Monday, September 16, 2019

Letter from Lt. William T. Campbell, Co. F


Map of Southwestern part of Washington, DC
Fort Good Hope was renamed Fort "Wagner" in 1862

         The following article from 1945 appeared in a Fayette County, PA newspaper. It was written by 19-year old Lt. William Thomas Campbell of Company K, 85th PA, from Fort Good Hope to his sister in 1861. Campbell served in Company K with his two brothers, John and James. 

       Fort Good Hope was located on the southern side of the eastern branch of the Potomac River and was the home of the 85th PA from December, 1861 to March, 1862. The men of the regiment helped build this structure, one of 68 forts constructed to protect the nation’s capital after the disastrous loss at Bull Run in the summer of 1861. The site Fort Good Hope is today the home of Stanton Elementary School.
     In his letter, Campbell mentions seeing an aerial balloon on a reconnaissance mission over Washington. This may be a balloon of Professor Thaddeus Lowe that flew from Budds Ferry in Maryland, across the Potomac River from the present-day Quantico Marine Base. However, the balloon might also have been one flown by aerialist John LaMountain, whose balloon was spotted in December in the vicinity of Alexandria, VA, about four miles from Fort Good Hope.


[Connellsville (PA) Daily Courier, November 16, 1945, p.12]

“Sword and Letter Recall Incidents of Civil War”

            A prized possession of memories of the family of the late George W. Campbell of Normalville and Connellsville is the sword of Mr. Campbell’s brother, Lieutenant William T. Campbell, who was killed in the battle of [Second] Deep Bottom, Virginia, August 13, 1864. It reposes at the Campbell homestead in East Green Street. Members of the family are Dr. Clyde S. Campbell, Miss Rebekah Campbell, Miss Kathryn Campbell and Ben H. Campbell.
      A Conf. bullet struck Lieutenant Campbell over the heart, piercing it after severing the leather strap by which swords were then carried. In the soldier’s honor, the post of the Grand Army of the Republic at Springfield, now Normalville, was named William T. Campbell.
    Another relic of the Rebellion is the letter written by Lieutenant Campbell from Fort Good Hope, across the Potomac River from the National Capital, and directed to his sister Mary of Springfield. It is among the effects of Harry Hayden of Uniontown, an employee of the W. Penn System in Connellsville...
      The letter from the lieutenant to his sister, dated December 12, 1861, was written in the quaint style of long ago. It reads:

Balloon View of Washington, 1861, facing southwest.
Fort Good Hope would soon be built at the top left across the Eastern Branch
of the Potomac River. -- Library of Congress


Lieutenant William T. Campbell 
Company K
December 16, 1861
Fort Good Hope, DC

Dear Sister.

            I sit down to let you know that I am well and hope you are the same. I received a letter from father a few minutes ago and was glad to hear that you are all well. He said he was going to butcher the next day. I was glad to hear it and would like if you would send me about have of one of the backbones in your letter when you answer this.
            We are getting along fine. They boys are all well and enjoying themselves accordingly. Just finished our house today. It consists of three rounds of longs built up like a log house, chunked and daubed, and our tent sought [set] on top for a cover. The boys are all fixing up the same way for the winter. We have had no cold weather here like you had in the mountains. For the last week it has been so warm that I could no without my coat.
            We are still encamped about three miles from Washington, across the eastern branch of the Potomac, with two other regiments and are engaged in building a fort. From the fort you can see Washington city about as well from any place about the city. The regiment works by turns and more of us were out today but the whole regiment is going our tomorrow. When I was working on the fort day before yesterday I seen a balloon travelling through the air. It was on a reconnoitering expedition to see what the rebels are doing.
            I expect that we will stay here all winter and I would be glad if we would for it is a very pleasant place to stay and we got plenty to eat and plenty to cover to keep warm. Mary, tell the girls to keep in good heart for we will be back some time and hope that we may see them all married to some of the soldiers that stayed home. We see a girl so seldom down here that it looks like the mountains about Springfield when we see one. We have not seen any ladies of any account since we left Pennsylvania except a few black ones that we seen at Baltimore, which consisted of about 500 that turned out to see us as we passed through the city.
            Mary, we are within three miles of Washington and can get no late news. Now I want you to send me the [Uniontown Evening] Standard every week after you read it. It will not cost you much, not more than a cent at a time, and when we get paid here which will not be longer than January I will send you enough money to satisfied you well for your trouble and a nice present.
             I don’t know that I have anything more to write at present but when you write let me know how all the people are getting along in the mountains. I wrote to Sam as soon as I arrived but have not received any answer yet. Give my love to Father and Mother and all the rest of the family and tell Father that I will answer his letter the first of next week.
                                                                Nothing more. Answer soon.

