August 4, 2011

Soldiers' Letters: A Teaser (Part 1)

Location: Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, PA, USA
(Parts 1 2)

Camp Curtin: "A Rendezvous of Pennsylvania Volunteers"
(Harper's Weekly, 5/11/1861)

If I succeed at nothing else with this blog, I hope to at least make accessible the ~150 letters written by soldiers in the 79th Pennsylvania to editors of Lancaster's newspapers over the course of the war. It was Corp. Elias H. Witmer's letters in the Daily Evening Express that initially attracted me to the regiment, and I've since spent many hours in front of microfilm readers harvesting soldiers' letters.  Look for the first 79th Pennsylvania soldiers' letters to appear in mid-October.

To give a little taste of what's to come, here is the first of two preview letters from the Three Months' Campaign.  The author, Pvt. Ben Ober, of Co. F, 1st Pennsylvania, also wrote to the Daily Evening Express.  Ober would later end up collaborating with Frederick Pyfer to raise a company for Colonel Hambright's regiment.  Their company, however, was either to late or got intercepted and ended up as Co. K, 77th Pennsylvania.  That regiment, coincidentally, also fought in the Western Theater and was initially even brigaded with the 79th Pennsylvania.

Benjamin Ober Service Card (Source)

His first letter after leaving Lancaster appeared in the Daily Evening Express on April 22, 1861.  The company had just departed Lancaster and arrived in Harrisburg to form the 1st Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteers.  From there, they traveled to York, Baltimore, Chambersburg, Martinsburg, and Harpers Ferry, missing the Battle of First Bull Run.

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