Civil War Letters

August 25, 1861

                                                                               Camp Tenally,   August 25th, 1861

Dear Father:-

                Your kind letter came safely to its destination and found me as well as ever. Nothing of importance has occurred to interrupt the monotony of camp life. The regiment was out on picket duty all last week, returning on last Tuesday evening. We were up to the Great Falls which is about half-way to the Point of Rocks from Washington.
                The weather has been comfortably cool here for the last two weeks in comparison with what it had been the months preceding. It has rained nearly every day.
                We have very good water in this neighborhood. The spring of which we use is sweet cold water, just such as Shaner’s “rattlesnake” spring, boiling up out of the sand.
                There is little or no fruit in this country; what is here is of an inferior quality and is sold at an enormous price. I paid eight cents for one peach in Washington. It was a large one and I bought it just for curiosity. I saw a peck of half-ripe peaches sold for one dollar. Butter is from 25 to 37½ cents per pound.
                Tell Mother not to fret or think about my hardships but to enjoy Life, for I enjoy myself as well as ever I did.
                You asked about my trip here. Well, it cost me $1.75 to Pittsburg from Kittanning. I then used my pass over the Central road to Harrisburgh where I found Capt. Over with his recruits. I went on to Washington with his squad, he having passes for all of us.
                Last Wednesday Genl. McClellan reviewed the troops here. His Staff accompanied him as well as the President, “Old Abe,” and all of his Cabinet. While the President rode round past the lines, he stood up in his carriage with his hat off. The men gave three times three cheers with a hearty good will.
                Genl. McClellan and Staff were all dressed in full uniform and made a splendid appearance. There were nine regiments of infantry, one of artillery, and two squadrons of cavalry on the field. It was certainly the most imposing spectacle I ever witnessed.  As the General rode up, the Band struck up “Hail to the Chief” and as the echoing notes reverberated through the hills of the Potomac, a thousand arms were nerved with enthusiasm and confidence was infused in as many hearts that the gallant young Chieftain was the man for the times.
                I wrote to William Gates to-day in answer to one received a few days since. I also wrote to Miles to-day although he has not written to me. My style of penmanship will be excused as I have to sit on the ground and hold my paper on a little board with one hand while I write with the other.
                Mr. Green is well and doing well, as much so in a pecuniary point of view as any other. He gets about $175 per month; rather more than Shippenville circuit paid him and not half the labor either. He is allowed a servant besides—I think he has two to wait on him, cook and black his boots. I wish you could see him—
                I have put my money in his hands for safe-keeping, that is, what I had left after buying a revolver.
                I must close; keep you[r] promise by writing every week. You shall hear from me.
                Ever yours Affectionately,        James. 

Next posting: August 29, 2011

Jonathan E. Helmreich
College Historian
Allegheny College
Meadville, PA 16335


August 8, 1861

                                                                                           Camp Tenally,
                                                                                           August 8th, 1861

