Leaving Hyde Park, flag presentation by ladies of Pittston, journey by train to Camp Curtin, quartered in state house.
House of Representatives Senate Chamber,
August 13, 1862
Dear Annie, ♠
We arrived in Harrisburg yesterday all in good due. I can assure you that it was very hard to part with my dear friends in Hyde Park on the Depot. I shall not attempt to describe it for it is beyond my power. You may say that I put a good face on it, but it was far from being so in my heart. After we got to Pittston we started for the recruiting office, but strolled around until eight o’clock when we were treated in magnificent style by the ladies of Pittston with a silk flag, inscribed Schooley’s Battery. The presentation was made on behalf of the Pittstonians by some gentleman that I forgot his name, so you will excuse me for not giving his name. ♣ After the presentation, we were conducted to Phoenix Hall and entertained with refreshments and music. I tell you cake was in immense profusion and variety, ice cream and lemonade also, and the “Red, White and Blue” was sung by the ladies. ♥ We all say that Pittston has outdone herself this time.
We started from Pittston with the Scranton Volunteers at six in the morning. Mr. Richards accompanied us to Kingston. I was affected very much at parting with him, the last words he said I’ll ever remember. They came right from his heart, “God bless you boy.” I have faith that the Lord will bless us all and if we fall it will be all right.
We have a decent set of men and you may say that I say it. This is going to be the crack company.
This is going to be the crack company.
At Danville there was tremendous cheering as we passed. It was the same all the way through. We arrived in Harrisburg at 2 o’clock and were marched to Camp Curtin 1½ miles from town. ♦ The road was very dusty, in fact it is hard to recognize your friends for the dust. The first thing we saw in camp was a fellow kicked out of it. It seems that the fellow refused to be mustered in after he had enlisted and the whole company was kicking him and yelling after him. Fine introduction that was, but it served him right. The next thing we saw was our shanties, with about 50 bunks and nothing but hard board to lay on. We did not care for that but they were so filthy. We remonstrated and now we have the finest place in the world in the Senate Chamber of the House of Representatives. I tell you the other regiments envy us. They are now calling off our names to present us with a $5 piece. Good.
We intend starting for Fort Delaware this week. Please give my best respects to all your folks. Hoping to hear from you soon.
I am happy to subscribe myself yours forever, — William B. Phillips
P.S. Good bye. God Bless You
LETTER 1 NOTES
♠ Annie Richards was born 18 July 1843 in Pennsylvania, the daughter of Thomas Richards and his wife Margaret. In the 1860 US Census, Annie lived at home with her parents and labored as a dress maker. Annie would later become William Phillips’ wife. Thomas Richards was born in Wales in 1812 and came to America with his wife Margaret in 1833. His residence in the US Census of 1850 and 1860 is given as Carbondale, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. He labored as a shoe maker.
♣ The gentleman whose name William Phillips could not remember was Theodore Strong, a prominent merchant of Pittston, PA. According to the local newspapers, Mr. Strong made the presentation at the Eagle Hotel during the evening hours of August 12th.
♥ The “Red, White, & Blue of ’61” was written by A. Bachmann, lyrics by G. Gumpert. Philadelphia, PA: Lee & Walker, 722 Chestnut St.
1. May God bless our flag and our land,
United in strength and for freedom we stand.
The chains of oppression are broken in two.
All hail to our Colors The Red, White and Blue.
CHORUS [sung after each verse]
The chains of oppression are broken in two.
All hail to our Colors, the Red, White and Blue.
2. From North unto South, from the East to the West,
Floats proudly our Banner, o’er the land of the blest.
Upheld by our brothers so gallant and true,
All hail to our Colors, the Red, White and Blue.
3. The blood shed for Freedom by our Sires in the wars
Has crowned high with glory the Stripes and the Stars
Though barefoot and hungry, they fought their way through,
For the praise and the honor of the Red, White and Blue.
4. Great nation of Freedom, Great Land of the Brave,
Unfurl now thy Banner, for e’er may it wave,
As a sign to all nations, as an emblem to you,
That no foe is too mighty, for the Red, White and Blue.
♦ Camp Curtin was named after Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtain who occupied the office at the time of the outbreak of the Civil War. The camp was sited on the grounds of the Dauphin County Agricultural Society in the northern outskirts of Harrisburg. It was opened in April 1861, hosting as many as 300,000 soldiers who converged there to be organized into units, drilled, and sent forward to join armies in the field or to supply various garrisons.
Life at Camp Curtin, slipping the guard to spend night in Harrisburg, encountering bed bugs, touring the state house, soldier drummed out of the service, ready to leave for Fort Delaware.
