Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Letter #16 -- New Berne, North Carolina - June 27, 1862

The letter of June 27, 1862 provides confirmation of the unhealthy conditions of army camp life during the Civil War.  In this letter, JWD describes the death of a comrade and friend Adam B. Klock.  I did some research on Private Klock and found a few discrepancies in the various records.

For example....

In the Pennsylvania ARIAS Civil War Soldiers refers to Private Klock as Andrew B. Klock.  I don't know if Adam was a nickname or if JWD just made a mistake in writing his name in the letter, but there is a difference.  Also, in Munsell's...History of Schulykill County, Pa., it lists his name as Andrew.  However, another discrepancy in that record shows J.H. Dorr as dying of disease, when it was actually J.H. Derr (previously mentioned in my prior posts).

The Miner's Journal in 1865 listed the casualities of the 48th PVI.  Below is an excerpt....

Miner's Journal - 1865

Upon the saddest chapter of this work we now enter. It is to give a record of the names of the sons of Schuylkill who died that their country might live. They yielded up their spirits in the noblest cause and while we mourn, we are consoled by the reflection that their memories will be embalmed in the national heart while Freedom claims a votary on our continent. 

Lieut. Alexander FOX died Dec. 1, 1861, on steamer Spaulding near Fortress Monroe Andrew SPEAR died Apr. 15, 1862, at Newbern, N.C. Andrew KLOCK died June 30, 1862 Addison SEAMAN died July 16, 1862 Mattie SHEAFER died August 4, 1862, on board steamer Cossack Charles MILLER killed at Bull Run, Va., Aug. 29, 1862 George RAMER died Sept. 6, 1862 of wounds William BAMBRICK died Sept. 12, 1862 of wounds Alva F. JEFFRIES killed Sept. 17, 1862, at Antietam John SULLIVAN died Oct. 8, 1862, of wounds received at Bull Run Henry WILLIAMSON killed at Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862 Thomas KINNEY killed at Fredericksburg, Dec. 13, 1862 Jonathan KAUFMAN killed in battle, May, 1864 Henry DORWARD killed in battle, Sept. 1864 Daniel OKON killed in battle, Sept. 1864 Corporal J. H. DORR died in Washington, Jan. 1863 William H. SMITH died in Annapolis, Apr. 7, 1864 John DEITRICH died Mar. 22, 1864 Solomon EYSTER, died in Philadelphia, Aug. 22, 1864 David MILLER died in Annapolis, Nov. 6, 1864 C. Philip BECKMAN died in Baltimore, Feb. 9, 1865 Charles F. HESSER died (n.r.) Jonas Z. RABER died (n.r.) 1st Lieut. Henry GRAEFF died in Pottsville, Mar. 26, 1865, of disease contracted in rebel prisons Total 23

Note that this record shows Klock's death date as June 30, 1862.  We know that is not possible, since the letter from JWD to his parents described his death, and was written on June 27, 1862.  This highlights some of the errors that are in the "official" records.

In Letter #16, JWD describes that Andrew "Adam" B. Klock died of Typhoid fever.  A common problem during the war owing to the unsanitary conditions of the camps and army life at that time.

Excerpt from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website regarding Typhoid fever....


Typhoid fever is an infection that causes diarrhea and a rash -- most commonly due to a type of bacteria called Salmonella typhi (S. typhi).

Causes, incidence, and risk factors

The bacteria that cause typhoid fever -- S. typhi -- spread through contaminated food, drink, or water. If you eat or drink something that is contaminated, the bacteria enter your body. They travel into your intestines, and then into your bloodstream, where they can get to your lymph nodes, gallbladder, liver, spleen, and other parts of your body.
A few people can become carriers of S. typhi and continue to release the bacteria in their stools for years, spreading the disease.
Typhoid fever is common in developing countries, but fewer than 400 cases are reported in the U.S. each year. Most cases in the U.S. are brought in from other countries where typhoid fever is common.


Early symptoms include fever, general ill-feeling, and abdominal pain. A high (typically over 103 degrees Fahrenheit) fever and severe diarrhea occur as the disease gets worse.
Some people with typhoid fever develop a rash called "rose spots," which are small red spots on the abdomen and chest.


In addition to JWD's report of the death of Private Klock, he talks about how miserable life is North Carolina in the summer.  For a Pennsylvania boy who lived in the mountain regions and probably never experienced the hot, humid and sweltering summers of the south, life inNew Berne, NC was undoubtably miserable.

And now...Letter #16.....

New Berne, North Carolina
June the 27 A.D. 1862

My Dear Father,

                                                I take pen in hand to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  Further, I let you know that I received your letter this evening after we came in from dress parade and I was very glad to hear from  you and to here that you are all well and I am very glad to hear that you got my ten dollars which I did send home and got my shirts which you did send to me and I am very glad that you got all my letters which I wrote to you.  The reason was that I wrote so many to you was I did send that first letter home with them ten dollars and I didn’t get no answer for about four weeks and I thought that it might be lost maybe but so we are all right.  But I am sorry to say that Adam B. Klock died.  He died on the 23 and we buried him the 24.  He had typhoid fever.  We was only about one week sick.  I let you know that it is very hot here and very unhealthy.  We are in great danger of starvation but we put our trust in God.  Don’t forget to answer this letter as soon as you get this from me.  So much from me your respectful son.