                                                               Your brother, W. T. Campbell


Thursday, September 12, 2019

Addendum to Virtual Cemetery

   In an earlier post, I created a virtual cemetery of veterans of the 85th Pennsylvania regiment found on findagrave.com.
   Research has turned up an additional seven online headstone photographs at billiongraves.com.
    The seven veterans found on that site are:

      VETERAN                  COMPANY              CEMETERY                         LOCATION

     Thomas Cline                       C                       Redstone                           Brownsville, PA

     Alexander Cree                     F                       Green Mount                     Waynesburg, PA

     Hagan Z. Ludington              K                      Oak Grove                          Uniontown, PA

     Joseph Pratt                          G                      Oak Grove                          Uniontown, PA

     William Randolph                  B                      Brick Road                          Ellensburg, WA
 
      Minor Reamer                      G                      Monongahela Hill               Greensboro, PA

      William Virgin                       D                     Clarksville Presbyterian       Clarksville, PA


        Additionally, below is a list of fifty-seven 85th PA veterans and their burial sites whose headstone photographs or cemetery registries were not found in an online search.

   VETERAN                             CEMETERY                            LOCATION              YEAR DIED
Amos Bain (B)                          Presbyterian Church                Amity, PA                         1862
John Ballentine  (B)                  Oak Spring                              Canonsburg, PA                  ?
Morgan O. Bowman (D)           Adgate                                      Ottumwa, KS                  1896
John Bratton (D)                       Washington                              Washington, PA              1901
John Brister/Bristor (B)             Fort Monroe                             Virginia                           1862
John Nevin Brown (A)              Center Presbyterian                 McMurray, PA                 1905
John Westley Brown (I)            Oak Vale                                  Ohiopyle, PA                   1873
John Cumley/Crumley (G)        Oakwoods                                Cook County, Ill              1899
Israel Cumson (D)                    Jefferson Baptist                      Jefferson, PA                   1862
George Cunningham (I)            Green Mount                           Waynesburg, PA              1883
Welles Ebenezer David (G)       Presbyterian                            Old Frame, PA                1862
Harrison Dean (K)                     Richmond National                  Richmond, VA                 1864
Philanius Dixon (G)                   Soldier’s Home                        Washington, DC              1862
Walter O. Donald (A)                 Mount Calvary                         Steubenville, Ohio           1864
Charles Elliott (C)                      Military Home                          Dayton, Ohio                    1922
William Faulkner (C)                 Maplewood                               Anderson, Indiana           1935
John Firestone (H)                    Beaufort National                     South Carolina                1863
John Flinder (F)                         Washington                              Washington, PA              1872
George Garber (D)                    Philadelphia National               Philadelphia                    1862
James Gray (G)                        Village                                       New Geneva, PA            1867
Levi Hauger (K)                         Oak Grove                                Uniontown, PA                1896
Moses H. Hays (I)                     Cypress Hill National                 New York                        1862
William B. Hays (E)                   Washington                               Washington, PA                 ?
Samuel Hendrickson (A)           Center Presbyterian                  McMurray, PA                1864
Andrew Huff (E)                        Soldiers Home                          Washington, DC             1861
James Husk (G)                        Garard’s Fort                            Greene County               1909
Josephus Jacobs (G)                Lippincott Burial Ground           Greene County               1892
Hill Job (H)                                Union                                         Somerset, PA                c.1873
Joseph Kerr (A)                         Center Presbyterian                  McMurray,PA                  1907
Samuel Marshall (E)                  Allen Grove                               Sherrard, WV                  1886
Henry J. McAllister (E)              Washington                                Washington, PA              1927
George McGiffen (D)                Pigeon Creek Baptist                 Vanceville, PA                 1863
David C. McKeag (E)                National Home                           Dayton, Ohio                  1923
Cyrus McMillen (C)                   National Cemetery                     Beverly, NJ                     1864
James Meeks (D)                     Prison Camp                               Andersonville, GA          1864
Francis D. Morrison (K)            Sugar Grove                               Ohiopyle, PA                  1901
John L. Morrow (B)                   Coles                                          Derry, PA                        1901
James W. Nicholson (G)           Old Stone Church                       New Geneva, PA           1863
William Perry (I)                        Oak Grove                                  Uniontown, PA               1913
Martin Pope (E)                         Mount Auburn                            Dunbar, PA                     1921
Jacob Reger/Regar (H)             M.R. Thomas Church                Jockey Hollow, PA          1892
Jacob Richardson (A)               Buffalo United Presbyterian       Washington County        1913
James M. Roach (D)                 South Ten Mile                           Greene County               1862
George Rodeback (C)               South Side                                 Washington County        1895
Charles Rush (K)                      Cochran                                      Dawson, PA                   1905
John J. Rush (G)                       Oakmont                                    Center, PA                      1905
Eli Smith (D)                             South Ten Mile                           Greene County                1897
John H. Spicer (G)                    Green Mount                              Waynesburg, PA             1869
William T. Sullivan (C)               Park Place                                  Uniontown, PA               1902
John A. Thompson (I)                Allegheny                                   Allegheny County           1910
Lewis Watkins (E)                      Watkins Family Farm                 W.Brownsville, PA          1864
Moses Wilcox (G)                      Soldiers Home                           Washington, DC             1862
Samuel P. Wilson (H)                Jenkins                                        Fayette County?            1929
William J. Wilson (A)                 Washington                                 Washington, PA                 ?
Samuel Wood (Staff)                 Bridgeport                                   Brownsville, PA              1877
Thomas Zebley   (K)                  Soldiers Home                            Washington, DC            1862