August 20, 1862
Dear Mr. [Thomas] Richards,
I am happy to say that I have received your most welcome letter and am also glad to find that (??)…..not be given less. You see that (??) the daily Camp Curtin, doing our duty to the Quarter Master. You would be inclined to smile if you were to see [Billy] Davis ♠ falling upon fat pork. We get up about 5 o’clock A.M. with faces as long as a bean pole. The soldiers dare not go down town as they will be roughly dealt with if caught. Last Saturday, Davis and me succeeded in running the guard and put for town. After we went past town a little we went to the hotel ♣ and put for our room, congratulating ourselves for having a soft bed for the night. Anyhow, after I slept for about an hour, Davis got up, lit his candle and bellows out, “Bill, surrender the bed. We’re being attacked!” I came and there they were on all fours, thick as hops. We surrendered at discretion, but it was too bad that two United States Volunteers had to capitulate to a few bed bugs. The result was we had to lay on the floor, after dreaming of soft beds and pillows.
Bill, surrender the bed. We’re being attacked!
Next morning (Sunday) we went to the [Paxton] Presbyterian Church, a magnificent building I can assure you. We were treated there to a good sermon and glorious singing. It did us good. We felt that peace and rest that man naturally feels on Sunday. But that night we put for camp fearing being caught.
Yesterday I was in the Governor’s room in the State House. We saw there a great many relics, portraits of the founders and Governors of State of Pennsylvania; William Penn, Keith Gordon, Sojan Franklin, B. Moore, Ex-Governor Porter, Andrew G. Curtin, 2 Search flags, 2 Rebel swords captured at New Orleans [and] very rough made homemade knives. We saw some ancient documents in a glass case; the veto of [King] George III, autographs of William Penn, George Washington, Morris and some very curious signatures of Indian Chiefs such as a Pistol, Skeleton, Turtle, [and] Snake. The Mohawk Chief’s signature was thus ( / / ). We saw also a piece of the Rebel flag from Ft. Pulaski, ♥ the Declaration of Independence, also the grants of land by [King] Charles II to William Penn, also the Constitution of Pennsylvania. I can assure you that Davis and me were paid well for our trouble.
Dear Mr. Richards, we leave for Fort Delaware tomorrow at 1 o’clock. Thank God for that, and we hope soon that we will have a chance to display some of our courage and skill. We go knowing that there is some heavy and hot work before us, trusting in God to give us the victory. I believe we will yet see a happy and united country.
Dear friend, I have no news for you. As you know, we are in camp, and what happens in Camp Curtin I would not try to entertain anybody with it. One thing of interest happened though yesterday – a coward was drummed out. The fellow would not stand muster, so he was left to the mercy of the crowd who went after him with drums, sticks and feet, yelling and hooting like beasts. The poor devil suffered, I tell you.
Please give my best respects to Mrs. Richards and kiss dear little Nettie for me. Give my respects also to Henry and Joshua, Susan and all the folks, big and small. ♦ Accept, dear friend the highest regards of yours truly, — William B. Phillips
William [Davis] endorses the whole of this so you can take it from the both of us.
LETTER 2 NOTES
♠ William “Billy” Davis was born in Wales in 1840. In the US Census of 1860, he is shown as residing in Hyde Park, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. His occupation is given as “Clerk.” According to troop records, William Davis entered Company M, 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery as a Corporal. He left the service as a Sergeant, though he served as a Second Lieutenant while attached to the “Provisional Heavies from April to August, 1864.
♣ The hotel where Privates Phillips and Davis encountered bed bugs was probably “Herr’s Hotel” (see envelope image in banner above). Daniel Herr (born about 1795) established his hotel in Harrisburg’s East Ward sometime in the 1840’s. It appears that the hotel closed about 1864-5. While staying in the hotel, perhaps Privates Phillips and Davis also encountered seventeen year-old John Quincy Adams, a Black servant who was employed by the establishment. In his memoirs, John Q. Adams wrote that he was given a letter of recommendation which read, “The bearer, John Q. Adams, was in our employ as bell-tender, and dining room waiter, during the years 1862, 1863, and 1864, and always performed his duties with promptness and entire satisfaction to ourselves. We, therefore, cheerfully recommend him to any one who may desire his services as honest, trustworthy, and fully competent to fulfill any duties to which he may be assigned. — Coyle & Herr, Former Proprietors of Herr’s Hotel.”
♥ Fort Pulaski, a coastal fort near Savannah, George, was surrendered by Confederate Colonel Olmstead to Federal forces on 11 April 1862. The rebel flag was lowered at 2:30 in the afternoon.
♦ Nettie Richards was the 3 year-old daughter of 28 year-old David Richards — a son of Thomas Richards, to whom the letter is addressed. Joshua Richards was a 23 year-old clerk living in Hyde Park, Pennsylvania. He was the second eldest son of Thomas Richards. Susan Richards was the 21 year-old daughter of Thomas Richards. In 1860, she also resided in Hyde Park, Pennsylvania. She would eventually marry William Davis, who is mentioned in this letter.