Answering the Call (July 21 – December 25, 1861)

Old men for counsel, young men for war. – Unknown

21 Jul 1861                

Three months after the surrender of Fort Sumter, the public outcry in the northern states had reached a fevered pitch in demanding that President Lincoln do something about the rebellious southern states to put down the insurrection and preserve the Union. There is loud public outcry for the Commander-in-Chief to order his newly enhanced Union Army to move against the Confederate forces in northern Virginia. In response to the hullabaloo, Lincoln orders Brigadier General Irvin McDowell to march his 30,000 mostly green troops lead by relatively inexperienced officers toward the numerically inferior soldiers of General P.G.T. Beauregard gathered near Manassas Junction. The two sides engaged in a day-long battle that, at first, appeared to be a Union victory. However, timely reinforcements from General Joseph Johnston’s western forces allow the Confederates to push back the Union troops who then panic and head back for Washington in complete disarray. The nation is shocked by the stunning Union defeat.

3 Aug 1861    

After the embarrassment of the rout at Manassas Junction, President Lincoln realizes that this war will be much longer and more costly in blood and treasure than originally thought. Lincoln faces a considerable challenge in the manning of his army as many of the regiments with three-month enlistments are expiring. To counter this problem, he directs the call up of additional volunteer troops from the states. General Order No. 49 is published by the War Department directing the formation of additional regiments from the states and Connecticut is tapped for over 13,000 additional soldiers.

15 Aug 1861

Connecticut Governor William A. Buckingham issues general orders for volunteers to make up the four additional regiments from his state required to answer the president’s call. Enthusiasm for the war effort is high and the population of Connecticut supports the governor’s attempt to meet the state’s quota for troops. The shocking defeat of the first battle in Northern Virginia has only served as a rallying cry.

Meetings were held in the different towns, at which the citizens flocked to listen, to applaud, to encourage enlistments, and to contribute to the volunteer fund. Immense mass-meetings were held in the cities, — the largest and most excited gatherings ever seen in the State.[1]

16 Sep 1861   

Even though he is the youngest of three brothers, twenty-one year-old Oliver Cromwell Case of Simsbury is caught up in the excitement of the call for volunteers to fill the new Connecticut regiments and decides that this is the time to leave the family farm to fulfill his patriotic duty. He becomes the first in his family to volunteer for service in the Union Army by enlisting in Company B of the 8th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry (CVI) Regiment. Company B was formed by men from Hartford County (Simsbury is located in Hartford County).

26 Sep 1861

On August 12, 1861, President Lincoln, acting in response to a Joint Committee of the Congress, declared “a day of public humiliation, prayer and fasting, to be observed by the people of the United States with religious solemnities, and the offering of fervent supplications to Almighty God for the safety and welfare of these States, His blessings on their arms, and a speedy restoration of peace” to be observed on the last Thursday of the following September.[2] In response to the request of the president for “all ministers and teachers of religion of all denominations, and to all heads of families, to observe and keep that day according to their several creeds and modes of worship, in all humility and with all religious solemnity,” the citizens of Simsbury, Connecticut on this day gather in the Methodist Episcopal Church to hear a sermon by the Reverend IchabodSimmons. The 37-year old former cabinet maker has served as the pastor in Simsbury for only about one year coming to the church as his first congregation. In a sermon entitled, Our Duty in the Crisis, Simmons chooses a passage from the Old Testament prophet, Zechariah:

And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.[3][Zechariah 13:9]

The sermon is not only a call for humiliation, prayer and fasting as Lincoln intended, but Simmons stirs the citizens with an urgent appeal to sacrifice in the service on their country.

Loyalty is not mere patriotism; that is love of country, right or wrong; but loyalty is love of country kindled into a brighter glow by the love of principle. It is the soul mounting above mere affection, into the atmosphere of heroic sacrifice. Life is not too sacred for its altars and nothing but duty should keep any from the post of danger.[4]

It is unknown if Oliver Case was in attendance, but it would have been possible since he would likely not have been required to report for duty until the following day at Hartford.

27 Sep 1861   

The 8th CVI organized at Camp Buckingham in Hartford, Connecticut with Colonel Edward Harland of Norwich as Commander. COL Harland had recently returned from three months’ service as a Captain in the 3rd CVI and is a veteran of the Battle of Bull Run. Harland is a Yale-educated attorney with no military experience prior to Bull Run.

