Friday, April 26, 2013

The 48th/150th: Stealing Liquor and Other "Mischievious Mischief" ??

150 years ago, the officers of the 48th Pennsylvania and 6th New Hampshire--another of the regiments in General James Nagle's 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps--were trying to get to the bottom of what was universally described as an "outrage" committed at Spruce Creek, Huntington County, Pennsylvania, as the men made their westward journey to Kentucky.

It all started on March 28, 1863, a cold and snowy day. . .the trains carrying the soldiers of the 48th Pennsylvania and 6th New Hampshire stopped for a only a few minutes at the Spruce Creek Station.  Spruce Creek, in Huntington County, Pennsylvania, lays along the Juniata River about twenty miles west of State College.

It was there where all the trouble began.

As it turned out, several soldiers hopped off board and rummaged through the house belonging to a Mr. R.F. Haslett, and made off with quite a haul of alcohol. . .
That night, and quite steamed, Mr. Haslett wrote directly to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton:

“Sir—This day about ten O’clock a Train Load of your Soldiers passing this place Came into my House with an officer at their head & Commenced Robbing my house & Carried off quite a lot of my Goods Which I don’t feel like Loosing.  We have to pay the Government there (Revenues) & Taxes & When Such things occur I have a right to be paid for whatever they take from me. As you have the power of taking it off the (Perpetrators)  Part of them is Said to belong to Baltimore. Some of the 6th New Hampshire & Some of the 48th Penn. The Penna. men Said that those Maryland men would Steal Anything they got there hands on.
“Another thing to be considered I have always treated the Soldiers with the best respect gave them what I could to both Eat & Drink ever Since they have been traveling over the road. I have two Sons now in the Army one in the 2nd Illinois Cavalry under General John A. Logan & the other one belongs to the 125th Penna. Regt. under Col. Jacob Higgins & I should be verry Sorry to hear of them Acting So. I will give you Some of the Items Stolen Hoping you will See to having it paid. If not I will Publish in the papers with the affidavits of Six or Eight good men So that people can on there guard when such men travel the Road.

“Ten gallons alcohol @ 1.50=$15.00
            Keg               @ 1.50=$  1.50
 Eleven Bottles Champagne @2.50=$27.50
 1 [...?...] & Contents 5.50=$5.50
 Destroying things, Breaking Lamps
 Tramping Candles, Wasting Liquors & Ale
 & Mischievous Mischief=$25.00
                            Total: $74.50

 “Above I give you a statement of what I have lost & then All is not inclosed as there was a great many Small items that I did not mention. You will please give the above your attention.

                                                                                    “Respectfully Yours
                                                                                                R.F. Haslett
                                                                                               Spruce Creek,
                                                                                                Huntington Co., Penn.”

The Spruce Creek Tunnel

About a month later, Mr. Haslett's complaint made its way to the officers of Nagle's Brigade.

Nagle demanded answers, but both Col. Joshua Sigfried of the 48th and Lt. Col. H.H. Pearson of the 6th New Hampshire denied their men's involvement in the outrages:

Col. Joshua Sigfried denied that any of the 48th were involved

Said Sigfried:
“Sir: Being personally in command of the regiment at the time it passed through Huntington County Penn., I made a close and thorough investigation myself into the inclosed complaint. I find that none of my regiment was engaged in the outrage. The train stopped but a few minutes at that station, and we left no stragglers there.
“Permit me to say that no Officer of my regiment was or could be guilty of such an outrage.”

In support of his own men, Pearson, in turn, responded:

“I commanded this Regt. during its passage from Va. to Ky. & was absent from it not a moment. I have questioned every Officer of the Reg. as to the enclosed complaint & they all state that they never heard of it before.
“I have required them to question the non-commissioned Officers & Privates & have made careful enqueries myself.
“I enclose the statements of three non-commissioned Officers which include all the intelligence I have been able to process in relation to this outrage.
“I am quite confident that no Officer or soldier of this Reg. participated in it.
“I do not think that any such occurrences could happen in this Regt. without it coming to my knowledge.
“Throughout the passage, sentinels were pasted the car doors & my men were not permitted to get off & on at pleasure.”

