|From Camp Curtin – News from the Tioga Boys
Harrisburg, June 14, 1861
Yesterday was the anniversary of the birthday of one of America’s noblest sons, the Gen. Winfield Scott is doubtless, today, the most popular man in the nation. It would have been strange if no notice had been taken of an anniversary at this time so interesting, and yet so sad; so interesting because each successive year but adds another year to be gratefully remembered by “countless thousands yet unborn,” and sad, because we know that his race is nearly run. Seventy-five years! There are few in that number, since his maturity, which cannot be pointed at by General Scott, as years in which he has not accomplished some good for his country. History will reward him. All the companies in camp, [to the number of 42] turned out on parade in the afternoon, to do him honor, in their only way. A salute was fired from the cannon captured by the gallant General at Cerra Gordo, [which was presented to the State by Gen. Patterson] and appropriate remarks were made to the different forces, by speakers selected for the occasion. Capt. Sherwood, of our company, spoke for Campbell’s Light Artillery, Niles’ Company and his own. His speech was characteristic of himself, eloquent, and full of spice. Considering that it was purely an extempore effort, it was full of merit, and pleased every one present, worth pleasing. It would be as impossible for him to make a speech without pleasing everybody around him as it would be for soldiers to go to war without uniforms. At the conclusion of his remarks, he said in substance, that he hoped when we return from the battlefield, we might all return to the home circle, not “unloved, unhonored and unsung;” having done our whole duty, honorably, fearlessly, and courageously, we might return to our families with an approving conscience. His remarks excited much merriment and applause, and a few ladies who were present, waved their handkerchiefs in token of approval of the sentiments so well expressed. The Captain then proposed “three times three” for Gen. Scott, and they were given with a hearty good will, after which the several companies were marched to their quarters.
Col. Kane’s Regiment was formed yesterday, but without Capt. Sherwood’s Company. I wrote you last week what Kane had the impudence to ask of the commissioned officers of the companies, and that all of them “shut their eyes and went it blind” but Sherwood. Matters are not cleared up satisfactorily, and the company refused, after taking a vote, to go into the regiment, and the consequence is, the companies are divided. Tioga County has lost her individuality, you may say, but Kane would give Tioga nothing, and I trust that her independence, at least a part of it, is yet maintained. She presents more men, by at least a hundred, than any county that furnished men for the regiment, and instead of having three of the best offices, she has nothing. Whether the people of the County will tamely submit to this new insult, remains to be seen; but I am certain they will sustain Sherwood in his course.
We shall now go into Col. Ricketts’ Regiment, and it will, without douby, be the finest regiment in the Reserve Corps. Col. Ricketts is just from West Point. He is considered the best officer on the ground, and he is certainly the finest looking.
A man named Ritter, was last week drummed out of camp, for striking an officer. He had been kept five days previously on bread and water. He attempted to commit suicide by drowning soon after being disgraced, but failed. The Telegraph of yesterday, contained the announcement that his dead body had been found suspended from the limbs of a tree in an adjoining county. He was thought to have been insane.
You will excuse me for again presenting the rolls of our companies for publication; but there has been so many changes; that I deem it but a simple act of justice to those who remain, as well as those who did not choose to serve their country for “three years or during the war,” that their names may be put on record:
|CAPTAIN SHERWOOD’S COMPANY
Captain – Julius Sherwood
1st Lieutenant – M.N. Allen
2nd Lieutenant – John W. Rose
Sergeants – James Carle; R.M. Pratt; A.A. Sendor; S.S. Rockwell
Corporals – Geo. W. Merrick; H.J. Ramsdell; R.B. Webb; Chas. H. Maxwell
Musicians – John Hinman; Wm. Wisner
|CAPTAIN NILES COMPANY
Captain – Alanson E. Niles
1st Lieutenant – Lucius Truman
2nd Lieutenant – Samuel A. Mack
Sergeants – George W. Sears; George E. Derby; George A. Ludlair [?]; William Taylor
Corporals – Gilbert R. Christenut; Benjamin B. Potter; Jonathan V. Morgan; Robert Kelsey
Musicians – Caleb Graves; Peter Spanogle
On the 24th of April last, this deponent left the village of W., with
a heart pretty considerably swelled by patriotism, and in company with
some 200 patriotic individuals, similarly afflicted. We were just bound
to see it out – oh yes, the stars and stripes had been insulted, the brave
old flag had been trampled on; it was time to act; we acted – acted with
a heartfelt earnestness, and an honesty of purpose, that some of us will
find hard to get up again. We managed to get into Camp Curtin, by God’s
grace, and by grace of the gods, we are in Camp Curtin still. Nevertheless
the world does move, and also there is a slight movement among the powers
that be, in a military direction. After some six weeks of most vexatious
uncertainty, there is a prospect that we will be formed into a regiment,
today it is reported. – If so, it will be the “Wild Cat Regiment” of Col.
