May 19, 2012

Sypher Dispathes: 'Little Wee Blue-Bellied Yankees'

Location: Pulaski, TN 38478, USA
Newspaper Cart and Vendor in Camp (Alexander Gardner, Library of Congress)
The following post features the second and third letters written by Lancaster's civilian adventurer and journalist J. R. Sypher in a grand tour of the Western Theater in May and June1862.  See this post <link> for an introduction to his tour.

Five days after leaving Lancaster, Josiah Sypher finally reached the encampment of Gen. Negley's division on May 7, 1862.  A letter he wrote the following day describes his journey from Louisville to Columbia, Tennessee, essentially retracing the route that the 79th Pennsylvania marched between October 1861 and March 1862.  Sypher's comments touch on the state of the railroads, the desire among soldiers for newspapers, and conditions in Nashville and Columbia.  Sypher had just missed the excitement following the capture of Capt. Kendrick's detail and the expedition to Pulaski by a battalion from the 79th Pennsylvania, which I posted about two weeks ago

His next letter, dated May 12, recounts the forward movement of some infantry, artillery, and cavalry commanded by Gen. Negley from Columbia to Pulaski.  After Negley and his bodyguard, a section of artillery coincidentally commanded by Sypher's brother, Lieut. A. J. Sypher, led the march followed by the 79th Pennsylvania mounted on wagons and the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry.

Enslaved African-Americans along the route made an impression upon J. R. Sypher, a staunch if not Radical Republican who took the time to "converse with a large number of these peculiarly situated people."  See his second letter posted below for an interesting description of those conversations, and Sypher's impression of their view of the world and of the Yankees ("wee men wid blue bellies, so small that you couldn't hardly shoot 'em.").  Sypher concludes by focusing on the vexing question of what the Union Army will do with the slaves in occupied territory, "the most important interrogatory of the age," and describing how he struggled to give an answer to an old man "whose soul was panting for freedom."            

Map of Tennessee from Columbia to Pulaski (Extracted from 1863 Map)
<View here>

With apologies for a corrupted image files late in the letter, here is Sypher's letter from May 8 published in the May 14, 1862, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

And from the May 19, 1862, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link

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