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Civil War Blog

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Who Was Patrick Mullin of the 46th Pennsylvania Infantry?

Posted By on February 15, 2017

Patrick Mullin was living in Williams Township, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, in 1890, and reported to the census that he had served in the 46th Pennsylvania Infantry, Company I, as a Private, with service beginning on 31 October 1861.  However, in the comments section (not shown), he also reported that he deserted on 19 June 1862.

From the Pennsylvania Archives, the card (shown above) for Patrick Mullin states that he was a resident of Scranton at the time of his enrollment and enrolled there on 23 August 1861.  He was 24 years old (born about 1837), was five foot, six inches tall, had black hair, dark complexion, and black eyes.  He was a laborer.  He was mustered into service on 31 October 1861 at Muddy Branch, Maryland.  The card also confirms that he deserted, but the date is different, 19 January 1862, and the place is given as Stafford Court House, Virginia.

Nothing else is known about him.

Anyone who can provide any additional information about this Patrick Mullin is urged to do so by adding comments to this post or sending the information by e-mail.

 

 

Harry M. Kieffer’s Recollections – Johnny Comes Marching Home

Posted By on February 13, 2017

Today’s post features Chapter 26, the final chapter of Recollections of a Drummer Boy.

Previously on this blog, a brief sketch was presented on the Rev. Dr. Henry M. Kieffer, a Civil War veteran who was not included on the Millersburg Soldier Monument.  In that sketch, it was noted that Rev. Dr. Kieffer was enumerated in the 1860 Census of Upper Paxton Township, in the household of his father, Rev. Ephraim Kieffer, a Reformed minister who served churches in Killinger, Lykens Township, and Gratz, among other communities in the Lykens Valley area – and that the Rev. Dr. Henry Kieffer later published his recollections of the war in 1883.  In the Civil War, he served in the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry.

In Chapter 26, he tells of his return home from the war.  The chapter is appropriately entitled, “Johnny Comes Marching Home.”

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We had just come out of what is known as the “Second Hatcher’s Run” fight, somewhere about the middle of February, 1865.  The company, which was now reduced to a mere handful of men, was standing about a smoking fire in the woods, discussing the engagement and relating adventures, when someone came in from brigade headquarters, shouting the following message — “Say, boys, good news!  They told me over at headquarters that we are about to be sent North to relieve the ‘regulars’ somewhere.”

Ha! ha! ha!  That was an old story, — too old to be good, and too good to be true.  For a year and more we had been hearing that same good news, — “Going to Baltimore.”  “Going to Washington.” and so forth, and we always ended up with going into battle instead, or off on some long raid.

So we didn’t much heed the tidings; we were too old birds to be caught with chaff.

But, in spite of our incredulity, the next morning we were marched down to General Grant’s branch of the Petersburg Railway, loaded on box cars, and carried to City Point, where we were at once embarked on two huge steamers, which we found awaiting us.

For two days and nights we were cooped up in those miserable boats.  We had no fire, and we suffered from the cold.  We had no water for thirty-six hours, and, of course, no coffee; and what is life to a soldier without coffee?  All were sea-sick, to, for the weather was rough.  And so, what with hunger and thirst, cold and sea-sickness, we landed one evening at Baltimore more dead than alive.

No sooner were we well down the gang-plank than the crowd of apple and pie women that stood on the wharf made quick sales and large profits.  Then we marched away to a “soldiers’ retreat” and were fed.  Fed!  We never tasted so grand a supper as that before or since — “salt horse,” dry bread, and coffee!  The darkies that carried around the great cans of the latter were kept pretty busy for a while, I can tell you; and they must have thought, —

“Den soljers, dar, must be done gone starved, dat’s sartin./  Nebber seed sech hungry men in all my bawn days, — nebber!”

After supper we were lodged in a great upper room of a large building, having bunks ranged around the four sides of it, and in the middle an open space, which was soon turned to account; for one of the boys strung up his fiddle, which he had carried on his knapsack for full two years, on every march and through every battle we had been in, and with the help of this we proceeded to celebrate our late “change of front” with music and dancing until the small hours of the morning.

Down through the streets of Baltimore we march the next day, with our blackened and tattered flags a-flying, mustering only one hundred and eighty men out of the one thousand who marched through those same streets nearly three years before.  We find a train of cars awaiting us, which we gladly enter, making no complaint that we are stowed away in box or cattle cars, instead of passenger coaches, for we understand that Uncle Sam cannot afford any luxuries for his boys, and w have been used to roughing it.  Nor do we complain, either, that we have no fire, although we have just come out of a warm climate, and the snow is a foot deep at Baltimore, and is getting deeper every hour as we steam away northward.  Toward evening we pass Harrisburg, giving “three cheers for Andy Curtin,” as the State Capitol comes into sight.  Night draws on, and the boys one by one begin to bunk down on the floor, wrapped in their greatcoats and blankets.  But I cannot lie down or sleep until we have passed a certain way station, from which it is but two miles across the hills to my home.  I stand at the door of the car, shivering and chilled to the bone, patiently waiting and watching as village after village rushes by in the bright moonlight.  And then, as I look across the snowclad moonlit hills, toward the old red farmhouse where father and mother and sisters are sleeping soundly, with never a thought of my being so near, I fall to thinking and wondering, and wishing with a with a bounding heart, as the train dashes on between the mountain and the river, and bears me again farther and farther away from home.  Then rolling myself up in my blanket, and drawing the cape of my overcoat about my head, I lie down on the car floor beside Andy, and am soon sound asleep.

