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)

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