December 28, 2011

'The Sauer-kraut of Patriotism'

Location: Lancaster, PA, USA
Through reading the information on this blog and other diaries and letters of 79th Pennsylvania soldiers, it’s clear that significant amounts of information, food, and material goods very frequently went from Lancaster to Kentucky. One of the more interesting of these transmissions was the shipment of a barrel of Lancaster County sauerkraut for Christmas 1861.

From Hardtack and Coffee

The Lancaster Daily Evening Express reported on December 18, 1861, that “a number of volunteers in Col. Hambright’s regiment [have] written to their friends here that nothing would be more acceptable to them for their Christmas dinner, than a good mess of sauer-kraut, to boil and eat with their pork.” The article continued to say that “a number of wives, mothers, and sisters sent in their contributions of cabbage and a barrel of fine krout was prepared, nicely packed, and hooped and headed.”

All that remained was to pay for the freight, which the soldiers themselves had offered to do. However, the Adams Express Company, a major freight transportation company of Civil War era which played a huge (and oft-maligned) role in battlefield / home front connections, refused to ship without prepayment, so the Express appealed for contributions to the Patriot Daughters for the purpose of sending the sauerkraut. The necessary amount, $9.375, was collected within two days and the barrel handed over to Adams Express, although not without further difficulty mentioned in the December 24, 1861, Express:
When the barrel of Sauer-kraut , recently prepared by the ladies of the city, for volunteers in the Lancaster County Regiment,” was first taken to the depot, and its transportation denied until the freight was pre-paid—although the soldiers wrote to have it forwarded at their expense—the charged demanded were $9.37. A statement of the case was made in the Express and the money collected; but when one of the editors, in company with Mr. Haldy, went to pay the money, they were told that the patriotic managers of the Adams Express Company had, in the meantime, advanced the rate of freight on soldiers’ Sauer-kraut, and that $13.50 must now be paid instead of $9.37! The balance was speedily contributed by gentlemen around the depot to whom the facts were made known, and a receipt taken for the transportation, which is now in our possession, and which we have some notion of getting framed and preserving as a memorial of the patriotism and liberality of the Adams Express Company in the War of 1861. In that event, it may be appropriate labelled
“The Sauer-kraut of Patriotism.”
Playing such games with an editor of the Express, presumably J. M. W. Geist, was not a good idea for the Adams Express, and the newspaper returned the favor by publishing a flood of complaints against the company for price gouging and double-charging soldiers. [DEE 12/30 & 12/31/1861, 1/6/1862, 1/8/1862]

The sauerkraut arrived at Camp Wood on December 27, 1861, and, the Express reported (based on a letter it received) that “its arrival caused quite a sensation in camp.” Furthermore, “the letter states that among the many good things sent from home none were more generally welcome among the Lancaster boys than the sauer-kraut.” [DEE 1/6/1862]

December 26, 2011

Here Comes the Cavalry, Part II: The Lochiel Cavalry

Location: Camp Andrew Johnson, Jeffersonville, IN, USA
Capt. John Wise
Company F, 9th Pa. Cav.
In my post about Confederate cavalryman and raider John Hunt Morgan, I mentioned how the central division of Gen. Don Carlos Buell's Union Army of the Ohio basically lacked any, or at least any effective, cavalry to counter Morgan.  Helping to change that situation was the arrival of two Pennsylvania cavalry regiments, the 7th and 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry, which had been training at Camp Curtin.  Company F of the 9th Pennsylvania (aka "Lochiel") Cavalry was recruited in Lancaster and led by the celebrated balloonist John Wise.  Its nickname, the "Old Guard Cavalry," references Lancaster County's stalwart support (i.e. the "Old Guard") for the Whig Party a generation before the Civil War. 

Although he started off slow in 1861 and 1862, one soldier, Pvt. George Unkle, corresponded regularly with the Daily Evening Express through the end of the war. His (presumably) first letter was written from Camp Andrew Johnson in Jeffersonville, Indiana, just across the river from Louisville, Kentucky.  The regiment remained there until mid-January when it was ordered to the army's front along the Green River where the 79th Pennsylvania and the rest of its division was encamped.

December 25, 2011

A Merry Christmas!

Echoing the sentiments expressed in the December 25, 1861, Lancaster Examiner and Herald

December 24, 2011

Christmas in Camp Wood

Location: Munfordville, KY, USA
"Christmas Boxes in Camp" (HW 1/4/1862)
While far from the dinner tables and firesides of home, the Pennsylvanians encamped at Camp Wood, Munfordville, Kentucky, succeeded in celebrating some semblance of a Lancaster County Christmas in 1861. Pvt. Lewis Jones, who served as cook for Company H, erected one of the handful of Christmas trees to be found in Camp Wood and decorated it with hardtack and “speck,” which I believe is a Pennsylvania Dutch word for some sort of fatty meat (maybe army slab bacon?). Through December, the regiment had been receiving a steady stream of boxes from Lancaster via the Adams Express, and the pace picked up closer to Christmas with boxes full of food items such as fruit cakes, jellies, butter, wine, and cranberries, as well as clothing and other dry goods.

Earlier in December, Capt. William G. Kendrick remarked to his wife, “Boxes are coming every day for Captains in the Regiment.” Just after Christmas he added, “I got a large Box from the County with sausage Pudding pies, a Turkey, some chestnuts and other little knickknacks. There was a lot of things sent for me to distribute and all that had no name on it I kept for myself.” Unfortunately, the barrel of sauerkraut sent by the citizens of Lancaster, which I’ll post about soon, had not yet arrived, but it would be enjoyed a couple days later.

Another line officer, Lieut. John H. Druckenmiller of Company B, recorded the day’s events in his diary:
Morning fine and clear. Boys all in good humor on account of it being Christmas. Had Company Inspection at 9 o’clock. Colonel gave the men the privilege of going out of camp until 4 p.m. Had a regular Christmas dinner. Eat with Maj. Miles, Benedict, McCaskey, Blickensderfer, Lebkicker, Derby, & Rote. Had turkey pies which were sent by Mr. Blickensderfer. Had a Dress Parade at 4 1/2 p.m. Men all conducted themselves well today. Gen. Negley sent the Command Officers of the Regt. an invitation to spend the evening with him.
The best account, though, of Christmas in camp is a letter by the newly arrived Lieut. Ben Ober of Company K, 77th Pennsylvania, who spent some of his Christmas in the tents of his Lancaster friends with the 79th Pennsylvania. His description of the festivities, including a menu, begins in the letter’s fourth paragraph. From the January 1, 1862, Daily Evening Express:



In my last letter I was in error in stating that the Green River Railroad bridge had been so far repaired as to allow the cars to pass over. I made the statement upon hearsay. The bridge is about half a mile from our camp, but hid from view by the high bluffs which rise along the banks of the stream. I discovered the error after I had mailed my letter, and then it was too late to rectify it. Yesterday afternoon I paid a visit to the bridge, and found that there is much work yet to be done before it can be of any use. There is one span of about 70 feet yet to be put up, an it will require several weeks to do the work. And until that is done I think there will be no advance of the Union army to the South side of the river. In the destruction of this bridge—which by the way is one of the finest iron bridges west of Pittsburg, and which cost nearly two hundred thousand dollars—the rebel managers have exhibited consummate strategic ability. When Buckner discovered that he could not advance on Louisville without being whipped, he retreated across this bridge and blew it up. His allegation that the bridge was destroyed “by mistake” is all fudge, and was made no doubt to satisfy the more impetuous sons of chivalry rather than acknowledge his weakness. He knew, too, that it would be no easy matter for the Union army to advance in force without first repairing the bridge, by which time he could strongly entrench himself at Bowling Green, and call to his aid reinforcements. He has had time to do both, and is now doubtless well prepared to give us a pretty warm reception.

