More Rumors and News from Newbern (24 May 1862)

Oliver’s letter of May 24, 1862 continues with more rumors and news plus speculation on the future of Burnside’s forces. The health and readiness of the regiment is also a concern to Oliver and leads him to predict that future service is unlikely for the sickly regiment.

I do not think this regiment will see any more service, but everyone has his own opinion. The Colonel reported to the Gen. yesterday that we had but 350 men upon duty and they were not fit for a long march or heavy fatigue. We are thrown out of position in the brigade and are not brigaded at all at present. Many think that we shall never again until we move for Conn.[1]

Considering that the regiment departed Hartford with over a thousand members only eight months before and causalities had been relatively light to this point, disease non-battle injuries inflicted a heavy toll on the unit during these weeks at Newbern.

The regiment history confirms that this was a difficult situation for the soldiers with many suffering from various illnesses.

June brought much bilious fever, particularly to the Eighth, which had been seriously worn down by the laborious siege. Here many men of defective constitutions died, worn out in service. Convalescents obtained furloughs to recruit in the bracing air and kind care of home. The tents were often chilly and very damp.[2]

Personal hygiene was also a concern for Union commanders who took measures to ensure cleanliness amongst the rank and file. As did most people during that era, bathing was seen a cure for a variety of ills.

Bathing became a great luxury. The regiments had, after dress-parade, a regular bathing-call; and hundreds ran to plunge into the cooling and healthful stream, — to them almost a Siloam. This was the merriest hour of the day. Many bathed at morning also; but none were allowed to go into the water under the burning sun of mid-day.[3]

Possibly in reaction to the failing health of the command, two new surgeons joined the ranks of the 8th CVI during this time. Oliver shares this news with Abbie although he is incorrect about the term of service.

We have 2 new Surgeons; 1 hired for 30 days, the other for 60. Dr. Please from Thompsonville is one and Dr. Holcomb from somewhere near New Haven is the other.[4]

Dr. H.V.C. Holcomb was appointed as the 1st Assistant Surgeon of the 8th on May 2, 1862. At the beginning of the war, Dr. Holcomb had been actively involved in the effort to recruit new regiments to including giving a recruiting speech in his hometown of Branford, Connecticut in April of 1861. In August of 1862, he was appointed as Surgeon for the 15th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment.

Dr. Levi S. Pease of Enfield was appointed as 2nd Assistant Surgeon of the regiment on April 30, 1862. He was born in 1824, at Wilbraham, Massachusetts, the son of Wilder C. Pease and Ruth Cadey. The family would later settle in Enfield and Pease would go on to medical school and later serve as Surgeon in the 7th Connecticut for the remainder of the war.

Oliver also told Abbie of new spiritual care in the regiment.

We also have a new Chaplain; he appears to be a very nice man. I do not think he will come up to Dr. Woolley.[5]

As good as Dr. Woolley might have been, the Reverend John M. Morris of New Haven would go on to even greater service. He was appointed Chaplain on April 26, 1862 and would serve in some of the bloodiest action of the war until September of 1863. At Antietam, Chaplain Morris would become famous for his heroic actions during the final assault where he “takes a musket and cartridge box of a dead man and fires to save his life.”[6]

Oliver also uses his letter to Abbie to share his answer to a question posed by his brother Alonzo.

Alonzo asked me what was going to the next news of Burnside. We do not know as much of his movements or intended movements as you do. He has at and around Newbern 20,000 men which are able with the immense fortifications to resist a force of 100,000 men if they should slip through Mac’s fingers.[7]

Interesting that from Oliver’s view, the purpose of Burnside’s force on the North Carolina coast has become much more defensive in nature. At the time Oliver wrote this letter, McClellan still held the upper hand against the Confederate forces around Richmond. However, this will soon change as Robert E. Lee will replace the wounded Joseph Johnston as the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia on June 1, 1862 setting in place a series of events that will eventually lead to Lee’s invasion of Maryland.

 

Major General George Brinton McClellan, Commanding General, Army of the Potomac

 

Oliver is also interested in the operations of other units from Connecticut.