Kane, which is the next to be formed. The next moves after that is the
question. For one, I confess I would like to see the regiment well drilled
here being brought into action, where honor and life might depend on being
able to form in battle array, with certainty and celerity. Of course the
boys are impatient to move in some direction, but if we are to be drilled
in a “camp of instruction” as the law provides, I know of no better place
than this. I just conversed with a soldier from Camp Scott, [Carlisle,
PA] and he gave a pretty hard account of it – said the soldiers were made
to drill eight hours a day, and got hard fare at that; a part of which
may be true. At all events, we are used well here, and the citizens of
Harrisburg are kind to us. Let us take the good the gods provide, and possess
our souls in patience. We have seen enough I should imagine, to cool any
one of a feverish hurry, and we shall see more. – We have seen bodies of
brave men, anxious, impatient to go on, held back on one frivolous pretext
or another, because somebody had a cousin or brother-in-law who was eager
to put himself at the head of a regiment, not for patriotism, but to wipe
out past political mistakes, and put himself in good shape on the record
for future political operations, and – you see!
We have seen men, rank secessionists, until the last quarter of the eleventh hour, take a sudden union fever, and go in for a company of volunteers, provided, that the said penitent should have the first place at the head of the company, with reserved regimental privileges to be therein after provided for. Good, give them the scriptural and patriotic penny, though the eleventh hour was three quarters gone. There are men today drilling companies of Union-loving patriots, who are doing so with bitterness at their hearts, and who would be with Jeff Davis at heart, if not in person, only that they deem him doomed to fail. As to the peculation and rascality in high places, which is too apparent to be hidden, we will settle that along with some other little running accounts, when the war is over and we have time. At present, I will only stop to compliment the Legislature on their exceeding economy in spending the people’s time and the people’s money in debating the momentous question of raising the pay of such of the people at choose to present their breasts for bullet marks, to the tremendous sum of fifteen dollars per month! The Eastern States pay volunteers from twenty to twenty-five dollars per month besides clothes and rations. A Michigan regiment was here a few days since; they each had a present of twenty dollars before leaving Detroit, a good uniform given them by the State, and get a hundred dollars each on their return from the war. Commend up to Old Pennsylvania, the Keystone State, second to but one State in the chivalric matter of repudiation, and to none in the beggarly manner with which she treats her troops!
The boys are all well, and anxious to move on, and by the time we are uniformed and armed, I shall begin to be a little uneasy myself; at present I am. Day before yesterday, there was a man drummed out of camp, and I attended the performance. It looked a little tough and he took it to heart – tried to drown himself after it was over, but was prevented, and the ladies of Harrisburg gave him a suit of clothes and some money. His offence was striking an officer. – He did not look as mean as one who was drummed out a short time since, for stealing a comrade’s money.
There is fun, too, in Camp Curtin, as you would admit, could you be here from sundown until tattoo, which beats at half past ten. Such a hullaballpolas four companies of volunteers can kick up, when they have nothing to do but lie on their backs and attend to it, is a caution to a regiment of insane tomcats. I get tired of it at times, but the ghost of melancholy could not help laughing at the comical caterwauling and grotesque performances. Mickey [“Kite” knows who Mickey is,] doesn’t like the noise over and above well, but there’s no use trying to quell it by authority, until after tattoo; so Mickey adds to the general racket by inflicting indiscriminate doggerel on the whole crowd, to the tune of “Larry O. “Gaff,” and something after this style:
Oh there’s whiskey ‘tis certain, all over Camp Curtin,
In elegant bottles, wid niver a flaw;
A’most every body, has plinty of toddy,
Hid round in the corners, down under the sthraw!
Oh, the Guard they turn out, wid a terrible rout,
Wid their guns on their shoulders, they make a great show;
But the Wild Cats make fun o’ them, divil a wan a them,
Finds out at all where the whiskey does go!
