August 25, 2011

Strasburg Railroad Hauls Freight: How Cool Is That?

Posting on hold until Labor Day due to school summer project.

By Toby Schramm at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Col. Hambright, who supervised Pennsylvania Railroad operations in Lancaster leading up to the war, would be proud.  The Strasburg Railroad, a short line railroad constructed in 1832 connecting to the mainline near Leaman Place (many 79th Pennsylvania soldiers were from the part of the county), apparently has expanded from hauling tourists to more serious cargo: "When the Strasburg Rail Road hauls freight, it means business" (Lancaster Online)

The Strasburg Rail Road locomotive rumbles into the yard an hour after sunrise.

Its silhouette is black as coal. Its headlight gleams like the morning star.

But it belches no steam, tows none of the shortline's famous russet-hued passenger coaches.

This is a freight train, folks.

One of a multitude riding The Strasburg's rails this summer.

A rapidly increasing multitude.

The shortline handled nine freight cars in 2009, according to Stephen Weaver, Strasburg Rail Road superintendent.

It's on track to haul up to 300 this year, thus increasing its freight operation by an expected 3,233 percent.

Read more:

August 18, 2011

News and Links

Parson's Battery at Perryville Battlefield
By Hal Jespersen at en.wikipedia (Transferred from en.wikipedia) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Over the past couple days, I have come across three pieces of exciting news about places that are now on my to-visit list by the end of the Sesquicentennial:
  1.  Civil War Preservation Trust campaigning to save 141 acres of Perryville Battlefield.  Although on the other end of the Union line from where the 79th Pennsylvania fought (and defined itself), this is still great news for the battlefield which I have yet to visit but have heard great things about. 
  2. "Fort Monroe edging closer to Park Service status."  It looks like much momentum is building to make Fort Monroe (at the southern tip of the Virginia peninsula) a national park.  Aside from its important place in the national narrative of military strategy and emancipation, Fort Monroe (and the operational area nearby) seems to pop up often in Lancaster's Civil War history related to the Pennsylvania Reserves in the Peninsula Campaign, Patriot Daughters' aid efforts after that campaign, and the untold history of Lancaster's conscripted companies in the 178th and 179th Pennsylvania infantry regiments.
  3. "Tubman Underground Railroad center on Shore gets funding."  Aside from geographical proximity between Tubman's area of operations and southern Lancaster County and similar stories of escaped slaves and sympathetic Quakers, this is also relevant as I keep running into stories of Pennsylvania soldiers on Hilton Head Island, where Tubman later served as a nurse and spy.  (Irony note: literally as I typed the last sentence, I was listening to this satire of how we tend to approach African-American history through the heroics of white men and women with Jon Oliver commenting, regarding the movie The Help, "White people are amazing. We really are.")        
Also, here are two articles and a video for your reading and viewing pleasure:
  1. "Perryville: Then & Now" by Kurt Holman
  2. "Theology, Presbyterian History, and the Civil War" by Mark A. Noll  (one of my favorite historians).  To make a connection to this blog, our excellent diarist, William T. Clark, of Co. B, 79th Pennsylvania, was a devout Presbyterian and member of Chestnut Level Presbyterian Church in southern Lancaster County.  His diary notes the exchange of at least forty letters exchanged with his pastor while campaigning 79th Pennsylvania. 
  3. "The Civil War, the Churches, and the Terrible Swift Sword" by Dr. James Moorhead

August 17, 2011

Northern Women, Patriotism, and the Civil War

The Consecration, 1861 by George Cochran Lambdin / Indianapolis Museum of Art, James E. Roberts Fund (71.179)

For Northern women, the Civil War was remarkable as the impetus for their developing a patriotism very different from anything before the war.  Women who sent husbands and sons to fight against an enemy based on the political ideal of preserving the Union--instead of simply defending hearth and home, like Confederate women--suddenly had to develop a sort of personal political philosophy to internally justify why fighting the war was worthwhile.  Their relationship as individuals to the nation became relevant, and the war brought with it a new role for women in the public sphere.  I'll refer to Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War by Nina Silber to more fully characterize and document this important transformation.  (Here's a review of the book, if you're looking for a summary.)

As part of this change, men began to care more about women's political views, specifically their level of support for the war effort.  J.M.W. Geist, editor of the pro-Lincoln Daily Evening Express, characterizes this level of support as patriotic loyalty, and here is a story from that paper on August 17, 1861 (alternate link):

August 16, 2011

The Jackson Rifles at Ephrata Mountain Springs

From What a Boy Saw in the Army
Today's post features news about the Jackson Rifles from August 14-17, 1861.  First, a drill on Centre Square from the August 15, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

Hotel in 2004, before demolition.
By Andrew Bossi [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Next, the interesting account of an August 15-17 trip to the Ephrata Mountain Springs from the August 20, 1861, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

August 15, 2011

A (Local) Civil War History Renaissance?

From Hardtack and Coffee
The seed is sown...

As I look back at what's been written about Lancaster and the Civil War since 1865, I can't help but feel the topic is sadly underdeveloped relative to the quality of available primary source material that lends itself to (1) compelling local stories with tangible connections to the present that should excite local historical society and heritage groups and (2) critical analysis on or not too far from the frontier of academic Civil War scholarship.

