In April of 1861, it was reported in the Oconto Pioneer that Wisconsin’s Governor had called up the first regiment for fighting in the new war. Joseph F. Loy organized a company and called it the Oconto River Drivers. “Instead of ‘driving’ saw logs down, they would prefer to have a tilt with the secessionists, and ‘drive’ them down the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico.” While the company waited for orders, its men were paid $20 a month plus board and clothes. Uri Pearsall, Sergeant of the company, presented the men “one hundred neat handspikes designed for an ornamental parade. They will serve as an emblem of the former occupation of the men,” said the local newspaper. [Two of these handspikes are at the Beyer Home Annex.] Finally, on July 6, the Drivers left for Racine where they joined the 4th Wisconsin Regiment as Company H.
In October, the second county company was formed, the Oconto River Sackers. This company name came from the term “to sack the rear” of a log drive, which meant to follow after and roll in the logs that had lodged or grounded. The Sackers evidently planned to follow the Drivers and bring the war to a close with their actions. Captain George C. Norton led this group to Camp Randall, in Madison where it became Company F of the 12th Wisconsin Regiment.
By November, a third group had formed, the Northern Dragoons, led by Captain Conkey with Hudson Bacon as First Lieutenant. It became Company I of the Third Wisconsin Cavalry. A fourth group, the Oconto Irish Guards, also formed that month and became part of the 11th Wisconsin Battery, attached to the 23rd Illinois Infantry Regiment.
The county had done such a great job in recruiting that George Ginty, editor of the Oconto Pioneer, could say “nearly 400 men out of 700 voters [from 1860 and before Marinette County was formed] enlisted. Think of that, ye ‘outsiders’ who imagine that the county of Oconto is so far ‘out of creation’ that her veins of patriotism are dried up!’
In 1863 Company H of the 4th Wisconsin Regiment changed from mounted infantry to regular cavalry. In 1864, many of the three-year men re-enlisted and served through to the war’s end, being mustered out in July of 1865.
The last of the Civil War veterans in the county, George Lince of Abrams, died at the age of 91 in 1939. He had enlisted just before his sixteenth birthday in 1864 in Company K of the 10th New York Regiment, coming to Pensaukee in 1867.