CIVIL WAR: 1861-1865
Many of these pioneer citizens were fledgling farmers, eking out a living on the prairie frontier of western Fond du Lac County, only five years removed from transporting their produce to Milwaukee, 80 miles distant, by wagon. Most had arrived with barely money enough to enter their lands and build shelter. Many of the homes standing in 1861 had been built with logs timbered 20 miles away on the shores of Lake Winnebago. In that spring, as they witnessed the start of the American Civil War, many were still borrowing money to pay their taxes. The going interest rate was twenty-five percent.
Still, the secession was on their minds. When the announcement of the surrender of Fort Sumter reached Fond du Lac, Ripon, and Waupun on Saturday evening, April 13, people dropped everything and congregated in the cities and villages of the county for the latest news. Newspapers were in demand at any price, one man reportedly paying a dollar for a copy of the Chicago Tribune. Impromptu meetings to support the Union were held everywhere. Resolutions upholding the government were adopted. In Fond du Lac, 20 miles east of Metomen, $4000 was raised to care for the families of soldiers, and pledges were made for wood, meat, flour, and provisions for soldiers wives and children. Houses were offered free of rent. Physicians offered their services without charge. War meetings were held in every schoolhouse, and speakers were in demand. As the Fond du Lac Reporter wrote on April 27:
The war feeling is so intense and absorbing that much of the business of our city has been stopped; men are collected in crowds on the streets and before the recruiting office of Col. Lefferts. Mechanics have left their shops, clerks their desks, printers their cases, laborers their usual employments, and all are prepared to take up their arms in defense of the flag of their country.
When the first company from Fond du Lac, Company I of the 1st Wisconsin Regiment, departed on the Chicago & Northwestern Railway on May 2 amid tears and hurrahs, the city was literally jammed with people from all parts of the county.
On May 25, a local paper reported that:
Fond du Lac County has furnished a greater number of volunteers than any other county in the State, not even excepting Milwaukee. We have now nine full companies, and three more nearly full, more than enough for one full regiment. Of these, six companies have enlisted for three years, or during the war.
The quota of enlistees established for the Town of Metomen was 93, nearly one in five of its adult males. The Town responded with 73 volunteers, 8 veterans, and 25 draftees, for a total of 106 credits, by far the largest number in the county.
In the village of Fairwater, thirty-one men enlisted. Five of these men died during the war; four were retired with disability; one deserted, and one was awarded the Medal of Honor.
Twenty men from Fairwater and its immediate area enlisted during the first year of the war. With the notable exception of George Carter, who enlisted in the 4th Cavalry being formed in Ripon, all of these men enlisted in Fairwater. The prominence of the 3rd Cavalry can be attributed to the fact that James B. Pond, who had grown up on a farm in section 4 in the Town of Alto, was recruiting in the area for Company C. Pond, brother of Homer and George Pond, was later awarded the Medal of Honor, as was his youngest brother. Pond would subsequently go on to a career as the premier lecture agent in the country, booking celebrity speakers like Mark Twain, P. T. Barnum, Booker T. Washington, Thomas Nast, and Henry Ward Beecher. (The James B. Pond papers are in the collection of the William L. Clements Library at the University of Michigan.)
G. M. West, editor of the Brandon Times, described Charles Nelson's service as follows in his 1867 publication, Metomen, Springvale, Alto and Waupun, During the War:
Charles P. Nelson, enlisted as a private at Fairwater, December 5th, 1861 [state records disagree] for Captain Stephens Company, which was Company C, 3d W. C. He was an active, shrewd soldier, and was detached from the Regiment to act as a scout and spy, in which capacity he done the government good service. At the expiration of the term of his service he re-enlisted and served until the close of the war. For the services he rendered to the government, he was promoted from the ranks to a Sergeantcy.
Only one man from Fairwater and its immediate area enlisted during the third year of the war. The impact of the war on the community instead was felt more heavily in the list of casualties.
On March 11, Henry Martin died at Neosho, Missouri. G. M. West described the event as follows:
Henry Martin, of Alto, enlisted as a private in Company C, 3d Wisconsin Cavalry, in the month of February, 1862. He was said to be an excellent soldier and a christian. He died of brain fever, brought on by exposure while recovering from an attack of fever, at Neosho, Missouri, March 11th, 1863. Through the intervention of a comrade who was an Odd Fellow, his body was buried in that Societies burying ground, at that place.