The following evening we landed at Elmira, New York, where we were at once put on garrison duty.  Why we had been taken out of the field and sent to a distant Northern city, we never could discover, and we had seen too much service to think of asking questions which the mysterious pigeon-holes of the War Department alone could answer.  But we always deemed it a pity that we were not left in the field until the great civil war came to an end with the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, and that we had no part in the final gathering of the troops at Washington, where the grand old Army of the Potomac passed in review for the last time.

But so it was, that after some months of monotonous garrison duty at Elmira, the great and good news came at last one day that peace had been declared, and that the great war was over!  My young readers can scarcely imagine what joy instantly burst forth all over the land.  Bells were rung all day long, bonfires burned, and people paraded the streets half the night, and everybody was glad beyond possibility of expression.  And among the joyful thousands all over the land, the Boys in Blue were probably the gladdest of all; for was not the war over now, and would not “Johnny come marching home?”

But before we could go home we must be mustered out, and then we must return to our State capital to be paid off and finally disbanded, and say a last good by to our comrades in arms, the great majority of whom we should never, in all probability, see again.  And a more hearty, rough and ready, affectionate good by there never was in all this wide world.  In the rooms of one of the hotels at the State capital we were gathered, waiting for our respective stains.  Knap sacks slung, Sharp’s rifles at a “right shoulder shift” or a “carry”; songs were sung, hands were shaken, or rather wrung; loud, hearty “God bless you, old fellows!” resounded; and many were the toasts and the healths that were drunk before the men parted for good and all.

It was just past midnight when the last camp-fire of the 150th broke up.  “Good by, boys!  Good by!  God bless you old fellow!” was shouted again and again, as by companies, or in little squads, we were off for our several trains, some of us bound north, some east, some west,– and all bound for home!

Of the thirteen men who had gone out from our little village (whither my father’s family had meanwhile removed), but three had lived to return home together.  One had already gone home, the day before.  Some had been discharged because of sickness or wounds, and four had been killed.  As we rode along over the dusty turnpike from L—– to M—–, in the rattling old stage coach, that evening in June, we could not help thinking how painful it would be for the friends of Joe Gutelius and Jimmy Lucas and Joe Ruhl and John Diehl to see us return without their brave boys, whom we had left on the field.

Reaching the village at dusk, we found gathered at the hotel where the stage stopped, a great crowd of our schoolfellows and friends, who had come to meet us.  We almost feared to step down among them, lest they should quite tear us to pieces with shaking of hands.  The stage had scarcely stopped when I heard a well-known voice calling,–

“Harry!  Are you there?”

“Yes, father!  Here I am!”

“God bless you, my boy!”

And, pushing his way through the crowd, my father plunges into the stage, not able to wait until it has driven around to the house; and if his voice is husky with emotion, as he often repeats, “God bless you, my boy!” and gets his arm around my neck, is it any wonder?

But my dog, Rollo, can’t get into the stage, and so he runs barking after it, and is the first to greet me at the gate, and jumps up at me, with his great paws on my shoulders.  Doe he know me?  I rather think he does!

Then mother and sisters come around, and they must needs call for a lamp and hold it close to my face, and look me all over, from head to foot, while father is saying to himself again and again, “God bless you, my boy!”

Although I knew that my name was never forgotten in the evening prayer all the while I was away, yet not once, perhaps, in all that time, was father’s voice so choked in utterance as when now, his heart overflowing, he came to give thanks for my safe return.  And when I lay down that night in a clean white bed, for the first time in three long years, I thanked God for peace and home.

And — Andy?  Why — the Lord bless him and his! — he’s a soldier still.  For, having laid aside the blue, he put on the black, being a sober, steady-going Presbyterian parson now, somewhere up in York State.  I haven’t seen him for years, but when we do meet, once in a great while, there is such wringing of hands as makes us both wince until the tears start, and we sit up talking over old times so far into the night, that the good folk of the house wonder whether we shall ever get to —

THE END

 

 

 

Harry M. Kieffer’s Recollections – Camp Curtin

Posted By on February 10, 2017

Today’s post features Chapter 2 of Recollections of a Drummer Boy.

Previously on this blog, a brief sketch was presented on the Rev. Dr. Henry M. Kieffer, a Civil War veteran who was not included on the Millersburg Soldier Monument.  In that sketch, it was noted that Rev. Dr. Kieffer was enumerated in the 1860 Census of Upper Paxton Township, in the household of his father, Rev. Ephraim Kieffer, a Reformed minister who served churches in Killinger, Lykens Township, and Gratz, among other communities in the Lykens Valley area – and that the Rev. Dr. Henry Kieffer later published his recollections of the war in 1883.  In the Civil War, he served in the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Henry Kieffer was away at school, north of Millersburg, when the war broke out.  In Chapter 2, he tells of his arrival at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg.  Although he was not yet of legal age to enlist, he got permission from his parents and became a Drummer Boy.   The chapter is entitled, “First Days in Camp,” and describes camp life.

