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


10 September 1861

[For the Sunbury American.]

Letter from the Sunbury Guards.
Camp Curtin, No. 2 }
Harrisburg, September 10, 1861.

DEAR WILVERT:– There is a scarcity of news here, but knowing our ‘folks at home’ would like to hear from the boys, I concluded I would give you the state of their health and a full list of our members. The boys are all well and are enjoying themselves in the usual style of camp pleasure. The following is a complete copy of our muster roll:–

J. P. S. GOBIN, Captain.
James Vandyke [sic], 1st Lieutenant.
William Rees [sic], 2d do
Daniel Oyster, 1st Sergeant,
1 C. S. Beard,
2 Jared Brosious,
3 William Piers [sic],
4 Peter Smelser,
1 Christ Schall, Corporal
2 Charles F. Stewart, “
3 Jacob K. Kieffer, “
4 Isaac Kembel, “
5 Samuel Eyster, “
6 John H. Heim, “
7 William Plant, “
8 Daniel W. Kembel, “

John Bartlow,              George W. Bortle [sic],
David S. Beidler,         James Brown,
Martin Berger,             Wm. Brannen,
Henry Brown,              R. W. Druckemiller,
George Frity,                William Fry,
J. W. Firth,                   Levi Miller,
George R. Good,         David Naylor,
Jesse B. Green,            John B. Otto,
Jacob Grubb,               Richard O’Rourke,
Samuel Haupt,        William Pfeil,
Freeman Haupt,     Alex. Ruffaner,
George Hepler,            P. M. Randalls,
George Horner,           Samuel M. Reigel,
Alfred Hunter,             James R. Rice,
Charles Harp,              Joseph Smith,
Conrad Holman,         Mark Shipman,
Cornelius Kramer,     John C. Steiner,
Theodore Kiehl,         Henry Senft,
James Kennedy,        Timothy Snyder,
Stewart Kirk,              Isaac Snyder,
Thomas Lothard,  John W. Smith,
L. K. Landaw,             John Sunker,
Warren McEwen,      Ephraim Thatcher
Adam Maul,                Henry W Wolf,
Samuel Miller,           Peter Wolf,
John McGrow,           James Wolf,
B F Miller,                   Theodore Woodbridge,
Eli Miller,                    David Weikel,
George Malick,           John E Will,
John W McNew,        George C Watson,
George Miller,            John W Walton,
John Monsch,            James Whistler,
Francis McNeal,        B F Walls,
Robert C McNeal,     Samuel Whistler,
Reuben Wilson.

We have enough men to fill our company, but they are not all sworn in. According to Col. Good’s statement, however, we will have all our companies filled by tomorrow, Wednesday, and our Regiment perfected; that is, full complement of men, arms and equipments, and a finer looking Regiment you never saw – all of the ‘manor born.’

I supposed you have heard that our 1st Lieutenant, James Vandyke [sic], has received the appointment of Quarter Master to our Regiment. It is conceded, generally, to be an excellent choice, and that he will attend to his duties faithfully, and will act honestly with the Regiment.

Capt. Gobin has the confidence of all our boys for his gentlemanly manners and his kindness to them. He always attends to the wants of the men before his own are gratified. Our ‘little Zouave,’ or ‘Infant Drummer,’ is very well, and is still the ‘observed of all observers.’ As soon as I can obtain any news of importance, or anything that would be of interest, I will send it to you.

Yours, fraternally,
H. D. W.

22 September 1861

[For the Sunbury American.]

Letter from the Sunbury Guards.
WASHINGTON CITY, D.C., Sept. 22, 1861

DEAR WILVERT:—After a tedious ride we have, at last, safely arrived at the City of ‘magnificent distances.’ We left Harrisburg on Friday last at 1 o’clock A.M. and reached this camp yesterday (Saturday) at 4 P.M., as tired and worn out a sett of mortals as can possibly exist. On arriving at Washington we were marched to the ‘Soldiers Retreat,’ a building purposely erected for the benefit of the soldier, where every comfort is extended to him and the wants of the ‘inner man’ supplied.