To illustrate, if I were on a lifeboat that could only hold either Samuel Bates' narratives of Pennsylvania Civil War regiments from the late 1860s (not even considering the regimental rosters, which are obviously indispensable) or everything else written about Lancaster and the Civil War, I'd probably choose Bates.  Basically, besides a couple interesting projects*, we really lack both the broad narrative and the raw stories of how Lancaster and its soldiers experienced and remembered the Civil War.  (For now, I'm going to leave alone the foundational question of why local Civil War history is worth our attention; just assume it is.)  I feel bad for the heritage tourism folks and the marketing people they employ, as their efforts sometimes give the impression of running on fumes. 

And that's too bad as, like I said, there's really good primary source material available mostly in newspapers but also in letters, photographs, and other media (e.g., tombstones) about the war itself and how it was remembered.  For example, the approximately 150 letters written by a small group of 79th Pennsylvania soldiers to Lancaster newspaper editors document the regiment's life and usually focus on the more entertaining and/or historically-rich subjects.  The internet has certainly helped, too, by connecting researchers with this material in many ways: simple web searches, Ebay auctions, Google Books, genealogical resources, and more recently social networks and digitized newspapers.

It appears Lancaster is not unique in the secondary-source-to-primary-source quality disparity, so my hope is that the attention of the Sesquicentennial sparks a little bit of a renaissance in Civil War scholarship--or at least a primary source mining boom--at the local level.  I even think there's a really bad metaphor using  Marcellus shale natural gas boom somewhere in what I'm saying.  Anyway, my hope is to see a flood of new stories with an interesting analytical angle that are also relevant today, and I'll try to do my part for Lancaster on this blog.

* I'll cite Leroy Hopkins' work on Lancaster's African-American community, Ron Young's books, the Lancaster Newspapers Civil War articles series and blog, and some yet-to-be-published work by Gary Hawbaker on Cos. B and E, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves, as good steps in the right direction.  

...and the crop is harvested 150 years later.
(Me at the Lancaster County Historical Society with the
1862 Daily Evening Express volume that escaped microfilm)

August 14, 2011

Lancaster and the Civil War
Through the Lens of Trinity Lutheran Church

Location: 31 S Duke St, Lancaster, PA 17602, USA
In my previous post on Trinity Lutheran Church, I mentioned that I wanted to use what I've learned about the church and the Civil War to shine light on four important topics relevant to the Civil War stories of the 79th Pennsylvania and Lancaster County:
  • Lancaster's Timeline of Economic and Ethnic Development
  • Wrestling with Slavery as a Moral Issue
  • The Influence of War Democrats
  • Soldiers' Aid Movements in Lancaster
From Gill Stereoview of S. Duke St., c. 1867 (vws)

Lancaster's Timeline of Economic and Ethnic Development

Here's a simple chronology of Trinity's and Lancaster's history to get a sense of how "old" Lancaster is and when the preferred language changed from German to English for the church.
  • 1730. First record of basic organized religious activities of what would become Trinity Lutheran Church. Lancaster County formed previous year, and borough of Lancaster formed in 1730.
  • 1761-6. Construction of current church building.
  • 1762. Hosted session of an Indian treaty.
  • 1778. Pennsylvania's governor, Thomas Wharton, dies suddenly while in Lancaster (as Philadelphia was then occupied by the British) and is interred under Trinity's floor. The congregation appears to have strongly and materially supported the rebelling colonists in the Revolutionary War.
  • 1794. Steeple completed and stood as tallest building west of Philadelphia.
  • 1815. First English preaching, on alternate Sunday evenings.
  • 1825. English and German preached on alternating Sundays.
  • 1850. Begins cemetery on S. Queen St, which it sold in 1856 to become Woodward Hill Cemetery.
  • 1851. German relegated to Sunday afternoon services and discontinued in 1853.
  • 1853-4. Renovation of church sanctuary. This corresponds with major building boom in Lancaster that saw the completion of the Lancaster County Courthouse, Lancaster's jail, and Fulton Hall.

So, what does this tell me about the world in which the soldiers of the 79th Pennsylvania grew up?
  1. The Civil War generation probably was one of the first generations after the tipping point from German to English in many of Lancaster's social circles of German heritage (except obviously for recent German immigrants). I wonder if this would have affected how many Lancasterians identified (perhaps solidified?) with the new nation, as well.
  2. A strong local economy employing many skilled craftsman complemented very successful agricultural production enabled by Lancaster County's fertile soil.

Wrestling with Slavery as a Moral Issue

Even though it's generally hard to find German Lutherans in Pennsylvania taking an interest in slavery, there are a couple of interesting intersections between the history of Trinity and slavery. While I suspect the Pennsylvania Dutch considered the slave system of production was anathema to ideals of industry and labor that immigrated with the people from Germany, I don't know if there was much interest in connecting with Lancaster's African-American community. The real interesting research question would be if Trinity's numerous Sunday School and mission efforts of the 1850s had any connection to the black community a couple blocks away.

I'm going a little off my memory from reading it five years ago, but Mark Ebersole's article "German religious groups and slavery in Lancaster County prior to the Civil War" (JLCHS, v. 107) points out that some of Trinity's prominent members actually owned small numbers of slaves in late 1700s Lancaster. I believe we have very little supporting social or economic context, so I'll have to go back to check it out.

