December 15, 2012

A Battle Casualty, a Desperate Father, and a Community in Mourning

Location: Fredericksburg, VA, USA
Railroad running through Fredericksburg Battlefield near where the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves fought and Sergt. Edward M. Shreiner was mortally wounded. (NPS)

Continuing a minor focus on the biographies of casualties, which (1) give insights into the world views of Lancaster's Civil War soldiers and (2) motivate the transformation of attitudes towards the war that Northern communities experienced in winter 1863, today's post focuses on another member of the Pennsylvania Reserves mortally wounded in the Battle of Fredericksburg.

Edward M. Shreiner
Co. K, 5th Pa Reserves
In the December 13, 1862, attack on Prospect Hill, the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves was part of the leftmost brigade in the charge by General Meade's division of Pennsylvania Reserves.  After the division's deadly advance across a long and open plain, the 5th Reserves stopped at a set of railroad tracks in front of the Confederate lines and exchanged fire.  The regiment kept the Confederates pinned down until elements of the 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves could turn the Confederate flank, but by that time the tide had turned and the Pennsylvanians attack collapsed without support and with building pressure from the Confederates.

In the action near this railroad, the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves suffered heavily.  Company K, recruited in Columbia, lost one killed, three mortally wounded, and seven more wounded, according to a casualty list published in the December 20 Columbia Spy.  Lieut. Samuel Evans, the regiment's quartermaster and correspondent "Orderly" of the Spy, wrote a letter to the newspaper on December 14.  On that list was Sergt. Edward M. Shreiner, who was reported wounded and left on the field.

Martin, Philip, and Edward Shreiner

If the name Shreiner sounds familiar in the Civil War history of Lancaster, you're right in recognizing it.  Edward Shreiner's grandfather Martin started a small cemetery in 1836 at the corner of Mulberry and Chestnut Streets in Lancaster's northwest ward.  Although the cemetery was named "Concord Cemetery," it was more commonly known as Shreiner's Cemetery, and became famous when chosen as the final resting place of Congressman Thaddeus Stevens due to the cemetery's policy of allowing African-American burials. 

Ad in Columbia Spy
for P. Shreiner and Son
Born in 1769 and alive through the Civil War, Martin Shreiner (grave) made a name for himself as a maker of tall clocks and fire engines, and was active in Lancaster civic and religious affairs.  Edward's father, Philip Shreiner (grave), carried on Martin's expertise in clocks, and worked as a successful watchmaker and jeweler--besides also being involved in civic affiars--in Columbia, where Edward, born July 24,1837, appears to have spent his childhood.  Some tidbits gleaned about Edward's childhood include that:
  • He participated in the Patriotic Order of the Sons of America, a sort of young person's auxiliary to the Know-Nothing Party.  (LEH 8/11/1858)
  • He was a member of the Hope Lodge of the International Order of Good Templars which served to advocate for temperance. (Source)  Shreiner even helped organize a temperance meeting near Mountville in August 1859.  (Intelligencer 8/2/1859)
  • He was an assistant director of the Vigilant Enginer and Hose Company. (Spy 6/15/1858)
  • He was a member of the Columbia lodge of the Masons. (Source)
Ad for Temperance Meeting
in Columbia Spy
Needless to say, Edward Shreiner was fairly well integrated into Columbia's civic and social scene by his enlistment as a private a month after the firing on Fort Sumter in the company that became Company K, 5th Pennsylvania Reserves.  He passed through the Pennsylvania Reserves' costly and hard-fought battles of 1862, earning promotions to corporal and sergeant.  After the Battle of Antietam, his father Philip joined two other men from Columbia to pay a visit to the company, possibly to retrieve the remains of John A. Hougendoubler (Spy 11/8/1862).

Reaction to Wounding and Death

As mentioned, the initial news of Shreiner's wounding came from the post-battle letter of Quartermaster Samuel Evans ("Orderly") that was published in the December 20 Columbia Spy and gave the details:
Sergeants Shreiner and Hollands were left near the rail road.  S. was cheerful and did not complain of pain.
On inquiry made of those who were with him when he fell, as to where he was wounded, I was told that it was through the bowels; I am, however, inclined to doubt this.  I have noticed that all who were thus shot suffered the greatest agony.  H. was thought to be mortally wounded.  Speaker, Fraley, and Rinehart were left on the field, supposed to be dead.
Lieut. Samuel Evans
Quartermaster, 5th Pa Reserves
In response to Evans' report, the Columbia Spy editorialized, (link)
This is a sad record.  Although no Columbian is reported killed outright, yet the probably terrible nature of Sergeant Shreiner's wound and the fact of his having been abandoned to the enemy creates the gravest fears for his safety.  Orderly adds that the Sergeant was in good spirits, and may possibly recover.  We trust indeed that this may prove the result.  E. M. Shreiner is one of the bravest among the thousands of brave hearts of the Penna. Reserves.  He is regarded among his fellow soldiers with the strongest attachment, and if his wound shall prove fatal it will have indeed a saddning effect upon his companions in arms.  Of his character as a citizen we need not speak.  All are his friends and admirers at home.  We feel the deepest sympathy with his family in their affliction.  His father started on Tuesday evening [December 16]  for Fredericksburg in order to obtain, if possible, more decided intelligence of his son's fate.  We trust his journey may result more happily than he anticipated when starting on his sad errand.
As mentioned, Edward's father Philip immediately started for the battlefield.  In the next week's paper, Philip published "A Card" thanking "the many friends who came to our relief in the hour of our distress, when the heart was racked with grief and almost despair in the uncertainty which shrouded the fate of our much beloved son," and recounting his journey to Virginia.   He thanked railroad conductors, Lancasterians in the 135th Pennsylvania stationed in Washington, and finally to "the poor man's friend, Hon. Thaddeus Stevens, without whose aid I should have been unable to procure a pass to the battlefield."  Shreiner continued, (link)
I will add for the information of friends, that after arriving at the camp of the 5th Regt. Penna. reserve, some of our boys of Co. K, informed me that they had been assured by a Rebel Lieut., when in search of my son, that he was taken from the field on the night of the battle, and was then in one of the Rebel hospitals, doing as well as possible.  He assured them that every care and attention would be given him.  Lieut. Evans and Quartermaster Sergt. Mullen kindly procured me a horse and accompanied me to a point on the banks of the Rappahannock whence we had a view of nearly the whole field of battle.  We were within speaking distance of the Rebel pickets, and the space between us and the Rebel hospitals where my son was supposed to lie, seemed so short, that only the recollection of the loved ones at home prevented me from crossing the narrow stream, at all hazards, to make an effort to reach my wounded boy.  No flag of truce could be obtained by any means.
Despite Phillip Shreiner's herculean efforts, his son was likely already at Libby Prison in Richmond, where he died on December 18 or 19. Philip Shreiner received a letter from Sergt. Hollins, who was wounded with Shreiner, went to Libby Prison with him, and was subsequently paroled.  Hollins revealed that a bullet struck Shreiner in his pencil case, "driving it into him," and that he was buried in a pine coffin although it was unclear if the grave was marked.  Shreiner responded by going to Annapolis, where Hollins was recovering, eager to visit his son's friend and to get any further details that the seriously wounded Hollins might be able to provide.

