November 6, 2011

A 'Sore Time' on Picket Duty: 'E.H.W.' Letter

Location: Camp Nevin, Hardin County, Kentucky
"The Picket Guard" (HW 11/2/1861)

Today's letter by Corp. Elias H. Witmer (bio) of the "Normal Rifles"--Company E, 79th Pennsylvania--continues the string of letters from the regiment's first camp, Camp Nevin, fifty miles south of Louisville, Kentucky.  Almost two weeks into the regiment's stay, not much exciting happened with the exception of picket duty and an occasional false alarm.  The ten companies of the 79th Pennsylvania rotated the duty during their time at Camp Nevin.  With the coming winter and a few days of torrential rain in early November 1861, descriptions of picket duty as a glorified picnic disappeared.   

Recruiting efforts continued in Lancaster, and although advertised as for a new company in the 79th Pennsylvania the new recruits seemed to end up in one of the neighboring Pennsylvania regiments as Company K, 77th Pennsylvania.  The controversy that Witmer mentions would continue between various parts of Lancaster County, normally through accusations that farmers (which seems to always imply a prosperous class of citizens) lagged behind in contributing men to the army.  Such criticism reached its height and began to matter practically when drafts were instituted in fall of 1862 and summer of 1863.  

From the November 13, 1861, Lancaster Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

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