifice that this young man made 100 years ago?
We are touched by the tragedy and saddened at the sacrifice. What recompense can we offer? I think that Charles and the legions of boys that gave the last measure of devotion might say:
        "Be steadfast in your efforts to blot out forever man's compulsion to war as an instrument for imposing a country's will. Let the God of Love work in your heart so that you can appraise a problem in reason and forbearance. If our deaths can help you go through this moral evolution, then all has not been in vain!"