Tributes and memorials followed from the various organizations to which Shreiner was connected, including:
  •  The Columbia Spy, January 17, 1863.  "No individual loss has occurred during the war against the accursed treason and rebellion which is striking at the existence of our country, has produced a more painful sorry in our town than the fall of this brave young Columbian.  Generally known and where known esteemed or beloved, his loss comes home to every one of us.  His life as a boy and man, as far as we know, and as we believe, was as near blameless as is possible...He was an universal favorite, throughout not only his company, but the regiment."
  • Hiawatha Club (Spy 1/17/1863)
  • Masons (Spy 2/14/1863)
  • A poem written by one of the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves soldiers that was included in a letter by "Orderly" published in the March 21, 1863, Spy (link)about Shreiner and one other officer in the company killed earlier in the year. 
Shreiner's story even made it into Josiah R. Sypher's 1865 History of the Pennsylvania Reserve CorpsYou'll recognize Sypher as the journalist and local activist who visited the 79th Pennsylvania in May 1862 before spending much of the rest of the war as a journalist with the Pennsylvania Reserves and the Army of the Potomac.  Sypher likely knew Shreiner through temperance activities in Lancaster, if not through many other possible social connections that the two civic-minded men shared.  Sypher introduced Shreiner and two of his comrades--Sergeant Charles Hollands and Pvt. Joseph Speaker--as good friends who vowed to live Christian lives together as soldiers, help each other if sick or wounded, and report the fate to families upon one of their deaths.
When the fierce storm of battle swept along the heights of Fredericksburg, Sergeant Edward M. Shreiner and Charles Hollands, both mortally wounded, yet each unconscious of the others' presence.  When night came, and the rebels were on the field plundering the dead and wounded, Sergeant Shreiner was so rudely handled that he groaned aloud, and immediately in a weak and low voice, some one inquired, "Edward, is that you?"  The companions recognized each other, and Sergeant Hollands gave the sign of Masonic recognition, which was responded to by the rebel bending over him, and the fainting comrades were placed side by side.  In the morning they were taken to Richmond.  Shreiner died, and was buried in the rebel capital, Hollands lingered many months, was paroled and sent to Annapolis.  He advised the friends of his slain companions, how they had fallen, and of the final disposition that had been made of the bodies of Sergeants Shreiner and Speaker, and having thus lived to discharge his last promise, he died in the hospital soon after landing from the steamer.
In one final note to this remarkable story of loss and mourning that demonstrates what was going on for the community as a whole, when the Republicans and War Democrats of Columbia formed their own Union League franchise on March 7, 1863, they selected Philip Shreiner as their president (Spy 3/14/1863).  The Union League would play a critical role starting in winter of 1863 rallying the Northern populace in support of the war effort, fiercely opposing anti-war Democrats and expanding the war's mission to include emancipation and the war's prosecution to include African-American soldiers.  As the story of Edward and Philip Shreiner shows, the battle deaths of a community's cherished sons were connected in no uncertain terms to the case for an emboldened Northern war effort led by men such as Pennsylvania's Governor Andrew Curtin, reelected in 1863, and President Lincoln, who won reelection in 1864.



December 13, 2012

The Tragedy of the Pa Reserves at Fredericksburg

Location: Fredericksburg, VA, USA
A photo between shots from Fredericksburg scenes of Gods and Generals in 2001 (vws)
Perhaps the most tragically heroic action on any Civil War battlefield occurred on December 13, 1862, at the Battle of Fredericksburg as Gen. George Gordon Meade led the Pennsylvania Reserves division against the Confederate right on Prospect Hill (map).  Meade's attack "exceeded all expectations"--as assessed by Frank A. O'Reilly in his campaign study--charging hard over an open field and punching through Confederate lines.  Poor coordination at the corps and army level squandered the opportunity, and attention turned to Marye's Heights where Union assaults failed disastrously.  If only Meade had been reinforced so that his division's gains could be exploited, the battle could have had a dramatically different ending.

Co. B, 1st Penna. Reserves, the "Union Guards"
Photo by Mathew Brady in June 1863
As a matter of fact, the 1st Pennsylvania Reserves, which included Companies B, D, and E from Lancaster County, possibly penetrated farthest of any Union troops in their advance up the wooded hillside.  Along with the 6th Pennsylvania Reserves, they managed to surprise and route almost an entire brigade of unsuspecting South Carolinians, mortally wounding its commander Maxcy Gregg and cutting Lee's army in two.  With no reinforcements behind and more Confederates ahead, the gains were only temporary.

The focus of this post, though, is on one young Lancasterian from the five Lancaster County companies in the Pennsylvania Reserves.  As the culmination of death's relentless six-month march from the Virginia Peninsula to Second Bull Run to South Mountain and Antietam to Perryville and finally to Fredericksburg, his death would be fresh of the minds of Union soldiers who experienced a sort of awakening in the winter months of 1863 when the war's cause underwent a revolution that strengthened resolve to win the war and began to include new attitudes towards slavery, race, and black soldiers as part of the war effort.

Bounty Check for Josiah A. H. Lutz, 1st Penna. Reserves (Tom and Janice Grove Collection)

Josiah A. H. Lutz, Co. B, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves

Sixteen year-old Josiah A. H. Lutz joined the Union Guards--Company B, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves--as the company rested after the Battle of Antietam.  I won't reveal too much of the extensive research done by genealogist and historian Gary Hawbaker, but the orphaned Lutz presumably lied about his age to enlist and financially support his younger sister.  Remarkably, his bounty check turned up several years ago at a Lancaster County flea market and is now in the collection of a friend.  The native of East Petersburg, Lancaster County, quickly proved himself an able soldier and endeared himself to the company and its officers.

Lt. W. L. Bear
(Detail from
photo above)
As Meade's men crossed an open field nearing the Confederate defenses, Lutz was struck in the leg by a bullet.  The Pennsylvanians were under orders to not stop to help the wounded so as to not slow the advance, and Lutz was left behind.  Company B continued into the woods and up the hill, and did not hear from Lutz again until Sergeant Philip L. Sprecher (bio) received a letter from him while in a hospital in Washington.  Through a letter from Lieut. William L. Bear published in the January 12, 1863, Lancaster Daily Inquirer, we learned that: (link to full letter)
[Lutz] laid upon the field between our and the rebel line of skirmishers from the afternoon of the battle until the next day at dusk.  During the time he laid there, probably while attempting to drag himself within our lines, he was fired at three times.  The first ball passed close to his neck, the second close to his face, and the third struck his cap off his head, after which he said he concluded to lie still.  He was taken off with others, under a flag of truce. 
Lutz survived relocation to a hospital in Washington, DC, but his health quickly deteriorated thereafter.  Lutz died on December 21 or 22 (depending on the source), and his remains were taken back to Lancaster.  He was buried in East Petersburg Mennonite Cemetery by Pastor F. W. Conrad (bio) of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lancaster.  Word of his death reached his comrades through the Lancaster newspapers, which prompted the letter from Lieut. Bear referenced above.  Bear added, "Thus has this accursed rebellion added another bright victim to our fallen brave.  His memory will ever be cherished by all who knew him." 
Gravestone of Josiah A. H. Lutz
East Petersburg Mennonite Cemetery

October 9, 2012

A Slave in Lancaster County on the Eve of the Civil War?

