July 31, 2012

Cut Off

Location: Shelbyville, TN, USA
Monument of the 7th Penna. Cav.
(PA at Chickamauga and Chattanooga)
After the Union excursion to Chattanooga in early June 1862 (in which the 79th Pennsylvania played a central role), Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was sent to the area to organize cavalry to disrupt Union operations in the area.  In mid-July, Forrest's new command became active, striking Union cavalry detachments--including the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry--and taking them by surprise in an engagement known as the First Battle of Murfreesboro.

As the Confederate raid on Murfreesboro put Forrest's cavalry halfway between Nashville and the 79th Pennsylvania, it caused significant concern and sparked rumors in Lancaster.  Guerrilla forces also started acting up around this time, murdering Capt. T. H. Reynolds, sutler of the 78th Pennsylvania, in an ambush.

The 79th Pennsylvania continued camping and guard duties around Shelbyville, Tennessee, as Union troops began to build up in the area.  They guarded bridges, built forts, and played a minor role in the reactions to various emergencies in the region.  Various rumors reached Lancaster, including the wholesale capture of the 79th Pennsylvania, and updates from the regiments' soldiers correspondents (reprinted below) had the additional role of dismissing wild rumors.

Increased Confederate aggressiveness in this region foreshadowed a Confederate invasion of Kentucky that would shape the rest of the year.  Confederate commander Gen. Braxton Bragg began assembling his forces around Chattanooga and temporarily turned the war's tide in the Western Theater as he struck north for Kentucky.  The Union army, including the 79th Pennsylvania, followed and played a key role in the culminating event of Bragg's invasion, the Battle of Perryville, on October 8, 1862.

Three letters from soldiers in the 79th Pennsylvania appeared in the Lancaster Daily Inquirer covering the regiment's activity in this time period.  First, a letter from O.C.M. Caines of the Fencibles Band that appeared in the July 25, 1862, Inquirer: (alternate link)

Second, a letter from Charles W. Wiley of Company B from the July 28, 1862, Inquirer: (alternate link)

Finally, a full-length letter from Hospital Steward John B. Chamberlain from the August 8, 1862, Inquirer: (alternate link)

July 8, 2012

Capt. Emanuel D. Roath's Civil War

Location: Marietta, PA, USA
Last week, I posted about a couple lots and items sold at auction which I was sad to have missed.  Much to my surprise and pleasure, I was contacted by the new owner, John Mulcahy, of the photograph and diary of Capt. Emanuel D. Roath, Company E, 107th Pennsylvania.  John is a direct descendant of Roath, and purchased the items to preserve family history.  This post is based on some of the information he graciously shared with me, as well as other resources on Roath.   

CDV of Capt E. D. Roath
(Courtesy of John Mulcahy)
Few men in the annals of Lancaster's Civil War history better represent what it meant to lead a Civil War company than Emanuel Dyer Roath.  Holding the rank of captain did not just mean leading a group of men in battle, but it also meant having sufficient standing in the community to recruit, sending letters (and relics) to the hometown newspaper, urging soldiers and civilians to support the war politically, and even experiencing a little bit of officer politics.  

Born in Lancaster in 1820, Roath graduated from the Shippensburg Academy and began work as a teacher.  He came to Marietta in 1852 and worked in a lumber yard before being elected justice of the peace in 1854.  Following in his father's footsteps as a militia leader, Roath had led the "Maytown Infantry" militia before the war, and began drilling a partially full militia company shortly after the war's outbreak.  By November, recruits in the "'Squire's" company began trickling in to Camp Curtin with the plan of joining the 61st Pennsylvania.  After some shuffling and reorganization, Roath's command eventually ended up as Company E, 107th Pennsylvania, a regiment organized in March 1862, and gave themselves the nickname of the "Union Fencibles."  [WM 5/18, 11/16/1861]       

His first letter appearing in the Weekly Mariettian was to thank the ladies of Marietta for their Valentine's Day contribution of fifty-one pairs of mittens and other useful items.  The company's resolution made sure to state, "That if the young men (those able to leave their business,) were inspired with half the patriotism of woman, they would cheerfully join the army of the Union, so they would never be placed under the painful blush of cowardice, when in the presence of a patriotic lady."  

Roath's letters to the Weekly Mariettian continued through 1862, although as one of the regiment's senior captains he understandably did not find as much time to write as the regiment fought in more and more battles in fall 1862.  Although the regiment fought in just about all the battles of the Army of the Potomac, a quick glance at the roster reveals the toughest fights to have been the Battles of Second Bull Run and Gettysburg and the Siege of Petersburg.  Controversies occasionally arose, with the regiment's adjutant apparently having run-ins with Roath and other unnamed sources trying (unsuccessfully) to impugn Roath's bravery under fire around the time of the Battles of 2nd Bull Run and Antietam. [WM 10/11/1862

At Gettysburg, Roath's regiment stood along Oak Ridge with the First Corps as it tried to buy time on the battle's first day.  After the regiment's commanding officer was wounded, Roath took command of the regiment's few remaining men for the rest of the battle, most notably  leading them while on Cemetery Hill during Pickett's Charge.  Roath wrote a long and interesting letter two months after the battle for publication in the Mariettian [10/10/1863].  Its contents include the regiment's actions during and after Gettysburg, the Union party ticket for the 1863 elections, and the joy which the wounded men of the Second Division, First Corps, felt when they learned that the Patriot Daughters of Lancaster would be tending to their hospital at Gettysburg. 

