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The following letters, written by David Coon to his wife and children, are here collected, carefully copied from the originals. Many of the letters were written on such scraps of paper as were available, the ink being often very poor — in one instance at least, made from the juice of pokeberries gathered on the battlefield, — so that they have become greatly faded by the lapse of time, and a number are quite difficult to decipher.
It is desired in this way to preserve for his children and grand-children, the letters, giving in a simple and direct way, some of the experiences of a private soldier through a por-tion of one of the greatest campaigns of the Civil War.
David Coon enlisted from Green Lake County Feb. 26, 1864, in Co. A, 35th Wisconsin infantry. With his regiment he remained at Camp Randall until May 10, when he was ordered to join Hancock’s Corps in Virginia, participating in many of the great battles of that terrible campaign until Aug. 25, 1864, when he, with nearly the whole regiment, was captured at the battle of Ream’s Station. He was taken first to Libby prison, Richmond, and afterward transferred to Salisbury, N. C., where he died Nov. 2, 1864.
David Coon was a good man, a kind husband and father, a true soldier of the American type, not only a patriot but a philosopher.
In loving remembrance these words are penned by his son,
John W. Coon, M. D.
Wales, Wis., July 16, 1913.
GRAND ARMY CORNER.
By H. W. Hood.
(From the Madison Democrat, January 12th, 1913.)
THE THIRTY-SIXTH WISCONSIN.
A goodly number of survivors of the 36th Wisconsin infantry are dwelling upon the Pacific Coast. They hold reunions from time to time, and it goes without saying that they heartily enjoy themselves when together.
In August, of 1903, when the national encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic was held at San Francisco, several members of the regiment from east of the Rocky Mountains were in attendance, and on the 18th day of the month they met with their comrades of the coast, and then had an unusually good time together. At that meeting Colonel C. E. Warner, of Windsor, was chosen President and James M. Aubery, secretary. Aubery enlisted February 29, 1864, in Company G of the 36th, and was, September 1, ’64, promoted to the position of sergeant major of the regiment. November 1, same year, he was made quartermaster sergeant, and on the 15th of June, 1865, was commissioned second lieutenant of Company G, but was not mustered as such. In the year 1900, he published a history of the service of his regiment, — a book containing 430 pages. It has about it many excellent features, and is good reading. It would be a good thing if every regiment could have had so able a historian.
On the occasion of this reunion, there were present,
Colonel Warner, wife and daughter; Captain Austin Cannon, Company H, who came from Pennsylvania; Charles A. Storke, Company G, of Santa Barbara, daughter and son-in-law; Judge James Paris, Company H, and wife, of Long Beach; A. T. Large, Company D, Los Angeles; William Patton, Company H, Berkeley; William Bright, Company I, Santa Cruz; David Kribs, Company I, and wife; Frederick Jennings, Company H, Lamorie; J. W. Thomas, Company K, and wife, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin; George Clark, Coimpany B, Midway; James LeTellier, Company C; W. S. Hengy, Company B., and wife, Oroville; James M Aubery and two daughters, Los Angeles; Mrs. Skeels, Menomonie, Wisconsin; E. M. Chamberlain, Company D, and wife, Albany, Wisconsin.
After a season spent in reminiscences and renewing their ancient comradeship, they sat down to a feast — twenty-eight of them — given by Comrade Large. The spread before them made it plain that their host was not only Large by name, but of heart. They had a jolly time of it.
On the 12th of last September several of those old badgers gathered again at table, at Los Angeles, Comrade Storke being the genial host. He was chosen chairman of the meeting and Comrade Aubery, secretary. On that occasion there were present, Comrades Storke, Aubery, Clarke and wife, Jennings, Parish, and Large, of those mentioned above; also F. A. Wilde, Company F, Kingman, Arizona; Robert Moorhouse, Company G, Heber, California; J. V. Bartow, Company G, Long Beach; Edward Parish, Company H, Los Angeles, wife and daughter; Captain Wesley S. Potter, Company D,
Pasadena; George W. Raymer, Company D, Madison, Wisconsin; Benjamin Bailey, Company A, San Diego.