Since the skirmish of the 17th, the rebels have not made their appearance in the vicinity of the river. Our pickets now extend some five or six miles south of the river, though the main body is encamped on the North side. Several times within the last week flags of truce have reached our lines with communications for Gen. Johnson. A few days since the bearer of one of these, an officer in the rebel army, was conducted to Gen. Johnson, when they recognized each other as old classmates. After a cordial shaking of hands the Sesher addressed Gen. Johnson with : “Why, Johnson, what the h—l are you fellows coming down here to fight us for!” Gen J. replied, “We are fighting to maintain the government.” “Well, if that is all,” said Sesesh, “and our people could be made to believe it, there would be no more trouble, our soldiers would lay down their arms. It is the general belief that you are fighting to free the slaves.”

That’s just it. All the trouble is owing to the persistence of the rebel leaders and rebel newspapers in deluding the mass of Southern people into this absurd belief. I could relate some of the most incredible stories prevalent among the lower classes of South, in reference to the objects of the war and of the character of Northern institutions. The tales of Baron Munchausen would pale before them. But the leaders see the desperate condition of their cause, and hence resort to the most unscrupulous falsehoods to prolong the struggle and save their own necks a little longer. The remark of the Governor of Arkansas, in a recent message, that “if the cause of the South fails, we who hold big offices will be ruined,” is a fair illustration of the logic of the whole crew, from Jeff Davis down to Buckner.

Yesterday (Christmas) was very generally observed in the different camps, no duty being performed except the usual guard duty and a dress parade in the evening. The boys from the Old Keystone State kept the holiday, after the traditions of their fathers and mothers—in truly royal style. For several days before the advent of the festival day, the country for miles around was scoured in search of the patriarchal gobbler. If unsuccessful in securing such a prize, anything that wore feathers was made to answer. Some, however, of the 79th, more fortunate than the rest of us, were supplied from Lancaster County barn-yards, and of course enjoyed the feast with additional zest. The subscriber had the pleasure of dining, in company with a number of the officers of the 79th, at the invitation of Lieut. Frank Kurtz, of Company I, in the marquee thereof. If I held the pen of the “gay and incomparable” Jenkins between my fingers, I would undertake to describe the “spread” in detail; but being a plain narrator of fact, I must content myself with a simple repetition of the

Roast Turkey, with dressing and sauce.
Westphalia Ham, cold, sliced.
Lancaster County Butter.
Lancaster County Bread.
Cranberry Sauce.
Lancaster County Pickles.
Lancaster County Smoked Sausage.
Lancaster County Pound Cake, iced.
Coffee. (U. S.)
Lancaster County Loaf Cake.
Mince Pie.
English Cheese.
(The key of the wine cellar having been mislaid, the crystal water of the Green River was substitute.)

Now, no doubt, the perusal of this bill of fare will excite a smile on the face of more than one of your readers. But I must affirm that I never enjoyed a Christmas dinner with more zest than that of yesterday. All the substantials were present, if the et ceteras which usually grace the table at home on this festival were absent. The turkey was done to a turn, the ham was exquisite, and the mince pie would have tickled the palate of the most dainty epicure. The interior was prepared in Lancaster by the lady of one of the officers of Company I, and the frame-work constructed by the cook of the same company. I don’t exactly know whether these are the technical terms employed when making pies, but I think they are sufficiently comprehensive to be understood by the masculine reader: A lady of domestic habits would probably state the thing in a different way.

I spent an hour in the camp of the 79th, and found all hands enjoying themselves in the happiest manner possible under the circumstances. Some of the “boys,” with the traditions of “ye olden times” still fresh in their memories, put up Christmas trees in front of their quarters, and in lieu of the usual ornaments, profusely decorated them with army crackers and pieces of flitch. The trees bore a very distant resemblance to those which gladdened our hearts on Christmas morn, “when you and I were boys, dear Tom.”

In the 77th, the day was also happily spent. The usual rigid discipline was somewhat relaxed, and the men allowed more latitude than would be altogether prudent at all times. Many took occasion to call on their friends in the several encampments, and to visit the different points of interest in the neighborhood. But I am glad to say that none of them abused the privilege thus extended them. I passed through a number of encampments myself, but saw very little dissipation or disorder. In the evening our band serenaded a number of the officers, and made the night vocal with patriotic airs. The day throughout was pleasantly spent in the Division of the Cumberland. May all the brave hearts now here live to see many returns of the same festival!

The 77th is rapidly improving in discipline and drill, and will soon rank as one of the best regiments in the service. We have clothing in abundance, and the rations are both good and plentiful. There are over a hundred Lancasterians now in the regiment, the names of whom I will forward you shortly. To-morrow our regiment will cross to the South side of Green river on outpost duty.

The Rev. Chas. Steck, chaplain of the 79th, arrived a few days since and has assumed the discharge of his duties. He expresses himself much pleased with camp life.



December 23, 2011

A Letter from Lieut. Ben Ober

Location: Munfordville, KY, USA
Col. Willich's 32nd Indiana building pontoon boats to cross the Green River before the regiment fought the Battle of Rowlett's Station (HW 12/14/1861)

On December 4, 1861, Lieut. Benjamin Ober arrived with twenty additional men for the still-organizing Company K, 77th Pennsylvania, led by Capt. Frederick Pyfer. The company had originally intended to be part of Colonel Hambright’s regiment, but through a saga a couple weeks which I recounted in this post, the company ended up joining the 77th Pennsylvania. At the war’s outbreak, Ober worked for the Daily Evening Express—as the local news editor, I believe—and wrote frequently to the newspaper during the three months’ campaign in the summer of 1861 (You might recall I published his first and last letters with the 1st Pennsylvania back in August.)

Anyway, now in Kentucky, Ober picked up his pen again and resumed his correspondence with his old newspaper. His first letter was written on December 23, 1861, and was published in the December 28, 1861, Daily Evening Express (alternate link):

“The Dark Christmas: A Tale of the Susquehanna”

Location: Marietta, PA, USA
Stereoview by Thomas Cummings of the Susquehanna River near Marietta, c. 1870s
(Image sold on Ebay)

Today’s post takes us to the Weekly Mariettian newspaper of December 21, 1861, and two Christmas-related items printed on its front page. First, we have a heroic tale of a dramatic ferry crossing from a generation or two before the Civil War, and even before the Susquehanna River town of Marietta got its name. The Rev. A. B. Grosh, author of the story, told a tale from local lore about how a Christmas Eve attempt presumably from the early 1800s to cross the ice-laden Susquehanna River nearly resulted in the drowning of the entire party. It’s a somewhat odd story to read, as I have trouble envisioning the mechanics of how ice chunks kept falling in their boat, but the story reminds us of how Lancaster County in the 1860s wasn’t too far removed from a situation where transportation across the Susquehanna River couldn’t be taken for granted. <Click here> to read “The Dark Christmas: A Tale of the Susquehanna.”