Location: Lancaster, PA, USA
"Historical Geography" map about Slavery, 1888 (See discussion at Civil War Memory)
While researching Samuel Evans, native of Columbia and Quartermaster of the 5th Pennsylvania Reserves, for his correspondence after the Battle of South Mountain published in the Columbia Spy, I stumbled across a very interesting note in that newspaper. In light of a post by Kevin Levin mentioning slavery in the North, I thought I'd raise the issue here to ask for any research advice.

In the April 11, 1857, Columbia Spy <link>, there’s a note that according to the 1857 Septennial Census one enslaved person still resided in Lancaster County. It explained that anyone who was a slave in 1780 would continue being a slave according to Pennsylvania’s emancipation law, implying that this person was at least 77 years old in 1857.  I have no further information about this person and almost no familiarity with researching these types of records.  However, once I had a name, I bet it wouldn't be terribly difficult to find more pieces to the story. 

Does anyone have any suggestions about where to begin researching?  Or know what the 1857 Septennial Census is?  If so, please post a comment below, or contact me at vince <at> 

My next step would be to check out Daily Evening Express issues from around April 11, 1857,  to see if J.M.W. Geist had anything to say on this topic, but I don't expect to have that opportunity anytime soon.

October 8, 2012

The 79th Pennsylvania in the Battle of Perryville: The Fight

Location: Perryville, KY, USA
Engraving entitled ""Battle of Perryville--The Extreme Left--Starkweather's Brigade" (Library of Congress)
I wonder if this intends to show the Confederate attack on the 21st Wisconsin in the cornfield in front of the 1st WI/79th PA position.
The following narrative tells the story of the Lancaster County Regiment in its first battle, the Battle of Perryville.  It is my attempt to synthesize over a dozen primary source accounts of the 79th Pennsylvania with the story told by Ken Noe in his campaign study Perryville: This Grand Havoc of BattleIf not explicitly referenced in the post, sources should be pretty obvious to identify in the "Sources" and "Battle of Perryville" tabs.  

At the Bend in the Benton Road: 2:30-5:30pm

A note about sources: The most confusing part of parsing battle accounts for the 79th Pennsylvania is determining what refers to actions on in each of the regiment's two positions.  For example, even after much reading, I'm still not sure whether the regiment took more casualties in its first or second position.  Quotes are presented where I think they belong, but do know that it's possible that I'm misapplying comments between the Benton Road bend position and the Starkweather's Hill position.  If you can correct/enhance/sharpen my hasty analysis, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.

Hoping to protect his other brigades from a Confederate attack on his left flank, Rousseau ordered Starkweather's two batteries and infantrymen forward to another ridge that extended his second line.  The regiment's hospital steward and newspaper correspondent, John B. Chamberlain, recorded his impressions of the advance:
The 1st Wisconsin and 79th were ordered up to support the battery and hold that position at all hazards.  As the solid, serried ranks of glistening bayonets and brave men moved onward with all the regularity and precision of a dress parade, and with the steadiness of veteran troops, the two regiments involuntarily paid a just tribute to the other by sending up long and loud cheers of hearty approval.  It was a spontaneous tribute to the others soldierly bravery and appearance.  Like twin brothers they marched on side by side and calmly awaited the enemy's onslaught.
A rookie regiment in Starkweather's brigade, the 21st Wisconsin, was (pointlessly?) stuck out in front on lower ground by a cornfield.  Behind that regiment was a stronger main line on the ridge, consisting from left to right of the more experienced 1st Wisconsin, 79th Pennsylvania, and 24th Illinois.

The exhausted and inexperienced brigade of William R. Terrill was positioned in front of Starkweather's brigade in a weak position that would have been Starkweather's had Jackson's division not cut in front of him on the march to the battlefield. The Confederate attack first hit Terrill, whose brigade was positioned on the "Open Knob."  After some hard fighting, Terrill's line gave way around 3:30pm and ran to rally behind Starkweather's line.

The advancing Confederates next hit the 21st Wisconsin, who also broke and fled to the rear after a couple volleys.  Col. Hambright later wrote that it was "sickening" that as soldiers on the retreat ran through his regiment's ranks, "shouting to my men to give the rebels a fire, then run."  Clark recorded in his diary that the routed Union soldiers yelled, "The Secesh are coming, run for your lives!"

Starkweather's three regiments (minus the 21st Wisconsin) and two batteries now had the responsibility of stopping two surging Confederate brigades.  Although roughly positioned to support each other the 1st Wisconsin, 79th Pennsylvania, and 24th Illinois lines were not fully connected, and to Col. Hambright it felt like the regiment stood alone on the hillside "without support of any kind, no artillery, nothing but their own determination."

Col. Henry A. Hambright
Commanding 79th Pa.
(Likely a photo from 1861)
Richard Abel Collection
As Col. Hambright moved his men into a position that Gen. Rousseau ordered "held at all costs," Rebel sharpshooters in dense woods and undergrowth in front of and below the regiment's line on the hillside.  Hambright wrote in a letter to his former senior captain (who had been captured by Morgan's raiders back in May), "the enemy opened a most destructive fire on us while moving by the flank, but it had no effect to cause unsteadiness.  We gained the point ordered too, and faced the enemy in largely superior numbers, and opened a fire that soon gave us a clear space in front."

From the point of view of Corp. Charles G. Fisher of Company G:
At this point the balls came thick and fast, and the whistling of them I shall never forget.  We were all lying flat on the ground and could hear them distinctly.  We were then ordered in line, which position we took on the double-quick, under a heavy fire, but before we had a chance to fire a shot, many a one of the glorious 79th fell.  There we stood and fired for three hours, as fast as arms could move, without giving way an inch.  
The Confederates aimed to seize one of Starkweather's batteries and struck the 1st Wisconsin.  The 79th Pennsylvania assisted with an oblique fire and began taking casualties as they traded volleys with Confederates attacking from a position covered with underbrush in front of the 79th Pennsylvania.

Two 79th Pennsylvania officers, Capt. Samuel Boone and Lieut. Henry Test of Company C, fell dead almost immediately.  Hambright recounted, "The men fell so fast at one time that it required all my efforts to close the lines."  Quartermaster Sergt. Marshall tied his horse by a hospital (never to see it again), grabbed a musket, and joined friends in Company B.  He wrote, "During the engagement we kept continually closing up to the right, so that as our line became shorter and shorter, we all knew what dreadful havoc the secesh balls were making in our ranks."

After the initial fighting, a Confederate battery that began firing from the left flank attracted Starkweather's attention and caused concern.  In response, he planned to move his line back to its position before ordered forward by Rousseau  First, he would remove his artillery, and his three infantry regiments were to follow.

Before Starkweather's plans could be executed, the Confederate brigades of Maney and Stewart--encouraged by the sight of the evacuation of the Union artillery--renewed their attack.  Sergt. Marshall wrote, "The rebels took courage at [the retreat of Starkweathers' batteries] and followed up their advantage with a yell.  The 79th was now exposed to the whole of their fire."   The regiment responded by delivering such a "raking fire that they scattered in all directions.  And then went up a yell such as only Lancaster county can give--well, the fact is, the boys were shouting and cheering and yelling all the time."

