Sunday, March 25, 2018

A "New" Face of the 48th: William Wainwright Potts, Captain, Company D

Sometimes many months will pass, sometimes even a year or more, before I happen upon, discover, stumble over, locate, or be sent or directed to a "new" image of a 48th Pennsylvania soldier--or at least one I have never seen before--but lately, well, a number have been revealed; indeed, a relatively good number over the past year or so. Some have been identified, such as Lt. Michael Kistler,  Private James Dempsey, and Private Henry Jenkins. Others, unidentified. It is always a great thrill for me, having studied this regiment for so long--having pored over the rosters and muster rolls so many, many times--to see a "new" face from the regiment, to go along with name. As I have written many times before, this is not a very common thing, or at least not as common as one may suppose or assume. Indeed, after more than twenty years of actively seeking images of 48th Pennsylvania soldiers, I have located approximately 200. That's 200 out of the 1,860 men who served in the unit, or just 11%. Well, just a few days ago, Mr. Bill Clark very kindly shared with me via this blog his ancestral/family genealogy page, which includes biographical data and even an image of his 48th PA ancestor, Captain W.W. Potts, of Company D. 

Captain William W. Potts
Company D, 48th PA 
[Courtesy of Mr. Bill Clark] 



William Wainwright Potts was born on June 10, 1831, in Columbus, Burlington County, New Jersey, the second child and first son born to Aaron and Rebecca Potts. Sometime when William, presumably, was still young, the family relocated to Schuylkill County, settling in Pottsville, where Aaron and Rebecca would continue to raise their family, which will grow to include three more children, two girls and another boy, Charles Potts, who, like his older brother William would serve in the Civil War.

On May 5, 1853, William Wainwright Potts, not quite twenty-two years of age, married Mary Jane Welch who, over the next 18 years would deliver eight children, though, sadly, four of them would not survive infancy or childhood. Mary Jane passed away at the young age of 37 in the spring of 1871, perhaps from complications from childbirth. Her remains were laid to rest in Pottsville's Presbyterian Cemetery. 

Although his occupation is recorded as a 'moulder,' or mold maker, in the regimental records of the 48th, his obituary noted that he was a well-known hotel keeper in the city, and an 1857 article in the Mining Record and Pottsville Emporium recorded a rather interesting tid-bit or anecdote relating to William Potts. Potts, as the article stated, was the proprietor of the White Horse Restaurant. Apparently in June of that year quite a remarkable thing happened--worthy of headlines in the local paper. "On last Wednesday evening about 10 minutes after 10 o'clock," the article recorded, "Mr. William Potts, proprietor of the White Horse Restaurant, opened an immense Absecum salt Oyster, containing forty-seven pearls, varying in size from a pin's head to a very large pea--also a miniature goose of gold, on which was inscribed, 'Buy your clothing at the store of Mr. David A. Smith, on Centre Street, Pottsville, Pa." 

With the outbreak of civil war in 1861, thirty-year-old William W. Potts offered his services and that summer was mustered in as 1st Lieutenant, Company D, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. He stood rather tall, at 5'11" in height, had a "light" complexion, and dark eyes. Upon Daniel Nagle's elevation from captain of Company D to regimental major in November 1861, Potts was promoted to captain and served in that capacity until his discharge in January 1863. Potts was discharged due to a disability and it would seem he was not with the company for the final few months of 1862, since Lt. Curtis Pollock of Company G, would temporarily command Company D at the Battle of Fredericksburg. Potts was likely in poor health. 

Charles Potts, William's younger brother, served as a lieutenant in the nine-month 151st Pennsylvania Infantry--the "school teacher's regiment." On July 1, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg, during whitch the 151st suffered tremendously high casualties, Lt. Potts was captured. He spent the next fourteen months in captivity but survived the ordeal and returned home.  


Lieutenant Charles Potts, 151st Pennsylvania
[Courtesy of Mr. Bill Clark] 


After William's discharge from the 48th in January 1863, he returned to Pottsville. In 1873, two years after the death of Mary Jane, he remarried.  His second wife, Eliza Noble, gave birth to six more children, three of whom would die in childhood. Thus, of William Potts's fourteen children, seven would not live to maturity. With this and with the death of Mary Jane, tragedy certainly seemed to have shadowed William Wainwright Potts. 

