Revival at Long Island, October 1861

On October 30, 1861, Oliver Case seems to have inadvertently admitted to participating in making himself absent from the camp without permission. On this evening, Oliver and a large group of 8th Connecticut soldiers were given approval to attend a lecture by the regiment chaplain, Joseph J. Woolley, in an undisclosed location in Jamaica. The purpose of the lecture was to raise money for a regimental library to be used by the soldiers during their training at the camp of instruction and at future locations. It seems that after the lecture ended, Oliver found it was about 9:15 PM and that “it was no use then to start for camp as it was after roll call.” However, he does not comment on how or where he spent the next hour and forty-five minutes until he “went back to camp and ran the guard.”[1] It’s likely that Oliver saw fit to share in some of the culinary hospitality being offered by the citizens of Long Island.

It is possible that Oliver spent this time in conversation with Chaplain Woolley and the other soldiers following the lecture with whom he was very impressed. Oliver wrote to his sister that Woolley was “an excellent chaplain – he is an eloquent preacher as well as a very social and agreeable man – and I believe is universally liked by the men.”[2] A common thread running through his letters is a strong Christian faith and a keen interest in theology. Oliver’s faith will be tried and tested in the months ahead as he faced death and illness.

joseph j woolley

Post-war photo of Rev. Joseph J. Woolley, Chaplain of the 8th CVI

 

Joseph Woolley was the first of two chaplains assigned to the 8th Connecticut during Oliver’s time with the regiment.  The Rev. Woolley was a native of Bridgeport, Connecticut and entered the ministry in the Methodist Episcopal Church only two years before the war began. He would serve with the 8th during the Burnside expedition in North Carolina, but was discharged due to the effects of typhoid fever prior to the beginning of the Maryland Campaign. After his recovery, Rev. Woolley would go on to serve as pastor of several churches. At the unveiling of a statute honoring General Burnside in Providence, Rhode Island on July 4, 1887, Rev. Woolley delivered the invocation.

While in camp at Long Island, religious fervor ran high for the Connecticut men including amongst of the Eighth.

Each regiment also organized and supported a Sunday school…The Eighth held a regimental prayer-meeting every Sunday night at their chapel, — “an enclosure of trees and earth, with walls six feet high, and no roof.” Just before sailing, about fifty partook of the communion here.[3]

The atmosphere for religious awakening in the regiments gathering at Jamaica is fueled by a notable revival that swept through New York City only three years earlier. A financial and currency crisis had occurred in the United States during late 1857 creating great consternation with businessmen and investors. As the financial capital of the country, New York City was particularly hit hard causing despondency for those who depended on a healthy economy for their livelihood. Businessmen soon began to gather for prayer meetings in the financial district of the city. These gatherings grew into a nation-wide revival that lasted for the full course of the war.

This wide-spread religious activity, with more or less of fluctuation in different sections of the country, continued until the outbreak of the rebellion. There were numerous revivals and many conversions in the years 1859 and 1860. Some of the daily meetings were maintained entirely through the war, and are still in operation. It is hence impossible not to recognize the immediate and immense influence of the prevalent and zealous Christian life in the nation upon the shaping of the events which preceded the war, as well as upon the character of the troops sent to the field, and the voluntary agencies organized for the temporal and spiritual welfare of the army.[4]

As the soldiers prepared daily for battle at the camp of instruction, many became aware of the potential spiritual consequences of what may lay ahead for them. Stories of death and dying in battle were plentiful from the veterans of the regiments engaged at Bull Run just three months earlier. Religious services were standard fare for the troops and normally well attended with many prayers earnestly offered up during these meetings.

Solemn prayer goes up to heaven for strength in the hour of trial, and earnest prayer for protection from temptation’s power; comrades press home upon their fellows the necessity of safety in Christ; tearful eyes and softened hearts attest the fervor with which all unite in the petition for dear ones left at home- And so the hour passes almost unnoted, and men are surprised when the chaplain pronounces the benediction.[5]

Religious movements and revivals were commonplace in the Union camps throughout the war. Northern regiments were authorized chaplains and a variety of Christian organizations contributed an array of religious resources to support Union soldiers. The Lincoln administration fully encouraged these efforts removing bureaucratic obstacles and making it easier for these groups to establish their operations in the camps among the soldiers.

