Saturday, February 5, 2011

2nd Wisconsin at Antietam: Beetown Boys Side by Side

There are more than a dozen soldiers from the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry buried at Antietam National Cemetery which is not surprising as the regiment was in the thick of the fighting on the northern sector of the battlefield on the morning of September 17, 1862.  The regiment had 150 men when the fighting started and lost 91 before days end.  Two of the casualties were Private Robert S. Stevenson and Corporal George W. Halloway. They rest side by side at Antietam National Cemetery. 

Both Halloway and Stevenson were from Beetown, Grant County, a lead-zinc mining region in southwestern Wisconsin.  Halloway enlisted on April 22, 1861 and Stevenson on May 20, 1861. They were mustered into Company C with other Grant County men on June 11, 1861.  After mustering in the regiment proceeded to Washington and was soon brigaded with the 13th, 69th and 79th New York under Colonel W. T. Sherman.  Their baptism of fire occurred at Blackburn's Ford at the Battle of 1st Bull Run. In May 1862 the regiment was brigaded with the 6th, and 7th Wisconsin and the 19th Indiana under the command of Brigadier General John Gibbon.  They fought at Brawner's Farm on August 28, 1862 and South Mountain on September 14, 1862, loosing heavily in both engagements before moving on to Antietam. 
In the debacle that was 1st Bull Run Private Stevenson made a name for himself.  His exploits are described in the History of Grant County Wisconsin published in Chicago in 1881. "During the panic that ensued throughout the army, the regiment became detached into scattered groups. Just here one of the members of Company C, George L. Hyde was wounded in the mouth by a ball which passed through the neck. Lieut. Dean and Orderly Gibson assisted him to a place of comparative safety. James Gow, Color Sergeant of the company, hearing of his friend's condition, and being an exceptionally powerful man, went to his assistance, leaving the colors in charge of George Stephenson, a member of Company C, from Beetown, who found it difficult to keep up with the rest and retain the flag. He was charged by some cavalry, but managed to put a fence betw'een him and them. Seeing his danger and the impending disgrace from the loss of the colors, Richard Carter, one of the musicians, and his brother, George B. Carter, threw away their instruments, secured a rifle each and a few cart- ridges, and "rallied 'round the flag." After four or five attempts to increase their number in the presence of the enemy, a dozen or more of their comrades came to their assistance, and together they beat the cavalry back and secured their flag, and marched on to the vicinity of Centerville."
At Antietam Private Stevenson was in a field hospital when the battle started.  In Quiner’s Military History of Wisconsin published in Chicago in 1866 his actions are described as follows:  “Private Robert Stevenson, of Company C, Second Wisconsin, who carried of the regimental flag, on the first Bull Run battle field, and bore it on the 29th and 30th of August, 1862, on the same bloody field, sprang from his bed in the field hospital at Antietam, when he heard the skirmishing on the morning of the 17th, and pushed on alone to find his regiment. It was under fire — he reported himself to his Captain (Halloway), saying: — " Captain, I am with you to the last;" and took the colors, which he held till he was shot down, pierced with seven bullets. Corporal Holloway was mortally wounded at the same time. When found, after the battle, their bodies were lying with their heads resting on their knapsacks.”

Now they rest in peace side by side at Antietam National Cemetery.

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