To lend further credence to his claim of the innocence of the 6th New Hampshire, Pearson included the following statements made by three of his soldiers, who each claimed it was, indeed, soldiers of the 48th who were guilty of stealing Mr. Haslett's liquor and creating other "mischievous mischief," their brass "48"s on their caps revealing their culpability:

Statement of Cpl. Charles H. Willey, Co. C, 6th NH: April 26, 1863:

“While we were stopping for a few minutes at some station on the Penn. R.R. (the name of which I did not notice) I saw four men belonging to the 48th Penn. carry a new half barrel from a building which stood within a short distance from the R.R. track. and bring it to the train. They rolled it under the car in which I and my company were and then carried it toward the rear of the train and put it into the 4th or 5th car. I should think. My company rode in the car next to the rear one of our Regiment. And behind that came the 48th Penn. I know the four men carrying the half barrel belonged to the 48th Penn by the figures on their caps. It had a faucet in it and it was not closed. Some kind of liquor was running out.”

Statement of Sgt. Frank Flanders, Co. G, 6th NH: April 26, 1863:

“I was sergeant of the guard in the car containing my Company on the passage through Penn. I got off the car for water at a station where we stopped for a few minutes; do not recollect the name of the station. While filling my canteen with water from a pail which a lady had brought out of a house, I saw a number of soldiers belonging to the 48th Penn. coming out of a door near me with large quart bottles, which I took to be brandy bottles.
“I heard it said by the bystanders that the soldiers were “cleaning out a bar-room” I did not go into the bar-room myself or see any one of my Regt go in or come out. I looked in particular for me of the 6th NH but saw none.
“As soon as my canteen was filled the engine bell rang and I ran for the cars. I know the soldiers belonged to the 48th Penn by the figures on their caps.”

Statement from Sergeant James C. Smith, Color Sergeant, 6th NH: 4/26/1863:
“While looking out the cars at a certain station on the Penn R.R. where we had stopped for a few minutes, I saw some soldiers belonging to the 48th Regt. Penn. Vols. go by my car carrying a Keg. I heard some of the “48th” who were coming up from the opposite direction ask them “what they had there?” and their answer was “it’s whiskey” – “it’s about half full.”
“I know they belonged to the 48th by the figures on their caps. I should think the keg would hold Ten Gallons. Four men carried it.
“I saw Sergeant Flanders of my company get off the cars and go to a pail which a lady brought from a house, fill his canteen and return. I don’t recollect the name of the station. It was snowing at the time and the windows were closed. I had shoved mine [window] up to look out.”

Then-And-Now Photos of the Railroad Passing Along the Juniata River at Spruce Creek

Despite these statements, it appears, at least from the existing records, that poor Mr. Haslett did not receive compensation and that the culprits were never positively identified. 

The only "resolution" that appears in the records in this brief note, penned by an unknown/unnamed person:

“The within papers exhibit such a conflict of testimony that an intelligent answer to Mr. Haskell cannot be formed. The Col. of the 48th Pa Vols says that no persons under his command committed the outrages alleged. On the other hand three non-commissioned officers of the 6th NH Vols affirm that said outrages were perpetrated by persons wearing the number of the 48th Pa on their caps.”  

What's your verdict?

Friday, April 5, 2013

The 48th/150th: "Quite A Jolly Time:" Lt. Pollock Describes The Journey West To Lexington

150 years ago, the 48th Pennsylvania were settling in at Lexington, Kentucky, where, for the next five months they were stationed as provost guards. Thus, while missing out in the major campaigns and battles that spring and summer of 1863, the soldiers enjoyed a much-needed and much deserved respite.

