MySource:BobC/Hessians in our Midst

Watchers
MySource Hessians in our Midst
Author Ayoub, Michael
Coverage
Place Alexandria, Arlington, Virginia, United States
Year range 1861 - 1865
Publication information
Type Magazine
Publication Alexandria Chronicle, a publication of monographs about historical Alexandria, Virginia
Citation
Ayoub, Michael. Hessians in our Midst. (Alexandria Chronicle, a publication of monographs about historical Alexandria, Virginia).
Repository
Name Alexandria Historial Society
Address 201 South Washington Street, Alexendria, VA 22314
URL http://www.alexandriahistorical.org/upload/Provost%20to%20Minuteman%20B%209-25-08.pdf

Contents

Provost Duty in Alexandria 1861-62: The 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers

by Michael Ayoub

In late August, 1861, the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (PVI) was recruited from the city of Philadelphia and Berks County, Pennsylvania, for three years of duty. The seven companies raised in Philadelphia were heavily populated with blue collar workers of Irish origin while the three companies raised in Berks County were well represented by German ancestry. The men ranged in age from 14 to 65, including a veteran drummer boy from the War of 1812. Named after Secretary of War Simon Cameron, the regiment was initially known as the Cameron Light Guards. It was a relatively healthy but small regiment that struggled greatly to meet its recruitment quota of 1,000 men.

On October 5, 1861, after a scant four weeks of training, the regiment was sent in haste from Philadelphia through Baltimore to Washington, D.C., with only partial uniforms and no rifles. For the following seven months, the men served in garrisoning the forts around Washington, D.C., and in providing provost duty in Alexandria, Virginia. In the spring of 1862 the regiment was ordered to field duty in the Army of Virginia where it participated in the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, and the battles of Cedar Mountain, Rappahannock Station, Thoroughfare Gap, Second Bull Run/Manassas, and Ox Hill/Chantilly. After the consolidation of the Army of Virginia and the Army of the Potomac, the 88th served in the First Corps through the battles of Antietam/Sharpsburg, as well as Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Mine Run. In the post-Gettysburg consolidation and reorganization, the regiment was subordinated into the Fifth Corps where its men served until the final surrender at Appomattox.

What follows are the stories of the men who provided provost duty in Alexandria from October 5, 1861 to April 14, 1862. Their letters and diary entries serve as a valuable primary source describing the daily activities of men in the Army of the Potomac in Alexandria and throughout northern Virginia. The account only covers the period of service when the regiment was posted in Alexandria. The reader may find opinions in the correspondence that seem naïve, spiritual, and even bigoted. Please bear in mind that these are the opinions of average twenty-year old men written 140 years ago. This is particularly apparent when reading some of the soldiers’ opinions of African Americans.

The account is in chronological order in the format of a regimental diary. The narrative or framework for the soldiers’ stories is in the present tense. Each military entry is identified by the name of the writer and the entry is in italics.

October 12, 1861

The regiment departs Washington and boards a ship for passage to Alexandria. Once there the companies are assigned to Brigadier General Montgomery. Unlike other regiments which draw weapons from the Washington Arsenal, today’s Fort McNair, the Cameron Light Guards deploy to Alexandria unarmed. To train the soldiers in the duties of a provost guard, the men are teamed with soldiers of the acting provost guard, the 5th New Jersey Volunteer Infantry. The men in the 88th regiment are dispersed throughout the city. Companies B and F are detailed to man Fort Ellsworth and Company C to man the building known as the “Slave Pen.” The remaining companies are billeted in and assigned to duty in Alexandria. Captain Daniel Griffith is appointed Provost Marshall of the city. The Cameron Light Guards remain in Alexandria assigned to provost duty until April 1862.

For many of the soldiers, this is the first time they have traveled beyond their home towns. In colonial times, Alexandria had been a major seaport for the export of Virginia tobacco. By the mid-1800s, however, commerce had changed, and Alexandria had become a major sales and trans-shipping center for surplus slaves. Slaves were housed in what is known as the Slave Pen on Duke Street. The building was not only a source of interest to the northern troops, but filled a pressing military need as well.

