January 26, 2012

Thank You, Joe Paterno

Location: University Park, State College, PA 16801, USA
Pattee and Paterno Libraries, Penn State University
(Photo: Nathaniel C. Sheetz via Wikimedia Commons)

Although many things can be said about Joe Paterno, I want to say something very specific and relevant to this project: Thank you, Joe Paterno, for your support of Penn State's libraries.  Since before I was born, Paterno and his wife have led efforts to raise many millions of dollars--with their own contributions as the vanguard--to improve that very important aspect of academic life.

As an example of the positive impact of their largesse...my interest in the 79th Pennsylvania and this history project were truly born in the library that bears the Paterno name.  In 2005, I began an independent study project transcribing the letters of Corp. Henry Witmer Miller of Company I, 79th Pennsylvania, which are housed on the first floor of the Paterno Library.  As part of that project and a larger project later in the year on the Battle of Perryville, I spent many hours taking advantage of the library's state-of-the-art microfilm scanner, the source of most of the newspaper material displayed on this site.  Around that time, Penn State also launched the ambitious and amazing digitized Pennsylvania Civil War Era Newspaper Collection, which makes the Lancaster Intelligencer, Columbia Spy, and Weekly Mariettian browsable and full-text searchable.  Penn State Libraries, its collections, its facilities, and its programs are truly an indispensable resource for Civil War research, and the Paternos deserve credit for enabling scores of research projects, including this blog. 

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Joe Paterno as a supporter of academics at Penn State--for saving the university's classics and ancient Mediterranean studies department, for giving a pep talk about academic achievement in my dorm one winter afternoon, and for many other stories that offer at least a little perspective to our collective obsession with sports. 

Behind Paterno's statue at Beaver Stadium is the quote, "They ask me what I'd like written about me when I'm gone. I hope they write I made Penn State a better place, not just that I was a good football coach."

Consider it written.

Paterno Statue at Beaver Stadium
(Photo: Robert J. La Verghetta via Wikimedia Commons)

News: First Shots and Sibley Tents

Location: Horse Cave, KY, USA
Union regiment in camp with Sibley tents (Mathew Brady via Fold3.com: ID B-305)

In a Daily Evening Express letter from an unnamed 79th Pennsylvania soldier, we have a new "first" in the life of the Lancaster County Regiment (and apparently Pennsylvanians in the Western Theater): the first shots exchanged with the enemy.  The occasion was a scouting party out in the countryside beyond Munfordville and the Green River in the direction of Horse Cave, Kentucky.  Slaves provided reliable intelligence, and one of Col. Hambright's companies scared away rebel cavalry.  There were no reports of casualties. 

Also exciting for the Lancasterians was the arrival of Sibley tents, teepee-like canvas structures that were received very favorably by the soldiers for their warmth (especially with the addition of a stove in the center). 

Finally, from the January 31, 1862, it is now apparent that the author of the letter signed, "A Pennsylvania," in Franklin County's Semi-Weekly Dispatch is Capt. Morris D. Wickersham of Company E, 79th Pennsylvania.  I didn't connect the dots in last week's post, but the letter is the same and its full text can be viewed here.

Here's the letter describing the scouting party from the February 4, 1862, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

January 23, 2012

Letters from 'Zoo-Zoo': Columbians in the 23rd Pa

Location: Columbia, PA, USA
Unidentified 23rd PA Soldier
(or maybe not, see comment below)
CDV by Stehman & Eberman, Lancaster
(Heritage Auctions)
Having enjoyed writing this past weekend's post about Adam C. Reinoehl--a soldier in 76th Pennsylvania "Keystone Zouaves"--I thought it would be fun and timely to draw attention to the only Zouave unit recruited in Lancaster County.  Specifically, men from the bustling Susquehanna River town of Columbia helped fill the ranks of Companies I and P, 23rd Pennsylvania, also known as "Birney's Zouaves."  They were recruited by Lieuts. C. C. and B. F. Haldeman of Columbia, and a roster of men was published in the Columbia Spy on January 11, 1862 <link>, as well as on February 1, 1862 <link>.

The 23rd Pennsylvania fought in most of the battles with the Army of the Potomac in the war's Eastern Theater, with its severest battles being the Battle of Seven Pines (part of the Peninsula Campaign) and the Battle of Cold Harbor.  One of Columbia's boys in the company, as yet unidentified, wrote regularly to the Columbia Spy under the pen name, "Zoo-Zoo."  His letters are unique in that much of their content is squabbling with other Columbia soldiers in the 45th Pennsylvania, stationed on Hilton Head Island in early 1862.  Here's one excerpt from the January 18, 1862, while the 23rd Pennsylvania was camped near the nation's capital:
I have just finished "45's" letter in your last week's "Spy," and we cannot see what we have done that they are for everlasting slurs at us.  He ("45") says that if we were with them it would do more honor to our old town.  We might perhaps have enlisted in Company "K" of the 45th if the captain had been a native of our town, and we had known under whom we were enlisting.  As for freezing and starving we would inform them that we have plenty and more than we nee to wear and eat.  We might have turkeys and chickens too, if we would take them.  As for the "peg-topped trousers" and being called "Zoo Zoo" we would also inform them that a great many of our boys enlisted before they had seen or even knew what kind of trousers that were to get, "peg-tops" or not.  I suppose the reason that they throw their slurs is, that we are digging holes (as they call it); but I can see no difference in building forts to defend our capitol and in occupying a place after the fighting is all over.  We do not want any of their pianos or sofas as we came for "Union soldiers" not as gentlemen.  We have all been furnished with an extra blanket, and the Colonel has given us a comfort, and have now two suits, and more shirts, drawers, and stockings than we can wear.  We have also the Sibley Tent, which we have raised on logs, thus making it very comfortable.  We have never asked (as we have been accused) for anything from our Columbia friends, but we have heard that a box of stockings and globes that were to have been sent to Company "I" were sent either to the 45th or the 5th Reserve, but as they need them more than we do we do not complain as they are all used in one cause.
Uniform of Corp. William Stephens of Company I, 23rd Pennsylvania
(Heritage Auctions)

