The Twenty-sixth regiment,
composed almost exclusively of Germans, was recruited principally during
the monthly of August, 1862. The several companies were ordered to rendezvous
on the 5th of September, at Camp Sigel, Milwaukee,
where the regimental organization was effected, under the superintendent
of Colonel William H. Jacobs, and the regiment mustered into United States'
service on the 17th. They remained in camp until the 6th of October, when
they left the state for service in the field.
Upon their arrival in Washington, they went into camp at Arlington Heights, whence they marched on the 15th to Fairfax Court House, fifteen miles distant. At this place they were assigned to the Second brigade, Third division, Eleventh army corps, and were occupied in drill and picket duty, until the 2d of November, when the regiment accompanied the march of the division by way of Centreville, to Thoroughfare Gap, where they encamped on the following day. On the 7th, they marched through the gap to New Baltimore, and thence on the 9th to Gainesville, where they remained in the performance of picket duty, until the 18th, at which date, they returned to camp at Centreville.
Participating in the movement of the Eleventh corps to reinforce the army under General Burnside, who was then preparing for the assault upon Fredericksburg, they left Centreville on the 9th of December, and marching in very unfavorable weather, by way of Dumfries and Stafford Court House, arrived on the 14th at Falmouth on the Rappahannock River, opposite Fredericksburg. On the 17th they withdrew nine miles to Stafford Court House, where winter quarters were erected, and the regiment remained until the 19th of January, 1863, when orders were received to move to Berea Church. They returned on the 4th of February to Stafford Court House, near which place they again erected winter quarters and were occupied in acquiring thorough knowledge of drill and discipline, with the usual routine of picket and fatigue duty, until the opening of the spring campaign.
In the general movement of the army, under the direction of General Hooker, they broke camp on the 27th of April, and arrived on the following day at Kelly's Ford, on the Rappahannock. They crossed the river at Midnight, and continuing the march on the 29th, crossed the Rapidan at Germania Ford, arriving at Locust Grove, near Chancellorsville early on the following morning.
The Eleventh corps, to which they were attached, here formed the extreme right of the army of the Potomac, and on the 1st of May the regiment was posted in the second line, which was placed to position to repel the expected attack of the enemy on our right. Early next morning, their brigade was withdrawn from this position, and formed in line to protect the flank of the army, at right angles with the main line, and somewhat retired from the extreme right. The Twenty-sixth took position in the first line, in an open space, about seventy-five yards from the heavy timber in their front, in which was deployed a heavy line of skirmishers. At five in the afternoon the enemy in heavy force, commenced a furious assault at this point, his line extending so as to attack simultaneously our right and rear. The skirmishers were at once driven in or captured by the rapid advance of the enemy, and the troops on the extreme right of our main line having given way, the rebels advanced directly upon the position held by the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin, with the New York regiment. Although suffering severely from the enemy's fire, these two regiments gallantly held the position, until there was danger of being surrounded, when they were ordered to retreat, and withdrew about a mile, leaving nearly two hundred of their number on the field.
On the morning of the 3d, they were placed in position on the left of the army near United States Ford, where a portion of the regiment was engaged as skirmishers during the day, without loss, and next morning they changed position to the right, remaining until the 6th, when they recrossed the Rappahannock and returned to camp near Stafford Court House. During this disastrous movement the regiment had lost thirty-seven killed, one hundred and seventeen wounded, twenty taken prisoners and three missing.
On the 16th, camp was removed to the vicinity of Brooks' Station, on the Fredericksburg railroad, where they remained until called upon to participate in the general movement of the army of the Potomac to meet and turn back the rebel invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
They left Brooks' Station on the 12th of June, and proceeding by way of Catlett's Station and Centreville, encamped near the Potomac on the 17th. The movement was resumed on the 24th, when they crossed the river at Edwards' Ferry, and marching through Middletown, Frederick and Emmettsburg, arrived on the morning of the 1st of July, at Gettysburg, Penn. About noon they took position in the second line of battle of their division, which was deployed in a wheat field a short distance northwest of the town, occupying the extreme right of our line. After a delay of half an hour in this position, the order was given to move forward. The first line had just reached the strip of timber two hundred yards in advance, when it was assaulted with great fury by a superior force of the enemy, and gave way in disorder, falling back through the second line, which was immediately pressed forward, the Twenty-sixty deploying into line of battle about one hundred yards from the rapidly advancing enemy. They were at once hotly engaged, and after sustaining the position with great gallantry for a short time against the overwhelming force of the enemy in their front, they were ordered to withdraw. Acting as rear guard to the retreating column, they fell back through the town to Cemetery Hill, on which they went into position behind a low stone wall, and remained without being again engaged, during the following day. In this celebrated battle the losses of the regiment were forty-one killed, one hundred and thirty-seven wounded, twenty-six prisoners and six missing, but four officers escaping unhurt.
