Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas 1861 with the 47th PA Veteran Volunteer Infantry

The men  of Warren County (NJ) and Northampton and Lehigh Counties (PA) celebrated Christmas 1861 at Camp Griffin, VA, near Washington, D.C.  Snow had covered the ground, and the cold temperatures hardened the mud that had been created by days of rain the week before.  The soldiers had decorated their huts.  All tree stumps had been removed from the regimental camp perimeter, and small cedars were planted around the parade ground, along the streets, and at the entrances to officers' huts.

Captain J. P. S. Gobin, of Company C, described Christmas with the 47th PA, "Christmas was spent in a manner entirely different from that which most of us were accustomed to spend it.  No drilling was done, and the men scattered about as their inclinations led them.  Most of us, however, dined on turkeys provided by the Sutler at $1.75 a piece."  One of the pastimes offered to the men was the use of the Regimental Library of 25 books donated to the 47th PA in September by the Sunbury Presbyterian Church.  

The regimental band, Easton's famous Pomp's Coronet Band, held a Christmas concert for the entire Brigade.  Gobin stated in his journal, "The day was very pleasant, and in the evening, the New York 33rd gave a Ball on their parade ground.  As I sat in my quarters, I could hear the familiar 'all hands round, swing your partners' sung out in a manner that showed they were going in with a will.  There were no ladies present, nor was there a bar-room for the young men to frequent, and everything passed off finely.  In one division of ten thousand men, I did not on that day see a single person intoxicated."

Captain Richard Graeffe, of Company A, was still home on furlough in Easton.  While he was away, Washington, D.C. photographer David Bigley was granted permission to set up his camera and "studio" in Graeffe's "log palace."  Bigley would make Ambrotypes [photos on glass] for soldiers of the 47th PA so they could send them to their families and friends before shipping off to Florida to man Fort Zachary Taylor on Key West and Fort Jefferson on Shark island in the Dry Tortugas. 

Private Mike Delany, of Easton, in Company A wrote wrote to the Easton Daily Evening Express on December 26, "Now that Christmas has emerged into the times that was, it may not be  inappropriate to make a few remarks concerning the manner in which the festival was celebrated by the 'bowld soger boys' in this neighborhood, a place now generally supposed to be infinitely beyond  the pale of civi, I suppose, of its youth and purity, whose internal regions betrayed the fact of its last meal, while on the land of the living, to be a highly seasoned one.  Next came sausages, interminable links of sausage, which, after officiating somewhat in the manner of 'the five loaves and fishes,' enable me to decorate the tent's interior, in an artistic manner, far surpassing the festoons or fresco paintings of the renowned Michael Angelo.  The various other items I must pass over till another opportunity, except the liquids, which I must remark was of such a quality, that before half of it was disposed of, a band of fellows might be heard indulging in the melodious strains of 'We're all a Nodding, bob, bob, a Nodding.'  We must avail ourselves of your columns to return to Mr. Seitz our sincere thanks for such unexpected, and undeserved, kindness, and we earnestly hope and pray that his wine press may never rest from its labors, nor his gobblers degenerate, either in size, quality or number.

"In the afternoon of the day, the inevitable dress parade took place, at which all the formalities were duly undergone, not excepting the company commander's advance to the center, to the tune of the Rogues March, or some other music it is our pleasure to hear frequently executed by Pomp's Band.  It is my pleasant duty to informs the citizens of Easton that Pomp's Band has acquired an ascendancy in these regions, both from the character of the pieces arranged by Mr. Coates, and manner of execution that justly renders them the 'ne plus ultra' of the musical profession.  Corroborative of the high appreciation in which their performances are held, I must say that the leader, Mr. Coates, keeps constantly employed writing music and filling orders that are incessantly flowing in from the bands around Alexandria and the surrounding camps.  To follow them while executing Captain Dachrod's Quickstep is inspiring and makes a fellow feel infinitely greater  than the Great Alexander, of sea-chastising notoriety.  Talk about storming batteries, war, and the walls of Quebec, with such music in the van, said walls would crumble, if threatened by a party with no other arms but walking sticks.  They did the Christmas night serenading through the Brigade, and of course, the General's  best rectified found itself in thousands of individuals, capable of bestowing on its distinguished honor.  

"We were agreeably occupied in reading your paper of the 23rd instant, containing a communication from a lady, who visited various camps, and portrayed what came under her observation.  She seemed to be horrified at the fact of soldiers sleeping with stockings on and bolsterifying their knapsacks, having labored under the impression, I suppose, that each soldier had an attendant to bring him in the morning hot water, shaving apparatus, moustache dying receipt, eau-de-cologne, fine tooth combs, and everything else necessary to the completion of a dandy's toilet.  Let the dear girl but visit the 47th, and she will have an opportunity of beholding the bright side of the picture.  No cases of sickness, owing to the efficiency and unremitted labors of Surgeon Bailey and his Assistant, Dr. Scheetz, and every man gay and happy, whose only ailment is a worrying state of peaceful inactivity.  In order that she may witness our expertness, where preserves are the order of t he day, she must bring some jellies, and my goodness, if we don;t clearly demonstrate the inutility of soap-suds to our fingers, its more than I conceive; besides, she will depart with the pleasant satisfaction of knowing that her relationship is vastly extended, every man failing not to observe, like the Vermonters, that there is a resemblance between her and his mother.

"On last Friday while trying to demolish a bowl of soup, which, by the way, is a conglomeration of every article in the known vegetable kingdom, with pork or beef juice and water, the long roll beat, and incompliance with its suggestions, the 47th, in a shorter time than it requires to relate to the same, uttering wild huzzahs and frantic with excitement, were in line awaiting the Colonel's orders to march.  So quickly was the movement effected, that the General was heard to remark that whatever work was to be performed give him the 47th.  The Brigade started forward, and having arrived at the place suspected of danger, Company A, under the command of Lieut. James F. Meyers, and Company I, deployed right and left as skirmishers, leaving the main corps to proceed in column along the road.  Our expedition through the woods revealed nothing save a few indications of a prior Rebel occupation, namely some fence rail sheds, covered with spruce, and the position behind a hill, on top of which rested a battery, awaiting the enemy's advance; but in this, as on several other occasions, we were disappointed and consequently returned to camp, considerably more depressed than at the start.

"It is reported by reliable authority that our stay here will soon terminate, for some destination as yet unknown, so Captain Graeffe, who is now recruiting in Easton, will perceive the necessity, or otherwise, of his reappearance in camp, an incident to be hailed with the highest satisfaction, not only by the men, but by Lieutenants Meyers and Dening, whose duties have of late become insufferably onerous.  I would recommend all who have it in contemplation to take up their country's cause, to embark under him, being from his long military experience, the only man capable of seeing them righted in every respect, as the men can fully testify, from the proceedings of the last pay day.  So wishing all a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and many recurrence of the same, I remain, Yours Respectfully, Mike Delany, Co.A, 47th Regt. P.V.    PS - Daguerreotyping has become a permanent institution with the 47th, Mr. David Bigley, a Washington artist,  having submitted his fortune to the fate of the Regiment, and is now operating in the log palace of Capt. Graeffe."    

Copyright 1999-2011: Jay C. Richards                       

No comments:

Post a Comment