…the first fractional companies of the Eighth began to move to their camp, — the grounds the Fifth had vacated, — just outside of Hartford.[5]

1 Oct 1861     

The Secretary of War Simon Cameron requests that Governor Buckingham send the two Connecticut regiments preparing for service to Camp Hempstead, Long Island, with instructions to report to Brigadier General Ambrose Burnside for orders. Although a West Point graduate, Burnside’s leadership of a brigade at Bull Run was less than impressive. However, his pre-war business connections with the newly appointed commander of the Union armies, Major General George B. McClellan, land Burnside a plumb job training and leading an expeditionary force to invade North Carolina.

He would continue to lead many of these same troops as a corps/wing commander through the Maryland Campaign in September of 1862. President Lincoln would go on to select Burnside as the commander of the Army of the Potomac after McClellan’s inability to defeat and destroy Lee’s army during and after the battle of Antietam. Burnside’s stint as the AOP commander would end soon after the humiliating and costly defeat at Fredericksburg in December of 1862.

13 Oct 1861

At some point prior to this date and for unknown reasons, Oliver Case is transferred to Company A, 8th CVI while still training at Camp Buckingham in Hartford. Only one other soldier from Simsbury, George W. Lewis, appears on the rolls for Company A. As indicated by many of his letters, Oliver seems to have adapted well to the new company making friends and joining in the extracurricular activities of the troops. He also appears to have maintained a very positive relationship with the officers of his new company mentioning them positively throughout his correspondence.

Also, on this day Oliver receives a Thomas Nelson and Sons pocket Bible printed in 1854. It is unclear who gave Oliver the Bible, but it was likely a gift from someone in his family. It is inscribed with the following that appears to be in Oliver’s handwriting as compared with his handwriting:

If you die, die like a man.

Oliver C. Case

Co. A. 8th Reg’t


If we suffer, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will also deny us.

2 Tim. 2 [verse 12]

[unreadable] OCT. 13, 1861


The following is written in someone else’s on the opposite page:

Miss Abbie J Case



Miss Jennie A Hartford

Abbie J. Case is Oliver’s younger sister. Miss Jennie A. Hartford is a young lady approximately the same age as Oliver who may have been a love interest although that is speculation. Love interest or not, the year following Oliver’s death, she married James Wesley Latimer who was likely a distance cousin of Oliver and Abbie.

17 Oct 1861 – 4:00pm

The 8th CVI is officially transferred to federal service and departs Camp Buckingham in Hartford via ship bound for the Camp of Instruction on Long Island, NY (Jamaica). Unit strength is listed at 1,016. Cheering crowds greet the soldiers making their way down the Connecticut River.

As it[the ship]passed towards the river, the departing soldiers were greeted with waving flags and resounding cheers from proud relatives and friends, and grateful strangers, who only knew them as a part of the grand Union army going eagerly forth to offer vicarious atonement for the sins of the nation.[6]

Although a multitude of rumors spread through the ranks, Oliver and the soldiers of the 8th CVI have no clue as to their destination. They must settle into the cramped quarters of the ship and wait. Much to their delight, the soldiers of Company A find some of the better accommodations aboard the boat.

Our quarters, that is Co. A’s, were in the gangway forward of the shaft. We spread our beds all over the floor and bunked in like a mess of pigs; some were in the water shoe deep. I managed to get a dry place and with my knapsack for a pillow slept soundly for about two hours when I heard my name called loud enough to start any living person to stand guard for an hour over our traps (?) and guns.[7]

18 Oct 1861


 After being relieved from his duty of guarding the baggage and weapons, Oliver finds that he is unable to accomplish any restful sleep probably caused by the combine effects of anticipation and the cramped quarters on the ship.


As the ship approaches New York City, the early morning fog begins to clear allowing the lights of the city to come into view for the soldiers of the 8th CVI.


There is great excitement among the soldiers as the ship puts ashore at Staten Island. In anticipation of leaving their cramped quarters, the soldiers of the 8th scramble to find their knapsacks and other equipment. The horses are taken off the ship first prompting the troops to don their knapsacks and prepare to disembark. Much to their disappointment after standing for hours, the troops are not allowed to leave the ship. The vessel is holding in place for the Granite State to come up from New York.


After waiting for 3 hours, the soldiers of the 8th are told they are not going ashore at Staten Island. The horses are reloaded and the ship follows the same path by which it came to Staten Island, passing New York City again enroute to a destination yet unknown to the passengers.