At the battle's height, General Rousseau paid a visit to the regiment in an incident frequently retold after the battle.  Marshall wrote that "Gen. Rousseau rode up to us, and waving his hat, said, 'The 79th never leave a stain on old Pennsylvania!' and we answered him with three deafening cheers, and all this during the hottest of the fire.  So you can perceive how cool and self-possessed the men were."  Chamberlain wrote that Rousseau called the 79th Pennsylvania "his 'Stonewall.'"

Corp. William T. Clark
Wounded three times
Richard Abel Collection
Sergt. John Dean of Company A was the color bearer and wounded in the wrist.  The colors were "shot away" four times.  Col. Hambright and Adjutant Lyman Bodie each took turns borrowing the flag to encourage the regiment, and/or wave a silk flag that Hambright produced from his coat.

The 1st Wisconsin on the 79th Pennsylvania's immediate left fought off the attackers in hand-to-hand combat to save the Union batteries.  In the smoke of battle, the Lancaster County soldiers perceived a dark blue Polk flag as a "black flag" and inferred the Confederates were under a take-no-prisoners policy, which only steeled their nerves.  As the 1st Wisconsin counterattacked, Col. Hambright swung his two leftmost companies, Companies B and G, out to "pour a cross fire that perfectly withered the advancing files of rebels."  One Confederate regiment left its flag behind as it fled, and the 1st Wisconsin picked up the flag and claimed credit for its capture, a source of griping for many in the 79th Pennsylvania after the battle.  Years later, Sergt. John Durham of the 1st Wisconsin received the Medal of Honor for retrieving this flag.  

"Polk Flag" captured by 1st Wisconsin
Shot down by 79th Pennsylvania?
(Wisconsin Veterans' Museum)
Casualties continued to mount.  Honorary Company B member Sergt. Marshall  was hit in the ankle harmlessly by a spent ball and nearly escaped when a shell exploded "within a few inches of my right foot and flew into a thousand pieces, severely wounding a man in the arm but without striking me at all."  Others weren't so lucky.  William T. Clark was wounded three times but kept fighting, writing about it at day's end, "I am wounded in the side flesh wound, buck shot between the elbow & one near the right shoulder, all flesh wounds & I will soon be able to take my place in line." Sergt. William Eckert was wounded twice before struck by a third ball that killed him.

Lieut. William S. McCaskey
Richard Abel Collection

Two corporals in Company B, Frederick H. Sener and John A. Keller, of a group of four friends who had worked as typos in the Examiner and Herald officer were mortally wounded.  Their friend and lieutenant, William McCaskey, wrote afterward in a letter to his sister:
I looked around where Fred fell, and he was looking toward me, as soon as he noticed me, he beckoned for me.  I stepped aside a few steps, for he was shot alongside of me, and I got him out of ranks, he bid me goodbye, and told me not to attend to him, but return and revenge him, this I done as well as possible, and bullets never went into hotter muskets with a more stead and determined hand.  You could see the miserable looking varments trying to creep up on you, crack would go our muskets, down go the game.  I don't know, but I think they got their fill, and I am certain in saying that Sener and Keller were revenged.  In Fred's last moments he was insane, and accused me of having water by his side, and refused him a drink.
In Company G, Corp. Fisher described the losses:
Many, many a man fell by the balls of the 79th, and our ranks suffered severely as the accounts will show.  My right-hand man was wounded; my rear man also.  H. Snyder and H. Young, both next me on the left, were wounded and fell, and I was left alone for awhile.  There were sixteen wounded in our company.  D. Leonard was slightly wounded in the hip, the ball going through his cartridge box; but he still kept blazing away.
After repulsing the series of Confederate attacks and allowing the Union cannon time to be safely removed, Starkweather's line was able to move back to its second position.  The 1st Wisconsin, 79th Pennsylvania, and 24th Illinois, kept their alignment but now stood behind a low stonewall on a steeper, higher ridge.  Marshall wrote, "We changed our position, and it all seemed as cool as though going through a dress parade."

Map of Battle of Perryville, 3:45pm on Oct. 8, 1862
By Hal Jesperson (Wikimedia Commons)
Based on maps in book by Ken Noe

October 7, 2012

The 79th Pennsylvania in the Battle of Perryville: Arrival on the Battlefield

Location: Chaplin, KY 40012, USA
The following narrative tells the story of the Lancaster County Regiment in its first battle, the Battle of Perryville.  It is my attempt to synthesize over a dozen primary source accounts of the 79th Pennsylvania with the story told by Ken Noe in his campaign study Perryville: This Grand Havoc of BattleIf not explicitly referenced in the post, sources should be pretty obvious to identify in the "Sources" and "Battle of Perryville" tabs.  

Arrival on the Battlefield 

On the morning of October 8, 1862, the 79th Pennsylvania and the rest of Col. John C. Starkweather's brigade found itself just west of the town of Mackville with the supply wagons of their division, commanded by Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau.  Rousseau's other two brigades had started off around dawn with orders to move towards Gen. Braxton Bragg's Confederates located at Perryville, but Starkweather's men required more time to draw supplies.  Gen. James Jackson's division wouldn't wait for Starkweather and preempted the brigade in the line of march along the Mackville Road, making the 79th Pennsylvania one of the last regiments to arrive on the northern end of the battlefield.

Despite Buell's plans to strike at Bragg, the Confederate commander thought the Union forces he faced to only be a small fragment of the Union army, and ordered a general assault.  The battle opened in the morning as the two sides clashed over possession of a precious pool of water on the drought-stricken landscape.  Bragg's main assault was to take place in the afternoon, starting from the north (where the 79th Pennsylvania was arriving) and unfolding to the south.  

Three miles from the sound of fighting, Starkweather's brigade's march slowed to due to congestion on the road.  Worried about missing another battle and sensing the urgency of the moment, the brigade abandoned the road and cut through fields and woods. Quartermaster Sergeant James H. Marshall recounted, "We had gone but a few miles when heavy cannonading was heard about six miles ahead.  The 'boys' all seemed to rejoice and were afraid it would be over before they would catch up.  Each man seemed to step forward more briskly and no one fell back." 

Corp. William T. Clark of Company B noted, " The country is hilly & very little water to be had. Firing is becoming more regular & with some infantry being engaged. About noon we came near the scene of action, stacked arms & rested.  The battle is raging in front of us."

Finding the left of Rousseau's other brigades, Starkweather positioned his men to to the left (north) and slightly set back from the Union line, and notified Rousseau of his position.  Of this time, Marshall wrote, "About half past two in the afternoon we marched over the fields and stacked arms at the edge of a dense wood, while our artillery commenced shelling the enemy, who appeared only in small squads on our left.  We were soon ordered out of the woods and drawn up in line of battle."

Around 2:30pm, orders came to advance to support the brigade's artillery, and the Lancaster County Regiment formed in line of battle and marched forward.

To be continued in a post tomorrow...

Map of the Battle of Perryville
2:00 PM, October 8, 1862
Drawn by Hal Jesperson (Source)
Based on the maps of Ken Noe's book.