After partaking of refreshments we were ordered into line and marched, about three miles, to this camp. So tired were the men, that on marching out, some gave out, and had to leave the ranks, but J. Boulton Young, our ‘little Zouave,’ stood it bravely, and acted like a veteran. So small a drummer is scarcely seen in the army, and on the march through Washington he was twice the recipient of three cheers.

We were reviewed by Gen. McClellan yesterday without our knowing it. All along the march we noticed a considerable number of officers, both mounted and on foot; the horse of one of the officers was so beautiful that he was noticed by the whole regiment, in fact, so wrapt up were they in the horse, the rider wasn’t noticed, and the boys were considerably mortified this morning on dis-covering they had missed the sight of, and the neglect of not saluting the soldier next in command to Gen. Scott.

Col. Good, who has command of our regiment, is an excellent man and a splendid soldier. He is a man of very few words, and is continually attending to his duties and the wants of the Regiment.

I am happy to inform you that our young townsman, Mr. William Hendricks, has received the appointment of Sergeant Major to our Regiment. He made his first appearance at guard mounting this morning; he looked well, done up his duties admirably, and, in time, will make an excellent officer. Our Regiment will now be put to hard work; such as drilling and the usual business of camp life, and the boys expect and hope an occasional ‘pop’ at the enemy.

Our boys are all well, and as complimentary to H. B. M. [H. B. Masser, the newspaper’s editor], are waiting anxiously for the ‘American’ [the title of their hometown newspaper].

Yours fraternally,
H. D. W.

29 September 1861 (letter and update later that same day)

[For the Sunbury American.]

Letter from the Sunbury Guards.
FORT ETHAN ALLEN, Sept. 29, 1861.

DEAR WILVERT:– First of April or ‘moving day’ seems to be the order with us: we have changed camps three times in as many days. On Friday last we left Camp Kalorama, and the same night encamped about one mile from the Chain Bridge on the opposite side of the Potomac from Washington. The next morning, Saturday, we were ordered to this Camp, one and a half miles from the one we occupied the night previous. I should have mentioned that we halted on a high hill (on our march here) at the Chain Bridge, called Camp Lyon, but were immediately ordered on this side of the river. On the route from Kalorama we were for two hours exposed to the hardest rain I ever experienced. Whew, it was a whopper; but the fellows stood it well – not a murmur – and they waited in their wet clothes until nine o’clock at night for their supper. Our Camp adjoins that of the N.Y. 79th (Highlanders.) the one in which Mr. Rizer is Chaplain. The Reverend gentleman visited out Regiment last evening;– he seemed very much gratified to meet the Sunbury boys, and gave them all a hearty shake of the hand. Mr. Rizer has service every Sabbath at ten o’clock .A.M, and prayer meeting at night. During the week, he has prayer meeting at dress parade (weather permitting.) and always before going to battle he addresses his Regiment, and concludes by exhorting them to ‘trust in God and keep their powder dry.’

We had not been in this Camp more than six hours before our boys were supplied with twenty rounds of ball and cartridge, and ordered to march and meet the enemy; they were out all night and got back to Camp at nine o’clock this morning, without having a fight. They are now in their tents taking a snooze preparatory to another march this morning. From the hard breathing and the peculiar sound produced through the nasal organ, I should say the boys were pretty tired after their last night’s march. I don’t know how long the boys will be gone, but the orders are to cook two days’ rations and take it with them in their haversacks, so, from that you can soon expect to hear from us, and mark me, no ‘Bull’s Run’ affair this time, but vice versa a general routing of the Rebels.

