Editor’s Note: Additional letters and reports penned by the Rev. William Dewitt Clinton Rodrock during his time as chaplain with the 47th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry are available, and will be added to this section as time permits. Please enjoy the sampling of his letters below, and check back frequently for updates.
Near Charlestown, Virginia, 31 December 1864
(chaplain’s report to Brigadier-General L. Thomas, Adjutant General, U.S. Army)
Camp, 47th Reg. Pa. Vet. Vol’s
Near Charlestown Va, Dec. 31st 1864
Brig. Gen’l L. Thomas,
Adj. Gen’l, U.S. Army
I respectfully, beg leave to state that absence from the Reg. accounts for my failing to report for the previous month.
And in submitting my report for the present month it affords me great pleasure to state that the condition and morale of the Reg. is in every respect encouraging.
Of the large number of wounded in the terrible battle of Cedar Creek, Oct. 19th/64, comparatively few have died, probably fourteen, or even a less number will cover the entire loss, whilst nearly all the surviving ones, will be able to join our ranks.
No deaths have occurred in the Reg during the month, whilst few are sick in Hospital, and the health generally is good.
For some time past, the Reg. had been deficient in its quota of officers, but this deficiency is now being happily filled by suitable promotions from the ranks.
In the aggregate it now numbers 882 men. Of which 24 are officers.
In a moral and religious point of view, there is still a large margin for improvement and it is my earnest endeavor to devote all proper and available means for the spiritual welfare of the command.
Under its new organization and in the fourth year of its history, our Reg. has an encouraging future before it.
In conclusion, I may yet say that the review of our National life during the year that is about being numbered with the past, affords rare promise for the future. At no period in the history of our great contest for freedom and Unity has the prospect of returning peace, through honorable conflict, been so promising.
The efforts, the sacrifices, the patience of the loyal states and People are crowned, at last, with triumphs worthy of the holy cause of liberty.
Yet a little while, and we shall rejoice in a peace based on the everlasting foundations of Religion, Humanity, Nationality, and freedom.
For this defeat of traitors at home as well as of Rebels in arms and their sympathizers abroad, for this expression of stern and resolute purpose, for this unshrinking determination to make the last needed sacrifice, how can we be sufficiently grateful?
May the God of our fathers still smile upon us.
I have the honor, Gen’l, to remain,
Very Respectfully, Your Obed’t Serv’nt
W. D. C. Rodrock, Chap., 47th Reg. P.V.V.
2nd Brig. 1st Div. 19th A.C.
* Note: Chaplain Rodrock’s 31 December 1864 report to superiors had noticeable errors, including his significant underestimation of his regiment’s casualty figures during Sheridan’s 1864 Shenandoah Valley Camapaign. During the Battle of Cedar Creek alone, more than 174 members of the 47th Pennsylvania were declared killed, wounded, captured, or missing (40 killed in action, 99 wounded in action, 15 of whom later died, 25 captured, 10 of whom later died while still being held as POWs or shortly after their release by CSA troops, 9 missing, 1 unresolved). While he may not yet have had full casualty figures by the time he penned the report above, he would certainly have been able to at least obtain accurate figures regarding the number of men who had been killed and mortally wounded.
Reports and Other Correspondence of W. D. C. Rodrock, Chaplain, 47th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (Record Group R29). Washington, D.C.: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, 1864.