A narrative of service with the Third Wisconsin Infantry/Departure for the front

Departure for the Front

The preparations for departure were soon completed, and on July 12, 1861, we shouldered our knapsacks, strapped on our haversacks, containing several days rations, and boarded the railroad cars for the seat of war in Virginia. The train of twenty-four coaches pulled out of the station amid the cheers and farewells of our many friends, who had gathered to see us off. All were in the best of spirits. It seemed to us as though we were setting out on a grand pleasure excursion. No thought of death or disaster appeared to cross the mind of anyone. And yet how many were saying farewell, never to return!

Our route took us through Chicago, Toledo, Cleveland, and Erie. Everywhere we were feasted and toasted by the enthusiastic people

along the line. At Buffalo the entire population seemed to have turned out to welcome the wild woodsmen of the Northwest. The local military companies of that city escorted us through the principal streets; speeches were made by the mayor and prominent citizens. We were very soon convinced that we were, indeed, heroes in embryo. At Williamsport, Pennsylvania, we were given a reception surpassing anything that had gone before; even now, more than fifty years after, its pleasant recollections still linger in my mind. Tables were set along the sidewalk in the shade of magnificent trees, and these tables were literally loaded with all the good things that could tempt an epicure. There were, besides, fair ladies without number to welcome us, and wait upon our needs.

On July 16 we reached Hagerstown, Maryland, where we went into camp, and where on the next day we were equipped with a complete outfit of muskets, ammunition, and camp utensils. The degree of preparation of the Federal Government for war at this time, may be judged from the fact that the muskets issued to us were old-time smoothbore Springfields, that had been rifled for a minie-ball; they were so light, that their barrels would spring after the rapid firing of a dozen shots.