James Burton Pond Collection: 3rd Wis Cav, Co C

 

THIRD WISCONSIN CAVALRY, COMPANY C
Recruited in 1861 from Green Lake and Marquette Counties
and from the Town of Metomen, Fond du Lac County

 

Wisconsin's Third Cavalry Regiment mustered into service in the War of the Rebellion at Janesville's Camp Barstow during the final months of 1861. On March 26, 1862, it left Wisconsin for St. Louis in support of Union efforts to control rebel forces in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, and the Indian Territory. Eventually stationed at Ft. Leavenworth, the regiment witnessed some of the most ruthless guerrilla activity of the war.

 


Wisconsin Blue Book Records, Company C, Commanding
[PDF format]*

Wisconsin Blue Book Records, Company C, Enlisted
[PDF format]*

* From Wisconsin Civil War Compiled Service Records: Muster Rolls, etc., 2nd-3rd Cav., Wisconsin Adjutant General's Office, Reel 2 (Blue Book). Micro-film of these records is available in the Wisconsin State Historical Society library in Madison under that title.


 

Company C of the Third Wisconsin was recruited primarily in central Wisconsin by E. R. Stevens, 37-year-old merchant, former U. S. Marshal, and owner of the Kingston House in Green Lake County, and James B. Pond, 23-year-old editor of the Markesan Journal and former resident of Alto Township in Fond du Lac County. Of the 159 men who ultimately would serve in Company C, Stevens' recruits included 40 from Kingston and another 10 from the Janesville area as the regiment was organizing. Pond's recruits included 18 men from Fairwater and 2 from Brandon, both lying just north of alto in the town of Metomen. Jason Daniels, one of the senior officers of the Company until he resigned in August, 1862, following a foot wound, recruited 15 men in his home community of Montello in Marquette County and 8 more in Kingston.Other local communities represented in the company included Markesan, Princeton, Marquette, Ripon, Waupun, and Manchester.

Not only was Stevens' and Pond's company largely local, it presumably reflected the area's anti-slavery sentiments. Its recruitment area, after all, included the region which only a year before secluded and supported Sherman Booth, abolitionist publisher of the Free Democrat, in his flight from authorities for his presumed role in freeing Joshua Glover, an escaped slave (see The Booth War on the Ripon page). Pond himself was an outspoken abolitionist, former freedom fighter with John Brown in Kansas, and editor of a Republican newspaper (see The John Parker Exchanges in James Pond's Markesan Journal, 1861). His recruitment ad of October 26, 1861, shown on the left, was itself immediately followed by an announcement that "S. M. Booth, of Milwaukee, will lecture on the War, at the Universalist Church in this place [Markesan], to-night."

Enlistees must have been fully aware of the very public sentiments of the company's organizers and probably found them compatible with their own. Certainly the enlistees' demographics suggest a high level of enthusiam. Their average age was over 25. Fully a quarter of them were over the age of 30, and many left wives, children, and farms behind for a confrontation with the rebels in the border states. Ten men of the company were over the age of 40, and two were more than 50, the oldest being 57. Their numbers included several apparent father-son pairs, as well as two of Pond's brothers.

Company C was not destined to engage in the war's most dramatic battles, pivotal conflicts such as Gettyburg and Chancellorsville in the east and Shiloh and Vicksburg in the west. Instead, it engaged in the guerrilla warfare of the border states that historians refer to as "total" war, "the most devastating challenge to any notion of civility or virtue in war." (Michael Fellman, Inside War: The Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War, New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.) These glamorless battles took their toll on company morale and conviction just as effectively as the big battles further east, if not moreso. Hinting at the nature of that fighting is a description of the death of Thomas Leach of Fairwater by the editor of the Brandon Times:

He was with the Regiment in all of the campaigns and engagements, part of the time acting as teamster. He was killed while driving his team near Baxters Springs, C.N., [sic] in the assault made by the notorious Quantrell [sic] on that place on October 6, 1863. He surrendered when surrounded by the rebels, but they gave no quarter, but murdered him in cold blood and burned his wagon. (G. M. West, Metomen, Springvale, Alto, and Waupun, During the War, Brandon: Times Office, 1867)

Another account of the Baxter Springs massacre, suggesting the full brutality of the border war, is offered in The History of Cherokee County, Kansas and Representative Citizens, ed. and comp. by Nathaniel Thompson Allison, 1904. Allison relates the story through the words of Dr. W. H. Warner, a member of the Union garrison:

The cavalry and colored infantry were standing around the fire, while dinner was being taken up, when the enemy was discovered advancing and firing rapidly, from the east, south and west. Riding at full gallop, they passed, on the south, between the camp and the men at the cooking sheds, which were outside and about two hundred feet south of the camp. The colored soldiers and the cavalry at dinner made their way the best they could to the camp, the infantry seizing their muskets and the cavalry their carbines and revolvers, and all commenced a return fire with undaunted bravery. While this attack was being made, the main body of the enemy galloped from the woods skirting Spring River, on the east, and formed in line sixty or eighty rods north of the camp, on the ridge, apparently with the purpose of making a charge upon us, in full force, simultaneously with an attack by the advance, which had passed around the camp, to the west.

