UW band drumline
UW band drumline

The Wisconsin State Song

“On, Wisconsin!” has a special significance in the history of the state. Arthur MacArthur, Jr. used this slogan to lead the 24th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment up Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863, during the Battle of Chattanooga. MacArthur was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the engagement.

Soon after the college fight song became popular, the melody became a vehicle for more patriotic expression. In 1913 the lyrics were rewritten by J. S. Hubbard and Judge Charles T. Rosa, who were at the commemoration of the Battle of Lake Erie.

In 1927 Willys Overland and Flanner-Hafsoos Music House held a contest for the best two verses and chorus to the tune of “On, Wisconsin!”. The winners were Allan Adams, and Dr. Filip A. Forsbeck, whose published entry is pictured below. The Hubbard-Rosa version of “On, Wisconsin!” became the official state song on July 11, 1959.

UW drum major
UW drum major

Other Colleges

At least 18 other colleges have used versions of “On, Wisconsin!” as their fight song. The colleges are:

Austin College – Sherman, TX
Bethel College – North Newton, KS
Concordia University – St. Paul, MN
Dakota State College – Madison, SD (new song unveiled in 2004)
East Central Community College – Decatur, MS
Lebanon Valley College – Annville, PA
Marietta College – Marietta, OH (has a new fight song)
McMurry University – Abilene, TX
Moravian College – Bethlehem, PA (new song adopted in 2005)
Northwest Nazarene College – On Crusaders, Nampa, ID
Pensacola State College – Pensacola, FL
Shepherd University – Onward Shepherd, Shepherdstown, WV
Sioux Empire College – Hawarden, IA (college closed 1985)
Southwestern College – Winfield, KS
Tabor College – Hillsboro, KS
Tarleton State University – On Ye Tarleton, Stephenville, TX
Wayne State College – Wayne, NE
Wingate University – Wingate, NC

from: School Songs of America’s Colleges and Universities. Compiled and edited by Robert F. O’Brien. NY: Greenwood Press, 1991.

UW band at the Rose Bowl, 1960.
UW band at the Rose Bowl, 1960.

High Schools

Versions of “On, Wisconsin!” have been adopted by many high schools across the country as fight songs, far too many to mention them all.

Particularly interesting among these schools is McCallie School, Chattanooga Tennessee. The school is located on Missionary Ridge, the site of the 24th Wisconsin’s famous Civil War charge.

Controversy occurred in March, 2009, when Waupun Area High School (Wisconsin) changed the words to its fight song to omit “fellows” and references to football.

Others include Portage Central High School (Michigan).

UW band, 1999.
UW band, 1999.


Being a widely recognized melody, “On, Wisconsin!” readily lends itself as the basis for parodies.

The Cub Scouts use a parody to encourage fitness.

The “Ice Cream Fight Song” is used by Two Rivers, Wisconsin, to defend its claim as the birthplace of the ice cream sundae.

For the computer geeks, there is a version about FORTRAN programs.

Although not a parody, a German version is pasted on the inside cover of small book entitled “Auf froher Fahrt: alte und neue Wanderweisen” Berlin : Jugendzeitschriften-Verl., 1930.

“On Wisconsin”
Festlied der Universität Wisconsin

Auf, ihr Scharen von Wisconsin
Preist den Heimatstaat!
Söhne, Töchter unsrer Gauen
Kündet durch die Tat,
Dass wir hoch in Ehren halten
Lautern Sinn und Mut.
Vorwärts! die Losung–
Unser Kampf ist gut.

Auf, ihr Streiter für Wisconsin!
Hört ihr den Appell?
Unser Kampf ein Kampf für alle:
Schallt es laut und hell.
Setzt euch ein mit wackrem Sinne
Für Gerechtigkeit!
Weht, stolze Banner!
Gott uns Kraft verleiht.

Verdeutscht von Godfrey Ehrlich

If you have a favorite parody version of On, Wisconsin!, we’d love to hear about it.

UW band with Ray Dvorak
UW band with Ray Dvorak