With war and Alexandria’s occupation by northern troops on June 2, 1861, merchants and prominent citizens exited the city. By October, Alexandria seemed a desolate shadow of its former bustling self. In addition there remained a strong pro-Confederate underground movement. Many of the city’s sons had enlisted in Confederate regiments, and the majority of the citizens of Alexandria considered themselves to be living under military occupation. Henry Whittington, a diligent civilian observer, wrote a voluminous and somewhat vitriolic diary of the occupation. Samples are included here. The diary now resides in the Special Collections Section of the Alexandria Library.

Private John Vautier: Sunday October 13th - Clear and Cold Weather. Rearranged our camp, and in the afternoon we all went to church the church where Washington went. It is an Episcopalian Church. Alexandria is a very ordinary looking place of about 8000 or 9000 inhabitants. A great number of the people have left and gone to hunt the “Confederacy” up. I guess they will get enough of the “Confederacy” before they are through. Scarcely a young man can be seen. The Rebs raised a Battery here and called it Keplers because Kepler commanded it. Here too is the place where the “high bred Southern Ladies” turn their nose’s up at poor Yankee Mudsills like us, and turn down another street to avoid us. The only place of interest is the house where poor Ellsworth was killed. The staircase is almost all torn away by eager relic hunters, but as for me I was content with standing on the spot where he breathed his last, and where the blood of Jackson stained the floor. I contented myself with contemplating on the great spirit who died here. And right here in this doorway is the place where the infamous Jackson died too. Retribution speedily overtook him. And these are the steps where they carried Ellsworth down, and this is the doorway - Yes all these are sacred places. Sacred to the memory of every American.

October 15, 1861

In spite of Colonel McLean's repeated requests to Governor Curtin for rifles; the regiment is equipped with smoothbore muskets, most likely because the muskets were obsolete and therefore cheaper to import from Europe. Colonel McLean issues an order allowing men in the informally organized Christian Volunteer Company to quarter and mess together. He adds, however, that they must be with their respective companies for all other functions. An inspection of army crackers, called hardtack by the soldiers, reveals that 46 of the 50 barrels contain rotten crackers and must be condemned. Some soldiers joke about seeing "1810" stamped on the crackers, while others insist they have seen "B.C." stamped on their crackers. Not a humorous man, Colonel McLean resolves to get local ovens functioning and provide the troops with fresh bread.

Private John Vautier: Tuesday Oct 15th - This was a great day for us green recruits. We received muskets today, and that was of great importance to us. We got genuine old smoothbore muskets, or as the "knowing ones" said Young Cannons. But as I wasn't one of the knowing ones, why I didn't know much what breed they were. I was immensely delighted with my gun, and all I wanted was a half dozen real live Rebs to annihilate. Not less than a half a dozen would satisfy me.

October 16, 1861

The regimental staff assign company quarters. Duty schedules are posted. The regiment begins training with the 5th New Jersey Volunteers. Provost duties are directed from the Provost Marshall's office located on the corner of North Pitt and King Streets. The regiment is charged with all constabulary duties associated with a military occupation. These duties range from enforcing curfews and alcohol prohibitions to protecting vital Union supply and rail facilities from Confederate sabotage. With alarming regularity, provost guards find themselves in the unenviable position of having to both protect soldiers from Confederate partisans and to protect indignant southern citizens from the excesses of over-zealous northern soldiers. Then, as today, enforcing the rule of law on an occupied people is not easy or clear cut.

October 18, 1861

With the relief of the 5th New Jersey, troops of the Cameron Guards move from their temporary encampment into the buildings vacated by the New Jersey troops. The companies are scattered about town in buildings large enough to accommodate up to one hundred men. Company I moves into a large building on the corner of St. Asaph and King Streets. The regiment's band is quartered in one of the engine houses; Company K, of the Cameron Guards, is billeted in the Marshall House tavern.