On May 20, George Pond, Elwin Weber, and O. H. Carpenter, all of Alto and and the first two of whom were enlistees in Fairwater, attacked a company led by Henry Taylor in eastern Kansas and freed 18 Union prisoners, for which Pond was later awarded the Medal of Honor. Pond's efforts are described in William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, published in 1882 by The Western Historical Company, A. T. Andreas, Proprietor, Chicago, IL:
Mr. Pond and two of his brothers enlisted at Fairwater, Fond du Lac Co., Wis., October, 1861, in the same Company C of the Third Wisconsin Cavalry, and served until the close of the war. His eldest brother entered the service as Second Lieutenant, and was mustered out as Major of his regiment; his next eldest brother entered as a Sergeant and was mustered out as Second Lieutenant of his company. Mr. Pond himself preferred scouting duty to monotonous service of a soldier's life, which in a measure accounts for his non-promotion. He has frequently carried dispatches in company with one of his comrades from Fort Scott to Fort Gibson, without any rations or forage except what could be carried on their horses. The distance is 175 miles, and a trail went through the Indian Territory, and the journey was frequently made in three nights and two days. He participated in the battles of Montevallo, Honey Springs, Cain Hill, Lexington, Little and Big Blue, the massacre of Baxter Springs and numerous other minor engagements. Mr. Pond had the honor of capturing the notorious guerrilla, Captain Fa. Price, a nephew of the rebel Maj. Gen. Price. On the night of May 20, 1863, Mr. Pond in company with two of his comrades attacked Capt. Henry Taylor, a noted bushwhacker, who had sixty men under his command, and who was returning with nineteen Union prisoners captured by him in Kansas, to Missouri, and who had stopped on his way to rob and plunder the house of J. C. Ury, a famous Union scout. Mr. Ury and his father were taken prisoners by the rebel band. Mr. Pond and his comrades succeeded in stampeding the rebels, and in releasing all the prisoners taken by them except the father of Mr. Ury, who was slain in cold blood. For his daring deed Mr. Pond and his comrades, Elwin Weber, now a resident of Laramie, Wyoming Territory, and O. H. Carpenter, now a resident of Jasper, Mo., were publicly thanked in general orders issued by Gen. Charles W. Blair, then commanding the Union forces in Kansas. (Bourbon County, Part 13)
On June 14, George W. Carter received the wounds that led to his discharge from service. West described those events at length:
On the 15th of May, Captain Carter with Company B. and a Company of Cavalry, had a brisk fight with several Companies of Texan Cavalry, near Bayou Rapids, La., in which they killed six, and wounded several of the rebels, with no loss to themselves. On May 27th, he with the rest of the Company, participated in the first assault on Port Hudson. On the 2nd of June, the Regiment then being attached to General Grierson's Cavalry, and in the advance, met the enemy, who outnumbered them four to one, near Clinton, La., where they withstood four seperate [sic] charges from the enemy when their ammunition giving out, they were soon after ordered to fall back by General Grierson. In this fight, Captain Carter commanded the Regiment the greater share of the time. On June 14th he participated in the second assault on Port Hudson, and when within about seven rods of the works he was shot through the thumb, but kept pushing on till within twenty paces of the fort, when he fell pierced by a minne ball through his thigh, but giving the command as he fell, "forward Company B." Corporal Eugene Pride [Brandon] saw him fall and offered to assist him but he said "no, push on and not let the Company know that he was wounded." Here he lay from four o'clock in the morning, until after dark, exposed to the fire of the Rebels in the fort; having his clothing, and hat cut many times by rebels bullets, but receiving no wounds. After dark the rebels came out of their works looking for prisoners, and coming across Captain Carter asked him where his musket was. On replying that he had none, they then asked for his sword. He told them he had left that in camp. They then offered to parole him on the field, but he told them he thought he "had a parole already in his right thigh." They then started for a litter to carry him in to the fortification, when soon after Sergeant Thomas Hales, George Pierce, N. Green and A. J. Ross of his company, directed to the place where he lay by Eugene Pride, who saw him fall, found and carried him off the field. He was then sent to St. James Hospital, New Orleans, where he staid five weeks, when he was granted a leave of absence to come home. He was brought home on a mattrass, and while still confined to his bed, with the knowledge that he could not again enter the active service, being crippled for life, he resigned, and his resignation was accepted November 18th, 1863.
On October 6, Thomas Leach was killed near Baxter's Springs, Kansas. West described that event as follows:
Thomas P. Leach enlisted at Fairwater, February 22, 1862, under J. B. Pond, who was recruiting for Captain Stephens Company of Kingston, which was mustered in as Company C, 3d W. C. 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., in the assault made by the notorious Quantrell 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. He was buried near Baxters Springs.
The Red Book of Michigan, edited by Charles Lanman, included a list of the members of the U. S. Christian Commission for Michigan, among whom was included "O. F. Shannon, Fairwater, Wisconsin, Army of the Potomac."
Five additional men from Fairwater and its immediate area enlisted during the fourth year of the war.
Henry Pangburn, of Metomen, enlisted as a private, September 1st, 1864, in Company A, 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry. He was taken sick in the spring of '65, and after getting so weak as to be of no further use in the service, was granted a furlough. He arrived at his home in Fairwater, Saturday night, April 4, 1865, and died the next morning. There being a great many soldiers home on furlough at that time, an impromptu company was organized, and he was buried by them with military honors.