The Transmigration of Company C
How the Green County Volunteers Became Company C of the 3rd Wisconsin
It was a pleasant morning the 18th day of June, 1861, when the Green County Volunteers, un-uniformed and "armless", assembled with their personal belongings, on the public square in Monroe, Green County, Wisconsin, preparatory to leaving for the regimental rendezvous at Fond du Lac.
The Company was to take the train which would carry it to Camp Hamilton at seven o'clock a.m. It had however assembled an hour earlier at the request of the good and patriotic people of Monroe, who in spite of the mad pranks and noisy mirth with which they had been afflicted for several weeks by these Volunteers, wished to forgive and forget it all and say good-bye and wish the roystering fellows a safe and speedy return from the horrors of war. Then there was to be a flag presentation to the Company and a sword presentation to Captain Martin Flood by the ladies, all of which occurred interspersed with brief speeches, songs, band music, cheers from the boys and tears from the mothers, daughters, wives and sweethearts there assembled. Judge Benjamin Dunwiddie made the presentation speeches, and eloquent patriotic address, in the presence of a thousand people; Captain Flood responded briefly and feelingly and brave Moses O'Brian made a farewell speech full of heroic fire, characteristic of his ardent, military nature; the ceremonies were concluded with a prayer and benediction offered by the white-haired clergyman; then the newly christened sons of Mars, proudly carrying the handsome banner and following the gleaming blade of the Captain's sword, marched to the station to the martial air of "The Girl I left behind Me", played by the Monroe Cornet Band, an organization yet extant. The Boys marched to this ancient military air many times afterwards, in many different States, but not with the same "am-I-not-a-fighting-cock" feeling, because the girls were not there to brace them up and give to the music that realistic symphony and sympathy with which we bubbled over that morning.
After an uneventful ride of about five hours duration, the Volunteers arrived at Fond du Lac and were met at the station by a handsome, grey uniformed officer, alert and quick speaking, wearing a sword and a sort of a sabertasch hanging from the belt. His cap was covered with an immaculate white Havelock, this officer was our first adjutant, Louis H. D. Crane. He reminded me then of pictures of Havelock's officers of the British India Army, which had a few years previously suppressed the Sapoy rebellion in India. How those British officers survived the heat of India under those Havelocks has since been a matter of great conjecture to myself; because they are the hottest and most uncomfortable head-gear a soldier ever wore in a hot climate and although they became the rage among officers and men in '61 before the trials of war were experienced, afterwards when business principles had regulated comfort in garb, they disappeared entirely from among the troops in the field. Like the sunbonnet once generally worn by the women of our land, they were discarded for a similar reason.
Leaving the train we quickly fell into line, then wheeled into platoons and the command was given to move upon Camp Hamilton, located upon a level plain about one-half mile west from the railway station. Whith our banner at the fore, following the captain with his new (masonic) sword and with the Havelocked officer for a guide, at the swinging, marching step of the fife and drum we marched to meet our Colonel whom as yet we had never seen. Captain Martin Flood before giving the command, "forward!" delivered a short, soul stirring speech in which he cautioned us to touch elbows, keep dressed in line, hold up our heads, "keep the little fingers on the pantaloon seams" and other admonitions were spoken, "for,"as he said,"we represented the glorious County of Green," and indeed we did, as a Military Company of two months organization, we were as green as were made in those days, besides he wanted this Company to be considered by Colonel Hamilton as being second to none in military education. The thought that we were soon to meet the Colonel – a real live one – who had been in war, had served with distinction in Mexico, an officer who had seen and been with men in battle – for the first time in our lives we were on the eve of a great event and we stiffened our back bones and set our teeth to meet — the Colonel.
With ranks well dressed and at full cadence step the Company wheeled to the left, on to Forest Street, as full of ardor and suppressed excitement as if we were to meet the great Napoleon himself. But pride goeth before destruction saith the scriptures. In this instance these conditions were reversed, we carried our pride with us, but its destruction lay just ahead, on Forest Street, in the shape of a wooden bridge which spanned a shallow, mud bottomed, cat tailed stream, its surface obscured with a mass of floating logs. The bridge was a low (pony) truss, the trusses were boxed and the floor joist were hung from their ends, beneath the lower cords of the truss, attached thereto with bolts, an admirable trap in which to catch these Green County Volunteers, who marched upon it at full cadence step and had fairly covered the bridge when suddenly there came a crash, a few yells, some swearing or rather suppressed ejaculations and the proud military organization was floundering in the depths below, amid planks, joist, logs and their individual selves, while a few had clutched the boxed trusses upon either side of the roadway, looking down, horror stricken upon their scrambling comrades below. The forward or third part of the Company only were on the bridge when it fell and the remaining portion at once sprang to the rescue and in a few minutes all were safely standing on Forest Street, non the worse for the mishap excepting the ducking they had received in the mucky waters. One member of the Company, William L. Carter, who fell with the bridge is an exception, in falling he struck with his breast upon a log and was laid up for several days afterwards and was forever incapacitated to bear arms, although he went to war with the Company, re-enlisted with the regiment and was mustered out with it, serving both enlistments as an ambulance driver in the Brigade hospital service. His death occurred a few years after the close of the war, caused mainly from the injury received in the falling bridge.
In the catastrophe the flag was saved, but alas, the captain's sword was lost and so was the fife, the Havelock too disappeared, but the next day Adjutant Crane appeared with another, as nobly and white as its predecessor. The sword probably remains today buried in the mud bottom of the stream where it fell from the grasp of the hand which flashed its bright blade to the admiring gaze of the Company for so short a period of time. It was Masonic in design, a silver, cross hilted sword, surmounted with the helmet of the crusader, a straight saxon blade with drawn edges; scabbard and belt of leather, the scabbard silver tipped and the belt plate silver also. It was not an army regulation weapon by any means and while it could have been worn by the Captain as a Mason, as a United States Army Officer it would have been prohibited. However, as the only visible weapon possessed by the Company all were duly proud of it. There were numerous other weapons among the Company, none visible however. There were pistols of various kinds, large and small, from the revolving pepper box pattern to the single barreled derringer; a few of the bravest were seen to have bowie knifes on their persons, valuable pig stickers they were for foragers, but two years later all such "small fry" weapons were discarded and almost entirely disappeared from among the troops in the field. The Boys had learned that the cumbersome weight of these weapons, when carried in the shape of salt pork was of far greater value, particularly so after a hard day's march.
Whatever became of the flag presented to the Company by the ladies of Monroe, is today a matter of conjecture. Perhaps some living member can give this information. Of course the flag was useless to the Company when that was merged into the regiment and we never saw it again after leaving Camp Hamilton. But to resume the story:
Without the sound of music,
Nor the voices of them that wept,
Silently down to the Camp,
The crest fallen Company swept.
to meet the Colonel and the Companies already there assembled, but its pride had vanished, it had met its "Bull Run" fully one month before that famous battle was fought and in wet, bedraggled garments it laid itself down to sleep that night, feeling that those garments were the husks which contained the nubbins of an experience in the art of marching if not of war. It marched over many bridges in later years in all that vast region lying between Gettysburg and Atlanta, some were sound and strong and many were precarious in position, faulty and unstable, but whenever met with, regardless of its condition or location, the Company always broke step ere the first plank reached.
From that first day at Camp Hamilton the Green County Volunteers ceased to be thus designated and became simply an integral part of that military unit known as the Third Wisconsin Infantry and was called Company C.