For more letters from "Zoo-Zoo," his antagonists in the 45th Pennsylvania, and other soldiers in the 23rd Pennsylvania, browse the digitized Columbia Spy available as part of the Pennsylvania Civil War Newspapers Project.  See the following dates for letters from the 23rd Pennsylvania:
  • 1/4/1862 Camp Graham, Near Washington (Company I, 23rd PA) A Birney Zouave 1/11/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 1/13/1862 Camp Graham, Near Washington (Company I, 23rd PA) "Zoo-Zoo?" 1/18/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 1/22/1862 Camp Graham, Near Washington (Company I, 23rd PA) "23rd P.V." 1/25/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 1/25/1862 Camp Graham (Company I, 23rd PA) "Zoo-Zoo" 2/1/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 2/3/1862 Camp Graham (Company I, 23rd PA) "Zoo-Zoo" 2/8/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 3/5/1862 Camp Birney, Prince George Co'y, Md. (Company I, 23rd PA) "Zoo-Zoo" 3/8/1862 Columbia Spy
  • 3/13/1862 Columbia I (Company I, 23rd PA) "Bowery" 3/29/1862 Columbia Spy

There are likely many more letters published after April 1862, but this is as far as my browsing has taken me.

January 21, 2012

Adam C. Reinoehl's Civil War

Location: Hilton Head Island, SC, USA
I happily take a break today from the Lancaster County Regiment to republish the letters of Adam C. Reinoehl to the Lancaster Daily Evening Express during his service with the 76th Pennsylvania.  Welcome to any readers visiting this blog through Prof. Louise Stevenson's Civil War class at Franklin and Marshall College, the institution from which Reinoehl graduated as the valedictorian of the Class of 1861.

Wartime photograph almost certainly
of Adam C. Reinoehl
See Note [1] below.
As not only one of the most prolific of Lancaster's many Civil War soldier-correspondents, Adam C. Reinoehl also had some of the more unique experiences in his service with the 76th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (the "Keystone Zouaves") between 1861 and 1865.  The regiment spent most of the war around Hilton Head, South Carolina, where Union forces encountered issues of slavery, emancipation, and African-American soldiers in very raw form.  The 76th Pennsylvania was even brigaded with the 54th Massachusetts in the famous July 1863 attacks on Fort Wagner, in which Reinoehl was wounded for the first time and which are chronicled in the movie Glory.

After the war, Reinoehl carried on Thaddeus Stevens-style Radical Republicanism as a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature for three-terms.  He also remained one of Lancaster's most active Civil War veterans, helping to lead efforts to erect the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, working on soldiers' orphans issues, and organizing Grand Army of the Republic posts in Lancaster County.   

By my count [2], Reinoehl penned twenty-nine letters to the Daily Evening Express, usually spaced in one-month intervals.  He wrote under a pen name, which I'm guessing was more to provide a literary flair than preserve anonymity, as the letters' author's identity would have been pretty obvious in Lancaster (although perhaps it provided a buffer against a negative reaction by someone in the War Department).  Reinoehl curiously signed his letters, "Demas," presumably alluding to the Apostle Paul's companion in mission who later deserted Paul "because he loved this world" (2 Timothy 4:10) and is held up for as an example not to emulate for Christians.  I wonder if Reinoehl chose the name as a playful way of recognizing how he--the valedictorian of Franklin and Marshall College's Class of 1861--got caught up in the spirit of the times and enlist in the army to abandon the higher calling of academic life.

Uniform of soldier in Keystone Zouaves (76th Pennsylvania) sold by Heritage Auctions

For a fuller biography of Reinoehl, I defer to Officers of the Volunteer Army and Navy who served in the Civil War (L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1893):
Brevet Major Adam Cyrus Reinoehl was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania, November 15, 1840. In 1856 his parents settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Entering Franklin and Marshall College at Lancaster, he graduated in 1861, receiving the valedictory oration,the highest honor of the class. On commencement day, on taking formal leave of the Board of Trustees, he commented on the action of that body at their meeting held on the previous night, when they dismissed from the faculty Professor Koeppen, a learned, faithful, but somewhat eccentric gentleman, greatly beloved by the students. The president of the college arose and ordered him to stop, but, disregarding the interruption, the valedictorian continued. The president called on the band to play, but the orator proceeded until his voice was lost in the music. The exercises were abruptly ended. The public insisted that the valedictory should be delivered, and the owners of the hall refusing to hire it, in the evening Charles Eden tendered the balcony of his ice-cream saloon, adjoining Fulton Hall, from which the oration was delivered in the presence of several thousand ladies and gentlemen, who crowded the streets in the vicinity.

After teaching school for two months and twenty-three days in Ephrata Township, he enlisted in the Seventy-sixth Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Keystone Zouaves. Entering the service as a private in Company D, he took part in all the campaigns and battles of the regiment. The Seventy-sixth was ordered to Port Royal, South Carolina, in the fall of 1861, and was actively engaged in the sieges and engagements in the Department of the South. In April, 1862, the regiment was ordered to Tybee Island, and was present at the siege and capture of Fort Pulaski. Reinoehl served as private of Company D in the campaign against Charleston on James Island, June, 1862, and in the battle of Pocotaligo, South Carolina, October 22, 1862. On the 10th of December, 1862, he was promoted to regimental quartermaster-sergeant, and January 24, 1863, he was promoted to sergeant-major. The Seventy-sixth was in Strong's brigade, which charged and captured the rebel batteries on Morris Island, South Carolina, July 10.

On the morning of July 11, 1863, the Seventy-sixth Pennsylvania, with four companies of the Seventh Connecticut and Ninth Maine, charged Fort Wagner, and were repulsed. The Seventy-sixth lost one hundred and eighty-seven killed, wounded, and missing. Sergeant-Major Reinoehl was shot through the left arm with a Minnie-ball, and was permanently disabled.

