Francis Deleglise was a young man of 25, living in Appleton with his wife and children, when he enlisted in the Iron Brigade, Wisconsin’s most famous Civil War unit. The Iron Brigade fought in the Army of the Potomac, suffering unusually high casualties at Gainesville, Antietam (the Civil War’s bloodiest battle), and Gettysburg. Throughout his service, Francis Deleglise wrote home to his wife and father in Appleton and to his uncles in his native Switzerland. The letters describe his training at Camp Randall, battles he fought in and wounds he received at Antietam and Gettysburg, and his rehabilitation in hospitals in New York and Madison.
Deleglise’s first letter to his wife Mary (above), sent from Camp Randall in Madison in 1861, is written in his native French, as are the letters to his father and uncles. Later letters to Mary are in English, including the example below, sent from Arlington, Virginia in 1862.
In June 1864, while recuperating in Harvey Hospital in Madison, Deleglise wrote to ask his father to pick out some land for him to purchase, planning for when he would be discharged and receive a land grant promised for his military service. The land he was considering was in the area of what is now Leopolis (Shawano County), a community he would settle in 1871 before moving on to survey and plan the city of Antigo in 1876.
The Langlade County Historical Society in Antigo has made available online a collection of nineteen of Deleglise’s letters home. The digital versions of the letters consist of two parts: scans of the original handwritten letters, some in French and some in English; and scans of typed translations and transcriptions of the letters. The translations were created by the Society in the 1970s and include additional historical notes on some of the people and events Deleglise describes.
View the Francis Deleglise Civil War letters collection from the Langlade County Historical Society.
This article was adapted from a feature on Antigo city founder Francis Deleglise’s Civil War service written by Joe Hermolin, president of the Langlade County Historical Society, for the Antigo Daily Journal.