Dear Father:-

                We left Washington City last Monday and passing through Georgetown, we encamped at this place about two miles from the Potomac, about half way from Washington to the “Point of Rocks.”[i]
                Yesterday morning  about three o’clock we were roused from our beds by the “long roll,” an immediate call to arms. The report was that the Rebels were about to make an attack as they had been firing on our picquets during the night. Our regiment was sent about eight miles up the Potomac in order to prevent them from flanking us. We had a wearisome march through the hot sun and were stationed at our destination until about four o’clock when we marched back to our camp. When we were called out to march we did not know where we were going or what for, but we suspected were going into action as we had to take forty rounds of ammunition with us. We are now formed into a Brigade under Genl. [George A. ] McCall. There are a number of regiments around us, all Pennsylvanians. There is evidently some movement contemplated as last night we were ordered to hold ourselves in readiness to rush to arms at the “long roll” of the drum.
                About four this morning [we] were called up and formed into line and orders were given that every man be ready to march at a moment’s warning. Quite an amount of artillery went by us about daybreak this morning and just now I have dropped my pencil to go and look at a body of cavalry that is going by. As I said before none of us know where they are going or where we may be sent, not even the Captains of the companies. I suppose the Colonels know where their regiments are going, but they alone.
                Last Monday when we marched from Washington, the thermometer varied from 95 to 100 degrees Fah. It certainly was the hottest day I ever felt. Many poor fellows fell exhausted by the excessive heat and dust which rose like a cloud. We had our cartridge boxes, knapsacks, blankets, Haversacks with a loaf of bread in them, canteens each weighing four pounds when filled with water, and our muskets to carry all the way and it was not strange that we should become wearied.
                Three of the regiment fell with “coup d’soleil” or sunstroke. They have since recovered however. I stood the march first-rate, as also our company, there being more of them in line than any other company except perhaps one.
                Mr. Green, the Chaplain, walked along with the regiment all the way, ministering to the wants of the sick and thirsty soldiers. He is esteemed by every man in the regiment.
                We were paid off last week, receiving $13.56 per man. Some of the companies received more as they had been in camp longer than we had. Our pay came from the State, the next we will get from the Government.
                Genl. McClellan was in our camp a few minutes ago. He is a fine-looking man.
                It is rumored that the Rebels are about to attack Washington, having concentrated their forces, but camp rumors are not to be depended on. The Rockland boys are all well, but some of them wish they were home again for they are somewhat homesick. The romantic sport of long marches and heavy muskets is about played out with them. If you could see Dave Lovell’s long face you would certainly laugh. I have not had the blues at all yet as I have made up my mind to take everything as it comes and make the best of it. In the language of the popular ballad, “Let this world jog along, jog along as it will, I‘ll be gay and happy still.”[ii]
                For the present I must close. Write to me every week.

                                                       J. D. C.

 Next posting:  August 25, 2011

Jonathan E. Helmreich
College Historian
Allegheny College
Meadville, PA 16335


[i] For the location of Camp Tennally, see

[ii] The ballad by Clara Butler was entitled “Gay and Happy.”

August 2, 1861

               Chadwick caught up with his regiment only after it was encamped in Washington. He therefore missed its experience passing through Baltimore. A few days earlier, Federal troops changing stations there had been attacked by secessionist mobs. Warned of this danger, Colonel McCalmont issued ammunition and ordered bayonets to be fixed as they made the transfer.  No serious incidents occurred.