The ship arrives at Hunter’s Point, Long Island. Some of the members of the regiment are allowed to leave the ship, but the troops of Company A wait for another two to three hours before disembarking the ship and boarding a train to their Camp of Instruction at Jamaica, Long Island. As Oliver views the long day of delays with a sense of humor writing, “All things must have an end and so did our waiting.”[8]


A heavy rain falling since the afternoon prevents the proper assembly of tents at the camp so the soldiers spend their first night on Long Island sleeping under a rainy sky. An abundant supply of cedar trees provides bedding for tired troops.

19 Oct 1861


Oliver and his fellow soldiers awake to find that the rain coupled with a heavy fog has left all the equipment including their guns wet and rusting. The soldiers will spend the day cleaning and drying before moving into their tents.

20 Oct 1861

Oliver attends church at an unspecified location and visits with his cousin, Benejah Holcomb who is also a member of the 8th CVI serving in Company C.

Benejah Holcomb is from Granby which is about two hours walking distance from Simsbury. He enlisted in Company C of the 8th CVI on September 11, 1861. He will be discharged for unknown reasons from the 8th on January 1, 1863. He is a descendant of Lieutenant Benejah Holcomb, a Revolutionary War hero, and he also a distant cousin of Oliver and Abbie Case. It is not known whether Abbie and Oliver knew him to be a cousin or had some other association with him. He is mentioned in many of Oliver’s letters to Abbie making it seem that knowing of him was of some importance to her.

20-26 Oct 1861

The soldiers of the 8th find themselves to be very welcomed guests with the citizens of Jamaica. Oliver experiences the people of New York as “very familiar (much more than Conn. People) [and] I should also say generous and hospitable.” He continues with the description of their hospitality in a letter to Abbie:

They gave our Regt. over a thousand  loaves of bread last week besides giving us many apples and welcoming to their houses all who are so fortunate as to get out side of guard.[9]

The 8th settles into camp life, but it doesn’t take long to discover that alcohol and soldiering don’t always mix. A drunk soldier was often referred to as being “shot in the neck” or to have “a brick in his hat.” A corporal in Company A is reduced back into the junior enlisted ranks and is made to forfeit one month’s pay as punishment for public intoxication. Based on a study of the company rolls, the offending corporal could possibly be identified as John F. Saundbaum of Hartford.

Efforts to improve morale and suppress undisciplined behavior were numerous.

The morale of the regiments was correspondingly raised. Gambling and liquor-selling were suppressed; offenders being severely punished, and their stakes and stock confiscated for the regimental fund. Profanity was rebuked. Unnecessary Sunday labor was avoided. Religious meetings were frequent…[10]

23 Oct 1861

General Burnside establishes his headquarters at Annapolis and prepares to receive regiments for training and equipping his “coastal division” which will become the expeditionary force to attack the coast of North Carolina.

28 Oct 1861

Oliver writes to his sister that he is hearing a rumor of the efforts of Joseph R. Toy of Simsbury to raise a new company of volunteers from the town. The tone of Oliver’s letter makes it seem as if he had expected Toy to raise this company for some period of time or that he is sarcastically asking the question.

Toy is a prominent citizen of Simsbury who stirred up patriot fervor in the town to raise the infantry company in which he would serve as commander. Captain Toy’s service to the Union would be a brief one as he died in camp in June of 1862. Interestingly, local history in Simsbury recounts that his body was returned to his hometown for burial packed in a cask of whiskey.  On July 16, 1862, the Reverend Ichabod Simmons delivered the funeral sermon at the Congregational Church in Simsbury inspiring another group of Simsbury men including Oliver’s brothers to join the Union cause on the battlefield.

Oliver spends his Monday afternoon concerned with the domestic chores essential to a soldier’s life including washing and folding his clothes about which he opines, “I think I will make a good washerwoman.”[11]

29 – 30 Oct 1861        

The troops of Company A along with all of the soldiers of the 8th CVI are made to stand for physical examinations. This is likely the second examination performed on these soldiers as a recruitment physical exam would have been required of each man desiring to serve. Oliver writes that “the men are not troubled with clothes while undergoing this examination.”[12]