Anyway, on to what we do know at least a little about. To correspond with the 1861 100th anniversary of the laying of the church's cornerstone, Lancaster was to host the national convention of (at least most of) the Lutheran church in America. The war's outbreak caused the Lutherans, who had yet to say anything meaningful about slavery as group, to postpone it a year in hopes the war would be resolved and the church would have avoided a split.

Even though the war had hardly been resolved, the General Synod met in Lancaster in May 1862 with resolutions on the war and slavery given attention. Although some protested that it was inappropriate to make statements in Southerners' absence and some questioned the role of the Church in making such statements, resolutions denouncing the rebellion and slavery passed and were forwarded to President Lincoln. It took a year of war, but the Lutherans meeting at Trinity finally took a position on slavery--a topic which divided just about every other denomination before the war.  An excerpt from the resolution:       

1. Resolved, That it is the deliberate judgment of this Synod that the rebellion against the constitutional Government of this land is most wicked in its inception, unjustifiable in its cause, unnatural in its character, inhuman in its prosecution, oppressive in its sins, and destructive in its results to the highest interests of morality and religion.

2. Resolved, That in the suppression of this rebellion and in the maintenance of the Constitution and the Union by the sword, we recognize an unavoidable necessity and sacred duty which the Government owes to the nation and to the world, and that therefore, we call upon all our people to lift up holy hands in prayer to the God of battles, without personal wrath against the evildoers on the one hand, and without doubting the righteousness of our cause on the other, that He would give wisdom to the President and his counselors, and success to the army and navy, that our beloved land may speedily be delivered from treason and anarchy.

3. Resolved, That while we recognize this unhappy war as a righteous judgment of God, visited upon us because of the individual and national sins of which we have been guilty, we nevertheless regard this rebellion as more immediately the natural result of the continuance and spread of domestic slavery in our land, and, therefore, hail with unmingled joy the proposition of our Chief Magistrate, which has received the sanction of Congress, to extend aid from the General Government to any State in which slavery exists, which shall deem fit to initiate a system of constitutional emancipation.

One of the most notable Lutheran abolitionists was Samuel Simon Schmucker, founder and president of the Lutheran seminary at Gettysburg. Trinity's pastor from 1861 to 1864, F. W. Conrad had studied under Schmucker and seems to have followed in his footsteps, earning the designation of a being a "political preacher" and earning the censure of Democratic newspapers. In a century full of Trinity pastors whose careers were defined by their time at Trinity, who were beloved by the congregation, and whose final resting place was Woodward Hill Cemetery, one wonders if F. W. Conrad's interest in national affairs left him otherwise unable to meet the congregation's high expectations for shepherding the congregation in more local matters.

Some primary sources related to the 1862 General Synod meeting and F.W. Conrad's preaching career are available here

Meeting of Pennsylvania Ministerium at Trinity, 1866, in a convention similar to the 1862 General Synod meeting. (vws)

The same image as above, transformed to a red-blue 3D image.  Does it work? (vws)

The Influence of War Democrats

Politically, the most important structural development was the alignment of War Democrats with the Republican Party to create the Union Party. Pivotal elections in 1863 and 1864 saw the Union Party help get Andrew Curtin and Abraham Lincoln reelected, helping to solidify commitment to prosecute the war. One of Trinity's prominent vestrymen, Dr. Frederick Augustus Hall Muhlenberg (1795-1867), serves as the Lancaster's prototypical War Democrat in my mind. 

Muhlenberg studied medicine under Dr. Benjamin Rush and practiced medicine in Lancaster in addition to engaging in various business enterprises. He unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1850 (and 1852?) as a Democrat, losing to Thaddeus Stevens 5,701 to 4,069 [LI, 11/5/1850], and appears in newspapers and other publications often as a supporter of James Buchanan in the 1850s. During the war, however, Muhlenberg became a leader of the Union Party and his name appeared regularly in the party's proceedings.

Perhaps it helped that he had two sons commanding artillery batteries in the Union army (Edward D. and Charles P. Muhlenberg), but how he "took strong ground for the Union when the war broke out, although always previously a prominent democrat" seemed to define F. A. Muhlenberg in many descriptions of his life. [Mariettian, 7/13/1867]  Or, as the Lancaster Intelligencer put it, "Of late years he has acted with the Republican Party" [LI, 7/10/1867].

A younger Dr. Frederick Augustus Muhlenberg and first wife Elizabeth (1798-1826), painted by Jacob Eichholtz
Sold at auction, 2006 (source)

Soldiers' Aid Movements in Lancaster

Finally, I want to mention Lancaster's extensive soldiers' aid efforts that not only materially helped alleviate suffering of soldiers--Lancasterians and others--but also helped maintain connections between Lancaster and the 79th Pennsylvania while the regiment fought far away from home.

These efforts actually represented a continuation of pre-war aid efforts, such as the "Union Dorcas League," founded in 1850 by the wives of prominent Lancaster citizens, including Mrs. Dr. F. A. Muhlenberg, Mrs. Charles A. Heinitsh, and others connected to Trinity.[source] When the war broke out, the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster formed with many of the same women.

We'll have to see as we follow the 79th Pennsylvania, but their material contribution to the war effort seems to have been nontrivial and the soldiers seemed to greatly appreciate the emotional connection represented by the organization. You can read about the post-Antietam relief trip on behalf of the Patriot Daughters to the Pennsylvania Reserves by Pastor F.W. Conrad and three other men in a previous post.