William remained active in the community and in veteran's affairs, taking a leading role with the Grand Army of the Republic. He would die rather young, due to complications from diabetes, passing away at age 62 in January 1894. His remains were interred in Pottsville's Charles Baber Cemetery. 

My thanks go out to Mr. Bill Clark for so generously sharing your family ancestry with me, and for giving me the opportunity to see yet another face of the 48th. 


Full-Size Image of Captain Potts
[Courtesy of Mr. Bill Clark] 





William Pott's Grave
Charles Baber Cemetery, Pottsville, PA 
[www.findagrave.com] 






Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A New Face of the 48th? Help Identify Who This May Be!



Last week, Buck Zaidel, an acquaintance of mine who is a Civil War image collector and co-author of Heroes for All Time: Connecticut Civil War Soldiers Tell Their Stories, shared with me an image from his collection, purportedly of a 48th Pennsylvania soldier, or at least, as he said, that is how it was sold to him. Although there is no concrete identification of the soldier's identity either on or that came with the quarter plate image, I told Buck that "at first glance," this fella certainly "has the look" of a 48th PA soldier.

I think you will agree that it is a rather striking, somewhat unusual image. It shows a young soldier with a sturdy build who has the look of a fun-loving prankster, posing for a photographer, holding up a piece of hardtack, his camp cup, and a spoon with some kind of food (rice?), while his rifle and knapsack lie nearby, making it clear what he believed better depicted or illustrated a Civil War soldier's life.

But if this is, indeed, a 48th Pennsylvania soldier, then who can it be? 

Unidentified Soldier
[Courtesy of Mr. Buck Zaidel]

There are, of course, a good number of clues. Someone, at some point, tinted the image a bit, and used what appears to be a gold paint to highlight the soldier's hat brass, buckle, and initials on his knapsack. The '48' is clearly visible on his knapsack, as are the initials "W.M." We can also see a company; it looks at first glimpse like "Co. C," although, on closer inspection, it could very well be "Co. E," especially since the "C" in "Co." looks much different than the letter next to it. Another clue, perhaps, is on his right arm; there may be chevrons there, indicating the rank of corporal, or it may just be a fold in his uniform. But let's just go with the initials upon the knapsack. 

Examining the roster of the 48th, we find only one--just one--soldier in all of Company C who had the initials, "W.M." and that was Private William Miles who joined the regiment on January 25, 1865, at age 35, who stood 5'7" in height and who, promptly, deserted two months later, on March 28, 1865. It does not seem likely that the soldier in the photograph is Miles, since Miles was with the regiment for only two months and since the soldier in the image appears younger than 35, or at least that's how he appears to me.

So perhaps it does say "Co. E" on his knapsack. Let's look at who had the initials "W.M." within the ranks of Company E, 48th PA. . .

There were seven members of that company with these initials, and they were:

1. William McKay/Mackey: Date of Enlistment: 8/20/1861; Age at Enlistment: 30; Height: 5'4; Complexion: Dark; Eyes: Blue; Hair: Sandy; Occupation: Engineer; Residence: Schuylkill Co.; Notes: Killed in Action 2nd Bull Run, 8/29/1862.

2. William J. Morgan: Date of Enlistment: 8/20/1861; Age at Enlistment: 23; Height: 5'9; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Brown; Hair: Sandy; Occupation: Coal Miner; Residence: Schuylkill Co. ; Date of Discharge: 7/17/1865; Notes: Wounded at Spotsylvania, 5/12/1864; Wounded Petersburg, 4/2/1865; Veteran

3.William McElrath: Date of Enlistment: 2/7/1864; Age at Enlistment: 17; Height: 5'5; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Hazel; Hair: Light; Occupation: Laborer; Enlisted in Pottsville; Born: Schuylkill Co.; Date of Discharge: 2/6/1865; Notes: Wounded Petersburg, 9/11/1864; Arm Amputated; Discharged on Surgeon's Certificate. 

