Military History - Civil War

In 1861, Wisconsin was thirteen years old and had a population of a little over 775,000. Over the course of the next four years, the Badger State grew up in a hurry, sending over 91,000 men (eleven percent of the population) to fight in the Civil War. They organized at thirteen training camps around the state into fifty-three infantry regiments, four cavalry regiments, one heavy artillery regiment, and thirteen light artillery batteries.

These men traveled by train, boat, and foot throughout the country, fighting at places like Shiloh, Antietam, Vicksburg, and Gettysburg. The Iron Brigade, comprised largely of men from Wisconsin, earned national fame as one of the crack units in the Union Army. The 8th Wisconsin Infantry’s bald eagle mascot, Old Abe , became a source of morale and inspiration for Northern troops, and a target for Confederate sharpshooters. Of the 91,000 Wisconsin men serving, a staggering thirteen percent (over 12,000 men) were killed in action, died of wounds, or succumbed to disease. Wisconsin did its part in the fight to preserve the Union.

The Wisconsin Veterans Museum preserves the stories of Wisconsin in the Civil War and is making them available here. Our Civil War Database allows you to search for individuals by name, unit, or hometown. Regimental histories provide a broad overview of a unit’s travels and the battles in which it participated. Other resources highlight the hallowed battle flags that Wisconsin men carried during the war and the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) , a veteran organization formed following the war. Remember to search the museum’s collections to find artifacts, books, oral history interviews, letters, photographs, and more from Wisconsin Civil War veterans. Contact us if you have any questions or comments.

Civil War - Battle Flags

The regimental battle flags in the collection of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum came to the G.A.R. Memorial Hall in the state capitol during the years following the Civil War. The Veterans Museum undertook the conservation of the Wisconsin Civil War battle flags in the 1990s and the project continues to this time. As of 2008, approximately 122 flags out of 200 have been conserved.

Wisconsin in the Civil War: A Bibliography

This resource describes books that focus on the involvement of Wisconsin in the Civil War, ranging from memoirs and published letters to regimental histories and honor rolls. It is updated annually and is as comprehensive as possible. All books are available for use at the WVM Research Center, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., or by special appointment.

Search the Wisconsin Veterans Museum Civil War Database

This resource provides information about all of the soldiers who served in Wisconsin artillery, cavalry, and infantry regiments during the Civil War.

Regimental Histories

The 91,000 men Wisconsin contributed to the Union Army were divided among fifty-three infantry regiments, four cavalry regiments, one heavy artillery regiment, thirteen light artillery batteries, and an assortment of other units. The regimental histories provide an overview of when these units were organized, the places they served, the battles in which they fought, and when they returned to Wisconsin at the end of the war. Use the drop-down menus to select a regiment, and then click GO to learn more.

Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) Posts

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a voluntary, fraternal association of men who served in the Union Army, Navy, or Marine Corps between the years 1861 and 1865, and were honorably discharged from service. It was the largest organization of Union Civil War veterans and the forerunner of the modern American veterans organizations. Find all 280 Grand Army of the Republic Posts for Wisconsin by post number, post name, by city, or county location.
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.