The 7th Wisconsin was raised at Madison, Wisconsin, and mustered into Federal service September 2, 1861. It saw severe fighting in the 1862 Northern Virginia Campaign, fighting at Brawner's Farm during the early part of the Second Battle of Bull Run. During the subsequent Maryland Campaign, the 7th attacked Turner's Gap in the Battle of South Mountain, and then suffered considerable casualties battling Hood's Texas Brigade in the D.R. Miller cornfield at Antietam.
During the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, the 7th pushed a part of James J. Archer's Confederate brigade off McPherson's Ridge, and then stubbornly defended the heights later in the day before withdrawing to Seminary Ridge. When the I Corps retreated to Cemetery Hill, the Iron Brigade and the 7th Wisconsin were sent over to nearby Culp's Hill, where they entrenched. They saw comparatively little action the rest of the battle. The regiment later served that year in the Bristoe and Mine Run Campaigns.
In 1864, the 7th Wisconsin fought in the Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg.
The regiment participated in the Grand Review of the Armies on May 23, 1865, and then mustered out at Louisville, Kentucky, on July 2, 1865.
The 7th Wisconsin Infantry initially mustered 973 men and later recruited an additional 369 men, for a total of 1,342 men. The regiment suffered 10 officers and 271 enlisted men killed in action or who later died of their wounds, plus another 143 enlisted men who died of disease, for a total of 424 fatalities.Colonel Joseph Van Dor
Colonel William W. Robinson
Colonel W. W. Robinson of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, member of G.A.R. Post No. 68, was born in Fair Haven, Vermont, December 14, 1819. John Robinson, who accompanied the English Pilgrims to Holland and thence to America, was his earliest ancestor in the United States country and in the maternal line he is of French Huguenot descent. His father and mother, John W. and Rebecca (Merritt) Robinson, were natives of Connecticut and had two sons, the only brother of Colonel Robinson being Andrew N. The father was a lieutenant in the War of 1812 and fought at Sackets Harbor, Plattsburgh and Stone Mill, being severely wounded in the last. He removed to Wisconsin and died in Rock County while the Civil War was in progress, his wife’s demise occurring a few weeks later.
The son was carefully educated at Rutland and Castleton Academies in Vermont and he was sent afterwards to Norwich Military Academy in that state on the banks of the Connecticut River, where he was a classmate of other officers who reached distinction in the volunteer service and in the Mexican War. Colonel Robinson taught school in his native state and at Jefferson Academy, New Jersey, and in 1840 he went to Cleveland, Ohio, and taught two years. He prospected in the West and visited Wisconsin, but returned to Cleveland and afterwards enlisted in the Mexican War, and was made Lieutenant in Company G, 3rd Ohio Infantry under Colonel Curtiss of Pea Ridge fame in the Civil War. He was promoted to Captain for distinguished services in Mexico, and after continuing through the war, principally occupied in cavalry skirmishing near the San Juan River, he returned to Ohio.
In 1852 he went to California across the plains, operating there in contracting and gold digging and in establishing the interests of the Minnesota Water Co., among the placer miners.
He went to Minnesota and engaged extensively in farming and took a prominent part in the development of the locality where he settled, founding Wilton, the county seat of Waseca County. In 1858 he came to Wisconsin, locating at Sparta. During his residence in Minnesota he was made Colonel of the State Militia and performed much service in perfecting the organization in drill.
