Transcripts (1865): Henry D. Wharton’s Civil War Letters (Pennsylvania Volunteers, 47th Regiment-Sunbury Guards, September 1861 – October 1865)


12 and 24 April 1865

Letter from the Sunbury Guards.    }
April 12, 1865

Since yesterday a week we have been on the move, going as far as three miles beyond Winchester. There we halted for three days, waiting for the return or news from Torbett’s cavalry who had gone on a reconnoisance [sic] up to the valley. They returned, reporting they were as far up as Mt. Jackson, some sixty miles, and found nary an armed reb. The reason of our move was to be ready in case Lee moved against us, or to march on Lynchburg, if Lee reached that point, so that we could aid in surrounding him and [his] army, and with Sheridan and Mead capture the whole party. Grant’s gallant boys saved us that march and bagged the whole crowd. Last Sunday night our camp was aroused by the loud road of artillery. Hearing so much good news of late, I stuck to my blanket, not caring to get up, for I suspected a salute, which it really was for the unconditional surrender of Lee.’ The boys got wild over the news, shouting till they were hoarse, the loud huzzas [sic] echoing through the Valley, songs of ‘rally round the flag,’ &c., were sung, and above the noise of the ‘cannons opening roar,’ and confusion of camp, could be heard ‘Hail Columbia’ and Yankee Doodle played by our band. Other bands took it up and soon the whole army let loose, making ‘confusion worse confounded.’

The next morning we packed up, struck tents, marched away, and now we are within a short distance of our old quarters. – The war is about played out, and peace is clearly seen through the bright cloud that has taken the place of those that darkened the sky for the last four years. The question now with us is whether the veterans after Old Abe has matters fixed to his satisfaction, will have to stay ‘till the expiration of the three years, or be discharged as per agreement, at the ‘end of the war.’ If we are not discharged when hostilities cease, great injustice will be done.

The members of Co. ‘C,” wishing to do honor to Lieut. C. S. Beard, and show their appreciation of him as an officer and gentleman, presented him with a splendid sword, sash and belt. Lieut. Beard rose from the ranks, and as one of their number, the boys gave him this token of esteem.

A few nights ago, an aid [sic] on Gen. Torbett’s staff, with two more officers, attempted to pass a safe guard stationed at a house near Winchester. The guard halted the party, they rushed on, paying no attention to the challenge, when the sentinel charged bayonet, running the sharp steel through the abdomen of the aid [sic], wounding him so severely that he died in an hour. The guard did his duty as he was there for the protection of the inmates and their property, with instruction to let no one enter.

The boys are all well, and jubilant over the victories of Grant, and their own little Sheridan, and feel as though they would soon return to meet the loved ones at home, and receive a kind greeting from old friends, and do you believe me to be

Yours Fraternally,
H. D. W.

[Extract from a private letter of our Correspondent H. D. W.]
April 24, 1865


It is true we have sustained a great loss in the death of our much beloved President, but as it has pleased Divine Power to remove him from our midst, we should be thankful that He has given us such a great and determined man in his stead (Andrew Johnson) to drive on the machinery of the Government. It was a wise thing in the framers of the Constitution when they put in that clause, where if we lose our President the wheels of the Government can never be stopped. This is done by the Vice President, a plain unpretending citizen, on the death of the Chief Magistrate, stepping forward so to take the oath administered by the Chief Justice, and at once takes the responsibility of the office. No flourish of trumpets, nor convulsion of nations, but by the simple power vested in a Judge, a fellow citizen assumes power. This little fact proves that our Republic can never die.

I cannot describe to you the feeling of the army when the news reached us that Abraham Lincoln had been murdered by the assassin. I will not attempt it, for in doing so, I would work myself into a state to make me miserable. One thing – if the boys had gone into a fight that morning no prisoners would have been taken – no quarters given.

In Washington, the train containing the remains of our late President, passed us near the Annapolis Junction. There was nine cars heavily draped in mourning. Our train stopped on a siding. It was a solemn time. The men all uncovered in respect, and stout men wept as the last of him they loved, passed them, to be conveyed to its resting place. Along the whole route, houses were draped in mourning, and the American flag hung at half mast with mourning. This showed the deep hold Mr. Lincoln had in the hearts of our people.


9 August 1865

Letter from the Sunbury Guards.
Aug. 5, 1865.


I sent you the farewell order of General Dwight, issued to his troops a few days before he resigned. As it is a part of the history of the 47th Pa. Vet. Vols., I wish you would publish it that the friends at home may know its record, and to give our comrades, who have preceded us to the bosom of their families, an idea of the estimation they were held in by their Division Commander:

SAVANNAH, GA., July 20, 1865.

SOLDIERS:– The Division has ceased to exist. Some of you have gone to your homes to receive an honorable discharge – others have been sent to various and widely separated commands. We shall never again all be united. With satisfaction I remind you that your line, when formed by me, has never been broken by the enemy or driven back before his fire.

Distinguished as you are for having served in the most disastrous, as well as the most successful of the campaigns of the memorable year of 1864, you are yet more proud in the consciousness that, whether on the banks of the Red river, or in the valley of the Shenandoah, you put a limit to the victory of the enemy, and were with the best and bravest in defeating and pursuing him. These will be our happy memories while we live.

We do not forget the fallen. Whether in the Teche, at Port Hudson, Sabine Cross Roads, Pleasant Hill, Red River, Opequan, Fishers Hill or Cedar Creek. They are happy in death, for they fell in defence [sic] of their liberties and Constitution of their country.

Your discipline has been as remarkable, and as much noticed and commended as your devotion to duty. I regret that an act of insubordination [165th N.Y. Zouaves] is reported in a regiment, formerly one of you. It is well that it ceased to be one of you before showing itself so unworthy. In your midst, it would have withered beneath your contempt.

I thank you that I can thus speak of you, and to you and that our record is one of mutual confidence.

In any future need of our country, may it be my good fortune to serve with soldiers as intelligent, devoted, skillful and brave.

Brigadier General, Commanding

We have many rumors as to our going home, but can give you no definite idea when the time will be. An order was issued to get the muster-out rolls ready, but it appears we are minus some necessary paper, and until they are sent to us from Washington, there is no probability of soon becoming freemen. It may be our lot to remain here ‘till October, unless a positive order or (like Henry Bright says, a ‘writ of arousement,’) is sent from Washington for our relief. Charleston is improving vastly in business. The boys are all well physically, but awful homesick, since they know there is an order issued for the discharge of volunteers, particularly veterans.

Yours Fraternally,
H. D. W.