Sunday, September 8, 2019

"When You Want Something Go For It"

White House during the Civil War
National Archives

      The Republicanof Clinton, Missouri on May 4, 1911. It describes how Captain Hagan Z. Ludington  of Company K, 85th Pennsylvania, obtained much needed blankets for the men of his regiment during their four-month stay in Washington, DC beginning in November of 1861.
The newspaper article below is from

      Such Hard and Severe Service." That earlier article, involving a meeting between Captain Ludington and President Lincoln, was first recorded by Private Robert Roddy of Company H. Roddy’s brother, Edward Roddy, owned the Genius of Liberty newspaper in Uniontown, PA. Robert Roddy’s story appeared in his brother’s newspaper within a few weeks of the event.
This version of the story is corroborated by a similar account that appears in my book, "

       The article below, on the other hand, was written 50 years later. Despite the gap of half a century, they are remarkably similar. Although the 1911 article is signed only with "One of the Boys," it was undoubtedly written by John Nicholson Pierce, the first chaplain of the regiment. Pierce lived in Clinton, MO at the time this article was penned.

        Pierce’s story adds credibility to Roddy's account of Ludington's actions that day. Furthermore, the Civil War was a time when one could simply walk into the White House and ask for an appointment to see the president. This was done mostly by people seeking jobs in the federal government.

        Pierce served as chaplain of the 85th PA for about one year. A graduate of Meadville (PA) College, Pierce was a Methodist minister in Waynesburg, PA when the war broke out. Following his war experience, he was assigned to churches in Missouri in 1865. He died at age 91 in 1926 and is buried in Clinton.

        Captain Ludington, the subject of the story, was part of a prominent family that included Revolutionary War heroes Henry Ludington and Sybil Ludington. Prior to organizing Company K, the “Mountain Rifles,” Ludington lived in Nebraska. He owned a company that sponsored wagon trains to California during the Gold Rush. This is surely where he developed his skills in the supply business.

           Ludington was soon admitted to a Washington, DC hospital in May of 1862, just before his regiment departed from the nation's capital for the Peninsula Campaign. He resigned from the regiment the next year and died at home at age 36 in May of 1865.  Ludington is buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Uniontown.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Such Hard and Severe Service: The Story Tellers


 
 The author would like to acquaint the readers of Such Hard and Severe Service with the following members of the regiment. They are each quoted through their letters, diaries, memoirs and newspaper articles.  Many other men of the regiment are quoted, but the words of the following men are used multiple times. I did not include these images in the first two volumes; I saved most of the individual photographs for Volume 3 (soon to be published). That last part of my regimental history provides biographical information for the men of the entire regiment.
         The information below hopefully will add context to their backgrounds, personal views, and military experience..