Physical examinations conducted by Army surgeons during the Civil War were often less than thorough in relation to modern physical examination standards. In particular, induction physical examinations used the pass rate as a measure of success ensuring that recruits with all their limbs, good teeth (for tearing rifle cartridges) and adequate sight/hearing would be retained for service. As one regimental surgeon put it, “Many of [the soldiers] ought never to have come out, having broken constitutions or bodily defects which entirely disqualify them for the life of a soldier.”[13]

The purpose of these examinations for the 8th CVI is unclear coming some five weeks after the organization and activation of the regiment. It may be related to the fact that in August of 1861 the Army made an attempt to begin weeding out many of the volunteers who were not physically qualified by requiring additional and more methodical examinations. This included follow up exams for those regiments already in service. Oliver’s emphasis on “this” when referring to the examination indicates that a previous examination had occurred which did not include disrobing when standing before the physician. The commander and/or the regimental surgeon may have also had concerns about the physical condition of some of the soldiers. Whatever the situation, at least five soldiers were discharged as unfit within a few days of this examination as indicated by studying the company rolls.

Some officers left on account of ill health ; a few were dismissed;”others,” wrote an officer, “strong men physically, found themselves entirely unfitted for the profession of arms, and bore the mortification of resigning that others might take their places.[14]

In Oliver’s situation, there was a great deal of concern on his part that he might be dismissed from the regiment due to the lingering signs of some previous illness that he does not specify. He tells his sister, Abbie, that the doctor “questioned me pretty close about that breaking out on my shoulders – there is hardly anything left but the scars.” Obviously, Abbie is familiar with this illness because Oliver writes that “if he had seen it two months ago [which places it prior to his enlistment while still living at home] I would have gotten thrown overboard…” The crisis of possible discharge is quickly overcome with Oliver telling the examining physician that the scars were “nothing but a little breaking out and had not been there a great while.”[15] This obviously satisfied the doctor and Oliver was allowed to continue his service in the 8th CVI.

In a tragic irony, this is the first of several recorded instances of Oliver experiencing a close encounter with potential discharge from service.

30 Oct 1861

Many soldiers including Oliver Case attend an evening lecture given by Chaplain Joseph J. Woolley of the 8th held in Jamaica. The purpose of the lecture is to raise money for a regimental library to be used by the soldiers during their training and beyond. The event raises $40 toward the library and Oliver finds Rev. Woolley to be “an eloquent preacher as well as a very social and agreeable man” and believes that he is “superior to Dr. Holland,” his pastor back in Simsbury. Oliver is so engrossed in the presentation by Reverend Woolley and the discussion that follows, that he loses track of time and has to “run the guard” because he is out past recall. His covert return to camp is obviously successful as no punitive action is taken against Private Case for his absence.[16]

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.

Meanwhile, at the camp of the Connecticut soldiers, religious fervor is running high including amongst of the 8th CVI.

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.[17]

As soldiers prepare daily for battle, many become aware of the spiritual consequences of what may lay ahead for them. Services are well attended and prayers are earnestly offered up.

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.[18]

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 making it easier for these groups to establish their operations in the camps amongst the soldiers.

Most prominent among the organizations seeking to meet the religious needs of the soldiers was the United States Christian Commission 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 fortunate to have a chaplain as dedicated and caring as Rev. Woolley.

31 Oct 1861

As Oliver writes a letter to his sister Abbie, an impromptu concert is taking place in his tent including “2 or 3 in our tent playing on their violins, and it is full of spectators” including Benejah.

He has spent most of his day on “water guard” which consists of retrieving water from the designated source for the general use of those in his unit or his tent. Oliver comments that he enjoys this duty because it provides “considerable time for myself” and away from the roar of the camp. This is one of several indicators in Oliver’s letters that point to him as an introspective, intellectual personality who likely enjoyed academic pursuits.

1 Nov 1861 8:00pm  

8th CVI departs Hunter’s Point, L.I. via boat bound for South Amboy, New Jersey. The steamer is packed with 1000 soldiers that would normally accommodate only half that number. Oliver writes that “every available niche of room was occupied, many of us lying with our heads upon each other.” A hard rain is falling as the soldiers load the steamer.[19]


Due to stormy seas, the steamer is towed into “Pier No. 1 N. River” until the storm has passed.

2 Nov 1861 1:00am

The storm passes and the steamer leaves port bound for South Amboy.


The steamer arrives safely at South Amboy. The soldiers of the 8th are quickly transferred to waiting rail cars to take them to Philadelphia. The large, slow-moving train consists of 19 passenger cars and 8 freight cars for the horses and baggage.


