Monday, March 7, 2011

The Union's First Defenders: Sergeant Val Stichter's Diary: Part Two: June-July, 1861

We conclude today with the final two months' entries of Valentine Stichter, a First Defender serving in the Washington Artillerists, of Pottsville. Stichter along with most of his company were assigned to guard duty at Fort Washington, several miles south of Washington along the Potomac, where the men were drilled and trained in soldiering under the leadership of Major Joseph A. Haskins of the U.S. Regular Army. The level of frustration among the First Defenders grew, however, as the weeks passed and they remained inactive.

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1—Engagement at Aquia Creek by Pawnee and two other vessels destroying secessionists’ battery. Heard the report of the guns here to-day. News brought up by steamer St. Nicholas. T. Riley and A. Russel came here last night at 12 o’clock. Brought soap for men. All well. Rain in the evening. Another rumor of us going to Washington. Major Haskins writes on to keep us here.
2—Sunday. Inspection with knapsack on. Steamer Chas. Freeborn passed here on her way to Alexandria for repairs. Had four holes in her. Captain said two batteries destroyed; a number of rebels killed; none of our men hurt; cannon ball knocked off one of our men’s hats, but not hurting him.
Depot and other buildings burned. Articles of war read. Wrote letter home.
3—Commenced four drills per day. On picket guard.
4—Came off picket. Chopped wood for cooks. Raining. Word received by Gypsey. All quiet at Aquia Creek. A regular hobbled in blacksmith shop for deserting; his third time. Received havelocks, etc, with letter from Brother Joe. All well. Bath in river.
5—Appointed orderly for Lieutenant Reynolds. Rain. Thos. Wren, Frick, Shippen and Snyder visited us. Companies were divided, 17 taken out of the Logan Guards.
6—Company B moved to our old quarters on the hill. John Curry went over to Company B. R.C. Wilder and S. Harris visited us. Notified of my appointment as third sergeant. Chas. Potts and Geo. Hartman, cooks; Chas. Van Horn, assistant. Rain.
7—Entered upon my duties. Wilder went home. Shipped our boxes off on steamer Gypsey. Beefsteak for dinner.
8—Took a bath. Five negro runaways came to wharf. Offered themselves to Major Haskins. They were forward to Washington.
9—Sunday. Came off picket. Inspection. Shippen and Snyder started for home.
10—Lieutenant Nagle, Wallace and myself went to the ravine to look for petrified shells, etc. Very warm.
11—Arrangements made for mail daily. A basket of letters lost. Five drills to-day. All well.
12—Major Haskins gone to Washington. Captain D.A. Smith acting commander of the fort. Two skirmishing parties of Federal troops had an engagement on James River. Ten of our troops killed and wounded. General Butler afterwards reinforced the battery taken.
13—Major Haskins reports. Order written for our removal by General Mansfield, but declined leaving us to. Richards and others from Minersville here.
14—Practicing at aiming. John Curry preparing for work. Jas. H. Campbell and Dr. Owens arrived.
15—Cleaned up all the quarters. Campbell franked 500 envelopes for the company.
16—Sunday. Inspection at 8 o’clock. Wrote a letter to wife and two for C. Hinkle. Complimented by Major Haskins on our appearance.
17—Logan Guards moved into their new quarters. Signal rockets seen by our pickets. Troops up under arms last night in Alexandria and Washington, reported by Drummer Bowen.
18—D.B. Christ paid us a visit. William Bartholomew received an appointment in the army as second lieutenant to report at Illinois in ten days; D.A. Smith, major, commanding; F.B. Wallace, adjutant, of dress parade; engagements 15 miles above Alexandria. Fifteen killed and wounded of our troops.
19—D.B. Christ returned to Washington; his business here to get the companies for three years did not succeed. Saw a balloon floating over Washington, which is to be used taking observations of the surrounding country.
20—Very warm, captain gone to Washington.
21—On duty as sergeant. Very warm.
22—Maize and Rickert arrived. Received our dress coats.
23—Sunday. Inspection at 8 o’clock. Church at 10 o’clock and 3 o’clock; Maize preached.
24—On parade to Washington city. Purchased things wanted after dinner. City lined with volunteers. Went to theatre in the evening. Stopped by patrol going to boarding house.
25—Had our photographs taken . B. Reilly came. Gilmour and I went with him to Colonel Cake’s quarters. All took dinner with him and Major Campbell; after dinner visited infantry’s quarters. Rode with him to War Department. Saw the White House on our way. Two regiments arrived from Milwaukee.
26—More soldiers arriving. Went to Alexandria. Two deserted. Military seen quartered in all the streets.
27—Started on duty. Regimental parade.
28—B. Riley started for home. Engagement three miles from Alexandria
29—Three large steamers passed loaded with Massachusetts troops. Brought the steamer Jas. Guy to by a 32-pounder. Sent company photograph to wife. Party out scouting.
30—Sunday. General monthly inspection of all the troops. Rain to-day. Read chapter in testament.