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Our first camp was located on the outskirts of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and was called “Camp Curtin.”  It was so named in honor of Governor Andrew G. Curtin, the “war governor” of Pennsylvania, who was regarded by the soldiers of his state with a patriotic enthusiasm second only to that with which they, in common with all the troops of the Northern states, greeted the name of Abraham Lincoln.

Camp Curtin was not, properly, a camp of instruction.  It was, rather, a mere rendezvous for the different companies which had been recruited in various parts of the state.  Hither the volunteers came by hundreds and thousands for the purpose of being mustered into the service, uniformed and equipped, assigned to regiments, and shipped to the front as rapidly as possible.  Only they who witnessed it can form any idea of the patriotic ardor, amounting often to a wild enthusiasm, with which volunteering went on in those days.  The contagion of enlisting and “going to the war” was in the very atmosphere.  You could scarcely accompany a friend to a way station on the main lines of travel without seeing the future wearers of blue coats at the car windows, and on the platforms.  Very frequently, whole trains were filled with them, speeding away to the state capital as swift as steam could carry them.  They poured into Harrisburg, company by company, usually in citizens’ clothes and marched out of the town a week or so later, regiment by regiment, all glorious in bright new uniforms and glistening bayonets, transformed in a few days from citizens into soldiers, and destined for high endeavor on many a bloody field.

Shortly after our arrival in camp, Andy I and I went into town to purchase some articles as we supposed a soldier would be likely to need, — a gum blanket, a journal, a combination knife, fork, and spoon, and so on to the end of the list.  To our credit I have it to record that we turned a deaf ear to the solicitations of a certain dealer in the cutlery, who insisted on selling each of us a revolver, and an ugly looking bowie-knife in a bright-red morocco sheath.

“Shentlemens, shust the ting you vill need ven you goes into de battle.  Ah, see dis knife; how it shines!  Look at dis very fine revolfer!”

But Moses entreated in vain, while his wife stood at the shop door, looking at some regiment marching down the street to the depot, weeping as if her heart would break, and wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron from time to time.

“Ah, de poor boys!” said she.  “Dere dey go, again, off to de great war, away from deir homes, and deir mutters, deir wives, and deir sweethearts, all to be kilt in de battle!  Dey will nefer any more coom back.  Oh, it is so wicked!”

But the drums rattled on, and the crowd on the sidewalk gazed and cheered, and Moses, behind the counter, smiled pleasantly as he cried up his wares, and went on selling bowie-knives and revolvers to kill men with, while his wife went on weeping and lamenting because men would be killed in the wicked war, and “nefer any more coom back.”  The firm of Moses and wife struck us as a very strange combination of business and sentiment.  I don’t know how many knives and pistols Moses sold, nor how many tears his good wife shed, but if she wept whenever a regiment marched down the street to the depot, her eyes must have turned into a river of tears; for the tap of the drum and the tramp of the men resounded along the streets of the capital by day and by night, until people grew so used to it that they scarcely noticed it any more.

The tide of volunteering was at the full during those early days of 1862.  But the day came at length when the tide began to turn.  Various expedients were then resorted to for the purpose of stimulating the flagging zeal of Pennsylvania’s sons.  At first, the tempting bait of large bounties was presented — county bounties, city bounties – some men towards the close of the war receiving as much as one thousand dollars, and never smelling powder at that.  At last, drafting was of necessity resorted to, and along with drafting came all the miseries of “hiring substitutes,” and so making merchandise of a service of which it is the chief glory that it shall be free,

But in the fall of ’62, there had been no drafting yet, and large bounties were unknown — and unsought.  Most of us were taken quite by surprise when, a few days after our arrival in camp, we were told that County Commissioners had some down for the purpose of paying us each the magnificent sum of fifty dollars.  At the same time, also, we learned that the United States Government would pay us each one hundred dollars additional, of which, however, only twenty-five were placed in our hands at once.  The remaining seventy-five were to be received only by those who might safely pass through all the unknown dangers which awaited us, and live to be mustered out with the regiment three years later.

Well, it was no matter then,  What cared we for bounty?  It seemed a questionable procedure, at all events, this offering of money as a reward for an act which, to be a worthy act at all, asks not an needs not the guerdon of gold.  We were all so anxious to enter the service, that, instead of looking for any artificial helps in that direction, our only concern was lest we might be rejected by the examining surgeon and not be admitted to the ranks.

For soon after our arrival, and before we were mustered into the service, every man was thoroughly examined by a medical officer, who had us presented to him one by one, in purus naturalibus [bare naked], in a large tent, where he sharply questioned us — “Teeth sound?  Eyes good? Ever had this, that, and the other disease?” –and pitiable was the case of that unfortunate man who because of bad hearing, or defective eyesight, or some other physical blemish, was compelled to don his citizen’s clothes again and take the next train for home.