From Sharon Zbinovec

Private Milton McJunkin: This volunteer in Company D from Bentleyville, PA, wrote a series of  letters to his family that was published in 2000 by Patrick Schroeder, Richard Sauers and Ronn Palm in a book called,The Bloody Eighty-Fifth: The Letters of Milton McJunkin, a Pennsylvania Soldier inthe Civil War.  McJunkin offers a variety of observations on his fellow soldiers, officers, their camp conditions, as well as vivid descriptions of the fights in which he participated. 
                                                            




From His Memoir


Sergeant Mark Gordon: A young teacher in Greene County prior to the war, Gordon joined Company G as a sergeant with his father, Lieutenant John A. Gordon. Mark Gordon contributes his observations from  a variety of primary sources: a memoir, letters written to his family during the war, letters written to his hometown newspaper and a brief diary. Gordon reveals his thoughts in real time through his letters, and also from the perspective of time through his memoir written 25 years after the war called "Experiences in the Civil War." Gordon's great grandson, also named Mark Gordon, was elected governor of Wyoming in 2018.
                                                                                                                                                                                        



Lieutenant Colonel Henry Purviance: The captain of Company E, Purviance was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1862. He was wounded at Seven Pines and was later the acting regimental commander on Morris Island in 1863 when he was killed by friendly fire. Purviance was the co-publisher of the Washington (PA) Observer and Tribune newspaper and wrote a series of descriptive letters home that were published by his newspaper in the first two years of the war.




From Brian J. Ensley


Private Robert Roddy: Like Purviance, Roddy had a background in journalism. Roddy enlisted as a private in Company H and served for one year before being sent home on a medical discharge. Roddy was a reporter in civilian life and his brother, Edward, owned the Genius of Liberty newspaper in Uniontown, PA. Roddy wrote several letters under the pen name "Zingaroo" that were published in his brother’s newspaper concerning his time in Washington, DC and the Virginia Peninsula. 





From His Memoir


Corporal William E. Finley: Two years after the end of the war, Finley, from Uniontown,  wrote a brief memoir of the regiment that he titled The Privates’ History. Finley was wounded at Seven Pines and served for three years before returning home at the end of 1864. He was one of about 300 members of the regiment who completed his h original three-year enlistment. The rest were killed in battle, died from disease, or were sent home due to a medical discharge.
                                                                




From Dickey's Regiment History



Colonel Joshua Howell: Besides writing several reports that are found in the official records of the Union army, Colonel Howell also wrote a series of Civil War letters that were published in an 1891 book by John Howell, his descendant. Howell offers official and personal glimpses about "his boys," his fellow officers, his severe concussion suffered on Morris Island and the Bermuda Hundred Campaign.




From Ryan Berley


Corporal Davis Himmeger: The 43-year old farmer with a wife and five children never experienced the battlefield. Himmeger contracted a disease while on the Peninsula Campaign and died in a Baltimore hospital in May, 1862. A chapter of Volume 1 is devoted to letters written by Himmeger, his wife, Margaret, and various family members and friends. To the left is a picture of Himmeger’s frock coat sent home following his death.
                                                                       



From James Hadden
"History of the Old Flag"


Lieutenant Richard W. Dawson: The young lieutenant was studying to be an attorney when he joined Company I as a lieutenant. He was promoted to the Inspector General's staff but was still assigned to the 85th PA. In early 1865, he was wounded in the assault on Fort Fisher near Wilmington, NC and died the several weeks later. His diary, which covers the year prior to his death, is the subject of an entire chapter in Volume 2 of my book.
                                                           





From Ron Coddington


Lieutenant John E. Michener: The native of Fredericktown, PA joined the regiment as a lieutenant of Company D. Shortly after being promoted to captain of Company K, he was captured on Whitemarsh Island, GA and spent the next nine months in captivity before being traded for a Confederate officer in Charleston Harbor. Michener's letters recount the Battle of Seven Pines as well as his thoughts on the various environments in which his regiment was stationed.
                                                                  

Sunday, September 1, 2019

1910 Regimental Reunion




1910 Reunion of the 85th PA
Rogersville, Greene County, PA
     Here is a link to a group photograph taken at the 1910 reunion of the 85th Pennsylvania regiment held at Rogersville, Greene County, PA. The link includes the names of all the veterans in attendance. I identified the names of many of the veterans, based on previous photographs taken during the Civil War and afterwards.