                                                                                                                                                Washington D.C., Aug. 2, 1861

Dear Father:-

                I wrote you when in Harrisburg on my way to rejoin my regiment. I did not overtake them until I came to this place. We are encamped about a half a mile back of the Capitol. We undergo much stricter discipline that we did heretofore. When on guard at night we have orders to shoot down any man who attempts to cross our line without the countersign. We begin to feel the rigor of military discipline. We have good fare compared with the soldiers across the Potomac, still it might be better than it is.
                I was through the city a few days since and visited all the public buildings under the guidance of my friend, Buck Brawley. I visited the world-renounced Smithsonian Institute, where are birds, animals, fishes, reptiles and insects of all description and from all parts of the world. Also I was at the Patent Office, the Census Department, in the Senate and heard Andy Johnson of Tennessee make a three-hour Union Speech. I was in the House during a session and heard their deliberations; then to the White House, the War Department, the Navy Department, and finally to the National Observatory where I took a look through a telescope and saw Alexandria away down the Potomac so plain that I could see the American Flag flying over the house where Ellsworth was murdered.[1]  I could see the fortifications on Arlington Heights so plain that I could count the cannon on the embankments and see the sentinals pacing their rounds. It would take me a long time to tell what I have seen in this city and all that may be seen around it.
                It is thronged with encampments of soldiers; there are thirty or forty thousand troops on this side of the river and more perhaps than that on the other side in sight.
                About forty rods from us is the 2nd Minnesota regiment, one of the ones that was in the hottest of the fight at Bull Run. (Which, by-the-way, is only a half-hour’s ride from hereby car.) It is quite interesting to talk with them about the engagement as they are social and intelligent fellows. Their regiment lost about two hundred in killed and missing but they avenged the deaths of their comrades by a terrible slaughter of the Rebels as also did the Fire Zoaves.
                The health of all the Rockland boys is good as well as all the rest of the regiment, with a few exceptions of measles.
                Tell Mr. Ramsdell I found his brother [Hiram] in the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment under Col. [W. Wallace] Ricketts. His company is the “Tioga Invincibles.”
                We suffer much from the excessive heat as it is much hotter here than a few hundred miles further north, from where we started. Is not a dry, parching heat, but a sultry oppressive one.
                None of us knows anything about his destination—or about anything else. You know just as much about the war from the daily papers as we do here. The supposition is that Genl. [Winfield] Scott will not make an attack on Manassas again for a month or two, until the leaves fall, so that our troops will not be led on to be slaughtered by the wholesale by the masked batteries, which are planted all around where there is any probability of an attack.[2] Also it is conjectured that heavy batteries will be used against them to throw shell into their fortifications. But it is all conjecture.
                We have not yet received our pay from the State of Pennsylvania but I believe we will get it to-day or to-morrow. At least, so it is rumored and I believe the Paymaster is in the camp now.
                All letters of soldiers are to be franked by Congress hereafter so that it will cost us nothing for postage.
                I suppose none of us will hereafter have the opportunity of going into the city as [Major] Genl. [George B.] McClellan  has issued orders that no private or officer be allowed in the streets of the city without a written pass from his Brigadier General.[3] If anyone is found disobeying this order, he is liable to arrest and court martial.
                There is no doubt but that we will stay here or in the neighborhood of Washington for some time, so I will get everything that is mailed for me. So now I want to hear from home every week. Don’t be afraid that your letters will not reach me. Suppose I don’t get one of them, it will do no hurt. Just direct to the care of Capt. Ayer or Chaplain Green,  10th Regiment, P. R. C., and I will be sure to get it.
                I must close for the present as I must go on duty.

                Yours affectionately,

                                                             J. D. Chadwick

Next posting:  August 8, 2011

Jonathan E. Helmreich
College Historian
Allegheny College
Meadville, PA 16335             

[1] Colonel Ephraim Ellsworth (11th New York Fire Zoaves) was the first Union officer to die in the Civil War, shot by tavern keeper James Jackson of the Marshall House in Alexandria, an avid secessionist.  Ellsworth had just cut down a Confederate flag flown at the tavern. His assailant was immediately killed.

[2] Scott, noted for his success in commanding the U. S. Army in the Mexican War, was appointed commander-in-chief of the Union Army, despite his advanced age (almost 75 years at the time of his appointment) and physical infirmities.

[3] McClellan was currently commander of the Military Division of the Army of the Potomac and on November 5, 1861, would succeed Scott as commander-in-chief.

July 24, 1861

                After several weeks at Camp Wilkins, James Chadwick moved on July 1 with his regiment to Camp Wright, 12 miles up the Allegheny River. Third Lieutenant George Norris, a classmate of Chadwick,  returned to Meadville to recruit additional volunteers to raise the College Company to close to its required strength of 101 soldiers.  On 18 July the regiment entrained to Hopewell and then moved to Harrisburg. There, on Saturday, July 20, 1861, the eve of the Union’s severe defeat at Bull Run, the volunteers were mustered into the United States Army, part of the first regiment to be accepted for a term of three years. James Chadwick, however, was not with them, for apparently he had been home on furlough. His next letter tells of his efforts to catch up with his regiment.

                                                                                                                                                           Harrisburg, July 24, 1861 
Wednesday eve.                                                                                                                                                               