After having been thoroughly examined, we were mustered into the service.  We were all drawn up in line.  Every man raised his right hand while an officer recited the oath.  It took only a few minutes, but when it was over one of the boys exclaimed:  “Now, fellows, I’d like to see any man go hoe if he dare.  We belong to Uncle Sam now.”

Of the thousand men drawn up in line there that day, some lived to come back three years later and be drawn up in line again, almost on that identical spot, for the purpose of being mustered out of the service.  And how many do you think there were? Not more than one hundred and fifty.

As we now belonged to Uncle Sam, it was to be expected that he would next proceed to clothe us.  This he punctually did a few days after the muster.  We had no merriment when we were called out and formed in line and marched up to the quartermaster’s department at one side of the camp, to draw our uniforms.  There were so many men to be uniformed and so little time in which to do it, that the blue clothes were passed out to us almost regardless of the size and weight of the prospective wearer.  Each man received a pair of pantaloons, a coat, cap, overcoat, shoes, blanket, and underwear, of which latter the shirt was — well, a revelation to most of us, both as to size and shape and material.  It was so rough, that no living mortal, probably, could wear it, except perhaps one who wished to do penance by wearing a hair shirt.  Mine was promptly sent home along with my citizen’s clothes, with the request that it be kept as sort of heirloom in the family, for future generations to wonder at.

With our clothes on our arms, we marched back to our tents, and there proceeded to get on the inside of our new uniforms.  The result was in most cases astonishing!  For, as might have been expected, scarcely one man in ten was fitter.  The tall men had invariably received the short pantaloons, and presented an appearance, when they emerged from their tents, which was equaled only by that of the short men who had, of course, received the long pantaloons.  One man’s cap was perched away up on the top of his head, while another’s rested on his ears.  Andy, who was not very tall, waddled forth into the company street amid shouts of laughter, having his pantaloons turned up some six inches or more from the bottoms, declaring that “Uncle Sam must have gotten the patterns for his boys’ pantaloons somewhere over in France; for he seems to have cut them after the style of the two French towns, Toulon and Touluse.”

“Hello, fellows!  What do you think of this?  Now just look here, will you, exclaimed Pointer Donachy, the tallest man in the company, as he came out of his tent in a pair of pantaloons that were little more than knee-breeches for him, and began to parade the street with a tent pole for a musket.  “How in the name of the American eagle is a man going to fight the battles of his country in such a uniform as this?  Seems to me that Uncle Sam must be a little short of cloth, boys.”

“Brother Jonathan generally dresses in tights you know,” said some one.

“Ah,” said Andy, “Pointer’s uniform reminds one of what the poet says, —

“‘Man need but little here below,

Nor needs that little long.'”

“You’re rather poor at quoting poetry, Andy,” answered Pointer, “because I need more than a little here below:  I need at least six inches.”

And the shoes!  Coarse, broad-soled, low-heeled “gunboats,” as we afterward learned to call then — what a time there was getting into them.  Here came one fellow down the street with shoes so big that they could scarcely be kept on his feet, while over yonder another tugged and pulled and kicked himself red in the face over a pair that would not go on.  But by trading off, the large men gradually got the large garments and the little men the small, so that in a few days we were all pretty well suited.

I remember hearing about one poor fellow, in another company, a great, strapping six-footer, who could not be suited.  The largest shoe furnished by the government was quite too small.  The giant tried his best to force his foot in, but in vain.  His comrades gathered about him, and laughed, and chaffed him unmercifully, whereupon he exclaimed, —

“Why, you don’t think they are all boys that come into the army, do you?  A man like me needs a man’s shoe, not a baby’s.”

There was another poor fellow, a very small man, who had received a very large pair of shoes, and had not yet been able to effect any exchange.  One day the sergeant was drilling the company on the facings — Right face!  Left face!  Right about face! — and of course watched his men’s feet closely, to see that they went through the movements promptly.  Observing one pair of feet down the line that never budged at the command, the sergeant, with drawn sword, rushed up to the possessor of them, and in menacing tones, demanded, —

“What do you mean by not facing about when I tell you? I’ll have you put in the guard-house , if you don’t mind.”

“Why — I — did, sergeant,” said the trembling recruit.

“You did not, sir.  Didn’t I watch your feet?  They never moved an inch.”

“Why, you see,” said the man, “my shoes are so big that they don’t turn when I do.  I go through the motions on the inside of them!”

Although Camp Curtin was not so much a camp of instruction as a camp of equipment, yet once we had received our arms and uniforms, we were all eager to be put on drill.  Even before we had received our uniforms, every evening we had some little drilling, under command of Sergeant Cummings, who had been out in the three months service.  Clothed in citizens’ dress, and armed with such sticks and poles as we could pick up, we must have presented a sorry appearance on parade.  Perhaps the most comical figure in the line was that of old Simon Malehorn, who, clothed in a long linen duster, high silk hat, blue overalls, and loose slippers, was forever throwing the line into confusion by breaking rank, and running back to find his slipper, which he had lost in the dust somewhere, and happy was he if some one of the boys had not quietly smuggled it into his pocket or under his coat, and left poor Simon to finish the parade in his stocking feet.

