A Collection in
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Accession Number 11395
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Letters to Henry A. Bitner, Accession #11395, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.
This collection was originally donated by Bitner's great-grandson, Mr. Jack Bitner, of Mt. Gretna, Pennsylvania, in April 1996 to the "Valley of the Shadow" project of the University of Virginia; on March 25, 1998, the letters were donated to the Library by "Valley" project director Edward L. Ayers.
This collection consists of twenty-seven items, chiefly letters written to Henry A. Bitner of Shippensburg, Franklin County, Pennsylvania, May 17, 1861 to May 25, 1863. Civilian and Union soldier friends of Bitner (who was apparently a school teacher) wrote the twenty-two letters from Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia. The major correspondents are: Dave [David] R. P. Shoemaker (Company E, 11th Regiment Ohio Volunteers; eight letters); Alex "Little Ellic" Cressler (a Chambersburg, Pennsylvania civilian (who died 1861 October 14); five letters); Thad Donnelly (Company D, 130th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry; four letters); William H. Kindig (Company B, 107th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, two letters); Henry T. Daihl (Company A, 77th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, one letter).
They discuss several Civil War battles, personal and public incidents, and personalties. The correspondents describe the battles [followed by the date of the letter which discuss them] of Rich Mountain, Virginia (July 15, 1861), First Manassas, or First Bull Run (July 30, 1861), Cedar Mountain (August 13, 1862), and South Mountain (October 18, 1862). Prominent Union generals and civilians mentioned include: Nathaniel Banks (1816-1894) Jacob D. Cox (1828-1900); George Crook (1828-1890); Andrew G. Curtin (1817-1894); Abram Duryee (1815-1890); Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth (1837-1861); John Charles Fremont (1813-1890); George B. McClellan (1826-1885); Irvin McDowell (1818-1885); Robert Patterson (1792-1881); John Pope (1822-1892); William S. Rosencrans (1819-1898); and George D. Wise (?-?). Several minor Union officers are also mentioned by name. Prominent Confederate officers discussed or mentioned by Bitner's correspondents include: Braxton Bragg (1817-1876); Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (1824-1863); Joseph E. Johnston (1807-1891); John Hunt Morgan (1825- 1864).
Several letters or their envelopes contain colored patriotic images as well as camp news, battle and march rumors, and family news. Information of special interest includes a detailed description of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania (June 18, 1861); soldiers badly missing the company of women (January 18, 1862 and February 22, 1863); the high cost of apples (January 5, 1862); an envelope poem "The Bravest Home" (August 13, 1862); a visit to Baltimore and Washington, D.C. (August 20, 1862); life as a Confederate prisoner of war (October 18 and November 26, 1862;); a sexually suggestive poem ("What") post February 3, 1863; a discussion of marriage and the merits and drawbacks of bachelorhood, and a soldier's naming of his new rifle (March 21, 1863); and criticism of the Army of the Potomac (Union) by a member of the Army of the Cumberland (Union) (May 9, 1863). Also present are three envelopes addressed to Bitner; their contents are missing.
- "Little Ellic" [Alex Cressler?], Chambersburg [Pennsylvania], to "My good old Friend" (Henry A. Bitner): Governor Andrew G. Curtin expected to arrive tomorrow; mentions family members' anticipation; expresses patriotic sentiments; letter bears a colored illustration of an American flag.
1861 May 17
- Alex Cressler, Chambersburg, to "Dear Henry," w/envelope: discusses the appearance of Governor Curtin [perhaps at a ceremony for presenting the colors to a regiment]; rumor that two Confederate regiments passed through Williamsport, Maryland, possibly on their way to attack Philadelphia; expresses patriotic sentiments; letter bears a colored illustration of an American flag; circled number '37' in ink on the envelope.
1861 May 21
- Alex Cressler, Chambersburg, to "Dear Henry": local excitement at the appearance of military troops and [apparently] members of the defeated Fort Sumter garrison; letter bears a colored patriotic illustration of a man on horseback with a flag labeled "The Union" and the caption "Onward to Victory."
1861 June 10
- ["Little Ellic"], Chambersburg, to "Dear Henry," incomplete (only pages 1-4 are present), w/envelope: detailed description of Chambersburg and its weather ("This modern city is almost one-half of a mile in length and about one-eighth of a mile in breadth having a population of about 3,000 inhabitants; the dwellings were of uniform size, the largest being a little more spacious than the smallest and the smallest being somewhat less in dimensions than the largest, with streets leading along every side of the dwellings and running either straight or crooked from the one end to the other side so that strangers could amuse themselves by turning as many times as there is differences of direction"); letter bears a colored illustration of a soldier with an American flag.