October 6, 2012

'In Hot Pursuit': The March to Perryville

Location: Mackville, KY, USA
Buell's Army in Pursuit of Bragg (HW 10/25/1862)

After what amounted to a long weekend in Louisville that ranked among "the most agreeable and pleasant times" we have experienced since our departure from home," the 79th Pennsylvania was back to active campaigning.  Reveille sounded at 4am on October 1, 1862, as the Lancaster County Regiment drew three days' rations and joined Maj. Gen. Don Carlos Buell's Army of the Ohio to set out on the offensive.  The army marched out of the city on three roads and aimed to converge forty miles south of Louisville at Bardstown, Kentucky. 

The countryside through which Alexander McCook's First Corps passed started off lush and welcoming.  Abandoned picket posts constructed by Confederate cavalrymen out of fences dotted the roadside every few miles.  Farmer and diarist Corp. William T. Clark of Company B praised it as "fine grazing country," but questioned how they harvested corn.  At the town of Taylorsville, the citizens cooked "everything they had for us," despite resources like salt and eggs being very scarce.

On October 5, the regiment bade farewell to Lieut. Col. John H. Duchman, who deemed one more campaign too much for him to handle.  Duchman, whose son was also an officer in Co. K, 77th Pennsylvania, had a valid excuse; after all, he was years old and a bona fide veteran of the War of 1812.

By October 6, the ground over which the column marched became more and more barren with that part of Kentucky suffering a historic drought.  Camping outside of Chaplin, Clark and a fellow non-commissioned officer tracked a dry creekbed for a mile before they found water, which was in a pool.

On the morning of October 8, the regiment found itself just inside of ten miles from where fighting was breaking out.  The arrived on near the battlefield around noon, stacked arms, and rested.  Shortly after that, the regiment advanced in a line of battle until close enough to see the Confederates.  The men laid down, rose up, waited for fragmented Union soldiers to pass through, and fired.

The march to Perryville, covering roughly 80 miles.
(Based on diary entries of William T. Clark)

September 27, 2012

'Finally Arrived at Louisville'

Location: Louisville, KY, USA
Buell's Army Enters Louisville (HW 10/18/1862)
As the sun rose on September 26, 1862, the Lancaster County Regiment marched into the city that one year previous had welcomed the regiment to the war's western theater. Part race, part retreat, Gen. Buell's Army of the Ohio succeeded in beating the Confederate army to Louisville.  Although tired and hungry from the preceding weeks' forced marches and restricted rations, the Lancasterians felt relieved to finally be part of the main body of the Army of the Ohio, instead of detached duty like they had essentially been performing since March or April.

Hospital Steward John B. Chamberlain recounted the regiment's recent activity in a letter published in the October 1, 1862, Daily Inquirer (see full text here):
Since my last letter (link) the 79th has seen rough but active service.  Two weeks ago we received orders to move, and from that time to the present we have literally obeyed orders, and tramped over "the dark and bloody ground" after Secesh until we finally arrived at Louisville, and, as usual in our case, found that the enemy was not "thar."  When we started on the march the men were but poorly furnished with rations, the great bulk of the provisions being aboard the wagon train, and after one day's march the teams were so far in the rear that it was utterly impossible for them to catch up with the regiment, which was with the main body of the army.  The Quartermaster, however, did the best he could under existing circumstances; full rations of flour were issued to the regiment instead of crackers.  The entire ingenuity of the regiment was fully taxed to promptly improvise an article of food from flour and water; and many were the means resorted to, and odd contrivances employed, for baking.  Some wound the unleavened dough around sticks, others heated stones and some laid it upon boards--all aiming to make something eatable out of the most uneatable, unpalatable article ever compounded for human digestion.  
Daily Evening Express correspondent Elias H. Witmer positively reviewed the regiments efforts, pronouncing, "The Lancaster county female cooks are knocked in the shade...The bread which these ovens turn out is christened 'Buell's slab-jacks' and 'bullet-proof doughnuts.'" [10/1/1862]

As satisfied as the Lancasterians felt with their own culinary abilities, they felt distressed about the state of the Army of the Ohio, to which they belonged.  Witmer and Chamberlain both lamented that the regiment had not the opportunity to fight on the banks of the Potomac.  Frustration began to build with Don Carlos Buell as much ground gained over the past year had been lost.  Comparing the situation in late September 1862 to that of earlier in the year, Chamberlain wrote
How different are the prospects now, from what they then appeared to us.  Then we were on the aggressive, and in a few short months Donelson, Henry and Shiloah shed lustre on our victorious arms.  Now we are on the defensive, and accumulated ruin and disaster has continually attended our every effort, since the inauguration of the "masterly inactivity policy" by the Commander-in-Chief of this department.  
 As September drew to a close, the situation deteriorated almost comically (and definitely tragically), as various factions within the army led to confrontations.  One general murdered another.  Washington relieved Buell of command and then rescinded the order.  Tens of thousands of green troops were absorbed into the army.  Yet, somehow, on October 1, Don Carlos Buell led an army out of Louisville to take the offensive and confront the Confederate army.   

September 23, 2012

After Antietam

Location: Sharpsburg, MD 21782, USA
Confederate Dead near the Dunker Church on the Antietam Battlefield.  Multiple civilians from Lancaster visited this site in the days after the battle.  (Library of Congress)
The Battle of Antietam had hardly ended before the first team of civilians from Lancaster came to help care for the wounded.  Five of Lancaster's prominent physicians and three assistants left Lancaster on September 18, 1862, a day after the battle in response to a call put out by Pennsylvania Surgeon General Henry H. Smith.  They arrived in Hagerstown and proceeded to the battlefield where they spent three days amputating limbs and dressing wounds.

Accompanying the physicians were staff members of the Lancaster Inquirer newspaper, possibly including editor Stuart A. Wylie, who toured the Antietam battlefield while still covered by the dead.  The entourage passed through the North Woods and the Cornfield and eventually reached the Dunker Church:
Afar off on a declivity of a small hill, just in the edge of a large woods, and by the woodside, we observed the white corner of a building peep up, and on making inquiry, were informed that it was the Dunkard Church, where the rebel sharp-shooters suffered so severely.  Making our way carefully on, over the heaps of dead rebels, we at last arrived there.  The building was a small brick one story, perfectly riddled with balls.  The rebels secreted themselves here for the purpose of picking off our artillery men, whom they annoyed for some time very much.  At last the guns were turned on them, and in a few minutes the building was rendered untenable by the bursting shells.  Inside we found a wounded Confederate soldier lying with a ball right through his forehead, and the brain oozing slowly out.  He was still alive and sensible.
The letter continued to describe the military state of affairs in the days after the battle, which they labeled "decisive, but very incomplete."  It concluded with a visit to the Pennsylvania Reserves and the comment, "We returned home on Sunday, well satisfied with our view of the battle scenes, and convinced that the rebels will never more attempt to invade Pennsylvania."  Read the entire letter, which appeared in the September 22, 1862, Lancaster Daily Inquirer at this link. 

Pastor F. W. Conrad
(Trinity Lutheran Church)
After the immediate response by the team of physicians, the Lancaster community responded more broadly by donating hospital stores to the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster.  A team of four Lancasterians, including a pastor (pictured on left), a pharmacist, a farmer, and the city's music genius superintended the distribution of six wagon loads of goods to the Pennsylvania Reserves and hospitals, leaving Lancaster on September 30.  I've already featured this trip in a previous post, as there were two very interesting letters by the Patriot Daughters' agents about their trip.  Those letters are available here.

