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A Brief History of the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

by  Mike Phillips and Patrick McSherry
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Click here to read about the 2nd Wisconsin on a forced march!
Click here to read about the 2nd Wisconsin's departure for Puerto Rico!
Click here for the roster of the 2nd Wisconsin
Click here for an account by the family the 2nd Wisconsin's left behind
Click here for information on the Battle of Coamo

The 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry took part in the invasion of Puerto Rico.

Unit History:

The unit was organized as a National Guard regiment on April 26, 1882. During the Spanish American War, the unit enlisted en masse as volunteers  on April 28, 1898 at Camp Harvey, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  The 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry was mustered into the United  States service May 12, 1898 at Camp Harvey, and  was assigned to the Third Brigade, First Division, of the First Army corps. At the time the unit was mustered into service, the unit consisted of forty-nine officers and 972 enlisted men. The day following their mustering in, the regiment departed for for Camp Thomas, located on the old Civil War Battlefield of Chickamauga, Georgia. The men arrived in Georgia four days later.

On July 5, 1898, the 2nd Wisconsin was transferred To the First Brigade, First Division, First Army Corps, and went on to serve in Puerto Rico. The 2nd Wisconsin left Camp Thomas on July 5, arriving at Charleston, South Carolina two days later. The regiment departed the United States on July 20, arriving off Puerto Rico six days later. The unit arrived at first at Guanica, Puerto Rico but was immediately redirected to Ponce, with their transport entering the harbor on July 27.

2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry in Ponce, Puerto Rico, 1898

The 2nd Wisconsin marches past General Miles on his balcony in Ponce.

The unit's assigned line of march was along the road leading from Ponce to San Juan, the capital. This route led past the small town of Coamo. Here, it was found that the Spanish had entrenched. On August 9, while other units were sent to attack on the flank, the 2nd Wisconsin, now only 824 men strong,  was directed to advance on the main road into the rown. Before the unit could get into position, firing was heard on the flanks, indicating that the other units were already engaged. A battalion of the regiment was ordered forward quickly, only to find the bridge leading into the town burned. Another route had to be found. The 2nd Wisconsin finally entered the town, only to find it deserted. The town has already surrendered to reporter Richard Harding Davis!

On August 10, the 2nd Wisconsin continued to exchange fire with the Spanish troops.

On the night of August 12 at Aibonito, the 2nd and 3rd Wisconsin made a flanking in march to get behind the Spanish troops in preparation for an attack on August 13. Before the attack could occur, it was learned that the armistice was signed and the fighting was over. The expected attack was called off.

Nine companies of the 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry departed Puerto Rico on September 1, 1898 aboard the transport OBDAM arriving in New York City on September 7 and at Milwaukee, Wisconsin two days later. Three additional companies departed Puerto Rico aboard the transport ALAMO on September 8, arriving in New York City on September 16 and Milwaukee on September 18.

The unit was mustered out of service between November 9 and November 21, 1898 at the home towns of the various companies. At the time of muster out, the unit consisted of forty-eight officers and 1,248 enlisted men. During its term of service, the unit had one officer dismissed, thirty-nine enlisted men die of disease, one enlisted man court-martialed, one enlisted man discharged for disability, and one enlisted man desert.


Clerk of Joint Committee on Printing, The Abridgement of Message from the President of the United States to the Two Houses of Congress. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899.Vol 3. p 242-243.

Dietz, J. Stanley, "The Battleflags and Wisconsin Troops in the Civil War and the War with Spain,"  1943.

Statistical Exhibit of Strength of Volunteer Forces Called into Service During the War with Spain; with Losses from All Causes. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1899).

Correspondence Relating to the War with Spain Including the Insurrection in the Philippine Islands and the China Relief Expedition April 15, 1898 to July 30, 1902. Vol. 1 (Washington DC: Center for Military History, 1993) 623.

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