1861 June 18
- "Ellic" [and a postscript signed Alex Cressler], Chambersburg, to "Dear Henry": mentions hearing a report that General George B. McClellan "has defeated the Secessionists" [battle of Rich Mountain, Virginia, July 11, 1861]; mentions a petition on Bitner's behalf; in a postscript he mentions that an uncle quotes Major General Robert Patterson as assuring him "that if Johnson did not attack him that he (Patterson) would attack Johnson [Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston] before the term of three months men would have expired" [Patterson was a Pennsylvania militia general who commanded the state's three- months volunteers].
1861 July 15
- Alex Cressler, Chambersburg, to "Dear Friend," w/envelope: discusses Bitner's health; expresses patriotic sentiments, the battle of First Manassas, or First Bull Run [July 21, 1861], denounces the South as a land of traitors and slave drivers, predicts a successful invasion of Virginia; patriotic envelope cover bears a colored illustration and poem in memorial to Colonel Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth, considered the Union's first military martyr; circled number '23' in ink on back of the envelope.
1861 July 30
- Thad Donely [Donnelly], Camp near Falmouth [Virginia], to "Friend Henry": camp news; apples selling for $7.00 a barrel at Aquia Creek; letter written in faded pencil, several lines and sections illegible.
1862 Jan. 5
- Dave [David] R. P. Shoemaker, Camp Dennison, Ohio, to "Old Friend" (HAB): has quit teaching and enlisted (Company E, 11th Regiment Ohio Volunteers), describes his life as a soldier; misses the company of women ("I haven't been within 6 feet of a piece of calico for two months. Ugh! Think of that old fellow, and the next time you go to see your-what's her name?- just give her a smack on those rosy lips of hers for me") and asks to be remembered to an Angelina Seraphina; HAB should address future letters to his company care of Captain [William L.] Douglas, Point Pleasant, Virginia [see Joshua A. Horton, A History of the Eleventh Regiment (Ohio Volunteer Infantry)(Dayton, Ohio: W. J. Shuey, 1866), 157 & 158]; letter bears a colored illustration of Columbia (a woman bearing a sword and shield) with a brief poem beneath her; circled number '28' in ink on the first page.
1862 Jan. 18
- Dave [David] R. P. Shoemaker, Point Pleasant, Virginia, to "Dear Friend" (HAB): "Should there be any seeming lack of punctuality in my answers you will attribute it to the fact that a military camp is not the best place in the world for writing and that the mails in this part of the country are very irregular"; General John Charles Fremont has replaced General William S. Rosencrans in the department [March 29, 1862; the Mountain Department] and made his headquarters at Wheeling, Virginia [this phrase absent from digital transcription]; describes camp life and drill; circled number '25' in ink on the first page.
 April 9
- Dave [David] R. P. Shoemaker, Raleigh Court House, Virginia, to "Dear Friend" (HAB): camp news; General Jacob D. Cox's forces are nearby at Flat Top Mountain; the brigade (the 3rd) consists of the 11th, 36th, 44th, and 47th Ohio Regiments; Simmons Battery is under the command of Colonel George Crook is acting brigadier general with Simmons' Battery under his command; requests local gossip and news; circled number '35' in ink on the first page.
1862 June 3
- William H. Kindig, Waterloo on the Rappahannock, Fauquier County, Virginia, to "My old friend Henry," w/envelope: describes recent movements and activities of his regiment (Company B, 107th Pennsylvania Volunteers), attached to General Abram Duryee's brigade, the soldiers' confidence in their Army of Virginia and General John Pope's ability to defeat the forces of Confederate General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson; circled number '40' in ink on the envelope.
1862 July 27
- William H. Kindig, Camp near the battlefield six miles south of Culpepper, Virginia, to "Dear Old Friend Henry," w/envelope: discusses his regiment's participation in the battle of Cedar Mountain [August 9, 1862], criticizes General Irvin McDowell's corps and General Nathaniel Banks for the Union defeat; mentions Confederate artillery fire against his regiment [107th Pennsylvania Volunteers] silenced by a battery in General Abram Duryee's command; the front of the envelope is a printed form with a poem "The Bravest Home".
1862 Aug. 13
- William G. [Martin?] [not William H. Kindig as listed in digital transcription], Camp Wells [near Washington, D.C.], to "My Friend Henry": describes his visits to Baltimore and Washington, D.C.; assault of one of their camp guards by an unknown assailant; says his must close his letter as "we must drill 9 hours tomorrow" [this phrase absent from digital transcription]; is a member of the 130th Pennsylvania ("Our company is not yet lettered"); circled number '31' in ink on the first page.