On the morning of the 4th, the Twenty-sixty Wisconsin, with another regiment, effected a reconnaissance to the eastward of Cemetery Hill, and having discovered that the enemy had retreated, returned to camp, bringing in a number of prisoners. Next morning, they were put in motion on the track of the retreating rebels, and proceeding by way of Emmettsburg and Middleton, crossed the Katoctin Mountains on the 7th, and pressed forward on the following day to Boonesboro, where the enemy had attacked our cavalry under General Kilpatrick.
On the 12th of July, they occupied position in front of the enemy, between Funkstown and Hagerstown; following him thence on the 14th, to Williamsport, where the pursuit was abandoned, and the regiment commenced the return march to Virginia on the following day. They crossed the Potomac on the 19th, and proceeding by slow marches through the London valley, encamped on the 25th at Warrenton Junction, Va., the intersection of the Warrenton Branch with the Orange and Alexandria railroad. They were stationed at this place, engaged in picket and patrol duty, with occasional short expeditions through the surrounding country, until the 17th of September, when the brigade was removed to Rappahannock Station.
At this place they took cars on the 24th, and proceeding by way of Indianapolis, Louisville and Nashville, Tenn., joined the army of the Cumberland, on the 2nd of October, at Bridgeport, Ala., where they went into camp. Late on the evening of the 9th they left Bridgeport by rail, arriving on the following morning at the tunnel near Cowan, Tenn., where a party of raiders had previously succeeded in overpowering the guard and obstructing the track. Having removed the obstructions and thoroughly patrolled the vicinity without finding the enemy, they returned in the evening to Bridgeport, where they were occupied in picket and fatigue duty, with frequent reconnoitering expeditions in the vicinity, until the 27th, when the Eleventh corps was put in motion towards Chattanooga, Tenn. Crossing the Tennessee River at Bridgeport, they marched along the line of the railroad, and on the following day took part in the skirmish with the enemy near Brown's Ferry.
From this time the regiment was moved from point to point in Lookout Valley, occupied in picket and patrol duty, with labor on the fortifications, until the 11th of November, when they went into camp. On the 22nd, they marched with three days' rations and without knapsacks, to Chattanooga, and next day participated in the movement against the enemy on Mission Ridge. During the first day's action, the regiment was held in reserve as support to the first line. On the second day [24th], they were temporarily detached from the brigade, and taking position in the front line, advanced against the enemy's skirmishers, who were steadily forced back during the day.
Early on the 25th, they rejoined the brigade and marched around Mission Ridge, taking position to guard against a flank attack, on the extreme left of the army near Chickamauga Creek, and next morning started in pursuit of the enemy, who had been driven from his position on Mission Ridge. Following the line of the East Tennessee and Georgia railroad, they marched by way of Charleston, Athens and Louden, and arrived on the 5th of December at Little River, fifteen miles from Knoxville, where farther pursuit was abandoned. The return march commenced on the 7th, and the regiment re-entered camp in Lookout Valley on the 17th of December.
During this short campaign, they had sustained no losses at the hands of the enemy, but the hardships they endured were unusually great. A number of the men were destitute of blankets, and at the conclusion of the march, many had no shoes. Subsistence was gathered from the country through which they passed, and was frequently scanty and of inferior quality. They remained in Lookout Valley until the 25th of January, when camp was moved to Whiteside, Ala., thirteen miles from Chattanooga, on the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad. During the winter, they were employed principally in picket and guard duty, occasionally furnishing heavy details for labor on the railroads and fortifications.
