Thursday, September 6, 2012

September 3, 1862: Creation of the 31st NJ Regiment & Camp Belvidere

After the Second Battle of Manassas [or Bull Run] in August 1862, President Abraham Lincoln called for the raising of 600,000 fresh troops.  These would be nine months militia units.  In Warren County, NJ, the Warren Brigade of Reserve Militia joined with Hunterdon County militia companies to form the 31st NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  Warren County troops left Belvidere by train for South Flemington in Hunterdon County, where they established Camp Belvidere. 
William H. H. Warman, of Oxford Township [now White Township], was a member of the Belvidere Infantry Company. He enlisted in the 31st Regiment on September 3, 1862 at age 22 years.  He and his comrades were mustered into Federal Service on September 17.  The Belvidere Infantry Company members were redesignated as Company I, 31st NJV Infantry Regiment.  
Washington Borough attorney Alexander P. Berthoud had very little military experience but had political clout.  On September 11, he was commissioned colonel in command of the 31st NJV Regiment.  His lack of military experience caused problems in training and later in war.
Warman wrote to The Belvidere Intelligencer, "After being examined  and sworn in on Saturday, we marched to Camp Fair Oaks, now [Camp] Kearny, for dinner, or rather supper, if time be considered, where we remained 'till Monday, P.M. (1st instant), when we were transferred to Camp Belvidere, as it has been fitly appellated.  Our camp consists of the Brick Academy and play grounds, which is situated in the southeast part of the pleasant and healthy town of Flemington.  We have spread our ticks filled with straw  on the floor of the upper story: the desks and seats being removed, it affords us very comfortable sleeping quarters.  The lower school we use for an eating room: the writing desks being left, they serve the purpose of tables admirably; and the old play grounds, which contain about half a square acre, and which are enclosed by a fence, constitute our play and drill grounds.  We have some fine sport playing ball, &c.; have not had to drill but four hours a day yet, and during the day have been privileged to go and do as we chose, and in short, we have had good and pleasant  times thus far.  Nothing to do, plenty to eat, which is just the thing many like to do; alas too many.  Yet, I anticipate we will all soon have a change of life.  I think it will not be our good fortune to stay many weeks with the kind, hospitable and patriotic people of Flemington.
"We have a fine looking and generally well-behaved company, but too few of us are as good as we look, and too many much worse.  It appears that soldiering and profanity and many other vices are inherent.  I think I have heard more swearing since in camp than in all my life before, notwithstanding the camp regulations, which prohibit it.  Wherever you see a squad of soldiers, if you approach near enough to hear their conversation, it is universally contaminated by blasphemous oaths.  Oh, I would that the 22nd article of our regulations was constantly and strictly enforced.  I have talked with several of them, and those who are or have been in the habit of profanity, earnestly wish for the enforcement of this article, and they wish to quit it, and think this is the only way wholly and expeditiously to abolish it.  Men who are going forth to fight the battles of our country, and, as we think, the battles of God, and who are going directly into the face of death then go in such a spirit of prayer as this are surely going forth in a wrong way, and I do hope this liberty will be taken from our freemen soldiers.  May the Lord grant to us his Grace, that we may each become praying, valiant soldiers, that as we go forth to fight the battles of our Republic, it may not be in our own strength, but in the strength of the God of battles."
Copyright 1997-2012: Jay C. Richards

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