Charles Eckels c. 1862
US Army Heritage and Information Ctr.
       To the right are two photos of Charles Eckels of Company E taken nearly 50 years apart. Using his Civil War photo and knowing that he attended the 1910 reunion, It was established that he attended the reunion; then all the faces in this photo were checked  to find a match for the youthful Eckels.
       Eckels was just a 16-year old from West Brownsville, Washington County, PA when he enlisted in 1861. He re-enlisted in 1864. In October of 1864, he was wounded at Darbytown Road near Richmond. In November of 1864, most of the regiment went home following their three-year hitch. Eckels was one of about 125 members of the regiment who stayed in the army. He became a captain of Company K in the 199th PA, but was still brigaded with his old mates in the 85th PA.
     Besides attending the reunions of the 85th PA, Eckels would also travel across the state to meet with his old troops in the 199th (see article below). After the war, he served as Justice of the Peace and School Director in West Brownsville. He was the last president of the regimental veterans association.  He died at the age
Charles Eckels from the 1910 reunion photo
of 90 in 1935 and is buried in the Bridgeport Cemetery in Brownsville, PA.
    Below is an article from the Harrisburg Daily 
Independent (September 12, 1912) about a reunion
of his company in the 199th PA in Lancaster County.
     Eckels led this company at Fort Gregg (VA) and Appomattox Court House in the last week of the war.













Thursday, August 29, 2019

Original Company Captains

Drilling Troops
Famous Leaders and Battles Scenes of the Civil War,  Frank Leslie, 1896
One of ten original captains of the 85th Pennsylvania, just one, Isaac Abraham of Company, completed his original three-year enlistment. One, Henry Purviance of Company E, was killed
in the line of duty. The remainder left the war on medical leave in the first two years of the war.
John Morris of Company F had the distinction of being the first man in the regiment to be wounded He suffered a facial wound at Williamsburg, VA in May of 1862 which caused a hearing loss for the rest of his life. Morris, from Greene County, PA,  was also the longest living captain, surviving until 1922. Morris was 89 at the time of his death.


Harvey J. Vankirk      (A)      resigned November 1862

Morgan W. Zollars     (B)       medical discharge May, 1862

John C. Wilkinson     (C )      medical discharge July 15, 1863

William H. Horn        (D)       medical discharge July 1862

Henry A. Purviance  (E)        wounded at Seven Pines; killed August, 1863 in South Carolina

John Morris               (F)        wounded at Williamsburg; medical discharge June, 1862  

Isaac M. Abraham    (G)        mustered out December, 1864

James B. Tredwell    (H)       medical discharge September, 1862

John R. Weltner        (I)        resigned July, 1862

Hagan Z. Ludington  (K)       resigned February, 1863; died 1865

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

85th PA Virtual Cemetery

Fayette County Soldiers Memorial Oak Grove Cemetery Uniontown, PA Dedicated 1867. 
(Photo from The American Legion)
Using information from findagrave.com, I have created a virtual cemetery for the men who served in the 85th Pennsylvania. It presently includes 762 of the approximate 1100 men who served from 1861 to 1865. They are listed in alphabetical order regardless of their company or their rank.

Thanks to all the findagrave contributors from all over the country whose hard work cataloging cemeteries and burial records have made this virtual cemetery possible. For some regimental members, I have taken my own headstone photos in southwestern Pennsylvania which I have not yet uploaded to findagrave.

I only signed up a few weeks ago and will add this information in the near future. Some of the virtual cemetery entries include burial information but no headstone photos. Also, some headstones have become illegible and were not included at all in the cemetery compilations.

If the headstone clearly includes "85th PA," it was easy to find and include. For some of the men, ensuring they were members of the 85th PA was more challenging. Some headstones include a different regiment.