I have been looking over the records to see how the comrades named above fared in their term of service of a year and a third. Colonel Warner was so wounded at the battle of Deep Bottom, Virginia, August 14, ’64, that it was necessary to amputate his left arm. Chales A. Storke was taken prisoner at Cold Harbor, June 1, ’64. W. H. Patton was wounded at Petersburg, June 18, 1864. William Bright was wounded at the same place, same day. David Kribe was taken prisoner at Ream’s Station. Frederick Jennings was wounded in the battle at Petersburg, June 18, ’64, J. W. Thomas was wounded at Petersburg, George Clarke was sun-struck July 14, ’64, Edward Parish was wounded June 18, ’64, at Petersburg, F. A. Wilde was taken prisoner June 1, ’64, at Cold Harbor, Robert Moorhouse was taken prisoner the same day, George W. Raymer was wounded near Petersburg, June 18, ’64.
The Thirty-sixth was recruited under President Lincoln’s call, February 1, 1864, for 500,000 men. It was quickly recruited at Camp Randall to the maximum number under direction of Colonel Frank A. Haskell, who had been adjutant of the 6th Wisconsin. He was commissioned colonel on the 23d of March. The regiment left Camp Randall on the 10th of May and was in Washington on the 14th. It served till the close of the war in the first brigade, second division, second army corps.
This is a brief sketch of the service of the regiment:
It was at Spottsylvania May 18-21, North Anna river May 23-26, Totopotomy May 28-31, Bethesda Church June 1, Cold Harbor June 1-12, before Petersburg June 16-18. It was in the siege of Petersburg from June 16, ’64 to April 2, 1865. In the meantime it was on the Weldon railroad June 22-23, demonstration north of James river at Deep Bottom August 13-20, where Colonel Warner lost his left arm, Ream’s Station August 25, Boydton Plank Road, Hatcher’s Run, October 17-28, Dabney’s Mills, Hatcher’s Run, February 5-7, 1865, Watkin’s House March 25. It was in the movement, March 28-April 9, that terminated in the surrender of General Lee. On the second day of May it started for Washington, where, on the 23d of that month, it marched in the Grand Review that was the formal close of the war. On the 17th day of June the regiment left Washington for Louisville, Kentucky, going into camp on the north side of the river, at Jeffersonville, Indiana. There on the 12th of July it was mustered out of the service and started for Madison, where it arrived on the 14th, and was disbanded on the 24th.
Colonel Haskell was killed at Cold Harbor June 3, ’64, and Colonel John A. Savage, who succeeded Haskell, died July 4, ’64, of wounds received June 18, at Petersburg. Colonel Harvey M. Brown, of Columbus, who succeeded Savage, was, because of wounds received June 18, discharged October 27, ’64. He was succeeded by Colonel Warner.
No other Wisconsin regiment lost so many men during a corresponding term of service as the Thirty-sixth. The original
Strength of the regiment was 990. It received twenty-four recruits, making in all, 1,014. Of these, 156 were killed in action or died of wounds, 172 died of disease and 12 of accidents, — making a total loss of 340, or 43-1/3 per cent. Of all who enlisted in the regiment.
I am taking these figures from the report of the adjutant general of the state in 1866. Comrade Aubery, in his history of the regiment, makes his figures a little different. Abuery says that during the first two months of the real campaigning of the regiment there were losses as follows: 273 killed and wounded— averaging 34 every week, five a day; 61 killed outright— eight a week, one a day; 221 wounded— 26 ½ a week, nearly four a day; 336 killed, wounded and prisoners— 42 every week, six a day. At the charge of Cold Harbor there were 17 killed and 53 wounded in about the time it takes to tell it. At Bethesda Church there were killed, in the charge, 49, wounded, 79.
The Thirty-sixth was one of the hardest fighting regiments of all in the service from all of the states and its losses were among the greatest. Every survivor feels proud of having been a member of it.
Camp Randall, Madison, Reb. 28th, 1864.
Dear Wife and Children:-
Well, I didn’t go back to bid you good-bye. I found it necessary when I got to Berlin to come right on to this place in order to get in in time to make arrangements to secure my bounty, &c. I have enlisted in the 36th regiment, and yesterday was taken into a room with nine others and stripped naked, and passed examination so slick that there wouldn’t have been any chance at all of getting clear if I had been drafted, but Orange Snell was thrown out, the last man I should have thought of.
