Historical and biographical sketches/15 Six Weeks in Uniform
SIX WEEKS IN UNIFORM.
My only reason for writing the following narration of the events which transpired, relating particularly to myself, during a short term of military service, is that the scenes and occurrences may be described while they are still fresh in my memory, and the impression of them vivid and distinct. It must have been noticed in the experience of every one, that however deep and strong may be the marks which particular circumstances have made upon our feelings, time will gradually erase one point after another, wear off the edges, and render the whole dim and uncertain. I have therefore determined to write truthfully, minutely, and as clearly as possible, whatever occurred within my own observation during that time, thinking that in future years it may be a satisfaction to me to read what has here been transcribed. — Philadelphia, November 22d, 1863.
For several days previous to June 16th, 1863, there had been considerable excitement in reference to a raid, which it was said, the rebels were about to make into Pennsylvania, and there were even rumors flying about that there was a large force of them already in the southern portion of the State, and that Greencastle had been burned. Gov. Curtin, evidently alarmed, had issued a proclamation calling upon the people to rally to the defence of the commonwealth, but for some reason, it was not responded to with any alacrity, and almost everywhere the apathy with which it was received, seemed to speak ill for the spirit and patriotism of the community. In a few of the country towns, there was some little effort to raise men, and in Philadelphia, a meeting was held, the newspapers called on the citizens with glowing words to volunteer, but nobody appeared to he willing to shoulder the musket.
In the meantime the Governors of New York and New Jersey had offered their regiments of organized militia, and a number of them had already been sent to Harrisburg, which made the matter look still worse for the Pennsylvanians. Among the causes for this general sluggishness, I may mention the following: the idea impressed upon the minds of many Democrats that the report was gotten up for political purposes, and Gov. Curtin wanted to entice them into the service to keep them from the polls; the fact that during the preceding summer, the militia had been called out but were not made use of in any way; and the opinion of most persons that it was a mere cavalry raid which would be settled without much difficulty, and there was no necessity for such a great disturbance or interfering with the transaction of business. During the day first mentioned, I had thought continually upon the subject, and come to the conclusion to join a company, if any of my friends would be willing to go with me. So after work in the evening, I went over to Phoenixville, and after talking awhile about it proposed to some of them to go up to Harrisburg and unite with some company there, as there was but little prospect of one being raised in our own neighborhood. Horace Lloyd seemed to think well of it, but being unable to give a definite answer without first consulting with Mr. Morgan, promised to let me know early in the morning whether he could be spared from the bank — so I returned home undecided. Immediately after breakfast the next day I went to hear Lloyd's answer, and found the town in a perfect furore of excitement. Some further news had been received, the Phoenix Iron Co. stopped their works, and offered to pay $1 per day to each man in their employ who would enlist, and two companies were then filling up rapidly, one under their auspices particularly, and the other seemingly under the charge of Samuel Cornett, Jos. T. McCord, John D. Jenkins, &c.
Going into Ullman's sitting room where V. N. Shaffer was writing down the names of recruits rapidly, I was informed that they expected to leave for Harrisburg in the 9½ A. M. train. As it was then 8 o'clock, the time for preparation was exceedingly short, so telling Shaffer to put my name among the rest, I hurried home to get my things ready. I believe mother would have made more objection to my going than she did, but I was in such a hurry that she had very little opportunity. However, she made considerable opposition, but perceiving that I was decided, assisted me in tying up a red horse blanket with a piece of clothes line so that it could be thrown across the shoulder, prepared some provision consisting of a piece of cheese, several boiled eggs, with sundry slices of bread and butter which were put in one of the boys' school satchels, and a tin cup fastened upon the strap, and thus accoutred, I bade all good-bye, except grandfather who was out in the field, and hastened over to town. In the meantime the departure of the company had been postponed until evening, and being formed in ranks by McCord, we marched through the borough in the dust to the sound of the fife and drum, and returning to the hotel held an election for officers, in which John D. Jenkins was chosen Captain, Jos. T. McCord, 1st Lieutenant, and A. L. Chalfant, 2d Lieutenant. The captain had been in the Mexican war, was a long while High Constable, and had the reputation of being very brave and determined, but was entirely unacquainted with the modern drill, and it seems to me, rather slow in thought and action.
McCord was along time in Company G. First Reserves, participated in the Peninsular battles — was thoroughly booked up in Hardee, thought by many to be of a tyrannical disposition but I preferred him to any of the others. Chalfant was in Mexico and now keeps a kind of a saloon in Phoenixville.
After the election we were dismissed with orders to meet at the same place at four P. M. I bought some necessary articles, a flannel shirt and a large knife and went home to dinner more deliberately than before. At the appointed hour we left Ullman's and marching down to the depot filled a special car which had been procured. As we passed Dr. Whitaker's, Andy's mother called to him that he must not go, but he continued with us.
He had been trying to persuade her to give her permission all day, but she refused, although his father consented. There was a tremendous crowd at the depot who cheered with their accustomed vigor as the cars passed away at half past four. At Pottstown a large number of persons were collected who told us that a company from that place expected to leave on the following day. Through the kindness of Mr. Thomas Shaffer and some others we had on board several fine hams and a quantity of water crackers which were served around at about supper time and made a very good meal. A number of the men had taken care before leaving Phoenixville to lay in a good supply of liquor and consequently were soon in a drunken and noisy humor. However, we were all noisy enough and being in excellent spirits, sang patriotic songs and cheered and shouted incessantly. Before we reached Reading a heavy storm of rain passed over us and the appearance of the sky seemed to indicate continued wet weather. At the latter place the train was delayed at least an hour, taking on the troop cars, and running backward and forward, so that as night was approaching our present prospect of seeing the Lebanon valley which was new to the most of us, was very slim. George Ashenfelter here brought on to the cars a company of rowdy firemen, who were nearly all of them drunk, and took a great delight in fighting with a number of negroes on the train. Nobody had any control over them except George, though he managed them without much difficulty, by occasionally knocking one or two down. We arrived at Harrisburg about half past ten o'clock. I recall with considerable amusement the expectation I had formed of what would be our reception. I had supposed as a matter of course, and I think many of the rest had the same idea, that the Governor would have some officer at the depot ready to receive us, comfortable quarters prepared for us, and treat us as if we were of some consequence.
We were, therefore, surprised, and our feelings somewhat chilled, to find that we were left to provide for ourselves and seek accommodations as best we might. As a company we represented so much strength, but personally we were of no importance whatever. This doctrine, universal in the army but new to us, was forced rather abruptly upon our notice, and the contemplation of it formed our first experience in military life. To reconcile our minds to it was the first difficulty to be overcome. After deliberating a while we started for the Capitol. As we marched through the streets people inquired where we were from and cheered us loudly, shouting “Bully for Phoenix,” &c., but we made the observation, and some gave expression to it very pointedly, that for a town which was said to be in great danger of capture, and whose inhabitants had been packing up their effects, and removing them and their persons to other cities for safety, there were entirely too many men in the streets and on the corners who appeared to be taking matters as coolly as if there was no cause for disturbing themselves.
A feeling of displeasure could not be repressed when thinking that we had come a hundred miles from a sense of duty while those in the immediate vicinity of the Capital, who had every incentive to arouse themselves, were doing nothing. What before was uncertain and undefined became open indignation on reaching the Capitol buildings. The Copperhead convention, which had assembled for the purpose of nominating a candidate for governor, had just chosen Judge Woodward, and held possession of the hall and seats of the House of Representatives, shouting, hurrahing and making inflammatory speeches, while the pavement, the stone porch, and the floor of the galleries were covered with militia, trying to sleep amidst the din. The thought was enough to anger a saint — the Capital of the State threatened by the rebels, the Governor almost beseeching men to come to the rescue, and those who respond compelled to lie outside upon the stones and listen to the disloyal yells of the enemies of the country comfortably quartered within.
Lloyd, Andy and myself went all over the building searching for a lodging place, and finally pitched upon the stone porch as the most eligible spot, being covered by a roof, more clean, cool and less crowded than the inside. Several of the men chose the pavement, but as it rained during the night they were driven within. I spread out my horse blanket, put my bread satchel under my head, and endeavored to go to sleep, but the novelty of the position, the solidity of the bed, and the unpleasant practice the man above me had of putting his boots on my head, rendered it almost impossible. I finally dozed and dreamed a little, with the shouts of the Copperheads ringing in my ears. About one o'clock they adjourned, and came out stepping over us, and went to their hotels, all of which they had previously engaged and crowded. The men groaned and cursed them, damned Woodward, McClellan, and traitors generally, and there were several fights in consequence. I awoke Andy and Lloyd, and proposed moving our quarters into the hall, which Andy and I did, and slept the rest of the night in the seats there, very pleasantly, but Lloyd remained outside. A number of our fellows amused themselves in destroying copies of the “Age” and other papers of like character, which packed up ready for mailing, had been left behind. In the morning, we were awake by daylight, with eyes swollen, and feeling very little refreshed by the night's slumber.
After breakfast, I wrote home to mother, to report progress thus far, and we then strolled over the grounds, walked down to the Susquehanna, and wandered about over the town. There were great efforts made by some to find a breakfast in the town, which was almost impossible, so that we three contented our appetites with what we had brought with us.
Before long, we learned that there was a good bit of discontent manifested among the militia, and we were told that orders had been issued not to accept any for a less term than six months, and already many talked about returning home, as they had come with the expectation of serving as the militia hitherto had done, many having their business matters at home demanding their attention, and they had no idea of remaining for that length of time. About nine o'clock we were ordered to fall in, and having taken my place in line, Shaffer came to me and said, “Your place is in the rear.” “What is that for?” I asked. “Sergeants always are in the rear of the company,” was the reply, so I took my station accordingly. The names of the non-coms, were then read to' us, viz.: Sergeants Smith, Vanderslice, Shaffer, Pennypacker and Keeley.
The Corporals I have forgotten, though Lloyd, Caswell, and Sower were among them. We then marched out to Camp Curtin, and were taken to one corner of the camp, very near to the railroad, and by the side of a small tree which stood there. A wheat field was within a few rods, and it answered the same purpose for which an out-house is used generally. On the opposite side of the railroad, and some distance off was a farm house where we got water, went to wash, and sometimes bought milk. It had also attached to it, a fine orchard, the shade of whose trees afforded a pleasant spot to loll and rest upon. About noon we were furnished with wedge tents, and Lloyd, Shaffer, Keeley, Andy and myself having concluded to bunk together, chose one, put it up, and floored it with boards. At that time, there were few companies in camp, but they soon commenced to flock in rapidly. A company numbering one hundred and twenty men came up from Phoenixville in the evening. They comprised,, principally, the men and bosses employed by the iron company, and as the result proved were of great disadvantage to us. Joe Johnson, John Denithorne, &c., were the officers. Many of them had no desire to go into service, but came up simply on account of the excitement, and because they disliked to remain at home amid so general a movement.
During the day, the subject of being sworn into the service of the United States had been discussed among our men with various expressions of opinion. Some seemed willing to accept it, some were indignant thinking they had been deceived, and others appeared only anxious to back out entirely. The only alternative offered was the “existing emergency” or “six months.” The latter was a long time under the circumstances, and the croakers among us said the former might last until the war was over, as, if we were once sworn in, the government could keep us as long as it chose. Sam. Cornett and others who had been very active in forming the company, and eager to show their patriotism and spirit, went home, giving as a reason that the hay crop must be attended to or some similar excuse.
Their course, it seems to me, was extremely reprehensible; as they should have thought of their business matters before they left home, and to my certain knowledge several who saw these prominent citizens, so earnest in offering themselves and so ready to withdraw, were considerably influenced by it in their future movements. We had already commenced drawing rations, and had made our first trial of “hard tack,” “salt horse,” pork, &c., and were surprised to find them much more agreeable than we had expected. At our first meal we had salt beef, and after eating for some time, one of the party expressed his satisfaction at the good quality of the meat, which was echoed by all the rest, except Lloyd, who did not appear to relish it much, and innocently inquired, “Did yours smell bad?” We told him that it did not, and upon examining his portion, discovered he had received an offensive spoiled piece, which he was uncomplainingly endeavoring to force down. “Well,” he said, “I thought I was in the army, and had to eat it.” with such an air of innocence and resignation, that it threw us all into a roar of laughter. He has'nt heard the last of it yet.
In the morning and evening we were drilled pretty severely by Lieut. McCord who understood the tactics thoroughly. After morning drill, Andy, Lloyd and myself went with the Captain and Second-Lieutenant into Harrisburg to see Governor Curtin upon some business. At the Capitol we met Sing. Ashenfelter who accompanied us. While there we took the opportunity of “drawing” some envelopes from the Governor's private box. Afterward we four walked about town for a time, when Sing. left us promising to come out to camp in the afternoon.
Returning we stopped in a confectionery and bought three small pies which we were devouring as we walked along the street, when we overheard some benevolent old lady in spectacles who eyed us attentively remark: “Poor fellows! how they enjoy them.” The idea of applying the epithet to a set of fellows who were only two days from home, as if they were suffering from starvation, seemed rather comical. However, the old lady displayed a sympathising heart. A little fellow sang out in the popular slang “How are you pies?” By night the camp ground was nearly filled up with tents and the room for drill was necessarily curtailed. During the night it rained and we were consequently somewhat chilly. Another great difficulty in the way of sleep was that our tent was only a few yards from the Pennsylvania Railroad and on account of the extraordinary amount of business, trains were running upon it continually day and night. As they approached the camp the engineer commenced to blow his whistle, and the shriek could be heard at a distance first, then rapidly coming nearer and growing fiercer until opposite the tent, when the sound had accumulated to such a pitch, it seemed like the unearthly yells of some foul fiend, or the dying shrieks and groans of some deep chested Titan giving vent to intense agony. Lloyd would jump straight up from his blanket with “Damn, I thought it was the Devil.”
(Saturday, June 20th.) We arose as usual at day-break, and as there was some difficulty in getting the men to go for water Lloyd and myself volunteered and filled the kettles at the farm house. After some battalion drill in which I, as a sergeant, cut a very awkward figure, finding it almost impossible to keep from getting tangled up, Lloyd, Sing., Andy and myself again went into Harrisburg, and crossing over the tottering wooden bridge which spans the Susquehanna, climbed up the very steep hill on the western bank of that river upon which they were busily engaged throwing up fortifications. A large number of men were employed and the plan of operations was, after placing a line of hogsheads filled with gravel forming the enclosure, to dig a deep ditch on the outside and bank the earth up against them. The back of the fort toward the river and town terminated on a very steep bank in some places like a precipice. We examined the whole area very attentively and thought it quite a pleasant place, though I came to a •different conclusion a week or two afterward. Upon leaving it Sing. took the cars for Carlisle, and we returned to camp. During our absence a dispatch had been received from the Phoenix Iron Company, telling their employees not to be sworn into the U. S. service, and if they were they would not be paid the promised bounty and might lose their positions at home. Such a course of action after making bona fide engagements and by means of them inducing men to go, then to veer around, break their own promises, and oppose the accomplishment of the very purpose for which they started, was, to say the least of it, exceedingly small. Governor Curtin had also been in camp and made a speech, saying that it was necessary to be sworn into the government service in order to receive equipments, clothing and pay, that it was a disgrace to Pennsylvania that while New York regiments were hurrying toward the line, her own sons were delaying from a mere matter of form, and that he pledged his word they should be sent home as soon as the emergency was over. Some who heard him were satisfied. Ralston Caswell and Tom. Reddy joined the Pottstown Company. John Denithorne's men took a vote upon the subject, and only two of them, Sam. and Charlie Milligan, were willing to remain. Colonel Jennings came down to see the Captain with the object of getting our own company into his regiment, which was then being formed, and all who were ready numbering forty-five marched up to the quarters of the mustering officer to be sworn in, but to our great mortification after waiting for a time we were taken back to the tents. Lieutenant McCord then told us that with those men we could only retain our Lieutenants, and would lose our Captain, to which he and all the rest objected. Toward evening Denithorne's company and a large number of ours left for home.