Any other congregations in Lancaster whose history has Civil War connections are invited to share their stories.  I would be curious to know what if any primary sources exist hidden in church archives that could help better understand an important aspect of Civil War soldiers' lives.  Due to the Church Advocate newspaper, we have actually have a good bit of information about soldiers of the Church of God (Winebrennerian ), and I hope to share about that in the future.  

August 13, 2011

Lancaster County Views: Stereoviews by William L. Gill

Following up on my post a couple days ago about William Gill's stereoviews of Lancaster City, today I present some of his photographs of the rest of the "Garden Spot."  The Conestoga Creek, in particular, captured the artist's eye, as well as bridges and tunnels of the Pennsylvania Railroad.  I'll begin with three views of Binkley's Bridge, built in 1777 or 1778 by Christian Binkley over the Conestoga near the current bridge of the New Holland Pike (Rt. 23).  It was destroyed by a flood in 1867 and rebuilt in 1868.  The stereoviews were made around that time so it's unclear whether they depict the old or new bridge.

"Binkley's Mill and Bridge" (vws)
"Conestoga at Binkley's" (vws)
"Binkley's Bridge" (vws)
Also, here's another site with which many Lancasterians will be familiar: Lititz Springs.

Finally, an album containing stereoviews from my collection, the Robert Dennis Collection, and (public domain) images from other sources.

August 12, 2011

It's Official: Raise a Regiment

Location: Lancaster, PA, USA
Post-war image of Gen. Henry A. Hambright.  (Source

On the morning of Sunday, August 11, 1861, Henry A. Hambright returned to Lancaster from his trip to Washington having achieved exactly what he set out to accomplish: securing authorization to raise a new regiment.  Hambright--a veteran of the Mexican War and antebellum militia leader widely recognized for his military acumen--had just concluded three months' service with the "Jackson Rifles" (Co. K, 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry).  The Daily Evening Express ran the following announcement: (alternate link)

Other newspapers across Lancaster County and Pennsylvania picked up the announcement and added praise for soon-to-be Col. Hambright, who also held a regular army captain's commission.  It was rumored that, based on Hambright's reputation, returning volunteer companies from across the state were clamoring to be included in Hambright's regiment. Stay tuned for the chaotic recruitment over the next few weeks as Hambright tries to assemble the a regiment amid state and local pressures for deciding who's in and who's out...

Also, I'll append two news items related to the Jackson Rifles also appearing in the August 12 Express: (alternate link)


August 11, 2011

Facebook (literally) of the 1860s

Cross-posted at Adventures of a Costumer

As I mentioned in my post about the Gill stereoviews, paper photographs in the form of cartes de visite (CDVs = visiting cards) had just come onto the scene as the war began, and several photographers set up shop on the top floor of buildings near Centre Square (now known as Penn Square).  When assembled into albums, they are interesting to study as not just as a set photographs that reveal personal information about historical persons--especially from the standpoint of fashion--but taken together as an artifact that preserves a snapshot of a social network.  You can see it somewhat in the album below, but it will become a little more apparent in a future post of an album of a wealthy Quaker farm family from southern Lancaster County.    

From the Lutheran and Missionary (Philadelphia, PA) of June 26, 1862: (alternate link)

Families and friends widely traded these newly affordable photographs.  Here is one album with mostly young and unidentified Lancasterians that I purchased for my girlfriend, now wife, several years ago.  The photographer's backmarks have been copied to the bottom of each image, and a revenue stamp implies the photograph was taken between 1864 and 1866.  Note the differences in quality among Lancaster's photographers and how they used props and backdrops differently.

Carte de visite album (vws)

Also, if you ever get the chance to look at a CDV collection, spending only twenty or thirty minutes can train you to easily identify whether a photograph is early war, late war, or postwar, as the commercial aspects of photography rapidly evolved during the war.  For example, the photographer's advertisements on the back of photographs went from very plain in 1861 to very fancy by the late 1860s.

August 10, 2011

Happy 250th Birthday, Trinity Lutheran Church

Location: 31 S Duke St, Lancaster, PA 17602, USA
This year marks the 250th anniversary of laying of the cornerstone of Lancaster's Trinity Lutheran Church.  It also marks the 150th anniversary of the 100th anniversary celebrations (the "Centenary Jubilee") that occurred in 1861 also commemorating the laying of the cornerstone.

Frontispiece engraving to Centenary Jubilee, 1861

This event, to be held in May 1861, also was to coincide with the convention of the General Synod, the main denominational organization for the Lutheran church in America.  Notably, the Lutheran Church had not split over slavery unlike just about every other denomination, and the Lutherans postponed the convention a year in hopes the war would be resolved and they would not have to split.  Anyway, that didn't work out, and Trinity hosted the General Synod meeting in May 1862 which featured extensive debates that saw the Lutherans finally issue a clear statement on the war and slavery.  In the meantime, a local version of the Centenary Jubilee was still held in May 1861.

