ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin





Civil War Years

1861 - 1865

The War Between the States










Militia organized



Watertown Rifle Co formed

Watertown Artillery formed

















BIOGRAPHIES, local veterans






NYT = New York Times                   WD = Watertown Democrat                   WR = Watertown Republican


Many from Wisconsin Served in War


Although Wisconsin was not the site of any Civil War battles,

it did provide materials, supplies and

more than 90,000 troops for the Union Army.


At that time, in the 1860s, the state's population was about 775,000;

therefore about 12 percent of the population served in the Union Army.


America’s divisive Civil War (1861-1865) broke out in 1861, disrupting many lives of families of our community as young members enlisted in the battle to preserve the Union and a set of ideals.


A divided nation, with brother killing brother, frequently called upon the powers that be for an end to the strife and discord.


Many fell victim to the savagery of war.  Some men from Watertown were buried in distant states while the remains of others were returned to home and family for burial.  The grave sites of the fallen soldiers and veterans of the Civil and other wars and armed conflicts are among those lovingly decorated prior to each Memorial Day observance.


The Civil War was “a war for Union that also killed slavery.” Emancipation was an outcome (an “astounding” outcome, Lincoln remarked in his second Inaugural Address) but it always “took a back seat” to the paramount goal of saving the Union.   The Union War, Gary W. Gallagher, Illustrated. 215 pp. Harvard University Press. 2011.




During the summer of 1846, under the provisions of the territorial law, the voters of the Wisconsin Territory assembled at the county seats and organized military regiments by electing field officers of regiments.  Meanwhile the militia of the Territory were being organized into divisions and brigades.  There were three divisions (First, Second and Third) of two brigades each.   Source


First Division

   First Brigade

   Second Brigade

Second Division

   First Brigade

   Second Brigade

Third Division

   First Brigade  /  comprised of Walworth, Jefferson, Dodge and Columbia Counties.

   Second Brigade


Cross Reference:  Organization of the Armies in the Civil War





Watertown's first active unit was formed in May of 1853 as the Watertown Rifle Company.  The name was at some point shortened to Watertown Rifles.  The original leaders of the Watertown Rifle Company included CPT Henry Boegel, 1LT Gotlieb Baumann, 2LT C. W. Schultz and 1SG John Reichert.  The Company's motto was "In time of peace, prepare for war."   Source



In 1853, a second unit was organized in Watertown, the Watertown Artillery.  The original leaders of the Watertown Artillery included CPT Benjamin Campbell, 1LT John Williams and 2LT Henry Mulberger.  Source



In 1859 the Watertown Artillery changed their name to Governor's Artillery and they elected new officers; CPT Henry Mulberger, 1LT Jacob Hoeffner and 2LT Charles Riedinger.  Source



02 17     About half past 3 o’clock this morning the large hotel in the 4th Ward of this city belonging to Gottlieb Baumann was discovered to be on fire.  The Watertown Rifle Company, who kept their arms in this building, lost all their accoutrements.


12 17    Organization of companies of Wisconsin militia, report on.  The Militia of Wisconsin was comprised of 50 companies of volunteers with a combined strength of 1,993 men.  Watertown still had two companies at that time; the Watertown Rifles, commanded by CPT Gotlieb Bauman, with a strength of 42 men and the Governor's Artillery, commanded by CPT Mulberger, with a strength of 35 men.   Source


Cross Reference:  Watertown Rifles became Company A, Third Infantry.



12 27       Next Monday, the 4th of March, is the day set apart by the Constitution for the inauguration of the President [Lincoln] of the United States


It must be admitted that since his election to the Presidency, Abraham Lincoln has displayed in an eminent degree, whatever wisdom there is in silence as to his purposes when he assumes the direction of national affairs.  Perhaps, under the circumstances, close observation and no disclosure of policy until the time when he could act was the best  course for him to pursue.


“Since the newspapers have made our recent visit to Springfield the occasion of remark, it may not be improper to say that an interview with Mr. Lincoln confirmed and strengthened our confidence in his fitness for the high position he is to occupy.  Of his eminent qualifications for the great trust reposed in him, of his enlightened appreciation of the difficulties and dangers that surround us, of his desire that the Free States, if in anything delinquent, should fulfill their constitutional duties, of his determination to require from all the states an enforcement of the laws and obedience to the Constitution, and finally, of his earnest and inflexible devotion to the principles and sympathies of Republicans.” – Albany Evening Journal article, WD



