Chapter 3 (November 24, 1862)
While in camp a little girl was murdered on Allison’s Hill, east of Harrisburg. It was reported that the murderer was a soldier, so orders were issued that no soldier was allowed to leave camp, but that any and all should be admitted. Some five or six citizens, men and women, were brought into camp to search for the supposed murderer.
We were drawn up in line, and those people took a front and back view of us. A man was taken from the line near us, and that created quite a commotion for a little while, but he was later released. It is said that the girl was a distant relative of Governor Curtin, and that her slayer was captured two years later.
One of the very pathetic features of our stay in Harrisburg occurred when we were keeping a guard at Walnut Street hospital. The convalescents were sitting on a bench outside the hospital and among the wounded ones were two Rebel soldiers.
Women from the city came along with baskets of fruit, and they passed along the line distributing their gifts. They gave fruit to all except the two boys in grey, and then went into the hospital to continue their donations.
Hardly had they departed until one of our boys arose and said that he was unable to enjoy his fruit alone and that he proposed to share his portion with the Confederates. He then placed some fruit in the laps of the two men, who had not been helped by the women. All the other Boys in Blue thereupon began dividing with the two Johnnies, and soon the Southerners had more fruit than any of the Northerners.
It was then that one of the Boys in Grey arose, and made one of the most pathetic and inspiring speeches I ever heard. He said that he did not blame the Northern women for the slight to himself and his wounded comrade. He believed that Southern women would likely have treated Northern prisoners in the South similarly, but that he was overcome by the generosity of the Northern soldiers in sharing their fruit with him and his companion.
Both those Rebel soldiers then arose and with hand uplifted to Almighty God pledged allegiance to the American Flag. That was just one of life’s instances showing the value of an act of kindness.
We expected to leave Harrisburg soon, and boys of Company G wanted to be ready to meet the enemy. A number of them bought Bowie knives and revolvers. Among them was Ed Fisher, who conceived the idea that if he had a self-cocking revolver he would be able to put down the rebellion himself.
One day in camp, Fisher hurriedly ran his hand down into his trousers pocket, where he carried his rapid firing piece of ordinance, and to his surprise he struck the trigger and off went the gun. The hot smoke curled down his pantaloons and he, of course, imagined that it was blood.
A hasty examination relieved his anxiety, but the ball of the cartridge had gone thru his pocketbook, which was very light after the purchase of the revolver. The ball struck the ground just in front of his big toe, and that settled Ed for carrying such deadly weapons. I don’t think he ever carried one since then.
An order had been issued by the War Department that any volunteer was privileged to join the regulars, and Henry H. Shrawder, now of Sunbury, took advantage of the order and leaving us at Harrisburg, was assigned to the Fourth Regiment, U. S. Regulars. He was wounded under Sherman in the battle of Kennesaw Mountain, Ga., in 1864, but there is another sad feature of his military career and I expect to chronicle it at a later time.
The company remained in camp doing guard duty at the city hospitals and in and about the camp until November 24, 1862, when we were transferred to Harper’s Ferry, Va., for the purpose of organizing the 147th Regiment. I was detailed to carry the colors from Harrisburg to Harper’s Ferry.
We left Camp Simmons on Monday, but were compelled to camp in a shanty in Harrisburg until the next day on account of the lateness of the train. We went to Baltimore, Md., on the 25th and took our meals that day at the Soldiers’ Relief Association rooms. The meat, served us, was said to be salt horse. It compared, however, favorably with the old sow belly, so much relished by the boys during the balance of our service.
We were placed in a large brick house in Baltimore for the night. Some of the boys managed to get out and attended the theater. So far as I was concerned my exchequer was too low, for two cents was all the money I had. I was anxious to see the Chesapeake Bay, so I started off alone for the wharf. The bay and fish markets were great sights for me, and it was a delightful trip.
Wednesday, the 26th, we left Baltimore, Md., for Harper’s Ferry, Va., where we arrived about noon. We marched thru the town to Bolivar Heights, two miles distant. Here we joined the regiment and became Company G of the 147th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, First Brigade, Second Division, Twelfth Army Corps. Our Division Commander was General John W. Geary. We were now on Rebel soil, where just a few weeks before General Miles surrendered thousands of Yankee boys to Stonewall Jackson. It was in Harper’s Ferry, too, that John Brown organized his insurrection for free slaves, just prior to the war, for which he was hanged at Charlestown, Va., just five miles distant.