Awkward enough in the drill we all were, to be sure.  still, we were not quite so stupid as a certain recruit, of whom it was related that the drill sergeant had to take him aside as an “awkward squad” by himself, and try to teach him how to “mark time.”  But, alas, the poor fellow did not know his right foot from his fled, and consequently could not follow the order, “Left! Left!” until the sergeant, driven almost to desperation, lit on the happy expedient of tying a wisp of straw to one foot, and a similar wisp of hay on the other, and then put the command in a somewhat agricultural shape — “Hay foot, straw foot! Hay foot! Straw foot!” — whereupon, it is said he did quite well.   For if he did not know his left foot from his right, he at least could tell hay from straw.

One good effect of our having been detained in Camp Curtin for several weeks was, that we thus had the opportunity of forming the acquaintance of the other nine companies with which we were to be joined in one common regimental organization.  some of these came from the western, and some from the eastern part of the state; some were from the city, some from inland towns and small villages, and some from the wild, lumber regions.  Every rank, class, and profession seemed to be represented.  There were clerks, farmers, students, railroad men, iron workers, lumbermen.  At first, we were all strangers to one another.  The different companies, having as yet no regimental life to bind them together as a unit, naturally regarded each other as foreigners rather than as members of the same organization.  In consequence of this, there was no little rivalry between company and company, together with no end of friendly chaffing and lively banter, especially about the time of roll-call in the evening.  The names of the men who hailed from the west were quite strange, and a long-standing source of amusement to the boys from the east, and vice versa.  When the orderly-sergeant of Company I called the roll, the men of Company B would pick out all the outlandish-sounding  surnames and make all manner of puns on them, only to be paid back in their own coin by similar criticisms of their roll.  hen there were were certain forms of expression peculiar to the different sections from which the men came, strange idiomatic usages of speech, amounting at times to the most pronounced provincialisms, were were a long-continued source of merriment.  Thus the  Philadelphia boys made all sport of the boys from the upper tier of counties because they said “I be going deown to teown,” and invariably used “I make out to” for “I am going to,” or “I intend to.”  Some of the men, it was observed, called every species of board, no matter how thin, “a plank”; and every kind of stone, no matter how small, “a rock.” How the men laughed one evening, when a high wind came up and blew the dust, in dense clouds, all over the camp, and one of the western boys was heard to delared that he had “a rock in his eye!”

Once we got afield, however, there was developed such a feeling of regimental unity as soon obliterated whatever natural antagonisms may at first have existed between the different companies.  Peculiarities of speech, of course, remained, and a generous and wholesome rivalry never disappeared; but these were a help rather than a hindrance.  For in military, as in all all social life, there can be no true unity without some diversity in the component parts, — a principle which is fully recognized in our national motto, “E pluribus unum.”

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Harry M. Kieffer’s Recollections – Deciding to Go to War

Posted By on February 8, 2017

Today’s post features Chapter 1 of Recollections of a Drummer Boy.

Previously on this blog, a brief sketch was presented on the Rev. Dr. Henry M. Kieffer, a Civil War veteran who was not included on the Millersburg Soldier Monument.  In that sketch, it was noted that Rev. Dr. Kieffer was enumerated in the 1860 Census of Upper Paxton Township, in the household of his father, Rev. Ephraim Kieffer, a Reformed minister who served churches in Killinger, Lykens Township, and Gratz, among other communities in the Lykens Valley area – and that the Rev. Dr. Henry Kieffer later published his recollections of the war in 1883.  In the Civil War, he served in the 150th Pennsylvania Infantry.

Henry Kieffer was away at school, north of Millersburg, when the war broke out.  In Chapter 1, he tells of his decision to enlist, although he was not yet of legal age to do so.  He had to first stop at Killinger and get permission from his parents.

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“It is no use, Andy, I cannot study any more.  I have struggled against this feeling, and have again and again resolved to shut myself up to my books and stop thinking about the war; but when news comes of one great battle after another, and I look around in the schoolroom and see the many vacant seats once occupied by the older boys, and think of where they are, and what they may be doing away down in Dixie, I fall to day-dreaming and wool-gathering over my books, and it is just no use.  I cannot study any more.  I might as well leave school, and go home and get at something else.”

But my companion was apparently too deeply interested in unravelling the intricacies of a sentence in Caesar to pay too much attention to what I had been saying.  For Andy was a studious boy, and the sentence with which he had been wrestling when the bell rang for recess could not at once be given up.  He had therefore carried his book with him on our walk as we strolled leisurely up the green lane which led past the “Old Academy,” and with his copy of Caesar spread out before him, lay stretched out at full length on the greensward, in the shade of a large cherry tree, whose fruit was already turning red under the warm spring sun.  It was a beautiful, dreamy day in May, early in the summer of 1862, the second year of the great Civil War.  The air was laden with the sweet scent of the young clover, and vocal with the song of the robin and the bluebird.  The sky was cloudless overhead, and the soft spring breeze blew balmily up from the south.   Beyond us were the hills, covered with orchards, and beneath us lay the quiet little village of M——-, with its one thousand inhabitants, and beyond it the valley, renowned far and wide for its beauty, while in the farther background, deep blue mountains rose towering toward the sky.