On a more personal level, other citizens of Lancaster tended to the effort of retrieving bodies of soldiers killed at South Mountain and Antietam for reburial in Lancaster, hoping that a final resting place in a family cemetery would be meaningful to families who sacrificed sons to the effort to preserve the Union.

In particular, we have accounts related to soldiers from some of the Columbia companies.  Thomas Bennett, of Company K, 5th Pennsylvania Reserves, died from wounds received at South Mountain in a hospital in Frederick, but the attempt to retrieve the body was unsuccessful due to confusion in the hospital's burial records (or lack thereof).  Another officer, Capt. George A. Brooks of the 46th Pennsylvania and formerly of Columbia, was learned to have been killed in action when Columbians in the Pennsylvania militia were transferring coffins at a railroad depot. [Columbia Spy 10/4/1862]

Amos Hougendobler
Co. K, 5th Penna. Reserves
Brother of John, KIA South Mountain
Thanks to PRVC Hist. Soc.
In another case, a week after the battle three men left Columbia to retrieve the remains of John A. Hougendobler (Hogentogler), whose death at South Mountain with Co. K, 5th Pennsylvania Reserves, was reported in a letter I cited last week.  The party first went to the Antietam battlefield and found the Pennsylvania Reserves.  In a letter by "P. F." published in the October 4, 1862, Columbia Spy, he recounted:
Leaving [the Dunker Church], we soon found the immortal Penna. Reserves...Our gallant townsman, Col. Fisher of the 5th, welcomed us in his genial and gentlemanly way.  Dinner being ready we partook of his hospitality and did full justice to the meal.  All the Columbians seemed to be glad to see us as we were to see them.  We mingled freely with them and heard many tales of hair-breadth escapes and mighty deeds.
The next day, they set out east towards Boonesboro to complete their mission.  The letter continued:
Passing on three miles further [past Boonesboro], by way of the Hagerstown and Frederick turnpike, we turned into a road to the left, running northward, and skirting the base of the celebrated South Mountain.  After advancing a mile we again struck a road to the left, running to the westward up a hollow in the mountain side.  We advanced up this road to where it terminates in a ravine in which there is a small log house occupied by an old man and his family.  A young man belonging to the 5th of the name of Rees, detailed by Col. Fisher to act as guide, here pointed out the track of the 5th regiment as they charged up the side of the mountain, driving the rebels before them...Our guide took us to the grave, which we found in an enclosure near the little log house in the ravine.  He had been buried as carefully as the circumstances would permit; the only implements used were bayonets.  We uncovered a part of the body and found the corpse carefully wrapped in a gum blanket, and his cap placed over his face.  Lifting the cap we found the body too much decomposed to remove.  Gathering a few locks of hair we again replaced his cap, and after building a a little wall of stones about his body, covered it with heavy slabs, on one of which we inscribed his name.  Covering the whole with earth we left him to rest till winter, when he will be brought home to his mourning friends.
The party started home later that night.  Although I still have to confirm it, Hougendobler's remains were supposedly removed eventually to what is now the cemetery of the Ironville United Methodist Church, which stands on the Hougendoubler family farm in West Hempfield Township (according to Bridgens' 1864 atlas).
Whether to mourn, aid, or simply tour, these anecdotes point to a very strong connection between the battlefield and the home front in the days after the Battle of Antietam.  Through these stories, we can see how civilians tried to cope with mass death and injury and the challenges that they faced in doing so.  We can also start to see hints about how the war's proponents positioned the deaths as a call to loyalty to the nation and a heightened commitment to the war.

September 19, 2012

Reaction to American Experience's "Death and the Civil War"

Tombstone of Capt. John H. Dysart
Woodward Hill Cemetery
Alerted by Kevin Levin's review, I watched American Experience's two-hour documentary, "Death and the Civil War."  Overall, I thought it was well done, although I've considered the topic interesting for many years.  In fact, much of this blog chronicling the Lancaster County Regiment has focused on deaths in the regiment and reactions in Lancaster.  Here are a couple posts for anyone interested:

  • "There Sleeps a Pennsylvania Volunteer": Death Visits the 79th Pa.  A letter from Corp. Elias H. Witmer about the first death in the regiment.
  • Better Know a Soldier: Lewis H. Jones.  A working-class soldier from Lancaster City for whom the month of January 1861 was dominated by taking care of matters after the death of his brother-in-law (also in the 79th PA).  Treatment of his brother-in-law's family became a political issue when the incumbent mayor falsely charged his physician challenger of snubbing the family (I still need to post the wives' letter) a couple weeks after the death.  Jones himself died in the Battle of Perryville.
  • The Death and Funeral of Capt. John Dysart.  The first officer of the 79th PA to die, and whose body was returned to Lancaster.
I also hope to write soon about post-Antietam aid trips and visits to recover bodies, including that of John A. Hougendobler whose death was recently mentioned in my last post on South Mountain.  Furthermore, I'll have a lot more about the Battle of Perryville and how the regiment and Lancaster dealt with the thirty-something deaths in the regiment.

Back to the documentary, I probably best enjoyed the beginning and the end, as the stories and pictures about battlefield horrors blended together.  The new roles that the federal government took on were interesting, particularly reburial efforts in Kentucky and Tennessee which doubtless brought many of the remains of Pennsylvania volunteers into national cemeteries, although few successfully retained identification in the case of the 79th Pennsylvania.   
Grand Army of the Republic plot at Greenwood Cemetery, Lancaster
I believe the African-American section of the GAR plot is pictured.
I would have liked to have heard more in two specific areas, though.  First, as Kevin pointed out, the documentary neglects to discuss how the war's proponents very clearly tried to use the deaths to build support for the war (or resist Copperhead criticisms).  Particularly in the winter of 1863, these rhetorical efforts corresponded to the advent of the Union Party which sought to basically reboot the war effort.  It was even fairly obvious earlier, too, as I'll be posting soon about how soldier deaths played into the Congressional election of 1862.  Lancaster Republicans, especially, argued that only a vote for Thaddeus Stevens would properly honor the dead.  

Second, rather than a multitude of stories about battlefield horrors, I would have liked to know more about how death tied into existing art, rituals, and institutions (besides the federal government).  How did mainline denominations and evangelical churches react and change or not change how they talked about death?  How did pastors respond?  What did wartime soldiers' tombstones look like (these tend to be amazing)?  What were traditions of mourning?  What about art and jewelry?

I still highly recommend watching the documentary, which you can find at  Check back on this blog to fill in the details and for more case studies to better understand the divisions and unity produced by death during the Civil War, as well as the lasting memorials that they created and that we still have around us today.    

September 16, 2012

'Officers and Men Alike Were Heroes': Lancaster at South Mountain

Location: Middletown, MD 21769, USA
The Battle for Fox's Gap, in which the 45th Pennsylvania participated.
(Library of Congress)
Corresponding to Friday's 150th anniversary of the Battle of South Mountain, here are some words and images of those Lancasterians involved in the assaults that succeeded in knocking Confederates off their lofty defensive positions and opening the way for McClellan to strike at Lee's scattered army.  Judging solely by number casualties, the Battle of South Mountain, which took place on September 14, 1862, in three different gaps in the mountain range, actually probably was more significant for the people of Lancaster than the Battle of Antietam a couple days later, reflecting the key roles several Lancaster companies played.

