Saturday, July 30, 2016

That Dreaded Letter

On May 11, 1863, Private Daniel C. Holloway of Company D, 148th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry sent this letter to his mother and a family friend in Aaronsburg, Centre County, Pennsylvania from the general hospital at Brook Station, Virginia.  His unnamed friend and brother Samuel had been killed on May 2 at the battle of Chancellorsville.  It appears that Daniel had been wounded himself, but the nature of his problems are not listed in his service record.

Of course many thousands of letters like this must have been sent to families all across the North and South after every battle.  Both families and soldiers were always anxious to receive letters, but in some sad irony, this was not the letter that anybody ever expected to find at their doorstep.

"General Hospidel Brook Station May 11 1863

Dear Friend Mary
I thought it my duty to drop you a few lines for your incouragement if I can tri as it is you have lost your all.  You have lost that one that was near and dear unto you.  The one that your comfert restet upon and often made you glad with him.  But now he has been taken from you and has gon to the spirit world and hope he can exclame as the Samas did safe at home … there is no war but wheir all is love and picee and harmoney and he has left a bright testomony behind that he was prepaird to die.  The last words I spoke with him was about about his eternal wellfair and I told him that if he was not yet fuly prepaird to die that I would erge him to be earnestly earge him to to pray much and look to god in faith and he would make him hole.  He was getting on my beadside when I talket to him and the tears were flowing down his cheaks and when I gave him goodby I told him to pray for me and he said that I should pray for him that god should bless him and I promised him I would and so I did.  But god has seen fit to call him from hour side never to see him in this world.  But Mary let us try and prepare ourselves to meat him in another world when parting shall come no more.  Let us live right and we shall die right.  I have I hope you have not forgoten what you had begon that is serving the lord.  I would say to you be faithful and you shall again meat your Dear husbent wheir you shall never part with him any more.  But now he is gon shall we wish him back.  I no but we will go to meat him.  Hard it is to give him up but the will of the lord bee done.  I think I can know how you feal to five your only true one up never to see him again.  I know how you feal for I cant hardly rest day nor night since he was killed.  It came to my heart like as if a spear had been stabed through me and it made me that sick that I could not sleep nor get up out of my bead.  I suppose I cand give you more knews then of him then what I can for I did not see him but I spoke with hour Chaplain and he and Do Fisher beried him and he said that they dug a grave and laid him in and cover him with his blanket so that he is beried better than most.  The most are piled on heaps in large holes but it matters not where the body is so the sole is safe in heaven and I trust he has gon safe over.  Mary put your trust in god.  May he chear and give you aid is my prayer.  I must now close.  I must say a word to my Dear Mother in this.  This littel book give to Derbin.  Write to me and tell me how you ar geting along. 

D.C. Holloway

Dear Mother,
The hand of god has again been laid heavyly been laid on your heart.  No don’t but I hope he will help you to bear the cross tho it feals very heavy to part with such a Dear Brother but the lord only knows weather I ever shall see my Family any more.  But my face is still … werd that if I shall never  shall meat my Friends and Family on earth I hope to meat them hapy by and by.  Mother we often have greaved your heart but in your old days we have bee the cause of many a tear fall from your cheaks.  But may the lord help you to bear this cross is my prayer fo we are in the trap now and we must take what comes.  I have some little hope of being discharge.  Weather I will I don’t know but I will try.  Good by Dear Friend,

Thursday, April 7, 2016

INSIDE GETTYSBURG - Christ Lutheran Church

In today's post, Dr. Mock shares with us some of the stories associated with Christ Lutheran Church on Chambersburg Street...

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

INSIDE GETTYSBURG - The Catherine Foster House

For today's post I would like to introduce you to, not only one of my best friends, but one of the most knowledgeable historians on the town of Gettysburg during the 1863 Pennsylvania Campaign, Dr. Steve Mock.  He is also one of the best story-tellers I have ever met and his depth of research and passion for telling the story of the Gettysburg civilians is simply contagious.  Only a select few people have the gift of almost transporting us back in time as if we were actually witnessing the dramatic events unfold around us.  Dr. Mock is one of them.

In today's video clip, he talks to us about the story of Corporal Leander W. Wilcox of the 151st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry ("Schoolteacher Regiment") at the Catherine Foster house on the northwest corner of West High Street and South Washington Street.

Catherine Foster wrote of her experience on July 1 from her home, "We remained on our balcony watching the forming of the left wing, notwithstanding the unseen shells whizzing over our heads.  It being our first experience, we neither realized danger nor obeyed orders of passing officers until 1 P.M., the Eleventh Corps coming rushing in Washington Street, urged on to support the right wing, our attention was called to their pleading for water.  They dare not stop to drink, but we carried it to our front door and poured into their tins as they passed.  The officers frequently said to us, 'Stop giving water, they have not time to drink.'  Many of them got their last drink from our hands, as they were hurried along, saying as they went, 'We'll fight the enemy from your doors, we'll drive them or we'll die.'  A few minutes after we left the balcony, a twelve pound shell struck it, demolishing the roof and ceiling.  For two hours we carried water to the front door and poured into their tin cups..."1

1. David A. Murdoch, ed.  Catherine Mary White Foster's Eyewitness Account of the Battle of Gettysburg, with Background on the Foster Family Union Soldiers.  Adams County History, Volume 1, Article 5, 1995.   