Returning to his regiment after a furlough, he remained in the service, and re-enlisted April, 1864, for three years, and while on veteran furlough, having been recommended for promotion by Colonel Strawbridge, received from the hands of Governor A. G. Curtin, at Harrisburg, a commission as first lieutenant of Company B, April 27, 1864. He commanded the company during the campaign of the Tenth Corps, in the Army of the James and Army of the Potomac, at Cold Harbor, at the explosion of the mine, and in the siege of Petersburg. On the 4th of August, 1864, he was promoted to adjutant. On the 27th of October, in a charge on the rebel works at Darbytown Road, Va., the outer defenses of Richmond, he was severely wounded in the left thigh by a ball from a shrapnel shell, and was removed to his home at Lancaster. Disabled for months, he resigned, and was honorably discharged Feb. 6, 1865. March 13, 1865, he was brevetted captain " for gallant and meritorious service in the assault on Fort Wagner, S. C.," and was brevetted major "for gallant and meritorious service in the attack on the enemy's works on Darbytown Road, Va., Oct. 27, 1864."

In 1866 he was admitted to the bar of Lancaster County. In 1868 he was elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature, and subsequently re-elected in 1870 and 1871, serving three terms. In 1872 he was appointed Deputy Secretary of the Commonwealth by Gov. John W. Geary, and was continued by Gov. John F. Hartranft, until he resigned, in 1873, to resume the practice of his profession. On retiring he was tendered letters highly complimentary of his services by Gov. Hartranft and Hon. M. S. Quay, Secretary of the Commonwealth. In 1889 he was appointed a member of the Soldiers' Orphans' Commission of the State of Pennsylvania by the department commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. In 1889 Major Reinoehl was elected district attorney of the county of Lancaster, his term expiring Jan. 1, 1893. He married Miss Lucy Davis, Nov. 24, 1870. They have four children,-Walter Allan, Mary Acheson, Gertrude Laughlin, and Albert Riegel. He is an active member of the Grand Army of the Republic, and of the Pennsylvania Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion.
Reinoehl died on December 14, 1900, in an incident described as suicide in a New York Times account.  Another biography is available here.

Adam C. Reinoehl Tombstone at Lancaster Cemetery (vws)
I have compiled Reinoehl's letters (except the May-October 1862 letters [2]) as a pdf available to view and download at this link <https://docs.google.com/open?id=0B5luPkqpDDWkZTViNWQzNTctZjY4NC00Zjg3LTk0ZTktN2RmYjBjZDFhZTBl>.

Or, you can view them here:

Further Reading and Research:
  1. I recently stumbled upon this image sold by Heritage Auctions a couple years ago.  It is a mid-war image of a sergeant major of the Keystone Zouaves taken in Lancaster by Jamison and Benson photographic gallery in Lancaster.  Given that there's only one sergeant major in the 76th Pennsylvania (which was Reinoehl after he was wounded at Fort Wagner and subsequently returned home) and that none of the 76th PA companies were recruited in Lancaster, this image almost certainly has to be Reinoehl.  
  2. Thanks to Richard Sauers' index in the PA Save the Flags Collection at USAMHI for expediting the process by which I found these letters.  The May-October 1862 editions of the Daily Evening Express are not microfilmed but available as part of newspaper bound volumes at the Lancaster County Historical Society.  I do have pictures of those letters, but they need some processing (maybe transcription) before I can post them.

January 19, 2012

A 'Glorious Victory': A Letter From the Battle of Mill Springs

Location: Battle of Mill Springs, Kentucky 42544, USA
Currier & Ives Print of the Battle of Mill Springs (Library of Congress LC-USZC2-1959)

Recall how the Union advance through Kentucky was divided into three "wings", for lack of a better term.  General Grant had Union forces in the far western part of the state as the western wing.  General Buell focused much of his Army of the Ohio--including the 79th Pennsylvania--as the center wing advancing down the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.  Much of the rest of Buell's army was the eastern wing, led by Gen. George H. Thomas, and they were to advance deep into central Kentucky in hopes of preparing to liberate Union-sympathizing eastern Tennessee.  It was Thomas' men who fought the first significant battle among Union forces in Kentucky on January 19, 1862, when they achieved a decisive victory at the Battle of Mill Springs.  (Read the battle's wikipedia page for a summary; all I would do would be to summarize that page.)

One of the battle's participants was Lieut. Jacob Hale Sypher, brother of Lancaster Daily Evening Express local editor and gentleman adventure Josiah R. Sypher.  J. H. Sypher commanded one section of Standart's Battery B, 1st Ohio Artillery, which had already participated in the Battle of Camp Wildcat (See here for J. H. Sypher's letter describing that battle).  Four days after the Battle of Mill Springs, J. H. Sypher wrote his second letter of the war to the Daily Evening Express, which appeared in the January 31, 1862, edition of the newspaper: (alternate link)

January 18, 2012

'Notoriety Cheaply Bought': The 79th Pa Becomes 'The Dare Devil Regiment'

Location: Munfordville, KY, USA
 A Union Army Company (Mathew Brady, National Archives)
This is another company of the Army of the Ohio (Co. A, 9th Indiana), which was not connected to the incident described in this post.

January 17 marked the 150th anniversary of the first time soldiers from the 79th Pennsylvania were fired upon.  Unfortunately, it was by other Union soldiers who did not recognize the detachment of the 79th Pennsylvania led by Captain William G. Kendrick.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt and Kendrick's men barely even noticed the volley from afar.

The events leading up to this situation were part of a two-day adventure into the Kentucky countryside by Companies A, B, and F in pursuit of Confederate cavalry that was harassing the farthest advance of the Union picket line.  Kendrick's expedition included dramatically charging across an open field against a woodlot that turned out to be devoid of Rebels, saving over a hundred cords of wood which Confederates had tried to burn on their retreat, arresting a "noted secessionist", and interacting with civilians surprised to see Union troops for the first time.  