03 05     WASHINGTON, Tuesday, March 5, 1861. The entire absence of any attempt to interrupt the Inauguration of Mr. Lincoln affords the sympathizers with secession the opportunity of ridiculing the warlike preparations which were made, and the great precautions which were taken; but it seems not to strike the minds of these witlings, that whatever piquancy there is in their jibes derives its force from the admitted cowardice or falsehood of the braggarts who threatened to take the Capitol by storm, expel the regular Government, and establish on its ruins the seat of a slaveholding empire.  If it be admitted that the leaders of secession in Virginia and other Southern States are so far beneath public contempt that their threats of forcible resistance to "Black Republican rule," their pompous military organizations, and their secret plots for the assassination of Mr. Lincoln were the idle ravings of fools and madmen, or the harmless gasconade of impotent and mendacious demagogues, then we may join in the laugh against Gen. Scott and those who cooperated with him in the preparations for defense.  NYT


03 28     WASHINGTON, Tuesday, March 5, 1861. The entire absence of any attempt to interrupt the Inauguration of Mr. Lincoln affords the sympathizers with secession the opportunity of ridiculing the warlike preparations which were made, and the great precautions which were taken; but it seems not to strike the minds of these witlings, that whatever piquancy there is in their jibes derives its force from the admitted cowardice or falsehood of the braggarts who threatened to take the Capitol by storm, expel the regular Government, and establish on its ruins the seat of a slaveholding empire.  If it be admitted that the leaders of secession in Virginia and other Southern States are so far beneath public contempt that their threats of forcible resistance to "Black Republican rule," their pompous military organizations, and their secret plots for the assassination of Mr. Lincoln were the idle ravings of fools and madmen, or the harmless gasconade of impotent and mendacious demagogues, then we may join in the laugh against Gen. Scott and those who cooperated with him in the preparations for defense.  NYT


FORT SUMPTER, Wednesday, March 28. Defensive preparations are still going on at Fort Sumpter.  Up to today, no orders for the evacuation have been received, and although two messengers from the Administration have arrived within the last few days, the object of their visit has not transpired, it being strictly of a confidential nature.  The prohibition of all intercourse with Charleston is still rigidly maintained, and a proposition to cut off the supplies of fresh provisions, and the mails from Major Anderson, was today discussed in the Convention.  Major Anderson awaits the orders of his Government, and by these alone will he be guided.  The fuel and provisions at the fort are nearly exhausted.  If there is one man in the country, who, by his individual prudence, resolution and courage, has averted civil war, which in this harbor might have at any moment been inaugurated, and yet maintained intact the honor of his country's flag while surrounded by thousands of her foes, that man is Major Anderson.





It is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, and to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in Holy Scripture, and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. And, in so much as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisement in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?  We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.  But we have forgotten God.  We have forgotten the gracious hand which has preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.  Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.  It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.    Lincoln speech of 07 31 1846.



When the mighty conflict raged within the Union and the fortunes of the country were evenly balanced between restoration and dismemberment, local business was suspended, recruiting stations opened, appeals made, meetings held night and day, eloquent speeches delivered, odes sung by the ladies from the balconies, and all engaged in the work of furnishing men for the armies in the field of strife, in answer to the President’s call.


As war raged President Lincoln set the precedent for America’s national day of Thanksgiving by issuing a proclamation appointing the last Thursday of September 1861 as a day of national fasting (as opposed to feasting), humiliation and prayer.  He earnestly appealed to “all the people, and especially to all ministers and teachers of religion of all denominations, and to all heads of families, to observe and keep that day according to their several creeds and modes of worship in all humility and with all religious solemnity, to the end that the united prayer of the nation may ascend to the Throne of Grace, and bring down plentiful blessings upon our own country.”


The proclamation of the much-revered President invoked God to “commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.”


Lincoln’s relationship with God is a subject highly debated by historians.  Some say Lincoln was an unbeliever, or at least a skeptic, of Christianity.  Others say he was a “deeply religious” man who daily sought God’s guidance.


It is true that Lincoln never did join a church; although he attended church services regularly while President.  The reason he gave for never joining a church was that he could never be satisfied with all the dogmas and creeds that the denominational churches required.


One of Lincoln’s earliest statements on the subject of his faith came in 1846:  That I am not a member of any Christian church is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular . . . I do not think I could myself be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of, or scoffer at, religion.”   Many of President Lincoln’s presidential speeches are superb examples of a man seeking God.    Watertown Democrat, 08 29 1861


1861, cont.