There was a nice little affair came off at Lavensville, a few miles from here on Wednesday last; our troops surprised a party of rebels (much larger than our own.) killing ten, took a Major prisoner, and captured a large number of horses, sheep and cattle, besides a large quantity of corn and potatoes, and about ninety six tons of hay. A very nice day’s work. The boys are well, in fact, there is no sickness of any consequence at all in our Regiment, and my particular friend, the literary gentleman of our mess, Al. Hunter, is in perfect enjoyment of health, and as an old Doctor in our town used to say, ‘is now locked in the arms of Morpheus.’ If anything of importance transpires I will sent it to you immediately.

Yours fraternally,
H. D. W.

12 M. – Sunday, Sept 29.

I open my letter to inform you of a very important affair that occurred yesterday afternoon. Munson’s Hill, which is about eight miles from the Camp, was taken. Brig. Gen. Wadsworth’s division was in advance, supported by Gen. Heye’s command. The main body of the army advanced on the road to Ball’s Cross Roads. Upton’s Hill, where fortifications had been commenced by the rebels, had been evacuated when our forces arrived there. The army passed on and took possession of Munson’s Hill, the enemy having beat a retreat. Our men took possession and will hold it, together with all the advanced possessions of the rebels.

A detachment of the Fourteenth N.Y. Volunteers, by a flank movement in the rear of Munson’s Hill, cut off and captured a mounted officer, a lieutenant and six privates. The officer and men were brought to Fort Corcoran, and one of the men being wounded was sent to Georgetown Hospital. This is something very important to us, and it is from this cause our Regiment was called out last night. From what I hear now, the whole army on the Potomac is in motion and, perhaps before you get this you may hear of something desperate.

H. D. W.

13 October 1861

[For the Sunbury American.]

Letter from the Sunbury Guards.
October 13th 1861.

DEAR WILVERT:– As you perceive we have again moved and are now ten miles distant from Washington. The location of our camp is fine and the scenery would be splendid if the view was not obstructed by heavy thickets of pine and innumerable chesnut trees. The country around us is excellent for the Rebel scouts to display their bravery; that is, to lurk in the dense woods and pick off one of our unsuspecting pickets. Last night, however, they (the Rebels) calculated wide of their mark; some of the New York 33d boys were out on picket; some fourteen or fifteen shots were exchanged, when our side succeeded in bringing to the dust, (or rather mud,) an officer and two privates of the enemy’s mounted pickets. The officer was shot by a Lieutenant in Company H [?], of the 33d.

Our own boys have seen hard service since we have been on the ‘sacred soil.’ One day and night on picket, next day working on entrenchments at the Fort, (Ethan Allen.) another on guard, next on march and so on continually, but the hardest was on picket from last Thursday morning ‘till Saturday morning – all the time four miles from camp, and both of the nights the rain poured in torrents, so much so that their clothes were completely saturated with the rain. They stood it nobly – not one complaining; but from the size of their haversacks on their return, it is no wonder that they were satisfied and are so eager to go again tomorrow. I heard one of them say ‘there was such nice cabbage, sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, &c., out where their duty called them, and then there was a likelihood of a Rebel sheep or young porker advancing over our lines and then he could take them as ‘contraband’ and have them for his own use.’ When they were out they saw about a dozen of the Rebel cavalry and would have had a bout with them, had it not been for [2 illegible letters] unlucky circumstance – one of the men caught the hammer of his rifle in the strap of his knapsack and caused his gun to fire; the Rebels heard the report and scampered in quick time, much faster than they did at ‘Falling Waters’ when the ‘Bloody 11th’ was after them.

There was quite an excitement here yesterday; our whole division was called out – all expecting a fight. After supplying the regiments with ammunition the arms were stacked and the men were ordered to hold themselves in readiness, as an attack was momentarily expected. At night the men were ordered to sleep on their arms and have their ammunition buckled around them ready for action. Coffee was made and provisions cooked for any emergency, but the enemy kept out of danger and we were not molested, however, every precaution is taken and if we get in a fight with them they will with a warm reception.