The three companies' actions led to a general alarm (spread by a frightened farmer) in McCook's whole division and sent the regiments of Camp Wood scurrying, some apparently in retreat.  Capt. Kendrick wrote a colorful letter of to his wife about the incident, and reported the Col. Hambright responded by double-quicking the rest of the regiment down the road to save his senior captain and three companies.  When everything was sorted out, Gen. Negley and his staff thought the whole incident was hilarious,"laughing at the devilish uproar we raised."  Judge Caines met Kendrick and told him "he was satisfied [Kendrick] was caught at last and Company A was a goner."  Kendrick concluded that "I think this will give me some notoriety cheaply bought as our Regiment has bin called the Dare Devil Regiment."  (WGK, 1/18/1862)

Kendrick's prediction turned out incorrect as a special correspondent of the Cincinnati Gazette at Munfordville reported on the incident as follows, casting a negative light on bravery of the Lancaster County Regiment: 
Four companies of the 79th Pennsylvania were sent out to make a reconnoisance to Horse Cave. Arriving at that point, they heard firing, which seemed to come from their rear, when they suddenly conceived the idea that it was the enemy, and that they were likely to be cut off. This was enough. It is believed the Pennsylvanians became panic stricken. At Horse Cave, where the railroad and turnpike diverge part took the turnpike and part the railroad, coming together again at Rowlett's station. Which party it was that despatched the courier is not clear--most likely the party that returned by the pike. Judge of the mutual surprise when they met at Rowlett's. It was supposed that the firing was on the left, and played the will-o'-the-wisp caper which so frightened the Pennsylvanians. In the hurried retreat of the Pennsylvanians they scattered the report that the enemy was approaching to attack us.
One of the Pennsylvania soldiers wrote a phrase-by-phrase retort to be published in the Louisville Journal, a copy of which appeared in Franklin County's Semi-Weekly Dispatch--available online here as part of the Valley of the Shadow Project.

Another source of information about the incident is Lieut. Lyman G. Bodie, originally an officer in Company A who had become the regiment's adjutant by this point.  Bodie wrote this letter published as a rare letter from the Lancaster County Regiment in the January 29, 1862, Examiner and Herald: (alternate link)

January 17, 2012

Better Know an Officer: Capt. William G. Kendrick

Capt. William G. Kendrick (WGK)
Name:  Capt. William G. Kendrick, Company A, 79th Pennsylvania (later a 14th Corps staff officer)
Born:  August 26, 1815, Cecil County, Maryland
Died:  February 10, 1897, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Pre-war Life:  Sailor from 1837 to 1847.  Married Anna Louise Stoddart in 1849 in Delaware and had several children.  Supervised bricklaying contract for Lancaster County Courthouse.  Local government connections.  
Post-war Life:  Architect in Lancaster.  Moved to Springfield, Ohio, and Fort Wayne, Indiana, where he died.   
Key Events: Captured with men by Morgan's raiders while on work detail in May 1862.  Battle of Chickamauga.  

On the battlefield, very few men acted like they had less to lose that Capt. William G. Kendrick, but when it came to returning home to their families few men acted like they were missing out on so much by being away in the army.  Kendrick, the senior captain of the 79th Pennsylvania and seemingly Col. Hambright's right-hand man, made a name for himself as a daredevil: first when narrowly escaping cannibals while sailing around the world, then as a captain in the 79th Pennsylvania, and later as a staff officer to Brig. Gen. James Negley of the 14th Corps.       

Fortunately, Kendrick left behind one of the best collections of private letters related to the 79th Pennsylvania, which his descendents have published and made available <here> (warning: file size is very large).  Kendrick writes to his wife with extreme self-confidence regarding his competence as a leader, his favored status among Col. Hambright's line officers, and a bluntness about those he deems poor officers. His letters recounting his close calls in battles and the risks he took on independent expeditions must have terrified his wife.  I'd call him arrogant or narcissistic, but he has some pretty good letters of recommendation in his file to back him up, including one from Gen. George H. Thomas.  Kendrick also writes openly about homesickness and the emotional challenges of leaving his wife and young children and going off to war.

Louisa Stoddart Kendrick (WGK)

Kendrick appears to have had talents in the building trades which he employed during the building boom of the 1850s in Lancaster.  Searching the Lancaster Intelligencer for his name during the 1850s gives some of the details of work he supervised, including a contract for $8,800 to do the brick masonry work for the Lancaster County Courthouse.  Before the war, it also appears Kendrick was active in Lancaster City's Know Nothing Party during the 1850s before getting in trouble for some breaching some secret related to the order.  The economic downtown appears to have hit Kendrick hard though, as he repeatedly states that we would resign as soon as he had enough money to stabilize his family's situation.

Lancaster County Courthouse, built 1852-5.  (Source and info)
Highlights of Kendrick's tenure as officer included dining with Confederate cavalryman John Hunt Morgan after a telegraph detail Kendrick led was captured by him in 1862, working hard as a staff officer during the Battle of Chickamauga, and then supposedly giving up a cot he found to Gen. Thomas the night after the 14th Corps made its famous stand at Chickamauga.  Earlier in the war, Kendrick led a detachment of the 79th Pennsylvania on a daylong expedition into the countryside, and the next post will focus on the excitement that resulted from the excursion.

January 16, 2012

"Rain, rain, rain! Will it never cease?'

Location: Munfordville, KY, USA
Union Army Winter Quarters (Mathew Brady via Fold 3.com: ID B-265)
A letter from Lieut. Ben Ober of Company K, 77th Pennsylvania, at Camp Wood discussing the miserable weather, relationships with fugitive slaves, army movements, and a death in his company--that of Corp. Maris Alexander of Martic Township.

From the January 25, 1862, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

January 15, 2012

100 Posts

Centre Square (now Penn Square) in Lancaster
This post marks the one hundredth post on this blog, and in conjunction with that small milestone I thought it would be good to highlight the top ten most popular posts since I began the blog last August.  Thank you to all who have stopped by to dive into the history of one Civil War regiment and community.

