August 16, 2015

With the Pennsylvania Reserves at Camp Wayne, June 1861

Location: West Chester, PA, USA
Mathew Brady image of camp of 1st Pennsylvania Reserves, June 1863. As seen in the center background of the image, the soldiers' June 1861 fascination with leaning on each other (recorded in the letter) continued two years later.
Although personal and professional priorities have limited my blogging this year, an inquiry about the Pennsylvania Reserves from a soldier's descendant gives me the opportunity to post the transcription of a soldier's letter.  This particular letter appeared in the weekly Lancaster Inquirer, a newspaper with limited surviving copies (which are not on microfilm but in the archives of 

Before heading south for the seat of war, the newly-formed Union Guards went east for a rendezvous in Chester County. On June 4, 1861, the Union Guards -- which later became Company B, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves -- under command of Captain Thomas Barton boarded a train in Lancaster for Camp Wayne. The following letter gives a picture of the company’s first week away from home and appeared in the June 15, 1861, Lancaster Inquirer:


West Chester, June 11th, 1861.

Mr. Editor: —Since you were kind enough to compliment the Union Guards, at the time of their primary organization, we have been literally overwhelmed by the “sunny smiles of adventitious fortune.” Since our departure, all prior difficulties vanished into “thin air,” and joy and gladness dispelled the vexation and discontent that had prevailed in our ranks. Although not strictly on the tented field, or by the bivouac fire, to recount brave deeds done, or bloody frays made victorious, our camp life furnishes its incidents to weave into an interesting tale. Fun and frolic, duty and labor are agreeably interspersed.

The first Regiment, under the State Reserve was formed last Sunday. The post of honor, through chicanery and favoritism was allotted to the Brandywine Guards: and our Company secured the second post. We do not desire to cavil or object now at this unjust disposition of the two companies, as regret is unavailing; but in all equity and honor, the first position was deservedly ours. This same finesse of management gave to Chester county all the prominent posts. The Lt. Colonel, McIntyre, is of the Brandywine Guards: the acting Adjutant is from the same Company: the Quartermaster is from Chester county. In short, all the loaves and fishes were appropriated by men from this section of the country. Biddle Roberts, the Colonel is a native of Pittsburg; and Samuel, the Major is from Carlisle.

The “Union Guards” are well furnished with musical instruments from the rattle of the “[?]bones” to the soft strains of the flute. – Every night, we have a gratuitous concert. – Since our arrival here, we have improvised and adopted a “cheer,” in honor of the “Union” Fire Company. It is given by spelling the word, “Union” three times, and pronouncing it each time, ending with a hiss, a bomb and a tiger. It is popular and temporarily “lionized” its authors. We have also introduced a new feature of evolution, not laid down in Hardee – called “the Company squat.” – The men are marched, in close order, so as to form a circle, when the command of “Company squat!” is given, when we sit down on each other’s knee. It is quite amusing to see the boys each the sport, which has become contagious, and as we have not secured the services of the Bummers’ Counsel, B.F. Baer, Esq, to get it copy righted (!) it has become adopted by the whole camp. I do not desire to be considered as a boaster, but our company is considered the best in the camp.

The ladies of West Chester are a little charish about visiting the Camp, as but few have as yet honored us with their presence. Our men are all well; but two or three being slightly indisposed since our arrival here. We have an excellent hospital here, fully supplied with all the necessary appurtenances. Dr. F. de W. Breneman of your city, is with us as Assistant Surgeon—a fact which gives our men great satisfaction.

I am quartered with the Captain, first and second Lieutenants, the four Sergeants, Corporal Hoffmeir, privates Rutler, Nauman, Steinhauser and that jolly typo, Nathan Bear. Our quarters are extensive and well arranged, as we have a dining room, bed room, and office parlor. Our bunks are weather tight, and well built, so that none can complain in rainy weather. We have three cooks detailed for the Company, and so far we have had plenty to eat. If short rations should ensue, be assured I will let you printers ventilate the matter! I am a firm believer in the power and efficacy of printers ink, as a curative to all abuses. Two men of Captain Neff’s Company refused to take the oath, and were drummed out of camp, by our drummer, Frank Haines, who, by the bye, is a “brick;” he is the life of the camp, and his presence is always welcomed in a crowd.—Out three cuisines, Geo. M. Bauman, William Dellet, and James Strachan, although not equal to Demonico, or Taylor, or Shultz Reese, deserve praise for their proficiency in providing for the inner man.

Ye Captaine Barton was tendered the post of Lt. Colonel of this Regiment, a position which he would have efficiently filled; but love for and pride in his company to whom he is devotedly attached prevented him accepting the position. They then insisted on him taking the place of Major; but this he also finely declined. Our Captain is by far the best drilled, disciplined and competent man here—a fact generally acknowledged. His men are devoted to him for his innumerable acts of kindness, courtesy, and attention. Our mess sends its respects to you. Sergeants Bauman and McCracken, and private Wm. Cox, and dozens of others desire to be remembered.

Yours truly,
O. S. Union Guards.

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