Do you get any news of Gen. Hunter’s division? We have heard nothing from them since the taking of Fort Pulaski. We are daily looking for the taking of Charleston and Savannah.[8]

The 6th and 7th regiments from Connecticut both played major roles in preparing and executing the siege of Fort Pulaski located on the Georgia coast protecting the city of Savannah. Although the preparations for the siege required months of work digging trenches and emplacing guns, the actual siege was over in less than 24 hours when the Confederate defenders surrendered the fort on April 11, 2012.

 

Damage at Fort Pulaski, Georgia after siege by Union forces including the 6th and 7th CVI

 

Oliver continues the letter with some family news and a rare revelation of his homesickness.

I was very much surprised and rejoiced to hear that Father attended church again. He will enjoy it much better than heretofore. I should like very much to take a look into the kitchen and see you all if only for a short time but that is not possible at present, but I trust it will be in a few weeks. I was glad to hear Elfrida Case was getting better.

The kitchen in the Case home was obviously a place where everyone gathered and Oliver longed to look into that scene, if only for a brief moment. His spiritual orientation is evident here as it is in several of his letters as Oliver rejoices over his father’s return to church attendance after some unexplained period of absence. Oliver also expresses his pleasure with the recovery of one of his Simsbury cousins, Elfrida Case (spelled Elfeda in some records; born 11 Dec 1840, died 25 Jul 1918).

Then comes one of the most chilling and foretelling passages in all of Oliver’s letters:

You asked me to name Alonzo’s boy. I have thought over the whole category of names from Adam to the last edition and I do not find any to suit me. I think if Alonzo wishes to hand his name down to posterity, it is a good time to do it, but I should adopt some other name in the place of Grove. If I was going to name a child I think I should take some fashionable name and pick out the most frenchified different name it was possible to find but everyone to their notion. You might name him after some of our great Generals now in the field.[9]

Alonzo and Julia Case would follow Oliver’s advice in both life and death. They named their son, Alonzo Chaffee Case, the middle name coming from Julia’s maiden name. He was born on April 1, 1862 and would die of unknown causes just two short years later on August 1, 1864. In the naming of their next son born on January 19, 1866, they would again follow Oliver’s advice in this letter to Abbie.  Alfred Terry Case, the namesake of General Alfred Howe Terry (former commander of the 7th Connecticut and future Army commander in the western Indian campaigns) would live much longer than his older brother or his uncle. He died in 1938 in Simsbury. Interestingly, Alonzo and Julia would name their third son, Oliver Phelps Case, in honor of Oliver Cromwell Case.

Oliver begins to bring this letter to an end with some personal inquiries.

How does Col. Case take his wife’s death? I reckon it would go rather hard with him, feeble as he is.[10]

Oliver is referring to Simsbury resident and distant relative Colonel Aurora Case (20 March 1787 – 26 December 1866) who was a former officer and commander in the Connecticut Militia, Brigade of Artillery, Light Artillery, Second Regiment. His wife, Betsy, died on May 7, 1862 and was interned in the same cemetery that Oliver would be laid to rest in only eight months later.

Oliver’s closing paragraph is again very personal as he mentions his hair, asks about the fruit of the season and passes his well wishes to Julia, his sister in-law, and a friend named James.

My hair is growing out fast; it will be fit to cut in a few weeks. How is fruit this season? Is there going to be many apples? Write soon. Give my love to Julia. Remember me to all inquiring friends, James in particular.[11]


[1] The Letters of Oliver Cromwell Case (Unpublished), Simsbury Historical Society, Simsbury, CT, 1861-1862

[2] The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865, W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, Ledyard Bill, New York, 1868

[3] IBID

[4] Case Letters, 1862.

[5] IBID

[6] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[7] Case Letters, 1862.

[8] IBID

[9] IBID

[10] IBID

[11] IBID

 

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Camp Life and Rumors from Newbern (24 May 1862)

Oliver’s letter of May 24, 1862 begins with an apology to his sister Abbie for the delay in getting a letter to her. He tells her that “last mail for this division [has] been miscarried” and that he will no longer wait to receive a letter from her, but he has determined “to write again, mail or not.”[1] This likely explains the gap of 16 days between letters to Abbie although Oliver does mention correspondence with his brother Alonzo that seems to fall during this period. Despite Oliver’s early declaration that “there has been no particular change in the department since last report,” this is a letter filled with vivid descriptions of camp life and rumors of future operations.

