United States General Hospital
Section 1, Ward M, Room 2
September 21st 1864
Section 1, Ward M, Room 2
September 21st 1864
As you know, I left sister Jeanie’s at noon of the 13th instant, proceeded to Smicksburg [Indiana County, Pennsylvania] on my way to Kittanning. Before I got there, my horse lost a shoe off his right forefoot making him lame. I couldn’t get him shod there so I went to Dayton to get it done and as it was getting late, I concluded to get two miles to cousin Lizzie’s & Susan’s and remain over night. The next day I paid for it by having to ride to Kittanning in a drenching rain. On the 15th I took the cars for Pittsburg at 4 o’clock P. M. At 8:45 I took the cars for Harrisburg, arriving there the next morning at 6 o’clock. A 9 o’clock I took the cars for Baltimore, arriving there at 12 M. and at 4:45 I took the cars for this place, arriving here at 8 o’clock P. M. where I have been assigned wards, or quarters, as the heading of this letter will indicate. I did not intend to stop in this hospital but owing to a difficulty in procuring a pass to enable me to pass through Washington enroute to the army, I thought it prudent at the suggestion of James E. Brown to come to this place to report and procure my proper orders to go forward. Already I have been ordered before two boards for examination to see if I was fit for service. What disposition will be made I am as yet not informed.
There are about three or four hundred officers here of sick, wounded, and convalescent, and two or three thousand enlisted men who are in the same condition. We are occupying the Naval School buildings for a hospital and it makes a magnificent hospital. In the room that my quarters are, there are four of us. We have each a neat cot to sleep on, two stands to write on, our room is lighted by gas, the fireplace has a nice clouded Egyptian marble mantle piece of black color clouded tan and white.
The city is an old dilapidated town of two or three thousand inhabitants with a fair sprinkling of the colored race to keep the white element from “Spilin.” Slavery exists here but we do not see any of its horrors here for the moment the master abuses his slave, he or she runs away.
One of my roommates, Lieutenant Alexander H. Mitchell ¹ of Company A, 105th Pennsylvania Volunteers and son of Sharpe Mitchell of Mahoning near Perrysville, says he knows Captain William C. our brother, George Weaver our stepfather, and you. And he tells me furthermore to my astonishment that my sister is going to marry a cousin of his by the name of Neil [Neal]. ² As you live in that vicinity, cannot you tell me the sequel of this report. I have no sister that I ever heard of who answers this description unless —- but I so recently came from there that I thought someone would have told me concerning it. I expect you will tell me when you write me again all about the report, who the parties are, their respective ages, condition in life, personal appearance, health &c. and if the report be true, and it be practicable, the affair be deferred till we learn more concerning the parties. We had thought if there were any truth in the affair that it would not have been remiss to counsel with us and we indulge ourselves with the thought that we are not so unworthy as to be unnoticed in so grave an affair.
I am delighted with my visit home. I found everything so pleasant and agreeable, and I improved so rapidly in health while away up there among those of whilom conversant hills, bordering the limpid waters of Mahoning. Many a stream have I associated with since my wanderings commenced, but the stream of my boyhood days acquaintance always has precedence, be it ever so beautiful, renowned, or historic. At James E. Brown’s and Doctor Finlay’s in Kittanning I was very kindly treated. Indeed, I have been everywhere so well treated that I can go back and endure the privations of the camp with a will, and with the thought upon my mind that it is glorious to die for such a good kindly country — a country rarely blessed, flowing with milk and honey, [where] only a few lecherous beings are permitted to inhabit it, to the hurt of our glorious union. They are styled Copperheads. But I hope they may soon see their folly and do better — yes, support our country in truth — not falsely.
There are quite a number of female nurses here and I have thought some of making application for you and one or two others, but I am uncertain of what their duties are. Perhaps I may learn more concerning it before I quit the place.
You cannot write to me here for I will doubtless leave here before a letter could reach me. This place is situated on the Chesapeake Bay about half way between Baltimore and Washington. The water is quite salt[y].
Make my love to all our friends — especially to our mother, sisters, and receive the same for yourself. As ever your brother, — George A. Beck
George A. Beck was born in 1835 in Western Pennsylvania. He grew up in Kittanning, Armstrong County. His father died as a result of wounds suffered in a mine explosion and he spent much of his young life living with a family friend. Just before the Civil War began, Beck relocated to Madison, Wisconsin and at the outbreak of the war he enlisted with Company H, "The Randall Guards," 2nd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. His brother William was a Captain in the 62nd Pennsylvania Infantry. The 2nd Wisconsin moved to Washington D.C. and was one of the units engaged at the battle of First Bull Run. In this battle, Beck was wounded in the leg and captured by the Confederates. He spent some time as a prisoner but was then exchanged and recovered from his wound. Beck served with the Iron Brigade through all their travails until the Spring of 1864 when he was commissioned captain of Company I, 37th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry. The regiment was part of the Ninth Corps and participated in many of the battles at Petersburg, suffering major losses in the initial assault in June with 174 men killed, wounded or captured. At the Battle of The Crater they lost 148. On April 2, 1865, the day of the break through at Petersburg, they lost 46 men.
Beck writes the following in September of '64 and has clearly just returned from some sort of health issues. Unfortunately it is unclear whether or not he has suffered from wounds or disease, but it must have been serious because he mentions going in front of two review boards to test his fitness for duty. Also, he is bunked up at Annapolis with Medal of Honor winner Alexander H. Mitchell of the 105th Pennsylvania Infantry, from the same area as Beck originally.