Some Incidents Regarding the 28th Regiment
by Sgt. Lauren Barker, Co. A
These lines were penned by Lauren Barker some thirty-two years after the Civil War had ended, on the occasion of the Fifteenth Annual Reunion of the 28th Regiment. Sgt. Barker's words were published in the proceedings of the reunion, which was held 24 June 1897 at Elkhorn, Wisconsin. No doubt his comrades appreciated his wry humor as he related these often-told stories of the 28th Wisconsin.
By request of comrades I will relate a few incidents of the 28th Regiment, and in doing so will state facts only as my memory and diary recall them, and will not detract a hair from any regiment or soldier in the service. Our regiment did its duty and always bore a good name.
I will pass by our exploits in Milwaukee and Port Washington and some other places, and begin with the Yazoo Pass.
Boys, you remember what a terrible place that was for boats to go and how disagreeable for the soldiers on the hurricane decks with no shelter and the limbs of the trees breaking the railings off of the boat and sweeping some of our things into the river. On the 11th of March 1863 we landed near Fort Pemberton and marched into the woods toward the fort with our drum corps playing a lively tune and the rebel shell screaming over our heads. We had not gone far into the woods when the enemy got range on us by the sound of the music and sent a sixty-four pound shot that lodged in a large oak tree just in front of the regiment, and I often think how many lives that tree saved for us. Music ceased and we got out of range very quickly. Company A stayed on the skirmish line all night and until the next evening.
Several days were spent skirmishing and getting ready to take the fort. A council of officers was held and it was thought that the two gunboats, Chillicothe and Baron De Kalb, with the land battery we had made, could silence the guns in Fort Pemberton, and then a good storming party could capture the fort. Five companies of the 28th were chosen for this duty, and they went on board the gunboat Signal while the other boats opened fire on the fort, but two guns of the Chillicothe were soon disabled, so that they all withdrew, and the 28th was saved from slaughter. A party of sharpshooters was chosen from the regiment and sent through the water to pick off their gunners, and most of these (men) contracted disease that caused their death, and a large number contracted disease there and died at Helena.
We all remember our hard work at Helena before the battle, and how the boys said it was useless. After I called the roll of Company A, at 3 o'clock a.m., one of our boys (Ira Woodcock) told me it was a humbug and that our officers were afraid that they would be ordered to Vicksburg, and said there were not 500 rebels anywhere in that part of the country. It was but a few minutes after this when the alarm gun in Fort Curtis was fired and we sprang to arms. As we stood in line near Battery B the minnie balls came thick and the captain of the Battery told Col. Gray to send one of his men to the left with orders to have the men lie down as they were drawing the fire of the enemy and three of his men were wounded. O.W. Carlson sprang from the ranks and said: "Colonel, let me go," and he went across the ridge on the double-quick with the order and returned in safety.
Later in the day as we were engaged with the enemy, Oscar discovered a sharpshooter behind a stump loading his gun, and, as his gun was loaded, he said, "Boys, I will shoot at that Reb behind the stump." He did so and the Reb did not shoot at us anymore, but we buried him after the battle. Our forces that day were 3,500 all told, while the Confederates had from twelve to fifteen thousand men and an extra number of generals, perhaps too many. It was a great victory for our side, but everything was ready to receive them and every man knew his place and did his duty.
I could say much more of this battle, but so much has been written about it I will pass on. There was an order issued two or three days after the battle that every battery should fire a salute at sunrise the next morning; this order was to be read at dress parade, but somehow it was not read to us, and when the first shot was fired Company A formed in line and went out to Battery B on the double-quick. The Battery boys asked what we came for and we told them to defend the place and they said it was only a salute in honor of our victory on the 4th, and they gave three cheers for the Wisconsin boys and we returned to camp.