Friday, May 30, 2008
Well, not exactly.
Last month I was hired as an adjunct professor by American Military University. AMU is an accredited, online university whose students are, by and large, members of the United States Armed Services, serving all over the world. I will be teaching courses in American history and Civil War history, and am greatly looking forward to it.
It promises to be a whole new world for me. Although I have experience as an adjunct professor at the community college level, I have never taught courses on-line, so that should be interesting. The best news of all though is that I will still be able to do my rangering at Antietam.
Ranger by day, adjunct professor by night. Pretty cool.
The first step is learning the ins and outs of online instruction. My four week certification/training program begins this upcoming Monday. I'll be sure to keep you all updated.
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Sunday, May 25, 2008
Friday, May 23, 2008
The last I spoke with Leo was back in December of '07 concerning the restoration of the 48th PA monument at Antietam and the missing sword. He promised to get back in touch with me, but then I discovered that he had fallen, breaking his hip. He seemed to be getting better, but just last week a friend told me that he had taken a turn for the worse.
Leo Ward died Monday, May 19, at the age of 78. He was a Schuylkill County historian extraordinaire, and was the driving force behind the relocation of the society's headquarters from those cramped quarters next to the library to the spacious and quite eloquent Female Grammar Academy on Centre Street. Schuylkill County history will not be the same without him, and he will be missed.
Ward's obituary can be found here:
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
"What happened to John Hoptak?"
"Has he stopped blogging? He's only updated his site once over the past week. . ."
"I'm getting tired of looking at pictures of him reading different books about the Crater."
Well, it's true. I've only updated this site with one new post since last week, but there is a very simple reason why: I haven't been home.
These past few days have been a whirlwind. . .
Let's start with Sunday, May 18. . .
I went into work as usual but was a little preoccupied. I kept looking forward to that night, when my buddy, Ranger Alann Schmidt and I would be rockin'-n-rollin'. Last fall, Alann called me at home and said something I thought I'd never hear: Van Halen is back on tour and they'll be playing in Hershey. And it wasn't just any old tour. . .it was a reunion tour, with the band reunited with original frontman David Lee Roth. He got tickets but after the show was postponed twice, I began to think the show wouldn't happen.
The concert was pushed back to May 18. . .Leaving work, I traveled up to Carlisle where I met Alann. After a quick bite to eat, we hopped in the car and drove to the Giant Center in Hershey. Because the show was already postponed twice, and because the Giant Center is a relatively small venue, we both refused to get our hopes up. We kept thinking it was going to be cancelled. We weren't going to believe that we were actually going to see Van Halen until they actually stepped on stage. Then, at 8:00 p.m., Eddie, Alex, and Diamond Dave stepped on stage and began what was two and a half hours of pure rock. In Alann's words, it was "surreal." Both of us just sat there grinning as the band broke into one classic after the after. . .
When the show ended at 11:00, we couldn't believe what we just saw. We still can't.
Saturday, May 17, 2008
Several weeks back, friend and Antietam Tour Guide Bill Sagle gave me a copy of Glory Enough Of All~The Battle of the Crater: A Novel of the Civil War. It was a quick read and I did enjoy it, although the only real 48th soldier author Duane Schultz wrote about was Henry Pleasants. . .
In addition to Schultz's book is Richard Slotkin's novel, simply titled The Crater. I, too, read it and enjoyed it. . .
As a student of the 48th, I want to believe Henry Pleasants, Jr., and take him at his word. . .he has some great stuff in both these books, especially reactions from Pleasants and the troops who tunneled. But as a historian, I am having a tough time recognizing these works as solid, primary evidence, or, in other words, as FACT. Can I base conclusions off of hearsay? Most in the field of history would say an unequivocal "NO," but, then again, who is to say that the conversations between Pleasants and his cousin (the author) did not take place, and who is to say that those letters and documents did not exist? Perhaps they still do. . .in some attic or in a shoebox in a closet somewhere.
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
And although it still has the appearance of simply a messy pile of papers, I am very happy that I have everything organized and in its place.
Now all I need to do is make time to dive right in and work on some of those article and book projects that have been on the back burner for so long!
Anyone up for a social portrait of the 48th Pennsylvania in book form, or a biography of James Nagle. . . ? How about a closer look at those soldiers who actually did the digging of the Petersburg Mine?