The train arrives at Philadelphia to a warm reception by the local citizens. The weary soldiers are treated to dinner described by Oliver Case as “a huge dinner and if anyone ever did justice to a dinner, we did to that.”[20]

Around 5:00pm

The soldiers reload the train and it departs Philadelphia moving very slow which allows the residents to shake hands through the windows and bid the soldiers farewell.

Just before midnight

After numerous mechanical problems along the route including eleven car couplings breaking at various places, the train finally arrives at Perryville, Maryland where the soldiers will be transferred again to a boat. The soldiers of the 8th sleep in a nearby depot as they wait for the boat. Oliver has just enough time to pen a letter to his sister Abbie, but even as he writes, the command of “fall in” is being given.

3 Nov 1861

Perryville, Maryland was a divided town in a divided state with over 800 slaves in Cecil County at the beginning of the Civil War. The tensions in the eastern portion of Maryland rose considerably after Confederate supporters attacked Union soldiers as they passed through Baltimore on April 19, 1861. Railroads were destroyed and bridges were burned crippling ground transportation to areas south of the city. As a result, Perryville became a major staging and transportation hub for Union regiments moving to Annapolis and other points south. It was the end point for Union-controlled rail transportation to the south. Supplies and troops were transferred from rail upon reaching Perryville to water transportation. By the time Oliver Case and the troops of the 8th Connecticut reached just before midnight on November 2, 1861, the system for moving soldiers through the city was well established. The soldiers were given only a few hours of sleep in the depot before receiving the command to “fall in” and prepare to board the transport ships for the trip down the Chesapeake.

So, on the morning of November 3, 1861, the 8th CVI loaded the boats and departed Perryville heading down the Chesapeake Bay bound for Annapolis.

5 Nov 1861

The 8th CVI arrives at Annapolis after what Oliver describes as “a very pleasant trip down the Chesapeake.”[21] For the first two nights, the troops are billeted in the buildings of St. John’s College which was confiscated by the Union Army at the beginning of the war to be used as a transition station for units heading south or to a camp of instruction at Camp Hicks near Annapolis. Camp Hicks is named for Maryland’s wartime governor. It is somewhat ironic that Camp Hicks received its name from the first of two wartime governors of the state of Maryland. Thomas Holliday Hicks was, at best, a politician attempting to play both sides of the issues deeply dividing the northern and southern states at the beginning of the war. In early 1861, Hicks worked to portray Maryland as a sort of neutral state that would not become involved in the dispute. He addressed the citizens of his state in January of 1861:

I firmly believe that a division of this Government would inevitably produce civil war. The secession leaders in South Carolina, and the fanatical demagogues of the North, have alike proclaimed that such would be the result, and no man of sense, in my opinion, can question it.[22]

This became an untenable position after President Lincoln called for volunteers from the states including Maryland in April of 1861. The governor also struggled to maintain his credibility with Lincoln after he appeared to side with Confederate supporters during the aftermath of the Baltimore riots, also in April 1861.

Hicks would find redemption with the administration by helping to avoid the movement of Maryland toward secession by moving the General Assembly from Annapolis to Frederick in April of 1861 ensuring a vote for Maryland to remain in the Union. The governor claimed that he relocated the assembly to Frederick for “safety and comfort of the members.”[23]

The city of Annapolis had just recently been occupied by Union soldiers and Governor Hicks expressed concerns that the southern sympathies of eastern Maryland combined with the displeasure of the citizens at the military occupation of the city would have a detrimental effect of his efforts to have the state remain in the Union. Oliver Case would soon be on the front line of the efforts to improve relations between the citizens of Annapolis and the Union soldiers.

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.[24]

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.[25]

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 had only added to the uneasy feelings in the capital city.

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.

The living quarters for the detailed soldiers are in an old brick building centrally located in the city. Oliver recounts to Abbie:

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.[26]

These soldiers were not always popular especially with their fellow soldiers who ran 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.[27]

Life is now good for Oliver since he has escaped the camp life to reside in the city. He wants to ensure Abbie understand his 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.[28]

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.[29]

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.”[30]

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.[31][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.[32]

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.[33]

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.[34]

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.[35]

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.[36]

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?”[37]

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.[38]

21 Nov 1861

Oliver receives a letter from his brother Ariel. He does not reveal the contents of the letter. However, in his reply to Ariel (as mentioned in his letter to Abbie), Oliver first tells of the illness which has struck two of his friends, Henry Sexton and Duane Brown.