My companion, apparently quite indifferent to the languid influence of the season, resolutely persevered at his task until he had triumphantly mastered it.  Then, closing the book and clasping his hands behind his head as he rolled around on his back, he looked at me with a smile and said, —

“Oh! you only have the spring fever, Harry.”

“No, I haven’t, Andy; it was the same last winter.  And don’t you remember how excited you were when the news came about Fort Sumter last Spring?  You would have enlisted right off, had your father consented.  Or, may be, you had the spring fever then?”

“I’m all over that now, and for good and all.  I want to study, and I cannot study and keep on thinking of the war all the time, why I just stop thinking about the war as well as I can.”

“Well,” said I, “I cannot.  Look at our school: why there are scarcely any large boys left in it any more, only little fellows and the girls.  For my part, I ought to get at something else.”

“What would you get at?  You could feel the same anywhere else.  There is Ike Zellers, the blacksmith, for example.  when I came past his shop this morning, on my way to school, instead of being busy with hammer and tongs, as he should have been, there he was, sitting on an old harrow outside his shop door whittling a stick, while Elias Faust was reading an account of the last battle from some newspaper.  I shouldn’t wonder if Elias and Ike both would be enlisting some one of these days.  It is the same everywhere.  All people feel the excitement of the war — storekeepers, tradesmen, farmers, and even the women; and we schoolboys are no exception.

“Would you enlist, Andy, if your father would consent?  You are old enough.”

“I don’t think I should, Harry.  I want to stick to study.  But there is no telling what a person may do when he is once taken down with this war fever.  But you are too young to enlist; they wouldn’t take you.  And you had therefore better make up your mind to stick to school, and help me at my Caesar.  If you want war, there’s enough of it in old Julius here to satisfy the most bloodthirsty, I should think.”

“You will find more about war, and of a more romantic kind too, in Virgil and Homer, when you get on so far in your studies, Andy.  But the wars of Caesar and the siege of Troy, what are they when compared with the great war now being waged in our own time and country?  The nodding plumes of Hector, and the shining armor of all old Homer’s heroes, do not seem to me half so interesting or magnificent as the brave uniforms in which some of our older school-fellows occasionally come home on furlough.”

“Up there on the hillside,” said Andy suddenly rising from his reclining posture, “is cousin Joe Gutelius, hoeing corn in his father’s lot.  Let’s go up and see what he has to say about the war.”

We found Joe busy, and hard at work with the young corn.  He was a fine young fellow, perhaps twenty-two or twenty-three years of age, tall, well built, of a fine, manly bearing, and looked a likely subject for a recruiting officer, as in response to our loud “Hello, Joe!” he left his unfinished row, and came down to the fence for a talk.

“Rather a warm day for work in a cornfield, isn’t it Joe?”

“Well, yes,” said Joe, as he threw down his hoe and mounted the top rail, wiping away the perspiration, which stood in great beads on his brow.  “But I believe I’d rather hoe corn that go to school such beautiful weather.  Nearly kill me to be penned up in the old academy such a day as this.”

“That’s what’s the matter with Harry here,” said Andy.  “He’s got the spring fever, I tell him; but he thinks he’s got the war fever.  I told him we’d come up here and see what you had to say about it.”

“About what? About the spring fever, or about the war?”

“Well boys, I know what the war fever is like.  I had a touch of it last winter, when the Fifty-first boys went off; and I came very near going along with them, too.  But my brothers, Charlie and Sam, both wanted to go, and I declared that if they went I’d go too; and mother took it so much to heart that we all had to give it up.  Charlie and Sam came near joining a cavalry company some months ago, and I shouldn’t wonder much if they did get off one of these days; but as for myself, I guess I’ll have to stay at home and take care of the old folks.”

“And I tell Harry, here,” said Andy, “that he had better stick to books, and help me with my Caesar.”

“Or he might get a hoe, and come and help me with my corn,” said Joe, with a smile; “that would take both the spring fever and war fever out of him in a jiffy, But there is your bell, calling you to your books.  Poor fellows, how I pity you!”

That my companion would persevere in his purpose of “sticking to books,” as he called it, I had no doubt.  for, besides being naturally possessed of a resolute will, he was several years my senior, and therefore presumably less liable to be carried away by the prevailing restlessness of the times.  Bit for myself, study continued to grow more and more irksome as the summer drew on apace, so that when, before the close of the term, a former schoolmate began to “raise a company,” as it was called, for the nine months’ service, unable any longer to endure my restlessness longing for a change, I sat down at my desk one day in the schoolroom, and wrote the following letter home.–

“DEAR PAPA,–

I write to ask whether I may have your permission to enlist.  I find the school is fast breaking up; most of the boys are gone.  I can’t study any more.  Won’t you let me go?”

Poor father!  In the anguish of his heart it must have been that he sat down and wrote: “You may go!”  Without the loss of a moment I was off to the recruiting-office, showed my father’s letter, and asked to be sworn in.  But alas!  I was only sixteen, and lacked two years of being old enough, and they would not take me unless I could swear I was eighteen, which of course, I could not and would not do.