(Sunday.) Early in the morning two or three of us went over to see Owen Eachus, who was orderly sergeant of a company of students from Lewisburg. The next company to us on the ground was from a college at Gettysburg and I struck up quite an acquaintance with one young fellow who was guarding the officers' tent. I will have more to tell of them hereafter. Sometime in the day Colonel Jennings sent word that we could retain our officers with fifty men and we made desperate exertions to raise the required number, calling the roll frequently and endeavoring to hunt up recruits through camp. It was all in vain however, as we never got above forty-eight. At noon Mr. Ashenfelter left for Phoenix and I sent a letter home by him. Colonel Ramsey arrived from the Iron Company with another order recalling positively their hands, which was read aloud and completely destroyed what little hope was left. Cyrus Nyce and Web. Davis from the Pottstown company came over to our tents and tried to persuade some of us to go with them, as they only numbered seventy-five men and had some fears of losing their Captain, whom they represented to be the most desirable kind of a man.
(Monday). As there was no possibility of our raising. a company, the only choice left to those of us who still remained was to go home or join some other party and nearly all, disliking the latter alternative, and concluding that having held out as long as there was any chance of effecting an organization they had done all that could be expected of them, determined to return in the first train. I was in a dilemma. I disliked the idea of going home in that manner, considering it dishonorable and discreditable in itself and dreading jeers which I knew must be endured and to a certain extent would be merited. I also had a strong inclination to try what a solder's life was like and to know something of it from experience. But in order to do this, it was necessary to bid farewell to my friends and place myself for an indefinite length of time in a company of strangers, among whom I would be of no importance whatever, with the prospect of having the roughest duties to perform, which I knew would be doubly unpleasant from being galling to my pride. I deliberated upon the matter for some time but finally concluded to remain, and having made my determination, I felt more free. While I was thinking over it, Joe. Rennard came to me and said that if I would remain he would do so too. I afterward told him what conclusion I had come to and we agreed to stick together. A man by the name of Combe went with the Gettysburg students; Caswell and Reddy as mentioned before had joined the Pottstown company; and now David R. Landis, John Rhodes, John B. Ford and Richard Renshaw, alias “Tucker” expressed their intention of going with us. After some consultation, we considered it best to unite with the Pottstowners, and having collected our baggage we carried it up to their tents, which were just inside the gate and were kindly received by Lieutenant Richards who told us we would be mustered in sometime during the afternoon, I was very favorably impressed with that gentleman and had no reason afterward to change my opinion. Rennard and I concluded to “bunk” with Reddy and Caswell, or "Rolly" as we called him, while the others put up a tent for themselves. After depositing our blankets, Joe and I went into Harrisburg for the purpose of bidding farewell to those “homeward bound.” We found them at the depot and Lloyd and Andy walked up with us to the Capitol grounds where we sat and talked until it was time for us to return. I felt more sorry to part with them than anything else. On our way back we met Chalfant pretty thoroughly tight, and he invited us very cordially to go into a tavern close at hand and take a parting drink. Upon my refusal, he informed me I would get over that nonsense before I was long away. We reached camp in time for dinner, which consisted of rice so miserably cooked and badly burned that I could not eat a bit of it. I discovered immediately the difference between our Phoenix cook and the present one, who was a dirty, filthy old villain entirely unacquainted with his business. The company was made up of three parties, numbering in all over eighty men, of whom eight were from Phoenixville, about a dozen from Pine Grove, and the remainder from Pottstown. The officers were as follows, viz.: Captain, George Rice, who had been married very recently and was called from his wedding tour to take command of the company; First Lieutenant, Henry Potts; Second Lieutenant, Mark H. Richards; Sergeants, Dyer who did not understand the drill and whose only recommendation was his physical power, Sheetz a noble fellow who had already received two honorable discharges from the service, and who was then suffering from the effects of a ball which at Fredericksburg entered his breast and came out below the right shoulder, Lessig a one-eyed man to whom I took a strong dislike from the first time I saw him, and Meigs and Bert. Lessig; Corporals Evans, Davis, Lloyd, MacDonald, &c. Through the liberality of the citizens, the company had come from Pottstown thoroughly armed, clothed and equipped, and on that account was made Provost Guard of the camp. About five o'clock we went to the mustering officer, were each called by name, told to take off our hats and hold up our right hands, and were sworn “to serve the Government of the United States during the existing emergency against all enemies whatsoever;” a remarkably short and simple ceremony — but five minutes before we were our own men, now we belonged to Uncle Sam.
That affair was scarcely concluded, when I heard the lieutenant say, “Corporal Evans, I guess these men want something to do, take them,” and so we went off under charge of Evans, to assist in putting up the Union Tabernacle Tent, which had just arrived in the care of some reverend gentleman who applied to the different captains for a detail to erect it. We happened to be just in time, and worked energetically for about an hour at driving stakes and pulling ropes. Our first military duty should certainly have portended something good. As Rolly had the floor of his tent covered with straw, we slept very comfortably that night.
(Tuesday, June 23d). Early in the morning, we received our clothing, &c. I drew a canteen, haversack, tin plate, knife and fork, blouse, shoes or “gunboats,” blanket, cap and pants, and was fortunate enough to get pretty well fitted, with the exception of the cap, which was too small. Many of the men took overcoats (furnished by Pottstown) and drawers, but expecting the weather would be warm, I considered them superfluous. The former would have been very useful to me afterward, for being hurried away, I did not succeed in procuring a gum blanket as I intended. Of the clothing which I brought up with me, I gave the boots and coat to Reddy, and sent the remainder home by a young man, who was returning, and kindly volunteered to take them.
Soon after, I witnessed the performance of one of the unpleasant duties connected with the service. A large and powerfully built cavalryman had imbibed enough whiskey to make him crazy, and creating some disturbance in camp, he was brought up and put in the guard-house. There he swore terribly at the idea of confining him, a man who had fought on the Peninsula, and becoming excited, kicked the boards off the side of the house, pitched the stove out of the door, and mashed up things generally. They finally were compelled to knock him down and tie him, and he lay there and raved until he became sober. Scheetz had charge of him, and I congratulated myself upon having nothing at all to do with it.
Being ordered to fall in, we took our places in rank, and marched over to the armory to get Springfield muskets instead of those which the company then had. As I was one of the party sent into the building to carry out the arms, I took care to reserve for myself a gun which was in first rate order. I was so green, however, concerning matters of that kind that I had to call upon Reddy to explain the method of fastening the bayonet; which had rather a complicated arrangement. I also secured accoutrements which were furnished with a strap to go over the shoulder, a great advantage when there are forty rounds of cartridges in the box. Most of the others had only a belt around the waist. Before breaking ranks, the captain said that after dinner, we would have to take the old muskets into Harrisburg, and as the day was quite warm, and the roads very dusty, I determined to count myself out. When the time arrived, the one-eyed sergeant finding me out of my place, I explained to him that there was no necessity for my marching into town, as I had no gun to take, but he quickly overcame that difficulty by suggesting that I could carry the gun of some one who was then on guard, and so in I went with the rest. After storing the arms in a factory, the Captain gave us liberty for a half an hour, upon all promising to meet him at the expiration of that time. Rhodes and I went down the main street, and I purchased a shirt from a rascally Harrisburg skin flint, who seeing my private's uniform, gave me a great deal more impudence than I would have borne, had I not been under the necessity of getting the article.
Upon returning to camp, we stacked arms in front of the tents, and had scarcely time to carry our accoutrements inside, when I heard the voice of the Captain shouting, “Fall in, fall in quickly, men,” so hastily fastening them on again, I took my place in rank, near the right of the company. The Captain cut off a squad of about twenty, ordered them to “right face, double-quick, march,” and off we hurried toward a crowd collected about the centre of the grounds, not knowing what was the matter. We soon learned however. A rowdy from Philadelphia in one of the companies, getting into a quarrel, had killed a man with a butcher knife, and a big fat policeman of Wm. B. Mann's posse, who on account of his size was called “the infant,” endeavoring to arrest him, the fellow again made use of his knife, and by two or three wicked lunges, compelled the policeman to withdraw. The provost guard were sent for, and when we reached the scene of disturbance, he was shouting at the top of his voice “Co. C. — Leap, Frogs — Leap,” and had collected about him a number of his adherents, who expressed their determination of not permitting him to be arrested.
We were brought to a “charge bayonets, forward march,” and though they swore, hissed and jeered considerably, we succeeded in dispersing them without a great deal of difficulty. We then formed a hollow square, he was placed in the centre, and in this way we proceeded to Harrisburg, followed by about seventy-five roughs, cursing and hooting at us. He made a good bit of resistance, and swore that he would never be taken there alive. I was stationed right behind him, and several times he pushed with force enough against my bayonet to make it pierce his clothing, but that seemed to satisfy him. I must acknowledge that I felt exceedingly unpleasant, as I was continually afraid he would be fool enough to endeavor to break through, and we would be compelled to bayonet him, something which would have put me to a most severe trial. Our one-eyed sergeant kept calling out, “stick him, boys, stick him,” and I felt so provoked that I could have stuck him with quite as much satisfaction. After reaching Harrisburg, we gave him into the custody of the police, and I have not heard anything of “Smitty,” as his friends called him, since. We returned to camp covered with dust from our two tramps into town, and I obtained permission to go down to the canal and wash, which added very much to my convenience.
Right beside our tents, was encamped a small body of Milroy's men, who had come up to Harrisburg with some of that general's baggage trains, having escaped after the battle of Winchester, in which his troops were so effectually scattered. Their drill, and especially the exercises with the bayonet were watched by us greenhorns with the greatest admiration. In the evening, a rumor was spread abroad that the rebels were approaching in large numbers, and that all the citizens had been ordered to report themselves for duty within a few hours. It created some excitement, but was without foundation. What gave to it some appearance of truth, was that the Captain sent knapsacks around to all the company, and we were ordered to be ready to march in the morning at 6 o'clock.
(Wednesday.) Through some change in the arrangement, we were awakened about 3 A. M., and supplied with three days' rations of hard tack, bread and boiled meat, which were stowed away in our haversacks. I was somewhat anxious to know how long that medium sized piece of meat was expected to last, and was informed “until you get some more;” which as it happened turned out to be longer than I want to be deprived of animal food often. In the haste and excitement of packing up, Reddy took the opportunity of exchanging his and Caswell's blankets for mine and Rennard's, as the latter were composed of better material and woven more tightly. He was a great rogue, but he seemed to have a genuine affection for “Rolly,” ran his errands, brought him water, made his bed, and took care of him generally. Rolly was about five feet eight inches high, and weighed two hundred and fifty pounds, so that he was not capable of much exertion, at least it was very fatiguing to him. I was in a great hurry to have everything strapped on, and remember feeling quite uneasy from fear of not being ready in time. Before we had moved many times, however, I found that the danger of being left behind was very slight, and learned to take my ease in preparation. We waited that morning about two hours for orders, but finally they came, and one company after another left their tents, and marching out to the side of the camp toward the town formed in line. First came Co. A. the Gettysburg students, of whom I have spoken before; then ourselves, Co. F.; next Co. D., Captain Pell; and the other seven companies I never became much acquainted with. The regiment as we soon learned was the “26th P. V. M.,” and was commanded by the following named officers: Colonel Wm. W. Jennings, an intimate friend of Gov. Curtin, was a fine looking man of about twenty-eight years of age, and when the war broke out had charge of a factory in Harrisburg. He then entered the service, and afterward was colonel of a regiment of nine months' men in the army of the Potomac. Every one liked him, because he understood his business, acted toward his men as an officer should, and from former experience, knew how to take care of them. I never heard a single word of complaint against him, and I think he possessed the respect of every man in the regiment. On more than one occasion, he exhibited considerable military ability. Lieutenant Colonel Jenkins was from Hanover, a man who was said to have obtained his position by some management, and who had in a wonderful degree the faculty of rendering himself particularly disagreeable. He knew little or nothing about the drill. Major Greenawalt was a large, stout man, with a deep bass voice. He had come up to Harrisburg as a captain of a company, and some years previously, I was told, he made two overland trips to California on foot. During all the time we were out, he refused to have a horse, and marched with the men. There was something about him which drew the admiration of all, probably his imposing appearance and manly attributes increased by his reputation for great physical strength. It was reported that he was more than a match in a fisticuff for any other two men in Lebanon, his native place. Such a character must necessarily command respect upon occasions, and in times, when courage and muscular power are the qualities most likely to be required. The Adjutant was a young fellow from Co. A., who had a clear ringing voice, and pleasant agreeable manner. I saw very little of him excepting on dress parade. The Sergeant Major was from our own company.
After getting our places in the regiment there was another delay of more than an hour on account of the cars not being ready, and finding that my knapsack and other articles were somewhat of a weight upon the shoulders, I followed the example of many others and lay down upon my back, supporting the knapsack on the ground. I frequently afterward took the same position with less anxiety about soiling my breeches and it answered the purpose very well for a time, but as the support was under the shoulders and the head extended over with nothing upon which to rest, the neck soon became tired and painful. I was not long in learning another way of resting, viz.: to place the butt of the musket upon the ground behind me while standing, and the muzzle underneath the lower part of the knapsack.
There was a great deal of curiosity to know where we were going, but all we could learn from the officers was that there would be a march of about ten miles before we reached our place of destination. I was very desirous of taking a trip down the Cumberland Valley, and after getting on the cars, we watched carefully the direction they took. They moved slowly to and through Harrisburg, over the railroad bridge across the Susquehanna, then a short distance down the Cumberland Valley road, again up the river, and after thus baffling about finally started off on the road to York, amid the cheering of all on board. We travelled along very slowly, some times stopping for a half an hour or more, and then creeping on at such a snail's pace that it was very tiresome. I remember very distinctly in what a glorious humor we all were, without any anxiety except to reach the end of our journey. At nearly every house which we passed the women came to the windows and waved their handkerchiefs, and then all set up such a cheering, hurrahing, and tigering that it was enough to deafen one. At several places on the route we passed squads and companies of Colonel W. B. Thomas' twentieth regiment and their camps looked so pleasant upon the green, that the idea passed through my mind of how nice it would be to be stationed in some copse or grove for a few weeks and guard a bridge or something of the kind, then return home and let those Phoenix fellows know what they missed by not remaining. From York, where we waited some time and saw a large number of paroled prisoners from different States who were then going to camp, we departed for Gettysburg by way of Hanover.
After leaving York I noticed that the country seemed to be exceedingly dry, and the crops, which were then nearly ready to harvest, were generally very poor. As there was one of our companies from Hanover, a large crowd of men and women from the neighborhood had collected and were patiently awaiting our arrival. They had not heard and consequently could tell us nothing concerning any rebels. The barns in that section are all of the same red color which predominates so strongly in Montgomery and Berks counties and evidences the Dutch taste.
At that place the train was divided and a portion of the regiment was sent ahead, while we kept several miles in the rear. Nothing of importance occurred until we reached a point about seven miles from Gettysburg, when we learned that those ahead had met with an accident. We slowly approached as near as was safe, and there getting off the cars were marched to a wood on the right of the track where we found the other part of the regiment, and stacked our arms by companies in regular order. Leaving our traps by the muskets, all hastened over to see what had happened. It appeared that an old woman had been driving a cow along the top of a high embankment where the road crossed a deep gully and small creek. The old woman got out of the way when the cars came up, but the cow ran along the track, was caught about midway and thrown over the bank dead. The cars were forced from the track by the concussion but fortunately kept their course almost parallel with the rails, bumping over the sills until they got beyond the gully, and there all the track was torn up and they badly broken were piled together. Some of the men were somewhat bruised but none seriously — Combe, in company A, was one of the number. Had they gone over the edge of the bank which was not more than two feet off, it would have been terrible. As it happened I presume it was an exceedingly fortunate accident as had it not occurred, we would probably have proceeded that night on to Cashtown into the very teeth of the rebel army and some of us perhaps been hurt. I went down into the ravine to look at the cow which was very old and miserably poor. I pitied the old woman who was standing there crying, while a number of our fellows among whom was Sergeant Meigs, had out their knives and were already busily engaged cutting off steaks wherever any meat could be found. After he had finished Meigs offered me his knife which I declined, feeling a good bit of hesitation about making use of it in that way, when he told me I would be glad to get meat like that before a great while. It was then about 4 P. M. In the evening we were drilled a little by the Orderly who knew nothing about it, and the cook, old Mike, made some coffee. Soon after dark, Rennard and I prepared our sleeping accommodations for the night and putting one blanket upon the ground, the other over us, and the knapsacks under our heads, we got along finely. It was the first night we passed without shelter and was spent very comfortably. At first I was very uneasy about bugs getting in my ears, but soon became accustomed to it and had no further annoyance from that source.
