The Fourth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers, was organized June 1861, of Volunteers from the Countries of Walworth, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Columbia, Jefferson, St. Croix, Oconto, Monroe and Calumet: mustered into the service of the United States July 2nd, 1861, and from June 17th, to July 15th, 1861, rendezvoused at Camp Utley, Racine, when it was ordered to Washington, D.C.; but on its arrival at Harrisburg, Penn,. Other orders were received to proceed to Baltimore, Md., and taking arms and a few rounds of ammunition in consideration of the rebellious state of that city; early in the morning of July 23rd, marched through it, and pitched tents on Mount Clare, called Camp Dix, where headquarters remained Until July 29 when they were moved to Camp Randall, Relay House Md.
In the meantime, companies G and K (July 24th) were detained to guard Pikesville Arsenal, and companies B, E, and F (July 25th under command of Major Boardman, to guide the Northern and Central R.R. the former joining the regiment August 5th, the others August 19th, which remained in Camp Randall until September 14th, when Camp Bean was substituted, and in camp Bean until October 4th, when another and better change was made to Camp Boardman, where It was located until November 5th, 1861. During a stay at the Relay House, a detachment occupied Ellicott's Mills, guarding the Harpers Ferry R.R., and examining the goods which passed toward the enemy via the Baltimore and Washington Turnpike, and one company guarded the Washington branch of the Ohio Railroad from Relay House to an Annapolis Junction, the whole time a strong guard.
April 16th, after the usual preliminary movements and embarking and disembarking-marching-striking and re-pitching tents; the seventeenth, was towed by the Saxon, toward the Mississippi River, but at a high very slow rate, arriving at the South West Pass, 4 o'clock p.m.; the 18th, anchored near the steamship Colorado, of the blockading squadron, in sight of Pilot Town. The fleet of Gun and Mortar Boats, had already gone up the river, Toward the Forts, and on the 19th commenced their grand in terrible bombardment, Visible from the ship which was soon to result so gloriously.
The Regiment was transferred in small boats to the Colorado, the 23rd, enjoying the most timely and agreeable change, until the 5th and 6th when they again went on board the ship Great Republic, starting the same day for Sable Island, in the bay of Ronde, opposite and in sight of Fort St. Phillip, The object being to approach it from the rear, and capture the Garrison, which the fleet was unable to do, although it had passed the forts, near which they had come to anchor early the 27th. The next day, companies E and G, under command of Major Boardman, were landed ten miles from the forts, and with a part of 21st Indiana volunteers, waded waist deep, through water and mud, dragging small boats after them, reaching quarantine at 1 o'clock p.m. in time to secure the rebels, who after surrendering, were escaping to New Orleans. This was very successfully accomplished, by placing one company on the right bank of the Mississippi river, and deploying it around Fort Jackson, another guarding the left.
At 10 o'clock a.m. the 29th, the remaining companies started for the mouth of the Mississippi, where they arrived at 5 p.m. in joyous spirits, having the inexpressible pleasure of seeing the American flag, wave over Forts Jackson and St. Phillip. 9 o'clock a. m. the 30th, the steamer Diana, from the forts, came down the pass, and soon companies B,C,D,F, & H, went on board and started up the Mississippi, passing Forts Jackson and St. Phillip, at 4 o'clock p.m., the stars and stripes floating over them, and 15 minutes to 5 o'clock p.m., were at the Quarantine.
During the night, Orders were received to proceed up the river, and by 12 m. midnight, were underway for New Orleans, reaching the city at 5 o'clock p.m., disembarked at once, and it adds the same time with the 31st Mass. Vol., marched to the Custom House, its band playing Yankee Doodle, Red, White and Blues through a menacing mob, amidst the wildest confusion, the jeers, taunts horrible threats and vilest abuse traitors can invent.
Major Boardman's command coming from the quarantine on the gunboat Kineo, some followed, and before entering that Custom House, companies I and F joined the regiment, adding embarked on a steamer Lone Star, and by 8 o'clock p.m., occupied the spacious rooms, principally the post office department, and a very interesting one under the circumstances. The evening of May 2nd, the regiment was marched to the St. Charles Hotel, where General Butler and staff, were in council with the city rebel officials, its band playing the national airs from the portico while the mad mob rushed on all sides, almost bursting with rage, but were controlled by the cold steel glistening in their traitorous and fiendish countenances, only an occasional one daring to make much demonstration, for such were promptly and effectively punished, as their Picayune Butler only could and dared do. The regiment remained in the custom house until the 8th, attending to the wants of the rebellious, frequently abusive and noisy citizens, who, however by this date were so far tamed, that soldiers of two or so in number, were comparatively safe with arms, in any part of the city, but were liable to attacks from the women, until the issue of the following.