Keep in mind some soldiers went home on medical leave, recovered, and then rejoined into a different regiment. Some of the men have "188th PA" on their headstone. This is the regiment that the men who were still in the 85th PA in 1865 were rolled over into for their last few months of service.

I used various research tools to verify that the person was actually in the 85th PA.
These included:

1. military pension records

2. Pennsylvania veteran burial cards

3. the name of the wife or other family members

4. biographical information provided online by descendants

5. biographical information provided in 18th century books

6. obituaries

7. census records

8. period newspaper articles

9. the place of burial Volume 3 of my work will include two lists.

One is a chronological list of all 250 or so men who died during the war, including the date of death and whether or not the death was due to a battle wound or a disease. A second chronological list will be for nearly all of the rest of the men who died after the war, from 1865 to 1944, including the date of death and the county or state.

I hope you enjoy the virtual cemetery and provide feedback.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Information about "Such Hard and Severe Service"

     My book will be published in three volumes through Monongahela Books of Morgantown, WV.
One can visit the publisher's blog for updated titles.  Volume 1 is now on sale. It covers the years 1861 to 1863.  This volume actually begins before the Civil War with a chapter on the Whiskey Rebellion. I wanted to contrast that uprising, which took place in the home area of men of the 85th Pennsylvania in the 1790's, with  the secession of southern states two generations later.
Photo from Pamplin Park, VA
     Civil War events covered in Volume 1 include the organization of the regiment in Uniontown, PA; building fortifications around Washington, DC in 1861-2; the Peninsula Campaign including the battles at Williamsburg and Seven Pines; guarding Union territory at Suffolk, VA; the Goldsboro Expedition in North Carolina in late 1862, and the siege of Charleston, South Carolina in 1863. Also in this volume is a chapter on the family letters of Corporal Davis Himmeger of Company E.
     Volume 2, which will be available later in 2019, will cover the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, including the battles of Ware Bottom Church and Second Deep Bottom; Fort Gregg near Petersburg; Lee's Retreat and eventual surrender at Appomattox Court House; a chapter on regimental reunions between 1871 and 1928. Included in this volume is a chapter on the diary of Captain Richard W. Dawson of Company I.
   
Volume 3, which will be available in 2020, will include alphabetized biographies of the men in regiment. including their war service and postwar lives.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

"Till then the war had seemed a grand play"

    The accompanying article is from the front page of the Lincoln Republican newspaper in Lincoln, KS on May 27, 1886. This was within a few days of the 24th anniversary of the Battle of Seven Pines.
   The article does not include the author's name. If it were written by a member of the 85th PA living in Kansas, my guess would be Pvt. Jacob Deffenbaugh. He is the only confirmed member of Company I who moved to Kansas after the war. Deffenbaugh was a cabinet maker and cooper who moved his family to Kansas sometime between 1870 and 1887. Of course, we do not know if the article were first published in another newspaper and picked up by the Republican, so there is a possibility the author was not a Kansan.
   What is most striking about the article is the writer's description of seeing a dead comrade on the battlefield for the first time. The "Syndey H" that he refers to was 21-year old Corporal James Sydney Hackney.
    The regiment had experienced death prior to Seven Pines. Some had died from diseases. Meanwhile, Sergeant Daniel Miller had been grievously wounded three weeks earlier at Williamsburg, VA. He lingered in a hospital and did not die until after the Battle of Seven Pines.
     Another member of the regiment had written that the unit had to step over the bodies of dead Union soldiers on their way to getting into position at Williamsburg.
     Still, the writer conveys the startling realization upon viewing Hackney's lifeless body that a personal friend had now perished. He was shocked and sobered by the experience.
    The writer writes wistfully that Hackney will have no one to place flowers on his grave. At the time of the Battle of Seven Pines, early in the war, the Union did not have a system to bury their dead in military cemeteries near the battlefield in a timely fashion under a marked headstone. Hackney was probably buried on the battlefield a few days later in either an unmarked or poorly marked grave which became lost to family and friends.
    Deffenbaugh, meanwhile, the potential writer, played a key role at Seven Pines. Historian James Hadden, in his brief history of the 85th PA, wrote that the flag bearer "was removed [after suffering a hand wound] and Jacob Deffenbaugh seized the flag and bravely bore it aloft throughout the engagement."