The following letter from an Elkland Boy to his parents, will be read
Head Quarters, 3d Regiment, Camp Hamilton, near Fortress Monro, June 11, 1861
Dear Parents: I seat myself to write you a few lines, to let you know how I get along. You may be somewhat surprised to hear that I have been in a battle. Since I wrote you on Sunday morning, my company was detailed to go on a scouting expedition – we went and bot back at night, somewhat weary after a day’s march. We went to bed about half past 9 o’clock, and before we had got to sleep we heard the gun and the tattoo of the drum beat to arms. We formed in line and were told that we were to leave the camp to attack the enemy, and ordered to put on our overcoats and haversacks, to carry three days rations. We were busy in running around and getting ready to march, and at 12 o’clock, midnight, all ready and started. We marched about 2 miles and then ferried across the river. Our dress is enough to tire one out, if nothing else, on the march that we had that night and Monday. Woolen shirts and drawers, thick woolen pants and coat, and an overcoat that will weight five pounds at least. Our haversacks full of rations weighs about 30 lbs. A good load marching in common time, but we had to march on quick time, about half the way, and the rest of the way double quick – that is – on a run, carrying that load, besides our guns and ammunition.
When about half way to the point we were going to attack, we were ourselves attacked by a regiment, called the United States Regulars, supposing us to be enemies. One of our men was killed and one or two wounded. Their shot were well ranged, but were aimed too high, or a good may would have been killed. They were concealed in the bush, and all we had to do was to retreat as well as we could, in the confusion for our ranks were broken and a good many were frightened, in the darkness and suddenness of the charge, most of us gave them a round or two before leaving, and then retreated in as good order as we could. This was before we arrived at the battle ground called “Bethel Church.” We were immediately drawn up in line of battle, preparatory to making the attack. One regiment of Zouaves, one from Troy, NY, and our own regiment were to take the lead and open the fight. We had two pieces of cannon. These were placed in line and the fire commenced. The Zouaves were the first to commence, by going through the woods and taking them in flank. Our own regiment was to advance in front. We were not long in waiting, as the order was given to forward and we marched to within not more than 200 yards of the enemy’s breast work. The enemy had a great advantage over us by having a strong breast work in front, and a deep ravine and woods on the other side. By this time word came to us that the enemy were advancing through this ravine to open fire on us. The company’s were detailed from our regiment to go and see if that was the fact. – It proved too true – they had gone hardly 75 yards when a volley was heard, but fortune favored us and no one was hurt. The Lieutenant of our company wanted to go and bring the boys back, but Col. Townsend [that is the Col. Of our regiment] said it was his own business to go and off he galloped right in front of the enemy’s breast work, while the balls came thick and fast about his head. He sat there as cool as if in his own parlor.
One Zouave that happened to be in front of our regiment, was behind an apple tree picking off the rebels, one by one, whit his own musket – he saved our Colonel’s life. One rebel in a tree had his gun aimed at the Colonel, but too late, as the Zouave’s musket lightened the tree of its burden and materially damaged his breathing apparatus. He is one that was taken prisoner by the Indians when young, and was with them twelve years – he fights wholly on his own hook, and does a good business at it too. He killed a good many that day. While the Colonel was in front, and the balls flying thick about him, he gave the order for the rest of the regiment to forward, and you ought to have hears the yell from the 600 soldiers in rank, as they moved to face the enemy. One man from my own company was severely wounded, but we hope not mortally; not many of the Regiment were killed or wounded. The rebels were being reinforced all the time, and our Colonel deemed it advisable to sound a retreat, as it was impossible for us to conquer them under the circumstances, as we only had about twenty rounds of cartridges, and the cannon only two. The position of the enemy was much stronger than we expected at the commencement although we were reinforced by two or three regiments; our own regiment was completely exhausted, having eaten nothing since Sunday night at eight o’clock. On our retreat, some of the men did give out entirely, and had to stop by the roadside and come on at will. – I stood it like a Major, but was some tired I assure you, but it is said we will never have a harder day’s work to do, and I hope it may be true. The report came to us this morning that the place had been taken, but it is a mistake, we have got to try them again, we expect this week. They have seen a lot of 30 and 35 pound cannon, and are enlarging the entrenchment’s to make everything certain. A scouting party is being made up, and is going to Hampton; thinking that spies are gathered there, as our pickets saw some last night, and it is supposed that the village of Hampton, will tonight, be in ashes.
I have now been under the fire of the enemy, and know somewhat the feelings of a soldier, as he is brought up to face the “music.” When we were first attacked in the morning, I had kind of queer feelings I will admit, but I was not afraid in the least. Fear seemed to leave as soon as we approached the danger. – We did some honest shooting into the ranks of our enemy; feeling that is was to defend the glorious old Stars and Stripes that floated so gaily over us.
