Introduction to Civil War Letters, Transcriptions and Stories
"Soldier's Story" was a weekly column published in the Echo-Pilot, Greencastle's local newspaper, written by Bonnie A. Shockey.
One hundred and fifty years ago on August 4, 1862 President Lincoln issued a request for 300,000 additional troops from the Northern states to step forward and serve the Union in the American Civil War. The men of Franklin County answered that call by enlisting in nine-month regiments. Some of the letters written by two men, George Frederick Ziegler I from Greencastle and Samuel W. North from the Mercersburg area were kept by several generations of each family. The Ziegler letters were donated to Allison-Antrim Museum by the late David O. Nicodemus and his son John in 2004. David married Anne Ziegler, granddaughter of G. Fred Ziegler I. The North letters were acquired by the former Greencastle Civil War Round Table, which donated its full collection to Allison-Antrim Museum on July 9, 2003. A third soldier from this area was Joseph A. Davison, Antrim Township, who enlisted for three years after President Lincoln’s April 1861 call for 75,000 volunteers, after the fall of Fort Sumter. The Davison family still has Joseph’s Civil War letters but has been generous enough to share them with the museum.
Upon the commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, it seems most fitting that the content of the letters of these three men should be made easily available to historians, universities, authors, museums, and anyone generally interested in history. Over the next nine months, the transcription of each letter will appear chronologically in the Echo Pilot, the week closest to the date of each letter. Each of the letters has been transcribed using or not using punctuation as Ziegler, Davison, and North wrote the letters, including the use of a comma for a contraction in place of an apostrophe. The Ziegler and North letters start and stop with the muster-in and muster-out of the men. The Davison letters start on August 12, 1862 about one year after enlisting. After each transcription is published, it will be posted on the museum’s Web site at www.greencastlemuseum.org.
Ziegler’s father George W. Ziegler was one of the wealthiest individuals in Greencastle. Along with the wealth came a degree of networking advantages, as is still true today. Through connections, George W. was able to get his son Fred assigned to a clerk’s position with the rank of Sergeant Major at the Headquarters of the 126th PA Volunteers, a rather “safe” job. Would not any parent, if able, do the same thing today for their children?
North’s family came from the farming community surrounding the town of Mercersburg. With no special considerations given, Pvt. Samuel North enlisted in Co. C, 126 PA Volunteers.
Among others, Ziegler and North mentioned the same two men in their first letters (written three days apart) – Gen. Samuel Sturgis, from Shippensburg, was commander of the Washington defenses and Maj. Hershberger of Chambersburg, was in charge of drilling and schooling the officers of the 126th.
Read carefully over the next nine months to compare their points of view of the war and to see what happens to both rather “green” and naïve soldiers of the 126th PA V in their first letters home. This column is entitled “Soldier’s Letter,” which is what was handwritten by soldiers on the envelopes of many of their letters sent home.
Following the "Soldier's Letter" series, a column on the "Soldier's Story" will continue.
On June 22, 1861, the 35th Regiment was organized at Camp Curtin. Joseph A. Davison, Antrim Township, enlisted for three years in Company D, 6th Pennsylvania Reserves in the 35th regiment. Upon enlistment, he was made first sergeant of the company. Camp Curtin served as boot camp for enlistees. Company D was armed with Harper’s Ferry muskets. Orders were received on July 11, to be ready to march on July 12 from Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, to Camp Biddle, near Greencastle. Co. D was stationed at Camp Biddle from July 12, 1861 to July 22, 1861, during which time Maj. Hershberger, Chambersburg, continued to drill the men. On July 22, the men were sent to Washington by way of the railroad. On August 1, 1862, Davison was promoted to first lieutenant. His letter is written from camp, near Harrison’s Landing, VA.
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