(Thursday.) It is a great satisfaction to get up in the morning and feel that you are all ready for the day, without so much trouble of preparation, dressing, tying cravats, &c. We arose very early, and immediately started for water. There was a house and a spring very close at hand, but the water had such a bad taste, as to be almost unfit for drinking, and we went nearly a half a mile to a brick house for some, which was better. There were also some cherries at the latter place, which did not remain a great while. In the morning, we were drilled by the Captain. There was a little incident connected with it, which I will mention, as it startled me for a moment. We were going through the exercises, had been brought to a “charge,” and were standing in that position when the Captain suddenly seizing my bayonet, threw his whole weight against it, and nearly overthrew me. I supposed he was angry at the time about something, but soon perceived he was only trying me, so after that when he came around, I quietly braced myself, and imagine it would have been rather a dangerous experiment to make a second attempt. During the day, a large number of country wagons came into camp from the vicinity of Gettysburg, with pies, &c., for Co. A. As that company was always inquired for so particularly, they were henceforth styled the “Pie Company.” We had become known as the “Leap Frogs,” from an incident which I have previously narrated. Our fellows, however, soon began to look out for the wagons, and going some distance to meet them, would on being asked what company they belonged to, reply “Co. A.,” and before those for whom it was intended knew anything of the matter, carry off the spoil, leaving the countryman to suppose “it was all right.” Corporal Lloyd who had been in service before and understood the ropes, was one of the most active in that kind of foraging, and he also “drew” from a farmer's house, a large pot full of butter, which had been put away for winter use, and bringing it into camp, retailed it out to the men. I invested to the extent of five cents, without asking any questions.
During the day, the farmers told us it was reported that the rebels were advancing in large force, and that considerable numbers of them were in the woods and hills about Cashtown. Some of the men were a little uneasy, and Ford said that he came down to fight, but did not expect to be sent off with a few hundred men alone to fight thousands of rebels. My own opinion was that rumor had greatly exaggerated the number, and probably a few small bodies of cavalry, such as had previously come into the State, were scouting around, and if we could only get near enough to them, we would easily scatter or capture the whole party. The only difficulty which presented itself, was the readiness with which, being on horseback, they could elude us infantry. Therefore, feeling very unconcerned myself, I took delight in playing upon the fears of some of the others, and was sure to tell Ford all the wonderful stories which I heard. Some one brought into camp a copy of the Harrisburg Telegraph, and among other items, we were much amused to find that “General Couch had thrown a large body of troops in the neighborhood of Gettysburg to outflank the rebels.”
About the middle of the afternoon, a strong wind arose, and then there was every appearance of rain. The men commenced to erect their shelter tents, and Rennard and I, after watching how the operation was performed, put up our own upon the outskirts of the wood. The modus operandi is very simple, and I will here describe it as well as I can. The tent is formed of two pieces of thick muslin about 4½ feet long and three wide, each of which is supplied with a rope, and they are arranged so as to button together. When they are thus buttoned, there is a rope at each end of the tent, and if two trees can be found the proper distance apart, nothing remains to be done but tie the ropes tightly around them at a suitable height, and secure the four corners of the tent with wooden pins. Then by digging a small gutter to drain off the water, the work is completed. If no such trees can be found, two upright stakes and a cross-piece or ridge pole are required. These the neighboring fences generally supply. The latter is much the better method, as the tent is more firm. I have frequently seen them improvised by thrusting two muskets, bayonets downward, into the earth and tying the ropes around the locks. When properly fixed and well stretched, they turn an ordinary shower, but heavy and beating rains will force their way through to some extent. When the stakes are the right height there is just about room enough inside to sit up in the centre without touching the top, and lying down crosswise, to stretch out at full length. When it is permitted, it is much preferable for five persons to go together, as it gives a great deal more room in the tent, and the fifth piece answers to cover up whichever end is exposed to the rain. After getting ours fixed as well as we could at the time, we spread one of the blankets down on the inside, and lying upon it awaited the rain. Rolly was guarding the baggage at the cars, and Reddy, who did not consider it worth while to put up a tent, scoured around camp, and every once in a while came to us with a loaf of bread or something of that sort, which he left in our charge. Where he procured them I cannot tell. About eight o'clock in the evening, after we had arranged matters as comfortably as possible for the night, Sergeant Meigs made his appearance and said, “Pennypacker get ready for picket duty,” As there was every prospect of a heavy rain, I was not particularly pleased with the order, but having nothing to do but make the best of it, I agreed with Rennard to take his overcoat and leave my blanket in its place. So putting on my accoutrements over the coat, and charging him to take care of my haversack and knapsack, I took my Springfield musket and started for the place where I saw the others forming in line. About half way I met Lieutenant Richards, who said it was necessary to take everything along, and as there was but little time to spare, he went back and assisted me in strapping them on. My blanket was in the knapsack, and in my hurry, I forgot to take it out, so that Rennard was left without either. The detail numbered one hundred and twenty men, under command of Lieutenant Mowry, and I thought then it was rather a large picket party. Of the twelve from our company, I only remember beside myself, Cyrus Nyce and Sergeant Meigs, who acted as Orderly
We started off on the road to Gettysburg, looking into every thicket for a picket station, and imagining that every wood in the distance must form part of the line, but one after another was passed, and still wp did not stop. About two miles from camp, we halted at a tavern, but it was only to get some water in the canteens. We there saw some of the outer pickets, among them the “one-eyed sergeant,” and after leaving them, we knew that picketting was not the object for which we were sent. It soon commenced to rain, but not very rapidly. That was my first experience in marching, and as the Lieutenant appeared to be in great haste, we moved very quickly, and it was not long before I began to feel exceedingly warm and disagreeable. Those seven miles seemed almost indefinitely prolonged. At last, however, Gettysburg was in sight, and before entering the town, the Lieutenant made us a short speech, saying that he wanted us to go through the streets quietly and in ranks, and that he had been informed, supper and comfortable quarters for the night were already provided for us, so we began to think we were more fortunate than those who were left in camp.
We marched some distance into town, and stopped before a hotel, when the Lieutenant after giving orders for no one to go out of ranks, disappeared. It was raining, we were tired and anxious to be disencumbered of our loads, but we waited patiently for his return, in expectation of that supper, and speculating upon the sleeping accommodations. Quite a number of people collected about us, of whom a large proportion were men, and they seemed very slightly discomposed by the state of affairs in the neighborhood. I inquired of one little fellow who was running around talking of rebels, “what a rebel was,” and received for a reply, a “black abolitionist.” I endeavored to convince him that I was a black abolitionist, and told him to tell his father so, but the idea was evidently so preposterous to him that I believe he concluded I was joking. The lieutenant could not be found, and the men began to drop off one after another in search of places to rest, until none but Doc. Nyce and myself were left. In order to be near at hand, we went across the street to a stone door step, where we sat down, and both fell asleep. After a time something awoke us, and concluding we would have to take care of ourselves, we went inside the tavern, and lying down in the entry with a number of others, secured a second nap from which we were aroused about one o'clock by the command “Fall in men.” The lieutenant had returned, and upon getting our places, we marched around to a restaurant, were supplied with a piece of bread and a tin-cup full of hot coffee, and then proceeded to the depot upon the platform of which we passed the remainder of the night. It was an extremely filthy place, but sheltered us from the rain. I never knew certainly what caused the prolonged absence of the Lieutenant, but it was reported that when we reached Gettysburg he was ordered by Major Haller who controlled operations there, to advance to Cashtown about eight miles distant and that, doubting the propriety of obeying, he had hired a horse and ridden back to see Colonel Jennings who protested against such a course and succeeded in preventing it. Professor Jacobs in his “Notes on the Battle of Gettysburg,” says that we were a hundred picked men detailed as bushwhackers or riflemen to be sent to the mountains at Cashtown, and that had the intention been carried out we would have met with almost certain destruction.
(Friday, June 26th.) In the morning it was raining in torrents. Some of the men went to the hotels and bought their breakfasts, but I confined myself to my haversack principally because I was fearful of being absent when ordered to march. At that time I was very careful not to disobey a command, but I afterward discovered it was the better plan to provide for myself and leave to the officers the responsibility of having their orders fulfilled. I believe there are no circumstances in which a man's welfare depends more upon his disposition and ability to take care of No. 1. The remainder of the regiment came up in cars about 9 A. M., and I hastened to return Rennard's overcoat to him feeling unpleasantly from having deprived him of it, but of course it was impossible for either of us to have foreseen what occurred. He gave to me my piece of shelter tent, wet and consequently heavy, which I carried tied upon the top of the knapsack. We waited then for some time, and many made use of it in scattering over town and hunting up something to eat.
About ten o'clock we started on the Chambersburg road and marched some three miles from town to a wood which stood a short distance to the right, perhaps seventy-five yards from the road. We filed across the intervening field and were taken to a low spot of ground within the wood, where instead of stacking arms we placed them butts upward, and with the bayonets thrust into the ground in order to keep the powder from becoming wet. The regiment was all in one line and was ordered to pitch tents, each man opposite his own musket, and within a certain limited number of feet from the row. It was a very unfavorable place for a camp as the ground in consequence of the heavy rain was almost in the condition of a swamp and the feet sank into the water at every step. We were already pretty thoroughly soaked, and on looking around I thought there was a prospect of our remaining so for some time. However, Rhodes, Landis and I who chanced to be together, selected a spot beneath a little hawthorn tree as a comparatively eligible location for our tent, one end of which could be fastened to a limb. While they buttoned the pieces together, I went to the fence to get a stake for the other end, and returning with it saw a number of men, coming from the lower portion of the wood with arms full of shingles.
Perceiving at once the advantage of having them for a floor, I left the stake at the tree and ran with all speed in the direction whence they were carried. The first thing I met was a creek which I cleared with a long spring and found a pile of shingles within a short distance of the bank. I lugged over one load, but before getting back with the second Landis had discovered a supply in some other quarter and they had enough already for two layers. The tent was up, but so loose that it swayed about; the shingles took up considerable of the small space inside, and our knapsacks half of the remainder; Landis was jammed in on one side with his back pressed against the muslin and his feet covered with mud sticking out; Rhodes was fixed nearly in the same way on the other and I could not imagine where I should stow myself. Everything seemed to be wrong, it was calculated to make one feel ill-humored, and I broke out with “Where in the thunder do you fellows expect me to go. If this is'nt the most disagreeable———” when I was interrupted by an unusual stir and bustle among the men, and the voice of the Captain shouting “Strike tents. Fall in quickly men.” The first idea which struck me was, “what's the matter,” the next a feeling of satisfaction that my trouble about the tent was thus summarily removed. Rhodes and Landis came out of there in a hurry, pins were pulled up and pieces unbuttoned, knapsacks strapped on, and we were at our guns in a very few minutes. There was little time to spare either, as some of the companies were already moving off and we were compelled to run to reach our place in the regiment. The guns of those who had gone for shingles or scattered in search of other articles in the barns, etc., were left standing there. I also noticed that instead of going toward the road we started back through the fields and rather in the direction of Gettysburg. Of course we understood from these circumstances that something of more than ordinary importance had occurred and could conjecture readily its character, but of the particulars we were then entirely ignorant.
I will narrate them now as I heard them afterward. Lee's army had entered Pennsylvania and that portion which subsequently occupied York, consisting of about ten thousand infantry, artillery and cavalry, under command of General Early were then advancing from Chambersburg to Gettysburg. It was a piece of supreme folly to send our regiment, numbering between seven and eight hundred men, perfectly raw and undisciplined, to meet such a force, and I believe Major Haller has the honor of that smart arrangement. It is said that when we left the wood, they were but three-fourths of a mile distant, and Prof. Jacobs affirms that they captured our pickets at their posts. I cannot vouch for the latter statement, for I did not even know that any pickets had been stationed, though I presume there were, as Colonel Jennings was too good an officer to neglect a precaution of such moment.
But to resume: we crossed three or four fields until we came to one of the numerous back roads, which we entered, and along which we proceeded in a rapid march. It is scarcely necessary to state, that in consequence of its muddy and slippery condition, travelling was laborious and tiresome. At first, we chose our path as much as possible, and avoided the mud puddles, but we had not gone a great way before we came to a running stream about knee deep. There was nothing to do but ford, and through we went. “I guess that settles the question of wet feet,” said Lieutenant Richards, and we afterward continued straight forward, moving out of the direct line for nothing.
The first intimation of danger which we received through the officers, was from the Lieutenant-Colonel, who came riding back, and muttered as he passed, “We'll go up here a little way, get a good position, and give 'em hell before they do take us.” But we still kept marching, and the position was not taken. Indignation was the uppermost feeling in my mind. I believed we were running away from a lot of cavalry, because the Colonel was afraid to rely upon us, and that we would be everlastingly disgraced. I did not relish the idea of going down there to return with less credit than before, and I said to Lieutenant Richards, “The Colonel don't appear to have any confidence in his men. Why don't he try us, and then if we are whipped or misbehave, it will be time enough to run.” He replied: “I guess the Colonel knows more about the matter than we do, and has good reasons for his actions,” and so the conversation ended, but I was far from satisfied. The route pursued was an exceedingly crooked one, turning at nearly every corner. We had not marched many hours before a number began to flag, and a rest being absolutely necessary, we halted for a few minutes, but soon started on again. The effect of this was, that the companies became very much scattered and confused, the stronger men working forward to the front of the regiment, and the weaker gradually falling back to the rear. About the middle of the afternoon many tired out commenced to drop off, and were passed sitting by the roadside, and all were fatigued enough to conclude that it was extremely hard work.
At four o'clock, I was near the centre of the regiment, and had just passed Web. Davis and Buckley, a friend of Doc. Nyce, who said they would go no further. I was ascending a small hill, to the right were fields, and at some little distance a wood. Upon the top of the hill on the left was a medium sized brick house. About opposite the house, a branch of the wood extended to within perhaps a hundred and fifty yards of the road. It was at this place, that the rebels first made their appearance, and commenced picking up the stragglers in the rear. Seeing all of our men jumping over the fences on the right, I followed suit, and found myself in a corn field. Nearly all were in the adjoining wheat field further on, so I directed my steps thither. Every one knows the disadvantage of going through a wet corn field, and how the mud clinging to the feet, impedes every moment. If in addition, they remember that I carried a pretty heavy load upon my back, was wearied with the previous fast tramping, and the “rebs” not far behind, they can form a pretty good idea of an unpleasant situation. I thought to myself, “Well, I wouldn't run across this field if the devil himself were after me,” and I do really believe, that if the whole rebel army had been within a few paces, I would have turned around to fight in a kind of determined desperation. So I walked slowly toward the rest. In this field, there was the greatest imaginable confusion. The officers were running around waving their swords, shouting and swearing, but no one dreamed of obeying them; the men having been previously all mingled together, were separated from their companies, and each fellow did as he thought proper. In fact they were compelled to do so, for the commands from half crazy Captains and Lieutenants were often unintelligible, and perfectly contradictory. Collected together in little knots, or standing alone, they commenced firing off their pieces as rapidly as possible. Some were falling in behind the fences, and others streaking off over the fields. I believe every man was shouting or yelling. I did not see any of the regimental officers, and think they must have been further ahead. After firing off one load and ramming down another, I began to look around for Co. F., but could not see any one of them. About half a company were drawn up behind the next fence, and thinking I might find some of them there, I went over to them. The great bulk of the regiment were much farther off, and the balls from their muskets and the rebel carbines whistled over our heads very rapidly. We were rather between the two there, and had the benefit of all the firing. I was not at all disturbed by it, though I once or twice involuntarily dodged my head, and momentarily expected to see some one drop, but the aim was entirely too high. Here I met Sergeant Scheetz and Corporal Lloyd, and proposed to the former to take charge of the squad, and post them where he thought proper. He suggested that it would be better to take a position on the edge of the wood, as the cavalry could not come through without being broken up, and giving us a good opportunity to pick them off. It was a few yards nearer the “rebs” than we then were, and we joined a small party who had already stationed themselves there. Scheetz said we ought to send out skirmishers, and some volunteering advanced a considerable distance into the wood. The Sergeant had great difficulty in getting his gun, which was wet, to go off, but finally succeeding, he rammed down another cartridge with the remark, “That is good for one ——— anyhow.” Lloyd proposed that when they came up, we should discharge our pieces once, and then surrender. I shouted to those who were on the other side of the field, as to a parcel of boys at play, “Stop that firing — you'll hit somebody after bit,” which tends to show what my feelings were at the time, and in what light I viewed the affair. One fellow from Pine Grove was so excited or ignorant that he rammed down the ball first, and poured the powder on top, thus rendering his musket useless. In the meantime the “rebs” had divided, some coming up the road as far as the brick house where they captured a few of our men who had gone inside, and the rest went over to the right, and were separated from us by the wood I have mentioned. Our regiment were now nearly all collected together, and were drawn up in line, some two or three fields distant. Supposing the idea was to await an attack there, we concluded we had better go over and join them, which we did. Fully believing we would continue the fight, I took off my knapsack in order to be unencumbered and placed it in a fence corner where I could easily get it afterward. Upon taking my position in rank and after waiting for a short time we commenced a retreat toward the mountains. I hastened back readjusted my knapsack, and before long we were entirely concealed by the woods. Here we halted to have the roll called and among quite a number who were missing I was not sorry to learn the “one-eyed sergeant” was included. Web. Davis, Buckley and Reddy were also among the captured. Although an hour previous I had felt excessively tired, the excitement of the skirmish had completely removed all fatigue and had so refreshened and invigorated my spirits that I seemed to be as elastic as in the morning. I suppose it affected the others in the same manner. While here Rennard who stepped to one side for some purpose, left me in charge of his gun, but as we moved off almost immediately I stood it up against a tree within his sight, but some chap who was passing by managed to exchange it for his own which had a ball firmly wedged in the barrel. Crossing creeks and fields, tearing down the fences and tramping grain and corn, over gullies and hills, but keeping principally to the woods and mountains, we continued our retreat.