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

History in Artifacts - The Cost of War

This simple pay receipt may not seem like much, but it proves just how efficient the Army of the Potomac had become by December of 1862 and how much the sacrifice of one soldier cost in terms United States dollars. 

This pay receipt was issued to First Sergeant Michael Grogan of Company K, 63rd New York Volunteer Infantry, better known as part of the famed Irish Brigade on December 15, 1862. He had enlisted with the regiment in October of 1862 and slowly rose through the ranks from corporal. Of course the story of the Irish Brigade has been trumpeted since the guns fell silent. They participated in almost every major engagement in the eastern theater of the war. 

On September 17, 1862 at the battle of Antietam, the Irish Brigade (including Grogan and the 63rd NY) attacked a sunken farm lane lined with Confederates. What was previously just a practical wagon track connecting local farms, was transformed into a fortress stubbornly defended by soldiers from Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia. The Irish Brigade was just as stubborn. Lt. Colonel Henry Fowler, commanding the regiment that day, said of his men, "It is now a solace to my mind, while suffering from my wound, to testify how gallantly and promptly each officer in his place and each company moved forward and delivered their fire in the face of the most destructive storm of leaden hail, that in an instant killed or wounded every officer but one and more than one-half the rank and file of the right wing. For a moment they staggered, but the scattered few quickly rallied upon the left, closing on the colors, where they nobly fought, bled, and died, protecting their own loved banner and their country's flag, until the brigade was relieved." The regiment lost 202 men, more than any other regiment in the Irish Brigade. 

Looking south towards the Sunken Road, or Bloody Lane.  The 63rd New York and other regiments of the Irish Brigade advanced across these fields towards the top of the hill.  Somewhere in these fields Sergeant Grogan was severely wounded.

Somewhere in that storm of "leaden hail," Sergeant Grogan went down with a bullet through the thigh. The Irish Brigade eventually did take the lane, which was forever after named appropriately, Bloody Lane.  He was taken to a field hospital in the rear and attended to. After a number of days he was sufficiently recovered to be transported to Washington, D.C. The wound was still bad enough that he received a furlough to go home. Grogan was transported to Albany, New York to convalesce with some members of his family for eighteen days. While there he received his commission as the Second Lieutenant of Company K for his gallantry at Antietam. He returned to the army just in time for their famed attack against the stone wall at Marye's Heights at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, where the regiment again suffered severely. 

Looking west along Bloody Lane.
On December 15, two days after the battle, Grogan finally received payment to reimburse the expenditures that resulted from his wounding at Antietam. He received his due pay from July 1, 1862 to September of 1862 in the sum of $51.33. He was also reimbursed for travel expenses from Washington to Albany, NY on account of his wound in the sum of $12.00. Finally, he received $0.50 per day while on convalescence for subsistence or rations, totaling $9.00. Grogan was payed out in the lump sum of $72.33 by Paymaster Pomeroy.

Even if we look at Grogan's payout for convalescence and consider it at the top of the average payout, at least 9,549 Union soldiers were wounded in the battle of Antietam. Surely many of these men died in the weeks and months following the battle, but costs were also incurred with this alternative. By multiplying an average payout of $15.00 per soldier for convalescent purposes times the number of wounded at Antietam, the Federal government would have paid out (or owed) $143,235 (in modern terms, $3,282,561.27) to wounded. If we include two months pay for a private soldier and a $13.00 convalescent payout (a total of $43.00 per soldier), the price tag goes up to $410,607. Today that would be $9,410,008.98 (inflation has hiked an average of 2.05%/year). The point I'm trying to make is simply that the expense, not just in human cost, but also for the United States government was astronomical. This is only one battle and only includes wounded soldiers. Those thousands still in the ranks also needed paid. We could continue into the cost of logistical support, or destruction as well, but now my head is spinning too much!

Grogan eventually left the service for a short while in August of 1863 after attaining the rank of first lieutenant. He then re-enlisted at consolidation and served at that rank in Company "F" until being wounded again at Petersburg. He was discharged on account of his wounds on August 8, 1864.

Thursday, January 14, 2016


My new book about the 105th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry is now available online at the link below.  It is called "The Boys Fought Like Demons" in reference to Colonel Calvin Augustus Craig's remarks in a letter home about the regiment's performance at Gettysburg.  The narrative follows the regiment from its formation, through all its most difficult battles, to muster out, and even through the commemorative post-war era.  The book is 6x9, black and white with 246 pages and has 14 maps along with many other photos of the men that fought and the ground they fought on.  If you are interested in purchasing a copy, the book is available through the link below.  Just click on the book cover!  Price:  $19.99 + shipping and handling.  It is also available on Amazon.

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