During its nearly three years of service, the mostly German-speaking 26th Wisconsin asserted itself as one of the stateís and one of the Unionís finest fighting regiments. The 26th lost over 17% of its men in battle (188), tied for second among Wisconsin units and ranked fifth among all Union regiments.
The regiment first saw action at Chancellorsville in early 1863, where it lost 53 men, eleven percent of its engaged troops. The regiment, along with the rest of the 11th Army Corps, was unprepared for the Confederate assault and fell back. Newspapers in New York and Milwaukee chastised the ďGermanĒ regiments as cowards for this supposed retreat. It took a great deal of time for the unitís commanding officers to remedy the regimentís poor reputation.
The 26th later saw action at Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, Atlanta, and on the March to the Sea. Following the reorganization of the Army of the Potomac by General Grant, the 26th Wisconsin became part of General Hookerís 20th Army Corps. Major Frederick Winkler (mustered out as brevet Brigadier General) commanded the regiment as let out for Atlanta. On the way, the 26th skirmished numerous times and saw combat at Resaca, New Hope Church, and most notably, Peach Tree Creek.
Many historians believe the 26th saw their greatest triumph at Peach Tree Creek with the capture of the 33rd Mississippiís regimental flag. The 26th fought hard and decimated the 33rd Mississippi, killing the unitís only field officer, Col. Jabez L. Drake, and killing or wounding 160 of the regimentís 250 men.