Monday, May 12, 2008
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Sunday, May 4, 2008
(2). Sergeant Robert A. Reid, Company G:
It was a very foggy morning when Captain McKibben of General Potter’s staff ordered Col. Pleasants to follow him with the 48th, and it will be remembered that McKibben rode a very dilapidated plug of a horse that day, but he rode right to the front, leaning forward on his horse, as he led us up the hill, until he had us under fire, when we formed line of battle behind the brow of the hill, directly in our front, and our position did not suit our Colonel. We moved forward past the right of the advanced regiment until we got about half way between it and the enemy, which proved to be the 13th Georgia. Before we commenced firing about twenty of the rebel troops came in and surrendered. When within about seventy-five yards of the enemy we were ordered to halt, and commence firing, when for a short time the engagement was very lively. The enemy were at a decided disadvantage, they being down the slope of the hill, we at the top. About the time we opened fire another, or part of a rebel regiment, came to their support. We hammered away at them until some one from the center of the regiment called out that they wanted to surrender, but Col. Pleasants ordered us to continue firing, which we did until the rebels threw down their arms and came in a body. We captured fully two hundred prisoners. They left one colonel, three line officers and seventy-five men killed, and a large number of wounded on the field. . . .
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
(3). Sergeant Joseph Gould, Company F:
Our position was on the top of a hill, in front of us was an open field and swamp, through which ran a small creek, and, beyond, another hill, where the rebels had erected a strong line of rifle-pits. On our left was a thick wood extending beyond the swamp to the line of the enemy. As the fog rose, a regiment of rebels was discovered occupying a pit formed by the banks of the creek. The left of the brigade was thrown forward into the woods, cutting off their retreat, except by the open field up the hill in front of our works, which, if attempted, would be certain destruction. A desperate effort was made to drive us out of our position, but it was steadily maintained under a destructive fire of musketry and artillery. During the attempt the regiment captured two hundred prisoners of Gordon’s division. Along in the afternoon the troops made another assault on the rebel line. The regiment charged forward to the swamp, but discovered it was unsupported. It moved then by the left flank into the woods under a galling fire; and, later, reached its former position. . . .
Our regiment suffered very severely in this fight, and the writer paid a visit to the field hospital to look after some friends, and , while there, came across some of his own company, one, named Lewis Woods, a great, big, noble-hearted fellow, from the northern part of the State, who now lay in a cow stable with his brains oozing from a ghastly bullet hole in his head. As I took the gallant fellow’s hand and asked him if he recognized me, his only reply was a smile, and my mind went back to the trip on the steamer from Newport News to Baltimore, when, as he lay asleep on the deck, in a moment of boyish deviltry, I clipped one-half his mustache completely off. What I would have given at that moment if I had never been guilty of this mischievous act! I had heard of people being shot to pieces, but never saw it until at this hospital. Just outside the fence surrounding the house a battery of artillery was stationed, and one of the artillerymen lay there torn from limb to limb, and the sight was a sickening one to those passing by.
We drove the enemy a mile, when we met the 13th Georgia Regiment. We completely annihilated that regiment, taking many prisoners and killing and wounding nearly all the rest. We then charged on the rebel works, but not being supported by the regiment on our right, and being exposed to a terrible cross fire from the lines of rifle pits and a battery, and were compelled to retire to the left into a wood. Here the left of the regiment was run close to the enemy’s earthworks, and a number of our men were shot. We fell back, formed line, and took position on the same ground we were on before we charged. Here we put up breastworks and have been fighting ever since. While I am writing, the bullets are whistling over my head, but as long as we do not expose ourselves, we are quite safe.”
May 16th 1864
My Dear Ma
We have just been told that a mail would leave today, and though I have written but yesterday I will write you a few lines to day for fear that the letter should not reach you. Lt. Jackson was killed on the 12th he was lieing quite near me when he was shot and was hit in the neck just above the collar bone he did not live more than 15 minutes after being hit. I had him carried out immediately and he was afterwards buried by Wm. Atkinson who took all his things. We are lieing here holding our position. I would like to know what Grant is going to do. It has been raining for the last five days and the roads are in a very bad condition. perhaps that has something to do with our being here so quietly. On the 12th the 2nd Corps captured 8000 prisoners and 40 pieces of Artillery and 39 stands of Colors. They surprised the Rebels before they were awake and walked right over them. I saw Capt. Mintzer from Pottstown on Saturday he came around to see me but had no news. Everything that is going on is kept very quiet. We have heard the rumor of the capture of Richmond but do not know whether to believe it. We have also heard of Shermans success in Georgia. We have been lieing in the same position for the last five days although the positions of some of the other troops have been changed. I will write you every opportunity.