I went to see them as soon as I heard of it, but could not get in where they were, but I looked in and saw their hall. I talked with one of Sexton’s friends who told me he was much better and expected to be around before long. The next day I succeeded in getting in where they were for a few moments. Brown is getting better also. Sexton was asleep. I heard from them Friday and presume by this time they are around.[39]

These two men would play a major role in Oliver’s life for the next six weeks at Annapolis.

Henry Sexton, the son of Henry G. and Clarissa (Barber) Sexton, was a school teacher from Canton, Connecticut before he enlisted in the 8th Connecticut on September 9, 1861. Only a few days after he enlisted, Sexton married a fellow teacher, Eliza Naomi Barbour also from Canton.[40] The genesis of his friendship with Oliver is not explained in Oliver’s letters which seem to assume that Abbie would know Sexton.

Duane Brown (spelled “Duwaine” on the rolls of the 8th CVI), the son of Asaph and Sarah Brown, enlisted from Granby, Connecticut on October 10, 1861. His parents’ postal address was listed as Simsbury, but Granby is located “next door” to Simsbury making it understandable that Oliver would have known Brown prior to their enlistment in the 8th. It is also possible that Brown was distantly related to Oliver.

22 Nov 1861

Oliver receives a letter from his brother Alonzo. He does not reveal the contents of the letter.

6 Dec 1861

Oliver becomes ill with a “chill” and is taken to the camp hospital. He later describes the conditions at the hospital “as good accommodations as could be, good beds and clothes, and every thing as comfortable as at home.”[41]

10 Dec 1861

Company A, 8th CVI conducts “target shooting,” but Oliver misses the training because he is still in the hospital. He writes that he is much better “except weak and as it is a very pleasant day the nurse let me walk out a little while.” His letter to his sister on this day is a reflection of his condition as it is only one paragraph in length not the usual two to three pages.[42]

12 Dec 1861

Oliver is discharged from the camp hospital. In a letter to his sister a few days later, he downplays the seriousness of his illness. However, Lieutenant Marsh considered it serious enough to write a letter to Oliver’s brother, Ariel, informing him of Oliver’s condition. Oliver describes the illness in his letter of the 16th as “an attack of fever and ague.” This illness will attack him again just before Christmas. The treatment includes “spirits of turpentine” and “quinine for three or four days.” Oliver pronounces the treatment to be effective as he “was discharged as well as ever.”[43]

13 Dec 1861   

8th CVI participates in a Brigade Review with 3 other regiments at Annapolis. Several weeks later, a Harper’s Weekly reporter recorded the scene:

The parade-ground is situated about two miles from the city, on the railroad line, and afforded a fine opportunity for a good display of division, brigade, and regimental evolutions, as it embraced some two thousand acres of smooth ground, with graceful, swelling undulations, which served to add considerably to the picturesque character of the review. There were some fifteen thousand men on the ground, and the scene was one of the most interesting which has ever occupied the attention of the people of the vicinity of Annapolis, who flocked by thousands in vehicles, on horseback, and on foot to the parade-ground, every available point around which was taken possession of by them.[44]

Oliver writes another letter to Abbie expressing his approval of her attendance at the school of Mary A. Weston in Weatogue. He encourages her to continue studying Algebra and Latin or French and even makes a financial investment by instructing Abbie to “take what I have in the bank or any other of mine and use it” to buy books. Oliver promises an additional investment of $30.00 that he will send home in January of the New Year.[45]

14 Dec 1861   

8th CVI participates in a Division Inspection with 10 other regiments at Annapolis. Oliver Case receives a package from his brother with food, dishes and other items.[46]

15 Dec 1861

Oliver writes a letter to his brother thanking him for the package. According to the letter, most of the food items are ruined, but Oliver and his friends managed to “feast” on the walnuts and chestnuts. Oliver includes two interesting rumors. First, COL Harland (his regimental commander) is attempting to have the 8th remain at Annapolis throughout the winter. Also, there is a rumor “that the negroes have burnt Charleston.” After this rumor, Oliver includes his one word commentary, “Good.” Interestingly, toward the end of the letter, his previously beautiful handwriting begins to waver which Case attributes to an unexplained trembling of his hand.[47]