On the 23d of April, they marched to Lookout Valley, joining at that place the Third brigade, Third division, Twentieth army corps, to which they had been assigned in the organization of the army of the spring campaign. Participating in the general movement of the army under General Sherman, they left Lookout Valley on the 2d of May, and marching slowly by way of Taylor's Ridge and Gordon's Springs, bivouacked on the 7th in Dogwood Valley. Next morning, they marched on a reconnaissance to Buzzard Roost, three miles distant, where they first encountered the enemy. At skirmish ensued which continued until dark, the Twenty-sixth losing two men wounded. They returned on the 9th to Dogwood Valley, from which the forward movement was resumed on the 11th, and passing through Snake Creek Gap, the regiment took position on the 13th, before the enemy's entrenchment's at Resaca. Skirmishing was sustained from noon until dark, when the regiment was placed in the front line of battle and bivouacked for the night. Next morning, skirmishers were pushed forward, and the position was held during the day, with a loss of one killed and three wounded. They were relieved at midnight, and after a short rest, marched on the morning of the 15th, to the extreme left of the army, where depositions were made for the assault.
The Twenty-sixty was placed in the front line on the right of the brigade, and ordered to take a hill in front. Skirmishers were thrown forward, and supported by the main body of the regiment, succeeded in driving the rebel skirmishers from their breastworks, and occupied the position. The enemy's main line of fortifications was situated on a ridge parallel to that which they now occupied, and separated from it by a narrow valley, covered with a dense growth of young pines. Shortly afterwards, they again advanced, forcing the enemy's skirmishers back to his works, and pressed forward to the assault. The enemy's fire was very destructive and the works proved to be very difficult to access. The dense timber rendered it impossible to preserve a compact line, so that although the works were actually gained in some places, the general assault proved unsuccessful. The troops reformed in the valley and again advanced to the assault, but with the same result. The order was then given to fall back to the first ridge, where the regiment reassembled and repulsed the enemy's attempt to retake the position. The casualties during the day were six killed and forty wounded.
The rebels having evacuated Reseca during the night, they marched in pursuit next morning. They crossed the Coosawattee River in the evening, and marching in a southwesterly direction, by way of Calhoun, encountered the enemy on the 19th, near Cassville. The enemy was driven to his main works, and the regiment encamped before the place, until the 23d, when they were again put in motion to the southward, and crossing the Etowah were, pressed forward next day to Burnt Hickory.
On the 25th of May, they took part in the battle near Dallas. In this action our regiment sustained a loss of five killed, thirty-two wounded and two missing. It was found that the enemy's position was too strong to be carried by assault, and entrenchments were built, in which they were employed in fatigue and siege duty until the first of June, when they accompanied the movement of their corps towards the left. They pressed slowly forward as the enemy retreated on their front, and on the 3d, occupied a position in front of the rebel entrenchments on Pine Knob.
It this vicinity they remained until the 15th of June, when they again moved forward, following the course of the enemy, who had evacuated Pine Knob during the previous night, and occupied position two miles southward. On the night of the 16th, the enemy again withdrew, closely followed next morning by our forces. In a skirmish with his rear guard, the Twenty-sixty captured a battle flag, and on he 19th, took position in our works before the rebel position on Kenesaw Mountain. On the 22d, the brigade was ordered forward, and after a severe action, in which our regiment lost nine killed and thirty wounded, captured the enemy's line of riflepits in their front. Next day, they moved to the right and occupied position on the Powder Springs road, which they retained under an incessant fire, until the 3d of July, when they followed the line of the retreating enemy to Nickajack Creek.
On the 5th, they were again in motion to the southward, and encamped next day, two miles from the Chattahoochee River, where they were allowed a few days' rest.
They crossed the Chattahoochee on the 17th, and pressing slowly forward towards Atlanta, participated on the 20th, in the battle of Peach Tree Creek. Shortly after the action commenced, the troops on their left retired, from which time the regiment occupied the extreme left of the line. In a dense wood, sixty yards to the left, they enemy had established a body of troops, who opened a severe enfilading fire on our lines as his forces advanced in front. Under these circumstances, the position was gallantly held, until the attacking force in front broke and fled in confusion, closely pursued by our victorious troops.