From the Wildcats
Cumberland, July 13, 1861
Wellsboro Agitator 17 July 1861
The boys of the Kane Rifle Regiment and the 5th infantry, have moved on in the direction of Romney. We had 100 scouts out yesterday who reached within 4 miles of that place and camped in an old grist mill where we heard of them; they were near a superior force of well armed troops, but I have not heard that they had anything like a brush. – They serve to make communication safe and easy for the Union men, one of whom came into camp last night with a dispatch, and this morning at 3 o’clock we got the order to strike tents and fall in, which the boys did with a will – acting like a pack of crazy Wildcats as they are. In vain I assured them they were certain to be whipped, that their affectionate wives and mothers would hereafter know them only as defunct Wildcats, that the old Springfield muskets were sure to burst and safe to miss fire – it was of no use; they piled on to the cars in a heavy rain and went off in such a storm of yells and hurrahs as you never heard, leaving the small Orderly behind as a stump candidate for hospital treatment. I undertook to go along. I got on a pair of boots [for the first time in six weeks] borrowed a musket, took 10 rounds of ball cartridge, to Hawkie to carry my knapsack to the cars, and started in charge of the baggage. It was no go; I stood guard in the rain for some two hours, but my foot got so painful I was forced to back out, get the boot off, and let the boys go on without me. I hardly think they will get into anything like hot work, though they may have a skirmish near Romney; the people here are sure the boys will have a short night at that place; I think the folds here are more scared than hurt; they are always sure there is about to be a fight, or that Cumberland is about to be burned – events which do not take place according to the program mapped out by their fears. The Secessionists do not stand well; they run before the Federal troops everywhere – not that they are cowards, but they have no heart in the business, and very many are in arms under actual compulsion waiting a chance to desert, and bound to run rather than kill or be killed by their friends. Such men are as much help to us where they are as any other place.
Sunday, July 14 – Last night among the regular daily batch of rumors, was one that our boys had been fired on some eight miles above here by a large force stationed on the side of a ravine. Another rumor told of a battle fought somewhere in Virginia and a victory over the rebels, who, the rumor said, lost 2,000 men killed and wounded. There was no truth in the first rumor and quite likely none in the second. I am getting to be like “Tommy Cadlin;” “I don’t believe in nothink.” Why should I? Haven’t I too been behind the curtain and seen the wires? Don’t I know that Punch is not a real flesh and blood monster, and that both he and his spouse Judy are gotten up of coarse pasteboard and cheap paint? That even the convent oval “sassengers” where with Punch delighted the crowd are not good to ear, but only a succession of deceptive links, born of illusory rage for the confusion of the gaping multitude. Eheu! Is not wisdom a very blessing?
Later – The news of the battle in Virginia seems to be confirmed; you
will hear the truth of it long ere we shall. News is slow to get here.
The bridges are all burnt, wires cut, and anything else injured that could
help rain a prosperous community. In short a system of unprincipled --------
has prevailed along the line of the Baltimore and Ohio RR that could disgrace
a tribe of Camanches. Union men and Rebels alike suffer – the former must,
perhaps, Uncle Abe seems inclined to force secession with an extensive
pod auger; five hundred million is a great deal of money. Secession is
Camp Hale, near Washington – October 30, 1861
After a protracted silence, I embrace the present opportunity to write you a few lines. Knowing the interest and solicitude, the people of Tioga take in the bold lads who did not hesitate to shoulder the musket in defense of their homes and firesides, word to them from the campfire, will not be unwelcomed.
I suppose you have already been informed that we have left Camp Curtin, and are now in the great “Metropolis” of the free States.
Speaking of Camp Curtin, I have a word or two to say of Capt. Tarbutton, and Lieut. Ball, our drill masters. To their good treatment, and kind attention, we are much indebted and thankful for the same. Their instructions have not been in vain, but tell nobly with the boys.
Our old friend, Mr. Jacob Hyatt of Harrisburg, has our sincere thanks, not only for his kind and fatherly conduct toward us last spring, but for the many favors bestowed upon us at our recent arrival at Camp Curtin. A true patriot and benefactor of the soldiers, can never be forgotten. One incident I will here mention which occurred the night before we left Camp Curtin. In the afternoon at dress parade, we received marching orders – the boys were all in a humor for going to town, but is was impossible for them to get a pass. About half-past eight they gathered near the Guard House, some sixty of the Charleston Rangers. In a few moments, I saw coming what we all supposed to be the New Relief; on they came, relieving post after post, and in less time than I can write it, they cleared the fence and were in full run for Harrisburg. “Sold by Thunder!” was the only ejaculation uttered by the amazed --------, as he turned and watched them leaving on “double-quick,” after relieving some dozen green ones. They returned, however, in the morning, with squalling chickens, and their canteens filled with warm milk.