16 Dec 1861

In a letter to Abbie, Oliver again acknowledges the burning of Charleston and adds that England and France “are…going to acknowledge the independence of the Southern Confederacy.” Oliver also thanks his sister for the long-awaited Thanksgiving care package that finally arrived for him at the camp on December 14th. He reports that the “chicken looked rather old although I tasted a few pieces near the inside that were good.” Abbie also included “walnuts, chestnuts and…apples” that Oliver and his tent mates assessed as “nice” and it caused them to have “quite a feast.”[48]

Around 22 Dec 1861

Oliver develops a condition that he later refers to as the Ague. This illness is defined as “malarial or intermittent fever; characterized by paroxysms consisting of chill, fever, and sweating, at regularly recurring times…” and can also be accompanied by “trembling or shuddering.”[49]

The condition was also known as “chill fever” or “the shakes” in the popular vernacular. One surgeon of another regiment described effects of this condition for which he had no medicine by saying that his soldiers “have to shake it out for all the good we can do them.”[50]

This description is fully consistent with information gleaned from the letters of Oliver around this time where he apologizes for his trembling hand.

An interesting, but somewhat ineffective, array of treatments were used to fight this condition. Oliver writes that “they gave me spirits of turpentine and broke it up…had to take quinine for three or four days and then was discharged as well as ever.”[51]

24 Dec 1861

Captain Henry L. Burpee, commander of Company A, resigns his commission.  In previous letters, Oliver has indicated that the Captain is dissatisfied with life in the regiment and is contemplating resignation. Political and personality conflicts between officers in the Civil War often led to resignations as a symbol of protest. This seemed to be true with Burpee who Oliver later referred to as having issues with the regimental commander, Edward Harland, and his decisions about promoting officers.

25 Dec 1861   

Oliver is part of a group of soldiers invited to attend Christmas dinner with General Burnside aboard a ship. He is the only soldier invited from his unit. Details about the dinner and any interaction with the commanding general are somewhat sketchy.

Lieutenant Henry M. Hoyt is promoted to Captain and appointed commander of Company A.



[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] Proclamation 85 – Proclaiming a Day of National Humiliation, Prayer, and Fasting. Abraham Lincoln, August 12, 1861.

[3] Holy Bible, King James Translation, 1609.

[4] Our Duty in the Crisis: A Discourse Delivered on the Occasion of the National Fast. An Unpublished Sermon by Ichabod Simmons, September 26, 1861.

[5] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[6] IBID.

[7] The Letters of Oliver Cromwell Case (Unpublished), Simsbury Historical Society, Simsbury, CT, 1861-1862. (20 October 1861)

[8] IBID. (20 October 1861)

[9] IBID. (28 October 1861)

[10] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[11] Case Letters, 1861-1862.

[12] IBID. (28 October 1861)

[13] Daniel M. Holt, A Surgeon’s Civil War: The Letters and Diary of Daniel M. Holt, M.D., Kent State University Press, 1994.

[14] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[15] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (31 October 1861)

[16] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (31 October 1861)

[17] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[18] IBID.

[19] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (3 November 1861)

[20] IBID. (3 November 1861)

[21] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)

[22] The Governors of Maryland 1777-1970, Frank F. White, Jr., The Hall of Records Commission, Annapolis, 1970.

[23] Governor Thomas Hicks of Maryland and the Civil War, George L. Radcliffe, Baltimore, 1901.

[24] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)

[25] Croffut and Morris, 1868.

[26] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (11 November 1861)

[27] IBID

[28] IBID

[29] IBID

[30] IBID(13 November 1861)

[31] IBID

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

Documenting Maryland’s Historic Cemeteries,

[33] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (13 November 1861)

[34] IBID

[35] IBID

[36] IBID

[37] IBID

[38] IBID

[39] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (28 November 1861)

[40] Some information taken from John Banks’ Civil War blog,

[41] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (10 December 1861)

[42] IBID

[43] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (13 December 1861)

[45] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (13 December 1861)

[46] Letter to Ariel J. Case from Oliver Case, Connecticut Historical Society, December 15, 1861.

[47] IBID

[48] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (16 December 1861)

[49] “Rudy’s List of Archaic Medical Terms: A Glossary of Archaic Medical Terms, Diseases and Causes of Death,” accessed from

[50] A Surgeon’s Civil War: The Letters and Diary of Daniel M. Holt, M.D., Daniel M. Holt, Kent State University Press, 1994.

[51] Case Letters, 1861-1862. (16 December 1861)


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