Dear Father:-

                Reached Camp Wright last evening and found it tenantless. It brought to mind Goldsmith’s Deserted Village.[1] From there I went down to the city and at twelve o’clock, midnight, took the car for Harrisburg where I had heard my regiment had been ordered.
                They had been ordered, as we heard, to Cumberland, but when they had arrived at Hopewell and commenced the march to Cumberland, an order was sent after them countermanding that route.  They were then ordered to Harrisburg, where I hoped to overtake them, but on my approach to this place I found they had gone to Washington, via Baltimore. I had the good fortune to find some of the boys belonging to my company, also some of the Venango Grays.  We will stay here over night and start in the morning for our regiment which we expect to find in Hagerstown, Baltimore or Washington to-morrow night. Lieut. Col. [James T.]Kirk is with us, also Capt. [C. Miller] Over.
                I visited the public buildings in the city to-day, was in the House and Senate Chamber, etc., etc.
                The city is thronged with soldiers going to the scene of action and returning home. The 3rd, 5th and 16th regiments came home to-day as also the 12th. They were all three months’ men. They will reenlist after seeing their friends—at least most of them will. They give hard accounts of the treatment they have received at the hands of the Government. They have had to make forced marches living on half rations and of a very inferior quality at that. Some of them are bare-footed and very ragged. The news this evening is that [Major]Gen’l [Robert] Patterson is discharged and under arrest, charged with sympathizing with the rebels.[2]
                I had conversation with several men who served under him and they speak in terms of highest censure.
                The Army is concentrating very fast in Washington, preparatory to making an attack on Manassas again.[3] I suppose I will be at the victory or—defeat, as we will undoubtedly be in active service very soon. You will excuse this bad writing, for I am hurried and it is quite dark, so much so that I can’t see the lines on the paper. I expect that I will have nothing but what I have on my back as the boys threw away almost everything they had when they commenced the march from Hopewell.
                I will write soon again. In haste, Yours affectionately,

                     J. D. Chadwick

Next posting August 2, 2011

Jonathan E. Helmreich
College Historian
Allegheny College
Meadville, PA 16335


[1] The reference here is to a pastoral poem written in 1770 by the Irish author Oliver Goldsmith.

[2] Patterson was widely criticized for his delay in attempting to retake Harpers Ferry from Confederate forces and failure to contain Rebel troops sent to reinforce the Confederates at the first battle of Bull Run (July 21, 1861). He was mustered out of the army with an honorable discharge at the end of the month at the age of 69.

[3] Confederate fortifications at Manassas (Union terminology for this location was Bull Run) blocked the best military route from Washington to Richmond.

June 25, 1861

                Before James Chadwick and his fellow College Company volunteers could depart for training, many arrangements had to be made and the company brought to full size. The students voted that only persons who were students at the time of their enlistment would be admitted into the company. Recruits were found in various academy schools throughout the county and especially in the southwest region, as several youths from Hartstown and the Espyville Academy volunteered.
                On the eleventh of June the community bade farewell to its own. Faculty, townspeople, and President Loomis all spoke as the Allegheny Company stood in formation before the College’s great hall. Miss Hattie Bain presented the volunteers with a large flag sewn by the ladies of the town.[1] President Loomis’s valedictory to the volunteers was reminiscent of the farewell the Spartans paid to their troops departing for the battle of Thermopylae. With tears streaming his cheeks, this physically imposing man growled in his deep voice, “Come back with the flag, boys, or come back wrapped in its folds.”

                After receiving their flag, the volunteers were served a sumptuous meal on the campus green, then marched to Dock Street, where they boarded a canal boat. A great crowd cheered them off as a cornet band played and girls sang patriotic tunes. Their destination was Camp Wilkins, a filthy fairgrounds east of Pittsburgh on Penn Street, where they joined other regiments already encamped. On June 20, the College Company was merged into the 39th Regiment, 10th Reserve, Pennsylvania Volunteer Reserve Corps, becoming Company I.  
                 On June 25, James wrote home.     