Whereas, The laws of the United States have been and now are opposed in several states by combinations too powerful to be suppressed in any ordinary way, I therefore call forth the militia of the Union, to the aggregate number of 75,000, to suppress said combination and execute the laws.  I appeal to all loyal citizens to facilitate and aid this effort to sustain the laws and integrity of the National Union, and perpetuity of popular government, and redress the wrongs long enough endured.  The first service assigned the forces will probably be to repossess the forts and property which have been seized from the Union . . . I hereby convene both Houses of Congress for the Fourth of July next, to determine upon measures of public safety, which the interests of the country demand. – Abraham Lincoln, President.   WD



The war news engrosses the anxious attention of our citizens.  The topic of all conversation is the surrender of Fort Sumter and the next movements that will be made by the contending authorities.  Everybody, of course, feels a deep interest in passing events and looks forward to the future with mingled hope and fear.   WD



A company of United States troops from Minnesota passed through this city last Tuesday, over the Chicago and North Western Railroad.  Their destination is probably Washington, where their presence and services are wanted.  Their number is estimated from 100 to 150.  WD


05 30          NEW TESTAMENT FOR EACH VOLUNTEER, of Watertown Rifle Co.



                  THE HORROR OF BATTLE

The correspondent of the Cincinnati Commercial, writing from the scene of the Rich Mountain battle, describes the appearance of the dead and wounded as follows :


The dead presented a ghastly spectacle.  I never conceived anything half so hideous.  No power of expression is adequate to describe it.  It was a complete concentration of horror's self. 


It was said that the features of those who die by other causes are usually relieved by a faint smile; that suffering is rarely left imprinted on the countenance of a corpse — but that the countenance of those who are shot have impressed upon them the traces of pain. 


Those which I saw — about fifty – exhibited nothing but the revolting characters of exquisite agony.  There was not the faintest glimmer of a lingering smile, not the slightest possible tint of softness or mildness, not a lineament of beauty remaining to relieve the harsh, horrid, distorted, agonized faces of the dead of Rich Mountain.


The bright sun, glancing through the parting leaves, lent no kindly ray to soften the ugly outlines; melancholy had no sad, quiet shadow, to mingle with the hard, forbidding aspect of the dead face on which I gazed with perfect horror. 


Had there been even traces of angry passion, vindictiveness, revenge, death could not have stared so horribly as it did out of those ghastly lineaments; we could have felt there was something human left in those human faces but mere outlines.


The faces of our own dead were as fearfully forbidding as those of their dead enemies.  It was impossible to drive from my mind reflections upon the terrible intensity of grief which those who see the forbidding countenances of the dead loved ones on the field of battle must experience.  I imagine it must exceed all other grief for the dead — because every feature is so distorted and unnatural, so entirely devoid of the tone of expression which friends have loved in the living features.   Some were lying prone on the field as they had fallen, with limbs sprawling, great thick blotches of coagulated blood near their bodies, their garments saturated with the ensanguined flow, and their gaping faces and stony eyes, staring full at the broad, brazen sky.   One who had been shot down in the woods above the breastworks, lay stark upon his face, one arm thrown with a convulsive struggle around the limb of a fallen tree.  Clotted blood which had flowed out of his side was near him in thick lumps.


But the most hideous scene was that of twenty-nine dead rebels packed horribly together in a trench—most of them with fearful orifices perforating their heads, through which the brains oozed sickening in clots; others with Minie holes [?] full in their breasts; some with shattered limbs, mangled flesh, with here and there a splintered bone exhibiting itself.


Oh horrible!  Our own precious dead, but few in number, had been more tenderly gathered, and kind comrades had decently composed their stiffening forms.  I lifted the covering which had concealed their inanimate features, but saw nothing to remove from my mind that indelible impression of the unmitigated ugliness of dead faces of men shot in battle.


Our own dead occupy separate graves, in the battle field they so gallantly won.  The bodies of our brave, but misguided foemen, were carefully laid in a common grave, and are now resting quietly where but yesterday they fought so well.


Our own and rebel wounded lay strewn together in blankets on the floors of Hart's house.  Every available space was covered with their convulsive and quivering bodies. Down under the porch there was another line of wounded.  There was no difference in the treatment of the sufferers.  The severely wounded of the enemy were attended to before the slightly wounded of our own army.  Most of them suffered in silence, a few slept soundly, and some groaned with intense agony.


One poor fellow, an Indianian [Indianan], shot through the side of his head, who could even yet stand on his feet with assistance, suffered excruciating agony.  If he survives it will be almost miraculous.  Now and then a wounded rebel would stare sullenly at our people, but the majority appeared gratefully surprised at the kindness with which they were treated.  Indeed everything possible was done to mitigate their sufferings.