We are stationed in Camp near and opposite Bladensburg. Company G, the Charleston Rangers, are all with the exception of one or two, enjoying good health and in excellent spirits, and every day preparing themselves to try their skill and courage with the “Chivalry of the South,” and the “disciples of Benedict Arnold.” Tioga may well feel proud of her representatives in the 45th Regiment, under the superintendence of a brave and skillful officer like Col. Thomas Welch.
Captain Whitney, as may will be supposed, is very highly esteemed by the boys, for the careful and just administration of his command.
Our first Lieut., William T. Fitzgerald, an experienced soldier, fresh from the battlefields on the “Sunny South,” is held in as high estimation by the Charleston Rangers, as ever Napoleon was by his “Old Guards.” He is also well drilled in the exercise of the pen, as well as of the sword.
Our second Lieut., John J. Rees is, as we have always known him to be a free-hearted and well-disposed son of “Old Tioga.” In the selection of commissioned and non-commissioned officers the company is well satisfied.
Our rations are both good and wholesome, and we have an elegant sufficiency of every thing needful to the wants of a soldier.
They have boasted in the South that one rebel is a match for four “Union-living Yankees,” but if the boys go into them as they do into Uncle Sam’s beef, there won’t be a Corporal’s squad left to tell the tale.
One thing I am sorry to say – R.B. Terry of Charleston, deserted us at Camp Curtin. We are willing to give to all such patriots, a pass, “double quick,” to where they --------.
Our old friend, the “Great ---------------“ is still with us, and enlivens the camp with his melodious strains.
We regret that Mr. Ensworth’s health would not permit him to accompany us, and that he is still sick at Mansfield, unable to reach home.
The boys unanimously join in sending their best respects to their friends at the old homestead. --------- R.G.R.
“Is this the land our fathers loved?
The freedom which they toiled to win?
Is this the earth whereon they moved?
Are these the graves they slumber in?”---------------Col. Crocket
Fort Crawford, VA, Nov. 6, 1861
Friend Agitator – Having by this time had a taste of military life, and as it is raining just now and so muddy that I cannot find anything else to do, I will attempt to write a short letter to let you and the people of West Liberty know how we are progressing on the road to military glory. I left Liberty about the eighth of September, with a patriotic fit on me, and landed in Camp Ruff, Norristown, Philadelphia, all safe and sound, where I stayed two days and then went to the Arsenal and “took the vowel: which made me one of Uncle Sams’ boys, in the shape of a mounted Rifle Ranger, [but we have not got the rifles yet] and after staying in Camp Ruff long enough to get “broke in” on hard crackers and salt bacon, we started, niggers and all, for the “land of Dixie.” We were drawn up in line, and “about face,” nearly twenty times, when at last came the order to “present butcher-knives,” [being the only weapon we had,] then “forward march.” As we marched down to the depot, the people gathered round us to bid farewell to the departing soldiers, especially the colored population. At last we reached the depot, and got on board the cars, and were soon moving forward towards the city of Baltimore, where we landed about 7 o’clock the next morning. We marched through the city to the Washington depot in good order, except, that about one-third of the men left the ranks to get their canteens filled and there we were treated with a “hunk” of bread and a piece of ham, with coffee, which we swallowed in “double quick”, and then boarded the train that was to carry us to the Capital of this great Nation, and was soon moving at a “snail’s trot” over the rails; the train being a cattle train, afforded us a grand view of the country, which I will say nothing about in this letter. We reached Washington about sundown, and marched into the soldier’s retreat, after being again drawn up in line ten times, and about-face twenty times more. ‘Till we began to swear sufficient to sink the Southern Confederacy. We got another “hunk” of bread and a piece of horse beef, with more coffee, which we stowed away in craws, and then lay down on the floor in the spit to sleep ‘till morning. The boys all put up their knives and made up their minds to have a good night’s rest – they rested well enough, until midnight, when a locomotive gave a shrill whistle which aroused the “brave butcher-knife Rangers” from their dreams, and caused them to fly about in all directions, supposing it to be the “s---shers.” Some ran out and knocked down the sentries that were stationed at the doors – some climbed the posts in the center of the building, and some have not stopped running yet. One old Irishman ran out against the bank, falling head long, but luckily he was not much hurt; he scrambled up in quick time, uttering – “its all humbug, be jabers, there is no s---sh here.” We soon found out what is was, and the boys came back to lay down again, swearing never to run again as long as they had a knife in the regiment, and we were again soon wrapt in slumber and did not wake up ‘till the sun was shining as bright as a gold dollar in my pocket, [but I didn’t happen to have any.] After eating breakfast, which was on the same plan of our supper, we started for camp. We marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, and halted in front of the White House; Old Abe came out, took off his stove-pipe, made a polite bow, scraped his left foot, and made us a patriotic speech, winding up by saying “that he placed great confidence in us, and thought that we would make good soldiers, and that we looked as if we could run as fast as Jeff Davis could.” We felt highly complimented, presented butcher knives, and gave three cheers for the Union, and then marched to camp. We were not long in pitching tents, and were soon settled down and quite at home again.
