November 15, 2011

'Turn our footsteps towards the Sunny South': Another Camp Nevin Letter

Location: Camp Nevin, Hardin County, Kentucky
Artilleryman in Independent Battery B, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery (Library of Congress)
The battery was attached to Negley's Brigade at Camp Nevin.

Today's letter again comes from Camp Nevin, but show some signs of itching to move on to the target of Bowling Green, Kentucky, and Confederate forces under Gen. Simon B. Buckner.  Although the letter is missing a signature, its tone and content convince me it's from the pen of the Daily Evening Express's normal correspondent, Corp. Elias H. Witmer.

Regarding a few of the topics mentioned in the letter:
  • On November 9, 1861, Gen. Don Carlos Buell took over command of the Army of the Ohio from William T. Sherman.  The brigade of Pennsylvanians that included the 77th, 78th, and 79th Pennsylvania under Gen. James Negley was assigned to the division of Gen. Alexander McCook.  Attached to Negley's Brigade was Independent Battery B, Pennsylvania Light Artillery (aka Muehler's Battery, 26th Pennsylvania Artillery), in which Thaddeus Stevens' nephew and ward Alanson J. Stevens was an officer.  It was recruited in Franklin and Erie Counties, and I don't know if I can verify Witmer's assertion that it was "manned entirely by Germans."
  • Witmer's description of praise for Col. Hambright's regiment is among the first of a long parade of compliments the regiment would receive for its appearance and proficiency.
  • The lightning strike of a tent in the 77th Pennsylvania's camp was described in a letter from last week.
  • The fatal accident in the 78th Pennsylvania, commanded by Col. Sirwell, is described in more detail in the regiment's history. (p. 29)
  • The company under Capt. Pyfer was the extra company intended for Col. Hambright's regiment but that later became Co. K, 77th Pennsylvania.  (see this post for the first letter from the company)
  • Witmer offers pretty strong support for Gen. John C. Fremont and his preliminary emancipation proclamation in Missouri, which drew the ire of Washington.  In the complex and evolving opinions soldiers in the 79th Pennsylvania felt about race, slavery, black soldiers, etc., Witmer's comments are an important data point. 
From the November 21, 1861, Express: (alternate link)

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