I suppose the Colonel had little doubt of our ability to repel the cavalry, but their evident intention was to delay us until the arrival of infantry and other support. General Early had expressed his determination of taking the regiment entire, and that night said in Gettysburg that we had thus far escaped but on the morrow our capture was certain. In circumstances in which there is anything like an equality of force, running is properly considered disgraceful; but as we were situated, our strength was entirely inadequate for successful opposition, and we found ourselves drawn into a trap from which we could only be extricated by skill and celerity. Considering the matter calmly now, I am perfectly willing to bear all the stigma which inconsiderate and ignorant persons may deem connected with it, especially since I well know that all the hardships to be endured and difficulties to be surmounted in a military life are not confined to the battlefield. The man who dies in his tent from fever or freezes while on picket, may suffer infinitely more than he who is pierced by a bullet or blown to atoms by a shell, though the latter attracts more public attention from the éclat with which it is attended. If I am capable of judging at all of my own mind, I would in any part of the time have preferred an engagement to the retreat, notwithstanding I might have had occasion to change my opinion had we been brought into a severe struggle, and though I believe Colonel Jennings deserves the highest praise not only for having adopted the sole proper course of action but for the dexterity with which it was conducted.
A large proportion of the men had taken off and lost their knapsacks during the skirmish, and others already tired with the labors of the day and seeing the prospect of a long march ahead, were one after another throwing them aside. I carried mine until pretty late, when Lieutenant Richards came to me and said that we still had a tramp of indefinite length to make, and thinking that it was probably costing me more than it was worth, I unstrapped it and left it behind some bushes. It was the object of the Colonel to keep the regiment undercover, if possible, until we could get beyond the reach of the rebels, and several times their scouts were in very close proximity. About dusk when we were upon top of a hill, and were just on the point of crossing a field which intervened between us and another wood that we wished to enter, two or three of of their horsemen were discovered moving along the opposite fence. They did not see us, however, and we lay down quietly among the trees until they had departed. There was so little noise among the men that the least sound could be heard distinctly. While at that place “Tucker” loaned me his gum blanket as he had an overcoat beside and did not wish to be burdened with both, but I unfortunately had no string with which to fasten it over my shoulders. There was something very thrilling and romantic to me then in the idea of our position, and the resemblance we had to hunted game endeavoring to elude their pursuers. A sense of danger gave intensity to the interest with which we watched the chances of being captured. It soon after became very dark, which caused us to feel more secure but increased the unpleasantness of travelling. About nine o'clock we had descended a road between two woods and arrived at a stream of some size and depth, crossed by a shaky foot log which had formerly possessed a railing for the use of the hand, that the effects of time had partially destroyed, leaving gaps of several feet, so that in the dark it required a degree of care to walk over safely. Just as the first of the regiment had stepped upon this log, the sound of horses' hoofs was heard upon the summit of the hill rapidly approaching. Immediately a panic seized upon the men and all made a rush for the log. Not a single word was spoken, and as the stampede commenced from the rear it sounded to me precisely like the rustle of a sudden gust of wind. I ran with the rest for several yards, and lost Tucker's gum blanket, but having time to recover my thoughts, I saw that nothing was to be gained by crowding upon the log, and returned to hunt the blanket, but though any number of shelter tents were scattered around I was unable to find what I sought. In their eagerness to get over, several were pushed into the water, and some even jumped in from the bank and waded through up to their waists. A number of guns were lost in the stream, having been dropped in the unaccountable fright. I waited until the hurry had subsided, and crossing at my leisure, found Rennard on the other side with two guns which he had carried — showing that he had maintained his composure. He gave one of them to some fellow who had lost his own. It appeared that two or three of our scouts were the cause of the alarm. I was so impressed with its utter folly, and so out of patience with myself, that I determined if such a thing should occur again, I would retain my presence of mind and stand still until I saw some necessity for moving. I do not attempt to palliate or justify such a foolish fright, but considering the perfect darkness of the night, the delicate position upon the bank of a stream with part of the regiment already on the log, and the knowledge each one had of the presence of the enemy in the immediate neighborhood, I doubt whether any body of men would have acted better in like circumstances. When I remember too what Xenophon tells of the conduct of the celebrated “ten thousand” Greeks in a somewhat similar case, and how men who have since proven themselves as brave as any who ever fought, ran in the early part of the war all the way from Bull Run to Washington, I think we are at least excusable. Had we actually been attacked at the time, I firmly believe twenty-five men would have cut us all to pieces. After all had crossed over in safety, we waited along the road for a few minutes, and while there some fellow came riding toward us at full gallop. In an instant every piece was cocked and raised to the shoulder, and I only wonder some one did not shoot him. It proved that our equanimity had not been entirely restored. The man was frightened nearly out of his senses, and giving a confused and unsatisfactory account of himself, was taken into custody.
A drizzling rain kept falling through the night, and any one can easily imagine, as we blundered on, how fatiguing marching became. In the woods we were continually stumbling over brush and stumps or being caught by bushes and briers; in the ploughed fields we were compelled to carry an extra weight of clay with each step. It was actually a pleasure to enter a grain field, for the long straw tramped down prevented us from sinking in, and made a good road. We left a trail through them like that of some huge roller. Several of the farmers accompanied us on horseback acting as scouts, and every once in a while they would be sent ahead to reconnoitre the way. At such times when a halt was ordered, each man would drop down in his tracks and snatch a few moments slumber while awaiting the command to proceed.
The intention of the Colonel at first was to endeavor to reach the railroad somewhere in the neighborhood of Hanover, and a man was dispatched on horseback to telegraph for cars, but after travelling for some time in that direction, he learned the place was occupied by the rebels, so we turned toward York. The Lieutenant Colonel was sent to that city, and as we did not hear anything concerning him for several days, it was supposed he was captured. Some time during the night about a hundred of our men who were separated from the rest at the log, and had been wandering around through the woods since, by the greatest good fortune met with us. We were then in a road, and as usual, when they came up nearly all jumped over the fences, and cocked their muskets ready to fire. Having learned something by my former escapade, I stood where I was, watching intently to see what was the matter. A figure only a few feet from me, whom I recognized by his gruff voice to be the Major, said: “Men, you act like a set of sheep,” and I felt somewhat gratified to know that I was not included. Toward morning we lay down and slept for perhaps an hour among some stone piles along a fence, but by the first appearance of dawn were on the march again.
(Saturday, June 27th.) Those who worn out were unable to go further dropped off one after another, and took shelter in the various farm houses. Some were captured and others escaped by exchanging their clothing for a citizen's suit.
About ten o'clock we halted in a wood where we remained for two hours or more. A fire was soon started, and we dried our clothing by it as well as we could. A number crowded around it and went to sleep, waking up afterward feeling stiff and wretched. I went to a spring which was near, and washing the mud from my stockings and shoes, put them on again with a great deal more comfort. Then taking a seat upon a log, I drew from my haversack a piece of bread covered with dirt and soaked with water, which I was eating with the relish of a man really hungry, when George Meigs came up and asked me if I would not give him a little piece of it. I divided it with him, and he was so grateful that he reminded me of it more than once afterward. Graham, a youth, who came from the Pottstown newspaper office, loaned me his gum-blanket with more than ordinary kindness, and this time I secured it with a string. While here some booby fired off his gun to remove the load, and his foolish example was followed by perhaps fifty others before it could be stopped, and consequently the “rebs,” who heard the discharge, were in our camp in a very short time after we left it. Some of the prisoners, who were then in their hands, told us that when the reports were heard, they concluded we had been overtaken, and gave up all hopes of our escape. By some means, the Colonel received intelligence that the “rebs” were advancing on York, so upon leaving the wood, we took the road for Harrisburg. About two o'clock we came to a tavern where the people had prepared, and gave to us, a meal of bread and apple butter, the first we had eaten with the exception of the afore-mentioned piece of bread, since we had left Gettysburg on the previous morning. Of course we were in a condition to enjoy and be thankful. From there we pushed on rapidly, and as evening approached, I began to feel that my powers of endurance would not hold out a great while longer, but was felicitating myself upon the prospect of our successful escape, when being within a mile of Dillsburg, some of the citizens came out in great haste to meet us with the information that the rebels were in advance of us, and that it would not be safe to proceed. In my heart I cursed the rebels, for it seemed that just when we were in hopes of obtaining some rest, and were congratulating ourselves upon the favorable opportunity, we were called upon to make still further exertions to insure our safety.
The Colonel immediately formed the regiment across the road, so as to occupy all the space, and brought them to a charge bayonets. Co. A knelt down in front, so that those behind could fire over their heads, and Co. F were drawn up within a few feet of them with loaded muskets, the rest in succession. From the disposition of affairs, it looked very much as if he expected an attack, and he made a short speech to us saying, that if we maintained that position firmly, all the cavalry in the rebel army could make no impression upon us. After waiting about ten minutes without perceiving any hostile demonstrations, we marched at a charge through the town, and off to the right half a mile to the top of a hill, upon the crest of which, five companies were faced in one direction, and the remainder in the opposite. Small scouting parties could be seen some distance off, but not in sufficient force to render them dangerous.
The people had provided supper for us in the town, but as it happened we could not stay to eat it, they carried to us on the hill as much as we needed. It consisted of bread spread with apple butter, and coffee. I tried in vain to secure a piece of meat, which I began to want. As soon as it was dark, we started on again, the Colonel having told us that after a march of about four miles, we would halt long enough to get some rest and sleep, which he saw were now indispensable. “Doc” Nyce and George Meigs remained in Dillsburg, and they said a large force of “Greybacks” passed through there during the night. A couple of fellows whom we had brought along with us as suspicious characters refused to proceed, and commenced to make some noise, but on finding there was likely to be an application of the bayonet, they became peaceable and submissive. We may have only gone four miles, but it seemed much further before we reached the camping ground, which was a wood enclosed in the semi-circular bend of a stream. It was surrounded by wooded hills, and approached by a foot log crossing the creek. Co. F. was detailed for picket duty, and about a dozen of us were sent to guard the log. Some were stationed, and the rest including myself were told that we might sleep under a large tree which stood there, but were carefully cautioned to have our muskets in our hands with bayonets fixed, ready to jump up at a moment's notice. The ground was wet and cold, but we were asleep in a very short time. Once we were aroused through a mistake, occasioned by the approach of one of our officers, and though my musket was in my arms, in springing up suddenly, I managed to seize that of the man next to me.
(Sunday June 28th.) After a rest of three or four hours, which refreshed us considerably, we returned to the road and continued our march. Sometime before day, we were startled by the rapid discharge of three or four muskets in the advance, and the regiment came to a halt. In a few minutes it was reported that we had reached General Couch's outer picket lines, and a young fellow on guard had been killed. I never knew whether the latter was true or not, but hope it was false. The station was in the barn of a tavern, opposite to which we waited for some fifteen minutes, and filled our canteens with water. We were very much rejoiced to find ourselves at last within the union lines, and the Lieutenant told us that we were only about twelve or fourteen miles from Harrisburg. At seven o'clock we came to a small town whose name I have forgotten, where we were furnished with breakfast. Rennard and I sat down on a board alongside of the Major and were talking about the distance to Harrisburg, when he cast a damper on our spirits by telling us that it was very uncertain about our going to that place, as the rebel column was already beyond Mechanicsburg and it was expected the capital would be attacked, perhaps captured before night; and that if we did reach it, it would only be by a long round-about march. We were then off to the right of the direct road. I began to think we were never going to get beyond the reach of the villains. That morning I was very much troubled with the diarrhoea which rendered me so weak that several times I was on the point of giving up. Once when compelled to stop, I told Rennard that I did not believe I would be able to go any further, and I would probably remain in some farm house. He advised me to hold on as long as I could, and though the regiment had gained perhaps a quarter of a mile, I overtook them, determined to endure it as long as possible. I never before in all my life felt so utterly miserable and I remember thinking that if ever I came out of that scrape, I would be careful not to become entangled in such another. After several more weary hours and miles, we were gladdened by the sight of Harrisburg at a distance over the hills — and a faint cheer arose along the line. Some fellow had even ambition enough left to attempt to create a laugh, and the Colonel appeared to be in the best of spirits — well he might be! At a place I think on the Susquehanna a mile and a half from Fort Couch the people gave us some dinner. Here parties were cutting down trees across the roads and preparing abattis to resist the advance of cavalry, which was looked for every moment. I went to the Captain and asked him whether he would grant me leave of absence for a few hours promising to report myself in that time, but he refused. I could not help thinking rather bitterly of a number of his own friends who had stopped with his permission at different points, but said nothing. My intention was to go to some house and request the favor of lying down in the entry or stable until I felt better. Between that place and the fort we passed several regiments of militia who crowded about us, inquiring who we were and where we had come from. Some of them said “They look hard don't they? as if they had been out for a year;” and I expect we did present a pretty rough appearance. We had lost all the regimental baggage, drums, tents, blankets, &c., and over two hundred men, and the remainder were dirty, stiff and foot sore, limping along like so many cripples. We were destitute of everything pertaining to comfort or convenience. Somewhere near two o'clock we came to the fort and halted at the foot of the hill. Here we saw Reddy and a man called “Jersey” who had been captured and paroled, and they narrated their adventures. Neither of them was able to tell me anything concerning Rolly, and I took it for granted he had been taken, his weight making an escape by running impossible. We then marched up into the fort and stacked arms on the side of the hill. There were two or three New York regiments beside us, who had recently come up from Chambersburg, and one of them had an enormous quantity of chickens which they had “drawn” from the farm yards on the way. I endeavored to find their Surgeon to get some medicine from him, but he was not about. I then went in search of some water, and discovered that the only supply of that necessary article in the fort was what had been pumped up from the Susquehanna, and having been filled into barrels which previously contained oil of some kind, it was so nauseous as almost to create vomiting. George Meigs came to me and offered me his canteen. On placing it to my lips I was delighted with a draught of lemonade which he had bought from a sutler in camp and offered to me, he said, in recompense for the piece of bread I had given him. I was amply repaid.
That afternoon the rebels came to within three miles of the fort which was the nearest point they reached, when ordered back by Lee for the purpose of concentrating his forces to oppose Meade. In my opinion there is not the least doubt that in one day more they would have entered Harrisburg. Many of the citizens had vacated their houses, and large quantities of goods had been sent by the merchants to New York and other places for security. Even farmers miles away deserted their homes, which was very bad policy as both parties despoiled and took whatever was wanted from the vacant houses, and when the owners returned they must have found many things destroyed which they could have protected had they been present.
During the night it rained, and as I had returned to Graham his gum blanket which he needed for himself, there seemed to be no alternative but to sleep out on the open bank, without any shelter whatever. I lay down spoon fashion, between Tucker and another man, and the former covered me over as well as he could with the lappels and tail of his overcoat. Thus packed together, we kept each other warm, and I shall ever feel grateful to Tucker for the kindness and goodness of heart he exhibited on that and the succeeding night. Thanks to his care and my own fatigue, I slept pretty well notwithstanding the adverse circumstances.