As a reminder, comments and questions (especially if something I write isn't clear or you don't understand the context) are always welcome.  In fact, if you have any questions about things you either didn't understand when you read them or would like to know more about please feel free to post them as comments below.  I'm also interested in what you find most interesting, so I invite you to comment below about what has stood out to you in your visiting this blog.  Also, what would you like to hear more about?

By the semi-scientific metric of unique page views (via Google Analytics, since October), the ten most popular posts are:
10) Better Know a Soldier: Elias H. Witmer
9) Understanding the Rise of the Republican Party
8) Lieut. William McCaskey's Two Black Confederate Regiments
7) Research Surprises: Millersville University and the "Normal Rifles"
6) Better Know an Officer: Henry A. Hambright
5) Compelling and Worth Retelling: Letters from the 45th PA and Other Regiments
4) Better Know a Soldier: William T. Clark
3) Lancaster and the Civil War Through the Lens of Trinity Lutheran Church
2) Hempfield School District's Gettysburg 'Field Trip-Gate' Controversy
1) Lancaster County Views: Stereoviews by William L. Gill

I look forward to the next batch of 100 posts! We'll see if they keep up at the same rate, but some topics and events about which I'm excited are:
  • Lancaster's mayoral election of early February 1861, which hopefully will give us some insights into the racial and political views of George Sanderson.
  • Posting dispatches from gentleman reporter Josiah R. Sypher as he travels through the Western Theater visiting his brothers and the 79th Pennsylvania.
  • Covering the 1862 General Synod meeting of the Lutheran church in Lancaster which included a significant discussion on slavery.
  • Including letters from multiple soldiers, sailors, and Marines serving on board gunboats on the Mississipi River. 
  • Posting my 2006 exhibit at the Lancaster County Historical Society on how Lancaster remembered the Civil War.

January 14, 2012

Better Know a Soldier: Lewis H. Jones

Location: 311 S Queen St, Lancaster, PA 17602, USA

Union army camp scene (Mathew Brady via Fold3.com--Image ID B-270)
Lewis Jones unofficially served as a cook for Company H, 79th Pennsylvania.

Name: Pvt. Lewis H. Jones, Company H, 79th Pennsylvania
Born: December 5, 1824
Residence: 311 S. Queen St., Lancaster City (according to 3/24/1862 letter)
Occupation: Listed as "engineer" in 1860 census, although he was working in a restaurant for a Lancaster County miller named Jesse P. Ronk due to an economic downturn that hit Lancaster's industrial development pretty hard.
Death: Killed at Battle of Perryville, Kentucky, on October 8, 1862. 
Family: First marriage in 1844 to Mary Ann King with child William Henry Clay in 1845.  Second marriage on April 7, 1844, to Elizabeth Boullay/Boley/Boulalay with children: Paul James (1851-1853), Joseph Franklin (b. 1853-1933), Glancy (1855-1864), Washington (1857-1930), Theresa (1859-1940), and Freeland (1861-?). 

PA Civil War Veterans' Card File record for Lewis H. Jones.

Any research attempt to get accurate picture of the men of the 79th Pennsylvania suffers from a serious selection bias.  Illiterate soldiers tended to produce fewer letters, for instance.  Moreover, letters from soldiers to families that could be described as the working poor or working class seem to have had a very low chance of being saved.  Instead, the strongest historical voices from the Lancaster County Regiment come from well-educated men who hailed from economically stable families, often with deep roots in Lancaster County. 

Fortunately, we have a great exception in a year's worth of letters in the collection of the Lancaster County Historical Society from  Pvt. Lewis H. Jones.  Jones was one of a number of a identifiable group of "South Queen Street boys" who enlisted together in Company H, 79th Pennsylvania, and part of a family to whom the Civil War brought compounded tragedies. Jones' letters offer fascinating insights into how one soldier tried to help his wife, their four-then-five children, their relatives, and their neighbors avert disaster that always seemed to loom right around the corner. 

I mention Jones now for the emotional extremes he faced within a few days of each other as 1861 turned to 1862.  First, on December 28, 1861, his wife gave birth to their sixth son (fifth living).  The son was named Freeland after the teenage son of Jesse P. Ronk who with his wife employed Jones in their restaurant after he lost his industrial job and whom Jones held in high regard.  [Sidenote: Jesse P. Ronk was a wealthy miller near Bird-in-Hand.  The community Ronks in the heart of Amish country is supposedly named after Jesse Ronk]

Tragedy struck, though, nine days later when Jones' brother-in-law, Joseph Maxwell of Company C, 79th Pennsylvania, died on January 6 after minor complaints about irritation in the bowels somewhat suddenly took a fatal turn.  Jones, who would write letters for the illiterate Maxwell, and now took care of sending the body back to Lancaster for burial (at the cost of $40) and tended to Joseph's effects over the next month or two, sending much of his clothing back to Lancaster. 

As winter wore on, Jones' family, his sister-in-law's, and other South Queen St. families with men in the 79th Pennsylvania faced serious challenges for finding food, fuel, and medical care.  Lewis Jones even shipped discarded army clothing and food (dessicated vegetables with instructions to make soup) to his wife in March 1862 while the regiment was in Tennessee.  There was even a political and patriotic aspect of their suffering, as we'll revisit Elizabeth Jones, her sister, and her mother when they write an editorial in response to a smear campaign by one mayoral candidate against another that involved them.

There are many letter excerpts I'd like to present and historical angles to explore (what the letters say about relief work, marriage, life in the regiment, etc.), but I've hit the ceiling on the time I want to spend on this post.  I'll refer you to his letters, housed and transcribed at the Lancaster County Historical Society, and recently published in a book linked below. 

Sources and References:

January 12, 2012

'God save the American people from a government such as they would establish.'