                                                                                                John W. Derr

Direct your letter to John W. Derr, CO. “D” Regt. PA., Burnsides Expedition,  North Carolina in care of Capt W. W. Potts

Jim D.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Letter #15 - New Berne, North Carolina - June 11, 1862

The letter of June 11th, 1862 is much like others...repetition of prior letters, but in this case it includes an acknowledgement of the receipt of a letter from his parents.  In prior posts, I wrote about how soldiers often wrote multiple letters of the same subject due to the lack of confidence in the postal service, especially within a theater of war.  I wonder how many soldiers in other wars such as World War I and World War II did the same.   I suspect that it is not a frequent practice today owing to the use of the internet, email and telecommunications, which makes real time communication much more available.  Such is the life of a Civil War era soldier....and John W. Derr.

In previous posts, JWD had requested that his mother send him shirts that he could wear under his uniform frock.  The usage of wool as the primary material for uniforms in the 19th century made the utilization of cotton and soft flannel, a necessity.  Being June in North Carolina, and based on his prior descriptions of heat and unhealthy air, a nice new set of shirts was what he needed to stay somewhat comfortable.  JWD was wise to request gray flannel shirts vs. the white shirts his cousin John H. Derr he describes.  Keeping white shirts clean-looking was a real chore and downright impossible in the environment in which the soldier lived.

Overall, not a very revealing letter, but it does close the loop on the concern JWD had for the lack of parental correspondence!

And now Letter #15....

Camp near New Berne, N. C.
June 11th, 1862

My dear Father,

                                                      I take my pen in hand to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  Further, I let you know that I received your letter on Saturday the 7 and my box on Tuesday the 10 with our shirts and we was very glad to have them and my shirts fit very well.  But the others are much too light and they are too long but I am well satisfied with them and John H. Derr he is very thankful for the favor which you done for him but he is sorry that he didn’t send for some grey ones like mine but he is well satisfied with them and you mentioned in your letter that you drawed my money again for the last two months and I am very glad that you did and take good care of it.  So I didn’t know much more to write this time so I will come to a close and say good by for this time.  Answer this letter as soon as you get this from me.

                                                                                                                              Your respectful son,

                                                                                                                              John W. Derr

                              Direct your letter to John W. Derr, Co. “D” 48 Regiment PA., Burnsides Expedition, North Carolina in care of Capt. W.W. Potts


Monday, June 4, 2012

Letter #14 - Camp Near New Berne, North Carolina -- June 4, 1862

The letter of June 4th, 1862 provides no new insights into the path to be taken by JWD.  As is true and well documented by many soldier past and present, war tends to be short horrific battles with long routine interludes.  JWD was in one of these "interludes" between the battle of New Berne earlier in the year, and  the imminent movement of the 48th back into Virginia in preparation for the ongoing Peninsula Campaign of 1862.  Though the 48th would transition back in July of 1862 for support to this campaign, they would ultimately see another destiny as a key element of the union disaster at the battle of Second Bull Run.  As you will read in a few months, Second Bull Run changed forever, the life of JWD.

Letter #14 continues the discussion between JWD and his parents regarding the break down of communication between them.  As I have mentioned before...the reliability and slowness of a war time postal system for in the field communication...caused much anxiety amongst the troops.  In the case of JWD, it revolved around monies that he sent through the mail, that he believed had been lost.  It also highlights a method he uses throughout the war of repeating letters in order to ensure that eventually one would get through and his message would be heard.  Clearly, every one of the letters I post here in thes blog made it through....I have no idea how many did not.

References in this letter include his cousin, John H. Derr, corporal of the 48th who later dies and is buried in Washington DC in 1863.  (Note prior blogs for December 2011).

                                                                                                Camp near New Berne, N.C.
                                                                                                June the 4th, 1862

My Dear Father,
                        I take my pen in hand to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  Further I let you know that this is the fourth letter that I wrote to you since April and didn’t get no answer yet.  Now I Can’t think what is the reason that I don’t get no answer to the first one that I wrote home.  I wrote for some shirts that you should send to me and I had ten dollars of money in it and I didn’t hear anything yet about the shirts yet and neither about the money and John H. Derr he wanted to have some sent along.  I wrote in my letter that our boys should go over to his parents and fetch his shirts and put it in my box and send them in my box.  And John H. Derr he got a letter from home and said that his parents sent his shirts off in my box and I didn’t get no box and no letter yet.  Now I wish you would let me know whether you got that letter or not with that money or not and whether you did send them shirts or not.  So I must come to a close.  Don’t forget to answer this letter.

                                                                                                Your respectful son,

                                                                                                John W. Derr

Direct you letter to John W. Derr, Co. “D”, 48th Regiment PA., Burnsides’ Expedition North Carolina, in care of Capt. William W. Potts

Jim D.