(Monday, June 29th.) The Colonel reported the regiment unfit for duty, and requiring a few days rest. It was rumored through the fort that the “rebs” were falling back, and I for one was very well pleased with the information.
As our quarter master was among the missing, and red tape requires that all demands for subsistence should be made through him, we were unable to draw rations, and had nothing to eat except some hard tack which some of the men in another regiment gave to us. I felt an irresistible craving for meat, and under the influence of it, on writing home to mother an account of our adventures, I asked her to send me a piece of dried beef. That was providing for the future, but did not do much towards alleviating present necessities, so conquering some few compunctions, I went down over the hill to a small collection of houses on the bank of the river, and unsuccessfully endeavored to beg or buy some. At one house, the neatest and most capacious there, I inquired “whether they had not a piece of ham,” and on being answered in the negative, “whether they could not spare me a few drops of laudanum.” They said they would be willing to give it to me if they had any, but that General Hall was about occupying the premises as his headquarters, and all their articles of every kind had been removed. I discovered however, under the bank, a spring of good water with a narrow steep path, leading to it from the fort, which I frequently had occasion to make use of afterward. The descent was almost perpendicular, and it could only be ascended by the assistance of the bushes which grew on the side of the hill. I also found it a most convenient means of exit when I wanted to go down to the river to wash, or for any other purpose.
(Tuesday, June 30th.) In the morning we were supplied with shelter tents, blankets and other necessary articles, and in the afternoon marched out some three or four miles after the rebels, who were retreating. Being unwell, I had a great dislike to starting out again, but we fortunately had not far to go, and relieved some regiment stationed on the front. On the way we halted once along the road, and while waiting, a negro servant of one of the officers came riding toward us on a Colonel's horse. When he approached, one of the men stepped out, stopped him, and for mischief inquired for his pass. The man said he had none,and after some parleying was permitted to proceed. On arriving opposite Co. D, a big stout bully, by the name of Bill, caught the bridle of his horse, and began to curse and abuse him in a most shameful manner. The negro replied very peaceably, but Bill picked up several stones as large as he could well lift, and hurled them at him one after another with all his strength. One struck him in the middle of the back, and had it been his head must have knocked him senseless. Some of our fellows who were incensed at such a wanton outrage interfered, and for a while it looked as if we were going to have a regular rumpus. Bill said, “it served him right, he was only a d———d nigger anyhow,” and he appeared to have a number of friends who were ready to support him in any abuse he could bestow on a “nigger.” This case was carried to headquarters, but I believe he only received a reprimand.
Our camp was in an open field not far from the river, and some two or three hundred yards from a deserted house, whence the men brought chairs, boards, doors and whatever could be carried away. Some even lugged up a stove, which was perfectly useless to them. While here, we were surprised by the appearance of the Lieutenant Colonel, Rolly, and a number of others whom we had thought captured. Their arrival diminished the loss in our company to I think, seventeen. Among these, was Corporal MacDonald, of whom they tell a pretty good story. For some private matter, after the company was sworn in, he went to Pottstown, and before returning, as there was then every probability of our being away for a long time, he visited all his friends, and rather importantly bade them a last farewell. On reaching Harrisburg, he found the regiment had gone, and hastening after them, arrived at Gettysburg just in time to be captured by the rebels. They asked him how long he had been in the service. “About two hours” said he, and the next day he went back to Pottstown a paroled prisoner, considerably crest fallen and almost ashamed to go out on the streets. Rolly and the others had been left at Gettysburg in charge of the baggage, and upon the approach of the “rebs,” they, together with Major Haller, were compelled to skedaddle. They footed it to Hanover, and from there were carried on cars. At Columbia, they participated in the firing of the railroad bridge over the Susquehanna. Rolly curses Major Haller for an arrant coward, and says, that when the “rebs” were coming, he drew them up, told them if they wanted him to send for him, and scampered over the bridge as fast as he could travel.
Toward evening we moved our quarters to another field. I went to the Surgeon who had then arrived, and asked for some medicine for my dysentery. He gave me some castor oil in a small quantity of whiskey which I swallowed. Rhodes and Landis put up a tent for us three, while I lay about not fit for much of anything.
(Wednesday, July 1st.) After breakfast we had our guns to scour, and as they were very much rusted from being continually in the rain, it was no slight task. John Vanderslice, a gentleman from Phoenixville, over sixty years of age, who came up with us, and had since been at Chambersburg with a battery, came to see us, and afterward left for home. In the afternoon, Rennard and I went to a small dam, not far off, and washed our bodies and underclothing with the expectation of having them dry and clean. In the former we were disappointed, for shortly after returning to camp, we received orders to pack up, and were obliged to put them on wet. A large force of negroes were employed on the hills cutting off the timber, in order to give the artillery from the fort and opposite bank of the river opportunity to play upon any approaching enemy. Toward evening, we marched back to Fort Couch, and were furnished with the wedge tents of a regiment which had just departed. Rolly, Rennard, Tucker, Ford and myself arranged to take one together, but before it was put up, Rennard and I were detailed for guard, and had to leave it in charge of Rolly. The next morning when we were relieved at guard mounting, we found the tent erected in a very undesirable location, being partially doubled over the cook shop of the next company, which contracted our limits, beside making it extremely unpleasant. I went to the Captain and asked permission to remove it to an open space nearer their quarters, but he would not give his assent. A short time afterward some of the Pottstowners took possession of the very same place. After that I never asked a favor when I could possibly help it, but in matters of that kind, did just as I pleased, and what was not right had to be done over.
In relating the events of the next week or two, which were passed in the fort, I will endeavor to give them as connectedly as possible, but will not maintain the precise arrangement of dates, as has previously been done. The Colonel was made commander of the post and it was our duty to garrison the place, Company F. being especially commissioned by him to take charge of the gate. That was much more agreeable than walking around the parapet and beside relieved us from the necessity of going on picket. Two large marquee tents were arranged with board seats in them and other conveniences for guard quarters, and being just within the entrance of the fort, formed a very pleasant and capacious retreat for the reliefs off duty. My turn to go on guard came around once in every three or four days and I had no particular objection to it, save that it rained nearly every night and I was consequently very often soaked. The muskets too became wet and rusted and had to be cleaned very frequently, an operation which I always disliked or rather detested. We also commenced to drill regularly, something in which we hitherto had had little experience. We had squad-drill in the mornings before breakfast, company, from nine to eleven, regimental, from two to five P. M. and dress parade at six. The latter always possessed an attraction for me, arousing all the military ardor and enthusiasm in my nature, and exciting emotions which it is difficult to describe, but somewhat akin to those which I suppose every one has experienced upon hearing a band of music play well “The star spangled banner.” The sharp ringing tones of the Adjutant and the gruff bass voice of the Major, who had command on such occasions, sound through my ears even yet. The roll was called at five A. M. and nine P. M. Absence at either time was followed by double fatigue, or water duty for the next day. Rolly overslept himself one morning and was sent with a number of others to clean the filth from off the grounds, which made him swear most bitterly. There was a sutler in camp from whom could be bought little articles at most exorbitant prices, and another down at the bridge where I sometimes purchased butter. The men were generally very anxious to have soft bread but it always seemed to me that without butter hard tack was much preferable.
I once employed the sutler to bring over from Harrisburg a package which mother wrote to me had been expressed. It contained a very large piece of dried beef, weighing several pounds, and a case of needles, pins, scissors, &c., all of which proved very useful to myself as well as others. The beef we cut in slices and Tom, the Captain's negro cook, loaned us his pans with which to fry it. Mike the company's cook, having from his position considerable power in the facility with which he could give burnt victuals and fat or bone for meat, was extremely insolent, and was also the filthiest man I ever had the misfortune to come in contact with. As an exemplification of the latter quality the following incident will serve. A New York regiment, encamped near us, had received their pay and returned home. Mike who was of an acquisitive disposition gathered up a quantity of underclothing they had left lying around their tents, but fearing that they might contain “greybacks,” or in other words “body lice,” he boiled them thoroughly in the camp kettles, and that very day we had bean soup for dinner made in the same vessels. Let any one imagine how his feelings would be galled at being compelled to carry water or do other like services for such a creature, and he can form an idea of some of the minor annoyances connected with a private's duties.
The Chaplain of the regiment had prayer and preaching very often in the evenings. There was a Presbyterian Minister from Erie, Pennsylvania, a private in one of the companies, who frequently entertained us with accounts of his travels in Europe, Asia and Africa, and also with selections from Bible history, in which he was exceedingly well versed. He was generally well read, a rather fluent speaker, and the men showed there appreciation of him by gathering in crowds to listen to his discourses. Some one also had printed a poetical account of the battle of “Bailey's hill,” as they styled our skirmish near Gettysburg, and made considerable money by circulating it through the fort at ten cents a copy. Some of the men had their tents arranged very comfortably. We floored ours with boards and made a sort of a table and seat in front, but I think it was the meanest one in the whole company. A large quantity of filth had accumulated about the fort, rendering it unpleasant as well as unhealthy, and the time we spent in it was very disagreeable to me — more so I suppose because I was continually troubled with diarrhoea. Joe. Rennard took a violent cold during our march and had such a terrible cough that he was sent to the hospital, in a tavern under the hill, where he remained until we were mustered out some weeks afterward. Country people sometimes came into the fort with fruit and berries for sale, but I was afraid to eat them, and confined myself almost exclusively to camp-fare. It is likely I would have felt better had I not been quite so abstemious, for I afterward found berries to be an excellent remedy.
On the third of July we heard numerous rumors of a battle between Meade and Lee, in which the latter was badly beaten, and the succeeding midnight we were awakened, ordered to prepare for marching, and went down to a train of cars but found it already filled with soldiers. It was raining in torrents and we stood there waiting for transportation for several hours, but as there did not appear to be any provided, some of us went into a grain house by the railroad, and went to sleep. After a time we were called out and placed in passenger cars (how fine they were), where we sat for half an hour and then marched back to our old quarters in the fort, at which we arrived about twelve o'clock. Col. Williamson, who was on a visit to the company, from Pottstown, said they had received some unfavorable news in Harrisburg from the Army. I was immediately put on guard, and thus in the rain, I spent my Fourth of July.
When the news of the capture of Vicksburg, with the garrison and stores, was received, there was the greatest rejoicing among the men. Gen. Hall ordered all the troops in his command to be drawn up in the fort, and after making a speech to them detailing all the circumstances then known of that important success, a German battery stationed there fired a salute of thirty-three guns in honor of the victory. Some began to think that the “emergency” was very nearly over.
During the following week the three months militia arrived from all parts of the State in great numbers, and trains were running day and night conveying them down the Cumberland Valley. The people, who had never been thoroughly aroused until the State was invaded and the crisis upon them, then commenced to exert themselves in earnest, and a large force was organized and thrown into the field, though too late to be of very effective service. We, who had seen the rebels and been roughing it somewhat, felt ourselves to be of considerable consequence among the new comers, especially as many of them were of those who had previously refused to take the oath and returned home.
A great many farmers from the valley who were going back to their places, and citizens from Harrisburg and other towns, came daily to visit the fort through curiosity, and were a regular nuisance to us on guard. None were admitted without passes from William B. Mann, who was provost-marshal at the bridge. On one occasion a party, consisting of a gentleman and two or three ladies, came up the hill when I was on duty and requested admission, but not having the requisite passes of course I could not permit them to enter. They seemed to be very much disappointed and one of the ladies asked me whether I really would bayonet her if she should attempt to run by, and added that I did not look very dangerous. I told her that I would not advise her to try such a course, so the ladies sat down on the bank, while the gentleman went back to procure a pass. He was absent about an hour, during which time we carried on a conversation upon various matters and they entertained me very agreeably. I learned that the principal talker of the party was a Miss Schall from Ogdensburg on the Schuylkill, who was very well acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Thompson and other members of the family. Several persons from Phoenixville came to see us, among others Jerome John and Miss Boyle, who were then on their way with hospital stores for the wounded at Gettysburg. On the afternoon of the ninth, Uncle Joe came into the fort and found me on drill. The next morning he came again bringing a vial of mixture for dysentery, and after talking and looking about for some time, he and a friend left for the battlefield.
I was soon afterward put on guard. It is the duty of the sentinel to salute an approaching Lieutenant or Captain by bringing the piece to a shoulder, any officer above that rank by presenting arms. During my watch in the afternoon a supercilious puppy of a Major, who was in undress uniform and had a small leaf upon the front of his coat, came riding rapidly up, and as he passed me holding my musket at my shoulder, cried out in a pompous and insulting tone, “Why don't you come to a present?” I replied, “Why don't you wear your straps, then?” He pointed to the leaf on his coat and shouted, “Are you so blind that you can't see?” I did not present, however, and he passed on. It would have been a great satisfaction to have kicked him. The guards are appointed for twenty-four hours and are divided into three reliefs so that each man is on duty two hours, and off the next four. On retaking my post that night at ten o'clock the guard of the first relief told me, after giving the countersign, that there had been considerable alarm during his watch, on account of continual firing in the woods two or three miles distant, where our picket line was, that the long roll had been beaten several times, and as something was evidently wrong, it was necessary to be very careful. I determined to be on the alert, and a little excitement of the kind answered very well to prevent drowsiness. The night was extremely dark and every once in a while there would be a flash and report of musketry from the pickets. The Colonel and Major came down and stood by the gate over an hour, endeavoring to discover what could be the cause of the disturbance. Both thought it was very extraordinary, as the pickets would not certainly fire in that manner without some reason for it. They went outside a few paces and Lieutenant Richards came to me and enjoined upon me to be sure and challenge them as they returned. So upon their approach I cried, “Halt! who comes there?” “Oh nonsense,” said the Major, and passed in. The Colonel finally ordered two additional companies to be sent to the line and Company F to come down and sleep by the gate upon their arms. My two hours soon slipped away, I heard no more of the disturbance, and never knew its origin. Before morning a heavy thunder storm arose and the men were thoroughly soaked. I was sound asleep in the tent for guards, entirely unconcerned. Sometimes two hours standing in the same position without being permitted to rest the musket, move from the spot, or sit down, seemed very long, and the time, especially in the quiet and darkness of night, rolled around slowly.
(Saturday July 11th.) It is usual for those coming off of guard to be excused from drill, and all other duties on the following day. Expecting therefore nothing else to do this morning, I had concluded to go down to the Susquehanna, and give myself and clothing a thorough ablution. When morning came, however, we were ordered to have everything prepared to strike tents, and police the ground, which doubtless was in great need of it. At the first sound of the Colonel's whistle, the pins were to be drawn; at the second, tents to be laid over; at the third, get to work. In consequence of everything being wet from the rain, and the threatening appearance of the clouds, the Colonel delayed giving the signal, in the hope that the sun might presently come forth, and we were commanded to remain by our tents in readiness at any time to commence operations. After waiting for an hour in no very good humor, I determined to leave, whatever might be the result, and went down to the river, washed out my clothing, took a bath, went to the hospital, and had a chat with Rennard, whose cough was still very severe, and returned to the fort after an absence of two hours to find them yet waiting to hear the whistle. Shortly afterward, the police business was postponed until a more suitable occasion, and we were informed there would be inspection of arms by the Major in the morning succeeding. So after dinner, I prepared to clean my musket, borrowed the implements, and had just taken it all apart, and was sitting on the bench in front of our tent busily scouring away, when the Orderly came along and said, “Pennypacker, I'll take you for one.” “What for” I inquired. “Police duty,” said he. I said, “Why, Orderly, I only came off guard this morning.” “Can't help it, you'll have to come,” he replied. I urged further, “My gun is here all in pieces, and I can't leave it,” and received for an answer, “Come on;” so leaving everything lying as it was, with the probability of finding half of the articles stolen when I returned, I went, in company with some half a dozen others and the Orderly, to the upper end of the fort where they were making arrangements to erect some large tents for General Hall's headquarters. We were first sent for spades and shovels, and then shown where to use them. There was perhaps half an acre of ground to be cleaned, tents to be put up for the General and staff, boards to be carried a considerable distance, and cut the proper length for the floors, and every prospect of its requiring all the afternoon to finish the work. To crown all, the Major, whom I had met at the gate in the morning previous had charge of matters, but he fortunately did not recognize me. I worked with apparent diligence, for perhaps three-fourths of an hour, and then watching my opportunity, dodged behind some tents and made tracks for the quarters of Co. F. I was evidently making rapid improvement in the knowledge of military matters, having disobeyed orders to my own advantage twice during the day; though for the latter offence, I fully expected to be at least put on double duty. There is one thing to be noticed in regard to affairs of this kind, which is that a subordinate officer feels no responsibility for the result of an undertaking, and consequently does not care what happens after he has performed the part entrusted to him. Thus it was expected of the Orderly to furnish a certain number of men, he took us up, left us in the proper hands, and though he saw me back a very short time afterward, he never thought it was any of his business to inquire how or why I returned. In the same way it is the duty of a guard to prevent any one from crossing his particular beat, and of the Commander to see that there are guards sufficient to encircle the space which is desired to be enclosed, so that if a person should persist in attempting to go over a portion of the beat, he would probably meet the bayonet, but as far as the guard is concerned, he could pass two inches beyond those bounds with perfect impunity. When guards were stationed along the bank to prevent the men from going down to the river, they always told the best way in which they could be evaded, to any one who inquired. All the water we drank was carried across their line, as that pumped up was totally unfit for use.