Camp Wilkins, Pittsburgh, PA

June 25, 1861

Dear Father:-

                You have doubtless heard ere this that I am no longer a civilian but a soldier. Our company left Meadville just two weeks ago today and after a pleasant trip of three days by canal to Brighton and thence by [railway] cars to Pittsburgh, we reached our destination.
                I must confess I find it rather a hard life thus far but it is not as bad yet as I expected for I sat down and “counted the cost,” taking a candid view of the matter before I enlisted as a volunteer.
                Our fare consists of baker’s bread with crackers which are so hard that you can not easily break them, salt bacon and occasionally a mess of fresh beef, coffee twice a day, without milk, and sometimes a mess of beans. It is rather hard living after having the appetite pampered by the good victuals of Mother Brooks.
                At present there are eleven companies at Camp Wilkins. At Camp Wright which is twelve miles from here there are four regiments or forty companies. Judge [John S.] McCalmont will be our commanding officer, that is, he will be the Colonel of our regiment.[2] He will take charge of us the last of this week. Col. G[eorge] S. Hays, who was in the Mexican War, is in command of the Camp now. –Rev. John Green is here; he preached in camp last Sunday; he has been chosen as Chaplain to Hays Regiment, but I do not know how long he will stay.
                There are a number of boys here whom you know—Joe and Tom Ross, Brad Wilson, George McCool of Scrubgrass, are in the Franklin company. John Ford is in the Middlesex company; he was married a day or so before he left home. Ben Anderson, son of Samuel, is with the “Jefferson Grays.” I had the pleasure of seeing Harvey Crawford this morning who was in town.
                We have been sworn into service for “three years or the term of the war”. We received our blankets from the Government last week, also shoes—heavy cow-hide and sewed, they are quite good.
                We have no bedding to lie upon, but just roll up in our blankets, taking our carpet sacks for pillows and lie down on the soft side of a board. (Literally true.) I think I never slept better than I do now, though at first it went rather hard.
                At five in the morning we are waked by the rattle of the drum when every man must be up and ready for prayers in ten minutes—our company is the only one which has worship night and morning. We are called the best company in the regiment. We marched last Sunday, as a company, to Christ Church, (Methodist,) and heard a splendid sermon by J. McKendre Riley, D. D., of Baltimore.
                We have not yet received our uniforms but expect to get them before a great while. I wish to get a furlough of a week or so, if I can, in order to go and see you and the rest of the dear ones at home, but it may not be for a month or so yet.
                I brought no clothing with me except one suit which I had on. An inventory of my effects is as follows: 1 cap, 1 pair of shoes, 1 pair of boots, 2 red flannel shirts, 2 muslin shirts, 1 pair of pants, a vest and coat and an India rubber coat as protection from dews and rain when posted as sentry. Also 2 towels, a night cap and Havelock which were presented  by Sue Brooks when I left Meadville.[3]  I have no book with me except my Bible.
                Well, I must close for the present. Excuse this disconnected letter. I have written what I though[t] would interest you and just as it happened to come in my head. I must stop now for I am on guard to-day and my turn has come. It would amuse you to see me pacing my beat, my musket on my shoulder with its polished saber bayonet, which by the way, was made at Harpers Ferry Armory.
                Please write soon to your “sojer boy.”

                                                                                                J. D. C.

Next posting:  July 24, 2011

Jonathan E. Helmreich
College Historian
Allegheny College
Meadville, PA 16335                                            

[1] Five feet by ten feet, the Allegheny flag was unusually large for a company flag of that era. With seven stripes of red and six of white, it showed 30 gold starts in its blue corner filed in an elliptical disposition, with single stars in each of the four corners of the field. Thus the 34 states of the Union before secession were represented, demonstrating the desire of both the women of Meadville and the student volunteers that the Union be preserved. On one side of the flag, within the starry ellipse, was inscribed in gold lettering the phrase “Our Country.” On the other side appeared the Latin words “Semper Fidelis” that in 1883 would become the slogan of the U.S. Marine Corps.

[2] McCalmont was a member of the Allegheny College class of 1840. To preserve morale, higher officials decided not to disperse the men of the College Company. Of course, as company members were killed or wounded, their replacements were not from the college. By the end of three years’ service, the company had fewer Alleghenians, but its esprit d’corps, comradeship, and even the idealism planted by the original student contingent remained.

[3] Besides making a flag for the company, the ladies provided each man with small gifts, in most cases a “Handy Betty” (sewing kit), a New Testament, and a white muslin Havelock to protect his neck from the southern sun.