4. William Matthews: Date of Enlistment: 3/22/1864; Age at Enlistment: 23; Height: 5'7 ¾; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Grey; Hair: Sandy; Occupation: Waterman; Enlisted in Philadelphia; Born: Ireland; Notes: Deserted, 3/24/1864 in Philadelphia

5. William Moose: Date of Enlistment: 11/24/1861; Age at Enlistment: 26; Height: 5'6 ¾; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Brown; Hair: Chestnut; Occupation: Boatman; Residence: Schuylkill Co. ; Notes: Wounded 2nd Bull Run, 8/29/1862; Died in Pottsville

6.William Mullen (Sr.): Date of Enlistment: 2/25/1864; Age at Enlistment: 45; Enlisted in Pottsville; Born: Ireland; Date of Discharge: 2/15/1865; Notes: Discharged on Surgeon's Certificate


7. William Mullen (Jr.): Date of Enlistment: 3/26/1865; Age at Enlistment: 19; Height: 5'2 ½; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Grey; Hair: Dark; Occupation: Laborer; Enlisted in Pottsville; Born: Ireland; Date of Discharge: 7/17/1865; Born: 1847; Died: 3/13/1919; Philadelphia, PA; buried as William M. Crossen; buried Holy Cross Cemetery, Yeadon, Delaware County, PA 




From these seven possibilities, I feel confident we can strike at least two immediately from the list. William Matthews (who was with the regiment only two days and likely did not have the time nor the opportunity to pose for a photograph!), and William Mullen, Sr., who was 45 years of age at the time of his enlistment. 

This, then, leaves us with William McKay, William Morgan, William McElrath, William Moose, and William Mullen, Jr. But perhaps we can also strike Morgan from the list since the roster shows him as standing at 5'9" in height; taller, it would seem, than the soldier in the photograph. If we do eliminate Wm. Morgan from the list of possibilities, then we are left with four: McKay, McElrath, Moose, and Mullen, Jr. And this, of course, is predicated on the thought that the soldier in the photograph served in Company E. . .and in the 48th Pennsylvania


I would love to get your thoughts on this. . .Based on the descriptions alone, does the soldier in the photograph match any of the four? 

Personally, I cannot reach any definitive conclusion, only that it might be McKay, or that it might be McElrath, or Moose, or Mullen, Jr. And that is, of course, if this does show a Co. E, 48th PA soldier.

But please do let me know your thoughts; Buck and I would greatly appreciate any insight here! 












Monday, January 29, 2018

Finding Michael Kistler. . .

Thanks to my friend Brian Downey--the owner/administrator of the Antietam On The Web website, a great and vast trove of information on that incredibly important battle and its participants--I got to see yet another face of the 48th Pennsylvania for the very first time, that of Michael Kistler, a lieutenant in Company I. 

Lt. Michael Kistler and wife Catherine
[Unknown Attribution, ancestry.com] 


For me, the discovery began just this past Friday, when I published a post seeking help in identifying the image of an unidentified lieutenant in Company I, 48th Pennsylvania. As noted in that post, there were seven officers who served at different times throughout the war in that rank and capacity in Company I. I have images of five of those seven, leaving only two--George Gressang and Michael Kistler--neither of whom I had ever before seen a photograph of. Gressang drowned in August 1862, with the sinking of the West Point. Kistler was badly wounded one month later, during the battle of Antietam. Because of this Antietam connection, Brian Downey, in his research for his website, had already done some prior work researching Kistler. Along the way, Downey happened upon a wartime image of Michael Kistler and his wife, Catherine, posted at ancestry.com. There were other, post-war images of Kistler posted there as well. Unfortunately, that particular page had last been updated in 2012 and is no longer active, meaning Downey could not get the name nor the contact information of the individual who posted the images. But he did discover am engraving of Kistler, later in life, in the 1886 book History of Wayne, Pike, and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania by Alfred Mathews. That engraving matches the images of Kistler that were posted on ancestry, thus verifying the identity. And now, because of Downey's research I finally got to see, or discover, another fact of the 48th. Also, because these images of Kistler have been located, by process of elimination and because the unidentified officer in the image I posted about last Friday more closely matches the physical description of George Gressang in the regimental muster rolls, there is a very good chance that that officer is, indeed, Gressang...though I still cannot state with 100% certainty.  At least one other respondent to that post thinks the unidentified officer is Francis Koch, another image of whom can be found in that same post. 

One thing that is for certain, however, is that, finally, after all these years of studying the regiment, I at last have seen an image of Lieutenant Kistler. Much more important than this though is that I have been to discover so much more about his life. I had known Kistler primarily because of the savage, grievous nature of the wound he received at Antietam. The wound was so serious that his recovery seemed impossible; it was quite remarkable that he did survive. So remarkable, in fact, that a story about it was published in a number of newspapers, including the Boston Herald, which, on March 16, 1864, told the story of Kistler's injury and his recovery in an article entitled Remarkable Tenacity of Life.