We had some narrow escaped while in camp. One of the guard fired two shots at his shadow one moon-light night, and another shot a stray horse for refusing to stop and give the counter sign. We stayed there under marching orders for about two weeks, when at last we saddled up and marched to this place, which we reached all safe and sound – have got our tents pitched, so we are getting along comfortable enough on hard crackers and pork, as usual, and I think when the rebels find that Charman’s butcher knife Rangers, are on this side of the river, they will throw down their arms and disperse. We will use our knives to the best of our ability if attacked by the “sesesh,” and the citizens of the vicinity and West Liberty, can look for the war being brought to a speedy close.
I have nothing more that would be interesting to the reader of the Agitator, except that we sleep close to a den of wolves who came from big Pine Creek. There are three of them, and they rejoice in the names of George, Andy and Mikel; they are good looking animals and will make very good war dogs, with a little training.
The boys are all well, and panting for a fight. ------- Brose
|Wellsboro Agitator 1861 November 20 page 3
Camp Cameron, Nov. 8, 1861
War and love has many cares –
|I will give you the names of our officers, and the place they occupy:
Captain – B.S. Dartt
First Lieutenent – J.E. Hiller
Second Lieutenant – C.L. Greeno
First Sergeant – C.H. Vandusen
2nd Sergeant – J.P. Wilcox
3d Sergeant – C.C. Herman
4th Sergeant – H.D. Calkins
5th Sergeant – S.Q. Foster
First Corporal - M.S. Robinson
2d Corporal – D.M. Rose
3d Corporal – A. Weeker
4th Corporal – J.D. Becker
5th Corporal – L. Eighmy
6th Corporal – A.J.B. Dartt
7th Corporal – J. Ruggles
Names of the privates in the Company from Tioga County – 28 in all:
Chas. H. Vandusen
---------------Written by R.C.
Appearance of the country – Its desolation – A trail of skill – Holland’s Company, first best – Co. E. not in the ring – Col. Biddle, resigns – What his regiment think of him
Camp Pierpont, Va., Nov. 28, 1861
Knowing how eager the friends at home are to receive the smallest item of news from the Tioga boys, I will venture to trespass upon their patience and good nature, that is, with your permission. We are at present encamped in a beautiful meadow near a small town called Langleys, and are surrounded by the encampments of the Regiments composing the Pennsylvania R.C.V. The present appearance of the country, I imagine, would somewhat astonish the “secesh” in habitants who formerly occupied this section of Uncle Sam’s farm. One might ride for miles and never see a fence rail, they [the rails] having been split into firewood to cook the invaders’ meals. Whole acres of timberland, and groves of shade trees have been sacrificed, and have fallen before the keen axe and sturdy arm of the North man. Fine, young orchards have been ruthlessly leveled with the ground, to make room for the reviews of the troops of the Union.
The boys of this company [Niles’] are in fine spirits, and are waiting to try their metal with the boasted chivalry of the South. Our regiment had a trail of skill with the rifle today, and as far as I have seen, Company A, under Capt. Holland of Tioga, made the first best shot. Our Company [E] being on guard, have had no chance, as yet but hope to come pretty close to the center, if not to bear off the palm as the best shots in the Buck-tail Regiment.
I am writing in the midst of a general gloom, which has fallen upon the Kane Rifle Regiment, in consequence of the rumored resignation of our Colonel, Chas. J. Biddle, who has been elected to Congress. He stated in a letter in today’s Philadelphia Enquirer, addressed, to his constituents, that it was his intention to resign his commission in the army, and represent them in the Congress, about to assemble at Washington. To say that we would miss him would but do him justice. He is a thorough soldier, an accomplished gentleman, a man whose good qualities have endeared him to all who have come in contact with him; and I may say that there is not one man who has been under his command since we started from Harrisburg, but what is willing to fight under him at any odds whatever. I believe Col. Biddle to be the only man who could have taken this regiment, so successfully drilled and gained the confidence and esteem of the men under his command, and in saying this, I but express the sentiments of every man in the regiment. As one of our boys expressed it today: “A boy at the age of ten years, might better lose his father and mother, and be thrown penniless upon the world than we to lose our little Colonel.” Give us Biddle, and we will meet the enemy anywhere and at any time, with full confidence of success.
