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

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