Saturday, December 28, 2013

The 48th/150th: "Christmas Has Passed, And A Very Dull One It Was For Me:" Lt. Pollock's Letter Home

One-hundred-and-fifty years ago this past Thursday--on December 26, 1863--and from the 48th's winter quarters near Blaine's Crossroads, Tennessee, Lieutenant Curtis Pollock, at that time commanding Company G, penned the following letter to his mother in Pottsville. The weather was cold, raw, and snowy as the veteran soldiers of the regiment endured yet another winter in uniform, and observed yet another Christmas hundreds of miles away from their families and from their homes. They knew that their original terms of enlistment were to due to expire the following year--in either September or October 1864. With the end of the war still nowhere in sight, however, and fearing the loss of so many of seasoned, veteran troops--like the men of the 48th--the government began to offer incentives to those who re-enlisted for another three years. As Pollock writes here, the topic of re-enlistment was the "all absorbing topic" that winter in Tennessee. When he wrote this letter on December 26, it is apparent that the reaction of the men to the idea of re-enlisting was lukewarm, at best. As it eventually turned out, however, in early January 1864--and as will be covered in a future post--more than 3/4 (75%) of the soldiers of the 48th did choose to reenlist.
Lt. Curtis Clay Pollock, Company G.
Sadly, Christmas 1863 would be his last Christmas on earth; he died six months later, in late June 1864, as a result of wounds received at Petersburg.
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Camp near Blane’s Cross Roads Tenn.

Dec. 26, 1863

Dear Ma

     I am kept very busy at present making out Muster Rolls and a great many other papers that a Company Commander has to bother himself with.  Christmas has passed, and a very dull one it was for me. The day before Christmas we were out and made a reconissance but the Rebs. had just left.  I have never felt so tired as I did that night when we got back to camp.  There has been a great deal of talk of the 9th Corps leaving Tennessee, since Burnside has left us, but now that has given way to the all absorbing topic, “reinlistment.” They are trying to get our Regt. to reinlist, but with the exception of a few of the Companies they do not succede very well.  There are only two men in G. who are willing to reinlist.  I heard this evening that there were one hundred and sixty four in the whole Regt.  The Government offers all those who reinlist thirty days furlough and the bounty.  If three fourths of the Regt. enlist they will allow them to go home in a body, and those who refuse are to be put in other Regt’s and companies to do duty until their term of service expires.  I have no idea what we will do here now.  The Rebels have evidently left this immediate vicinity but whether we are to follow them up or remain here I do not know.  As soon as I get through all the writing I have now on hand I will copy my diary and send it to you.  It has been raining nearly all day and as we have nothing but the shelter tents to do everything in, I have not gotten through much work.  I received my valise as a Christmas present and it is the only one I have rec’d. It has been all this time on the way from Camp Nelson here.  I picked up a young contraband the other day. He run away from the Rebs. when they evacuated before Knoxville.  He says his “Massa” is a private and had him with him to carry his knapsack and other drudgery.  He calls himself “Dick.” He tells some wonderful stories about what the Rebs do, but I think he has a rather strong imagination.

I am quite anxious to get that letter that came to Pottsville for me for I imagine there is a photograph in it.  Did you ever get any of those pictures of Reilly and myself.  I should very much like to have one.  I suppose by this time Mary has arrived again at home and I need not ask if she has enjoyed herself.  How is Marge and Charley getting along.  I heard something about a young man being seen with a young lady and after that she could not be found.  How is it?

                           With much love to all I remain

                                           Your affec Son


Santa Claus Handing Out Gifts To Union Troops, by Thomas Nast and Published in Harper's Weekly on January 3, 1863. This was one of Nast's very first depictions of Santa Claus and still today, 150 years later, Nast's renderings/depiction of his imagined Santa Claus remains as the most widely recognized.

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