The Twenty-sixth captured the battle flag of the Thirty-third Mississippi, together with forty prisoners of that regiment, whose retreat they had intercepted. The loss of the regiment was nine killed and thirty-six wounded, and having expended all their ammunition, they were relieved by fresh troops. The following finds an appropriate place in their record: "Where all behaved well, it may be regarded as invidious to call attention to the individuals, yet it seems to me that I cannot discharge my whole duty in this report, without pointing out for special commendation, the conduct of the Twenty-sixty Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, and its brave and able commander. The position of this regiment in the line was such that the brunt of the attack on this brigade fell upon it. The brave, skillful determined manner in which it met the attack, rolled back the onset and pressed forward in a countercharge and drove back the enemy, could not be excelled by the troops in this or any other army, and is worthy of the highest commendation and praise. It is to be hoped that such conduct will be held up as an example for others, and will meet its appropriate reward."
During the 21st of July, they remained on the battle field, half a mile from the enemy's first line of fortifications, which he abandoned during the night, and on the following day, the Twenty-sixth moved forward, taking position near the main defenses of Atlanta. On the 3d of August, they were placed in the front line, which they occupied, constantly engaged in siege and fatigue duty, until the evening of the 25th, when they silently withdrew from the trenches, and marched in a westerly direction to Turner's Ferry, on the Chattahoochee, where a pontoon bridge was thrown across the river, and fortifications built to defend the ferry. Here they remained until the 4th of September, when they entered Atlanta upon the retreat of the enemy's forces, and encamped.
The Twenty-sixth, which during the Atlanta campaign had been attached to the Third brigade, Third division of the Twentieth army corps, was detached from the brigade on the 8th of October, 1864, and ordered to the Chattachoochee railroad bridge, at which place the regiment remained until the 14th of November, when they returned to Atlanta and rejoined the brigade, then under command of Colonel Ross, of the Twentieth Connecticut.
Next day, the Twenty-sixth set out on the grand march to the sea-coast. Passing through the desolate village of Decatur; by Stone Mountain, a huge cone of solid rock, they reached and crossed Yellow River at Stone Bridge on the evening of the 16th of November. On the following day, they passed through Sheffield, commenced foraging with good success, and reached Social Circle on the 18th, fifty-one miles from Atlanta, on the Augusta railroad. Destroying the railroad as they advanced, for a distance of sixteen miles, they arrived on the morning of the 19th at Madison, and marching thence to the southward, they arrived on the 22d, at Milledgeville. After a day's halt at the capital of Georgia, they again moved forward, and the march being much impeded by swamps and creeks, arrived on the 26th of Sandersville.
Moving thence by way of Davisboro to the Ogeechee River, in the vicinity of which a great deal of bridging and 'cordoroying' was necessary, through Louisville, over innumerable rivers, creeks and swamps, the Twenty-sixth arrived and took position in front of Savannah on the 10th of December. Siege operations were commenced at once, and on the morning of the 21st, the city was occupied by our forces, the main body of the enemy having retreated across the Savannah River.
On the 2d of January, 1865, the regiment crossed the Savannah River, encamping opposite the city on the South Carolina bank of the stream, and on the 18th, marched to Hardeeville, S.C., twenty miles from Savannah on the Charleston and Savannah railroad.
Commencing the movement northward through the Carolinas the regiment left Hardeeville on the 29th of January, and marched through Robertsville and Lawtonville, across Beaufort Swamp and the Big and Little Salkehatchie Rivers, to the Augusta and Charleston railroad, which they struck at Graham's fifty-six miles from the former place. The next three days were occupied in destroying the railroad, the regiment moving westward as the work progressed, a distance of twenty-one miles from Graham's. On the 11th of February, the march northward was resumed, leading over the South and North Edisto Rivers, and to the Congaree, opposite Columbia. They thence turned to the westward by the Saluda River, a distance of ten miles to Zion's Church, where a pontoon bridge had been thrown across the stream, and moving northward from this place they crossed the Board River on the 20th of February.
