“Fox Lake’s Civil War News and Letters” Book Review

“Fox Lake’s Civil War News and Letters”.
A book review by Gary Van Kauwenbergh

Fox Lake, Wisconsin’s is center-pieced in this local effort to encapsulate their town’s rich Civil War history. The book is a compilation of newspaper articles and letters from Fox Lake and the surrounding area who sponsored companies in the 2nd, 8th and 29th Wisconsin, along with many members in Company G of the 1st US Sharpshooters and other units.

The book is 553 pages long, including the index.. It is an oversized, soft cover book, typed double spaced on 8 ½ x 11 paper, using a 12 pitch serif font.

I recommend readers begin this book about a third of the way in, and come back to the first part of the book later. The first third of this book is composed almost entirely of newspaper “patriotic puff pieces” that have very little information other than mentioning names. The last two thirds of the book are filled with letters from the front, that I found far more interesting. Readers beware; while most pieces are in arranged chronological order, many of them that are out of sequence.

Here are pages I found particularly interesting:
Pg 58. Letter from CPT Ely of the 2nd WI, describing the battle of Antietam
Pg. 210 Coverage of the 2nd leaving Camp Randall
Pg. 123 2nd WI’s CPT Colwell’s last words, after South Mountain
Pg. 109 2nd WI’s invalids stave off supply train attack at Catlett’s Station, VA
Pg. 276 Iron Bde bivouacs together at Ft Tillinghast. Two anecdotes about 2nd WI pickets foraging
Pg.325 list of casualties from the battle of South Mountain
Pg. 338 great quote from 21st WI soldier ”…Until they make a distinction between men and mules no man should ever enlist, or go into service unless he has a constitution equal to a mule and likes to be treated like a Dog.”
Pg. 340 Mention of brigade composed completely of Wisconsin regiments (14th, 16th,17th and 18th Regts.) in the Western theater.
Pg. 365 Account of the Iron Brigade flag being presented to the unit, including the text of COL Robinson’s acceptance speech.
Pg. 392 Departure of the 2nd for home.
Pgs. 401-428 Extensive coverage of the return of the 2nd Wis. Descriptions of the parade and dinner. Complete texts of Gov. Lewis’s address, GEN Farchilds remarks, keynote speaker Supreme Court Judge Cole’s speech, letter from BG Cutler and Resolution by Mr. Rublee.
Pgs. 429-447 Accounts of the 2nd Wis at first Bull Run
Pg. 451 Two letters about Brawner’s Farm
Pg 470 GEN McClellan’s letter describing the battles of South Mountain and Antietam

I believe I paid over $40 for this book. With that hefty price tag, and the content of the book, I can’t recommend everyone purchase a copy. I do think Company A reenactors and those of us with an appetite for original source material will find this book worth the price. All communities do not enjoy a Civil War heritage as the rich as Fox Lake, but I hope Fox Lake’s example will inspire other towns to compile and publish similar accounts of their local history.