Main Street
Lexington, KY

In this letter, written 150 years ago today (April 5, 1863), 2nd Lieutenant Curtis C. Pollock, lets his mother know that he has arrived safe and sound in Lexington:

My Dear Ma
                I guess you will think it very strange that I have not written for so long a time, but the reason (and I know it is a poor one) that we have been in so unsettled a state that I had no opportunity.  And I do not feel a bit like writing now but I know that you will be anxious about me so I will write a few lines to let you know that I am in good health and spirits.  Col. Sigfried is Provost Marshal of the City and the Regt. is doing Provost duty in it.  I am on guard to day and have been kept pretty busy all day.  I will write a long letter in a few days giving you an account of our journey here. We had a very pleasant trip.  If we can only stay here it will be also the most comfortable quarters we ever had.  The Regt. is quartered in two houses and we have a room with the officers of Co. B. We were paid the day before we left camp to come into town and I received $426.  I will not send any home as I am going to try and get there myself as soon as possible.  No more at present
                                                                                Your affec son
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
A week later, on April 13, Pollock had more time to relate the journey of the regiment from Newport News, Virginia, to Lexington:
Lexington Ky.

April 13th 1863

Dear Ma

                I received the letters sent by Flanagan and Evans, but have not received any by mail, except one from Mary.  We are getting along very well and like our new duties.  I am on guard to night and it is 1 o’clock A.M.  I am sitting in the Provost Marshal’s office writing. We had a splendid trip from Newport News here and we all enjoyed it very much.  We saw plenty of pretty girls along the road and we would get out at the stations where the train would stop and talk to them and when we came across any while train was going, we had notes prepared and would throw them out the window, kiss our hands to them and wave our handkerchiefs.  Indeed we had quite a jolly time.  The scenery along the Juniata is beautiful, and going across the plains from Altoona to Pittsburg the scenery is said to be perfectly beautiful but as it was very foggy we did not get to see much.  We had four engines attached to our train crossing the Alleghanies and they had tough work to get us up.  I was very much taken with Ohio.  Every town we passed through the depots were thronged with pretty girls and there were so many of them.  It was on Sunday when we passed through and every body was dressed up in their Sunday go to meeting clothes and looked well.  There was one particular young lade who was down at the cars and with whom I fell desperately in love, her name I found out to be Sue Sterling and she kissed her hand to me.  We passed through Columbus about 12 o’clock at night and we did not get to see much of it.  I was nearly left behind here.  Capt. & I got out to get our coffee pot full of coffee and before we got to the place where they were dishing it out the train started and Capt. he got right aboard but I was not going to loose the coffee so I took the pot and ran to the place but it was almost all gone so that I could only get a few tin cups full, and when I started for the train it was about a hundred yards ahead of me and going very fast.  well I did some tall running about that time with the old coffee pot in one hand. I just managed to get up to the last car and get aboard.  They all thought I had been left. I met a gentleman in Pittsburg by the name of Whitney and he took me around and treated me first rate and I had quite a jolly time.  We arrived in Cincinata about 11 o’clock Monday morning and were marched to the Market House where a table was set for the men, one of the Hotel keepers then invited the officers down to take dinner at his hotel and it was there I ate the first buckwheat cakes I had tasted the last winter, they were very good and we had some of the best sausage I ever ate.  After dinner we crossed over to Covington got on the train and after waiting until nearly dark we started for Lexington.  We rode all night and when I got awake the next morning I found myself here, and a very fine city it is though they are a great many Secesh. about. I have become aquainted with some Union ladies and spent a very pleasant evening with them and last night I escorted one home from church.  I saw on the street to day a daughter of the Rebel General Preston she is rather a fine looking girl but not pretty.  I expect to get aquainted with quite a number of ladies this week and I now have the photographs to two very pretty young ladies here. One of them is a namesake of Sallie Brights, he name is Bell Bright.  The town clock has just struck two and I am very sleepy so I hope you will excuse this hastily written letter.  We have been quartered I town for some time, but to day we moved out to the outskirts, and send our details in ever day.  Col. Sigfried commands this post and Gen. Wilcox has relieved Gen. Gilmour who has been here and commanded the central district of Kentucky.  I do not know whether I shall be able to get home or not but as soon as I think there is any show, I will try it.  Your affec Son