Tomorrow we are to be mustered in. We expect our company will be “A”, as it is the first one of all. Messs. Vergin, Putnam, Dewey, Wm. Luckey, Gordon and Mart Haskill are all in the same company; all accepted but the two last, their case is not decided yet. Luckey is my bunk partner. Thos. And Jess Brown are in the same reg. but another Co. We are in Luman’s quarters to-day, as there was no good chance for writing in the barrack. Palen and Sol. Reynolds go into the 18th Colts Co. Little Lester Stephens goes into the 16th.
Now about the pay and bounty. I expect $165 local bounty, which I think we had better pay for the sugar bush, 40, and all of our other debts, and you will get $5.00 a month from the state, and I think I can send home $5.000 a month more; and I hope Herbert will be able to raise your own provisions and some to spare. Plant an acre of beans, and Emma must help hoe them and work in the garden, &c.,
and do the best you can, all of you.
The Government bounty I want to have salted down, so that it will keep. I got 44 brooms and sold at $2.00 per doz. Poor little things. Got the things you sent for and left them at L. A.’s. I wish you had them. I had a chance to get the brooms and myself bro’t down to Berlin, and did not get a chance to go to see Hiram and Dennis, and I have thought that it was best perhaps that I should have left the way I did, as it spared us all the pain of parting that we should have experienced had I not expected to return before my final departure. Herbert, I expect Mr. Dunlap will send for a hundred buckets, and I want you to tighten the hoops and let him have as good as there is. I have been thinking that we are a good deal better off than the rest in the neighborhood that have left, in having a team and a boy old enough to use it and take care of things, and I hope you will succeed and take good care of things. I must close for this time, hoping to write again in a few days when we get a little settled. You needn’t write until I write again.
Your affectionate husband and father,
P.S. – Herbert, try and get Mr. Locke to take that lumber to Berlin if he is going, so that he can to to Brushes, and get that, and the rest from Poysippi.
Camp Randall, March 2, 1864.
Dear Wife and Children:
Well, we were mustered into Uncle Sam’s service yesterday, and here we are tight, to-day not allowed to go out of camp, and we can’t go out any day without a pass from headquarters, and the orders are not to give any of us a pass to-day. There was several hundred left camp yesterday for Dixie for the old regiment.
Now I will give you a history of the time I had about my local bounty. There was a man from Green Lake town on the care that wanted a few men for their town to fill their quota. They offered $200.00, to be deposited in the bank at Ripon by the first of April. He took my name for one, but found on getting here that he didn’t want me, so I engaged to another man for $165 cash down, but found afterwards that he didn’t take down my name, and got the number he wanted without me, so I was out again and the bounties were falling. I then heard that my Green Lake man’s men hadn’t all come on and he still wanted more. I then went to him (I knew where he put up) Monday morning engaged to him, making the thing sure this time. That same afternoon I saw the Captain. He told me that he had done the best for me, got me into some town for $150.00 cash down. I told him I didn’t want to be credited to that town, I had made other arrangements, that I couldn’t afford to lose $50.00. He said they had to make out the muster roll in order to muster us in and they couldn’t make out the roll without crediting us to some town and that was the best chance they could find, and when the roll was made out they couldn’t be altered, &c.
I gave them to understand that I wasn’t satisfied, so they concluded to make out a new muster roll and put me into Green Lake, and so it is at last.
Joe Howard, Wormwood, his boy, T. L. Hall and Jesse Brown was all thrown out on examination. Paln, J. Snell, Cross, Sol. Reynolds not mustered in yet. L. A. gave me an empty housewife. If we should stay a good while here we may get a chance to come home, but it is doubtful. I can’t think of the name of the place where that cousin Margaret lives. Please tell me. As I couldn’t get out to get writing materials I borrowed what I could get, but such a place to write, playing cards, swearing and all sorts, but I am thankful that all are not of that kind. I attended the best prayer and conference meeting last night that I have attended in the state. A Miss Hobart is lecturing in camp on temperance, &c. She is to lecture tonight. I wish you would write as soon as you can. You may expect a letter from me as often as once a week while we stay here. I must stop. Kiss the babies for pa. Herbert had better let Chas. Have that calf skin towards the shoes, if he will take it.
P. S. – Direct Co. A. 36 Reg., Campb Randall, Madison.