(Sunday, July 12th.) Some time during the night, marching orders were received. The Captain came around and threw a knapsack into each tent, which he said must answer the purpose of the whole party. By mutual consent, I took possession of the one left with us, and put in it whatever little matters, belonging to the others, were necessary. We were furnished with three days' rations, and I also stowed in my haversack, the larger portion of the piece of dried beef, which had been sent to me from home. It was not yet daylight when we bade farewell (thank fortune, a last farewell) to the fort, and marched down to the railroad. There entering freight cars in which we had the advantage of not being crowded, we started down the Cumberland Valley, a part of the State I had often longed to see. Before going many miles, the train stopped for a time, and as our canteens were empty, we filled them from a gutter running along the road, finding the water cool and pleasant, but rather muddy. We stopped again at Mechanicsburg, where the people told us of some of the rebel operations in that vicinity. On approaching Carlisle we saw the ruins of the barracks which had been destroyed, and in that very pleasant looking town we waited over an hour. While sitting here in the cars, I saw a man pass by with a large piece of bread and butter in his hand, in a few minutes another came along, so concluding they must have come from somewhere, and that considering the provender, that was just the place to suit me, I quickly made my way from the cars, and traced the provision carriers back two or three squares to a tavern, in the kitchen of which an old lady was cutting and spreading bread as fast as she could handle the knife, and the room was full of soldiers waiting their turns. They crowded around her so closely that she could scarcely move, and she was scolding away with all her might. I arrived too late to get any meat, but received a large slice of bread and returned to the car. We soon after started off, and I with a number of others got up on top of the cars, and had a fine view of the country as we passed through. About noon we came to Shippensburg which was as far as the railroad at that time had been repaired, the rebels having destroyed it for a great many miles. There we met Owen Eachus, whose company was provost-guard of the town, also Dr. W. A. Peck of Phoenixville, who was Surgeon in charge of the hospital. We stacked arms in the street, and sat down on the door steps of the houses, each one near his own musket. I presently saw a lady come to a window on the opposite side of the street from me and hand out a waiter full of bread and preserves. A few minutes afterward found me watching under the same window, and when the waiter again protruded, I secured my share. It required some exertion, too, as there was no lack of applicants. A woman in another house who saw the operation said to me as if surprised, “Yousens don't go and take what you want like the otherens did” referring to the rebels. I was shocked at the ignorance with which she placed us in the same category. As usual we were curious to know where we were bound, and it was reported that we were to go to Scotland bridge to guard some point there, which turned out to be a mistake.
About half after one we commenced our march. It was one of those hot and sultry days, which tend to make even a person in perfect inactivity feel feverish and unpleasant, when not a breath of air was stirring, and the very atmosphere we inhaled seemed almost to suffocate. We had not proceeded far before we were covered with dust and our clothing soaked with perspiration, which rolled from us in streams. For some reason we went an unusually long distance without taking a rest, and before we stopped several of the men had fallen over from the effects of the heat. Among others Ford, who was walking a few paces from me, suddenly pitched over on his face in the road, and was picked up senseless. The Colonel ordered him to be carried into a house and Rolly remained with him. He was afterward taken back to the hospital at Shippensburg and left in the care of Dr. Peck, who promised to give him every attention. A short time subsequent to that we halted in an apple orchard and stayed there over an hour, and a moist breeze having arisen, threatening a thunder storm, the rest of the march, though longer, was not so fatiguing. While at the orchard, wishing to make my load as light as possible, I gave the Sergeant-Major a large piece of my dried beef. At many of the houses which we passed the people stood at their gates with buckets and tubs and gave water to those who wanted it. It was very thoughtful and I know their kindness was appreciated. The custom in marching is to keep in ranks and step through the towns, but in the open roads the command is given “route step, arms at will,” and each one is at liberty to walk as best suits his convenience.
Our next stopping place was a small village called Greenville. Here, while sitting by the roadside, two little boys, scarcely old enough to wear breeches, came along asking the men for their canteens in order to fill them. I was pleased with the idea of children coming on such an errand, and when one of then approached me, wishing to hear him talk, I inquired whether he had seen the rebels. “Yes,” he said, “they were naughty men; they took my little dog,” and in sorrowful accents he told me further that his dog was black and had a white spot on his tail. A large flag was hung across the road and each company as it passed underneath cheered lustily for the stars and stripes. It was nearly dark when we reached Chambersburg, after a march of some twelve miles during the afternoon. There was a large army of militia encamped in that neighborhood, comprising, I suppose, many thousands, though I am unable to form any definite idea as to the exact number. Apparently there was some hesitation and doubt as to where we were to go, but finally we were taken to a clover field on the right side of the pike, belonging to Col. A. K. McClure, and there stacked arms. From the aspect of the clouds, we were apprehensive of rain before morning, but as the facilities for putting up tents were exceedingly slim, we spread our blankets upon the ground and went to sleep, trusting the weather to fortune. Upon that occasion the fickle goddess favored us and we remained dry.
(Monday, July 13th.) Doc. Nyce and I went to a house on the outskirts of the town and ate breakfast, for which we paid twenty-five cents each. It was the first time we had eaten from a table since leaving home, and I never enjoyed a meal more. It seemed to me I could not get enough of those short-cakes to satisfy myself, and they disappeared in a most miraculous manner. On returning to the muskets, I sat down upon a large stone in the centre of the field and wrote a letter to mother, which a boy promised to put in the Post Office for me. It soon after commenced raining very hard and we took shelter under a sort of archway which crossed the pike at the toll gate. Becoming tired of waiting there, I proposed to Nyce to go in and have a look at the town. There was a certainty of our getting wet; a probability of being arrested by the provost and sent to the guard-house; a possibility of the regiment moving off during our absence and leaving us in the lurch; but knowing that if we did not risk something we could see but little, in we started. Following the pike for some distance we turned to the left, crossed the Conecocheague, a rapid stream which runs directly through the centre of the town, and went to the hospital, where we saw a number of greyback prisoners who were confined there. We endeavored to find some cakes in the stores, but there was not anything of the kind in the place; all having been consumed and the bakeries stopped. We then concluded to go to the depot and take a view of the depredations which the rebels had committed there. All of the buildings belonging to the railroad company were in ruins. The plan adopted for their destruction was to batter in the walls with heavy bars until the structure fell. I was at a loss to understand why they had not applied fire and thus saved themselves from what must have required a great deal of labor. All the machinery which could be injured had been rendered useless, and even the large masses of iron exhibited the marks of blows from sledge hammers. A boy who was there told us that one of the “rebs” had been crushed beneath the walls when they fell and was still buried among the rubbish. As it was then nearly noon, we thought it would be well to try and get some dinner before returning to camp; so, going to a house, we inquired of the lady whether we could get a meal there, were answered in the affirmative, and sat down to a table at which we ate a tremendous quantity. Afterward, on asking the price, the lady told us she would never charge a union soldier for a meal while she had food in her house, and positively refused to accept any money whatever. Considering the number of men who were hunting around ready to devour everything of an edible nature, and the great scarcity of provisions caused by the presence of both armies, such generosity was extremely laudable. On going back to the muskets, I heard that one of the coal regiments was encamped on the other side of the pike, about half a mile off, and knowing that Charlie Roberts was a 1st Lieutenant in it, I concluded to go and see him. After a long hunt I found his tent and looked in, but as three of them were inside fast asleep I did not disturb them. That afternoon we were given another supply of rations, among other things sugar and coffee were divided. I did not care about the coffee, but I drew my own sugar and that of some eight or ten others, who did not want to be bothered carrying it, and gave me permission to take it in their names. I stowed in my haversack all that I could get and found it a very agreeable article to have soon afterward.
Toward evening, being ordered to fall in, the Colonel told us we would only have to march about three miles to a better location for a camp, where we would join our brigade, from which we had been separated at the fort. We marched through the town and about a mile and a half further to a wood on the left of the pike, where we pitched tents beside the others, thinking we would probably remain there a few days. We soon heard, however, that we were to start again in the morning, and a rumor was flying about that Meade had captured Lee's entire army at Williamsport, and we were going on to escort the prisoners back. We were very much pleased with the news, but the idea of making a double trip on foot across Maryland was not so agreeable. It turned out to be a canard, however.
(Tuesday, July 14th.) The camp was only a few rods from the railroad, and early in the morning I went to it to see what was the method of destroying the track. The rails were laid in heaps along the road, all of them across gutters or hollow places so that both ends were supported upon the bank. Then the sills were heaped underneath the centre and set on fire, and when the iron became hot and soft it bent from its own weight. In this way both sills and rails were rendered useless. In one place we saw some rails which while hot had been wound around a tree. We were told that the track was in this condition for seven miles, and that several thousand men were engaged in the work. How those fellows managed to make such long daily marches, and at the same time scour the country so effectually for miles and accomplish so much hard labor, was more than I could understand.
We had expected to leave at 4 A. M., but there was the usual amount of delay and ceremony, so that it was quite late before we received orders. Before starting the Colonel made a little speech to us, saying that we would then for the first time, march with the brigade, and from his acquaintance with our past performances he knew we could walk away from anything on the ground, especially as the greater number of the others were city chaps. There was one wagon belonging to our regiment, and those who were sick or unable to carry their baggage, were allowed to have it hauled. Of course, the accommodation was restricted to a very few, but Rolly who was favored in that respect, succeeded in getting his blanket and my knapsack taken as his own, a relief for which I was very thankful. He thought he would not be able to keep up, but said he intended to hold on as long as possible. One regiment after another to the number of four or five came winding out of the woods and took position along the pike until all were stretched out in one long line. We brought up the rear which is by far the most difficult station on a march, for the following reasons: It is usual to rest about ten minutes in each half hour at the head of the column. Now wherever there is a break in the road such as a mud puddle, a run or something of that nature, each man of course hesitates an instant either to choose his way or make a jump. This seems to be but a little matter, but as it is increased at every rank, by the time the rear is reached it frequently becomes many minutes. Let us suppose that each rank of two men loses only one second at a run, which is certainly a very moderate estimate. In a regiment of eight hundred men this would be 400 seconds, and in four such regiments 1600 seconds or twenty-seven minutes expended at every crossing which have to be made up from the “rests,” or by running, and consequently the rear generally gets up to the place for a halt too late to be benefitted by it. Soon after we started the clouds cleared away and the sun shone out warmly. The pike was so cut up by the passage of two armies and their wagons during the heavy rains, that the water in some places stood knee deep, and rendered travelling upon it almost impracticable. We were compelled to make a detour by some side roads on the right, and in this way lengthened our journey considerably. Even then we marched a good part of the time in the fields on account of the ill condition of the roads. A guard was placed in the rear of each regiment to pick up all who straggled without a pass from the Surgeon, and at nearly every halt the roll was called before we were permitted to sit down. Sometimes the Orderly would be interrupted in the midst of it by that never-ceasing command, “Fall in.” Those who were absent on such occasions were marked for guard duty the next night. To guard against sunstroke, I filled my cap with leaves and every once in a while poured water on them from my canteen. The march that morning on account of the heat was very hard, and before noon we were continually passing men lying in the fence corners and along the road completely overcome. Some of them died from the effects of the sun. I think fully one-fourth of one of the Philadelphia regiments straggled, and I overheard Colonel Jennings as he was looking at some of them, rather sneeringly remark “city fellows,” a class for whom he apparently had a contempt. Often some poor, tired creature would start the cry of “rest,” which then ran all along the column, but it seldom had any influence upon the officers who rode upon horseback and having nothing to carry, of course, were unable to tell by experience how much the privates endured. It is well it is so, for 1 am afraid if the commanders had to go on foot and carry their own baggage there would be very little progress made. I was still very much troubled with diarrhoea, and at times had very severe pain. Rolly kept up with a great deal of difficulty, and very early threw away a small piece of pork and his tinplate with the exclamation, “D——n it Sam, I've got to come down to light marching order.” About one o'clock we halted in a wood and stacked arms, when he threw himself down on the ground beside the guns and lay there upon his back without a movement until we started on in the afternoon. I ate some dinner and slept for perhaps an hour. The remainder of the march was comparatively easy, and about dusk we arrived at a mill dam upon the opposite side of which, and a mile from Greencastle, was our destined camp. Close at hand was a farm house occupied as the headquarters of General Dana, whom we had met upon the road and saluted a short time before. There was no way of crossing the dam except walking around the breast which took up so much time that it was quite dark when we reached the top of the hill and settled for the night. We were all in want of water, but complained of feeling too tired to get any, so having tried in vain to persuade some of the others to go, I took two or three canteens and filled them from a pump at a farm house which I discovered not far off. Rolly and I then spreading one blanket out upon the clover and covering ourselves with the other, went to sleep. During the night a storm arose and we were awakened by the rain beating in our faces, while I found my leg soaking in a puddle of water. We put the blanket over our heads, however, and slept until morning in spite of the rain.
(Wednesday, July 15th.) We expected to march again early, so rolling up our wet blankets, Rolly made the same arrangement in regard to them which had succeeded so well the day before. Several hours having slipped away without any indications of a movement, we learned that Sergeant Meigs, with a squad from our company had been sent to hunt up some cattle for beef, which looked as if the intention was to remain there for some time, and we were heartily glad of it. Later in the day, it was reported that Gov. Curtin was coming down to see us on some business. A large number of troops forming several brigades had arrived during the night and were continually coming in, so that the hill was covered over with them. Two or three sutlers also made their appearance with loaded wagons, which were soon emptied. Among other things they had a supply of Philadelphia newspapers, a day or two old. Cheese was a standing article with them and was greedily bought up at about twenty-five cents per pound. After dinner I went down to the creek to wash and found the stream as far as I could see it lined along the bank with men cleaning their clothes and bodies. The water, in consequence, was muddy and dirty, but answered the purpose better than none at all. On returning Rolly, “Tucker” and myself put up a tent and having plenty of time, we procured a light ridge pole and good, strong pins. In the evening I witnessed the sport of tossing from a blanket. Four men take hold of the corners of a blanket, and getting some fellow on it throw him up into the air and catch him again as he falls. It is rather a dangerous amusement for the one thrown, as several instances have occurred in which his neck was broken by the fall.
(Thursday, July 16th.) Nearly all of the regiments moved on towards Hagerstown. We had marching orders, but on the receipt of the intelligence of Lee's successful retreat over the Potomac at Williamsport, they were countermanded and Colonel Jennings was made Acting Brigadier and placed in command of the camp. Had Lee delayed one day longer, and Meade made his intended attack, it is very probable we would have taken part in a severe battle, as we were only a march of a day and a half distant from the scene of operations, and the struggle in which the former staked the existence of his army, perhaps of the Confederacy, and the latter complete victory, would doubtless have been terrific.