That story, is posted here in its entirety: 

Remarkable Tenacity of Life: Lieut. M.M. Kistler, formerly of the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteers, who still survives, and is commanding a company in the Invalid Corps, was pronounced by the surgeons who examined him after the battle [of Antietam], as he lay among the dead--himself almost as dead apparently as they--mortally wounded, and he was passed by at the time, and the attention of the surgeons was devoted to others, for whom it was thought there might be a chance of recovery. The fortunes of the day seemed to vacillate in the balance as the massive columns surged back and forth, and for a time the field was in possession of the rebels; again our brave fellows drove back the rebel columns, and took the ground where our wounded were lying, weltering in their gore, and in the evening the brave and undaunted Lieutenant was carried from the field by our own men, and laid down in an old barn without blanket or overcoat. His clothes on his right side, from his shoulder down to his boot, being saturated with blood from his wound, were cold and stiff. It was at Antietam he was wounded, by a ball entering his right shoulder in a way to carry his epaulatte into the wound, and part of it with the ball entered the right lobe of the lungs. The wound was probed by no less than eight or nine surgeons, three or four at a time. They exceeded in extracting from the wound the wire, four or five inches in length, belonging to the shoulder strap, and all agreed there were fractured pieces of bone necessary to be extracted, but they neither removed them nor dressed the wound, considering the case a hopeless one. The Lieutenant alone believed his recovery a possible case. Thus he laid suffering in his gore until the sixth day when he received a change of clothing, and on the seventh day, with the assistance of his servant, he started, both feeble and faint, and reached his home. On the thirteenth day after receiving the wound, it was for the first time thoroughly dressed, by Dr. J.C. Schirner, of Tamaqua, Penn. Suppuration had by this time taken place, and he spit up a portion of the shoulder strap with the body matter. The ball still remains in the lungs too heavy to be raised by the efforts made in coughing, where an abscess is formed by the wound in the lung, and suppuration takes place, as it frequently does. He now usually enjoys a reasonable degree of health, with the exception of a few days each time that these inward gatherings take place.

This we regard as one of the most remarkable cases of recovery, from what would be regarded by all surgeons as a hopeless case, on record. When we contemplate a man with such a wound, lying for thirteen days without any efficient surgical or medical aid, and without any change of clothing for six days, and in the main cold and damp, without food or attention, we cannot but be struck with amazement at the wonderful recuperative powers of the system, in the case of the indomitable Lieut. Kistler. We would naturally suppose he must have suffered untold misery during those thirteen days, but he says he suffered but little, comparatively speaking. His sensibilities must have been instantly stunned. He is a living miracle to all who know his case. While a slight wound hurries many a strong man to an untimely grave, a strong constitution, a determined and indomitable spirit, and, may we not add, a kind Providence had lengthened out his days for further service in the cause of his country."



A strong constitution and a determined, indomitable spirit, indeed. 

I knew Kistler survived this horrific wound and that he later served in the Veterans Reserve Corps, or the so-called Invalid Corps. But that was it. I did not know anything further. I had assumed, quite naturally, that his life might have ended early, as a result of the Antietam wound but, as I just discovered, it turns out Kistler still had many, many years remaining after the Civil War. 