Roath continued with the regiment through the Overland Campaign of 1864, but was captured at the Battle of Weldon Railroad (part of the Siege of Petersburg) on August 19, 1864.  Roath was confined for nine months in various prisons and was exchanged in February 1865 and mustered out shortly thereafter.  His diary entry for the day of his capture as well as a copy of a letter that Roath wrote from a prison in Danville, Virginia, appealing for better food, are presented below: (alternate link)

After the war, Roath continued his life in Marietta, serving as Justice of the Peace and in the State Legislature, leading a militia company, and joining various fraternities.  Roath died on September 12, 1907.  Now, just over a hundred years later, we are very fortunate to still gain many insights into his life and Civil War experiences through generous descendants and digitized newspapers.  To understand how the typical experienced the Civil War, it is necessary to understand how a Civil War company formed and fought, and this information pulled together about Capt. Roath from various sources help us to do just that.

If anyone else is interested in or research Capt. Roath, please feel free to post in the comments here, or send me an email, and I'll happily pass anything on to John Mulcahy.  There are many fascinating avenues of investigation about Capt. Roath and his life before, during, and after the Civil War, so any additional information would be eagerly received.      

July 4, 2012

A Fourth of July Barbacue with the 79th Pa and the People of Shelbyville, Tenn

Location: Shelbyville, TN, USA
Union Soldiers in Shelbyville, Tennessee
(Harper's Weekly October 18, 1862)
After their expedition to Chattanooga in early June 1862 and a couple weeks of rest afterwards, the next excitement in the annals of the 79th Pennsylvania was an Independence Day celebration hosted by the citizens of Shelbyville, Tennessee.  Hon. Edmund Cooper was the orator of the day, which also featured cannon salutes, a sword presentation to Capt. Michael Locher of Company H, and a feast thrown by the citizens for Union soldiers in the region.  Soldiers commented with a spirit of thanksgiving that there more ladies present than they had seen in a very long time.

Stuart A. Wylie
Editor, Inquirer
(Source: Ellis and Evans)
The food--corn bread, pork, and mutton alternately described as a "barbacue" and a "basket dinner"--was appreciated by the soldiers, even if it didn't quite live up to Lancaster County standards.  William T. Clark wrote in his diary, "There was plenty to eat but it was evident they did not understand getting up such dinner in the manner they do in Pennsylvania."  Elias Witmer unenthusiastically described the dinner in a Daily Evening Express letter "to show the Lancaster county people, who have every luxury at their command, how some of the rest of mankind live."

The day's events were recorded in a letter from Hospital Steward John B. Chamberlain published in a new outlet for news in Lancaster.  The Lancaster Inquirer under the editorial direction of Stuart A. Wylie began a daily version, the Daily Inquirer, in early July 1862, just in time to publish interesting news from the Seven Days Battles which must have been eagerly consumed by the people of Lancaster.  It would be Lancaster's second daily paper and would last for two years.  I believe most of the first year is accessible on microfilm, and it will be an invaluable source of information about the 79th Pennsylvania in late 1862 and early 1863. 

From the July 12, 1862, Daily Inquirer: (alternate link)

July 3, 2012

With the US Military Telegraph on the Peninsula Campaign

Location: Gaines Mill, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, USA
Lowe's Balloon Ascension (Source)
Seeing a post today by Craig Swain on the actions of the U.S. Signal Corps jostled my memory to remind me that there was a letter about telegraph operations in the Daily Evening Express from June 1862.  Parker Spring, a resident of Lancaster, had the exciting role of superintending construction of the United States Military Telegraph for General McClellan during the Peninsula Campaign.  His most interesting moment might have been running a telegraph wire to Prof. Thaddeus Lowe in his observation balloon.

Here's his letter, which appeared in the June 10, 1862, Daily Evening Express (alternate link).  Note that this letter was also excerpted in the New York Times and various other papers.

July 1, 2012

Auctions I Missed

Civil War Grouping of Capt. William D. Reitzel, Co. G, 2nd Penna. Reserves
Sold by Alderfer Auctions in 2010
Although my research on this site primarily relies upon soldiers' accounts published in period newspapers (and occasionally something from the Lancaster County Historical Society), documents and photographs in the hands of private collectors can also play a very important role in telling Civil War stories.  Furthermore, they give a little bit of thrill and tragedy to Civil War research, as you never know what's going to pop up next...and what happens to it after someone buys it. 

Recently, web searches have allowed me to find three auction lots that are very important for our understanding of Lancaster and the Civil War.  Unfortunately, all three lots were from past auction catalogs, so the items are now likely in the hands of private collections.  Coincidentally, all three lots related to officers whose correspondence was regularly printed in Lancaster newspapers.  The auction lots were:
Adam C. Reinoehl
Heritage Auctions, 2008
  1. CDV of Sgt. Major Adam C. Reinoehl.  Heritage Auctions, 2008.  Valedictorian of F&M's Class of 1861, Reinoehl wrote a series of twenty or so very interesting letters from Union operations in South Carolina in 1862-3 and then in Virginia in 1864.  Wounded in the assault on Battery Wagner, I believe this photograph was taken while he recovered from his wound in Lancaster.  See more information in this post I wrote about him back in January.  
  2. Diary of Capt. Emanuel D. Roath, Company E, 107th Pennsylvania.  Cowan's Auctions, June 2011.  Perhaps the most prominent Civil War soldier from Marietta, Lancaster County, Roath frequently wrote about a dozen or so letters to the Weekly Mariettian.
  3. Civil War Grouping of Capt. William D. Reitzel, Company G, 2nd Pennsylvania Reserves.  Alderfer Auctions, March 2010.  Reitzel recruited a company out of Landisville that joined up with the Pennsylvania Reserves as a replacement company in July 1862.  He corresponded occasionally with the Lancaster Daily Inquirer.  
I'm not as concerned about the Reinoehl CDV, as it can be downloaded from the website and duplicates might exist, but not getting to read the Roath or Reitzel diaries, or getting to see the pictures clearly, really eats at me.  If anyone has information about the fate of these primary sources, please let me know.