Location: Munfordville, KY, USA
Unidentified Lancaster Soldier
Supposedly in 79th PA
Photo by Wm. Gill
(Richard Abel Collection)

Over the past couple days, a couple Civil War blogs (e.g., Civil War Memory) have lit up with discussions about the typically incendiary questions about motivations and causes of the Civil War.  Exchanges of ideas--some more illuminating than others--have, for instance, focused on Florida's reasons for secession and highlight the need to really to do good historical research if we want to have a basic grasp of people's incentives, motivations, and worldviews.  Although the question of why the North fought the Civil War does not get as much attention as why the South seceded, it's still a very difficult question to answer in a single soundbite, and I find myself still learning more and more as I dig into the primary sources.

So, coincidentally, 150 years ago this week, our 79th Pennsylvania soldier-correspondent, Corp. Elias H. Witmer (biography) of Company E, penned a lengthy letter to Lancaster's Daily Evening Express that exhibited some significant thoughts about the war, slavery, and the American political system.  It's colored by Witmer's background as a staunch Republican, a merchant who left a dry goods store in Mountville when he went to war, and a someone of old Mennonite heritage whose family over the generations had migrated to a more modern denomination.  Although Witmer was uniquely articulate in his views, I suspect his views represent a large number of enterprising and upwardly mobile Lancaster County farmers and merchants.

Looking at Paragraphs 7-10 as I've numbered them, we can infer a couple specific hopes and fears that can be connected to historians' more general assessments of the Civil War North.  In particular, it's fascinating how he views the Confederacy and its leaders as committed to forming an aristocracy that would destroy both the political freedoms and the economic opportunities of the upper-middle class with which Witmer personally identified.  His fears were heightened as the middle class seemed to be losing political and economic power across Europe, and he saw the Confederacy as part of a global trend against American values of capitalism, free labor, and social mobility and which sought to replace democracy with oligarchy.  Throw in some interest in the sufferings of Union sympathizers in the South and some apparently original poetry, and we get a much better sense of why Witmer left his Mountville dry goods store to join the Lancaster County Regiment. (Also, reference Gary Gallagher's The Union War for a generalization to the broader North, with some similar comments about Europe on pages 72-73.)

There's a lot more to this issue and others in the letter, such as views on alcohol and temperance, but that's enough for me tonight.  Enjoy another excellent 'E.H.W.' letter. 

From the January 11, 1862, Daily Evening Express (paragraph numbers are my addition):


CAMP WOOD, Ky., Jan. 7, 1862.

(1) The rainy weather which we have at present gives us leisure time, and I shall take advantage of the opportunity and write you a letter. Christmas is over and new year day has gone by; and we yet find ourselves in the State of Kentucky. Many in this army had expected to celebrate Christmas in Tennessee, but this expectation has not been realized. While our friends at home have enjoyed gay holidays, surrounded with luxuries incident to the occasion, there were over half a million of soldiers surrounding the camp fires, or some marching over frozen ground to the “gory field,” and some standing sentinel in some dreary spot, with a pilot biscuit to call to mind the days one year ago. But this was not the case with the “Lancaster County Regiment,” as almost every member was kindly remembered by his generous friends at home. The boxes sent as Christmas gifts to the volunteers in the army, were among the most welcome things in camp.

(2) An order has been issued by Gen. Buell to prohibit the sale of intoxicating liquors to all soldiers, which is among the most important orders of the army. Liquor had been sold in some regiments by the sutlers as freely as it is dealt out over the bar of a Lancaster groggery or lager from the swill tub of a Dutch brewery. No character is so disgusting as a drunken soldier, and while no army has ever gone to battle as the American army of 1861—characterized by so much morality, it would be injustice to them to allow a set of unprincipled sutlers to morally ruin the noble men who have sacrificed the comforts of home to fight the great battle of constitutional liberty. This great evil had, however, been confined to certain regiments, and bloated faces, greasy clothing, rusty muskets and a large sick list, were its fruits. Sutlers in general, rob the soldiers by exorbitant prices—which is bad enough, without robbing them of their manhood and ruining them forever. It is, however, a pleasant task to say that this is not the case with the “Lancaster County Regiment,” as the sound judgment of our commanding officer would, with his determined nature, drive the devils from his camp.

(3) The stupendous iron railroad bridge which spans Green river, and which had been partially destroyed through Buckner’s vandalism, is now under reconstruction and will be completed in about a week. A pontoon has been built for the crossing of the troops, which will do away with all fears of fording the stream.

(4) It is amusing to read the different reports published relative to the movements and position of Buell’s army, and charge him with inefficiency because he has not taken Bowling Green before this. Let such learn the vast labor to be performed before a battle at that point can be fought and a victory there won. The destruction of the bridge was the great and the only cause of our encampment at this point. This is now nearly finished, and when completed we are inclined to believe that we will advance. But we cannot sling our knapsacks and go at Bowling Green, as the railroad five miles in advance is torn up, the sills burnt, and rails destroyed, and every obstruction placed in our way which possibly could be done. The tunnel, three hundred feet in length, on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, about twenty miles south of this, is also blown up. Can any person expect that this division of the American army can be expected to march in advance of the railroad communication? The army must be fed and everything must be transported in the army wagons, and the present supplies of teams would fail to transport sufficient to keep it from starvation.

(5) Sudden marches upon Bowling Green are all a myth, and time is required before we can reach it. No army is more eager for an engagement whenever prudence shall dictate, but their friends shall not mourn their defeat through reckless bravery. I doubt whether you could find another division in the grand American army that is managed with so much judgment and forethought as this under Gen. Buell.

(6) Rebel scouts come within three miles of our picket line, in troops of two and three hundred. Their nearest encampment is ten miles south, near Cave City, under command of General Hindman, whose army numbers six or eight thousand and are called the advance of the rebels; but they might be more properly called the rear guard of their retreating forces. A Lieutenant who had been a prisoner at Bowling Green for several months, has been released and arrived at camp a few days ago, who reports their forces at 30,000 and they in a very unhealthy condition. Twenty-five hundred have died and five thousand have been sent to the Nashville Hospitals. Rebel deserters arrive daily, while scores of slaves arrive at camp with requests from their masters to give them protection. They are accepted and employed as private citizens, but no encouragement is given them by General McCook. On last week fifteen were stolen from the immediate neighborhood, and it is alleged by their masters that they are taken to Bowling Green, and there put into the rebel army, or sold for its benefit.

