June 2, 2012

'E.H.W.' Reviews the 'Wild Goose Hunt' to Alabama

Location: Columbia, TN, USA
Echoing J. R. Sypher's description of Negley's Alabama expedition is a letter by the 79th Pennsylvania's regular correspondent, Corp. Elias H. Witmer (bio). He has a stinging review of the Alabama town of Rogersville, which displays full Lancaster County snobbery on the two matters of which a 19th-century Lancasterian would be most proud: public education and farm management:
Rogersville is a small post village, and one of the smallest kind, in Limstone county. It is one of those towns which we find at almost every cross road in the northern states, containing a smith shop, dwelling, and school house; but the town, however, is minus the latter. It is black as "Tow Hill" [in Columbia, PA]; occupied almost entirely by the same race of people; was built by the first settlers, who, from appearance, had great antipathy to white-wash, paint, and elbow grease. The country is as barren as Patagonia; their cattle &c., as poor as Job's famous turkey, and the citizens very ready to take the oath of allegiance,and then--cut your throat. Land sells from a dime to five dollars an acre, and produces excellent crops of mullin and thistles. Their plows are self-sharpening land pike, and their swine such as require knots tied in their tails to prevent them from getting into the potato patch. Each family supports a score of cats, and a dozen dogs, which receive more care and attention than their children, and their continual barking makes the nights hideous. The people, in general, live and die in ignorance. Other people think for them, and thus they become and remain the dupes of another's will.
Witmer had kinder words about Florence, which gave him an opportunity to talk about the prevalence of Pennsylvania families who had immigrated to the region. It seems to have been a common theme for the regiment at this time, as a couple soldiers mention these types of connections. For example, back at Columbia, Tennessee, William Clark recorded in his diary that "This morning I took a walk through the cemetary in the northern part of the town and saw the graves of several from Pennsylvania & New Jersey." [5/25/1862]

Statue of Tennessee's Military
Governor Andrew Johnson
Witmer connected Southern Unionists' experiences to anti-war Northerners, writing:
Wherever we find Pennsylvanians, there we find a love for the whole country; and it is a remarkable and deplorable fact, that while they in the south have remained true to the country, when persecutions were hurled at them thick and fast, and stood like martyrs when threats of the stake, the gallows and the knife were daily occurrences, that there are sympathisers in the north with their hellish deeds. Sympathy in the north for men who are in league with hell! We can scarcely believe it, yet in comes to us in glowing language upon the wings of the press every day. Oh, ye northern rebels, make peace with your God, the hour of retribution is fast approaching.
He also makes an interesting prediction that the war will end in guerrilla warfare based on what he was seeing happening to Unionist citizens, and endorsed Military Governor Andrew Johnson's efforts to protect Unionists and punish those who harmed them.    

From the June 2, 1862, Daily Evening Express: (alternate link)

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