Hat belonging to Col./Brig. Gen. Thomas Welsh
(Richard Abel Collection)
Specifically, seven companies recruited in Lancaster County could count the day's attacks among their proudest moments of the entire war.  All participated in the assaults on two nearby gaps, Turner's and Fox's, along the National Road as it shot west from Frederick.

South of the National Road at Fox's Gap, a brigade under Col. Thomas Welsh of Columbia had deployed at the base of a hill whose crest Confederate artillery and infantry occupied.  Welsh's command included his old regiment, the 45th Pennsylvania, of which Companies B and K were recruited in Marietta and Columbia, Lancaster County.

The regiment's soldier-correspondent to the Columbia Spy, who I think I determined to be Corp. George H. Stape of Company K, picked up the story in a letter dated September 15 published on October 4:
We remained under a terrible fire from the Rebel artillery and infantry for five hours on that day, and after having charged up a hill, we succeeded in driving them away in total confusion.  After we had shot away all our cartridges we went at them with the bayonet, and soon had great heaps of dead Rebels in our front.  Our own loss was terrible.  Behind us lay our dead and wounded, literally covering the ground.  Not a man in this great old Regiment faltered.  Our wounded comrades fell shouting "Forward!"--not even a man left the ranks to bear off the wounded; all felt the great responsibility resting on them, and determined to conquer or die.  Officers and men alike were heroes!  You should have heard the shouts of victory echoing through the old mountain as the Rebels fled in terror down the hill!  

Chaplain William J. Gibson
45th Pennsylvania
(R. Abel Collection)
Both Companies B and K lost two men killed in the action and about ten-fifteen men wounded to various degrees of severity. Word of the battle and its accompanying casualty list reached Lancaster fairly rapidly thanks to the efforts of the regiment's chaplain, William J. Gibson.  A complete list of killed and wounded for the entire regiment was printed in the September 20 Columbia Spy

On the northern end of the advance, the Pennsylvania Reserves had the task of moving up a steep, rocky mountain ridge to push the Confederates off the top.  Lancaster County sent six companies as part of the division: Companies B (Lancaster), D (Safe Harbor), and E (Lancaster), 1st Pennsylvania Reserves, Co. G of the 2nd Penna. Reserves (Hempfield), and Co. K of the 5th Penna. Reserves (Columbia).  All belonged to the brigade of Truman Seymour, who occupied the Union line's northernmost position and had the task of charging up the mountain and turning the Confederate left flank.

A soldier-correspondent in Company K, 5th Pennsylvania Reserves, who wrote under the pseudonym "Orderly" (I'm sure it wouldn't be too much work to figure out who this is) gave an account of the assault for the September 27 Columbia Spy, which included:
Adj. Calvin Budding
45th Pennsylvania
Wounded in battle
(R. Abel Collection)
The Reserves, after marching 18 miles, came up with the extreme left of the rebel army, on the mountain top, at 5 o'clock P.M.; the position was a strong one.  The 5th, 1st and Bucktails drove the enemy from rock to rock and hill to hill.  The Rebels took advantage of stone walls, into which many of them were burrowed.  I passed over the battle field this morning; it seems almost incredible that the enemy was driven from a position almost impregnable.  The hills were covered with the dead and wounded.  Amongst them could be found officers of every grade.  You can have an idea of the consummate courage of the brave boys of the 5th, and the manner in which they were handled, when I state that they, the 1st and the Bucktails charged the enemy and drove them over three hills, a mile at least.  After the battle Col. Fisher gave the order "centre dress stack arms," which was done in as perfect order as on dress parade.  Company K suffered severely.  John a. Hogendobler was killed almost instantly, the ball passed through his body and entered the breast of Sergeant Wells, fracturing the bone.  I think he will recover.  Thomas Bennett, two fingers off, and shot through the legs; Patrick Summers was shot through the thigh--doing well, as is also Bennett;* Nicely was shot in the calf of leg; Dan'l Gohn shot in the finger.  I have many incidents to relate but must defer them.  Lieut. Caldwell commanded in the action.  Gen. Hooker, ("fighting Joe,") and other Generals complimented our boys very highly for their courage.
John Hogendobler was buried to the rear of a small log house on the battle field, and a head-board placed in the ground with the name of Company, Regiment, and late residence on nit; the grave is about twenty-five yards north of the house, by a large rock and fence.
* Since died in hospital at Frederick. 
With the passes through South Mountain cleared, the stage was set for the Battle of Antietam. 

Additional References:

August 29, 2012

Back to Kentucky (Twice)

Location: Gallatin, TN, USA
On August 22, 1862, the 79th Pennsylvania undid six months' of work as it crossed the border to reenter Kentucky for the first time since February 28.  Rather than focus on the rapidly deteriorating situation situation in the Western Theater--which the soldiers don't really show a grasp of yet--the soldiers delighted in the abundant peaches and melons produced by a countryside that they had previously known as bleak and unwelcoming. 

After hitting the Kentucky line, the regiment seems to have stopped and participated in scouting operations back near Gallatin, Tennessee.  Sgt. William T. Clark noted that Company B was on picket duty at the plantation of Judge Josephus Conn Guild, which is now a museum (link). Clark recorded, "Two or three of us got our dinner there. She is a hard Secesh. and had a son in Morgan’s gang."

Rose Mont, Home of Judge Guild
Co. B, 79th PA, picketed here on August 25, 1862.
Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau (Source)
An important event occurred on August 28, 1862, as the Lancaster County Regiment learned it was now assigned to a division commanded by Gen. Lovell Rousseau, who impressed Clark as a "very fine looking man."  The regiment boarded train cars and traveled to fortifications near Columbia, started for Pulaski, and then returned to Nashville on August 29.  On September 4, the 79th Pennsylvania left Nashville again and hit the Kentucky line two days later.  This time, they would not leave Kentucky without a fight.

One perspective on the march came from Hospital Steward John B. Chamberlain, whose letter was published in the August 31, 1862, Daily Inquirer: (alternate link)

August 11, 2012

Bully for Old Lancaster, Cock-a-Doodle Doo

Location: Manchester, TN, USA
In the second week of August 1862, Union General Don Carlos Buell and Confederate General Braxton Bragg began putting their armies in motion.  Bragg put his army in motion to strike north into Kentucky, and Buell started shuffling his deployments as he myopically reacted to bits and pieces of information.  For the 79th Pennsylvania, this mostly meant staying put on detached duty around Manchester, Tennessee, repairing telegraphs and fortifying bridges.

Gen. William Sooy Smith
Various Union brigades passed through, including one of U.S. Regulars, and this socialization within the army had the effect of enhancing the self-perception of the Lancaster County Regiments as one of the best drilled and disciplined in the whole army.  As Fencibles band member O.C.M. Caines put it,
A few days after our boys got into camp, and had cleaned up their equipments and arms, we had a regimental drill and parade.  The General [William Sooy Smith] was present, and complimented the Colonel (and us) by saying we were not only the best drilled, but decidedly the cleanest regiment he had yet seen in the service.  Bully for old Lancaster, cock-a-doodle doo, two or three times, with several cackles, from the egg producers. 
Col. Hambright's men yearned for battle honors to back up what they could do a parade ground.  Caines continued, fatefully, "One thing certain, if we are not a fighting Regiment, we are a travelling one, but who knows there may be luck in store for us yet."