 

US Christian Commission

Field Headquarters of the United States Christian Commission

 

Most prominent among the organizations seeking to meet the religious needs of the soldiers was the United States Christian Commission (USCC) who enlisted civilian men and women to provide Testaments, religious tracts and other printed material to the soldiers in camp. Although their primary objective was the elimination of sinful influences in the camps and conversion of wayward souls, the USCC mission continued to expand as the war progressed to include provision of food and medical care. During the fall of 1861, the USCC provided a much needed boost of support to the Chaplain Corps of the Union army which struggled to establish standards and procedures for ministering to the soldiers. The 8th Connecticut was certainly fortunate to have a chaplain as dedicated and caring as Rev. Woolley.


[1] (Case)

[2] (Case)

[3] (Morris, 1869)

[4] (Moss, 1868)

[5] (Morris, 1869)

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Camp of Instruction, Jamaica, Long Island, New York

On October 18, 1861 as Oliver and the last of the troops of the Eighth Connecticut arrived at their Camp of Instruction in Jamaica on Long Island, New York, they were greeted by encroaching darkness and a lack of tents which had not yet arrived at the camp. The soldiers found themselves “obliged to sleep on the ground, covered only by their blankets and the autumnal sky.”[1] As the sun began to rise over the Atlantic on the morning of the 19th, the Long Island skies had added moisture to the equation as Oliver discovered “a very heavy dew and thick fog…blankets were very wet and our guns covered with rust.”[2] The dew falling on the unprotected weapons and equipment quickly caused rust and mildew to form which meant that the soldiers spent the entirety of their first day at the camp cleaning rifles and drying out equipment. These efforts were hinder by an afternoon downpour which once again soaked their equipment and delayed their efforts to erect tents. The soldiers would spend their second night in camp again sleeping in the open but this time with beds of “cut cedar boughs (of which there is an abundance) for our beds and lay quite comfortable.”[3]

This camp located in the town of Jamaica on Long Island, New York was alternately known as the Hempstead Camp of Instruction, Camp Winfield Scott, Camp Sherman and Camp Burnside. General Ambrose Burnside had obtained permission to use the camp primarily as a staging area to gather the regiments being actively recruited from New England for his future amphibious operations. He intended to use it as a temporary facility with plans to move further south once the regiments were brought together as a unified command and a permanent training location was selected. A New York Times article in September of 1861 describes the camp and the preparations which had been made for receiving the troops of General Burnside:

The American Telegraph Company have opened a telegraph office at this place for the accommodation of the camp and the public. The military encampment is most admirably located on a plain, of several thousand acres. It is easy of access by Long Island Railroad, being but a short distance from the depot, and, it is understood, extra trains will be run as soon as the wants of the military or the public demand them.[4]

                Oliver rated Jamaica as “one of the pleasantest places I ever saw” and he found the people to be “very familiar (much more than Conn. People).”[5] In fact, the citizens of the town proved to be gracious hosts and were unconstrained in welcoming the Connecticut soldiers to their Long Island community. During the first week the 8th Connecticut occupied the camp; many of the townspeople turned out to greet the soldiers and supplied them with over a thousand loaves of freshly baked bread plus fruit and other food stuffs. Some of the Nutmeggers who were fortunate enough to sneak past the camp guard found the families Jamaica opening their homes to share meals and conversation. By the 31st of October during his second week in camp, Oliver is willing to go even further in his comparison to Connecticut:

We are treated much better here than in Connecticut by the citizens. They think there is nothing to[o] good for the soldiers. We are treated with respect wherever we go, and apples and turnips are free to us, that is if we can run the guard or can get passed off, which is not often.