Monday, August 19, 2019

Original History of the 85th PA (1915)

Burying the dead at Seven Pines with the Twin Houses in the background
The official history of the 85th PA regiment was published in 1915 and was written by Luther Samuel Dickey. It can be found online.

Dickey (1846-1926) had served in the Union army, enlisting at age 16 into Company C of the 103rd PA regiment from the Pittsburgh area. He later wrote the official history of his own 103rd PA and also co-wrote the history of the 101st PA with veteran John Reed.

All three of these regiments were brigaded together in 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign and the Goldsboro Expedition. Not surprisingly, all three of Dickey's histories include a substantial section that defends their actions at the Battle of Seven Pines (VA) on May 31, 1862 when these regiments served in Henry Wessells' Brigade in Silas Casey's Division of the Union Fourth Corps.

The effort to write a history of the regiment came about at a veterans’ reunion in 1912 at Smithfield, Fayette County, PA. One member of the 85th PA, wealthy industrialist Norman Bruce Ream, hired Dickey and financed the work. When the history was published in 1915, it was dedicated to Ream, who had died earlier that year.

A 1914 news story from a Washington County (PA) newspaper noted that, "a committee of the survivors of that command is engaged in collecting data for a history which will be published soon....The members of this committee are now being entertained by First Lieutenant N.B. Ream at his residence near Thompson, Conn...During its stay in Connecticut the members of the committee are being royally entertained by Mr. Ream. He has a fine residence on a 400-acre farm, kept as a park." [Daily Notes, Canonsburg, PA, July 22, 1914, p.1]

The best quality of Dickey's effort is its thoroughness. He used the Official Records of the war extensively, along with letters and diaries to record the activities of the men. Dickey used wartime diaries of men like John B. Bell, William Chick and James A. Swearer to include almost a day-by-day description of the regiment's activities. He also included newspaper records, including letters written home to publications in western Pennsylvania. Rosters are included at the end of the book as well

On the negative side, Dickey's effort bogs down in his numerous, almost mind-numbing citations from the Official Records. Although the battle reports provide extensive primary source material, it can be irritating to read ten different accounts of the same battle by ten different officers.

Dickey circa 1910
Dickey also goes into too much detail in his defense of Casey's Division at Seven Pines. There is no doubt that his own regiment, as well as the 85th PA and others, fought well that day and was unfairly disparaged in the national press by General George B. McClellan as cowards and shirkers. Dickey's attitude in 1915 appears to be that a great wrong must be corrected after 50 years.

But counter-arguments and corrective revisions of McClellan's initial, erroneous assessment began to appear in the press within a week of the battle. Casey was personally scapegoated for the near Union disaster on the first day of the battle, and suffered public humiliation. But most of the regiments that he commanded went on to achieve noble fighting records, including the 85th PA. By 1915, the dubiousness of McClellan's report that Casey's Division had given way "unaccountably and discreditably" had been fairly well debunked. Dickey goes overboard in devoting a quarter of his book to the one day's event at Seven Pines.

Dickey's narrative, for the most part, stops in late 1864 when the original members of the regiment who had not enlisted went home. However, the 125 or so "veteran volunteers" who had re-enlisted, or those who joined the regiment in 1862 or later, went on to participate in two enormously significant fights at Fort Gregg and Appomattox. Dickey ignored these events almost completely.

In summary, Dickey's History of the 85th PA is a great reference book. It is still a go-to source for individual names and dates. But if you are going to read the work from cover to cover, be prepared for sleep-inducing repetitive accounts of almost every engagement in which the regiment participated.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

About the 85th Pennsylvania, subject of my new book

Grave of my great-grandfather, 
 John Clendaniel  of the  85th Pennsylvania,
 in  Jefferson Baptist Cemetery, 
Jefferson, Greene County, PA
The 85th Pennsylvania was organized in the fall of 1861 at Uniontown, Fayette County, PA. The thousand or so men who served were from the following counties of southwestern Pennsylvania: Washington, Fayette, Greene and Somerset. During the war, about 100 men died in battle and about 150 died from diseases.

Such Hard and Severe Service, volume I of my book on the regiment covering the first two years of the war, is available for purchase.  Volume 2 of my book will cover the years 1863-1865.Volume 3 of my book will include a chronological list of deaths during the war, including date and cause, as well as a chronological list of postwar veteran deaths.