(7) It is a useless task to attempt to portray the treatment which the Union men received from the hands of the rebel army, as such an attempt would fail to chronicle the vile and atrocious conduct of men who seek to destroy the principles which governed their manhood, before the misguided leaders precipitated them in an unholy rebellion. A glance over the face of this community is the best description of their depraved, nature; houses are ransacked and deserted, lands uncultivated, business houses closed, and enterprise of every class stagnated.

(8) It is equally true of the rebel forces in Kentucky, as on the Potomac that they have sunk in morality to an extent unprecedented in American Society. Bowling Green is a heinous stage of corruption. Drunken brawls, brutal prize fights, assassinations, and riotous destruction—reigns supreme; vice has become honorable, rascality a virtue, and the men themselves very devils incarnate. Every rebel deserter brings the disgusting details of their depravity, loaded with crime, dyed in a brother’s blood, and their midnight hours, “when honest men repose,” are spent in orgies more frantic than Bachanalian revelry. Drunken with the fumes of plunder and the excitement of the gambling table, the boasted chivalry spend their days in serving their country. While their leader boasts that he has not come to destroy and make war upon the government, but only to protect the soil of Kentucky from the hordes of Northern invaders, he is piling up with one hand and puling down with the other. He speaks words of friendship, but practices deeds which a respectable demon would blush to own. A leopard cannot hide his spots, or a camel his hump, neither can Buckner his misguided career. The destruction of the bridge and railroad cannot be covered up by pretended innocence, but must be accounted for by a suspension in the air. Zollicoffer too, who has outraged the people and endeavored to subjugate Kentucky into the Southern Confederacy, in his late proclamation says that, “he does not come to wage war, but to protect the people.” He protects the people with his proclamation, but with fire-brand in the one hand and the dagger in the other, draws the life blood from the Union loving men, and scatters devastation wherever he goes.

(9) It becomes more apparent every day, that the leaders of this rebellion are striving to establish a government upon aristocratic principles.  Mason, Cobb, Davis, Floyd and Yancey would like to have an aristocracy. Would you? oh thoughtless millionaires who like to extract each day a few additional sweat drops from the brows of your industrious mechanics and ill paid laborers, whose daily bread is too often purchased with the very life-drops of anguish. They would dye the annals of their country with paupers’ tears, and blot out her glory with the blood stain of famished merchants. They boast loud of the workings of the government they aim to establish. “Oh ye traitors, turn to the tax ridden masses of England, whose hard earned mites are at most but half enough to satisfy the wants of nature. Oh! Ye howling herd of aristocratic wolves and noble vultures, extracting half of the poor man’s loaf, and for aught you care leave his family starve. Their aristocratic avarice must be satisfied, through human hearts bleed and immortal, souls are wrong to satiate their lust. God save the American people from a government such as they would establish.

(10) Turn to the laboring classes of Europe, bowed down by the shackles of an imbecile nobility, and read its fruits in the sunken eye, the haggard look, the emaciated frame and the half-clad form. Ask the “hewers of wood and drawers of water” of Britain, Russia, France and Austria. Ask the oppressed sentiments of the freedom loving men of the South, whether such a government is preferable to the domain over which the ensign of American liberty floats? Their hopes of establishing such a government is preferable to the domain over which the ensign of the American liberty floats? Their hopes of establishing such a government must eventually prove a dream of empty speculation. Truth and justice must ultimately triumph over error and wrong. Tyranny will be crushed and rebellion suppressed. Though our domestic strifes are not limited to wordy wars and our social leg is terribly fractured, our national neck never has been nor ever will be broken.

(11) The same patriotic impulses which beat around the camp-fires in the dark days of our national birth, and the sacred blood which stained many a battle-field in the “times which tried men’s souls,” will not be dishonored by the noble posterity who have gone forth in the present campaign. The South may foam, and England may bark, yet the United States will vindicate their honor in every emergence. Fear not, ye faltering sages who look out into the broad future and contemplate the result of the present issues-the cannons of peace will again boom in all the States freighted with the grand burthen of liberty, and the flash of exultant camp-fires will make the new world lurid—

Stand by the sacred flag of stars
Amid the cannon’s loudest rattle,
And pluck the hero’s honored name
Out of the smoke and flame of battle.

Fear never clouds the soldier’s brow
When whistling bullets sing of glory,
When clashing swords and waving plumes
Tell of the deeds that live in story.

Strike, fellow-soldiers, for the right,
Strike for the insulted land that bore you,
And falter not, while high in air,
The glorious stars and stripes wave o’er you.

March, brave men, march and never falter
Till traitors bow the willing knee,
Upon your country’s sacred altar
Rest every hope of liberty.

The “Constitution and the Union,”
Let this be made our battle-cry—
With rebel hosts hold no communion
Till, conquered, they for “quarter” cry.

Friends watch your actions, watch and love you,
Their prayers at night to God ascend,
That He’ll protect the flag above you,
And strength and wisdom to you lend.

Minstrels shall praise the glowing deeds,
In songs of grand heroics’ reason,
That vindicated God and Right
And crushed the myrmidons of treason.

Draw swords and bayonets in bravery
And march with hope and valor on,
Till treason’s perfidy and knavery,
Are with the evils past and gone.

E. H. W.


January 11, 2012

Back to the Green River: A Letter from Ben Ober

Location: Munfordville, KY, USA
Ambrotype of George and Elizabeth Pontz, who had two sons enlist in 1861 in Company K, 77th Pennsylvania, and by the war's end had three more sons join the same company.  All five brothers survived the war.
(Richard Abel Collection, which also includes a family album with a couple images identified to the Pontz family)

Getting back to the 79th Pennsylvania and the other Pennsylvanians encamped along the Green River near Munfordville, Kentucky, not much changed over the span of a couple weeks from late December into early January.  Dress parades, work details, and picket duty across the Green River and into the countryside pretty much summed up the life of the regiment.  I did miss two letters over the last two weeks--one from Lt. Ben Ober of the 77th Pennsylvania and another from Corp. Elias H. Witmer. 