While in camp at Newbern, his mind must have wondered back to the scenes of the late spring season on Terry’s Plain in Simsbury as he declared “the season is advancing rapidly.” Oliver provides an account on his view of late spring along the North Carolina coast by first describing the crop of blackberries:

Blackberries are ripe in abundance and just outside the guard they are plenty but we cannot get at them but the darkies have full swing at them for they can go out and in when they please. The berries are different from those up north. They taste more like a mulberry and the vines have not near as many or as long thorns as there.[2]

The frustration at obtaining the blackberries also extends to another fruit that must have been somewhat unfamiliar to the Nutmeggers.

There is quite a peach orchard just outside of camp. The fruit is about as large as a small butternut and grows quite fast.[3]

As it does in many of his letters, Oliver’s eye for the agricultural aspects of the land in which he finds himself comes through in this letter. The unkempt fields of a recently departed southern landowner do not escape comment.

The land here is fertile (or at least looks so) and is covered over with weeds, wild vines etc. in abundance. It looks too bad to see it lie unc  ultivated when good land is so scarce in these parts, but the owner being “Secesh” thought that he was not wanted and when he heard of our approach “vamossed the ranch.” [emphasis in original][4]

The 8th Connecticut had returned to establish camp near Newbern after the capture of Fort Macon in late April 1862. The camp was located “about a mile below the city, on the west bank of the languid and beautiful Neuse.”[5]

A key to the success of Burnside’s Expedition was to restore the railroad service to Newbern and points inland. The engineers and soldiers of the Union force worked tirelessly to rebuild the bridge across the Trent River and repair the rails to the inland of North Carolina. By the time of Oliver’s letter, a great deal of progress on these tasks has been made and rumors are flying as to the next target of Burnside’s force.

The expedition has three engines put together and soon we shall have steam cars running over the rails and things will have a more business like aspect. Rumor says that any gunboats are to go to Charleston; how much truth there is to this remains to be seen.[6]

 

Map showing the restored railroad bridge over the Trent River (1865)

 

Likely coming from the newspapers that he read on a regular basis, the news from other areas of the war is much on Oliver’s mind and he passes the latest rumors along to Abbie.

Rumor from James River that the Monitor had a shot put through her and the Galena was riddled and obliged to put back for repairs. Rumor that Beauregard has surrendered with 25,000 prisoners. Can’t quite see it.[7]

Oliver’s first rumor concerning the Union ironclads was basically true. He is likely referring to the Union expedition to an area of the James River known as Drewry’s Bluff. On May 15, 1862, the now famous ironclad Monitor and the converted ironclad Galena along three other ships ventured up the James River in an attempt to threaten Richmond and support McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign. The major obstacle preventing their movement was Fort Darling, a Confederate fortification with a large number of guns perched atop Drewry’s Bluff located at a major bend in the James River.

As the Union expedition approached the bluff, the Confederates opened fire from Fort Darling with serious effect. The Galena was struck twice in the captain’s attempt to turn broadside and make effective use of her guns. The ship was able to score a number of hits on the Confederate guns with severe result. However, the Galena was soon overwhelmed by the fire from the bluff. The ship was struck numerous times killing 12 of the crew and wounding 15 others. The Monitor was largely ineffective during the action due to the restricted elevation of her guns and the flotilla soon retreated down the river to safety.

 

Post battle photo of the Galena showing damaged caused by Confederate batteries

 

Historically, this action is notable for the heroic struggle of the crew which resulted in the Medal of Honor being awarded to sailors Charles Kenyon and Jeremiah Regan plus Corporal John F. Mackie, the first Marine in United States history to receive the decoration.

Oliver’s skepticism on the second of his rumors is well founded. Confederate General P. G. T. Beauregard did not surrender with 25,000 soldiers although he did make several critical errors in judgment during the recent Battle of Shiloh. Beauregard lost the bloody battle to Union General Ulysses S. Grant in April of 1862 and was subsequently relieved of command and transferred back east. This may have led to some of the rumors that Oliver read in the papers.