--- Soger Boy
Friend Agitator – Amid the excitement of the camp, and amid the clash
of arms, and the groans of the dying still ringing in my ears, I seat myself
by a good, warm fire, to give the readers of the Agitator the history of
today that will be recorded among the most glorious of the campaign of
1861. Last Friday morning we started from our camp about 5 o’clock with
one day’s rations, for a forage and reconnoitering trip, in and around
Drainsville, which is 12 miles from our camp. The morning was a lovely
one, but the weather was much colder in the afternoon. Our company consisted
of Gen. Ord’s Brigade, four pieces of Campbell’s battery under the command
of Capt. Easton, the First Pa. Regiment, and our Regiment. Of course, our
regiment took the lead, and when we had advanced as far as Difficult Creek,
Capt. Niles deployed as skirmishers on the left side of the road, Capt.
McDonald on the right, while Capt. Holland went in front as advance guards,
with the rest following in the rear. We advanced in this way until within
about two miles of Drainsville, when Capt. Holland was sent out on the
left for artillery guard, with the rest of the regiment in front. We advanced
in this manner until within sight of Drainsville, when a large party of
rebel cavalry was discovered leaving the town on double quick. – The artillery
and cavalry then drew up for fight, on a high point, while Capt. Holland
was again sent in front to guard the road and a piece of woods on the right.
This was just noon – we staid there about one half hour, straining our
eyes watching small parties of rebels about two miles beyond town. This
was a continued plan, for them to run and draw us on after them, while
their main body of about 5,000 fell back to attack us in the rear, but
they had the wrong boys to fool with, for just as they were making their
way in behind us, a few Buck-tails under the command of Capt. Niles stood
in the way, and the sharp crack of their rifles brought our whole train
to a “right about face;” at this moment the artillery went at lightning
speed, with their heavy cars rattling over the paved street, followed by
the cavalry and infantry, to obtain possession of a high hill, about 500
yards to the rear. This they did in good time, but not before three or
four shells from the rebel artillery came whistling over our heads. The
ball had then fairly opened, and it was a different one from any we had
ever before seen. During this time Captain Niles’ company was nearly surrounded
by a regiment of infantry and cavalry, and were fighting their way out
like tigers. As Company E fell back to join the rest of the regiment under
the command of Colonel Kane, the rebels thinking that the Buck-tails were
an easy prey, rushed forward with deafening cheers to show us the shortest
cut to Bull Run; but they were barking up the wrong gum tree, for no sooner
had the Tioga boys found that they were backed by six other Buck-tail companies,
than they made a stand that struck terror through the rebel ranks. About
this time our guns opened upon them a volley of grape shot and shell, which
sent death and destruction over the field. Out men then made a charge upon
them, equal to any old and well-drilled soldiers. It was called the gallant
Buck-tail charge, - they were now within 100 yards of each other, and for
over one long hour they fought like Napoleon’s old Imperial Guard, bound
not to give an inch, but take a yard. It was then and there that the gallant
Captain Niles was struck with a ball in the right side, and fell bleeding
to the ground. A few moments before he was shot, he took a gun from the
hands of one of his wounded men and rushed in front and fought like a hero;
and when he was shot, he ordered Lieut. Mack not to mind him, but look
to the men; he was, however, immediately taken to the Hospital, and well
During all this time, our company and company G under Capt. McDonald, were back for reserve, and to guard the road to Drainsville, expecting every few moments to see a regiment of cavalry dashing in upon us; but I can find no language to express the feelings of our two companies, as we saw our dead and wounded comrades brought in and were not permitted to fly to their rescue. I saw tears stand in eyes that knew not what it was to weep, as they begged of their officers to let them join their friends in the fight. Lieut. Harrower, once sent to Gen. Ord, asking permission to re-enforce the Buck-tails, but received the stern reply: “No sir, the Buck-tails are all right, I want you where you are.” That was an hour which I shall never forget; it was on continual roar of artillery and musketry, without any intermission; and when our guns had silenced their battery, and their ranks broke, and men terror stricken, began to flee before the Buck-tails they had long wanted to face, our men rushed forward with one deafening cheer which echoes and re-echoed among the hills and groves, above the rear of artillery and the clash of arms, and as they fell back through the deep thicket, they were closely followed by our men, and I do think they would have chased them through Manassas, if Gen. Ord had not called them off.
