Sunday, March 30, 2014

World War II Baseball Bat Update #3

Another update on "the bat" from previous postings here at this blog....

The Museum of the Mighty Eighth received the bat in good order and are in the process of determining what to do with it....

Here is an article from their monthly newsletter...

Link to the website of the National Museum of the Might Eighth Air Force:

Link to the article below:

A Very Unique Donation from England
by Sam Martin

This past month the museum received a very unique donation in the form of a baseball bat made for American flyers at an English airbase in Lincolnshire.  Mr. Jim Derr of Poolesville, Maryland, who facilitated the donation, provided us with the history of the bat as related to him:

"So, my story starts in England in 1998 when I was assigned to work a program for my company.  My family came with me and we lived in southern England for 3 years. . . In our small village of Stubbington, my wife's regular hairdresser, Kim, loved to talk about her family and particularly her father, who loved Americans based on his interaction with them during World War II.  Her father was a teenage boy who lived in Lincolnshire, a county north of London.  The boy lived in a village close to one of the airfields used by the USAAF 8th Air Force, and spent a lot of his time 'hanging out' with the GIs.  Kim was kind enough to share her family stories and one of them caught my attention. . . The story goes like this (from a letter written by Kim to my wife Laura) '. . . In 1944 on a Lincolnshire airfield a squadron of American bomber pilots arrived.  They had their baseball, and the English pilots had their cricket.  One day, the Americans decided it would be fun to make the cricket bat disappear.  The English retaliated likewise, and the Americans' baseball bat disappeared as well.  The local village wainwright's assistant, who was only a young lad, thought the Americans were wonderful.  So he made them a baseball bat.  When the Americans finally went home, they gave the bat back to the young lad who made it.'  The young lad was her father.  Her father always cherished the bat and the memories that it brought back to him of a time when life was uncertain...and a bunch of American pilots entered his world.  He always had an affection for America after the war and his trophy bat reminded him of an exciting earlier time in his life."

In the coming weeks, we are working to identify the English airfield and the American USAAF unit assigned there as we give this unique artifact a permanent home as part of the Eighth Air Force's honored history.

Jim D.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Letter #32 -- Annapolis, MD -- March 22, 1864

After a long 15 month wait...the return of the Civil War Letters of John W. Derr...thank you for your patience....

John's letter home on this Tuesday in March of 1864 is the modern day equivalent of the "safe arrival call".  John is providing his parents an update to his travels after a nearly 3 month furlough of the 48th PVI back in Pennsylvania.  The 48th, spent the better part of 1863 on provost duty in Kentucky and Tennessee, concluding with a re-enlistment of the regiment at Blain's Crossroads, Tennessee on December 31, 1863.  A well deserved 3 month furlough for the 48th was a welcome respite and reward for a job well done. March of 1864 it was time to return to the field and the eastern theater of the war.  John departed his Deep Creek valley home en route to Pottsville in order to embark on the train that would carry the 48th to Harrisburg and eventually to Annapolis, MD...a mustering site during the war.  It was the second trip to Annapolis by John, with the first being after his capture at Second Bull Run.  Annapolis was used as a parole station and that was where John was exchanged in September of 1862.

The letter is typical of John...a little bit of update...a little bit of health update.  He complains about the cold weather and a toothache that he is suffering.  Given the condition of his leg after the wounding at Second Bull Run, John was relegated to "driving teams".  We know that this was a mule team, based on on subsequent letters he wrote about them.  He is indicating to his parents that he does not yet have a team to drive.  It would appear that the main activity of the 48th during this period was drilling and training...ostensibly to "knock the rust off" of the men after a 3 month break.

1864 will be a significant year for the 48th with difficult engagements through out the year.  John writes about these events during the course of 1864 and I look forward to sharing them with you.

                                                                                                Camp near Annapolis, MD
                                                                                                March 22, 1864

My Dear Father,
                        I take my pen in hand to inform you this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  I let you know that we had to leave Pottsville that same day and went to Harrisburg and laid there for three days.  Then we went on to Annapolis, Md, and here we are in camp now and our whole corps is coming here and here we will lay until our new men are drilled, but how long that will be I don’t know.  I let you know that it is very cold here now.  We are near freezing in our tents and I have toothache near all the time that we are here.  But I have good times just now for I have no team to drive and I won’t drill any only go in dress parade in the evening.  That is all I am doing at present time and that is too much for me.  So dear Father and Mother I have not much to write for this time because it is too cold to write.  I will write soon again.  Give my best respects to my sisters and brothers and to all inquiring friends.  So I will bring my letter to a close for this time.  This few lines from your respective son.

                                                                                                John W. Derr

Answer soon and direct you letter to J.W. Derr, Co. D, 48th Regt. Pa, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division., 9th Army Corps, Annapolis, MD.

Jim D.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Coming Soon...Resumption of "The Letters"!

I have been receiving plenty of correspondence regarding the resumption of "The Letters" here is the plan...

As I wrote about in December of 2012, there is a gap in The Civil War Letters of John W. Derr that spans the timeframe from December 22, 1862 to March 22, 1864.  When I received the letters from my father as a 12 year old boy, I noticed immediately that the year 1863 was conspicuously absent.  At that point, my father and I queried all the family members we could think of regarding the location of the this missing lot.  Unfortunately, we were unable to determine the location, or that matter, whether they ever existed.  Given the frequency of John's writing in 1861-1862 and 1864 to the end of the war, it is likely that he wrote during 1863 and the letters were just lost.  There is no way to prove this, but it seems like a likely scenario.

During 2013, I spent time filling in my blog entries with other information...and frankly...ran out of ideas that had anything to do with anything.  My last entry was regarding the WWII baseball bat that I donated to the Mighty 8th Air Force museum in Pooler, Georgia (more on that in the future...there is an update), but then I realized that I was just babbling in blog I stopped.   With the 15 month gap in letters coming to a close in 5 days, I decided to send a note out reminding people that are interested that the blogging will resume soon with dozens of remaining letters.   I look forward to reengaging the blog and my readers who have been faithful and patient.  Thank you.

As I wrote about last year...the 48th PVI was sent to the Kentucky/Tennessee theater in 1863 to provide provost duty in support of General Burnsides who was relieved of his Virginia theater command after Fredericksburg.   For the most part, the 48th enjoyed a relaxed 9 months in Lexington, KY as well as in some level of engagement in Tennessee, culminating in the reenlistment of the 48th PVI at Blain's Crossroads in the Tennessee.  After John's reenlistment on December 31, 1863, he was furloughed along with the 48th until March of 1864.  That is where the letters resume.

In 5 days, I will post the first letter since December 2012.  I look forward to your continued support and dedication to this blog.  Please feel free to comment or email me with comments, suggestions and corrections.

Best wishes,

Jim D.