There are more rumors from Oliver to follow in later posts…


[1] The Letters of Oliver Cromwell Case (Unpublished), Simsbury Historical Society, Simsbury, CT, 1861-1862

[2] IBID

[3] IBID

[4] IBID

[5] The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865, W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, Ledyard Bill, New York, 1868

[6] Case Letters, 1862

[7] IBID

More on Annapolis, November 1861

This post is the final in the series presenting the timeline for events in the life of Oliver Cromwell Case and the 8th CVI. This brings us to the point where we started on his letters for November 1861. I will return to the timeline on the next post for May 1862 as we move toward the hills of Sharpsburg in September 182. 

10 Nov 1861 (continued)

It is possible that Oliver attended the services of the Asbury United Methodist Church. At the time, it was Annapolis’ oldest African-American congregation dating back to the original meeting house built in 1804 when it operated as the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. They would later change the name of the church to the Asbury Methodist Episcopal Church in 1838 as a new building replaced the previous meeting house. It is likely that this is the church Oliver attended since he describes the churches in the city in the paragraph following his description of the church service.

There are four [obviously he intended to write “three”] churches besides the colored one in the place, one Catholic, one Methodist, and one Presbyterian.[1][emphasis added]

During the time period Oliver would have attended the service, the Presiding Elder and possible preacher that day would have been the Reverend Henry Price. The Rev. Price was obviously a highly respected man in the city of Annapolis as evidenced by his 1863 obituary.

In the city of Annapolis, on the 20th instant, the Rev. Henry Price, in the 71st year of his age. He departed this life in great peace and joy; he joined the Methodist Episcopal Church at the early age of seventeen years, and for forty-five years has been an acceptable minister in this place, and has borne the greatest and best character. On Sunday afternoon, the 22d instant, his remains were moved from his late residence on Main street to the Church, where his funeral sermon was preached by the Rev. J. H. Brice, (from the 14th chapter of Job, 14th verse: “If a man die shall he live again? All the days of my appointed time will I wait tiil my change come;”) assisted by the Rev. J. F. Gane and G. Pinkney, and at 5 o’clock he was moved to his grave, where he now sleeps and rests in peace. Not withstanding the inclemency of the weather, and the snow falling fast, the Church was utterly crowded with both white and colored to witness the last of our beloved brother in the Gospel of Christ.[2]

13 Nov 1861

Oliver writes his letter to Abbie by gaslight in the building occupied by the guard force in downtown Annapolis. In addition to sharing the news of his attendance at the African-American church service on the previous Sunday night, Oliver also describes the city for his sister. From the tone of his letter, it’s clear that Oliver has visited each of the three major churches and the courthouse.

The Catholic is a new church commenced two years since. It is splendid upon the inside, the roof being composed of three arches each one being supported by many pillars. Around the altar it is furnished in extravagant style, but the body of the church is not yet finished. It has a chime of bells, the first I ever heard. The Methodist is a nice church commenced two years since but is not done off upon the inside. The Episcopal looks like an old one with a new wing, but looks very neat and pretty upon the inside. The Court House is furnished in fine style upon the inside but is rather of an ancient looking building upon the outside.[3]

Oliver and his fellow soldiers on guard duty in Annapolis soon learn that the city design is centered on the state capital building.

Every principal street (if any call be called principal) centers at the state house and it is nothing uncommon for a soldier or officer to inquire the way of the patrols saying wherever the[y] go they always come to the state house.[4]

Map of downtown Annapolis (Maryland State Archives 1878)

 As soldiers have done for centuries, Oliver and his crew find ways to overcome the boredom of the patrol duty. The drunken soldiers and citizens of Annapolis which are the objects of interest for the guards also provide some humorous relief.

We have fun occasionally with some drunken soldier or some tight Secessionist for I can assure you no sober man will talk in that way.[5]

Providing further evidence of his scholarly orientation, in this letter of November 13, 1861, we see Oliver the veracious reader. As he does in many of his other 31 letters to Abbie, Oliver is concerned about keeping his supply of newspapers flowing to him in camp.