The Marshall House tavern became a landmark on May 24, 1861 when Colonel Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth was shot and killed there by James Jackson, the tavern's proprietor and Southern sympathizer. Jackson was then killed by one of Ellsworth's soldiers.

Ellsworth was well known in the north for organizing the Chicago Zouaves and then the elite Fire Zouaves, otherwise designated as the 11th New York Infantry. On May 24th as commander of the 11th New York Infantry, Ellsworth forcibly removed the Confederate flag flying atop the Marshall House. As he was descending the stairs, flag in hand, he was confronted by James Jackson, who killed him with his shotgun. Both men became martyrs for their respective causes. Today, a plaque on the wall of the Hotel Monaco on King Street in Old Town, Alexandria, marks the location of the Marshall House.

Private John Vautier Friday October 18th - We occupied Alexandria in force - the Jerseymen falling back somewhere, where I don't exactly know. Anyhow, they changed their base. We, the Sentinels, were stationed on each square. We stood guard for 4 hours and then were 8 hours off before we went on post again. After nine O'clock P.M. anyone who was found on the street s of Alexandria without the password, was arrested.
The manner of arresting a person was this - When we saw a person coming we let them get within 20 feet when we halted them. The dialogue that followed was this - Guard "Halt", and he halted. Guard -'Who comes there?" Comer - "Friend with the countersign". Guard - "Advance friend and give the countersign". Friend advances as near as the point of the bayonet will let him when the guard again halts him and the magic word is whispered in a low tone. If all right, the guard says "The countersign is correct', and shouldering his shooting iron does not notice the stranger more. If not correct, he shouts for the Corporal of the Guard "post number 14" (or whatever it may be) and then the next sentinel takes up the same words and sentinel after sentinel echoes the same until it reaches the Guard house where the Corporal makes his Headquarters. The Corporal comes, takes the delinquent to the Guardhouse and next morning, before the Provost Marshals - who does what he thinks proper with him.

October 25, 1861

Private James Grace of Company D succumbs to Typhoid Fever and becomes the first member of the regiment to die and the first of 181 soldiers to perish in the service of their country. Without fanfare, the work of preparing for war continues. The men’s muskets are collected, and they are issued an unknown type of musket from the Philadelphia Arsenal, possibly the .69 caliber Model 1842. The new muskets are described as lighter.

Private John Vautier: Sunday, October 27th 1861 - In the morning I attended the funeral of one of Co. D's members. He was buried in the Cemetery near the Railroad. Poor fellow, he didn't serve his country long till he gave his life for her, and more he could not do. Went to the Baptist Church in the afternoon.

October 28, 1861

In accordance with Regimental General Order #15, the Cameron Light Guards are officially redesignated as the 88th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (PVI). According to the conventions of the day, a volunteer regiment, once recruited and formed, was offered to the state governor. When accepted into state service, the state government conferred a numerical designation on the regiment. The regimental numbers were issued sequentially, and, as such, the Cameron Guards became the 88th Pennsylvania Regiment in line. Colonel McLean then orders regimental formations to take place daily, weather permitting, on Royal Street with the regiment's right flank resting on King Street. The formations are aligned facing the west. Given the proximity of this location to the Provost Marshall's office, it is likely the formations take place at the daily shift changes. Also, the regiment is ordered to conduct weapon proficiency training.

Private John Vautier: Monday 28th - Target practice by the Co. down by the Potomac. The Potomac river at this point is about as wide as the Delaware is at Philadelphia, but it is a dirty, muddy stream. We have dress parade every afternoon down on Duke or Royal St.



View looking east toward Alexandria from the base of Shuter’s Hill, 1864. Fort Ellsworth is behind the photographer. 44th New York Infantry Encampment. On the left, one can discern King Street. (File 377, Barrett Branch, Alexandria Library)

October 28, 1861

Observing the federal forces in Alexandria Henry Bassford Whittington, c. 1812 - 1884, wrote frequently and indignantly in his diary of the city's occupation. Whittington was born and raised in Dinwiddie County, Virginia. He moved to Alexandria to become a clerk at a mercantile firm. Employed as a clerk throughout the war, his duties undoubtedly afforded him frequent contact with Union soldiers. Whittington enjoyed a local reputation as a poet and some of his poems reportedly were published in the Alexandria Gazette. (The Alexandria Gazette would meet an untimely demise in the following months.) Whittington died on September 25, 1884.