May 13, 1861

James Chadwick had apparently been so determined to fight on behalf of the Union that following President Abraham Lincoln’s call for men to turn out for three months of service he and several fellow students signed up with a volunteer company forming in the town of Meadville. When the College Company began to form, however, he joined it.   
           Soon enough it was clear in both Washington and the state capitals that the war crisis would not be resolved in ninety days. Harrisburg legislators passed a bill creating a Reserve Volunteer Corps of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to be enlisted for three years or for the duration of the war, and to be amalgamated into the U. S. Army as requisitioned. The rubric “reserve” suggested that the men would not serve on the front lines or see the war close up. It would not be long before the corps veterans were wryly commenting that the worst battles of the war were “reserved” for them.
                Until the issue of duration of enlistments was resolved, Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin delayed acceptance of the College Company. The lads drilled, parading occasionally on Chestnut Street in Meadville, and chafed at the delay. On May 13, 1861, James wrote to his father.

Meadville, Pa., May 13, 1861

Dear Father:-

                I believe Miles wrote to you last week.[1] I will drop you a line this mail. Nothing of importance transpiring here. We are all well.
               When came back to this place I withdrew my name from the muster roll of the Meadville Volunteers and placed it on the roll of the College Volunteers.
                About four days after I did so, the Meadville Volunteers were ordered into the Service of the Government; marched to Pittsburgh where they are now in camp awaiting further orders.  There were seven or eight students who went in that company, two of them members of the Senior Class.
                Prof. [Samuel P.] Bates, Deputy State Superintendent, went to Harrisburg last Thursday taking with him papers tendering the services of the “Allegheny College Volunteers.”[2] A telegram was received on Saturday from Prof. Bates that our company had been accepted by the Governor and that we would get marching orders in a few days. He said he would send another dispatch to us to-day,—Monday. Our Captain thinks we will be marching to some camp before a week. I think, however, not so soon. 
                There are about fifty students in the company also some who are not students. We drill regularly every day; we were out on parade last Saturday and the citizens who saw us say we are the best-drilled company and make the best appearance of any company that has left, or is in the County. The Officers of the company are—

                                Ira Ayer, Captain, of New York;[3]               

                                S. B. Smith, 1st Lieut., of Tennessee;[4]

                                Prof. Hennig, L.L.D.,, 2nd Lieut.;[5]

                                J. R. Mills, 1st Sergt., of Pittsburgh;[6]

                                E. A. Ludwick, 2nd Sergt., of Pittsburgh

                                A. Ashley, 3rd Sergt., of Braddock’s Field;

                Of these all are members of the Church except one and four have license to preach. The Captain is an able-bodied man of about 26 years of age who has served in the Military of his state for five years. He understands military tactics well.
                I will write next week and let you know how affairs are prospering. Nothing more at present. Yours  affectionately,                                                                                                                                                                J. D. C.

Next posting: June 25, 2011

Jonathan E. Helmreich
College Historian
Allegheny College
Meadville, PA 16335                              

[1] The second oldest of James’s younger brothers, born January 21, 1843, Miles was then 18 years of age. He may have been a student at the college preparatory school run by Allegheny College and its faculty on its campus. He became a graduate of Allegheny College with the class of 1867.

[2] Samuel Penniman Bates, a Meadville native and Deputy State Superintendent of Education, had many contacts in Harrisburg and knew the governor. He would become noted for his histories of the battles of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg and of Erie and Crawford counties in Pennsylvania. A key resource to this day is his History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-5; Prepared in Compliance with Acts of the Legislature, 14 vols., first published in 1869-71 and republished in 1993-94 in Wilmington, NC by the Broadfoot Publishing Company.

[3] The students elected their officers on April 20.  Ira Ayer was a sturdy Biblical department scholar who had previously served in the New York State militia in a unit of which his father was colonel.

[4] Sion B. Smith and his brother, James W., from Alexandria, TN, were orphaned as youths and raised by their uncle and aunt. Influenced by a school teacher who had attended Allegheny, they chose to do likewise. Technically they were slave holders, for they inherited their parents’ few slaves who labored for their uncle. James, a graduate of Allegheny in 1860, was instrumental in the recruitment in the summer of 1862 from the Meadville area of Company B, 18th Pennsylvania Cavalry, 163rd Regiment, called the “College Cavalry” by local papers.