So, then, back again to the school when the fall term opened, early in August, 1862, there to dream over Horace and Homer, ant that one poor little old siege of Troy, for a few days more, while Andy at my side toiled manfully at his Caesar.   The term had scarcely well opened, when, unfortunately for my peace of mind, a gentleman who had been my school-teacher some years previously, began to raise a company for the war, and the village at once went into another whirl of excitement, which carried me utterly away; for they said I could enlist as a drummer-boy, no matter how young I might be, provided I had my father’s consent.   But this unfortunately, had been meanwhile revoked.  For, to say nothing of certain remonstrances on the part of my father during the vacation, there had recently come a letter saying,–

“MY DEAR BOY,–

If you have not yet enlisted, do not do so; for I think you are quite too young and delicate, and I gave my permission perhaps too hastily, and without due consideration.”

But alas, dear father, it was too late then, for I had set my very heart on going.   The company was nearly full, and would leave in a few days, and everybody in the village knew that Harry was going for a drummer-boy.  Besides, the very evening on which the above letter reached me we had a grand procession, which marched all through the village street, from end to end, and this was followed by an immense mass meeting, and our future captain, Henry W. Crotzer, made a stirring speech, and the band played, and the people cheered and cheered again, as man after man stepped up and put his name down on the list.  Albert Foster and Joe Ruhl and Sam Ruhl signed their names, and then Jimmy Lucas and Elias Foust and Ike Zellers and several others followed; and when Charlie Gutelius and his brother Sam stepped up, with Joe at their heels, declaring that “if they wen he’d go too,” the meeting fairly went wild with excitement, and the people cheered and cheered again, and the band played “Hail Columbia!” and the “Star-Spangled Banner,” and “Away Down South, in Dixie,” and — in short, what in the world was a poor boy to do?

There was an immense crowd of people at the depot that mid-summer morning, more than twenty years ago, when our company started off to the war.  It seemed as if the whole county had suspended work and voted itself a holiday, for a continuous stream of people, old and young, poured out of the little village of L——, and made its way through the bridge across the river, and over the dusty road beyond, to the station where we were to take the train.

The thirteen of us who had come down from the village of M—– to join the larger body of the company at L—–, had enjoyed something of a triumphal progress on the way.  We had a brass band to start with, besides no inconsiderable escort of vehicles and mounted horsemen, the number of which was steadily swelled to quite a procession as we advanced.  The band played, and the flags waived, and the boys cheered, and the people at work in the fields cheered back, and the young farmers rode down the lanes on their horses, or brought their sweethearts in their carriages, and fell in line with the dusty procession.  Even the old gatekeeper, who could not leave his post, became much excited as we passed, gave “three cheers for the Union forever,” and stood waving his hat after us till we were hid from sight behind the hills.

Reaching L—– about nine in the morning, we found the village all ablaze with bunting, and so wrought up with the excitement that all thought of work had evidently been given up for that day.  As we formed in line, and marched down the main street toward the river, the sidewalks everywhere were crowded with people,– with boys who wore red-white-and-blue neckties, and boys who wore fatigue-caps; with girls who carried flags, and girls who carried flowers; with women who waved their kerchiefs, and old men who waved their walking-sticks; while here and there, as we passed along, at windows and doorways, were faces red with long weeping, for Johnny was off to the war, and maybe mother and sisters and sweethearts would never, never see him again.

Drawn up in line before the station, we awaited the train.  There was scarcely a man, woman or child in that great crowd around us but had to press up for a last shake of the hand, a last good by, and a last “God bless you boys!”  And so, amid cheering, and hand-shaking, and flag-waving, and band-playing, the train at last came thundering in, and we were off, with the “Star-Spangled Banner” sounding fainter, and farther away, until it was drowned and lost to the ear in the noise of the swiftly rushing train.

For myself, however, the last good by had not yet been said, for I had been away from home at school, and was to leave the train at a way station some miles down the road, and walk out to my home in the country, and say good by to the folks at home; and that was the hardest part of it all, for good by then might be good by forever.

If anybody at home had been looking out of door or window that hot August afternoon, more than twenty years ago, he would have seen, coming down the dusty road, a slender lad, with a bundle slung over his shoulder, and — but nobody was looking down the road, nobody was in sight.  Even Rollo, the dog, my old playfellow, was asleep somewhere in the shade, and all was sultry, hot and still. Leaping lightly over the fence by the spring at the foot of the hill, I took a cool draught of water, and looked up at the great red farmhouse above with a throbbing heart, for that was home, and many a sad good by had there to be said, and said again, before I could get off to the war!

Long years have passe since then, but I have never forgotten how pale the faces of mother and sisters became when, entering the room where they were at work, and throwing off my bundle, in reply to their question, “Why, Harry!” where did you come from?”  I answered, “I come from school, and I’m off for the war!”  You may well believe there was an exciting time of it in the dining-room of that od red farmhouse then,  In the midst of that excitement, father came in from the field and greeted me with, “Why, my boy, where did you come from?” to which there was but the one answer, “Come from school, and off for the war!”

“Nonsense!  I can’t let you go!  I thought you had given up all idea of that.  What would they do with a mere boy like you?  Why, You’d only a bill of expense to the Government,  Dreadful thing to make me all this trouble!”

