Camp Simmons

Chapter 2 (September 14, 1862)

After arriving at Camp Simmons Captain Tarbutton, who was in command, assigned us to quarters. We were placed in A tents, in messes of four in a tent, with a board floor four inches above the ground and on it a good bunch of straw. A cook shanty had been erected and our meals were served there, done up in Continental style by the cook, Mr. Laubenstein.

On Monday morning we were given a thoro examination by the army surgeon. Only a few were rejected for not coming up to the army standard. We were then marched to Market Square in Harrisburg and sworn into United States service for three years or during the war.

The man who administered the oath sized us up; and, seeing a good pair of legs under each one of the boys, he believed we would make good runners, so he swore us in as cavalry.

Then we marched to the quartermaster’s building, where we were fitted out as follows: a cap, coat, overcoat, pair of trousers, pair of shoes, two shirts and two suits of underclothes. The clothing was tailor-made and given to us regardless of size. The result was certainly amusing, as some of the boys, who wore a number 10 shoe, would probably receive a number 5, and vice versa. It was the same way with the clothing. The large fellows would invariably get short legged trousers. It took some time to adjust matters by trading until we were all satisfied. Haversacks, knapsacks, gum blankets and woolen blankets were then drawn.

The Government allowed us $45 a year for clothing and if at the end of the year we had overdrawn that amount, our overdraft was deducted from our voucher, and if the amount was under the $45 the government paid us the balance. Now we were fitted out as full fledged soldiers and willing to do our duty as such.

One of our duties in Harrisburg was to guard the capitol buildings. One night the writer-then a private-was on duty acting as corporal, and placed John K. Stuck, of our company, on guard duty and instructed him how to challenge any one coming toward him. I told him to challenge thus: “Who comes there?” The party challenged would answer: “A friend with the countersign.” The guard would then say: “Advance one and give the countersign.”

About midnight I went the round to relieve the guards, and so advancing to Stuck’s post, he yelled out in broken English: “Who comes dere?” I replied: “A friend with the countersign.” After waiting a while, Stuck finally blurted out: “Our now wase ich byme donner net wos tsu sawga.” [“But now by darn I don’t know what to say.”]

That reply of his became a by-word with us until the close of the war.

One night a soldier from Camp Curtin, adjoining Camp Simmons, broke thru the guard, and running at breakneck speed, yelled that someone was chasing him and wanted to kill him. He broke into the tent occupied by Sergeant John R. Reigle, J. J. Reigle and William Henninger, stepping on them while they were asleep. They awoke, fearfully frightened, and downed the intruder. While Messrs. Reigle held the intruder, Henninger, all excited and trembling, tried to rub a match on the tent, at the same time calling to the two men in German: “Habe un bis ich des licht ow sthecht.” [“Wait ‘til I light a lamp.”]

Finally a light was produced, and there beneath those two stalwart soldiers lay the poor stranger, shouting: “Ich bin der Johnnie Schultz. Ich cum fun Schuylkill koundy. Ich bin un gardraften mon, dot cumma se, se welle mich dote maucha. Oh, ich bin der Johnnie Schultz. Ich cum fun Schuylkill koundy.” [“I am Johnny Schultz. I come from Schuykill county. I am a drafted man, there they are coming, they want to kill me. Oh, I am Johnny Schultz. I come from Schuykill county.”]

By this time the nearby tents were emptied to see the fun. Some of the camp guards later removed him to the hospital, where it was said that he had the poker. That was the last we saw of him, but the name of Johnnie Schultz from Schuylkill koundy was never forgotten by us during our army service.

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