The following letter, by Hospital Steward John B. Chamberlain, was published in the August 16, 1862, Daily Inquirer: (alternate link)

Also, this letter, by O.C.M. Caines, was published in the August 16, 1862, Daily Inquirer: (alternate link)

August 8, 2012

The USS Essex, CSS Arkansas, and 4th Master D. P. Rosenmiller

Location: Baton Rouge, LA, USA
Destruction of the CSS Arkansas by the USS Essex, August 6, 1862 (Library of Congress)
Continuing the trend of literate Lancasterians serving aboard various vessels in the Western Theater, the Lancaster Inquirer of July and August 1862 featured a couple letters by D. P. Rosenmiller aboard the USS Essex.  An ironclad, the saw some of its most important combat over those two months as it battled its nemesis, the CSS Arkansas, in an attempt to clear the Mississippi River of Confederate ships.

Born in 1841 in York, David Porter Rosenmiller (bio) was the son of a Lutheran pastor who came to Lancaster in 1857.  Rosenmiller began studies at Franklin and Marshall College, but would only complete two years of studies before joining the Navy, which makes sense as Admiral David Dixon Porter was a not too distant relation.  His service began with the Essex and lasted over three years, and his postwar career included law, Republican politics, and two years as Mayor of Lancaster in the mid-1880s.

USS Essex, as depicted in an engraving by David M. Stauffer from a sketch by W. D. Porter
(Lancaster Daily Evening Express, May 10, 1862)

USS Essex at Baton Rouge in late July 1862 (Source)

We actually learn about Rosenmiller's departure from Lancaster, which included a ceremony in Trinity Lutheran Church, on March 24, 1862, from an account in the Daily Evening Express:
A CHRISTIAN SOLDIER. An interesting and impressive ceremony took place at the Trinity Lutheran Church, last evening. Mr. D. P. Rosenmiller, son of Rev. D. P. Rosenmiller, of this city, has enlisted for the war, having received an appointment as the 4th master on the gunboat Essex, of the Mississippi fleet. His orders were, to leave his home this morning for active duty. Before entering the service of his country as a soldier, this estimable young man performed a duty that should be a warning and an example to all who jeopardy their lives in the battle field. In the midst of his friends and in the presence of his companions, he made public profession of religion, and was, on the last evening of his stay in the city, confirmed a member of the Lutheran church. The ceremony took place in Rev. Conrad’s church, in Duke street, and was solemnly impressive. Mr. Rosenmiller was a student of Franklin and Marshall College; he was an active member of several literary and miscellaneous societies in the College and the city, in all of which he proved himself a valuable member and a genial companion. He carries with him the good wishes and prayers of many warm friends and associates, who will take pleasure in his success, and be glad to greet his speedy return. 
His first public letter, dated July 27, 1862, off Baton Rouge, appeared in the Lancaster Daily Inquirer two weeks later.  It told of the unsuccessful attack on the notorious Confederate ironclad Arkansas in which the Essex ran the batteries of Vicksburg, and time spent afterwards along the Mississippi River south of Vicksburg search for scornful Confederates and trying to find an alligator.

On August 6, 1862, Rosenmiller and the Essex had another chance to battle the Arkansas, which was supporting a Confederates trying to recapture Baton Rouge.  The standard account is that Arkansas's steering mechanism jammed after engaging the Essex, forcing her to be scuttled.   

USS Essex battling the CSS Arkansas (HW, 9/6/1862)

CDV of Cmdr. W. D. Porter
A first report praising the Essex and Rosenmiller specifically appeared in the August 18, 1862, Inquirer, and a personal note to his father from Commander William D. Porter dated August 7 was reprinted for the Inquirer's readership on August 20.  A full account from D. P. Rosenmiller from just after the battle describing "one of the most brilliant victories on record" was published in the August 26 Inquirer.  It included the following lengthy description of the battle.
On the day after the battle at Baton Rouge, we started up, all the vessels remaining here, at their anchorage, excepting the Cayuga under command of the gallant Fairfax. He kept along side, until the top of the enemy became plainly visible, and then the brave commander of the Cayuga became alarmed, turned tail, and went back to his anchorage. Presently the Sumpter (a ram belonging to the upper fleet) came up and Captain Porter enquired where the Cayuga had gone, and learning that she had returned, he said “go back and tell her to come back immediately.” Back went the Sumpter and brought word in return, that Captain Fairfax said, that they were fighting down there, and he must needs remain at his anchorage, and for this reason the Sumpter also returned. During all this time the Essex was in sight of the Arkansas, which was now streaming down towards us. We kept up a continual firing at her, and forced her to retreat into a small bayou. We continued the attack on her until an explosive shell entered one of her ports and ignited the cotton and wood, with which she was lined, and the glad news was announced, that the rebel vessel was on fire. In five minutes after we fired the shell, we saw the crew rushing on deck, and in ten minutes she was reported to be unmistakably on fire. The engagement was short and exciting. It was between the two hard nuts of the Mississippi, and we proved our vessel to be the hardest. We could not go near her when she was on fire, as the danger of her exploding was to great. We passed up the river as she swung out into the current, and go ahead of her, and followed in her wake as she drifted down the river. Onward she went, sending high up in the air, huge volumes of smoke and flame, whilst every second, shell after shell on board of her became ignited and exploded. All her guns, likewise were loaded, and these discharged from the same cause. Long before this, her crew had managed to escape to the shore. Two of them came on board the Essex, and were afterwards sent to New Orleans. We continued following the burning vessel down, until the fire got into her magazine, and then she exploded. And such a sight! It was the grandest I ever beheld. After the smoke of the explosion had cleared away, not a fragment of the Arkansas could be seen, but the river for half a mile around was covered with particles of clothing, and of the cotton with which she had been lined. She was one of the strongest vessels ever built. She had first an inside lining of 16 inches of solid wood; then a layer of compressed cotton bales, then wood, and the whole was covered, with two layers of railroad iron interlocked.
The destruction of the vessel by the Essex, is one of the most brilliant victories on record. No other vessel was near to witness the conflict, or to see anything of the action, nor were there any land forces to co-operate. Yet Gen. Butler, away off at new Orleans, says in his official report, the Arkansas, scarcely awaited the gallant attack of the Essex, but set herself on fire. Captain Fairfax, being very much chagrined at the cowardice he displayed on the occasion, naturally felt very jealous of the Essex, and the act itself being such a big thing, excites the jealousy of nearly all the naval commanders, and they do their best to detract from the well earned laurels of our gallant Captain and his crew. Here was a monster which struck terror into the heart of the upper fleet, and sent off Commodore Farragut’s fleet to New Orleans, captured and destroyed by our vessel, in a single handed conflict. But we feel confident that the Government will appreciate and duly reward our brave and skilful Captain for this action, which can well bear comparison with any other naval conflict which has occurred during the history of the present war.
See the letters and notes mentioned above in the entirety in the following document: (alternate link)

Related Links: