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    [Civil War]. Archive of Letters and Documents of Thomas H. Ruger, 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. An archive consisting of 29 letters, dating from March 16, 1849 to December 18, 1864, and 10 documents relating to Ruger's career, dating from February 24, 1851 to May 11, 1863. Of the letters, 19 are from Ruger, mostly to his wife, covering a period of his Civil War service from July 26, 1861 to December 18, 1864.

    Ruger's letters to his wife cover mostly military news, descriptions of locales of camps, weather, living quarters of soldiers, and daily routines of camp life. In several letters, he provides details of military actions in which he and his regiment were involved.

    The earliest letters in the archive concern Ruger's quest for an appointment to West Point. One letter to Ruger, dated March 16, 1849, is from Orasmus Cole, congressional representative from Wisconsin's 2nd District, informing Ruger that it is unlikely that he will be successful in obtaining Ruger's appointment. Another letter to Ruger, dated October 25, 1849, is from Brigadier General Joseph Totten, Chief Engineer of the U.S. Army. Totten responded to Ruger's October 15 letter to the President Zachary Taylor concerning a West Point appointment. "Your the President...on the subject of a Cadet appointment on the list of At Large, has been referred to this Department by the Secretary of War. To enable you to have your name on the above referred to list, you must have claims on account of the revolutionary services of your Ancestors, or on account of the services of your Father in the Army or Navy, or the Civil Service of the government. Should you have claims of this nature, you will please state them. I would advise, however, that you rely chiefly on or u nomination /u by the Representative of your District." Ruger was finally successful in obtaining his appointment. In the archive is a copy of his appointment, signed by Secretary of War Charles Magill Conrad, which took effect in June 1850. While at West Point, he became good friends with future Union generals Fitz John Porter and George Thomas.

    Ruger joined the 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry in April 1861. The following August 1861 he was appointed colonel of the regiment. By that time, Ruger was serving in the Shenandoah Valley. The defeat of Union forces at the First Battle of Bull Run was one of the subjects covered in Ruger's July 22 letter to his wife, in which he discussed political appointments to military positions and officers leaving their troops during the battle. "I must say that political appointment to important military positions will have to cease before long as it is becoming evident that soldiers are the proper persons to lead soldiers." As for his fellow Wisconsin officers fleeing the battle at Bull Run, Ruger stated, "the officers of the Wisconsin 2d Regiment are said many of them to have acted badly. It appears that they did well enough until the retreat was ordered when they abandoned their men and made tracks for Washington. The men on the contrary behaved well and some of the officers....It seems that when the retreat commenced the officers, not all however, instead of trying to bring their commands off the field in good order ran away and left the men to take care of themselves."

    On an October 22, 1861 letter to his wife, Ruger mentions the Battle of Ball's Bluff, in which Union forces under General George McClellan suffered a humiliating defeat and Colonel Edward Baker, close friend of President Abraham Lincoln, was killed crossing the Potomac River (the only U. S. Senator killed in the Civil War). According to Ruger, Baker "crossed the river with his Brigade at the worst place almost that could have been chosen, fell into an ambuscade lost his life....Gen. Baker it seems would not take orders from Gen Stone who is a good General, but must cross his brigade at the place he did. It is of no use to say anything more than it was a most unfortunate affair and might have been avoided." Ruger did, however, get a chance to meet General McClellan. "We heard Gen. McClellan was about here, that he & Gen. Banks were down near the river with Gen. Hamilton. After we had passed through Poolsville and were some two miles this side I saw ahead a short distance some persons with an escort of Cavalry & said to myself there is McClellan, they turned to the right where the road to Edwards Ferry brakes off, so your humble servant put spurs and soon overtook them. It was Gen. McClellan & Gen. Banks. Gen. Banks was very cordial & presented me to Gen. McClellan who among other things said he understood I had a good regiment."

    At the Battle of Antietam in September of 1862, Ruger led the 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, XII Corps, Army of the Potomac, and received a wound during the bloody engagement. For his valor in battle, he was given a promotion to the rank of Brigadier General, and then led his brigade at the Battle of Chancellorsville. There is a document in the archive, a notice signed by James A. Hardie, Assistant Adjutant General of the U.S., dated April 21, 1863, notifying Ruger of his commission as Brigadier General. On the back of the document, Ruger wrote the following on April 24: "Acceptance & oath properly executed, mailed to Brig. Gen. L. Thomas, Adjt. Gen. U.S. Army...this 24th day of April 1863. Commission received April 24th 1863."

    The following October, Ruger regiment was ordered to Tennessee to join the Army of the Cumberland, one of the principle Union forces in the Western Theater. In an October 18, 1863 letter to his wife from camp near Tullahoma, Tennessee, Ruger compares the Army of the Cumberland with the Army of the Potomac. "I find that this Army of the Cumberland has a very good opinion of its exploits in the way of fighting as compared with other armies. It is rather amusing to one from the Army of the Potomac, which has fought more hard battles and lost more men in killed and wounded than all the other armies of the country combined to find such a feeling existing." The following February, Ruger, still stationed in Tullahoma, wrote on February 19 of the Union Army's assistance of the area's white population hurt by the war. "It is intended to send all destitute white people who require assistance especially those whose male relatives are in the rebel Army there and supply them with food by requisitions levied on the wealthy secessionists. They promised the poor men that they would take care of their families which is a promise that we think it proper to enforce." However, in a February 24 letter, Ruger wrote that he had no time for Confederate guerillas and sympathizers. "We are treating such people with such punishment as they deserve. People who harbor and the families of bushwackers we strip of everything when the case is clear and in cases of harboring where it is voluntary they would fare still worse. The way to keep rebel sympathizers in a condition of apparent loyalty at least it to punish them severely when they are guilty of disloyal acts. As long as citizens mind their own business I am in favor of not molesting them even if they were secessionists before we came here, but I believe the true policy is to punish severely all disloyal acts wherever we go." He also had no time for anti-war Democrats or Copperheads. "I notice by the papers that a number of prominent democrats who have been classed among the Copperheads have spoken in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war, and for the abolition of slavery. It is a good sign not so much perhaps for any evidence of any real change to more patriotic sentiments on their part as showing that they see that the Country is determined to carry the war through and extirpate slavery also....There are some things that we have done since the war began that I think bad as precedents and not necessary, but they were no justification for the course pursued by the democrats. They have almost invariably opposed all measures for the prosecution of the war. They are apparently coming to their senses."

    In the spring of 1864, Ruger was commanding a brigade under General William T. Sherman, and was involved in the Battle of Resaca, which occurred on May 13-15 of that year. He wrote to his wife on May 22 from Cassville, Georgia, "I do not think I mentioned that one of the Regts. of my brigade the 27th Indiana captured a flag at the battle of Resaca. I have been told it was the only one captured. The Colonel of the regiment 38 Alabama was captured at the same time." On June 17, writing from camp outside Marietta, Georgia, Ruger described General Sherman's slow march to Atlanta and the difficulties the army faced. "Our operations here may be said to consist of a series of working up to the enemy, finding his position, operating on his flank which when seriously endangered is the occasion of his falling back a few miles to his nest strong position which he has had time meanwhile to fortify....The country is admirable for defensive warfare which the enemy has so far maintained. Our army is larger than his but by resisting all he can without a general engagement he can delay us very much....If the country was more open so that the position of the enemy could be quickly known we could bring matters to a crisis very soon." On June 25, Ruger wrote to his wife about the Battle of Kolb's Farm, near Marietta. "Three days ago, the 22d, our division had quite a spirited fight....We were moving along the road towards Marietta....Had just reached the road with our right forming a connection with the 23rd Corps Schofield's one division of which was moving on the road. The rebels thought that we had become stretched out too much and if they attacked would find our line too weak to resist a mass attack. As soon as we found they were going to attack we took position our division on the left of the road...Schofield's corps on the right. The attack was almost entirely our side....The attack was made by Hood's corps Stevenson's division....The enemy came up in good spirit in four lines at the point of attack but were all doubled up and driven back pell mell with heavy loss and with slight loss on our side. Gun Artillery cut them up badly which accounts in a great measure for our comparatively slight loss. Their leading division was whipped so quickly and so completely that the other divisions of Hood's corps kept at a distance." On the same day as the engagement at Kolb's Farm, Union General James B, McPherson was killed by Confederate skirmishers. Ruger laments the general's death in a July 27th letter to his wife. "I am very sorry to say that Gen. McPherson was killed. The Cavalry on the left of the army had been sent off on a raid and the enemy had been moving after the attack on us to attack the left, the absence of the Cavalry allowing them to make the movement without it being known until their movement had progressed very far. Gen. McPherson accompanied by a single orderly rode into the edge of an open field...when he came unexpectantly upon a body of the enemy who fired on him killing both him and his orderly. His death is a loss to us." Atlanta fell on September 2, 1864, and on the next day Ruger wrote to his wife "Here we are at last....Gen. Slocum arrived several days ago and took command of the Corps [XX Corps, Army of the Cumberland]. Our Corps has the honor if any there is of being the first to enter Atlanta."

    In addition to the letters, the archive includes 1) Ruger's appointment as a cadet at West Point, 9.75" x 15.25", partially printed document, dated February 24, 1851, and taking effect June 30, 1850. 2) Receipt for articles of clothing purchased for $44.50 by Ruger from R. C. Walborn & Company, Philadelphia, 6.5" x 8.5", dated May 31, 1854. 3) Memorandum of orders and instructions relating to the Corps of Engineers, Engineer Department, Washington, D.C., for the months of July and August 1854, 3 pages of a bifolium, 7.75" x 10", dated September 15, 1854, with free franked postal cover. 4) Check, 8" x 3", signed by Ruger, for $44.50, payable to R. C. Walborn & Company, dated June 10, 1854. 5) Manuscript copy of memorandum of orders and instructions relating to the Corps of Engineers, Engineer Department, Washington, D.C., for the months of November and December 1854, 3 pages of a bifolium, 7.75" x 9.75", dated January 8, 1855. 6) Ruger's appointment as Lieutenant Colonel in the 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 15 7/8" x 11", dated April 25, 1861, effective April 18, 1861, signed by Wisconsin Governor, Alexander W. Randall, with cancelled State of Wisconsin Adjutant General's Office postal cover. 7) Ruger's appointment as Colonel of the 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 15 7/8" x 11", dated August 16, 1861, effective August 10, 1861, signed by Wisconsin Governor, Alexander W. Randall. 8) Notice of Ruger's appointment as Brigadier General, partially printed document, 7.75" x 9.75", dated April 21, 1863, on Adjutant General's Office (Washington, D.C.) stationary, signed by James A. Hardie, Assistant Adjutant General. 9) List of Quartermaster Stores delivered to Ruger, Provost Marshal, December 7, 1861, 10" x 16", partially printed document. 10) Discharge for Ruger as Colonel, 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry on April 23, 1863, 31" x 10", partially printed document, signed by E. M.[?] Pattison, 1st Lieutenant, 1st Division, 12th Corps, on May 11, 1863.

    Thomas Howard Ruger (1833-1907) was born in Lima, New York, and moved to Janesville, Wisconsin when he a teenager. Graduating third in his class from West Point in 1854, he served as a second lieutenant in the Engineer Corps until he resigned in 1855. Ruger practiced law in Janesville for a while, and when the Civil War broke out, he rejoined the army as lieutenant colonel with the 3rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment in 1861. Promoted to brigadier general in April 1862, he served in the Rappahannock River campaigns, was wounded in Antietam, commanded a division at the Battle of Gettysburg, and helped put down the 1863 New York draft riots. In 1864, Ruger commanded a brigade under General William Tecumseh Sherman during the Atlanta campaign and then fought gallantly under General George Thomas at the Battle of Franklin on November 30, 1864, for which he breveted major general. After the war, Ruger was in charge of the Department of North Carolina until he mustered out in 1866. He later served as Governor of Georgia, Superintendent of West Point, and commanded the departments of the South, Missouri, Dakota, and California. Ruger retired from the military with the rank of major general and died in Stamford, Connecticut.

    Condition: All letters and most documents have the usual folds; otherwise in overall good condition.

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    October, 2018
    25th Thursday
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