But I began to reason full stoutly with poor father.  I reminded him, first of all, that I would not go without his consent; that in two years, and perhaps less, I might be drafted and sent amongst men unknown to me, while here was a company commanded by my own school-teacher, and composed of acquaintances who would look after me;that I was unfit for study or work while this fever was on me, and so on; till I saw his resolution begin to give way, as he lit his pipe and walked down to the spring to think the matter over.

“If Harry is to go, father,” mother says, “hadn’t I better run up to the store and get some woolens, and we’ll make the boy an outfit of shirts to-night yet?”

“Well — yes; I guess you had better do so.”

But when he sees his mother stepping past the gate on her way, he halts her with,–

“Stop!  That boy can’t go!  I can’t give him up!”

And shortly after, he tells her that she “had better be after getting that woollen stuff for shirts;” and again he stops her at the gate with,–

“Dreadful boy!  Why will he make me all this trouble?  I can not let my boy go!”

But at last, and somehow, mother gets off.  The sewing-machine is going most of the night, and my thoughts are as busy as it is, until far into the morning, with all that is before me that I have never seen, and all that is behind me that I may never see again.

Let me pass over the trying good by the next morning, for Joe is ready with the carriage to take father and me to the station, and we are soon on the cars, steaming away toward the great camp, whither the company already has gone.

“See, Harry, there is your camp!” And looking out of the car-window, across the river, I catch, through the tall tree tops, as we rush along, glimpses of my first camp,– acres and acres of canvas, stretching away into the dim and dusty distance, occupied, as I shall soon find, by some ten or twenty thousand soldiers, coming and going continually, marching and counter-marching, until they have ground the soil into the driest and deepest dust I ever saw.

I shall never forge my first impressions of camp life as father passed the sentry at the gate.  They were anything but pleasant; and I could not but agree with the remark of my father , that, “the life of a soldier must be a hard life indeed.”  For as we entered that great camp, I looked into an A tent, the front flap of which was thrown back, and saw enough to make me sick of the housekeeping of a soldier.  There was nothing in that tent but dirt and disorder, pans and kettles, tin cups and cracker-boxes, forks and bayonet-scabbards, greasy pork and broken hard0tack in utter confusion, and over all and everywhere that insufferable dust.  Afterward, when we got into the field, our camps in summer-time were models of cleanliness, and in winter models of comfort, as far, at least, as axe and broom could make them so; but this, the first camp I ever saw, was so abominable, that I have often wondered it did not frighten the fever out of me.

But once among the men of the company, all this was soon forgotten.  We had supper, — hard-tack and soft bread, boiled pork, and strong coffee (in tin cups),– fare that father thought “one could live on right well, I guess;” and then the boys came around and begged father to let me go; “they would take care of Harry; never you fear for that;” and so helped on my cause that night, about eleven o’clock, when we were in the railroad station together, on the way home, father said,–

“Now, Harry, my boy, you are not enlisted yet.  I am going home on this train; you can go home with me now, or go with the boys.  Which will you do!”

To which the answer came quickly enough,– too quickly and too eagerly, I have often since thought, for a father’s heart to bear it well,–

“Papa, I’ll go with the boys!”

“Well, then, good-by, my boy!  And may God bless you, and bring you safely back to me again!”

The whistle blew “Off brakes!” the car door closed on father, and I did not see him again for three long, long years.

Often and often, as I have thought over these things since, I have never been able to come to any other conclusion that this; that it was the “war fever” that carried me off, and that made poor father let me go.  For that “war fever” was a terrible malady in those days.  Once you were taken with it, you had a very fire in the bones until your name was down on the enlistment roll. There was Andy, for example, my school fellow, and afterward my messmate for three ever-memorable years. I have had no time to tell you how Andy came to be with us; but with us he surely was, notwithstanding he had so stoutly asserted his determination to quit thinking about the war, and stick to his books.

He was on his way to school the very morning the company was leaving the village, with no idea of going along; but seeing this, that, and the other acquaintance in line, what did he do but run across the street to an undertaker’s shop, cram his schoolbooks through the broken window, take his place in line, and march off with the boys without so much as saying goodbye to the folks at home!  And he did not see his Caesar and Greek grammar again for three years.

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January 2017 Posts

Posted By on February 6, 2017

A listing of the January 2016 posts on The Civil War Blog with direct links:

Women and the Civil War (Part 11)

Women and the Civil War (Part 12)

December 2016 Posts

John McCollum – First Defender, Buried at Williamstown

Women and the Civil War (Part 13)

Who Was John McDermot – On Lykens Monument?

Who Was John McCurtin Who Enrolled at Berrysburg then Deserted in Indiana?

Best of 2016 – Sarah Klinger – Civil War Widow Bludgeoned to Death in 1906

Robert McClelland, Miner of Tremont – Died at Beaufort, South Carolina, 1862

Who Was Gustavus Martin – On Lykens Monument?

Best of 2016 – Women and the Civil War – The Exhibit

Rev. Dr. Henry M. Kieffer – Another Millersburg-area Veteran Not Included on Monument!

Joseph H. Miller – Boatman of Millersburg, Local G.A.R. Charter Member