Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington DC, and Virginia: 1861-1862. Envelope or Cover.
One year of letters home written by soldier in a volunteer unit that defended Washington, DC at the beginning of the war before it reorganized and eventually fought at a number of battles including Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.
Ten letters sent by a private in the 1st Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, later the 1st Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment. They begin with the unit's creation in June 1861 and continue through May 1862. During this time the unit first mustered at Camp Wayne in Westchester, Pennsylvania, traveled into rebel Maryland to bivouac at Camp Carroll, established quarters at Tenleytown in DC, occupied positions south of the Potomac at Camps Pierpont and Langley in Virginia, and marched on Falmouth at the beginning the Peninsula Campaign. 39 pages of text, eight covers (three patriotic). Three envelopes are franked with Scott #16 and five with Scott #65. The letters are in nice shape; the covers show some wear. Transcripts included.
4 June, Camp Wayne, Pennsylvania – "I arrived safely in West Chester . . . got my uniform . . .. We all met at the Armory 9 oclock Monday morning and . . . marched through the principal streets of the town, stopping at the principal places and giving three cheers for the ladies. . .. There are six companies here now. We expect some ten or dozen more . . There is musicians of every description; Fiddlers, fluteres, fifers, accordians, bones, banjo, triangles and most every kind. . .."
19 June, Camp Wayne, Pennyslvania – "There was a fellow drummed out [of] Camp for being insolent to one of the officers. . .. He was hemmed in by six muskets to keep the crowd from tearing him to bits. There were 9 fifes and sixteen drums. We havn't received our regular arms yet. We have about 80 stand of old muskets. . .. There is a Rifled Cannon, said to [shoot] 2½ miles with precision. . . ."
24 July, Camp Carroll, Maryland – "We . . . went down the Northern Central railroad & arrived at Baltimore about 8 oclock [where] we marched . . . through the streets, the same I believe where the fight was. . .. When we came down from Harrisburg we saw those bridges that were burnt. The road is guarded from the [state] line to Baltimore, every bridge and every deep cut. . .. We stopped at Cockysville . . . and loaded our muskets. We heard they would have attacked us if it had not been for the regiments encamped there. . .. there was a kind of little riot in Baltimore the day that the news came of the defeat [at Bull Run (Manassas] but that is not so bad as said . . . only about 700 of troops killed, about 400 wounded. . . ." (Actual losses were 486 killed, 1,011 wounded, and 1,216 missing.)"
27 September, Camp Tenally (Tenleytown, DC) – "We had a review last Saturday, we were reviewed by Gen. McClellan & staff & prince De Joinville. I suppose you also saw the account of our march to the Chain Bridge. . .. Gen Smith's Brigade at the Chain Bridge went out into Virginia to reconoitre. We had orders to march in a minute's notice in case he would be attacked. . .. Our Reg. has been out on picket three times . . . & Monday we expect to go to Great Falls. . .. We got our new guns last Saturday. They are Springfield Rifles. They have a range of a thousand yards. We all like them. . .."
14 October, Camp Pierpont, Virginia – "Last Wednesday . . . we got marching orders. We packed our knapsacks & fell into line . . . & left Tenallytown 'en route' for the sacred soil of Virginia . . . to a place called Langley [and took possession of 'Prospect Hill'], where we were drawn up in 'battle array'. . .. Last Monday night we had one of [the] hardest storms that ever I experienced. . .. I was on guard that night for about 9 hours, several of the men wouldn't come out but they were punished severely for it. The night we crossed over there was forty five regiments came over. . .. Last Friday . . . we had 'orders' to fall in, that a fight was out. We dropped everything, seized our guns & accoutrements, fell in line . . . we started out double quick. . .. All the regiments around here were drawn up. . .. Everyone was expecting a fight. We don't know the reason why an attack wasn't made. . .."
25 October, Camp Pierpont, Virginia – "[A] very distressing accident occurred. [A soldier] went up on a hill & found a shell (one that hadn't bursted) . . . & carried it down to his companions. [It] exploded, killing one man instantly & injuring . . . several others. . . .."
28 October, Camp Pierpont, Virginia – "I suppose you saw the account of that affair at Bales Rock. It disheartened the men [a] great deal. Yesterday there were orders read before the regiment that it wasn't by Gen. MClellan's orders that the fight occurred, that he knew nothing of it until after the fight was over. That expedition that had gone down on the coast will leave its mark. If . . . successful, we will advance farther South. If not, we will winter here. . .."
3 December, Langley, Virginia – "There is some little skirmishing, but it isn't very serious. Today our Brigade went out on a foraging expedition. . .. There is a report flying around here that our division was to go South in the next fleet, but I think that is all talk. . .."
6 May, Falmouth, Virginia – "Of course you have seen the accounts of Banks retreat – of his being reinforced to – of the battles McClellan has had before Richmond – of the evacuation of Coring, & of Halleck taking ten thousand prisoners & fifteen thousand stand of arms. . .. Last Saturday the 1st Brigade . . . that was across the river came back on this side – it was reported that a large [force] was advancing. Our pickets were drove in – but – they did not advance much farther. There are two or three gun-boats lying down the river that keeps them back. . .. There is but very little going on. . .. nothing to raise an excitement [unless a crowd of contrabands or deserters come in, , ,,". Very good. Item #009367
The 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry was raised early in the war after President Lincoln first called upon volunteers to defend Washington. Originally, its members agreed to serve for three months until, they thought, the conflict would be over. By the time their service reached ninety days, it was clear that the war was going to be long and hard, and many of its soldiers volunteered to continue their service in a renamed unit, the 1st Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment, also known as the 30th Pennsylvania Infantry, which later fought in a number of battles including Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg.
This is a terrific collection of well-written letters that provide first-hand observations of camp-life during the early months of the war when newly formed volunteer union regiments units eagerly swarmed to Washington to defend the capital. Made even more desirable by a number of attractive patriotic illustrations on its envelopes and stationery.