With much love I remain
Your affect Son
Co. G lost 2 killed and 9 wounded in the fight of the 12 and on the 6th we had 2 wounded, and on the 11th one was wounded by a chance shot. Capt. B[osbyshell] is with Col Sigfried in the Negro Brigade. Col. is commanding the Brigade and Capt. is Asst. Adjt. Gen. Wm. Williams was the other man killed. None of the men you know are hurt. John Hodgson is all right and I do not know of any in the Regt. being hurt that you know. Dick Jones was grazed with a ball but not of much account. He has gone to Washington. We are very strongly entrenched here and so are the Rebs. and when a break is made some one will have to suffer. Our rations have been rather short to day on account of the roads. The wagons not being able to get up.
I believe there is nothing more to tell you
Your affec Son
There were 136 killed and 1 wounded in the Regt. since fight began.
May 21 1864
My Dear Son,
We were very much pleased yesterday to receive a letter from you giving an account of your later movements and losses. We all regretted to hear Jackson’s death but are very thankful that you sustained no injury. After every battle always try and let us know who are killed and wounded. It is a great satisfaction to the friends here. Capt. B[osbyshell] always did it, and Mrs. Hutten came up to us and wanted to know if we had heard particulars from you. I am sorry you have lost Capt B and if I was him I would not fancy being in the Negro Brigade. I expect you will have some severe fighting yet—but somewhere there is an over-ruling Providence who can protect you as well on the Battlefield as at home. Trust in Him always and may you be ever enabled to do your duty as a soldiers and a Christian. Do not be rash, however. I trust you may never fall into their hands a prisoner. It seems to me, the vengeance of Heaven will surely overtake and fall heavily upon those wretched for their treatment of our poor prisoners. No savages could be more brutal than they have been, for what can be worse than a slow death by starvation.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
(4). Colonel Henry Pleasants, commanding the 48th Pennsylvania, wrote this letter to the Miners' Journal on May 15, 1864:
“. . . .In the Battle of the Wilderness the regiment was hotly engaged on the 6th, and skirmished in the front on the 7th. On the 6th, 350 men, including nearly all the veterans, skirmished all day on the right, and the rest of the regiment moved with the main portion of the 9th Corps, and were hotly engaged in the center. The rebel army having fallen back, the 9th Corps was moved to Chancellorsville on the 8th. The 48th was not again engaged until the 12th, when our division advanced toward Spotsylvania on the evening of the 11th, but the battle was not begun until the morning of the 12th. We fought all day, and our regiment having caught three Georgia regiments in a little hollow, with rising ground behind them, which prevented them from retreating, completely annihilated them. We took over two hundred prisoners. One squad of them, which I sent to the rear under Lieut. Owen, amounted to forty-eight. Afterwards all the troops of the division were ordered to charge, and the 48th advanced in excellent style through an open, marshy ground under heavy fire, but the troops on both flanks giving way, the regiment was moved by the left flank into a ravine in the woods and shielded from the destructive fire of the enemy. Our loss has been heavy, but the 48th has behaved well, and in the action of the 12th, owing to our position on the brow of the hill, five reels were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner for every man lost by us. Since the 12th, a few men have been wounded by sharpshooters and we still remain on the front line. We have to mourn the loss of many brave men, and one of the best and bravest of officers is Lieutenant Henry Jackson.”
1st Lieutenant Henry C. Jackson (standing, right) Killed in Action
William Williams, Company G
Abraham Benscoter, Company H
Private Henry J. Ege, Killed In Action
John W. Henn, Company K
Sgt. William Kissinger
2nd Lt. William Clark
Sgt. Jonas Geiger
William J. Haines
2nd Lieutenant H.E. Stichter
Sgt. Henry Rothenberger
Cpl. Edward Lenhart
Perry L. Strausser
George S. Beisel
William F. Moyer
Gustavus H. Miller
Henry D. Moyer
Sgt. John McElrath
Cpl. Samuel Clemens
Cpl. William J. Morgan
George W. Schaeffer
Sgt. Richard Hopkins
Cpl. John Powell
William E, Taylor
William S. Wright
William H. Kohler
Jno. T. Reese
Sgt. R.M. Jones
Corporal George Farne, Wounded
Clay W. Evans
Private Daniel Ohmacht, Wounded
Michael MelarkeeDaniel Cooke
Sgt. Luke Swain
Sgt. Jacob Ongstadt
Cpl. D. Klase
Cpl. Wesley Knittle
Charles Washington Horn
Cpl. J. Weaver
David R. Dress
George Seibert, Company C
Edward Ebert, Company D
John D. Weikel, Company D
William Gottschall, Company E
George Kramer, Company F
Harrison Bright, Company H
Michael Scott, Company H
Lewis Aurand, Company H
James Wentzell, Company H
W.B. Beyerle, Company I
Benjamin McArdel, Company I
W.B. Shearer, Company I