November 10, 2011

The ABC's for Lancaster's "Babies of the Early Sixties"

Gen. Don Carlos Buell, who took command of the Army of the Ohio (which included the 79th PA) on November 9, 1861, and would lead it for almost a year.  He was replaced after the October 1862 Battle of Perryville and probably had lost popularity by the time Johnston's poem was written.

As yesterday was the 150th anniversary of a major personnel change in the Western Theater--the replacement of William T. Sherman with Don Carlos Buell as commander of the Army of the Ohio--I thought it would be a good time to familiarize ourselves in a creative way with some of the names that became well-known to soldiers of the 79th Pennsylvania.

The following poem was written by Lieut. John M. Johnston of Company K, 79th Pennsylvania, sometime in fall 1863.  Johnston was one of Lancaster's first photographers before the war and an editor at the Intelligencer after the war.  He lived in the city's Northwest Ward with wife Jane and four children, including one-year old Herbert, as of the 1860 census.  Some of his war accounts were published posthumously in the 1890s by a family member, and this poem was appended to a lengthy account of the Battle of Chickamauga published in 1892.  You'll notice a Democratic slant to his epithets (e.g., George McClellan, modest?).  

From the September 10, 1892, Lancaster Daily New Era:
A Soldier's Alphabet
How the Rising Generation of the Early '60's Learned Their A, B, C's.

This is the way the babies of the early sixties learned their "A, B, C's" in Lancaster. It is needless to add the rhyme was written shortly after Chickamauga; that its writer was a soldier of the Seventy-ninth, and that his devotion to the glorious Army of the Cumberland was part and parcel of his good will to fellow men and to his country.

The "Alphabet" was written at Chattanooga, Tenn., in the fall of 1863. The author of the rhyme was J. M. Johnston, late First Lieutenant Company K, Seventy-ninth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers:

A is for Anderson, name ever dear;
B is for Butler, whom traitors all fear;
C is for Crittenden, brave as his sword;
D is for Dix, by true patriots adored;
E is for Ellsworth, the gallant zouave;
F is for Farragut, pride of the wave;
G is for Grant, who brought Vicksburg to grief;
H is for Halleck, commander-in-chief;
I is for Ironsides, queen of the sea;
J is for Johnson, right gallant is he;
K is for Kearney, so noted for dash;
L is for Logan, whom naught can abash;
M is for McClellan, so modest and great;
N is for Nelson, untimely his fate;
O is for Ord, battling rebel works down;
P is for Porter, of gun-boat renown;
Q is for Quimby, a soldier confess'd;
R is for Rosecrans, pride of the West;
S is for Scott, the great chief of three wars;
T is for Thomas, as dauntless as Mars;
U is for Union, enduring as time;
V is for Victory, o'er treason and crime;
W is for Warren, sagacious and bold;
X is for Xerxes, a warrior of old;
Y is for Yancey, a traitor now dead;
Z is for Zagoni, a great charge he lead.

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