1—All anxious to know what time we were to be discharged. Rain. Received papers from Brother H.
2—Heber S. Thompson came back. Steamer Pawnee and Pocahontas went down to Aquia Creek and Matthias Point to reconnoiter.
3—First target practice by company. Had the most in target, 5 out of 5. F.T. Brown, Garret and others arrived. Comet very large, has been visible one week north of west.
4—Salute of 34 guns from nine of the guns from the fort. No whisky allowed in the camp. A lonesome Fourth. Sat on parapets of water battery looking at fireworks going on at Washington.
5—Regular drills. Target practice at 300 yards. Got nine balls in target out of ten. Major gave sentinels extra instructions through the night; expecting an attack.
6—Target practice again; have 13 balls out of 15 in best shot. John Bannan, Shippen, Evans and others arrived. Another scouting party out. Great sport seeing the old fellows lay down on our bunks to sleep.
7—Weather very hot. Got a contraband slave at 12 o’clock M. with a small boat.
8—John Bannan and party started for Washington. Also Major Haskins. Major orders for muster-out rolls to be made for the 17th of July.
9—Three contraband slaves came to wharf to-day. Father of one that came Sunday. Rain in the evening. Very welcome. No dress parade.
10—Major Campbell and C.M. Atkins arrived here. Brought news of our being discharged on the 17th of this month. Captain E.L. Hartz was here.
11—Campbell, Atkins and Hartz started for Washington. Weather fine. Went up ravine again; found turtle heads; hard work to dig them out. Dobson, Esterly and Judge Foster came.
12—Esterly and company went to Washington. Paymaster Cameron and Adjutant General Thomas arrived. Received pay up to June 1, 1861, $23.60. Complimented by the adjutant on our drilling. Dissatisfaction of the Logan Guards in not receiving any pay on account of pay roll not being right. They term us Major Haskins’ pets. Bayonet exercise to-day. A shell fired from the fort up the river for the benefit of adjutant, his wife and daughters.
13—Rain. No drills. Packed up baggage and knapsacks. News of Captain McDonald’s company being disbanded and on their way home from Harrisburg. Jas. Graeff arrived here to-day. Named the bunks to-day; ours is the Continental House and Restaurant.
14—Sunday. Off main guard.
15—Cane off main guard. Heber S. Thompson was made orderly for the officer of the day by Captain Smith. Wrote two letters.
16—Fired at target yesterday; made poor showing. Looking for steamer.
17—Gold pencil from the ladies of Pottsville was presented to Major Haskins to-day by our officers. Making preparations to leave to-morrow for certain. Received a letter from father. Abraham Nagle came Thursday.
18—No battalion parade; all anxious to see the reinforcements; disappointed. C. Sheetz started for home this evening on a schooner.
19—Company skirmish drill this morning. All hands on the lookout for steamer with troops. Report started to-morrow for certain.
20—On the lookout for steamers. Major received an order of mustering us out; to start for Washington to-morrow and leave our arms at the arsenal; no reinforcement for the fort; major takes it very hard.
21—On main guard. Still at our post. Steamboats busy transporting troops to Alexandria. Sixteen thousand sent out of Washington to-day. Heavy cannonading in direction of Manassas Junction from 3 o’clock this morning, keeping up at intervals all day. Supposed by us to be a hot battle. Sound of guns seem nearer as if on the retreat this evening, 6 o’clock. At 12 o’clock this night steamer Baltimore came to wharf with news of our troops retreating toward Alexandria, with orders for Major Haskins to put things in working order around the fort. The guard employed in getting ammunition for the companies. The regulars load all the cannon. All hands have to have their cartridge boxes filled. Positions given for each company. Anticipation of an attack by the rebels, in crossing the river below us. All prepared. Wrote to wife.