When the rush to fill quotas required of Wisconsin was made the Governor appointed him Lieutenant Colonel of the 7th Wisconsin and he went to the front in September, 1861, joining the “Wisconsin Brigade” of Rufus King. He performed duty with his command, made the fruitless march in spring of 1862 under McClellan towards Manassas, went to the first campaign of the Rappahannock, engaged in small affairs at Thornburg near Fredericksburg. He was in the movement to Frederick’s Hall Station and went to Cedar Mountain in time to retreat with Pope and to skirmish at Beverly Ford. He participated in the move to Warrenton after the skirmish at Sulphur Springs, and fought in the first terrific action in which Wisconsin troops were engaged at Gainesville, August 28. Four regiments, the “Iron Brigade”, held the ground against 33 regiments of rebels. The Lieutenant Colonel had been made Colonel of the 7th Wisconsin in the fall of 1861, and in this action his horse was shot under him and he received a bullet in his leg. He was sent to Washington and home, rejoining his command a few days previous to the fight at Fredericksburg in December 1862. During the action his regiment was on the extreme left, and after it was over the command fell back to Belle Plaine and went into winter quarters. In January, Colonel Robinson helped pull Burnside out of the mud.
In the 1st Corps under Wadsworth, Colonel Robinson fought at Fitzhugh’s Crossing, April 29, the transit being hotly contested by the rebels, and he received orders to cross with his regiment on pontoons, which was done. They were ordered back, and the skirmish across the river continued until the Battle of Chancellorsville, and the brigade reached the field as support, Sunday morning, May 3. The regiment took its former position afterwards below Fredericksburg and remained until General Wadsworth ordered General Reynolds to detail Colonel Robinson with a command of troops (which was composed of his own regiment, two companies of the 2nd Wisconsin and the 56th Pennsylvania Infantry) to report to General Russell. Accordingly, he crossed the Rappahannock with his command at Kelly’s Ford, found General Russell at Brandy Station and supported a cavalry force in a reconnaissance towards Culpeper Court House, June 9.
In late June The Army of the Potomac marched north into Maryland, trying to stay between the Army of Northern Virginia led by Lee, and Washington D.C. The 7th Wisconsin marched 160 miles (260 km) with the I Corps of the Army of the Potomac to the vicinity of Gettysburg.
On June 30 the brigade bivouacked between Emmitsburg and Gettysburg, and when the firing commenced on the morning of July 1, was ordered to move by quick marches to the field. They marched 25 minutes and halted for 5 minutes until near Gettysburg. The Iron Brigade was the first Union infantry on the field. They turned off the road, and double-quicked over the crest of McPherson's Ridge and into Herbst's Woods, where they ran into advancing Confederate troops from Archer's Brigade. They traded volleys at close range until the Confederate's right flank was overlapped and they fell back. The Iron Brigade's troops gave chase and captured over 200 prisoners, including Archer.
Later, an order was received by Colonel Robinson to fall back towards the town, which movement was executed by alternating battalions while under fire, until he reached Seminary Ridge. There a stand was made and Lieutenant Colonel Callis was severely wounded. Just before sundown orders were received by Colonel Robinson to fall back to Cemetery Hill, and the brigade fell back, passing through the town. The brigade had lost fully one-half its members killed, wounded and missing.
July 2, Colonel Robinson, with his command, occupied a position on Cemetery Hill and held it during two days' fighting, occasionally moving to support weak points.
Lee retreated during the night of July 3, and the brigade remained on the field on the 4th. On the morning of the 5th the command started on the march in the same route it had come, keeping on east of the Blue Ridge, the enemy being on the west until the pass at South Mountain leading to Hagerstown was reached. At the latter place, the rebel rear was overtaken and an action seemed imminent, but none occurred as Lee's forces withdrew before the Union attack commenced.
The Iron Brigade distinguished itself at the that fight. General Meredith, commanding, was wounded, and the brigade continued under the command of Colonel Robinson of the 7th Wisconsin. He conducted its career during the remainder of the fight and was head of the brigade through his connection with the command; except for a short period while home on a furlough, and until the second day’s battle of the Wilderness, when he was again placed in command.
Colonel Robinson moved with his brigade to Warrenton and thence to the Rappahannock, and remained at various camps at or near Rappahannock Station until the movement at Mine Run and the 7th was in the action at Buckland Mills. November 26 Colonel Robinson was in the fight with his command at Mine Run. At Kelly’s Ford, “veteranizing” took place and Colonel Robinson went to Wisconsin with his regiment on furlough, returning to Culpeper Court House. In the spring the brigade went to the Wilderness campaign, the I Corps and V Corps uniting under Warren.