Early in the morning we struck tents and moved to a more pleasant location on the edge of a wood. Here, by permission, five of us, Rhodes, Landis, Rolly, Nyce and I put up a tent together, and through the increased length had room enough to be comfortable. We took considerable pains to have it nice, selected a good position on the slope of the ground so that it could be readily drained, elevated it about the right height, put fence rails along the inner edges, stretched the muslin out to make it tight and firm, dug drains and gutters all around, and when our work was completed, had, without exception, the best tent in the company. We also admitted “Tucker,” who had lost his piece of tent while at Fort Couch. Desiring to see Greencastle, I persuaded Rhodes and “Tucker” to accompany me, and we started off across the fields for the town, which was about a mile distant. Meeting several who were returning from there we inquired of them whether we could get in without passes. Some said we could, by dodging, and others told us there was a picket on the road near the outskirts of the place, arresting all who had not the necessary documents, and even if we escaped them, we would be certain to be captured by the provosts. Determined, nevertheless, to risk it, we proceeded, and when in sight of the picket party struck off to the right through a cornfield, and making a wide circuit, came into the town from the rear. Jumping over a garden fence, we cautiously entered one of the back streets and seeing a couple of men ahead in uniform we followed them at the distance of a half a square. At the very next corner they ran against a squad of guards coming down a cross-street and were marched off. We dodged behind a stable and waited until they had departed, then emerging from our hiding place we went to a house and asked the woman whether she could get us some dinner. She said she had not much in the house, but if we chose would get ready for us all she could. So one of us was stationed at the front, another at the back door to give the alarm upon the approach of the provosts, while she cooked dinner, which consisted of fried flitch, cabbage, potatoes, molasses, bread and butter, and rye coffee. During its preparation she entertained us with accounts of the rebels, telling how “sassy” they were, how they scared a young man into fits from the effects of which he died, how she cursed them to their faces, something that judging from her appearance and manners she was very able to do, and how she threatened to cut their throats with the huge butcher knife with which she was then slicing the bread. Shortly after a young fellow, one of Milroy's men, who was staying there, and her daughter came in with a bucket full of blackberries and she gave us each a saucer full. We paid her twenty-five cents a piece and then went further in town to the main street, where we bought some little articles. On coming back we chanced to see a woman taking some pies out of an oven and thinking they would suit us exactly, we hurried into the yard eager to make a purchase. At first she positively refused to part with any, saying she wanted them for her family, but after some cajolery she finally consented to let us have two or three. We carried them into camp by the same route we had come. There they told us Governor Curtin was on the ground addressing the men, and soon afterward he came over to our regiment, and though he was very hoarse made a short speech. He said among other things that there was every prospect of the “emergency” being over and our being sent home in a few days; but being of one Commonwealth, no Pennsylvanian had a right to sleep quietly at home while these people of the border were driven from their habitations and their property despoiled; that when they had returned with the probability of remaining undisturbed, we might consider our services finished. Upon the conclusion of his remarks we gave him three cheers and he drove off.
(Friday, July 17th.) A number of cattle were brought in for beef, and shot. I had acquired a disgust for fresh beef from a singularly unpleasant taste, which the method of preparation gave it, and from seeing our dirty cook holding the pieces down on the ground with his filthy feet while he cut them off with an axe. When, however, we could manage to get hold of some of the raw meat and fry it ourselves I could eat it with great relish. I liked the salt pork much better than beef, and generally ate the proportion of two or three men, as some of them would scarcely touch it. A dislike to the coffee had also grown upon me, and I drank water altogether. At a farm house a few fields from where we were encamped was the finest spring of water I ever saw anywhere, being almost as cold as ice and affording an inexhaustible supply. Much nearer and directly in front of the camp, underneath a steep hill, were several smaller though equally good springs which we used principally. Small pipes made from the bark of trees had been fitted in them for the water to run through as it came from the bank, which materially assisted in filling the canteens. Every morning early we went there for that purpose and to wash in the delightfully cool and fresh stream. It is one of the most important considerations to have a camp where there is plenty of good water. Pumps are very frequently exhausted by the continual use, from which results one beneficial effect, the supply is usually cold and agreeable. That region abounds in raspberries, blackberries, &c., and I consumed great quantities of them. I found they did me much good, cured me of the diarrhoea, and I soon began to get fat. We had them almost daily at our meals for desert, and in this way used the sugar that I brought from Chambersburg. Rolly was detailed to guard a man's house from depredators, and was very well pleased with the situation, as they cooked his rations nicely for him and added to them beside. Mike cut my hair for me close to the head in military style. Numbers of the men scattered abroad in all directions to “forage,” and though some of them were brought in once in a while by the cavalry to the guard house and strict orders were issued against it, I concluded it was the right way to get along and see the country. We were drilled regularly by the Lieutenant Colonel, who had such an odd tone of voice that no one could understand his orders, sometimes he would shout “shoulder arms, order arms, support arms,” entirely contrary to the manual, and would be obeyed by some reluctantly by others not at all. On one occasion he cursed the Adjutant up and down for a mistake evidently made by himself, upon a review of the brigade by Colonel Jennings.
(Saturday, July 18th.) After drill. Doc. Nyce and I started on a foraging expedition. For two or three miles we kept pretty closely along the pike, which had been terribly broken up by the heavy baggage trains and artillery. As a proof of how little it was then used, at different places we saw quantities of corn growing several inches high right in the middle of it. We found in that distance three or four wagons and caissons whose spokes had been cut and wheels destroyed after they had given way on the retreat. Shells, rebel clothing, haversacks, &c., were scattered about plentifully. We visited two or three of their camps and at one of them in a wood, Nyce picked up a ramrod and presented it to me. At the two first houses to which we applied for dinner they told us they actually had nothing to eat themselves, but at the third we were more fortunate and procured a very good meal of meat and vegetables. They said the “rebs” had gone into the cellar, filled their canteens with molasses from the hogshead and emptied the remainder on the floor, served the vinegar and other articles in the same way, stolen all their chickens, cows and horses, carried from the barn the rakes, pitchforks, &c., and wantonly destroyed many things they could not use. There was scarcely a horse left in that part of the country, a clean sweep having been made of those animals. In one secret spot among some bushes by the side of a creek, Doc. and I saw a place that looked as if some had been hidden there for safety, from the many marks of their feet upon the ground. We were gathering raspberries at the time, and pushing pretty far into the bushes, happened to meet with it. A large proportion of the wheat, though dead ripe, still stood uncut in the fields, from the want of horses to haul it in, and I have no doubt that a great deal was lost. On our way back we stopped in a barn where some of the rebels had slept and gathered up a number of letters and other documents left behind by them. What was of greater present value, I found a hen's nest with five eggs in it and immediately took possession of the contents without hesitation and left no nest egg either. On reaching camp we boiled them in our tin cups and had a dainty supper.
(Sunday, July 19th.) The Major inspected arms about ten o'clock. After that was concluded I started off on another tour, this time unaccompanied, and wandered along the railroad for a couple of miles picking and eating raspberries as I went. I then turned off to the right on some back road, and after getting my dinner at a farm house, came across a path where the berries were very fine and plentiful, and filling my pocket handkerchief with about two quarts of them, carried it into camp for the other fellows. Renshaw, who had received news of the death of his brother from wounds inflicted at the battle of Gettysburg, with considerable difficulty succeeded in getting a furlough for a few days to attend his funeral and left for Phoenixville. The next day Ford's father brought on a box of provisions for his son, who was lying sick at Shippensburg, and came into camp expecting to find him with us. Being disappointed, however, he left the box for Rhodes, and as it contained a couple of chickens, bread and butter, cake, cheese, jelly, &c., we had a regular feast at his expense.
(Tuesday, July 21st.) Early in the morning those who had been guarding the farm houses in the vicinity were recalled, and about nine o'clock we struck tents and started by the pike towards Chambersburg in jovial spirits “homeward bound.” On the way we passed a barn in which was lying a rebel soldier who had been wounded through the neck at Gettysburg, and they said he was in a miserable condition without having anyone to attend to his wants. That day's march was the easiest we had experienced, from two causes, first, because there was a strong cool wind blowing, which was very exhilarating; and second, our Colonel who had command of the brigade, was very careful to see that we were placed in the advance. Late in the afternoon we arrived at our previous camp near Chambersburg, and Rolly, Nyce and I put up a tent together, being expressly forbidden to make them more than the usual length. Soon afterward I was detailed for guard, and the Sergeant Major who was posting us said to me, “Nyce you will be Colonel's Orderly — report at headquarters without your musket.” It was a very singular thing that many of the men said that Nyce and I resembled each other so much they could not tell us apart. I was frequently saluted as “Nyce” and he by my name, though he was nearly six feet high and much heavier. I went to the Colonel's tent and upon carrying some orders around to the different companies in the dark, was dismissed for the night, about nine o'clock with instructions to report again in the morning.
(Wednesday, July 22d.) The Major took the Captains and Lieutenants off some distance to drill them in the manual, and I was sent to order the best drilled Sergeant in the companies to take the men out for the same purpose. At eight o'clock, at guard mounting, I was relieved by Smith, a son of the President of the Reading Railroad. Scheetz was the Sergeant selected in our company, and he drilled us in the following style: marched two or three fields off to be comfortably out of sight, formed under a large tree, “shoulder arms, order arms, shoulder arms, stack arms, break ranks, march,” and we lay there on the grass until the two hours were over, and then returned to the tents. It suited the men exactly. We paid up for it, however, in the afternoon on battalion drill under the Lieutenant Colonel. During the day a great many women came into camp with baskets of pies and molasses cakes for sale. Nearly all were sold, but they were miserable, unwholesome things. The crusts were almost as tough as sole leather, and the contents of the poorest kind as a general thing. In the night Nyce was taken sick with something like cramp, and as he suffered a great deal of pain I took a tin cup and went to the Surgeon's tent for some medicine for him. It was extremely dark, but knowing the direction of the Surgeon's quarters I found them without much trouble except tumbling over some ropes. I aroused him, procured the medicine, and started back in so much of a hurry that I lost my way completely and was brought up suddenly by a “halt” from one of the guards at the officers' tent of Company B. He seemed at first unwilling to permit me to pass, but when I stated the case to him, he felt the letters on my cap and the tin cup in my hand, and said it was contrary to orders, but he guessed it would be all right. Knowing then which way to turn I soon found the tent, and on swallowing the preparation Nyce became easier.
(Thursday, July 23d.) A young fellow from our company, named Nat. Hobart, who had been left at Gettysburg, and had seen the battle with all the military transactions there, came into camp. He presented to me some caps that he had taken from the boxes of some of the dead rebels. Several “emergency” regiments passed us on their way to Harrisburg to be mustered out, also, a large squad of rebels prisoners went by under guard. We all ran out to see them, and as we stood along the edge of the road, one of them said to another, “there's that Twenty-sixth that we drove from Gettysburg.”
After dinner I, with a number of others, was detailed under Sergeant Scheetz to dig a couple of privies, and had a chance of handling the spade and shovel for a couple of hours. They are made about fifteen feet long, two wide, and three deep. Then a fork cut from a tree and made the proper length is fixed firmly at each end of the trench and a sapling laid across so as to be supported by the forks.
There was consideral dissatisfaction manifested by the men toward our Quartermaster, whom they accused of not supplying the usual quantity of meat and other rations. They said that in order to make money he sold what was due to them, and their dislike was expressed by hissing, hooting and groaning wherever he appeared. Some even talked loudly about mobbing him, I do not know what were the merits of the case, but it is certain the rations were frequently very slim. Rolly had been quite unwell for several days, and was scarcely able to eat anything — the rations did not suit him at alL
(Friday, July 24th.) Nyce and I tried to get a pass to go into town and having failed, concluded to go upon our own authority. We started soon after dinner and inquired of several coming out, whether the provosts were on the alert. As usual they were very unsatisfactory, some answering in the affirmative and others in the negative. We walked boldly up the pike and had scarcely entered the town when we saw a squad about a square off coming toward us, so we turned quickly to the left and went around by one of the back unfrequented streets, running parallel with the pike, which we followed for several squares. Seeing some little fellows playing with old bayonets, we asked where they had got them and they told us the “rebs” had left them at the depot on vacating the premises. We offered to give them four cents for two of the weapons, to which the urchins readily agreed, and promised to keep them for us until we returned. One went along to show us where there was a bakery. It was on the Main street, and a woman at the counter told us that men were nabbed in the store every day. She kept watch at the door, and the person who waited on us had just finished tying up some cakes and other little things we had bought, when she turned around and said, “Here they come.” We snatched up our things, struck out through the back door, across two or three gardens and private yards, clambered over a high board fence, and did not stop until we had reached a safe distance. Getting our bayonets, we started for the Conecocheague creek, and following along the bank to a good place for bathing, out of sight of the town, we stripped off our clothes and took a swim. The water was very cold from coming directly from springs. In a short walk, we counted I think a dozen. We hurried out on account of an approaching thunder shower, and reached camp shortly after it commenced raining. About this time we heard of the riots in New York, and it was rumored that Governor Curtin had offered our services to assist in quelling them. Some of the fellows were uneasy about it, especially one poor man by the name of Lockhardt, whom all delighted to tantalize with these floating reports, because of his aversion to the service, and his anxiety to get home. He was terribly afraid of being drafted and since then, actually had the misfortune to draw a prize in Uncle Sam's lottery. Another was Van. Missimer, a big, fat, lazy fellow, who was assistant cook, and who could generally be seen sitting upon his beam end on a log, watching dirty Mike blow his nose with his fingers over the camp kettle in which the meal was being prepared.
Saturday, July 25th. In the morning we had no drill, but were all at work policing the ground, cleaning things up and burning the trash about the place. We considered this a certain indication of a movement as we had previously policed at the fort, Greencastle, and every camp at which we stopped, before leaving it. After the work was accomplished, Nyce and I went to a farm house and got our dinners. The lady said she had fed a large number of the rebel officers, who were generally very polite, and paid in their scrip, but they had taken from the farm six horses without any compensation. I bought from her a five dollar blue-back confederate note, for which I gave her fifty cents. In the afternoon we had a tremendously heavy storm, which completely flooded the camp, beat through the tents as if they had been made of paper, and streams of water like little rivulets poured underneath, wetting our blankets and everything else. Some were entirely drowned out and emerged “to stand the storm,” looking like so many soaked rats. We were more fortunate than many, in having our tent pretty well drained, but were, nevertheless, thoroughly watered. After the rain had somewhat slackened, we endeavored to arrange things as comfortably as possible, but about dark we were informed that we would leave for Harrisburg before morning, so there was no sleeping to be done that night. The men were in excellent spirits, with the prospect of, going home, and gathering together all the brush, fence rails, logs and wood of any kind that could be found near, they made a bonfire of them and kept it burning until we marched. The Captain had a few potatoes in his tent, which were brought out and some of them eaten, while the remainder were used for throwing at each other's heads for amusement. We took down our tent and dried it with the blankets by the fire, and packed them up in our knapsacks in order to be in readiness when the Colonel's whistle should be heard. While waiting, a mail arrived, which contained for me two copies of the “Phoenix” and a letter from Lloyd in answer to one I had written to him a few days before. About two o'clock the sound of a whistle rang through the wood, and with a shout we “fell in” and were soon on the road. It was still raining, exceedingly dark, and as we went sometimes on the pike and then in the fields, we had a regular time of it slipping into mud puddles and scrambling over fence rails, before we reached Chambersburg. We were then packed in dirty freight cars, forty in each, so that in sitting down, our legs had to be intertwined, and at four o'clock moved slowly away. It was not intended we should leave that night, the turn of another regiment coming ahead of ours, and no orders had been issued to our Colonel to that effect; but having learned that transportation was awaiting the Twenty-seventh regiment, and knowing how to take advantage of circumstances, by management he had everything prepared, hurried us on the cars in the night before they had arrived, and was off before anyone was aware that a mistake had been made. We returned by the same route we had gone down, and nothing worthy of mention occurring on the way, we again came within sight of Harrisburg on the afternoon of the 26th of July. Disembarking from the cars, we marched to the foot of the hill, upon which stood the fort, and then pitched tents in a field. We expected to be mustered out next day, but our past experience of the delay attending military matters should have taught us better.