Also from that same page of the newspaper is a sad poem by one of Lancaster’s more prominent (and eccentric/brilliant) citizens, Simon Snyder Rathvon (bio). Born in Marietta, Rathvon by day ran a tailoring operation in Lancaster, but his true passion was entomology and the newly developing agricultural sciences. He was a prolific author, writing under the penname, “Grantellus,” and contributed frequently to Lancaster County newspapers. His poem remembers his son who had tragically drowned while playing in the Conestoga River near Lancaster in June 1861, and mourns the loss which he felt so acutely during the family’s first Christmas after the incident.  <Click Here> to read “We Shall Miss Him.”

December 22, 2011

A Sabbath Day Letter from Camp Wood

Location: Munfordville, KY, USA
Bridge over the Green River, Munfordville, Kentucky (HW 2/25/1860)

On December 22, 1861, Corp. Elias H. Witmer—the normal correspondent of the Lancaster Daily Evening Express in the 79th Pennsylvania—wrote his second (and final) letter to the Church Advocate, a religious newspaper affiliated with the Church of God that was published in Lancaster. Earlier this month, I excerpted part of this letter in a post on the first death in the 79th Pennsylvania’s ranks, that of Pvt. Samuel Clair of Company E. Now that I’m back in Lancaster for two weeks, family and other obligations prevent me from having the time to go into further detail about the letter, but I think it stands pretty well on its own. Topics include religion in army life, the town of Munfordville where the regiment camped, the death of Samuel Clair, and the Battle of Rowlett’s Station.

From the January 9, 1862, Church Advocate: (alternate link)

December 20, 2011

Here Comes the Cavalry, Part I: The Anderson Troop

Location: Louisville, KY, USA
Shortly after beginning this blog, I decided that I was going to try to post not just soldiers' letters from the Lancaster County Regiment, but also letters from other Lancasterians in the Western Theater.  So, besides the 79th Pennsylvania, this primarily means we'll see a good number of letters from the 77th Pennsylvania and the 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  However, we'll also get to visit seemingly every random corner of the Western Theater, thanks to various soldiers who wrote back to the Lancaster Daily Evening Express and Daily Inquirer.  This includes
  1. J. H. Sypher, an officer in an Ohio battery that was seemingly everywhere--especially early in the war--including sometimes with the 79th Pennsylvania.
  2. A. J. Sypher, a gunboat officer.
  3. J. R. Sypher, a gentleman journalist from the Daily Evening Express
  4. Francis Kilburn, who was transferred from the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves to gunboat service.
  5. D. P. Rosenmiller, a Navy officer.
  6. G. W. Jack, a Marine on board the steamer J. P. Jackson.
  7. A couple Lancasterians who had moved to Iowa and fought with regiments there.
  8. John McClure, of the 45th Pennsylvania, which made a somewhat odd tour with the Union Army's Ninth Corps to the Western Theater in 1863. 
  9. A Lancaster officer (perhaps Capt. Bowman Bell) with the 15th U.S. Infantry at Shiloh.
  10. Several more...
"Buell's Body-Guard" in Louisville (Harper's Weekly 1/11/1862)
Today's letter comes from a company of hand-selected cavalrymen named the "Anderson Troop," which was supposed to be an elite group of men raised all over Pennsylvania, many of whom were connected to the Pennsylvania Railroad.  They formed with the intent of offering their services as the personal bodyguard of hero of Fort Sumter Robert Anderson while he was the commander of the Department of the Cumberland.  However, once Anderson resigned command on account of ill health, subsequent army commanders retained the "Anderson Troop" for headquarters work.  Presumably, this meant acting as couriers and escorts.  They arrived in Kentucky in early December 1861, and went to work for Army of the Ohio commander Don Carlos Buell. 

Lancaster County contributed two men to the Anderson Troop, Christian Musselman and John Archibald McLenegan--two Strasburg Academy schoolmates who grew up in that part of Lancaster County.  Presumably, either one of them wrote the letter below.  Both had successful industrial careers after the war, and you can read their biographies: Christian Musselman (bio), John Archibald McLenegan (bio).  One of their social connections was Corp. Henry Witmer Miller of Company I, 79th Pennsylvania, whose letters are housed at Penn State's Paterno Library, and Miller mentions meeting up with them once or twice in his letters [12/14/1861].

The following letters is from the December 28, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

December 18, 2011

'By Degrees We Are Advancing': The 77th Pa Moves South

Location: 45 Morgans Raiders Ave, Bonnieville, KY 42713, USA
Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood
of Kentucky (Source)
I missed this letter a couple days ago, so let's go back to December 16, 1861, and Bacon Creek Station with the 77th Pennsylvania, which had recently and unhappily been transferred from Negley's Brigade to the command of Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Wood.  Both versions of "Camp Wood," one near Bacon Creek Station and the other at Munfordville, were named after the general, who was a native of Munfordville.

The letter was written by Pvt. Flavius J. Bender, one of fourteen men from Mount Joy, Lancaster County, who joined Company C, 77th Pennsylvania.  It was published in the January 16, 1862, edition of the Church Advocate, a religious newspaper printed in Lancaster as the organ of the Church of God (Winebrenner).  The letter discusses the new challenge of life on the move with the army, conditions in Kentucky, and faith in the regiment: (alternate link)

'En Avant': To Munfordville and the Green River

Location: Munfordville, KY, USA
Sketch of Munfordville, Kentucky (HW 1/11/1862)
Today's letter is similar to yesterday's, touching on the December 17 march from Bacon Creek Station to Mufordville and the Battle of Rowlett's Station.  Written by Hospital Steward John B. Chamberlain, it does give some new details about how the regiment treated its sick, praising efforts at the regimental level but condemning the Louisville and Nashville Railroad for its operations.  "En Avant," by the way, is French for "forward" or "onward."

As a research note, if anyone knows anything about the Lancaster Inquirer for the first half of 1862, please let me know.  I do not know of its existence in any archives, leaving a six-month gap for which we would be missing any letters from "Judge" Caines and Chamberlain.  Letters posted on the blog from the Inquirer up to this point are from the bound volume for the year 1861 in possession of the Lancaster County Historical Society.  

From the December 28, 1861, Inquirer:


Munfordsville, Hart co., Ky,
Dec 18, 1861

Mr. Editor:-At last the longing anticipations of our boys have been realized.  'En Avant!' has been the order; and the joyous alacrity--the eager hope that we could measure strength and manhood with our accursed enemies, showed the anxiety of the men to advance to the fray.  Some time ago, while we were making 'ready' for an advance, in camp Negley, and while the men were drilled incesantly in every movement laid down in the 'books,' orders were received to march, which were obeyed with cheerfulness.  Green River--Buckner--Zollicoffer and traitors floated in the dim distance; and the boys wanted no better prospect or greater allurements.  Onward we marched; but to halt at Bacon creek, on account of a bridge having been burned down by a body of secesh cavalry: so we pitched out tents and waited for it to be rebuilt. General Negley detached a number of men from the 79th regiment for the purpose, and Capt. Kendrick was appointed to superintend the work.

On the morning of the 17th inst., orders were received to strike tents and march for Green river, but eight miles from camp Wood.  After a rapid march, we arrived in good spirits; immediately after our arrival, a dispatch was received ordering out the entire force, on a 'double quick' to the river, as a skirmish was going on with the enemy.  But our hopes of a fight were disappointed, for upon our arrival, the fight was already over, and we were not afforded even an opportunity of seeing the tail-end of the retreating and beaten traitors.