The command crossed the Rapidan, bivouacking at the “quartz mills” and, on hearing the firing the next morning, advanced to the rebel breastworks with the enemy on the left and right, the Union troops falling back with great loss. They rested on their arms through the night without light or food. On the morning of the 6th the firing commenced again, the rebels being driven back to their batteries on a line, crossing the Plank Road, the right falling back and leaving the 7th alone in front. Colonel Robinson issued orders to his men to lie down, which they did, but afterwards fell back. He met General Wadsworth and they had some conversation, which was the last interview of the gallant commander with any human being before he was shot. That night Colonel Robinson resumed command of the brigade. On the 8th the Battle of Laurel Hill was fought. On the 12th the brigade was again in action at Spotsylvania. The fighting had been incessant for many days and everybody was worn out, and on a march to another position on the Bowling Green Road it was thought they might obtain rest, but soon after an order came for Colonel Robinson to take a position with the brigade at a point in advance of the army to hold a bridge.
Thence the command went to the North Anna River, where they had a vigorous fight. They then moved to the crossing of the Pamunkey, threw up breastworks on the hills and kept in almost constant motion to some point; going to Cold Harbor and the Chickahominy, having moved June 1 to Bethesda Church. The 7th went to the James River and to Petersburg, erecting breastworks and preparing for participation in the work in the trenches there. For more than 30 days Colonel Robinson had not been able to remove his sword or his clothing and, harassed by slight wounds and worn out, there being a full line of officers, he resigned.
He went to Sparta, Wisconsin, and engaged in farming until 1873, when he moved to Chippewa Falls, where his son-in-law resided. In 1875 he was appointed U.S. Consul to Madagascar and continued in that incumbency 12 years. He discharged his duties with distinguished honor and made himself a favorite at Court and with the people.
When the Madagascan ambassadors were about to visit the United States and Europe in 1882, the Queen made a special request of the president that Colonel Robinson be allowed to accompany them which he did and everywhere received the most distinguished attention. He returned to America in December, 1886, and, not liking the idea of a life of inactivity, he embarked in the coal trade, associated with his son under the style of H.F. Robinson & Co., buying the ownership of the partner of his son.
Colonel Robinson was married in 1843 at Cleveland, Ohio, to Sarah Jane, daughter of Daniel and Sarah Jane (Bowen) Fisk. Their first-born child - Edward L. - died when eight years old; Leonora Married General Hollon Richardson, of whom a sketch appears on other pages. Two children, named Herbert Fisk and Inez were born to Colonel Robinson and the youngest daughter died in 1864. The second in order of birth, William W., was sent to West Point when he was graduated and he is now (1890) a Lieutenant in the 7th U.S. Cavalry at Fort Reilly. During the course of his distinguished service of Colonel Robinson the alternative of a commission as Brigadier was offered him or a scholarship for his son at West Point and he unhesitatingly chose his son’s advantage, the appointment being made in 1863. His thorough military education has always kept Colonel Robinson’s interest in military organizations alive and he has always been active in the drill of local organizations. The companies whose instruction he has superintended have proved the value of his teachings by taking prizes on many occasions. He is a thoroughbred in soldiers’ life can carries himself in accordance with the principles instilled by his training and experiences. Andrew N. Robinson, his brother, was quartermaster of the 7th Wisconsin; was injured during the first year of the war and was discharged for disability, he lives in Tennessee.
Colonel Robinson is passing the sunset of life, surrounded by his children and grandchildren. He is at the verge of man’s allotment of years and can look back over his career, devoted to his country, with the content he deserves as a true son of the Republic, a patriot in descent and fact and a citizen whom all delight to honor. The highest terms of praise could not be heard in echo of his splendid service for his flag whose stars he helped to burnish anew amidst the clouds of fratricidal war.Hollon Richardson