November 23, 2011

'A Severe Winter Before Us': 'Ipse Dixit' Writes from Camp Nevin

Location: Camp Nevin, Hardin County, Kentucky
From Hardtack and Coffee

Happy Thanksgiving!  I don't have any Lancaster-related or 79th Pennsylvania-related content for this holiday, so I'll defer to other related blogs' posts and promise to have more about Christmas 1861:
"Thanksgiving 1861 -- Proclamations" on the Gratz Historical Society Civil War Blog
"Thanksgiving 1861 in Washington and the Camps Across the Potomac" on All Not So Quiet Along the Potomac

I do have a letter, though, from the 79th Pennsylvania with food-related content written on this day in 1861.  The following letter appeared in the December 7, 1861, edition of the Lancaster Inquirer.  My hunch is that the correspondent, "Ipse Dixit," was Hospital Steward John B. Chamberlain, based on the content of an earlier letter and the fact that he later wrote to the Inquirer in 1862 under the alias, "Occasional."


Camp Nevin, Nov. 24, 1861

Mr. Editor:--It is some time since my [word unclear] literary contributions of adventures, by sea and land, of a "bold soger boy," adorned the columns of the Inquirer.  But since I last wrote, circumstances intervened that have prevented me from writing.  Nothing of special interest has transpired in the Lancaster County Regiment.  From the interesting "Mount Guard," to the lonely picket stations; when night has settled down, and a cold rain or snow freezes the romance of war, and shakes the picturesque out of the soldier's wings of fancy, the men have all become hardened and inured.

We have been under marching orders for some time--hourly anticipating a tramp for the sunny southern clime, the stronghold of secess's.  This desire for a southern tramp is rendered still greater by the extremely fresh weather we have endured the past few days.  Old Boreas blows a perfect gale from the West and North.   This morning the the light feathery flakes of snow commenced to fall; covering the earth with one immense white mantle. It does seem as if we are to have a severe winter before us; but thanks to the careful attention of our energetic Colonel and Quartermaster, the men are all well clothed.

We have just learned that the grumblers and growlers have written home that their rations are not regularly served, and not in accordance with the "Rules and Regulations of War."  Now, this is simply untrue.  There was necessarily some irregularity when we arrived at Camp Nevin, owing to defective transportation from Louisville; but in a few days this was remedied; and now no one can complain.

The 79th has been peculiarly fortunate in the selection of its Surgeon, Dr. Wm. M. Wright, of Pittsburg.  A more careful, efficient physician I have never seen.  A few days after his arrival at camp, he held a large bake oven erected, in order to serve out fresh, wholesome bread to the men every day, instead of the army flour hitherto supplied, and the usual quantity of hard biscuits.

I give below the rations supplied to every 100 men: 15 pounds of sugar; 8 lbs roasted coffee; 10 lbs rice homony, or 8 qts. beans; 137.5 lbs fresh bread or 100 lbs hard bread; 125 lbs fresh meat, 100 lbs bacon; vinagar 1 gal.; salt 2 qts.; adamantine candles 1lb; potatoes once or twice a week, according as they are issued by the Brigade Commissary.  Fresh bread is issued every three days out of five--two days, the hard is furnished.  Fresh meat is furnished the same as the bread.  The Regimental requisition is generally made out for five days.  Now who can say after this, that Hambright's or any other regiment is not supplied with the best.
Your readers would be astonished at the immense number of soldiers pouring daily into the dark and bloody ground of "Old Kaintuck."  It requires all the ability of General Buell, seconded by an able corps of assistants, to properly dispose of them.  It would seem as if the War Department has become fully alive to the importance of Kentucky as a strategic military position, and is determined to attack the South in its most vulnerable points.  When we do move it will be with a force of from 150,000 to 200,000 men; and we betide any senseless dolt, either Zollicoffer or Buckner, who attempts to impede our onward march.

Your paper is a most welcome visitor to our camp.  Everybody wants to have it first; and inducements are held out, and persuasive eloquence used, that would turn the heart of the greatest pettifogging lawyer in Lancaster.  I was much pleased to see, by The Inquirer, the presentation of a handsome sword to our old friend Lieut. Jacob S. Duchman, by his fellow members of the Union Fire Company.  It was a compliment well bestowed, alike creditable to the donors and recipient.  The Big "U" boys never appear to tire of well doing.  Not satisfied with sending nearly all her active members into the tented field to fight for that other "Union" we all love so well, the remaining few still manifest their appreciation of a good member, a fine officer, and their patriotism by the bestowal of this appropriate testimonial.

As soon as I can get you a copy I will remit you a list of General Neagley's staff, and also the staff of the three regiments forming his brigade.  Yours truly,

Ipse Dixit


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