June 2, 2012

Sypher Dispatches: Florence, a Truce Party, and back to Columbia

Location: Florence, AL, USA
Florence, Alabama (Wikipedia)
This post contains the sixth, seventh, and eighth letters of Lancaster journalist and adventurer J. R. Sypher.  Read an introduction here

After chasing away Confederates from the opposite side of the Tennessee River and a somewhat daring raid in which some boats were burned and captured, the 79th Pennsylvania's next mission was a march to the town of Florence, Alabama, about twenty miles downriver from Rogersville.  Advance elements took the city on May 16, and the main body arrived the next day. 

Occupying Florence--in which the Lancaster County boys under acting Provost Marshall Capt. Morris D. Wickersham represented themselves well--seemed to appeal to 79th Pennsylvania.  As a sidenote, Wickersham actually spent much of the rest of his life in Mobile, Alabama, as a lawyer and minor politician there.  Sypher noted, teasing Wickersham (whom he likely knew well through education causes in Lancaster):
This morning Captain Wickersham was sent in with two companies to picket and guard the town, and when it was seen how good looking and well-behaved the Lancaster soldiers were, to say nothing personal of the officers, the ladies of Florence really put on their nice things, not rough home-spun, and appeared in the streets and at the door-ways, it is feared to a damaging extent, for many of the boys say they would "like to remain awhile."

Otherwise, the most noteworthy news item was the exchange of the notorious Confederate Cavalryman John Hunt Morgan's son for the son of Union Gen. Ormsby Mitchel.  Gen. Negley graciously allowed J. R. Sypher to accompany the truce party, and his letter describes what he saw within Confederate lines. 

Monument in Lawrenceburg, TN

The week-long expedition ended on a very sour note, though, as the regiment received orders to march hurriedly northward.  They stopped at one o'clock in the morning to bivouac on the Tennessee-Alabama line.  The next day took them on a wilderness road to Lawrenceburg, Tennessee, and another day's march in the rain got them to Mount Pleasant, Tennessee, and a camp they called Camp Duchman after the regiment's aged (and mostly irrelevant) lieutenant colonel.  The command finally reached their old camping grounds at Camp Morehead in Columbia on May 21 or 22. 

Sypher, who had probably been spending time with his brother's artillery section, returned to the Lancaster County Regiment and was outraged to see men of the 79th Pennsylvania without shoes, which launched him into a tirade about a Army quartermaster and feelings about Jewish speculators similar to that what Gen. Grant had when he expelled Jews from the Western Theater later that year. 

Other topics in Sypher's letters include:
  • Unkind words for Negley's staff officers' handling of the march.
  • Outrage at the 5th Kentucky Cavalry (Col. Haggard), which was "especially notorious and obnoxious as slave catchers".
  • Comical indignation at being mistaken for a chaplain.
  • Policies by Tennessee's Governor Andrew Johnson to punish those who destroy Unionists' property
  • A review of Capt. Standart's Ohio battery
  • The forced opening of Columbia's churches so that Union soldiers could attend
Since there are three letters, I won't embed them here but instead will provide the links:
  1. May 17, 1862, Florence, Ala., in the May 24, 1862, Daily Evening Express
  2. May 22, 1862, Columbia, Tenn., in the May 31, 1862, Daily Evening Express
  3. May 28, 1862, Nashville, Tenn., in the June 5, 1862, Daily Evening Express

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