[5] George Hennig was a German instructor at the college.  In October 1861 he resigned from the company due to “force of circumstances” that may have been related to language difficulties. The company on the last day of the month approved a resolution of tribute to Hennig.

[6] James Mills, like the next two persons listed, Ephraim Ludwick and Alexander Ashley, were juniors at the college.

Introduction: April 20, 1861

                The American Civil War, The War between the States, The War of Northern Aggression, The War of Southern Rebellion—the names have multiplied over the years—has held a lasting fascination for our country. Well it might, for its legacy continues to shape our political views, cultural perceptions, and economic trends. As the sesquicentennial of the bloodiest of all our national conflicts approaches, discussion of its course and its impact has intensified.
                Allegheny College well before the war’s outbreak took interest in the issues involved and eventually became deeply invested in terms of the blood of its students, faculty, and alumni. Founded in 1815 in Meadville, in northwest Pennsylvania, its graduating seniors in 1861 numbered seventeen and its faculty half a dozen.[1]  The president was the Reverend George Loomis, a supporter of the Union who had left his previous post in Maryland because he recognized that his views were not sympathetically received there.  The faculty of the college, which had been patronized by the Methodist Episcopal Church since 1833, had at first been reluctant to speak out against slavery, for fear of causing a rift with the southern members of that church. But eventually one of its mathematics faculty, Charles Kingsley, chaired the church committee that led the Methodists to adopt a firm anti-slavery stance (he in time would become a noted bishop).  Influential Professor Lorenzo D. Williams who had served as Acting President prior to Loomis’s appointment in 1860 was an outspoken critic of slavery. Both his sons would enlist in the Union cause, and he himself became in 1862 chaplain of the 111th regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Corps. In the years prior to the war most of the faculty supported the Know-Nothings, sharing less their anti-foreigner leanings and more their anti-Catholic and anti-slavery tendencies.
                As national tensions mounted, so did those on campus. Even the young student William McKinley (the future president) whose equanimity and debating skills were admired by his cohorts, lost his calm when a Southern lad proposed Jefferson Davis as the next president of the United States. McKinley promptly retorted that he would fight rather than let that happen.
                News of Southern attack on the Federal base at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, aggravated the tension. Northern students bristled at comments made by some of their Southern colleagues. The Union supporters called an indignation meeting and elected a committee that demanded that those persons favoring the attack “Recant, or leave within 24 hours for your homes.” Vainly  Loomis called for conciliation. Twelve unrepentant Southerners departed. Shortly thereafter, on Saturday, 20 April, a congregation of students cheered as James Stubbs raised the Stars and Stripes atop the cupola of the main building of the college, Bentley Hall.
                That afternoon the students assembled on the steps of the Crawford County court house, their hearts aflame. An appeal for volunteers went out. After some rousing speeches, the boys signed up, proclaiming themselves the College Company. It would go on to establish an illustrious, triumphant and tragic, record for three years. It would experience a rout, fight bravely, become one of the most seasoned companies in the Army of the Potomac, be among the first sent into difficult battles, and suffer the loss of more than half of its student patriot members.
                 Among the novice soldiers was James Doddridge Chadwick. Born in Rockland Township, Venango County,  Pennsylvania, on September 4, 1836, at the time of his enlistment on April 16, 1861, he was nearing the completion of his senior year at Allegheny College.  During his three years of service, he regularly wrote letters home to his parents. Slightly more than a hundred of these have survived and have been transcribed to a typescript, a copy of which was donated to Chadwick’s alma mater.  The location of the originals is unknown to this editor.          
                 It is the goal of this blog to reproduce from the transcripts those extant letters and provide comment to give them place and assist the reader’s understanding of their context in the war’s development. Perhaps the letters will promote a more personal and poignant understanding of the war and help us see it, not only from our perspective today, but also as it appeared to the eyes of one young participant. For many months of his service, Chadwick was seconded to his brigade’s headquarters and later served in other staff capacities. He thus escaped most of his company’s combat experience. His descriptions of battles are few and limited; more evident will be the tedium, hopes, and fears of a young man determined to persevere though deeply missing his family. Unlike his Allegheny College compatriot, Levi Bird Duff, who participated in many skirmishes and battles and commented critically on the conduct of the war and performance of personnel, Chadwick appears to have accepted current headquarters thinking. He also apparently appreciated the removal from battle duties his clerking post provided him, which may explain why he made no attempt to take a furlough and thus risk being replaced during his term of service. Additional information and comment from readers will be appreciated.
                The motivation for Chadwick’s enlistment is only once mentioned in his letters. Like his fellow students, he strongly supported the Union and in December 1863 he commented that patriotism was what brought him into the Army. No doubt he was also influenced by a spirit of camaraderie with those who had been his close companions for several years and also by the thought of adventure. His own family background was anti-slavery and in some of his letters James is critical of slavery, calls for its end, and expresses hope that the war will “advance the principles of Liberty and Human Rights” (December 12, 1861).


