CAVALRY, COMPANY C
|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.
Blue Book Records, Company C, Commanding
Blue Book Records, Company C, Enlisted
* 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:
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:
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
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
Recruitment ad from Pond's
Markesan Journal, Oct. 26, 1861, the last issue Pond published before enlisting.
Porter, Charles W. Journal, 1862-1865. State Historical Society of Wisconsin Archives.
du Lac County Local History Web
Green Lake County Local History Web