As part of the Civil War Sesquicentennial exhibit, the museum will display a wide variety of flags from Wisconsin units.
The flag exhibit will be rotated on the 2nd Monday of the month.
The 17th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry consisted primarily of Irish immigrants recruited from Wisconsin's numerous Irish communities. They organized at Camp Randall in Madison before mustering into federal service on March 15th, 1862. A little more than two years later, the 17th attached to the Third Brigade, Third Division of the Seventeenth Army Corps of the Tennessee. Under the command of William T. Sherman, they participated in the Atlanta Campaign from May 1st to September 8th, 1864. The city of Atlanta, defended by Lt. Gen. John B. Hood, fell to union forces on September 2nd, 1864.
Atlanta played an important role within the Confederacy as a transportation hub, therefore making it an important military target. Just as important however, Atlanta played an important part politically - especially in the north. President Lincoln faced re-election in the upcoming November election and needed positive reports from the front lines to bolster support for his race. The Atlanta Campaign provided just that as northern newspapers covered the campaign extensively, giving Lincoln the positive publicity he needed. Lincoln won his re-election race on November 8th, seven days later, Sherman led his troops out of Atlanta and began his "March to the Sea." The 17th participated in this campaign as well, then they followed Sherman north, through the Carolinas and participated in the Grand Review in Washington D.C. before returning to Wisconsin.
The 37th Wisconsin Infantry organized at Camp Randall on April 9, 1864. Leaving the state on April 28, the regiment reached Washington D.C. on May 19 where it received this flag. The 37th joined the Army of the Potomac and turned to sever the supply line to the Confederate Capital of Richmond by taking Petersburg, approximately 23 miles to the south. Petersburg lay entrenched with defensive earthen works and trenches which proved troublesome for the Union forces and the battle quickly bogged into a stalemate. In an effort to break through, Union troops dug a shaft over 500 feet long, under the Confederate line, and packed it with 8,000 lbs. of gunpowder. When the charge detonated on July 30, it left a crater over 100 feet wide, 30 feet deep, and killed nearly 300 Confederate soldiers. Union troops, including the 37th Wisconsin, charged into the crater, thinking it would make for a good rifle pit. Sergeant Reuben Shaw of Co. C carried this flag into the crater as Confederates began pouring fire down into it. The fierce action blew the flag out of the crater, only to be carried back in by Regimental Adjutant Claron Militimore. The flag suffered considerable damage and Shaw finally carried it out as the 37th retreated. The 37th sustained the loss of 7 officers and 148 men, killed and wounded. The flag traveled to Wisconsin, arriving on September 10, in care of Governor James T. Lewis, along with a letter describing its history.
In May of 1864, Union General William T. Sherman pushed Confederate General Joseph Johnston out of Tennessee into Georgia and kicked off the Atlanta Campaign. Poised within Sherman's army stood the 15th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment, known as the Scandinavian Regiment, the 15th organized at Camp Randall in 1862 and joined Sherman's army in Tennessee on May 5th, 1864.
Maneuvering around the hills of northern Georgia, Sherman attempted to outflank Johnston several times only to find Johnston's men blocking him. In the process, Johnston lost valuable ground - stepping backwards to block Sherman. Setting up a fortified defense around Resaca, Georgia, Johnston faced the Union advance, and a two-day battle ensued. On May 14th, Union troops pressed Confederate lines but failed to break through. After the second day of fighting, the Confederates still held their lines so Sherman sent James McPherson and his men on a wide sweep around Johnston's left flank. This forced Johnston to abandon his position and withdraw towards the Confederate stronghold of Atlanta leaving no clear victor at the Battle of Resaca.
Referred to as the "2nd German Regiment," the 26th Wisconsin Infantry organized at Camp Sigel in Milwaukee and entered service on September 17, 1862. Major (later Lt. Col.) Frederick C. Winkler, whose jacket and bullet-pierced hat are on display within this exhibit, took command of the regiment on April 14, 1864 after wintering near Lookout Mountain, Tennessee. That spring, the 26th followed General Sherman along his "March to the Sea" and fought many battles including Buzzard's Roost, Resaca, New Hope Church, Kennesaw Mountain, and Peach Tree Creek before capturing Atlanta. After the fall of Atlanta, Sherman's army took Savannah and then chased Confederate General Johnston into the Carolinas. On April 26, 1865 near Durham, North Carolina, Johnston surrendered his army to Sherman and the war ended for the 26th Wisconsin. Marching into Washington D.C., they participated in the Grand Review before boarding a train bound for Milwaukee.
In the spring of 1864, the 14th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment found itself afloat, heading north upon the Red River in Louisiana to participate in the Red River Campaign. This campaign unsuccessfully involved 7,000 Union troops marching south out of Arkansas and some 30,000 men aboard transport ships, gunboats, and support vessels traveling north out of New Orleans, along the Red River. The campaign called for these 37,000 men to combine forces in Shreveport - headquarters for the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederate Army and a center of steamboat commerce. From Shreveport, the Union planned to take control of the state's cotton crop and other valuable resources. As the Union ground troops moved through northern Louisiana, they met a steady stream of guerilla resistance, suffered through many skirmishes, and eventually turned back. The numerous Union vessels navigating the Red River, found themselves stranded above the Alexandria rapids due to low water levels. Confederate forces quickly turned their attention to the stranded fleet and moved to capture it. Union Col. Joseph Bailey, a civil engineer and lumberman in Wisconsin before the war, suggested a dam be built downstream of the rapids. Bailey's dam would raise the water level, enabling the fleet to pass harmlessly over the rapids. His idea worked. He supervised the lumberjacks of the 23rd and 29th Wisconsin Infantry, constructed a wooden dam in less than two weeks and saved the fleet.
On November 25th, 1863, the 24th Wisconsin Infantry found itself fighting the Battle of Chattanooga in the mountainous terrain of southeastern Tennessee. When the 24th was ordered to charge a fortified position known as Missionary Ridge, its color bearer fell wounded. 18 year old, First Lieutenant Arthur MacArthur grasped the colors and charged onwards, inspiring others to follow. The 24th took the ridge and MacArthur was awarded the Congressional Medal Honor for his selfless service and bravery.
The Battle of Chickamauga began on September 18, 1863, in northwest Georgia. For the next three days, approximately 58,000 Union troops battled 66,000 Confederates on what would become the second bloodiest battlefield of the Civil War. The opposing armies stretched across six miles of wilderness and dense forest. This thick cover proved difficult to maneuver through and surprise encounters were common. The 21st Wisconsin Infantry, led by Lieutenant Colonel Harrison C. Hobart, witnessed fierce fighting. Hobart and 70 of his men were cut-off from their comrades and captured by Confederate troops. They were subsequently transported to Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia, where Hobart planned an escape. Over 100 men escaped through a tunnel they dug with kitchen utensils and Hobart returned to his command.