Better commanding was never done – the rebels fired very bad, mostly over. They [the rebels] were no cowards, but they fought as well as men could, under such a flag as they carry; but they were completely whipped in a fair fight, in which they had the advantage on the start, and in the ground.
I do not think there is a coward in our regiment, every officer acted the part of a man. Capt. Holland and McDonald were perfectly cool and aching to join in the fight, and there was no post more dangerous and responsible than the one they held.
It is not necessary for me to mention the bravery of Lieut. Mack, for the manner in which he fought after his heroic Captain was taken from the field, speaks for itself.
The number of men engaged in the fight was not far from 3,000 on our side, and 4,000 on the side of the rebels. The 6th, 9th, 10th, and ours, were engaged in the fight, a part of the 9th regiment fought well, also Capt. Carl’s company in the 6th. Capt. Carl is a true soldier, and his men did nobly.
List of killed and wounded in our regiment. I will only give the names of those living in our county. Company E – Killed – George Cook; wounded – Capt. A.E. Niles, in the right side, badly, but not mortally; Sergeant George Ludlo, in the right breast; Barzile Deroy, in the head; Edwin Orshurn, in the forehead with a buck shot; Parish Mosure, with a buck shot in the ear; Samuel Campbell, a slight hit on the nose – just got a smell; Benj. B. Potter, slightly on the right shoulder with a piece of a shell. The total number killed in our regiment, 3; number wounded, 27. The total number killed on our side, 10; number wounded, not far from 70; number of rebels killed as near as we can ascertain, 200. I see that the papers put it less, but one of our Captains counted 170; others found more in other spots. This can’t be far from right. It is impossible to give the exact number wounded, but I will put it at a much less ratio than ours, according to the number killed, and it cannot be less than 300; making their loss killed and wounded, 500. We took 8 prisoners that were not wounded, besides a large number of wounded.
I passed over the battlefield after the fight had ceased, and what a sight met my gaze! The ground was strewn with the dead and the dying, but I will not attempt to describe it, for you will only sicken at the scene. I saw trees that our cannon balls had cut down, over one foot in diameter – 8 dead horses lay in one pile – broken wagons and mangled piles of humanity lay heaped together; but I will turn from this horrid subject, for I have already said more than you will want.
One regiment that we had to encounter, was the same Louisiana Tigers that we met just two months ago at Hunter’s Mills. One of the prisoners that we took, says that they left Centerville that morning about 3 o'clock, with a determination it they met us to kill or take us, or die on the field. They also say that Johnson followed them out about three miles, and then told them that he had often heard them boast how they would like to meet the Northern Buck-tails once more, and he hoped that they would now have a trial, but in the name of all they held dear on earth, to show them no mercy. They did meet us, and if one can judge by the number they left on the field, the guns, knapsacks, haversacks and blankets which were scattered for miles, that they will not want another meal of Buck-tails. I think the Kentucky rifles were the best marksmen they had; they had a good gun.
Just as darkness began to veil the battlefield, we fired one grand salute, and started back to our camp, where we arrived about 10 o’clock, tired and hungry. We traveled that day twenty-five miles, besides all the fighting and other work, which made a pretty good day’s job. – Our men brought in about 150 guns, and 70 wagon loads of forage.
No man can doubt but what this is one of the most complete victories that we have had in this part of Virginia. I think another will follow long before your readers get this.
Col. Kane was wounded slightly in the face; no one can doubt his bravery.
I sent home a rebel overcoat by George Potter, stained with rebel blood, the darkest kind, right from South Carolina. I thought, perhaps, it would be a curiosity in “Old Tioga,” and might serve to sharpen the fighting temper of the “stay-at-home rangers.”
P.S. – There are other things I would mention if I had time. The man who was killed in Company E, [George Cook], was buried this afternoon, with all the honors of war due to his rank. Our whole regiment followed in the train. This is the first Tioga boy that has been killed in battle, and as I saw him lowered down into the soil of the “old Dominion,” to sleep forever in an enemy’s land, away from kindred and friends, where no kind mother or affectionate sister could drop a farewell tear, I thought of the language of the poet when he said:
“If there be on this earthly sphere,
A boon, an offering Heaven holds dear,
‘Tis the last libation that liberty draws,
From the heart that bleeds and breaks in her cause.”
----- Col. Crocket.