From this point, their subsequent route lay through Winnsboro, Rocky Mount, on the Catawba River, which they crossed on pontoons, through Hanging Rock, across Lynch's Creeks and Flint River to Chesterfield, where they arrived on the 3d of March. From Chesterfield they moved on the 6th to Cheraw, crossing the Great Pedee River at that place on pontoons, and continuing the march into North Carolina, during which the column crossed the numberless streams, of which they most considerable were Lumber River and Rockfish Creek, they arrived on the 11th of March at Fayetteville, NC, on Cape River.
The regiment marched through the city on the 13th , crossed the river, and next day accompanied the movement of the Third brigade to reconnoiter a crossing of Black River. Having ascertained that the crossing was held by the enemy in considerable force, the brigade returned, and on the 15th moved out in the direction of Averysboro, taking part on the following day in the action near that place.
A brigade of General Kilpatrick's cavalry and Hawley's brigade of the First division, Twentieth army corps, was already on the ground and the Third division now joined them. Line of battle was formed, and a strong skirmish line thrown out in advance, when a very hot skirmish ensued. The enemy was obstinate, but was gradually forced back and compelled to abandon several lines of breastworks and three pieces of artillery, with heavy loss in killed, wounded and prisoners. The battle lasted until night, when the enemy had been driven back into a strong line of breastworks, extending from the Cape Fear River on his right to the Black River on his left. Captain Schmidt and Lieutenant Klein, with five enlisted men of the Twenty-sixth were killed, and ten enlisted men wounded in this engagement. Next morning the position was found to have been abandoned by the enemy, and the column moved on to Averysboro.
On the 18th of March, they set out from Averysboro, in the direction of Goldsboro, and on the afternoon of the following day arrived on the field of Bentonville. The Third brigade was at once dispatched to the assistance of the Fourteenth corps, which was already engaged, assigned to position in line of battle in a swampy wood, and ordered to advance. The brigade soon encountered a strong column of the enemy advancing against it, and a severe engagement ensued, lasting until night, when the enemy withdrew, leaving his dead and many of his wounded on the field. The Twenty-sixth having been held in reserve during the action, had no opportunity to deliver its fire, and sustained a loss of one killed and four wounded. On the 22d of March, the regiment marched to Cox's Bridge, where they crossed the Neuse River on the 24th, and moving forward to Goldsboro, went into camp at that place, situated at the intersection of the Wilmington and Weldon, and North Carolina railroads.
Throughout the last two campaigns, the regiment had subsisted by foraging, and had never known a scarcity of provisions. In the last campaign they had captured a large number of mules and horses, which were turned over to the quarter-master's department. The inclemency of the weather, together with the fatigues of the campaign, had caused considerable sickness, and the troops were much rejoiced to reach the new base, with the prospect of new clothing and a short rest.
The army was electrified on the 6th of April by the news of the capture of Richmond. On the 10th, it was again put in motion, and marching through Smithfield, where intelligence of Lee's surrender was received, arrived on the 15th at Raleigh. Here the Twenty-sixth remained in a pleasant camp, while the negotiations for the surrender of General Johnston's forces were pending. General Grant arrived on the 24th of April, and on the 26th, the regiment performed a day's march in a southwesterly direction. While at this point, hostilities ceased, and after a few days it was announced that Johnston had surrendered, on the same terms extended to General Lee.
Their march homeward commenced on the 30th of April. Richmond was reached on the 8th of May, and on the 11th the march was resumed. Passing over the field of its first battle near Chancellorsville, the Twenty-sixth Wisconsin arrived on the 19th at Alexandria, Va. On the 24th of May, they passed in review, with General Sherman's army, through Washington, and encamped near the city, their time being occupied in preparations for discharge.
The military history of the regiment, as such, terminates with the disorganization of the Third brigade, with which they had been so long identified. The brigade commander, Brevet Brigadier General Coggswell, in an official communication to the Secretary of War, thus speaks of the regiment: "The Twenty-sixth Wisconsin is one of the finest military organizations in the service."
The regiment was mustered out, and left Washington by rail on the 13th of June, and at noon on the 17th, arrived at Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by steamer from Grand Haven, Mich. Here the twenty-sixth was paid off and disbanded on the 29th of June, 1865.
("Report of the Adjutant General, 1865. Twenty-sixth Regiment, Wisconsin" pg 300-311)