From all account that I can gather, three companies of Colonel Willich's German Indiana regiment crossed the river, and were attacked by two regiments of Infantry and one regiment of Texas Rangers.  A brisk hand to hand fight immediately commenced; and notwithstanding the trrible odds, with the great advantage of position, ambush &c., the rebels were badly beaten.  When our artillery opened on them, they started on the run, as if they would let the 'devil take the hindmost.' The 79th was eager for the fray, and wanted to make a dash; but the rebels were off, and we had to take it out in thinking what we would have done, had the rebels only waited.  the list of injured can hardly be correcly ascertained, as there are so many conflicting rumors afloat.  We lost twelve killled, five mortally and twenty-four slightly wounded.  The rebels suffered severely, losing some sixty killed, and among them a Colonel and a Major.  Colonel Willich says the infantry was a cowardly set of dogs; but the cavalry were as bold, determined and brave men as he ever saw.  The rebels are poorly clad, some have no uniforms at all. 

The village in which we now are, has between four and five hundred inhabitants.  The houses are eminently Southern--being mostly log huts.  It strongly reminds me of Charlestown, Virginia, which I consider the meanest burlesque on civilization I ever saw; but Mumfordsville is an admirable imitation--a kind of delapidated second edition.

The earnest, sincere thanks of the sick of the 79th are due our most excellent surgeon, Dr. Wright and his assistant, who regard the comfort of the sick as of the highest importance first, and make all circumstances yield accordingly.  They always look ahead and provide for any contingency that may occur.  I must not close without giving the Louisville and Nashville Railroad a passing notice.  There is no system or management at all on the road.  If you ask for any information, they will either pay no attention, or else tell a downright lie.  The day we were to leave, orders were given each surgeon to have his sick at the Railroad Depot by noon, as there was to be a special train ready at 3 o'clock, p.m., to take them down the road.  The appointed time arrived, but no train; and there the sick had to wait all night!  Fortunately some hospital tents were found at the station, in which some were placed; while the rest were quartered in sheds to prevent exposure to the night air.  I doubt not but that the exposure will prove fatal in numbers of cases.  Such conduct on the part of the managers of the road is atrocious, and should receive the severest censure.  At eight o'clock on the morning of the 28th inst., six or eight freight cars were brought up the road, and the sick put aboard.

I am happy to say that the 79th still retains its reputation of being the healthiest and hardiest regiment in this division.  We have but nine men at Louisville, in the hospital there; and but thirteen in the camp hospital.

Your old correspondents, "The Judge" and "The Missionary," send their regards; you will hear from them soon.  By the way among the recent promotions, not as yet announced however, in the army bulletins, is that of Wm. H. Thackara, of Company B, to Ward Master in the hospital.  You know, from personal acquaintance, that a better selection could not have been made.  Kind, faithful and attentive with methodical, orderly habits, he attends to his duties ably and efficiently.  He deserves a more eulogistic panegyric than this, but partiality might be ascribed to me.

Yours, respectfully,


December 17, 2011

Nearly the First Battle: The Battle of Rowlett's Station

Location: Munfordville, KY, USA
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the first battle of the central wing of the Union army in Kentucky. It was the first battle in the neighborhood of the 79th Pennsylvania, and was a small engagement known as the Battle of Rowlett's Station.  Only one Union regiment, the 32nd Indiana comprised of many German immigrants, fought in the battle, but the 79th Pennsylvania and the rest of Negley's Brigade and McCook's Division were only a couple miles away and marched at the double quick towards the battlefield, only to arrive after the battle's conclusion.  The experience of watching thousands of Union soldiers ready for battle converge with urgency on the battlefield made quite an impression on the Lancaster County Regiment.

Green River bridge, near Munfordville, with one span destroyed by Confederates (HW 1/04/1862)

Strategically, the battle resulted from the Union army pushing the frontier of its advance down the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, specifically to the town of Munfordville with its impressive railroad bridge over the Green River <See Map>.  The Confederates had destroyed one section of the bridge on their retreat, but its repair was under way as the Union army built up its presence around Munfordville so a force of Confederate infantry, artillery, and cavalry--including Texas cavalrymen known as the "Texas Rangers"--was dispatched to attack the Indiana companies scattered in picket and skirmish lines on the hills south of the Green River bridge.

Battle of Rowlett's Station with a company of the 32nd Indiana formed in a square to resist an attack by Col. Terry's Texas Rangers (HW 01/11/1862)

Soon after the first shots were fired, the well-drilled 32nd Indiana regrouped and utilized its reserve companies to defend repeated attacks and killed the Texas Rangers' Colonel  B. F. Terry.  The 32nd Indiana lost ten men and one officer--Lieut. Max Sachs, whom the 79th Pa's Wilberforce Nevin had come to know--and the Both sides withdrew from the field, but the Green River bridge was safe, and a sorely needed victory could be claimed by the North.  Additionally, the idea that a bunch of German immigrants could defeat the fiercest rebel cavalrymen set the right tone for the many immigrants in the Army of the Ohio. 

The 79th Pennsylvania was actually on the road on December 17, 1861, marching about eight miles from Bacon Creek Station to Munfordville.  As soon as they arrived to set up camp, the alarm beat and the regiment double-quicked toward the Green River, but the battle had concluded before they reached the river.  Over the next few weeks while encamped nearby and performing picket duty in the area, almost all sources remark on the graves of the men of the 32nd Indiana who died, which were marked and decorated with evergreen wreaths. 

Here's the diary entry of Lieut. John H. Druckenmiller of Company B for December 17, 1861:
Struck tents at 8 a.m. and formed line. Marched to Munfordville in three hours, a distance of ten miles. Were just pitching our tents when we heard the booming of cannon. The word fall in was given and was promptly obeyed by the boys. We formed line in double quick time & started for the scene of action, which was on the other side of the River. The fight lasted about forty five minutes. The attack was made by about seven or eight hundred Cavalry supporting a Battery. Our men all infantry but three companies were thrown across the river as a picket and were attacked suddenly. The rest of the forces were on this side & of course could not cross untill they received orders to that effect. Consequently we did not get over. We formed line of Battle on the hill & remained there a short time when the order to countermarch was given. Our loss was ten killed and thirteen wounded. Two of the killed were Lieutenants. The Rebel loss is estimated at about seventy five or a hundred killed. The number of wounded is not known. Went out on picket duty with Capt. Klein and one hundred men from our Regiment. Went about five miles from camp up the River on this side. Arrested one man who attempted to cross our line. Night was cold but clear, almost as light as day.
Lieut. Wilberforce Nevin of Company G, also included an account of the day's excitement in a letter that was extracted in the December 28, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

Sources and Links:

December 14, 2011

Santa Claus, 'we abhor you'!

Thomas Nast's famous depiction
of Santa Claus from 1881
Looking at Lancaster's newspapers of December 1861, I get the impression that Christmas observations and celebrations were fairly modern in almost every regard.  Basically, it involved a holiday centered around food, family, gift giving, and a special church service.  I don't know how prevalent it was nationally compared to Lancaster County with its Pennsylvania German and German German traditions, but Christmas trees appear to have been common.  Lewis Jones of Company H, 79th Pennsylvania, even took the time to erect a tree in camp and adorn it with hardtack and "speck" (slab bacon?).  Lancaster merchants and Philadelphia department stores launched Christmas-focused marketing campaigns, and Lancasterians who could afford it made an event out of a Christmas shopping expedition to Philadelphia.