As officers and soldiers of the United States have been subject to repeated insults from the women (calling themselves ladies) of New Orleans, in return for the most scrupulous non-interference and courtesy on our part, it is ordered that hereafter, when any female shall by word, gesture or movement, insult or show contempt for any officer or soldier of the United States, she shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her avocation.
Took transports during the night of the 8th, six companies of the regiment talking the steamer Burton, and the next day landed on the levee 35 miles from New Orleans, on the left bank of the Mississippi: starting just before dark for the Jackson and Mississippi R.R., together with the part of the 6th Michigan Vol. Soon they enter a cypress swamp, such as is known only in La., with from six to twenty inches of water, and the same depth of mud: filled with cypress knees, alligators and large snakes, making this march, wade, jump or swim, extremely difficult, fatiguing and disagreeable. By 8 o'clock p.m. the advance gained the rail road, and commenced tearing up the track, burning the bridge and trestle work.
Major Boardman was sent with Company D 13 miles from this point to burn the bridge over the Manehae Pass, which was successfully accomplished, having a skirmish with the enemy guarding it, and on their way up killing two and wounding two rebels, who attempted to force their way through them on a hand car. On the 10th, they followed the rail road track ten miles toward New Orleans, to Kenners Plantation, where the transports had gone, a part returning five miles the dame day, to destroy more trestle work.
May 12th 8 o'clock a.m., they started up the river, reached Baton Rouge 12 m., the 18th disembarked and marched to the Arsenal grounds and State House: then re-embarked moving on again, early the next morning May 15th landed opposite Natchez, Miss., bivonacked for the night; and at 5 o'clock p.m. the 18th. Tied up between Warrenton and Vicksburg Miss., in sight of the rebel works; the 19th dropped down to Warrenton, where a party of nine, on shore for wood, were attacked by the enemy and two wounded.
The 21st the Laurel Hill, with companies C, E, G and K, joined them having left New Orleans on the 13th, stoping at Baton Rouge and Natchez. The regiment was then transferred to that boat, and on the 26th, with the whole expedition started for Baton Rouge, reaching there the 29th. In passing Grand Gulf, Miss., on the afternoon of the 26th a rebel battery from the bluff, poured a storm of balls, grape and canister, into the Laurel Hill, killing one and wounding several; after running out of range, they returned landed above the Gulf, when Major Boardman with companies D, C, I, and K started at double quick for the rebels, who had retreated towards their camp.
Just at dark skirmishers found the enemy, when a sharp fight followed; the rebels driven with a loss of four killed, and several wounded. The lamented, brave De Kay, of Gen. Williams staff, on the advance received a mortal wound, and a man of Co. D. a slight one. They reached the boat at 9 o'clock p.m., which in the morning continued on down the river. June 5th, Gen. Williams issues Gen. Order No. 46, ordering commanders to turn out from their camps all fugitives, and keep them beyond their lines. Col. Paine refused to obey this order, in a communication of which the following is an extract and is placed under arrest by the General:
SIR: within my own personal knowledge many fugitives have been received aboard our transports, at different places in this State by Gen. Williams, and have upon close interrogation given him important military information. Such as these as have not already been returned to their owners, may still be in the camps of this brigade: what their fate will be if delivered up to the claimants or hunters, it is easy to predict. It seems to me that, while their surrender would be in palpable violation of the law, it would also in its moral aspect, be obnoxious to gravest objections. The order of Gen. Williams, forces upon me an alternative which is peculiarly painful, because with me obedience to the orders has always been in practice as well as theory, a fundamental military maxim; I am compelled either to disobey him, or defy the sovereign power of the Republic. In this matter I cannot hesitate. No punishment for disobedience to this order can be intolerable, as would be the consciousness of having violated the law by compelling my guards to return the vindictive rebels, fugitives, whose information had been sought and used for the benefit-of our arms. While I have the to command the Fourth Wisconsin regiment it cannot with my consent, be employed in violation of law for the purpose of returning fugitives to rebels.