I shall not attempt to depict the ghastly picture of horrid wounds and shuddering forms of poor victims, to whom it would have been merciful if they could have died, but who lay on the cold, cold ground, quivering with agony, with no chance to survive, and yet could not eke out a last suffering gasp.   WD



Gen. James Potter of this city has permitted us to copy a letter from his son, Sergeant Irvin Potter, written immediately after the battle of Manassas.  Mr. I. Potter is a member of the Oshkosh Rifles, belonging to the 2d Wisconsin Regiment.  He was in the midst of fray, did his duty calmly and bravely, as we all knew he would, and speaks as follows of what he witnessed:


Dear Father –

I suppose you are anxious to hear from me.  Well, I am safe, but completely used up.  We had the most terrible fight on record in our country.  I think we fought nine hours.  We had only fifteen or sixteen thousand at the outside, to seventy thousand of the enemy.  We thought we had them routed at one time, but they were reinforced by Gen. Johnston, when we were compelled to retreat.  Our regiment is badly cut up, but we behaved like soldiers.  One of the prisoners said we fought more like tigers than men.  Our company rallied three times on the enemy, and mowed them down like hail.  We have out of our company alone sixteen missing, and fifteen wounded — nearly one-fourth, and the other companies have suffered in the same proportion. 


Capt. Bouck and our Lieutenant acted like gallant men, stayed with us till the last.  Our regiment is highly praised by the other regiments. 


The New York Fire Zouaves say we fought like devils.  We will be revenged, if we follow the rebels to the Gulf of Mexico.


I have got so now that I know no fear of them, and from this time out, I will neither ask nor give quarters to them.  We have not one coward in our company — all obeyed and retreated like soldiers.  I will write again as soon as I get rested.


Irvin Potter.


Gen. Potter has now three sons in the regular army — the writer of the above letter, A. G. Potter at Cairo, and Charles H. Potter of this city, who, on hearing of the fight at Manassas, immediately went to Madison, joined Capt. Braggs’ company, and went to the theatre of war with the 5th Wisconsin Regiment last week.  They come from good stock.  One of their ancestors was a general in the Revolutionary army and fought under Gen. Washington at Monmouth and Brandywine.   WD



The war, though from despicable beginnings, has assumed such huge proportions that it threatens to engulf us all – no preoccupation can exclude, and no hermitage hide us.  And yet, gulf as it is, the war, with its defeats and uncertainties, is immensely better than what we lately called the integrity of the Republic, as amputation is better than cancer.  I think we are all agreed in this and find it out by wondering why we are so pleased, though so beaten and so poor.  No matter how low down, if not in false position.  If the abundance of heaven only sends us a fair share of light and conscience, we shall redeem American for all its sinful years since the century began.   WD



This day President Lincoln reluctantly signed a bill legalizing the confiscation of Confederate property used to further the rebellion.  The difficulty that Lincoln had in signing the new law was similar to that he faced April 19 in declaring a blockade of the Confederate coast — under international law, nations could confiscate the property only of a belligerent foreign power.  Therefore, in signing this bill, Lincoln was again, one could argue, granting de facto recognition to the Confederacy.  The Confiscation Act also aroused controversy among abolitionists on the one hand and, on the other, those in the North, who did NOT want to make slavery the principal issue of the war.  Because the Confederacy considered slaves property, under the new law Rebel-owned slaves could be confiscated and freed.  [The act can thus been seen as a precursor of the Emancipation Proclamation.]    WD


08 01          FILL UP THE RANKS

The organization of a military company is going forward among the young men to Watertown and vicinity.  Quite a number of names have already been enrolled, and by a little effort the company can be filled up — not, however, until after harvest, as all the men and muscle that money can command will be marched off into the teeming fields of grain that are now nearly ready for the reaper. It is not designed to effect a complete organization under three or four weeks, when, if full, the company will be officered and disciplined, and be held in readiness to fill any future requisition for volunteers for the United States service.  It takes young men and brave hearts to throttle treason, and on them rests the destiny of our country.  Now is the time for action.  Robert Tompkins is authorized to receive recruits.   WD


08 01          ZOUAVE PIC NIC

Last Thursday the Zouave Company of the city entertained the Zouave Company of Oconomowoc and gave the latter a pic nic dinner in Piper’s Grove, a cool shady place about a mile from Main Street.  The young volunteers, dressed in their picturesque costume, and the ladies present, all had a fine time and spent an afternoon together most happily.  In the evening a cotillion party came off in Cole’s Hall, when all present enjoyed themselves in the best manner.  The guests from the village of the lakes returned highly gratified with their reception and pleased with the hospitality and attention they received.   WD



        Home Manufacture

The uniforms of the Wisconsin Regiments, with the exception of the First, are exclusively of home manufacture.  Ford’s factory of this city, and Stewart’s of Beaver Dam, are now manufacturing cloth and blankets for the Seventh and Eighth, which have been ordered into camp by the 16th.  Contracts for making the uniforms for these regiments have been awarded to Fischer & Rohr of this city and other parties in the state.  While large expenditures of money are necessary to equip the gallant sons of Wisconsin who go forth to do battle for the constitution and laws, it will be given but more freely when the citizens of our own state are to reap the benefits thereof.  The encouragement of our home institutions enhances our own prosperity.  Articles of home manufacture are the best placards that a state can post throughout the country.   WD








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History of Watertown, Wisconsin