At the first attack Lieutenant Pond had unlimbered the howitzer, manned it the best he could and had loaded it himself with twelve-pound shell. No one of the command knew anything of artillery drill, and, on this account the fuse was not cut. The shot fell short of the enemy and did no harm; but the firing of the cannon gave them notice that we had such an instrument of death in our hands. Men never fought more willingly and courageously. For twenty minutes there was a ceaseless rattle of musketry and revolvers and the booming of the cannon. After the first dash the enemy, on the west, retreated, scattered and fought from shelter behind trees and from the north bank of the creek, and at the expiration of half an hour, unaccountably to us, they withdrew from the fight, one by one. The main body, on the north, countermarched back to the woods, and then advanced toward us again, though as if undecided whether to attack us or not. They then returned to the woods again.

All was now quiet, like the calm after a furious storm, and we had time to make a list of the casualities [sic]. Of the forces at the Springs, eight white soldiers and one colored soldier were killed, and about fifteen were wounded, including one woman, shot through the heel, and a little child shot through the lungs. Lieutenant Cook and a man who was with him were killed, they being out in the woods practicing with their revolvers at the time. The husband of the wounded woman and the father of the wounded woman and the father of the wounded child, were shot, in cold blood, the latter by a cousin and former schoolmate. About six other married men were killed. A teamster, seeing an old acquaintance among the advancing enemy, tossed his revolver toward him, in token of his surrender, was immediately shot through the abdomen, by his former neighbor and friend, and the poor man died in thirty minutes. The colored man who was killed had seen his former master and was running to meet him, with joyous acclaim as the master stood on the hill across the creek. His master shot him through the heart, and his body rolled down the hill into the clear water of the brook.

As vicious and often dehumanizing as the fighting was, many of the men of the company returned to Kansas after the war to claim the bounty of free farms promised in Pond's recruitment ad. Among them were two of Pond's brothers, George and Homer, as well as John McPhail, D. N. Phelps (original owner of the Kingston House), and E.R. Stevens himself. 1

As indicated by the Blue Book records, Company C's experience, like that of the regiment as a whole, reflected all of the drama and tragedy found in the experiences of Wisconsin's better known regiments in their more conventional warfare east of the Mississippi. Of particular interest are the detailed remarks found in the records, documenting the service history of every man in the company. Also found in notes added to the records at a later date are notations that both James Pond and his brother, George, were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions with the Third. 2


1 Biographies of D. N. Phelps and of Stevens can be found in "Biographical Sketches--Drywood Township" in William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas  (http://raven.cc.ukans.edu/~hisite/kancoll/books
/cutler/bourbon/bourbon-co-p20.html
).

2 Summaries of the Ponds' heroism can be found in the biographies presented on the Alto Township page.

cav3_recruitad.jpg (23442 bytes)
Recruitment ad from Pond's
Markesan Journal, Oct. 26, 1861, the last issue Pond published before enlisting.

 

pond_service.jpg (22999 bytes)
Captain James Pond during
service in Company C, 3rd
Wisconsin Cavalry  (Courtesy of
Kevin Dier-Zimmel)

 

kingstonhouse_1sm.jpg (17893 bytes)
kingstonhouse_2sm.jpg (16769 bytes)
Early photos of the Kingston
House, started by D. N.
Phelps and  later owned by
E.R. Stevens. (Courtesy of
Kevin Dier-Zimmel)

 

cav3_ks.gif (14464 bytes)
Kansas battlefields, from the Web pages of  the National
Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program (http://www2.cr.nps.gov/abpp)

 

cav3_mo.gif (16129 bytes)
Western Missouri battlefields,
from the Web pages of the National Park Service American Battlefield
Protection Program (
http://www2.cr.nps.gov/abpp)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additional Links:

New York Times, Oct 18, 1863 "Baxter's Springs Massacre"

Janesville Gazette, Oct 28, 1863
"Pond's Baxter's Springs Report"

Porter, Charles W. Journal, 1862-1865. State Historical Society of Wisconsin Archives.

 

Fond du Lac County Local History Web
Green Lake County Local History Web

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