The only thing missing, though, from an 1860s Christmas was Santa Claus' story, which was only then beginning to take shape.  A full-text search of the Pennsylvania newspapers project gives only 130 entries, with 26 coming from the Mariettian, Columbia Spy, and Lancaster Intelligencer.  The first mention appeared in the December 4, 1847, Spy in an advertisement for a candy store.  He pretty much disappeared for the 1850s, but returned in a humorous article, "Doesticks Sees Santa Claus," in the December 28, 1861, Spy that begins with the sentence, "I've seen him."  It looks as if Santa Claus had fairly broad recognition by the 1860s, but it would require a lot more cultural momentum before he'd get to the point where he is today.  Perhaps it would be accurate to say that he had more Easter Bunny status during the Civil War, although everyone seems to have known about the poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas," judging by a parody that was printed and reprinted during the Civil War (which I'll post in the near future).

Not everyone appreciated the attention that Santa was receiving, especially some of the Lutherans of German heritage in the mid-Atlantic region.  In its December 25, 1861, edition, Lancaster's weekly Examiner and Herald reprinted a letter to the editor of the Lutheran Observer, which was based in Baltimore before being moved to Lancaster for a brief time.  The author protested the idea of Santa Claus as a direct attack on the German telling of the Christmas story, calling it a "Yankee caricature of a German Christmas" that served to "foist Satan on the little folks."  Here's the article: (alternate link)

Up next in a short series of posts about Christmas 1861: A dramatic story about a dangerous Christmas Eve crossing of the Susquehanna River set in Marietta in the 1830s.

Following Along?

Location: Munfordville, KY, USA
If so, here's a map to help track the movements of the 79th Pennsylvania through February 1862.  The blue numbers correspond to the regiment's encampments, with a key provided below.  The map is the detail of an 1863 military map of Kentucky and Tennessee that is part of the National Archives' collection of maps from the Office of the Chief of Engineers, War Department. [EDIT: Updated link:] <Click here> to see the image in a viewer where you can zoom in.

Approximate locations of the encampments of the 79th Pennsylvania
Map Key, with dates of arrival:
(1) Camp Nevin, October 23, 1861
(2) Camp Negley, November 26, 1861
(3) Camp Hambright, December 5, 1861
(4) Bacon Creek, December 11, 1861
(5) Camp Wood, December 17, 1861

December 13, 2011

Making a March and Building a Bridge

Location: 45 Morgans Raiders Ave, Bonnieville, KY 42713, USA
Union Troops advance in tandem along the Louisville and Nashville Railroad and Turnpike (FLI 1/18/1862)

Back to events in the history of the 79th Pennsylvania after a two-post detour to John Hunt Morgan's Confederate cavalry and the 45th Pennsylvania...

Sergeant William T. Clark of Company B, 79th Pennsylvania, recorded in his diary for December 11, 1861, the following entry:
At 10 a.m. the “Band” struck up the air “Strike Your Tents & March Away”. When we draw our pins in half an hour the base drum beat & at the “third tap” the tents of our Regiment fell to the right and were rolled up & carried to the R. R. with the other heavy baggage. Our knapsacks were hauled in the wagon. At 11 and ½ a.m. we formed line, stacked arms & were dismissed to fall in at the tap of the drum. At 1 p.m. the Brigade was formed and we started on our march for Bacon Creek. We went down the L. N. Turnpike which is the worst pike I ever saw and we made nearly all of 15 miles in double quick time arriving here at 6 p.m. very tired. We pitched tents as soon as we came, but it was very cold sleeping as our knapsacks were with the wagons which did not arrive untill 1 a.m.
This move, from Nolin Station to Bacon Creek, would be the regiment's biggest movement since leaving Louisville, and was part of a broader movement of Union troops in the area, which was covered by a sketch artist from Frank Leslie's Illustrated whose article appeared in the January 18, 1862, edition and reflected on the new role of railroads in warfare:
Frederick the Great, Marlborough and Napoleon--saying nothing of Wellington, who, like a second Moses, lived from the Pisgah of 1850 to see some strange changes--would have stared at the manner in which a modern army takes the field.  The command of Richard to "saddle white Surrey for the field to-morrow," and these iron monsters would have carried 1,000 of knights-at-arms with the ease the good horse Surrey carried one man.  Our Artist has made this very palpable in the sketch we publish to-day, when the long train of carriages on the Louisville and Nashville turnpike carrying grim soldiers of Uncle Sam, sworn to prevail or perish in a deadly field, looks more a holiday excursion, presided over by the benevolent Barnum or the judicious Jarrett, than the heroes of a hundred coming fights.

The L&N RR bridge over Bacon Creek after being burned on December 5 by Confederate cavalry (FLI 1/25/1862)

The Louisville & Nashville Railroad indeed provided an important lifeline for soldiers in the central divisions of Buell's Army of the Ohio.  However, it only went as far south as Bacon Creek, where Confederates had burned a bridge on their retreat in November, and then again on December 5 by Confederate cavalry.  The task of rebuilding the bridge fell to the 79th Pennsylvania's Colonel Henry A. Hambright and his senior captain, William G. Kendrick.  Recall that before the war, Hambright superintended the construction of canal and railroad infrastructure around Lancaster.  Kendrick also had construction experience, winning the contract for bricklaying (maybe masonry, too?) for the Lancaster County Courthouse in the mid-1850s.

On the morning of December 12, Hambright and Kendrick took all the carpenters in the regiment out to rebuild the bridge, a task they accomplished over the next day.  The army's attention could now be turned to a much bigger bridge over the Green River near Munfordville, which would be the site of a battle on December 17, 1861.  Frank Leslie's printed an article on January 25 (the many typos are retained):
A force consisting principally of details from the 1st Wisconsin, Col. Harkweather, and the 19th Pennsylvania, Col. Hamblight, of Gen. Negley's brigade, was set to work, and assisted by a force of workmen sent down by the railroad company, the bridge was entirely rebuilt and a training running over in 24 hours.  An army composed of such material can't be whipped.
Federal troops rebuilding the bridge over Bacon's Creek, Ky (FLI 1/25/1862)

The regiment spent the next several days at this new camp, which Adam Johnston of Company D recalled as "Camp Wood," just north of where the Louisville and Nashville Railroad crossed the Bacon Creek.  Their next move would be on December 17, when they struck tents and marched ten miles to Munfordville, Kentucky.  However, as soon as they began to pitch tents in this new camp, they heard the sounds of the first serious battle of the center wing of the Army of the Ohio taking place just a mile or two away.  The 79th Pennsylvania "formed line in double quick time & started for the scene of the action."  [JHD, 12/17/1861] Stay tuned for more details in a couple days.