Carte de visite of Trinity Lutheran Church, 1866 (vws)
Image by Charles Eberman while the church celebrated
the 100th anniversary of the church building's completion

View of organ from pulpit, 1866 (vws)
Also by Charles Eberman

Although the church has a variety of tangential connections to the 79th Pennsylvania (e.g., Col. Hambright's parents were married there, Trinity's pastor G. F. Krotel baptized a child of Pvt. Lewis Jones of Co. H, 79th PA chaplain came from daughter congregation), I really just want to use Trinity as a vehicle to introduce a few issues relevant to this blog.  As a fourth- or fifth-generation member of Trinity (well, technically former member since joining another church in Pittsburgh), I've amassed a file of documents related to Trinity and the Civil War and gave a couple presentations on lazy summer Sunday mornings, 2005-2007.  Here's one of my handouts from 2006.    

The four issues I want to examine in a future post are:
  1. Lancaster's Timeline of Ethnic and Economic Development
  2. Wrestling with Slavery as a Moral Issue
  3. The Influence of War Democrats
  4. Soldiers Aid Movements in Lancaster
Not included is the religious worldview of the Civil War soldier as that would be stretching my primary sources a little too far, but look for some of the Winebrennerian Church of God-affiliated soldiers to leave a better paper trail through the Church Advocate newspaper.  Lutheran newspapers of the time, including one temporarily removed from Maryland to Lancaster during the war with which Trinity's Pastor F.W. Conrad was affiliated, did give theological context to the war, but I have yet to find any connections to the 79th Pennsylvania.

F. W. Conrad (Trinity archives)

In the meantime, here's one of my primary sources related to Trinity's wartime pastors from October 1862, which I will post now as October 1862 was an active time for the 79th Pennsylvania.   It is Pastor F. W. Conrad's report of a four-man relief mission made to the Pennsylvania Reserves on behalf of the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster after the Battle of Antietam.  John B. Kevinski was a locally famous musician occasionally affiliated with Trinity, Charles A. Heinitsch was a Lancaster druggist and Trinity vestryman, and John F. Seldomridge was a merchant and is the direct ancestor of Trinity's current President of the Vestry.

Another civilian visitor to McClellan's army in October 1862.
Alexander Gardner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Patriot Daughters of Lancaster Relief Mission to Antietam Battlefield

From the Daily Evening Express:

30 September 1862, p. 2

The Patriot Daughters to-day sent six wagon loads of hospital stores for the sick and wounded in Maryland, besides many comforts for the Reserves.  They went in charge of Messrs. J. F. Seldomridge, J. B. Kevinski, C. A. Heinitsh, and Rev. F. W. Conrad, who will superintend the distribution of the articles where they are most needed. 

In this connection it is but right that while the P. R. R. Company are deservedly credited with the free shipment of all stores forwarded by the Patriot Daughters for our sick and wounded, the public thanks are due to our friend, Andy Balmer, teamster, who does the hauling gratuitously, and to Messrs. Boyle, Myers and Youngman, who cheerfully aid in expediting the good work, and have rendered much aid in the prompt forwarding of their stores.   

4 October 1862, p. 2

An Excursion to the battle-fields in Maryland and a visit to the Reserves, by Messrs. Chas. A. Heinitsh and J. B. Kevinski will be noticed more at length as soon as we can get a full account of it.  They report the Reserves so healthy that not a sick man is in the hospitals.  Our two friends made a night march from Sharpsburg to Hagerstown on Thursday night, coming home to Lancaster on Friday afternoon.  We will give a history of the trip hereafter. 