According to Mathews's History, Michael Kistler was born on April 14, 1833, though the year of his birth may be incorrectly stated here, since the regimental records note that he was 32 years of age when he enlisted in the summer of 1861, which would put the year of his birth at 1829. Year of birth aside, Kistler was born and raised in Lynn Township, Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, and was the son of Michael and Magdalena Brobst Kistler. He removed to Ringtown, Schuylkill County, in 1848 and at age 15 in order to learn the tanner's trade with his older brother, Joel. While at Ringtown, he met and fell in love with Catherine Rumbel and the two were later married. The couple had a number of children. By the outset of the Civil War, Michael was operating his own small tannery business in Ringtown, though left that life behind with the opening salvos at Fort Sumter. He enlisted on August 15, 1861, and at the time of his enlistment was 32 years of age. He stood among the tallest soldiers in the regiment at 5'11" and was described as having a light complexion, blue eyes, and dark hair. Although a tanner, he recorded that he was also a farmer by occupation. Kistler served well as a lieutenant in Company I, 48th, accompanying the regiment in its journeys first from Harrisburg, PA, to Fortress Monroe, VA, and from there to Hatteras and New Bern, North Carolina, before returning to Virginia in the summer of 1862. At 2nd Bull Run, a bullet tore through Kistler's coat collar while another round struck his scabbard. He emerged from this fight unscathed, though was not nearly as fortunate three weeks later at Antietam. Of course, it was there where he was so severely wounded by that bullet which tore through his shoulder, through his right lung, before lodging in his back that he was essentially given up for dead. As related above, however, through his indomitable spirit, he survived. After a four month convalescence, Kistler returned to the 48th Pennsylvania, which, by that time was recovering from its assaults against Lee's position at Fredericksburg. Kistler traveled westward with the regiment to Lexington, Kentucky, in the spring of 1863. It was there and it was then, however, that Kistler resigned from the regiment upon the advice of the superintendent of hospitals in the Department of the Ohio. But Kistler would continue to serve his country. He became the commanding officer of the First Company, Second Battalion, in the Ohio Department of the Veteran Reserve Corps and remained in this position performing various administrative and military duties until June 1866, when he was mustered out of service.
Kistler returned home to his wife Catherine and his loving family. He later relocated to Monroe County, entering into various business ventures with his brother Stephen, first in Bartonsville and then in Tannersville. The Kistler Brothers manufactured shoe-pegs, clothes-pins, and chair stock for more than ten years before Stephen Kistler's death in 1880. At that time, Michael retired from active business pursuits to focus on his farm in Tunkhannock Township. It does appear, though, that he served for a time during his "retirement" as postmaster of East Stroudsburg. "Lieutenant Kistler's life has been an active one," noted Alfred Mathews in his History of Wayne, Pike, and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania, "and withal his integrity of purpose in life's work, and his accumulation of a competency, his pride still lingers in the great honor of fighting for the preservation of the Union, and in his sacrifice for his country when in its greatest peril."

Michael Kistler passed away on July 6, 1907, at either age 74 or 78, and presumably with that bullet received at Antietam still lodged somewhere beneath his shoulder blade. His remains were laid to rest in the Stroudsburg Cemetery and there they continue their silent repose, next to the remains of his wife Catherine, who passed away in 1915 at age 83. 

In all my years studying and researching the 48th Pennsylvania, there are few times more satisfying than discovering not only a new face but in learning more about the life of one of its soldiers. 

My thanks go out to Brian Downey for all his work in finding Michael Kistler. 


Michael Kistler as Postmaster, Stroudsburg, PA
[Unknown attribution, ancestry.com] 


Michael Kistler, with son Stephen and Grandson Kirstel, ca. 1902
[Unknown attribution, ancestry.com] 

Michael Kistler and Granddaughter Lillian Irene Kistler, ca. 1905
[Unknown attribution, ancestry.com] 



[Biographical information from Mathews, Alfred. History of Wayne, Pike, and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania.  Philadelphia: R.T. Peck & Company, 1886. Pgs. 1028-1030]



Thursday, January 25, 2018

Can You Help Identify This Unidentified 48th PA Image?


Our Unidentified Officer
Company I  48th Pennsylvania Infantry


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Of the more than 1,800 soldiers who served in the 48th Pennsylvania Infantry, whether for a few months or for all four years of the regiment's existence, and over the course of my twenty+ years of studying the regiment, I have only been able to locate images of approximately 200 of them, or just about 11%. And of this number, a good many of these images are unidentified by name, which is the source of so much frustration. Some of the unidentified CDV's simply have something to the effect of "48th PVI" or "48th PA" scribbled on the back; in others, we can see "48" written in the hat brass, including in a remarkable collection of tintypes that once belonged to a noted and respected collector which went up for auction a number of years ago and which were featured in a 2003 edition of Military Images magazine (see below). None of the forty-two soldiers in this collection are identified but all are seated next to a kepi with "G" "48" on the chinstrap. Similar images of a soldier--taken at the same time/setting and so seated--have also appeared over the years and one of them, owned by a private collector, I am happy to say I have been able to positively identify as a member of Company G. 


November/December Edition of Military Images
 


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 


I will be writing more about this collection of Company G tintypes sometime in the near future but, for now, I wanted to focus on an image of an unidentified officer who, presumably, served in Company I, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry. 

Here is the image--and the officer--in question: 


This image is part of the collection of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County. It was taken by A.M. Allen, a noted Pottsville photographer and, clearly, one can see the "I" and the "48" and the infantry bugle on his kepi. The shoulder boards reveal that he was a commissioned officer and although difficult to make out with 100% certainty, it appears he was a lieutenant. There is no date when the image was taken. Throughout the course of the war, there were seven men who served at one time or the other as a lieutenant in Company I--two of them being ultimately promoted to the rank of captain.

