November 19, 2011

A Complaint from Col. Hambright

Location: Camp Nevin, Hardin County, Kentucky
Union Army Officers in Camp, identified as part of 44th New York (Mathew Brady via

Today's letter affords us our first opportunity to hear from Col. Henry A. Hambright, leader of the Lancaster County Regiment.  Over the course of the war, we get the sense that his duties running the regiment and filling brigade-level roles assigned by Gen. Negley kept him extremely busy, so don't expect the same level of introspection that has characterizes Corp. Witmer's and Lieut. Nevin's letters.  In fact, the letter Col. Hambright wrote on November 19, 1861, aimed to deny and crack down on rumors coming out of his regiment that caused a little stir in Lancaster.  

The rumors that so infuriated the commander of the 79th Pennsylvania essentially were communicated by certain soldiers in the regiment and said that certain officers in the regiment were worthless and frequently drunk, and about to be kicked out of the regiment.  I actually haven't been able to find any corroborating sources--private or public--from November 1861 so it must have flown under the radar and stayed out of the newspapers (although I could have missed something).  I don't know who the "recruit" or "schoolmaster" was that Col. Hambright mentions, although it's possible it involved J. P. McCaskey the Lancaster Boys High School who we know was pretty deeply involved in 79th Pennsylvania controversies later in the war.  But that's just speculation, as there were a large number of education-related temperance-sympathizing soldiers, including just about all of Company E.

The letter also reminds me that I don't really know much about disciplinary actions within the regiment and the negative side of army life--drunkenness, desertions, and incompetence--which for the most part stayed out of Lancaster's newspapers.  Perhaps some of the more official documents in Harrisburg or Washington can illuminate.

Anyway, here's Col. Hambright's letter, published in the November 27, 1861, Examiner and Herald: (alternate link)

No comments:

Post a Comment