The most common hospitable expressions by the citizens of Long Island came in the form of food which, as famously noted by Napoleon Bonaparte, represents the fuel to move the foot soldiers.  Army-provided meals were not favored among the troops and as Oliver expressed to Abbie, homegrown food (and home cooked food for that matter) was normally obtained by making oneself absent from the camp. The shortcoming in this system was that most of these soldiers were removed themselves from the camp without the permission of the regimental or company commander which made it a punishable offense. Still, this did not deter the Billy Yank in his pursuit of “real” food:

A great many did leave for a few hours at a time, however, and took their chances of being missed and reported for it. In some companies, when it was thought that several were absent without a permit, a roll-call was ordered simply to catch the culprits.[6]  

   Soldier frying hardtack

Union soldier frying hardtack to make it more palatable

Oliver Case himself seems to have inadvertently admitted to participating in making himself absent from the camp without permission. On October 30, 1861, Oliver and a large group of 8th Connecticut soldiers were given approval to attend a lecture by the regiment chaplain, Joseph J. Woolley, in an undisclosed location in Jamaica. The purpose of the lecture was to raise money for a regimental library to be used by the soldiers during their training at the camp of instruction and at future locations. It seems that after the lecture ended, Oliver found it was about 9:15 PM and that “it was no use then to start for camp as it was after roll call.” However, he does not comment on how or where he spent the next hour and forty-five minutes until he “went back to camp and ran the guard.”[7] It’s likely that Oliver saw fit to share in some of the culinary hospitality being offered by the citizens of Long Island.


[1] (Morris, 1869)

[2] (Case)

[3] (Case)

[4] (The Hempstead Camp of Instruction, 1861)

[5] (Case)

[6] (Billings, 1887)

[7] (Case)

Edward Harland: A man of great executive ability and boundless energy

Edward Harland2

As the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry gathered at Camp Buckingham in Hartford in late September of 1861, the Connecticut Governor William A. Buckingham selected Edward Harland of Norwich to serve as the regimental commander. Captain Harland, now appointed to the rank of Colonel, had just returned from a stint in the 3rd Connecticut one of the three-month regiments raised at the beginning of the war. Edward Harland was an 1853 graduate of Yale University who studied for the Connecticut bar in the law offices of John Turner Wait, father of the future Lieutenant Marvin Wait of the 8th Connecticut. Harland’s first combat experience had come during his time as a Captain in the 3rd Connecticut where he commanded Company D, a unit he recruited in Norwich. During the recent Union loss at the Battle of Bull Run, Harland had proven himself as an able combat leader. Since the 3rd Connecticut was at the end of its three month term, the 29-year old Harland soon found himself without a unit to command. His desire for continued service coupled with his reputation as a component leader of troops and his pre-war standing as a bright young lawyer brought him an appointment as the new Colonel of the 8th CVI.[1] In testament to Edward Harland’s status and character, he was presented with an expensive sword by the New-London County bar upon his commissioning as the Colonel of the 8th Connecticut.[2]

Edward Harland would serve as the commander of the 8th Connecticut throughout the North Carolina campaign as part of the Burnside Expedition before winning an appointment to the command of a Brigade that included three Connecticut regiments (8th, 11th and 16th) as well as the 4th Rhode Island for the Maryland Campaign. Commanding the Second Brigade of Isaac Rodman’s Division at the Battle of Antietam, Harland would find his regiments dangerously separated as they moved to meet the Confederate defenders on hills outside Sharpsburg on September 17, 1862. As Harland and General Rodman attempted to hurry along the other three regiments trailing behind the 8th Connecticut, Rodman was mortally wounded and Harland’s horse was shot from under him. Edward Harland would assume temporary command of the division until after the battle. In November of 1862, Harland was promoted to Brigadier General of volunteers before commanding the brigade at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December. Harland would never again see major combat operations as his brigade was transferred to the Department of Virginia and later the Department of North Carolina spending most of the time in garrison-type duty. He resigned from the Army on June 22, 1865 returning to his native Norwich, Connecticut.

Back home, Harland resumed his law practice and made a foray into politics serving several terms in the Connecticut state legislature and as a judge of probate court. The former officer continued his ties to the military with his appointment as the adjutant general for the state militia of Connecticut. Known as “a man of great executive ability and boundless energy,” Harland delved into the banking industry working as the president of the Chelsea Savings Bank and helped to establish the W.W. Backus Hospital in Norwich.[3]

Edward Harland never married and he died of emphysema on March 9, 1915 at his home in Norwich at the ripe old age of eighty-two where he was buried in the Yantic Cemetery.


[1] Cutter, W. R. (1913). New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: Volume 3. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing.

[2] Morris, W. C. (1869). The Military and Civil History of Connecticut: The War of 1861-1865. New York: Ledyard Bill.

[3] (Cutter, 1913)