I think it will not be long ere there will be a heavy engagement, if there is one I will write, that is if I don’t get ‘popped,’ but as you have telegraph and newspaper facilities better than we have I supposed the news would be in the ‘American’ before you could receive a letter from me. The boys are all well, and as a jockey would, say in ‘fine condition.’

Yours fraternally,
H. D. W.

17 November 1861

Letter from the Sunbury Guards.
November 17, 1861.

DEAR WILVERT:– As you perceive we are still at our old encampment, ‘out in the wilderness.’ This morning our brigade was out for inspection; arms, accoutrements, clothing, knapsacks, etc, all were out through a thorough examination, and if I must say it myself, our company stood best, A No. 1, for cleanliness. We have a new commander to our Brigade, Brigadier General Brannen, of the U.S. Army, and if looks are any criterion, I think he is a strict disciplinarian and one who will be as able to get his men out of danger as he is willing to lead them to battle.

There is a great difference in the treatment now to what we had in the three months service. The boys have plenty of work to do, such as piquet duty, standing guard, wood-chopping, police duty and day drill; but then they have the most substantial food; our rations consist of fresh beef (three times a week) pickled pork, pickled beef, smoked pork, fresh bread, daily, which is baked by our own bakers, the Quartermaster having procured portable ovens for that purpose, potatoes, split peas, beans, occasionally molasses and plenty of good coffee, so you see Uncle Same supplies us plentifully, and if we had what we draw cooked in Sunbury style and by Sunbury cooks, we would live, as an old landlord, not far from town, used to say ‘like fighting cocks,’ but as it is our cooks do very well, the boys are gaining flesh rapidly, and some are assuming the appearance of Joe, the fat boy in Pickwick.

A few nights ago our Company was out on piquet; it was a terrible night, raining very hard the whole night, and what made it worse, the boys had to stand well to their work and dare not leave to look for shelter. Some of them consider they are well paid for their exposure, as they captured two ancient muskets belonging to Secessia. One of them is of English manufacture, and the other has the Virginia militia mark on it. They are both in a dilapidated condition, but the boys hold them in high estimation as they are trophies from the enemy, and besides they were taken from the house of Mrs. Stewart, sister to the rebel Jackson who assassinated the lamented Ellsworth at Alexandria. The honorable lady, Mrs. Stewart, is now a prisoner at Washington and her house is the headquarters of the command of the piquets.

On last Sunday night, the 10th of this month, Lieutenant Vandyke [sic], with three officers, lead by a Virginia guide were out reconnoitering for the purpose of capturing two horses belonging to a noted rebel. They were out about five miles beyond our piquets and came on, as they supposed, the sought for ‘contrabands;’ they entered the barn and soon brought out a ‘blooded nag,’ which proved, on examination of the teeth, to be an old stager some forty years old. The ‘old one’ was let loose and the Lieutenant’s party, nothing put out by their failure, proceeded on their enterprise. After a short advance, Secesh Cavalry were heard and the party took refuge in the woods, when an exclamation came from the guide, ‘By Heavens boys, we are surrounded by the infernal rebels but no give up, let us fight our way our or die like men.’ There was some confusion then, and I guess a ‘little ‘fraid,’ but they were soon relieved from the suspense, as the Lieutenant’s quick eye soon discovered the cause of their alarm, and his merry, laughing shout of ‘sheep as sure as Jupiter,’ made them feel comfortable and sent them on their way rejoicing. The party, after being out all night, returned to camp pretty well jaded but not in the least disheartened. The same party intend going out on another ‘hunting expedition, when they expect to be more successful. Any one who is aware of the Sheriff’s character, well knows he never says fail, and you can depend on it that he won’t come back from his second trip without fulfilling his purpose – either something contraband or what would suit his purpose better, a rebel prisoner.