About papers: I receive papers everyday or two from Ariel, now as long as I receive them from him of course I shall not want any, but you should make an arrangement to send a paper regularly, I should like the “Weekly Press” as well as any, as it contains the local news as well as the other… I came from camp last Friday and have received six letters and six papers in that time so you see I am kept quite well posted about things in “Old Conn”, but do not on that account stop writing, but excuse if I sometimes delay writing in answer.[6]

Oliver Case, the scholar, is also Oliver Case, the agrarian. In the very same paragraphs, he shows his concern for the farm back on Terry’s Plain. Oliver asks Abbie, “Has Father got his crops all in?”[7]

In the closing paragraph of his letter, Oliver returns to news of the army and his assessment of future operations.

The brigade will probably leave in the course of a week whether with or without our regiment we know not, and probably shall not until the day they leave. The war news is cheering and our boys will feel slighted if they do not go south with the brigade and share in their glory. I have not been to camp for three days. The boys of your acquaintance were all well then and I presume that they are now. Give my love to all inquiring friends. Excuse my writing as I can’t follow the lines by gas light. We have cartridges given out but cannot load yet.[8]


[1] IBID

[2] Baltimore Clipper (Baltimore) February 27, 1863 (accessed from Maryland Obituaries:

Documenting Maryland’s Historic Cemeteries, http://marylandobits.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/rev-henry-price-2/)

[3] Case Letters

[4] IBID

[5] IBID

[6] IBID

[7] IBID

[8] IBID

Camp Hicks, Annapolis and a Different Kind of Church

This post returns to the series presenting the timeline for events in the life of Oliver Cromwell Case and the 8th CVI leading up to the battle of Antietam in September 1862. Although some parts of this post were originally published earlier, I think you will find it worth reading again!

7 Nov 1861

Having arrived at Annapolis on the 5th of November, the soldiers of the 8th CVI are marched to their new home at Camp Hicks where they erect tents and make other preparations for living and training. In his letters, Oliver describes the camp as “situated one and one half miles from the city, upon an elevated piece of ground…” Adjacent to the 8th in their new home at Camp Hicks are other units that are training as part of “Burnside’s Division” including the 10th Connecticut, the 25th and 27th Massachusetts, the 51st New York and an unnamed New Hampshire regiment.

Oliver is particularly concerned that Abbie and his brother Alonzo have received a number of letters he has recently written to them while in transit through Perryville. It seems that Oliver loaned his portfolio to his friend and cousin, Benejah, who then handed it off to Captain Burpee who gave it to someone else to return to Oliver. Of course, Oliver can no longer locate this most important personal item critical to his communication with the folks back home. However, Abbie has come to the rescue by sending Oliver stamps:

I had my paper, envelopes, and other “fixins” in it but thanks for the postage stamps; with them I bought some more.[1]

The two Connecticut regiments were known for the neatness of their camps. When the 11th CVI arrived during December, they provide a glimpse of the Connecticut camp at Annapolis:

The Eighth and Tenth were still there, and had established a very picturesque camp, its streets ornamented with young pines. The soldiers shaded their tents, and constructed arches over the company-streets, in which the company-letter, shields, stars, and other devices, were neatly worked in evergreen, with red berries set among the wreaths.[2]

8 Nov 1861 11:30am

Oliver Case is selected for special duty serving as part of a patrol force to walk the streets of Annapolis. General Burnside and his subordinate commanders harbored obvious concerns regarding the perception of the local populace about the presence of thousands of Union troops in their city. The majority of the citizens of Annapolis were not supporters of President Lincoln’s efforts to put down the rebellion in the southern states and many fully recognized the right of the Confederate States to secede from the Union. The Maryland governor’s conflicted views on the subject had only added to the uneasy feelings in the capital city. [Read more on Annapolis and Governor Hicks]

Good conduct by the soldiers became absolutely essential to head off any problems with the citizens of Annapolis. There were likely many in the city that would have used such incidents of inappropriate behavior by Union troops as a pretext for more outward expressions of displeasure with Burnside’s occupation forces. While his official mission was to train an expeditionary force for future action somewhere in the southern states, the presence of thousands of Union soldiers helped keep southern sympathizers in check.

For these reasons, Oliver’s detachment served a vital policing function on the streets of Annapolis by checking all soldiers moving about the city for appropriate passes which were limited to official business. Also, this provost marshal unit was under strict orders to detain any troops found to be drunk or disorderly.