               The eldest of the seven children of Elihu Chadwick Jr. and Isabel Jolly Chadwick , James grew up on a farm  in Western Pennsylvania that served as a station on the Underground Railway. According to a member of the Venango Historical Society, “The station on the Chadwick farm was a large room or cellar constructed under ground, near the huge barn. It was walled and ceiled with hand-picked stone, well fitted together to prevent cave-ins. . . .[T]he huge old barn. . . has [since]been torn down. . . .[and] the huge beams and beautiful hand-dressed stone used for the foundation. . . [have] been taken across the river to a farm and used in the construction of farm buildings there.”[2]
                The writer went on to state that the farm  
“was owned and operated by Elihu Chadwick (Jr.), a  very genial, generous man, and  highly respected by all the early settlers in the community. He was an agent sent by  the Bingham Heirs who owned all the land in Rockland Twp. as a surveyor to survey and map out farm lands for the people who were coming across the mountains, and the south, who wished to establish homes in western Pennsylvania. He was very dedicated to the cause of Freedom and to the freeing of the negro slaves in the South. ”
                  “Mr. Chadwick was quite well-to-do in those days when money was money. He and his  family impressed the local gentry  by driving a spanking team of carriage horses, and riding in a surrey with fringe on top. They also kept stables of fine riding horses. ”  

Next post: May 13, 2011
 Jonathan E. Helmreich
College Historian 
Allegheny College  
Meadville, PA   

[1] Most students attended for a few terms, but relatively few persevered to graduation. Thus the class of 1861 had but 17 graduates, even though the number of students who at one time or another were part of the class numbered 95.

[2] This passage is from a letter written by Mrs. Ruth Canfield of the Venango Historical Society quoted by the late  Richard Chadwick Edstrom, Allegheny College Class of 1951, in a note accompanying the transcribed copy of the Civil War letters of James D. Chadwick donated to Allegheny College by the late Mr. Edstrom. The transcription of the letters is located in Special Collections, Pelletier Library, Allegheny College, Meadville, PA. It is apparent from the format, pagination, and name spellings (Everill or Evrill) that the transcription was undertaken by two different persons. The present location of the original letters is unknown to the editor of this blog. 
          More information on the College Company can be found in Jonathan E. Helmreich’s, The Flag of the Allegheny College Volunteers (Meadville, PA: Allegheny College, 2002), and in his Through All the Years: A History of Allegheny College (Meadville, PA: Allegheny College, 2005).  A few passages in this blog are borrowed closely or directly from the phrasing employed in these previous works. Also, see chapter 6, “Allegheny in the Civil War,” in Ernest Ashton Smith, Allegheny—A Century of Education 1815-1915 (Meadville, PA: The Allegheny College History Company, 1916). Spelling and punctuation vagaries in the transcription of Chadwick’s letters are reproduced in the quotation of the letters, although what appear to be typographical slips are corrected.