History of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry
The 26th Wisconsin Infantry Volunteers were mostly German speaking immigrants of southeastern Wisconsin. Some were of Jewish background. They enlisted in August of 1862, drilled at Camp Sigel in Milwaukee, and were placed in the 11th Corps. Major General Franz Sigel, also a German immigrant, took command of the entire 11th Corps on October 15, 1862. The 26th Wisconsin regiment fell under the Division of Major General Carl Schurz, and the Brigade of Colonel Wladimir Krzyzanowski. In January of 1863, Sigel was replaced by Major General Oliver Otis Howard.The weather squelched their opportunity to fight at Fredricksburg, Virginia in December of 1862. The spring of the following year was the first battle for the 26th Wisconsin, which took place at Chancellorsville, Virginia. The entire 11th Army Corps was not prepared for the Confederate assault on their extreme right flank. The 26th Wisconsin, along with the 58th New York attempted to make a stand near Hawkins Farm (Picture Left). Though the battle was short lived, enough time was given to allow the Union Army to evacuate troops and supplies. After the three day battle, the news press in New York, as well as Milwaukee, cited the "German" regiments as cowards, throwing down their weapons, and fleeing for their lives. It would take many months, and a great deal of effort from Major General Carl Schurz and Colonel Krzyzanowski to bring out the truth.
Two months later, and with much anger towards their new Major General Howard’s leadership incompetence, the 26th Wisconsin found themselves marching towards Gettysburg. During the afternoon of July 1st, 1863, the entire 11th Corps took up a position north of town (picture left) and began to battle the incoming Rebel forces. (One Confederate Regiment was the 44th Georgia.) The battle lasted for a few hours until the increasing number of Confederate forces was no match for them. In a frantic run, the 11th Corps withdrew south through the town. Many were taken prisoner, many were killed by Rebel snipers. The regiment found refuge on Cemetery Hill. The next day, part of the 11th Corps successfully repelled advancing enemy forces, but the 26th Wisconsin was not involved. On the third day, the Confederates made there charge to the Union forces. The attack was fierce to most of the Union Army, but was light for the 26th Wisconsin. The fourth day, the 26th Wisconsin was ordered east of town to pick up Confederate stragglers. The battle of Gettysburg did take its toll on the soldiers of the 26th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment.
Despite the lack of recognition from the press, the disgruntled regiment returned to their march for the south. The next battle took place on October of 1863 at Wauhatchie by Lookout Mountain near Chattanooga, Tennessee. Maj. Gen. Oliver Otis Howard sent two of his Corps divisions (one containing the 26th Wisconsin) to Wauhatchie Station as reinforcements. As more and more Union troops arrived to join in this rare night time battle, the Confederates fell back to Lookout Mountain.
On April 14th, 1864, the Army of the Potomac was reorganized by their new Commanding officer, U. S. Grant. The 26th Wisconsin now became part of the 20th Army Corps under Joseph Hooker. They fell under the Third Brigade under Colonel James Wood Jr. Major Frederick C. Winkler took command of the Regiment. General Sherman took command of this and two other Army Corps, and marched there way to Atlanta, Georgia. The 26th Wisconsin had many skirmishes while on route to Atlanta. They fought at battlegrounds such as: Buzzard Roost, Resaca, New Hope Church, Kenesaw Mountain (left), and Peach Tree Creek as the 26th’s greatest victory with the capture of the 33rd Mississippi regimental flag. The campaign ended with the conquest of Atlanta.
On November 16th, 1864, General Sherman ordered the 20th Corps to march through South Carolina to the Atlantic Ocean. There were only skirmishes during the march. Their primary duty was to reek havoc in the two states destroying the railroad, cutting off supplies to the Confederate Army, and taking provisions from the land. The march concluded on December 10, 1864 upon the capture of Savannah, Georgia.
One of the last battles that the 26th participated in took place in Averasboro, North Carolina on March 16th, 1865. This battle was inconclusive. And one outside of the town of Bentonville on March 20th. The Confederate Army was thrown back in retreat. On April 18, General Johnston signed an armistice with Sherman at the Bennett House, and on April 26, formally surrendered his army. The war was over.
The 26th Wisconsin, along with the rest of the 20th Corps, began their march back to Washington. They marched through the heavily devastated town of Richmond, Virginia, and passed by Chancellorsville, Virginia, on the same road they retreated two years earlier. They crossed the Potomac river and encamped in Washington D. C.
The 26th Wisconsin participated in the Grand Review parade in Washington D. C. (More on D.C.) The picture on the left shows part of Sherman's Twentieth Corps marching down Pennsylvania Ave. On July 13, 1865 the 26th Wisconsin was mustered out. They received passage by train for Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There they received another hero's welcome and a parade, and returned to their former lives. Some veterans of the 26th Wisconsin attended many reunions and remembered the war they fought together.
(Photos courtesy of the National Archives,)
Also, the history of the Turners relating to the 26th Wisconsin Infantry.