DRUMMING A SOLDIER OUT OF CAMp
Chapter 5 (December 16, 1862 – February 22, 1863)
On December 16 we broke camp and marched to Dumphries, traveling four miles.
The battle of Fredericksburg was fought the next day, and we could hear the cannonading very distinctly. After the battle we faced about and marched north along the Potomac River to Wolf Run Shoals about three miles south of Fairfax Station on the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, traveling 20 miles. We were expected to go into winter quarters, but in that we were mistaken.
While in this camp brother Lewis took sick. We remained there until the end of the month, when we broke camp and marched to Dumphries, a distance of 20 miles. Soon after our camp was established and winter quarters put up, we were visited by Selinsgrove friends as follows: John Parks, Levi Ulrich and Edward McClinsy. Their stay, however, was not very long, as the first night after their arrival orders were quietly sent around thru the regiment about midnight that Rebels under General Mosby with his cavalry were prowling around and expected to attack us before morning.
This was fun for the boys of Company G, but not much cause for delight for our friends from Selinsgrove. They were in an enemy’s territory and had nothing with them to defend themselves, and had the enemy made an attack upon us and captured any of them, they might have been kept prisoners during the balance of the war.
Fortunately the attack was not made. Nevertheless our friends determined to go home in the morning. Mr. Parks said to Levi Ulrich: “By Judas, Levi, mere gana hame.” “Gosh”, said Levi, “Do is ken blots for uns.” [“By Judas, Levi, we’re going home. Gosh, here is no place for us.”] And home they went.
January 17, 1863, was a sad day for me. Brother Lewis, who took sick about a month before, grew worse daily until that morning at half-past five o’clock, when typhoid fever had done its work, my dear brother breathed his last. He gave his young life, a sacrifice to his country, at the age of 22 years, 10 months and 29 days.
Eight of the boys of the regiment lay sick with typhoid fever, when brother Lewis died in a canvas hospital tent, 12×16 feet. No beds or cots were there for them to lie upon, but instead saplings from six to eight inches in diameter were split in two, pine bows were scattered over the saplings and a gum blanket was spread over them. There was no fire with the exception of a small sheet iron stove, which had to be carried out whenever the least bit of air stirred on account of the smoke filling the tent.
Neither had we light of any kind in the hospital. All was darkness and quiet, save for the moaning and groaning of the poor fellows by my side. It was a cold January night that my brother’s spirit ascended to God, Who gave it.
The doctors would then not allow a drop of water to be given any of the fever stricken victims. Our camp was only 40 miles from the city of Washington, yet no accommodations for the sick.
January 18, Lieut. William H. Schroyer was given furlough to take the remains of brother Lewis to Selinsgrove for burial. His body now rests in sight of his old home, awaiting judgment day.
Our camp duties were pretty difficult. When not on picket on camp guard the order of the day was drill. The winter of 1862-63 we had very cold and unpleasant weather, and on February 22 we had about eight inches of snow. A goodly number of us were on picket at Fort Gandy and nearly froze to death. I remember the gunboats on the Potomac River firing salutes that day in honor of George Washington.
We were called on to witness the drumming out of camp of one of the members of the 28th Pennsylvania Regiment. This particular soldier had just come in from picket duty when the captain told him to chop some wood. The private told the captain that if he would excuse him from other duty he would chop the wood, or would take it turn-a-bout with the other boys of the company, otherwise he refused to do the work. The captain reached for him and the soldier knocked him down. The private was court-martialed, and the finding of the court was that he was to have his head shaved and a letter D picked on his hip with India ink. That was to brand him as dismissed or disgraced.
He was brought out in full view of our brigade of six regiments. They placed a bar of soap in a large bucket of water, not too warm either, for it was snowing at a great rate at this time, lathered his head and shaved it as bare as the inside of a hand. Then they picked the letter D on his hip, cut all the military buttons off his clothing, tied his hands behind his back, and a guard with fixed bayonets in the rear of him and the drum corps playing “Poor Old Tory” [hear it], tarred and feathered and sent him away, because he was a Tory. They turned him out of camp and left him run.
This same soldier went home, recruited a company, became captain of it, and is said to have done good service for Uncle Sam until the close of the war. He was certainly a wronged victim, the boys agreed, for when General Geary ordered us to hiss and hoot him when he marched past us, not a soldier opened his mouth.