Today's post republishes the letter of Ben Ober, the former local news editor of the Daily Evening Express.  It included a roster of Lancasterians in the 77th Pennsylvania, indicating that "Company Q" was finally settling in with the 77th Pennsylvania after sitting out as an orphan company for a couple weeks at Camp Nevin to protest its exclusion from the 79th Pennsylvania (see this post for more details). 

Check back tomorrow for a weightier letter with some interesting thoughts about the Union cause written by Elias H. Witmer. 

From the January 9, 1862, Daily Evening Express:


BANKS OF GREEN RIVER, Ky., Jan. 2, 1862.

We are still encamped on the banks of the emerald stream destined to henceforth hold a place in the memories of many sons of the old Keystone—if it does not, from “coming events,” occupy an important page in the history of our country. The railroad bridge is rapidly approaching completion, and I think in a few days it will be ready for travel. Besides this bridge two others have been thrown across the stream for the passage of the grand army of the Ohio. One of these is a pontoon bridge for the passage of cavalry and artillery. We cannot tell, therefore, how soon we may be ordered to advance. Our pickets now extend about a mile south of the river, within sight of the enemy’s pickets, and occasional interchanges of compliments, in the was of rifle balls, take place. The diversion is said to be very pleasant and exciting, except when a ball takes a notion to tickel the watchful sentinel in the neighborhood of the ribs or equally tender part. Picketing, by the way, has many pleasures as well as many pains. During the fortnight we have been encamped here our regiment has been out twice and we go again this evening to the south side of the river. The pleasant part of the duty is in the day time, when the weather is fair, and when it seems like an old-fashioned Lancaster picnic; the only thing wanting to complete the illusion is the absence of bright eyes and expansive crinoline. As it is, the boys at home would call is a “stag party.” The unpleasant part of the duty is at night, and especially towards morning, when the frost begins to encrust the leafless tress with a silver sheen. The poor sentinel must not be blamed if he then thinks of the comforts of his far-off home and sometimes says so in his letters. He stands silently beneath a tree, or in a fence corner, with eyes wide open peering through the gloom, and ears straining to catch the slightest sound of a stealthy foe. The snap of a twig or the fall of a nut may send the blood back, chilled to his heart, or if the sentinel should happen to be of an active turn, an unusual sound sends him gyrating around the biggest tree in his neighborhood. I have seen such things in my brief experience or soldiering. No fires are permitted on the outposts at night, they serving to attract the lurking for just us a candle attracts gallinippers in August.

We have occasional reports of the enemy, but I can give nothing authentic. The latest is that he is advancing towards Green River, and is now within six miles of us, forty thousand strong. That figure is too big. A collision between the two armies, however, like the advance along the Potomac, is “daily expected.” The Louisville Journal of yesterday, in a brief article says that a battle in this neighborhood is imminent, and as the editor of the Journal has evidently better authority upon which to case the prediction than your correspondent, I adopt his assertion and say, look out for stirring news from this quarter.

Lieut. J. S. Duchman, of Company K, arrived here on the evening of the 31st ult., bringing with him a detachment of men. The company is now as full as that of any other in the regiments in our neighborhood, and I send you herewith a transcript from the muster-in roll. I also send you the names of a number of other Lancasterians attached to Capts. Wimer’s and McNally’s companies, none of which have appeared in the Express. In addition to these we have two Lancasterians on the Regimental Staff, namely, Jacob E. Cassell, Quartermaster, and S. T. Davis, Adjutant. Both these gentlemen have proven themselves thoroughly competent for their respective posts, and are deservedly popular with both officers and me. Long may they wave.


(Company K, 77th Regiment, P. V., Col. F. S. Stambaugh, Fifth Brigade.)
Captain—Frederick S. Pyfer.
1st Lieutenant—Benj. H. Ober.
2d Jacob S. Duchman.
Orderly Sergeant—John C. Shroad,
2d James A. Haus,
3d Henry M. Erisman,
4th George L. Myers.
Quartermaster Sergeant—Geo. Conrad
1 John J. Hartley
2 Maris Alexander
3 Jacob Pontz
4 David B. Martin
5 Michael B. Huffnagle
6 Alex. Marshbank
7 John Obreiter
8 Henry Good
Drummer—John Glazier. Fifer—William Marks. Teamster—John Decker.

[List of privates in Company K, 77th Pennsylvania]

The following Lancasterians are in Company D:
Captain—John M. Wimer.

The following Lancasterians are in Company C, (Capt. M. McNally):


January 1, 2012

Happy New Year: Welcome to 1862!

Photo taken on the set of Gods and Generals, 2001. (vws)
School exams prevent me from posting through January 11, 2012.  I'll be back in action shortly after that, though.

Warm wishes for a Happy New Year!  Thank you to all who have visited this blog over the past five months.  Over the past week, I've had a couple of very encouraging conversations with various people in Lancaster that have made me feel like there is great potential and appetite for a mini-renaissance in local Civil War history. 

Looking forward to the next year, in 2012/1862 the military operations get much more interesting and the suffering will result in more serious challenges–practical and philosophical–for the Lancaster community. Some of the more interesting episodes include:
  • The 1862 Lutheran General Synod convention in Lancaster which addressed the war and slavery
  • The advent of the draft 
  • Dramatic highs and lows for the Army of the Ohio
  • The 1862 Congressional election (Thaddeus Stevens was the Republican candidate)
  • The Battle of Perryville and its aftermath for Lancaster. 
Unfortunately, due to studying for school exams, I'll start off the year slow by taking a break through January 11.  I have about three or four dozen ideas for posts in my head (in addition to a backlog of events from late 1861), so check back in ten days to find out what's going on in the streets of Lancaster and along the banks of the Green River.