1862 Aug. 20
- Dave [David] R. P. Shoemaker, Paroled Prisoners' Camp, Annapolis, Maryland, to "Dear Sir": was taken prisoner at the battle of South Mountain (September 14, 1862); describes his captivity; circled number '9' [or '6'] in ink on the back.
 Oct. 18
- Dave [David] R. P. Shoemaker, Camp Parole, Annapolis, Maryland, to "Dear friend": has been ill and is still a prisoner of war; wants local news.
1862 Nov. 26
- Thad Donely [Donnelly], Camp near Falmouth, Virginia, to "Dear Brother" (HAB?): identifies himself as a member of Company D, 130th Pennsylvania Volunteers; general comments regarding camp life; this letter written in faded pencil; several lines and much of its four pages illegible.
1863 Jan. 7
- Thad Donely [Donnelly], Camp near Falmouth [Virginia], to "Dear Friend" (HAB?): anticipations of battle; closes with the remark "My Dinner is ready and I must eat"; letter written in faded pencil, several lines and sections illegible.
1863 Jan. 20
- Thad Donely [Donnelly], Camp near Falmouth [Virginia], to [HAB]: begins with "A Chaunt" (a sexually suggestive poem entitled "What"); soldiers recently paid; Levi Marsh appointed colonel of the regiment [appointed February 3, 1863; his name absent from digital transcription]; letter written in bleeding ink ("it is made out of vinegar and powder"), several lines and sections illegible.
[post 1863 February 3]
- Dave [David] R. P. Shoemaker, Camp near Nashville, Tennessee, to "Dear Henry," w/envelope: passing reference to Union General George D. Wise [a general by brevet]; troops on the march but destination unknown; sends respects to HAB's wife Katie; misses the nightly company of the opposite sex ("How I wish that instead of lying down to-night with my cold and bony masculine bed-fellows, and being bothered by those parasites which even poor soldiers have, I could have the pleasure of folding - a- - what in the D___l was I going to say?") Asks HAB to address future letters to Cincinnati, Ohio; first postscript says the regiment's destination is Cumberland Ford, Kentucky; second postscript (in pencil) asks that letters be addressed to Gallatin, Tennessee; circled number '41' in ink on the envelope.
1863 Feb. 22
- Dave [David] R. P. Shoemaker, Carthage, Tennessee, to "My dear Friend": makes reference to HAB's recent marriage ("If you really have 'gone and done it' allow me to congratulate you on your choice and to wish you and your bride a happy joyous life together down the stream of life together with the 'little responsibilities'. I am sorry however to lose you from among the noble fraternity of Batchelors. I fear that the joys and cures of matrimony may induce you to forget your friends who have not yet joined the Benedictine order"); camp and local news; an attack expected from Confederate General Braxton Bragg; mentions captures and attacks against Union soldiers; expresses his appreciation of a new rifle: "Our regiment was today furnished with bran new Norfolk Rifles [Springfield pattern] I am quite proud of mine, which I call 'Katie Darling' and I am anxious to draw a bead on a rebel with it. I intend to sleep with it tonight"; circled number '26' in ink on the first page.
1863 March 21
- Henry T. Daihl, Camp Drake Near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to "Mr. Henry Bitner/Dear Sir": is a member of Company A, 77th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry [not 12th Pennsylvania Volunteers as listed in digital transcription], Army of the Cumberland; denounces Copperheads; criticizes Army of the Potomac ("I believe that if the Army of the Potomac would do what is right we would have closed up this fuss before now"); letter bears a colored illustration of an angel with a banner captioned "The Union Now Henceforth & For Ever Amen!" [The 11th and 12th Pennsylvania Infantries were stationed and fought in Virginia. The 77th was stationed in or near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, from December 1863 to June 1864; see Frederick H. Dyer, A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion,(New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1959), 3:1599.]
1863 May 9
- Dave [David] R. P. Shoemaker, Carthage, Tennessee, to "Dear Friend Henry": is recovering from an illness; many soldiers suffering from diarrhea; alludes to Confederate General John Hunt Morgan ("Morganland and his ragamuffins have mostly left, and gone to Va."--this comment absent from digital transcription); asks HAB "to foresend my compliments to Miss Addie [Crumpler?] and the fair sex generally."
1863 May 25Images: Page 1