22—Raining. All quiet. Lieutenant Wallace gone to Washington bearer of dispatches from major to War Department concerning our removal. Steamers Pawnee and Pocahontas passed here on their way to Washington. Brig. Perry lying off Alexandria. Steamer Gypsey seized by Major Haskins and attached to Brig. Perry. News of fight yesterday better than was reported here. Had fire in the stove in officers’ quarters to-day. Wore our overcoats. Cold rain all day. Another battle in Virginia to-day. Living on hard bread, pork and beans.
23—Cleaned up the quarters of the water battery. Quite a number of Government vessels and steamers passing up the river. Various reports of the Manassas battle; the one of our batteries being taken is false. General McDowell reported to have been arrested by order of General Scott. Steamer Mt. Vernon arrived with Christopher Loeser and daughter, of Pottsville, in company with two gentlemen and other ladies in time to see our dress parade. Lieutenant Patton and orderly sergeant of Logan Guards have gone to Washington to demand their pay or discharge.
24—Saw the balloon ascend in rear of Alexandria; landed nearly opposite the fort on the Virginia side. Steamer Philadelphia landed at the wharf to take us to Washington; left the fort at 7:30 P.M.; reached Washington Arsenal at 9:10 P.M. Exchanged our muskets and were quartered in officers’ building outside of the arsenal grounds. Guard of three from each company detailed to keep men from going up to the city. Officers went to War Department to see about transportation.
25—At 7:30 o’clock order to march to depot. Formed line immediately. Very dusty and warm. Remained at depot until 1 P.M. Started for Baltimore. Reached Baltimore at 9 P.M. Served bread and coffee. Started for Harrisburg at 3 o’clock A.M.
26—Arrived Little York at 6:30 A.M. Cheered along the route. Arrived in Harrisburg at 9:45. Stacked muskets in depot. Slept at depot.
27—Arrangements for mustering us out. Moved to Capitol. Some 10,000 or 12,000 volunteers in town; Capitol grounds covered with them waiting to be paid. Second Pennsylvania Regiment marched to quarters of paymaster and demanded pay. Twelfth Regiment three-year troops brought down double-quick from Camp Curtin to guard the arsenal.
28—Went downtown to be mustered out, but could find none of the mustering-out officers. Returned and handed our muskets over at arsenal; to be mustered out and paid to-morrow morning.
29—At 5 o’clock formed line and marched downtown and were mustered out at 8 o’clock. Dismissed company to be at quarters when wanted to receive our pay. Formed line at 12:30 o’clock; marched to Market street; returned without pay to quarters. Fear of mob being raised to mob the paymaster. Formed line again at 1:30 P.M. Marched down again. Received pay as sergeant, $31.86 in full. Discharged honorably out of service of the U.S. Government this day. Captain Smith making arrangements with the P. & R. R.R. Co. for taking us home. Going home to-morrow morning at 8 o’clock.
30—Started for home this morning at 8 o’clock via R.R. Road in company with Easton Volunteers. Arrived in Reading in time to make the connection for Pottsville. Arrived at Pottsville at 12:45 o’clock. Marched around town by the Committee of Arrangements, who gave us a grand reception and a welcome home. Stopped at Market House, where speeches were delivered by John Bannan and Benjamin Haywood, Esq., after which we marched to the armory. Dismissed and returned to our homes well satisfied with duty performed and happy to meet our families and friends.

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