10 October 1862, p. 1
Report likely written by Charles Heinitsh and John Kevinski

16 October 1862, p. 2

A Week Among the Soldiers in the Hospitals.
Messrs Editors Express: At the request of the “Patriot Daughters,” the writer consented to accompany a large lot of provisions and hospital stores, donated by the loyal people of the city and county of Lancaster for the comfort of their brave representatives in the army, and the relief of the sick and wounded in the hospitals of Maryland.  Messrs. Heinitsh, Kevinski, and Seldomridge were appointed our associates in this mission of gratitude and mercy.
           We left the depot with our freight on Tuesday, the 30th day of September.  At Harrisburg we impressed all the porters and stragglers we could lay hold of, in order to be able to transfer all our cargo in good time to the baggage car of the Cumberland Valley Railroad train, and succeeded in getting it all unloaded, but not in getting it all on board.  We were, consequently necessitated to leave seven barrels and two boxes in the care of a colored porter, leaving orders to send forward by the next train.  After the hurry and bustle, sweating and confusion connected with this transshipping process, we proceeded on our way and arrived at Hagerstown after night.
            Here we found it impossible to store our goods, and hence left them in the car till morning.  Then the question arose, how shall we get them to the places of their destination?  Wagon could not be had either for love or money.  Undertakers asked us from $15 to $25 for the use of a one horse spring wagon to bring up a corpse from the battle-field only ten miles distant.  Having lived here, we were acquainted, and put our ingenuity to work to avoid these extortion breakers right ahead of us.  A messenger was dispatched to the county, and the four horse team of one of our old parishioners was engaged, and before 8 o’clock on Wednesday morning we had unloaded our car and were loading our wagon.  A watch was placed over the stores we could not take, a wagon guard was detailed, in the person of one our committee, better versed in drugs, while the rest of our party started for the hospitals near Sharpsburg and Keedysville, accompanied by the Rev. Mr. Evans, to whose kindness we are indebted for the use of a horse carriage.
            We soon found scores and hundreds of sufferers, distributed in barns, out houses, and tents, and that there was more or less want every where.  But we likewise discovered, that the personal distribution of our hospital stores, would be accompanied with considerable difficulty.  To do this to the best of our advantage, would have required an examination of the peculiar wants of each hospital, and almost of each patient, which our limited time would not allow us to undertake.  Providence, however, provided for this dilemma.  We found Mrs. Dr. Harris, the wife of an army officer here, devoted since the breaking out of hostilities to this very work.  She has a man servant, an ambulance and two army wagons at her disposal, and is aided in her benevolent work by Miss Tyson, of Maryland, and Miss Hall, of Washington.  The former has her headquarters in a common tent, and the young ladies in the loft of an old house.  She had just made arrangements by which she secured a room in Sharpsburg, in which to store away supplies.  We accordingly determined to place the stores entrusted to us to her care and left her with the promise of meeting her in the afternoon. 
            We now made a reconnoisance of the battlefield, and then proceeded direct to the camp of the Reserves.  We soon overtook our wagon which stalled at a steep hill.  We first detailed a squad of soldiers, to make up the deficiency of our animal force, but finding their pushing unavailing, we found our forlorn hope in two little mules.  They seemed to realize that much was expected from them, and they carried the load up the hill in gallant style.  By this time the Lancaster boys found out who were about, and what was coming.  The wagon was at once besieged, the portion allotted to the Reserves unloaded in double quick style, greetings were exchanged, questions asked and answered, messages delivered, loved ones remembered, and general joy prevailed.  On being told that what we brought was not half of what was sent, two wagons were dispatched to bring on what had been left at Harrisburg and Hagerstown, and on Thursday morning they returned with all of it. 
            This done we accompanied our wagon to Sharpsburg.  It was almost sundown when we got there.  After finding Mrs. Harris, and making provision for depositing the hospital stores in her ware room, we returned to Hagerstown, while the other members of the committee spent the night in the camp among the soldiers.  The interesting scenes transpiring on Thursday, at the distribution of the good things among our brave boys, have been already referred to, and need not be repeated.  The note-worthy incidents occurring at an extra supper, to which certain gentlemen from Lancaster were invited, we leave to Mr. Sypher, the correspondent of the Tribune, and who was one of the party, to chronicle with his own pen; and for a description of certain other extraordinary occurrences, which took place on a celebrated night march of 16 miles, accomplished on foot from 8 P. M., to 4 A. M., with heavy baggage, consisting of an overcoat full of army trophies, a foreign knapsack filled with personal property, and a log about two feet in length and ten inches in diameter, through which a solid shot had passed, we refer your readers to the descriptive powers of Messrs Heinitsh and Kevinksi.
            On Friday we visited Mrs. Harris again, for further consultation relative to the supplies entrusted to her, and it affords us great pleasure to assure the Patriot Daughters, as well as, the donors, that their gifts of charity will be dealt out judiciously to the needy and suffering.  As we were crossing the battlefield, on our way to the camp again, we suddenly came upon the entire corps of General Hooker, drawn up in a line of review extending not less than two miles, awaiting the President, and the Commander-in-Chief of the army of the Potomac.  We took a position and awaited the appearance of the distinguished personages.  At about 3 o’clock in the afternoon their approach was indicated by the firing of a salute, and their progress by vociferous cheering.  Civilians as we were, we formed in a line, and had the gratification of again beholding the noble form of Abraham Lincoln, and of greeting our eyes for the first time with a sight of General McClellan.  Space forbids an attempt at description.  Suffice it to say that it was a sight at once grand and imposing, whose impressions memory will retain while life shall last. 
            Saturday was spent in visiting some of the members of our former charge, and Sabbath in preaching to crowded congregations in our old church.  The hallowed memories of the past were revived, and we realized that it was good to be there.  On Monday morning we left for Baltimore, passing through Boonsboro, Middletown and Frederick.  At all these places, we noticed large numbers of the wounded.  At Frederick there are not less than 3,000.  There is but one church unappropriated to their use, in which all denominations worship alternately.  The good women are engaged day and night in ministering to the suffering.  The ministers, relieved in a great measure from preaching, devote most of their time to the hospitals.  On passing the field of South Mountain, we learned that within the gun-shot of the road rebels were still laying unburied.  We saw and conversed with a number of Rebels wounded in different hospitals.  To the question, why they had taken up arms against our glorious government, they could hardly give an intelligent reply.  A German told us: “We are working people; when the war broke out we had no work, and we had no other way but to go into the army or starve.”  To the question; “What are you fighting for?” One replied; I don’t know, but our leaders know;” another, “for our Confederacy.”  But what right had you to set up your bogus Confederacy?  “I don’t know.”  From personal observation, and all that we heard from others, there is no doubt about the fact, that the privates are heartily sick of the war, but that the leaders are determined to persevere to the bitter end.
            We returned last Wednesday, thankful for the privilege of devoting a week, to the comfort of the noble men who stood up as a living breast work between us and danger, on the field of Antietam.  We saw much, heard much, felt much, and learned much during our visit, and came back with a heart still more deeply impressed with love of country, with sympathy for its suffering heroes, and with gratitude and honor for its illustrious defenders.
            On behalf of the Committee,
                                                                                                F. W. CONRAD.
Lancaster, Wednesday Oct. 15, 1862.