In his letter of November 11, 1862, Oliver recounts to Abbie how he came to be a part of this special detail.

Friday about 11:30 as I had my gun all taken to pieces, I heard my name called and was told (by Corp Ellwood from instructions from Lieut. Hoyt) to pack my knapsack and take all my traps [?] to report for special duty to be gone perhaps one day or perhaps three weeks and report at ½ after twelve. You can guess I had to scratch around some to get my things packed, my gun put together and dinner eaten and be ready in time. There were nine privates and one corporal from each Company and three Sergeants and three Lieutenants making by and all one hundred six men. When they came to inspect arms there were a few guns that were a little rusty, the owners of those guns were thrown out, the Lieutenants saying they wanted none that were not sure every time, but I thought that the owners did not feel very bad about it…The duty assigned to us was to patrol the city in squads of ten, arresting all soldiers without a pass or any drunken or disorderly ones.[3]

These soldiers were not always popular especially with their fellow troops who decided to run the guard at Camp Hicks and just wanted to enjoy some “fun and folic” in the fair city. In return for their service, Oliver and his comrades lived in much nicer conditions than the soldiers back at the camp. In contrast to living in tents at Camp Hicks, the members of the detail occupied a rather interesting set of living quarters.

We marched to the city, halted before an old brick building and were marched in and told that those were to be our quarters…our quarters are a large room with a large old fashioned fireplace, with benches all round the outside and gas [light?]. In the room where the officers stay there are some old revolutionary relics consisting of bayonets, long hooked swords and other things. In the room where we are quartered are some portraits of the first settlers. We are on duty 4 hours and off 8.[4]

Life was now good for Oliver since he has escaped the camp life to reside in the city. He wants to ensure Abbie understand his honored status.

When we are not out on duty we go when and where we have a mind to! So you perceive that we are privileged characters.[5]

In the same letter, Oliver gives Abbie his evaluation of the capital city of Maryland. Applying his New England eye toward the design and condition of the city, Oliver makes a rather harsh assessment.

This city in the north would hardly get the attention of a village; there is not a name to a street or number on a door in the city; the streets are overgrown with grass and overrun with rubbish except the ones that lead to the camp, those are traveled by army wagons…The houses are one and two stories high but are all old, some were very good ones in their day but that was long ago. I do not think there is twenty signs in the city and doubt whether there is a store that does as much business as Mr. Wilcox’s in the place. There are no three houses in a row in the streets and many look like hogpens. I do not believe there has been ten houses built in as many years, in fact, it looks like a city one hundred years old without any improvements having been made.[6]

         The Waterfront View of the City of Annapolis (from Harper’s Week, May 11, 1861)

 

10 Nov 1861

Oliver experiences a cultural event which is totally foreign to him as he attends the evening service of an African-American church in Annapolis. He writes there was “much shouting and clapping of hands” and “such yelling and groaning as you never heard.” Although it was much different from the services he was accustomed to in his home church, he describes his attitude as “pleased” by the event.

Here is his full description to Abbie in his letter of November 13, 1861:

I attended colored church Sunday evening and if there was ever enthusiasm in any place, there was there. Whilst the minister was preaching there was much shouting and clapping of hands. His subject was the readiness of Christ to receive all sinners; he was quite eloquent, but he handled the subject different from what we usually hear it, making some of the most singular comparisons that I ever heard. After the sermon there was delivered such prayers accompanied by such yelling and groaning as you never heard, but the climax was not reached until they commenced to sing, each one singing to suit him or herself using same repetition (to suit his taste) after every line. The other words appeared to be composed for the occasion; they kept time by snapping fingers, stamping, rocking their bodies too and fro. Every little while such unearthly shouts were made that it really reminded me of a mad house. There was a little negro sitting by the side of me, and seeing that I was pleased said, “You ought to hear them, some nights they make a heap more noise than tonight, sometimes they knock down the stove by their stamping.”[7]

 


[1] The Letters of Oliver Cromwell Case (Unpublished), Simsbury Historical Society, Simsbury, CT, 1861-1862

[2] The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865, W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, Ledyard Bill, New York, 1868