December 11, 2011

Compelling and Worth Retelling: Letters from the 45th PA and Other Regiments

Location: Hilton Head Island, SC, USA
Scene on Otter Island, South Carolina, where Companies B and K, 45th Pennsylvania, were stationed beginning in December 1861. (New York Illustrated News, May 17, 1862)

In my reading of Lancaster County newspapers from 150 years ago, I recently decided to take a glance at two digitized weekly newspapers, the Columbia Spy and the Mariettian, and have been absolutely amazed at the soldiers' letters they contain!  In late 1861 and early 1862, they seem to average about five per month (a little over one per edition) and cover a variety of units:
  1. Co. K, 5th Pennsylvania Reserves
  2. Battery G, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery
  3. Co. E, 107th Pennsylvania Infantry
  4. Co. I, 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry ("Birney Zouaves")
But, most of all, they cover the wartime experiences of Companies B and K, 45th Pennsylvania Infantry, which were recruited in Marietta and Columbia, respectively, which were probably Lancaster County's two "bloodiest" companies in terms of casualties, and the regiment ranks in the Top 20 for men killed in battle for all Union regiments.  They also had the most unique travelogue of Lancaster companies, which included
  • Spending several months on Hilton Head, South Carolina, where they were on the front line of the Union's emancipation policy and regularly interacted with runaway slaves (Wikipedia page about operations there)
  • Fighting at South Mountain and Antietam in September 1862
  • Being transferred to fight at Vicksburg, Mississippi
  • Fighting in East Tennessee on their way back east
  • Going through miserable fighting at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor
  • Participating in the Siege of Petersburg and operations through the end of the war
Sgt. (later Capt.) John F. Trout
Company B, 45th Pa.
(From recent Ebay auction)

I've barely begun reading these letters, but their content is usually fascinating both from a human interest standpoint and from the perspective of historical analysis.  Several different correspondents contributed, including Columbians George H. Stape ("45," I believe, in the Spy) and Lewis Martin (in the Mariettian).  The first letter from the 45th Pennsylvania in South Carolina, though, was written on December 13, 1861, by a soldier who signed his name "Hempfield."  (Based on circumstantial evidence, I'll nominate Sergt. John F. Trout of Landisville as a possible author.)  <Click here> for a link to the letter in the December 28, 1861, edition of the Columbia Spy, which is part of the Pennsylvania Civil War Newspapers Project.  Here's an excerpt:
Behold us then on the super-sacred soil of South Carolina, and nary bloody hand has welcomed us to ary hospitable grave thus far.  We were all upside down for a little while, but the Colonel [Thomas Welsh of Columbia] soon reduced us to order.  The boys generally went into bathing and oyster hunting, collecting curiosities, &c.  At night the contraband (who arrived simultaneously with the northern invaders) afforded amusement by their grotesque dances, &c.
Otter Island, on which we are stationed is some three miles in length by a width of two and a half miles.  It seems never to have been cultivated, but commands a very prominent point on St. Helena Sound.  Hutchinson Island, opposite, is highly cultivated, and grows cotton abundantly, but the crops have either been removed or burned.  
Col. Thomas Welsh
Unfortunately, I mostly won't be posting on these letters, as telling the story of the 79th Pennsylvania fully consumes my blogging time capacity, but I just wanted to point out their existence and online availability for anyone who might be interested.  I'm compiling a list of the letters for my own use as a go through the newspapers, and I might polish it at some point and publish it online.

I hope that the resurrection of some of these stories as for entertainment, inspiration, and analysis becomes a hallmark of the Civil War sesquicentennial, as we begin to care not just what was going through the mind of Generals Grant and Lee but also, for instance, what was going through the mind of some corporal from Columbia who found himself building quarters on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, for some of the first slaves liberated by Union armies. 

Other References:
  • Pennsylvania Civil War Newspapers Project (includes Lancaster Intelligencer, Columbia Spy, and the Weekly Mariettian), which you can search and browse by paper.
  • Bates' regimental history and roster of the 45th Pennsylvania
  •  Albert, Allen D. (Editor) History of the Forty-Fifth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1865, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, 1912.
  •  Biography of Col. Thomas Welsh (later Brig. Gen)
  • Don’t forget it the Civil War military correspondence of Private John W. Bookman, 45th regiment, Pennsylvania volunteer infantry (at Lancaster County Historical Society)
  • First Sergeant John Hipple, Co. B 45th Pennsylvania / by Donald L. Rhoads, Jr. (LCHS Journal, 2000)
  • Also providing commentary from South Carolina was Franklin and Marshall College Class of 1861 Valedictorian Adam Cyrus Reinoehl, who wrote back to the Daily Evening Express throughout the war under the name, "Demas." 

December 9, 2011

Better Know an Enemy: John Hunt Morgan

General John Hunt Morgan (Source)

Name: John Hunt Morgan (bio)
Birth: June 1, 1825 in Huntsville, Alabama
Notable Events: Many significant raids in Kentucky in 1862,  Led major raid into Ohio during the summer of 1863
Death: September 4, 1864, shot dead during Union cavalry raid in Greeneville, Tennessee

Around this time in late 1861, one Confederate officer entered the consciousness of the men of the 79th Pennsylvania and the rest of the Union regiments slowly crawling their way down the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.  Captain John Hunt Morgan, leader of an irregular company of Confederate cavalrymen, began a series of daring raids in the area that confounded the Union advance and made picket duty in rural Kentucky a lot more interesting for soldiers in McCook's Division.

With the success of his raids in Kentucky through 1862 and the national attention they received, Morgan's rank in the Confederate army rose so that he became the colonel of a cavalry regiment and then a brigadier general, eventually leading a raid deep into Ohio (which ended in the capture of him and his command) in the summer of 1863.  Through 1862, Morgan's operations often intersected with the 79th Pennsylvania's operations, and resulted in the Lancaster County Regiment spending much of the year running around the back roads of Kentucky and Tennessee trying to protect infrastructure and supplies from Morgan. 

Officers of Morgan's Cavalry, photographed while imprisoned at the Western Penitentiary in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania (now Pittsburgh), after their capture in July 1863 in Ohio (Source)

Morgan even gained enough notoriety that his name became a verb in the Lancasterians' lexicon, as in many of the wounded members of the 79th Pennsylvania in field hospitals after the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, were "morganized" when Morgan's cavalry captured and paroled them in October 1862 [INQ, 10/29/1862].  A large detail of the 79th Pennsylvania was captured by Morgan while building telegraph lines in May 1862, and Captain William G. Kendrick of Company A even got to eat dinner with his captor, but that's another story for another time.

If you're interested in learning more about Captain Morgan and his strategy and tactics in late 1861 and early 1862, you can read an 1867 book entitled History of Morgan's Cavalry by his brother-in-law, Basil W. Duke.  Pages 94-109 cover this time period, and shed light on a couple aspects of the 79th Pennsylvania's experience at this time:
  1. McCook's division had no cavalry or no effective cavalry and was basically blind at this time.  This meant the men of the 79th Pennsylvania spent many of their days on company-sized scouting expeditions with 100 or 200 men going out a couple miles into the countryside to investigate rumors or see what they could find.  Also, any shots heard in the distance or rumor had to be taken seriously as there was no way to tell if it was just a couple Confederate cavalrymen causing trouble or the whole Confederate army marching up the road.  
  2. Both sides relied on civilians as a system of information and alarm.  Morgan even played a sort of repeated cat-and-mouse game on his raids with civilians who would see him and dash back to Union lines. 

December 7, 2011

Update: Blog Makes the News, Burial Places, etc.

Location: Cave Hill Cemetery, 701 Baxter Ave, Louisville, KY 40204-1775, USA
Last night, I was pleasantly surprised to learn (via near-simultaneous phone calls from my mother, mother-in-law, and both of my grandmothers) that my post from last week on the Hempfield School District Gettysburg field trip controversy made the newspaper in Lancaster.  Jack Brubaker, aka the "Scribbler" and author of an enjoyable local history column that usually has some modern tie-in, quoted and paraphrased my post in his article, "The Value of School Field Trips."  Thanks for the attention, Jack!  Although my basic conclusion is that both sides have a valid point but the situation is set up to create a mess, I hope it gives Hempfield administrators and parents something to think about...and that one way or another all fifth-graders in Hempfield (and in Lancaster County, for that matter) get to go to Gettysburg.