(Monday, July 27th.) Rennard had been removed to a hospital in Harrisburg and, having discovered his whereabouts, I wrote a letter to him telling him he had better come over and join his company. The Captains were very busy making out their muster rolls, and an advertisement was published in one of the papers warning all paroled prisoners and absentees to make their appearance immediately. Our company soon became quite full again, and some of the new comers I did not remember having seen before. Two men who had deserted were compelled to carry logs up and down before the tents as a punishment. Rolly received a letter from home saying that a box of provisions had been sent to him a week or so before, and learning that it was then lying in the depot, he prevailed on the Colonel to give a pass for him and me to go after it. At the bridge the guards said it would have to be countersigned by the Commandant of the post, so I went up into the fort to seek for that officer. The place was entirely deserted, except by the Dutch Artillery company, whose Captain was the man I wanted, and I found him in his tent playing cards. He signed my pass, I left the fort by way of the old bank, and was never in it afterward. At the depot we were unable to find the box, and notwithstanding all my efforts Rolly insisted on telegraphing to Phoenixville that we would be there in a day or two. On our way back we stopped in a hardware store to be weighed, and he had come down to two hundred, having lost fifty pounds, while I stood at my old figure of one hundred and thirty. When we returned to camp we learned that mustering out had been stopped on account of a rumor that the rebels had again appeared in the State, and it was said we were to start down the valley again on the morrow. It would have been amusing to an uninterested party to have seen how crest fallen every one seemed, and what a number of solemn faces were to be met with. I must acknowledge that I felt very unpleasantly on the subject. While we were down below I could have remained there indefinitely, or gone further without any painful sensation in regard to home, but when we started on the leturn, my thoughts were engaged in forming anticipations of the pleasure of meeting, and wandered continually in that direction, so that the news we had received acted like a wet cloth. The Harrisburg paper of the next morning, however, said the report was a canard, and the business was resumed.
(Tuesday, July 28th.) Rennard came into camp early and was still troubled with a cough. Nyce and George Meigs were sent down to Dillsburg for some muskets which had been left there, and returned with two or three. In the afternoon we marched over to Camp Curtin and deposited our muskets in the same armory from which we had taken them. Going through the bridge in column, we stirred up such a cloud of dust that we were almost suffocated, and being completely covered with it, found it necessary to take a wash in the Susquehanna afterward. Mat. Anderson, who was a private in the Twenty-seventh, came over to see us in the evening and spent some time.
(Thursday, July 30th.) The reason of so much delay in mustering out was that the mustering officer, Bush, was more fond of carousing about the hotels of Harrisburg than attending to his business. The Colonel, however, fastened on to him somewhere and brought him over, determined that he should not escape until our regiment was mustered out. “Well, but Colonel,” I heard him say, “I must go over and get my dinner,” “No you don't, Bush,” replied the Colonel, “I will order dinner for you here, chickens, turkey or anything you want.” So in the afternoon we marched by companies to the farmhouse in which he was quartered, answered to our names as the roll was called, and that ceremony was concluded, bringing us one step nearer the end. The weather was very warm and we found lying on our backs in the tents an exceedingly monotonous employment. There were several of Beadle's dime novels circulated about which served to pass away the time. Toward night General Stahl rode through camp and mistaking him for General Sigel we gave him three cheers.
(Friday, July 31st.) I was put on water duty for absence at roll-call the night before, having gone to sleep in my tent and not hearing the drum. Our Commissary Sergeant gave us three or four loaves of fresh bread, part of which we fried in the pork fat and it made a very palatable dish.
(Saturday, August 1st.) In the morning we delivered up our tents, blankets, haversacks and canteens, and were left with nothing but our clothing of those things with which we were supplied by government. The accoutrements and knapsacks belonged to Pottstown. About the middle of the afternoon the Adjutant read a farewell order from the Colonel. We gave three times three to both of those officers and shouting good bye to Company A. we (F.) marched over to the farm house and were paid off. I received $19.26, some of the others rather more on account of having been sworn in sooner. From there we went to Harrisburg, and after getting our suppers at various places (Nyce and I at a restaurant), about seven P. M., we started in freight cars down the Lebanon Valley. Some of the fellows had taken the opportunity of imbibing enough to make them very drunk, and getting on top of the cars, fell fast asleep there. They were in continual danger of tumbling off and the conductor told us that one fellow from Lebanon had rolled upon the track. He thought the man must have been killed, so the others were carried down and put inside. Two came staggering into our car, and, after vomiting all around in a manner to make themselves as disagreeable companions as could well be found, threw themselves down on the floor, and were soon snoring away in perfect unconsciousness of every thing. It was a beautiful, clear, and moonlight night, the scenery along the road could be distinguished almost as readily as if it had been day, and Lieutenant Richards and I sat by the side opening of the car looking at the fields, woods and villages as they rolled rapidly by, without feeling the least inclination to sleep. At Lebanon we parted with the Major and his company. The people of that place had very kindly provided a tub of ice-water with three or four dippers in it for Company F, and we carried it on to our car thankful for the thoughtfulness displayed as well as the real benefit of the gift. Between two and three o'clock we arrived at Pottstown. The citizens had prepared an extempore collation in the yard of one of the hotels, and after a speech from a minister, we attacked the viands and ate what we required. Then giving up our accoutrements and bidding farewell, the party of us from Phoenixville, under charge of Rolly, got on the engine of a coal train and soon after day light came in sight of the town. At the depot we met Mr. Hicks and Billy Davis. Landis and I crossed the bridge together, but before going to the house I bathed myself thoroughly in the Schuylkill. On entering the gate the dog “Jack” did not recognize me and made such a noise that the whole household was aroused. Mother, Aunt Lib, Harry and Isaac came running to the door to welcome me — and thus was concluded my part of the “Emergency.”
The Captain, First Lieutenant, Rolly, Rennard, Nyce and several others were afterwards sick, and two of the company, Byers and Hays, died from the effects of the exposure.
MUSTER ROLL OF COMPANY F.
Captain, George Rice.
First Lieutenant, Henry Potts, Jr.
Second Lieutenant, Mark H. Richards.
|William A. Dyer,||George Scheetz,|
|William S. Lessig,||William G. Meigs,|
|Mahlon V. Smith,||John S. Lloyd,|
|Miller D. Evans,||John Corbert,|
|Henry Richards,||John Guest,|
|D. W. Davis,||Charles W. MacDonald.|
|John Auchey,||Jerome Byer,|
|Wm. P. Buckley,||Christian G. Bair,|
|Edwin R. Bechtel,||Nathaniel Bickel,|
|Wm. J. Binder,||John R. Caswell,|
|Horace A. Custer,||Mahlon Collar,|
|Hiram Collar,||Saml. S. Daub,|
|Abram Derolf,||Robert Ennis,|
|Daniel E. Ellis,||Jonas D. Fritch,|
|John H. Fryer,||Thos. W. Feger,|
|Jonathan Fray,||Benjamin Frock,|
|Charles Frick,||John B. Ford,|
|John Fry,||Michael Fryer,|
|Daniel Graham,||Henry C. Hitner,|
|Samuel Hetzall,||Jefferson F. Huber,|
|Joseph L.Hayes, Jr.,||Levi Herring,|
|Paul Herring,||Isaac Herring,|
|John W. Hollowbush,||Jonathan Hummel,|
|Henry Huber,||Henry J. Hobart,|
|Nathaniel P. Hobart,||George Liggett, |
|David R. Landis,||William Lachman,|
|Michael Lessig,||George Mayer,|
|George Meigs,||Van Buren Missimer,|
|Merit Missimer,||George Morrow,|
|Patterson Marshall,||Theodore McKane,|
|Cyrus Nyce,||Henry A. Prutzman,|
|Samuel W. Pennypacker,||Henry G. Rahn,|
|John Rhodes,||Richard Renshaw,|
|Joseph G. Rennard,||Benjamin S. Rowe,|
|Thomas Reddy,||Calvin B. Spousler,|
|Edwin F. Smith,||George W. Shaner,|
|Robert F. Small,||Israel Spancake,|
|Ephraim Schrope,||George Steele,|
|Augustine W. Shick,||William J. Thomas,|
|Werner Thomas,||Joseph K. Welles,|
|W. W. Wynn,||Frank Wagoner.|
|Bates, Vol. V. p. 1235.|
- This paper is so very personal in its character that it is published after much hesitation and with many misgivings. Several considerations have had weight in inducing me to commit what may seem to be an impropriety. Col. John P. Nicholson, and other friends, who are students of the military history of the rebellion, and whose judgment is worth much more than my own in such matters, have earnestly urged me to print it. The Compte de Paris and General Longstreet, unite in saying that “the slightest incident which affected the issue of that conflict (Gettysburg) had a greater importance than the most bloody battle fought afterwards.” A Pennsylvanian naturally resents the statement, so often made in prose and verse, that John Burns was the only man in Gettysburg to display loyalty and courage, and information concerning a regiment, one of whose companies came from that town, and which was the first force to engage the rebel army there when it entered the State, ought not, perhaps, to be withheld. An effort was made to recast the paper, but it was soon found that the result was to destroy all of the color and freshness which constituted its only literary merit, and the attempt was abandoned. It is hoped that the freedom of comment upon men and affairs will be excused as the quick and enthusiastic impressions of a boy of twenty.
- A. R. Whitaker.
- V. N. Shaffer.
- Hamilton Vanderslice.
- Jerome Keeley.
- J. Ralston Caswell.
- Samuel Sower.
- Henry Ashenfelter.
- I now ask his pardon.
- William G. Meigs.
- Miller D. Evans.
- D. Webster Davis.
- John S. Lloyd.
- Charles W. MacDonald.
- He was afterward killed while bravely fighting before Petersburg, Va.
- Harry W. McKnight.
- John W. Royer.
- Granville O. Haller of the regular army.
“On reaching the forks of the road on the east slope of the mountain
about one and one-half miles from Cashtown I sent General
Gordon with his brigade and White's battalion of cavalry on the
macadamized road through Cashtown towards Gettysburg, and I
moved with the rest of the command to the left through Hilltown
to Mummasburg. I had heard on the road that there was probably
a force at Gettysburg, though I could get no definite information
as to its size; and the object of this movement was for Gordon to
amuse and skirmish with the enemy, while I should get in his flank
and rear so as to capture the whole force. * * The militia regiment
which had been encountered by White's cavalry was the 26th
Penna., consisting of eight or nine hundred men and had arrived at
Gettysburg the night before and moved out that morning a few
miles on the road to Cashtown, but had fled on the first approach of
White's advance, taking across the fields between Mummasburg and
Gettysburg and going towards Hunterstown; of this force a little over
two hundred prisoners in all were captured and subsequently paroled.
Hay's brigade was halted and camped about a mile from Gettysburg,
two regiments having been sent to aid French in the pursuit
of the fugitive militia but they were not able to get up with it.”
Gen. Jubal A. Early's official report.
- The regiment was promptly formed on the left of the road and opened fire, checking his advance and compelling him to fall back with some loss in killed and wounded. Bates, Vol. v, p. 1325.
- “Hanover Junction, June 27, 9 A. M. The telegraph operator
is still at Hanover. Col. Jenning's regiment left Harrisburg on
Thursday for Gettysburg. The engine ran over a cow, seven miles
from Gettysburg, and the locomotive and several cars were injured,
but no one was hurt. On Friday morning the regiment went to
Gettysburg. The Phila. City Troop and another cavalry company
preceded them * * * at 3 o'clock on Friday afternoon, our
cavalry left Gettysburg as the rebels entered * * * Before
leaving, a train with thirteen freight cars, some with Col. Jennings'
supplies, was run to this side of the bridge at the end of the town.
The bridge and the train were afterwards destroyed by the rebels.”
“York, June 27, 1 P. M. Nothing has been heard yet of Jennings' regiment. The attack on them commenced about three yesterday, by a large cavalry force, and continued to the last advices. The loss is not known, but it is reported that a number were taken prisoners.”
“Harrisburg, June 28th. Col. Jennings' regiment which had the skirmish at Gettysburg arrived here to-day. He lost about three hundred men in prisoners and stragglers. The officers were sent to Richmond and the men paroled. Some of the men have arrived here.”
The Press, June 29th, 1863.
- Robert Renshaw.
August 21st, 1881. I made a visit to Gettysburg on the 15th
inst., and learned from persons who were there in 1863, many
additional facts, and went on foot over the battlefield and over the
grounds occupied by our regiment near the town. Mr. Rufus E.
Culp, son of the owner of Culp's Hill, who was a member of Co.
A., tells me that our camp June 26th, 1863, was on the Marsh
Creek, to the right of the Chambersburg pike. The engagement
took place on the road from Mummasburg to Hunterstown, near
the Harrisburg road. The creek we crossed on a log, was the Conewago,
and the place about two and a half miles below the Harrisburg
road. Our camp the next day, where the men fired off their
muskets, was at Woolford's Mill, at the junction of the Bermudian
and Lattemore creeks. From there we went up the Lattemore
creek to the Harrisburg road. In the engagement, a rebel was
shot and carried into a barn. The farmers who were with us
through the night of June 26th, were J. W. Diehl and A. F. Gift.
Mr. Diehl says, that the rebels were on both roads upon the front,
and also in the rear, and that he could see no chance of escape for
us but to cross the Susquehanna near Golesborough. He also says,
that we left some dead rebels on our path.
Major Robert Bell was at the head of a company of horse from the town, under the direction of Major Granville O. Haller. He was in the room at the Eagle Hotel, when Lieutenant Mowry reported to Haller with our detachment, on the night of June 25th. The intention had been to send us out to occupy the pass in the South Mountain, a narrow defile where a few men would have a great advantage. This plan was abandoned, upon Bell's telling them that the rebels were already in possession of the pass. He rode out the next morning with Jennings to Marsh Creek. After we had camped, they rode further to the top of the hill, and there were the rebels, cavalry, infantry and artillery. “I do not see that I have any business with these men here,” said Jennings, “What shall I do with them?” “What do you want to do?” asked Bell. “I came from Harrisburg, and I guess the best thing would be, to try and get back again.”
It was a rainy day, and Bell pointed out the direction and ex- plained the roads. As he saw the end of the regiment marching off up the hill, he thanked the Lord that he was not on foot. They captured the company left as a rear guard. The force which struck us at Witmer's was two regiments of cavalry.
The brick house where the engagement took place mentioned in my narrative, belonged to Henry Witmer. About fifteen of our men, I am told by its present occupants, were captured here. One man who hid in a meat tub was finally discovered. Another fired from the garret window at a rebel cavalryman and shot his horse. He changed his uniform for an old suit belonging to Mr. Witmer, and made his escape. When the rebels came back by the house, there were two of them supported on their horses, supposed to have been shot. The Witmers found a number of bullet holes in the gate and fences afterwards.
At the house of William Wert, a half a mile above, a number of our men were captured. Our line of battle was formed in Wert's field.
Henry Witmer's house is about four and a-half miles from Gettysburg by the Carlisle road, about seven by the Harrisburg road.
- “Late on Thursday evening, however, 100 picked men from the
26th Regiment were ordered up from their encampment to Gettysburg,
with the design of sending them to the mountain as
sharpshooters or bushwhackers in order to cut off the rebel pickets, who,
according to information then received, extended down the
southeastern flanks of the mountain and were making gradual approaches
toward our town. But the heavy rain of the night caused them to
be detained until the balance of the regiment arrived and thus they
were saved from almost certain capture or destruction.”
“Friday, June 26th, the 26th Regiment arrived at Gettysburg from their camping ground at 9 A. M., and by order of Maj. Haller, though contrary to the earnest remonstrances of Jennings, Colonel of the regiment, was sent forward at 10½ A. M. on the Chambersburg turnpike. This was a suicidal movement of a handful, chiefly of inexperienced men, in the face of a large body of experienced troops. The rebels afterward laughed at the folly of the order. But advancing to the distance of about three miles to the westward our little band encamped and threw out their pickets. At about 3 P. M. the rebels in force made their appearance and captured nearly all their pickets, 40 in number. Col. Jennings, who had on several occasions shown himself to be an officer as skillful as he is cool and brave, seeing the trap into which he had been led, immediately upon sight of the enemy divided the regiment into three squads in order to deceive them with the appearance of a large body of infantry. The deception proved so far successful that the rebels did not press them, fearing that a direct attack might prove more serious than a mere skirmish. Jenning's band however hastily retreated eastward over the fields and by country roads, occasionally skirmishing with the enemy's cavalry which was sent in pursuit of them, and after losing 120 more of their number near Hunterstown, and zigzagging very frequently, being often within hearing distance of their pursuers, they reached Harrisburg on Sunday, the 28th of June, much fatigued, having marched 54 out of 60 continuous hours. Too much praise cannot be awarded Col. Jennings for the skillful manner in which he conducted this retreat and saved the regiment from capture.” — Jacob's notes on the Battle of Gettysburg.
- Rebecca E. Boyle.
- J. R. Whitaker.