August 9, 2011

Lancaster City Stereoviews by William Gill

Location: 20 E King St, Lancaster, PA 17602, USA
Company of Ladies Watching Stereoscopic Photographs
By Jacob Spoel (Rijksmuseum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the most interesting ways that technology, commerce, and culture intersected during the Civil War Era was the rapidly changing world of photography.  Although Lancasterians in the 1850s could have made more expensive and less reproducible daguerrotypes and ambrotypes, photography exploded with the advent of paper photographs in the form of cartes de visite (a topic for another time) starting in Lancaster around 1860.  Besides portrait photography, outdoor three-dimensional photography in a format known as a stereoview also took off.  Stunning images of Civil War battlefields made their way to exhibition halls and parlors through stereoviews.

In early 1860s Lancaster, three or four portrait studios operated around Centre Square with several other smaller operations in some of the county's towns.  The most technologically experimental of these was run by a man named William L. Gill.  (There even exists a double-exposure image of Gill shaking his own hand, indicating a sense of humor to accompany his technological abilities.)

Backside of Gill carte de visite (vws)
In the mid-1860s, Gill took several dozen stereoscopic photographs of Lancaster City and County, some of the first landscape photographs ever taken of Lancaster County.  Looking at the advertisement on the backside of one of the stereoviews shown below, we can infer the photos were taken in 1866 or 1867 as the Fulton Mill explosion occurred on July 14, 1867.  He then sold these photographs to the public as series, including "Lancaster County Views" and "Conestoga Views," at the price of $3 per dozen stereoviews.

Backside of Gill stereoview card (vws)

View up S. Duke St. showing Courthouse and Trinity Lutheran Church by William Gill (vws)
Presbyterian Church (further research needed to determine exact location) (vws)

The album below contains some of Gill's stereoviews taken of Lancaster City.  Except for the images above and a couple others I gleaned from Ebay (as they're in the public domain), the images come from the Robert N. Dennis Collection of the New York Public Library available through Wikimedia Commons.  In the future, I'll post more images of Lancaster County and Gill's Conestoga River series.

I'm not quite sure about the locations of a couple of the images and just used what was listed as the location, which may or may not be correct.  Feel free to comment if you know the correct information.

I should also mention that viewing the photographs in person through a stereoviewer provides a much richer viewing experience than what you will see here, which presents an opportunity for any institution in Lancaster interested in such an exhibition.                

August 8, 2011

Understanding the Rise of the Republican Party

Engraving of a torchlight rally of the "Wide Awakes," a paramilitary organization active across the North that supported Lincoln in the 1860 election.  Some officers in the 79th Pennsylvania, such as Lt. Col. David Miles were active in Lincoln rallies before the war.   

As it is today, Lancaster County during the Civil War stood out as one of Pennsylvania's most reliably Republican counties.  While the city leaned toward the Democratic Party, there really wasn't much of a contest in the rest of the county.  The 79th Pennsylvania generally represented the politics of community from which it was recruited, with some of the older officers as lifelong Democrats and the younger officers as staunch Republicans. 

In my post about S. H. Zahm's anti-Southern patriotic covers, I mentioned how trying to understand boiling Northern antipathy toward the South is interesting but not necessarily obvious.  A corollary to that is understanding how the Republican Party came out of nowhere, only being founded in the mid-1850s but winning the presidency with the election of Abraham Lincoln just a few years later in 1860.  Lancaster County, formerly of stronghold of the defunct Whig Party, quickly rallied to the Republican cause, and several Republican newspapers including the Daily Evening Express loudly voiced support for the Republican Party.

Political cartoon featuring the main players in the election of 1860, with Abraham Lincoln on left.
By Currier & Ives [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Prof. Brooks Simpson posts a summary of the environmental factors in the North that enabled the rapid rise of the Republican Party at his blog, Crossroads.  Highlighting one paragraph in particular:
The Republican party of the 1850s was a coalition opposed to “slavery” in its many forms, but primarily in the form of a “slave power”: that is, a political and economic movement designed to dominate the federal government in the interests of slavery, casting aside the interests of white northerners.  Sure, many Republican leaders (including Lincoln) thought slavery was evil and immoral, but they gained support from voters when they identified northern Democrats as the puppets of that slave power and argued that only Republicans served northern interests.  Democrats like Stephen Douglas found it impossible to retain southern support while appealing to northern voters (which is one reason why Douglas played the race card all the time … because he knew that many northern voters harbored deep racial prejudices, especially among Democrats).
Topics for further research: Reaction in Lancaster to the Fugitive Slave Act and the Christiana Riots, Reaction to John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, Involvement of future 79th Pennsylvania officers in rallies leading up to the election of 1860, the Wide Awake movement in Lancaster.

August 7, 2011

Capt. Hambright goes to Washington

War Department Headquarters
By Wakely, G. D. -- Photographer [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

On August 7, 1861, Capt. Henry A. Hambright left Lancaster to visit Washington and get authorization to raise a three-year regiment. The main issue to resolve was whether Hambright, who already had a relationship with the U.S. Army*, would take a command with the regular army, or raise a regiment of Pennsylvania volunteers.  Naturally, Lancasterians hoped for the latter outcome in which they could send off their volunteers under a trusted and well-respected military hero.