Monument at Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky
By Bedford at en.wikipedia, from Wikimedia Commons

A couple other notes about things that have popped up in my searching...
  • Monday's post was about the 79th Pennsylvania's first soldier to die, Samuel H. Clair, who became sick and died on December 5, 1861, at Camp Negley, near Nolin Station, Kentucky.  He was buried in the quiet corner of a farmer's field, and I raised the question of what happened to his remains.  After looking at an 1868 government publication entitled Roll of Honor, it appears the government went through Kentucky in 1867 to find soldiers' graves widely scattered across the state and removed remains to a set of national cemeteries.  Although Clair's name is not listed, there are many sets of remains classified as unknown which were removed from Nolin Station and Bacon Creek to Cave City Cemetery, Louisville, Kentucky.  So my best guess is that he is buried there in a grave marked, "Unknown."
  • If you're like me, you enjoy the Daily Evening Express letters of Corp. Elias H. Witmer, and I've spoken with at least one other person who does.  Sadly, Witmer's fate was unknown after the regiment came out of a chaotic nighttime fight at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863, although he was presumed mortally wounded and never heard from again.  I always wondered though if his family in Mountville did anything to memorialize their son, and found the answer through Find a Grave.  By clicking on the link, you can see a picture of his tomb stone at the Mountville Cemetery, which was shared with his brother Abraham, a lieutenant of Company G, 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves, who died earlier that year of disease.  
Finally, depending on who you ask, the 79th Pennsylvania moved its camp between 1/2 and 1 1/2 miles south along the Louisville & Nashville Railroad on December 6 [WTC, JHD, ASJ].  The move gave the regiment more favorable sod and less mud on which to pitch tents, although they wouldn't stay there long due to orders to keep moving south on December 11. 

December 5, 2011

'There Sleeps a Pennsylvania Volunteer': Death Visits the 79th Pa

Location: Camp Negley, Nolin Station, KY
The Soldier's Grave (HW 11/5/1861)
Although the Lancaster County Regiment was a model of health for its first month in Kentucky at Camp Nevin, the regiment changed camp at exactly the wrong time.  As soon as they left Camp Nevin for Camp Negley, the weather soured.  As November turned to December, a week of snow and rain turned everything to mud, and health began to deteriorate for a handful of soldiers.  On December 5, 1861, the 79th Pennsylvania suffered the first death of one of its members, drummer-turned-private Samuel H. Clair of Company E.  Clair had been sick for a little over a week after going out on picket duty, and died in the camp hospital of "typhoid pneumonia."  The regiment's officers decided not to send the body back to Lancaster, and Clair's remains were buried in a quiet corner of the camp.  (I haven't done any research to ascertain if they were subsequently moved.)

PA Card File record for Samuel H. Clair

His captain, Morris D. Wickersham, sent the following note back to Lancaster, which reveals an attempt to rationalize health and disease and reassure readers in Lancaster who might be worried about a friend or relative in the regiment.  It was published in the December 13, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

Two weeks later, Elias H. Witmer followed up with more complete eulogy as part of a December 22 letter to the Church Advocate, which appeared in the January 9, 1862, edition of the newspaper:
There has been but one death in our regiment, which speaks encouragingly for the health of the "Lancaster County Boys."  Samuel H. Clair, of Company E--a young man loved by all--was the first, and, as yet, the only victim.  He possessed those noble traits of character which endeared himself to all, who held intercourse with him.  But while we had to mourn his early loss, we have the glorious consolation that he died as he lived--an honest man, kind and affectionate friend, and, above all, a pious and devoted Christian.  We buried him in a secluded corner, and inscribed upon his tomb, to tell the passer-by, there sleeps a Pennsylvania Volunteer.  We enclosed his grave with a fence, so that nothing could disturb his resting-place; we shed another tear over his grave, sung the hymn, "A charge to keep I have," with the chorus, "There will be no more parting there," and cast another look upon the little mound of earth, after which we turned our steps toward the camp, with the hope that if we could never visit the spot again, that we may meet "Where the wicked cease from troubling, And the weary are at rest."

December 4, 2011

Direct Deposit for 79th PA Soldiers and Families

Location: Camp Negley, Nolin Station, KY
Union soldiers outside a sutler's store (Mathew Brady via National Archives)
On December 2, 1861, the 79th Pennsylvania assembled on parade to hear an address by commissioners sent by Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin to promote something known as the "Allotment Roll."  It looks like company commanders made arrangements with private bankers in Lancaster to offer the option of allowing soldiers' families to receive money directly in Lancaster.  The financial plight of soldiers' families had attracted much attention locally, and I'll try to address interesting aspects of Lancaster's implementation of the state-mandated "Relief Fund" in a future post.  It was hoped, though, that the U.S. Paymaster was finally fully operational in late 1861 and that the flow of money home from soldiers would alleviate the suffering of their families and the burden on local government coffers.  The allotment roll was meant to improve upon the decentralized process in the 79th Pennsylvania's first pay day in mid-November when each Captain made his own arrangements for sending its share of the estimated $14,000 in cash that soldiers of the 79th Pennsylvania sent back to Lancaster. [LEH]. 

One of Lancaster's private bankers, George K. Reed (bio), who administered parts of the regiment's allotment roll even visited the regiment's camp on December 4, 1861, presumably to get business in order [JHD].  The median response for the soldiers, who were paid $13 a month, seems to have been to allocate $10 to be picked up in Lancaster via the allotment roll.  That's what Lewis Jones, a working class husband and father of three or four young children tenuously living on South Queen St., decided to allot to his wife.  As a side effect, this process also necessitated the use of house numbers, as Lewis Jones' next letter contained an inquiry as to the number of the family's rented dwelling. [LHJ, 12/9/1861]

Here are some additional thoughts on the allotment roll and soldiers' finances from Corp. Elias H. Witmer of Company E, 79th Pennsylvania, published in the December 11, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

December 2, 2011

'Mudsills Indeed': Judge Caines' Letter from Camp Negley

Location: Camp Negley, Nolin Station, KY

Temporary bridge over the Nolin River built and used by Negley's Brigade to move south.
(Frank Leslie's Illustrated February 15, 1863)

Rain and snow for a few days straight meant that the 79th Pennsylvania's new home, Camp Negley, would be nowhere near as comfortable as Camp Nevin.  On December 2, both of the correspondents of the Inquirer wrote back to Lancaster. While "Ipse Dixit" simply added a quick note to go along with his letter of November 24, "Judge" O.C.M. Caines of the regimental band gave a lengthy account of the 79th Pennsylvania and the muck and mud in which it camped.