[3] Case Letters

[4] IBID

[5] IBID

[6] IBID

[7] IBID

A Warm Welcome in Frederick

After some recent trips to Frederick and South Mountain, I have to pause in the timeline and skip forward to September 1862 to share this…

The Hessian barracks in Frederick Maryland dates from the time of the French and Indian war. Although there is some dispute about the actual date of construction, contemporary accounts indicate that the barracks was built to house the soldiers of General Braddock during the French and Indian war as they marched along on their route to Fort Dusquene. The barracks saw limited use during the Revolutionary War as it was in a state of partial completion but in the years leading up to the Civil War, it was used for various functions. The barracks and it grounds were used as an armory and a silk worm production facility as well as a fairgrounds in the years just prior to the Civil War.

Modern-day photograph of the Hessian Barracks in Frederick, Maryland, home to Oliver Case and the 8th CVI on 12-13 September 1862

 During the Civil War, the barracks famously served as a Union hospital after the battle of Antietam. However, prior to the battle of Antietam the grounds of the Hessian barracks served as a campground for many of the Union regiments marching from Washington in pursuit of Robert E Lee’s Army. On September 12, 1862, Oliver Cromwell Case and the soldiers of the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment marched into Frederick and made their camp on the grounds of the Hessian barracks. At this time, the barracks was in use as a hospital for both Union and Confederate soldiers.

 

Plaque on the outside wall of the Hessian Barracks in Frederick, Maryland

 The soldiers of the 8th Connecticut along with the rest of the Army of the Potomac sojourning in the city of Frederick received a warm welcome from the citizens who were glad to be relieved of the occupation by Confederate forces.

Women blessed God and the soldiers, and rushed out to kiss the old flag ; gray-haired men hobbled forth with radiant faces ; and the young shouted their welcome ; while children capered in holiday glee.[1]

According to several letters from members of the Eighth, many of Frederick’s fair citizenry provided meals and other tokens of appreciation. CPT Marsh recalls in a letter to home:

Where such demonstrations of joy were made at our coming as I never witnessed. Women came rushing up to us screaming and clapping hands and acting as if crazy. One woman seemed determined to throw her arms around my neck and several of officers were kissed by fair ones. The yard and hospital were full of sick rebels 600 of them and 150 of ours left when city was evacuated. The Surgeon came up to our colors and kissed them tears of joy dropping from his eyes. We halted and regit bivouacked in hospital yard for night. I took a walk down through city with Capt. Smith to try and get something eat but at all hotels they were eat out and seemed to be every where by rebels.[2]

CPT Marsh also recounts being invited into a Frederick home for supper along with CPT Smith of Company E.

I took a walk down through city with Capt. Smith to try and get something eat but at all hotels they were eat out and seemed to be every where by rebels. We inquired at one hotel where got same answer as before “nothing to eat” a gentleman standing by beckoned us to follow him. We did. So when were taken to a fine residence a few streets distance and told to walk in where found table set. Were taken up stairs to wash room where got off some dirt, Then took seats to table and had an excellent supper. Very fine people.[3]

Charles Buell of Company E remembered “citizens and girls fairly leapt and cried for joy” and that the soldiers were given wine and they had “hot tea and warm biscuit with butter.”[4]

As Oliver and his fellow Connecticut soldiers enjoyed the hospitality of Frederick, General George McClellan made his entrance to the city in fine style. The citizens of Frederick welcomed Little Mac as a liberating hero with citizens turning out to wave flags and present the general with flowers. Many men and women wept openly with joy at his arrival in this pro-Union Maryland town. Oliver and his comrades likely witnessed the grand scene of McClellan’s arrival in Frederick.

 

 

 General McClellan enters Frederick, Maryland, 12 September 1862 (from Harper’s Weekly, 4 October 1862)


[1] The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865, W.A. Croffut and John M. Morris, Ledyard Bill, New York, 1868

[2] Letters of Wolcott P. Marsh, Capt., Co.F, Eighth Conn. Vols. (unpublished), accessed from http://home.comcast.net/~8cv/8cv-frame.html

[3] IBID

[4] Diary of Charles S. Buell, 8th Connecticut, as published on Antietam on the Web, http://antietam.aotw.org/exhibit.php?exhibit_id=369