Since the success of the secret expedition, we have all kinds of rumors in camp. One is that our Brigade will be sent to the relief of Gen. Sherman, in South Carolina. The boys all desire it and the news in the ‘Press’ is correct, that a large force is to be sent there, I think their wish will be gratified. Our boys are all well and I am happy to inform you that the small-pox is completely exterminated from our Regiment.

Yours, fraternally,
H. D. W.

26 November 1861

[For the Sunbury American.]

Letter from the Sunbury Guards
November 26, 1861

DEAR WILVERT:– Last Wednesday was a gala day for the soldiers on this side of the Potomac, it was a grand review, by General McClellan, of all the Volunteer troops encamped on the Virginia side of the river. – Never before, in this country, has there been assembled together such an immense body of armed men, as were reviewed then, on the ‘sacred soil’ of Virginia. The review was held in some large fields between Munson’s Hill and Ball’s Cross Roads. From Munson’s Hill, the view of the large army, passing before the President, Secretaries Cameron and Seward, General McClellan, with the Generals of the 15 different Divisions, was magnificent, and I thought as I saw the seventy-five thousand men before me, men who were willing to die for their loved flag, that if they were at once marched on to Manassas, we should have an easy victory, the peace of our country restored and an end would be put to this unjust, cursed war.

The President, with the Secretaries above mentioned, on horse back, did not reach the ground until after twelve o’clock. They were followed by several regiments of cavalry, together with a mounted brass band. I did not have the pleasure of being close enough to the President to discern his features, which fact took away considerable of the day’s pleasure.

I would supposed there was over thirty thousand civilians, looking at the review. – You can imagine, the road I passed over was about six miles, which was completely filled with vehicles of all sorts, from the finest barouche to a common furniture car, full of men, women and children, all trying their best to be on the ground first, so as to have the best position to obtain a sight of the grand affair. There was any number of ladies and gentlemen out on horseback. The ladies were elegantly dressed, some, a la milataire, and others in the highest style of fashionable art.

Sergeant Major Hendricks accompanied men, and while we were looking at the ‘bold soldier boys,’ a rabbit passed us, when the Major gave chase and soon returned, bringing the long-eared gentleman as prisoner. This capture of ‘secesh’ hastened on the departure for camp. On our way back many were the exclamations of the ladies as they passed us, concerning the rabbit – the Major was asked so many questions, that he got tired answering, so that finally he held the animal up that they could all see it and take that as answer to all questions. One boy wanted to trade his horse on the rabbit, but on examination, Hendricks concluded that his ‘haus’ was more valuable than the old quadruped of the boy. The rabbit was brought to cam and next morning it was nicely served up, by Rigby, the Captain’s cook, just in time for the Captain’s breakfast, as he returned from piquet.

The following are the Divisions and Batteries that were present at the review:

Gen McCall’s division with ten infantry and one cavalry regiment, and two batteries of artillery.

Gen. Heintzelman’s division, with seven infantry and one cavalry regiments and two batteries.

Gen. Smith’s division, with ten regiments of infantry, one cavalry and two batteries.

Gen. Franklin’s division, twelve regiments of infantry, one of cavalry and three batteries.

Gen. Blenker’s division, eleven regiments of infantry, one of cavalry and two batteries.

Gen. Porter’s division, thirteen regiments of infantry two cavalry and three batteries.

The boys in our Company [Company C] are all very well. The health of the regiment is so good that it is observed by all visitors, whether civilians or soldiers. Out of the regiment there is but five in the Hospital, and those are cases that are not dangerous.

Yours fraternally,
H. D. W.

Editor’s Note: Missing punctuation and unusual spacing between words and paragraphs present in the original letters of Henry D. Wharton were retained in the transcriptions shown above (as were certain words and phrases which are no longer acceptable in present day society) in order to preserve the accuracy of the content presented. Such wording does not reflect the views of this blog’s editor or contributing authors. The use of the [?] marking above indicates that exact transcriptions of certain words or phrases were not possible due to faded or otherwise marred printing of these particular historic newspaper clips.