Caines' letter touches on many of the topics that have made the blog over the last couple weeks, but I was particularly struck by one rich sentence about the regiment's giving up the cozy comforts of Camp Nevin for another camp only a mile or two away: 
Now what could be the object of going through so much to arrive at so little, as the school boy said when flogged into the learning of his A B C, I cannot say, unless it was to verify the soubriquet of the Southern Chivalry, that we are Mudsills, for this is the dirtiest spot of any we have yet occupied or ever will, I hope.  
Besides the self-deprecating humor about his ability to judge the wisdom of military matters, there's actually some important historical context that I didn't know about initially regarding the reference to "mudsills," which is the board sitting directly on top of a house's foundation as the lowest sill of the house.  Stemming from the famous 1858 "Cotton is King" speech by Senator James Henry Hammond of South Carolina, "Mudsill theory"--a sort of reverse Marxism--justifies the exploitation of African Americans as slaves and immigrant laborers, saying that it is necessary and good for society to set aside a group of people to do menial work:
In all social systems there must be a class to do the menial duties, to perform the drudgery of life. That is, a class requiring but a low order of intellect and but little skill. Its requisites are vigor, docility, fidelity. Such a class you must have, or you would not have that other class which leads progress, civilization, and refinement. It constitutes the very mud-sill of society and of political government; and you might as well attempt to build a house in the air, as to build either the one or the other, except on this mud-sill. Fortunately for the South, she found a race adapted to that purpose to her hand. A race inferior to her own, but eminently qualified in temper, in vigor, in docility, in capacity to stand the climate, to answer all her purposes. We use them for our purpose, and call them slaves. We found them slaves by the common "consent of mankind," which, according to Cicero, "lex naturae est." The highest proof of what is Nature's law. We are old-fashioned at the South yet; slave is a word discarded now by "ears polite;" I will not characterize that class at the North by that term; but you have it; it is there; it is everywhere; it is eternal. 
Showing their literacy in antebellum politics and antipathy for "the South" as they understand it, many mud-encrusted Northern soldiers in the Western Theater adopted the derogatory term and called themselves mudsills with pride.  One soldier of the 21st Wisconsin who fought alongside the 79th Pennsylvania at the Battle of Perryville even entitled his memoir Memoirs of a Dutch Mudsill

From the December 7, 1861, Inquirer:

Camp Nevin, Dec. 2.

Since my last letter we have moved about one and a half miles forward from our old camp.  The surgeon has "appropriated" an empty house, formerly occupied by a secesher, for the use of the sick.

At last our long looked for sutlers have arrived.  They are the most welcome visitors we have sen for many a day.  They appear to be anxious to deal fairly with the men, and will not charge six or ten prices for any article.  The surgeon general says that our is the most healthy regiment that has yet reported to him.  All letters should be directed as formerly--care of Col. Hambright, Neagley's Brigade, Camp Nevin, Nolin P.O., Hardin county, Ky.  Yours,

Ipse Dixit


Camp Negley, Nolin, Hardin co., Ky.
December 2, 1861

Mr. Editor: I received your very acceptable Inquirer of the 23rd ult., with much pleasure, except the orders, but as I am among the soldiers, I must obey.  As the old sailor remarked to a passenger, on board ship, in a calm, when he called on old Boreas to blow.  Yes, yes it is easy to say blow, but where is the wind to come from; so it is with me, what am I to write about.

We have no news, except what we receive from our friends at home, and it seems as if you all know more about the movements of the rebels in Kentucky and Tennessee, than we do here.  We were very comfortably fixed at camp Nevin, many of the boys having their tents floored over, some with old boards, others with fence rails; but mostly with young saplings, and some were warmed with underground flues, constructed in the most primitive style, with short cuts of saplings, plastered with mud.  We had also constructed a bake oven, equal in size to any in Lancaster, with bricks obtained by tearing down the chimney of a new house, in the village of Nolin, that belonged to Captain in the rebel army.  The regimental bakers, are Herman Gercke, Adam Ripple and George Fordney, the fruit of their labor was most excellent.  Another advantage of the oven was, that to those who could afford it, and watched the chances, a roast pig, turkey, or rabbit pot pit, &c, would grace their tables, and tickle the palates of their invited friends--of course I got my full share.  But alas, a change came o'er the spirit of our dram of future comfort, for on last Tuesday morning, the orders were given to strike tents and march, which feat we accomplished about noon.

After crossing Bacon creek [I think he might mean Nolin River], on a bridge of felled trees, covered with fence rails, straw and dirt, gotten up for this special occasion at very little expense to management, and for that day only, as they say on the theatre bills, (a freshet washed it away that night) we arrived our present location, a distance of about 2 1/2 miles south west of our old camp.  Now what could be the object of going through so much to arrive at so little, as the school boy said when flogged into the learning of his A B C, I cannot say, unless it was to verify the soubriquet of the Southern Chivalry, that we are Mudsills, for this is the dirtiest spot of any we have yet occupied or ever will, I hope.  Mudsills indeed had you seen me yesterday trying to navigate the various posts between the islands of tough clay, you would have thought I was a mud sprout, wading through one and sticking fast in the other.  How long we are to remain here I know not, for as the contraband preacher said to his congregation, "while man [out of focus]."

On Tuesday night it rained with a perfect disregard to our comfort, and has either rained or snowed every day since.  We have now, about three inches of snow on the ground, and that upon a soft bottom makes regimental drills, guard mounts, &c., rather a more [out of focus], than pleasant exercise.  The health of the men continues to be very good, there being but eleven on the sick list to day, which you must admit is a very small per centage of 984 men.  My quarters are located in a piece of open woodland, about two acres of which were cut down, for the formation of the camp.  The three companies on the right of the regiment are equally fortunate, but after that the old corn field commences, and the left is on the verge of the swamp I alluded to.

Messrs. Taylor and Hartman, our Sutlers, arrived in camp on Friday last, both looking well.  The distributed a number of letters and packages that had been entrusted to their care.  All of their goods have not yet come to hand, owing to various delays, among others the loss of a long bridge between this and Louisville, destroyed by the late freshet.

To day they pitched their tent, and will commence business to-morrow, with the stock on hand; their arrival has been anxiously looked for, and they were cordially welcomed.

In regard to the numerous inquiries about the camp regulations, and the changes reported to have been made in our regiment, I pronounce the whole of them false.  The men of the regiment are not opposed to the Colonel, but on the contrary they pride them selves, not only on having the Colonel not only of the Brigade, but of the Division--That he is a martinet and strict disciplinarian, we all knew before we left home, or joined his command; and his being so has made us (what is conceded by General Negley and others of his rank,) the best drilled and most reliable regiment in the camp, taking in account the very short time we have been in the field.  And I believe the men would and will follow him to the battle field with the confidence of victory.
As a proof of it you read in the Express that an exchange of companies was to be made, by turning over Capt. McBride's Alegheny company to Col. Stambaugh, so as to make room for Cap. Pyfer's company, fifty of whom have arrived in camp with the captain.  McBride's company to a man swear they will not be exchanged, as they went to serve under Hambright, as they have confidence in his ability and courage.  What disposition will be made of Pyfer's men is not yet settled.  The General and his officers speak of making twelve companies in our regiment, giving us the artillery and Capt. Pyfer.  It looks something like it, as they moved their stables to the field in our rear.

There was a slight misunderstanding as to the colors.  The Colonel was right--the governor making the mistake at the presentation; but there was no ill feeling--on the contrary, General Negley presented the Regiment with a most splendid blue silk flag,--with the national coat of arms, and again our Regiment retains the right of the Brigade on all general parades.  To show still farther the good feeling existing, when Gen. Negley left camp for Louisville, Hambright had full command as acting Brigadier General until his return.  As to the reports of Captains Gumpf's and Whitesides's removal, they are equally as false.  The truth is some men may make good school teachers and scribblers, but poor soldiers--more fond of seeing themselves and morbid ideas in print, than showing their dainty bodies on the field learning their duty as soldiers and not to meddle with the affairs of their superiors.

Our regiment is rapidly improving and the men are contented and happy--very proud of their officers, and all stand fair to accomplish their desire to be the best drilled regiment in the division.  Captain Pyfer is here with a part of his company, and Lieut. Ober is daily expected with the balance.  "Ipse Dixit" joins me in the desire to be remembered to all our fiends of the 'Big U.'

As it is near the hour of Tatoo, after which all lights are forbidden, I must close.  As ever,

Yours Truly,
The Judge