Attempting to support him was his father, Major (based on his position in the Pennsylvania militia of the 1840s and 1850s) Frederick Hambright, who arrived by train from Pittsburgh.  The elder Hambright had moved before the war from Lancaster to Pittsburgh, where his son-in-law had begun a brewery.  [See pg. 264 of Alexander Harris' A Biographical History of Lancaster County for a bio.]  Unfortunately, he was a day late and Henry Hambright had already left for Washington.

From the August 8, 1861, edition of the Daily Evening Express: (Alternate link)

*In the coming weeks, look for more biographical information about Henry Hambright.  I need to sort through a little more information to state precisely what Hambright's pre-war position was with the U.S. Army.

August 6, 2011

Soldiers' Letters: A Teaser (Part 2)

Location: Harpers Ferry, WV, USA
(Parts 1 2)

Harpers Ferry (Harper's Weekly, 7/6/1861)
As a follow up to Pvt. Benjamin Ober's first letter after leaving Lancaster, here is Ober's last letter to the Daily Evening Express (predecessor to the New Era) as a soldier in the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

He writes from Harpers Ferry after a brief campaign in which Gen. Robert Patterson's forces had advanced into Virginia (now West Virginia) near Martinsburg. This campaign in early July 1861 actually ruined Patterson's career, as his failure to pressure Confederate Gen. Joseph Johnston's army allowed them to reinforce Confederates near Manassas and win the Battle of First Bull Run. 

Harpers Ferry, of course, was important as the host to a federal armory which Virginians promptly confiscated for the Confederate cause after seceding from the Union.  In additional to its fantastic scenery, the town's location where the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers meet propelled it to the forefront of early-to-mid nineteenth century industry and commerce.      

Harpers Ferry Armory (Harper's Weekly, 7/20/1861)

The following letter appeared in the July 26, 1861, edition of the Daily Evening Express.  (Alternate link)

August 5, 2011

8/5/1861: Jackson Rifles Drill on Centre Square

Location: Centre Square, Lancaster, PA, USA
From the August 6, 1861, Daily Evening Express (alternate link):

  • Elsewhere it was reported the new uniforms were made by Hager & Bros. 

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.

August 3, 2011

Patriotism in Lancaster: S. H. Zahm Patriotic Covers
(Part 2 of 2)

(Parts 1 2)

One of the more interesting questions needed for a comprehensive understanding of the Civil War North is, What drove the North's hostility toward the South?  Was it the attack on Fort Sumter?  Slavery politics of the 1850s that even extended to events in Lancaster County with the Christiana Riot?  Deeply held beliefs about the threat of secession to democracy and the Constitution?

Anyway, those are complex questions that require more scouring of decades' worth of primary sources with special attention to the election of 1860, secession winter, and April 1861.  It looks like Gary Gallagher's The Union War answers some of those questions, but I haven't read it yet.  I'll probably come back to it, though, in the context of 79th Pennsylvania soldiers.

So, for now, let's just have some fun with anti-Confederate sentiment through the S. H. Zahm patriotic covers.

"Black Drop" (vws)
I don't really know why Zahm would have cared so much about Confederate Gen. Gideon Pillow.  Perhaps he just liked the name.  Note the accompanying security blanket. 
"Gen. Pillow, C.S.A." (vws)
In case the following reference goes over your head, many Northerners suspected President Buchanan's cabinet, including Secretary of the Treasury Howell Cobb of Georgia, of using their time in Washington to preparing the South to fight the Civil War long before April 1861.    
"Where the Money went. With (Cobb) of Georgia." (Ebay)
"Jeff. Davis' Countenance, As it appeared before the war." (vws)
Rotating 180 degrees...
"As it will appear after the war." (vws)

August 2, 2011

Patriotism in Lancaster: S. H. Zahm Patriotic Covers
(Part 1 of 2)

Location: Chestnut and Lime, Lancaster, PA, USA
The Civil War's outbreak triggered probably the most intense period of patriotic expression in our country's history.  Rallies and flag raisings united Lancasterians in a public sense, but their support for the Union cause took on more subtle forms, such as patriotic covers, or envelopes.  Samuel H. Zahm, listed in an 1863 directory as a grocer at the corner of Chestnut and Lime in Lancaster and later as a rare book dealer on S. Queen St., even published a few of his own designs.  Zahm (1840-1893) also went on to become a charter member of the Lancaster County Historical Society.

Over the years, I've collected eight unique unused versions of these intriguing (and relatively more affordable) artifacts of the Civil War, and saved copies of several more I saw on Ebay.  I'll group them into two categories, pro-Union and anti-Confederate, with pro-Union today and anti-Confederate tomorrow.

A catalog of about 5,000 other patriotic covers, including more by S. H. Zahm, can be found at the Houghton Library, Harvard College Library.

Pro-Union Covers
"'God Bless Our Country!'" (vws)
"Union." (vws)
"The Old Ship of State." (vws)
"'Our Country.'" (vws)
"Olive Branch of Peace." (vws)
"Ever Watchful." (Ebay)
Based on Lincoln's lack of facial hair and some of the content the anti-Confederate covers, I wonder if some were published during the election of 1860 or the secession crisis.
"OLD ABE." (Ebay)
"Union." (Ebay)
I also wonder if there exists a cover accompanying the following cover with content like "Our Country During the War."
"Our Country Before the War." (Ebay)