Fortunately, I do have images of five of these seven and they are as follows:

Benjamin B. Schuck
(Courtesy of Patriotic Order Sons of America)
Oliver A.J. Davis
(Hoptak Collection)
Francis D. Koch 
(Courtesy of Ronn Palm and the Museum of Civil War Images) 


Joseph Edwards
(Hoptak Collection) 


Francis Allebach
(Courtesy of Ronn Palm and the Museum of Civil War Images) 




At first glance, then, I think we can eliminate Schuck, Davis, Edwards, and even Koch. The officer in question does, somewhat, resemble Allebach--and perhaps he is our man. On the other hand, the eyes look different. . .

If it is not any of these five officers, that leaves two other possibilities. And while I do not have photographs of them, I do have their physical description as provided in the regimental muster and descriptive rolls.

They are:

George H. Gressang: 1st Lt.; Date of Enlistment: 8/23/1861; Age at Enlistment: 24; Height: 5'8; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Blue; Hair: Dark; Occupation: Machinist; Residence: Pottsville; Notes: Drowned 8/12/1862 by the sinking of the steamer West Point

Michael M. Kistler: 1st Lt.; Date of Enlistment: 8/15/1861; Age at Enlistment: 32; Height: 5'11; Complexion: Light; Eyes: Blue; Hair: Dark; Occupation: Farmer; Residence: Ringtown; Date of Discharge: 10/21/1862; Notes: Wounded severely at Antietam, 9/17/1862; Promoted from 2nd Lt. 10/20/62; Discharged due to wounds; 10/21/62; Transferred to Veterans Res. Corps.



So, there we have it. I would love to get your thoughts. Do you believe this to be another image of Allebach? Or of either Gressang or Kistler? And, if so, which would you say was more likely based off their physical description?

Or is there something I am missing entirely here?













Wednesday, November 8, 2017

'"Dear Ma:" The Civil War Letters of Curtis Clay Pollock' Now Available

I am very happy to announce that "Dear Ma:" The Civil War Letters of Curtis Clay Pollock, First Defender and First Lieutenant, 48th Pennsylvania Infantry is now available.

This book was a long time in the making and a project that very nearly never came to fruition. The story of how it all came about can be found here.

You can order your copy either directly through the Sunbury Press website here or at amazon.com or through Barnes and Noble 



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Description: 
Curtis Clay Pollock served bravely with the 48th Pennsylvania, one of the Civil War's most famous fighting regiments, from the regiment’s organization in September 1861 until his mortal wounding at the Battle of Petersburg in June 1864, participating in the regiment’s many campaigns in North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Kentucky, and Tennessee and seeing action at some of the war’s most sanguinary battles, including 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Knoxville. Prior to his service in the 48th, Pollock also served as a member of the Washington Artillery, a Pottsville-based militia company that marched off to war in response to President Lincoln’s first call-to-arms in April 1861 and a company that would have the distinction of being among the very first Northern volunteer units to arrive in Washington following the outbreak of war, reaching the capital on the evening of April 18, 1861, after coming under attack in the streets of Baltimore. In recognition of their timely response and prompt arrival in the capital, Pollock and the other members of the Washington Artillery, would be among those who earned the proud title of First Defender. 

All throughout his time in uniform—from the day after he first arrived in Washington with the First Defenders until a few days before receiving his fatal wound at Petersburg—Curtis Pollock wrote letters home. Many of these letters were written to his younger siblings, some were addressed to his father. Most, however, were written to his mother, Emily, whom he affectionately referred to as his “Dear Ma.” Fortunately, many of these letters survive and are held today in the archives of the Historical Society of Schuylkill County in Pottsville. The letters of Curtis Pollock provide us with a window to view the history and experiences of one of the war’s most famous and most well-traveled regiments—the 48thPennsylvania—a regiment that served in many theaters of the war, under many different commanders, and in many of the war’s largest and bloodiest battles; a regiment that endured many battlefield defeats as well as many battlefield triumphs. More than this, though, Pollock’s letters home enable us to gain a further glimpse of the war from the inside. They chronicle and document the actions, the experiences, and the thoughts of a brave young man, who like so many others, volunteered his services and ultimately gave his life fighting in defense of his nation.