Henry Whittington: Monday Oct 28 - A lovely morning though somewhat frosty. There is much difficulty in obtaining reliable information of the present state of war preparation, as our sources are all of the Federal stamp, and as their object is to stimulate the poor degraded beings who now compose their grand army, they still keep up the system of lying & deception until honest men have become disgusted with this duplicity. The Hessians here are being daily drilled and to judge from their evolutions, they very much need it...
Henry Whittington: Tuesday Oct 29 - A bright and cheerful season seems about to relieve somewhat the gloom by which we are surrounded, and to impart more vitality to the otherwise dark & dreary picture presented to us, who are unfortunately surrounded by such a set of friends, who are here for the purpose of Saving the Union. The mania for seizing those who wear the interdicted colors (Red & White) seems to be on the increase, as several females have been warned of the consequences of a violation of this rule, but I am pleased however to know that many of our Ladies have the independence to wear whatever suits their tastes regardless of the disgraceful order emanating from Yankedom...

October 29, 1861

Whittington's use of the word "Hessians" -- a word he uses in later entries -- to disparage the 88th is intriguing. Did he intend to compare the Union soldiers to German mercenaries hired by the British to fight the colonists during the Revolutionary War or did he simply intend it as an ethnic slur? Three companies of the 88th came from the predominantly Pennsylvania Dutch areas around Reading, and it is possible that an overheard, accented conversation inspired Whittington to describe the northern soldiers as Hessians. Whittington likely also would have been surprised if he knew that a number of soldiers in the 88th called themselves "minute men," because they saw themselves as patriotic, "quick responders."

November 14, 1861

Local citizens of Alexandria, loyal to the United States government, meet for the first time to found the Union Association. The group agrees to meet every Wednesday at Washington Hall on the corner of Washington and Prince Streets.13 November 15, 1861. Lieutenant Colonel Joseph McLean leads the detachment composed of Companies D, G, and I up to Fort Ellsworth. The companies escort the departing Marines garrisoned there down to the wharf. The route taken by the sailors and soldiers of the 88th is a fifteen-block march down King Street. (The George Washington Masonic National Memorial Temple partially resides on the site of Fort Ellsworth.)

Private John Vautier: Friday 15th - Weather Rainy and Muddy. In the afternoon we escorted the Sailors from Ft. Ellsworth to the wharf. We had blackened our boots and polished our brasses up so nicely that we looked awful slick. But in going out after the Sailors, the mud was only a foot deep and then it commenced to rain too - that was all. But we had a jolly time waddling through the mud like young ducks, and old ducks too. The Marines cheered us heartily for our trouble though. Received 1 letter and wrote 2.

November 27, 1861

Soldiers of the 88th respond promptly to a fire and make every effort to save the engulfed buildings. Among the items salvaged by the soldiers are five thousand rifle percussion caps.

Private John Vautier: Wednesday November 27th 1861 - Changeable Weather. At about Midnight, a destructive fire

broke out down by the tunnel. The Company were called to arms and proceeded to the fire on the Double Quick. When we got there, we manned the few crazy old Engines that we could find, and extinguished the fire. The fire was among some frame buildings occupied by poor people, and the men worked hard to save them. Several were destroyed. The fire made a great light and the people of Washington and the surrounding camps, seeing the immense light were under the impression that the Seecsh had risen and driving our own regiment away, had set fire to the town. They didn't though. Rec'd 1 Letter.

Henry B. Whittington: Thursday Nov 28 - The sun is up with all of its glory and today bids fair to be a fine autumnal season. The firing of the guard last night attracted the attention of our citizens but as none were permitted to leave their homes, it was only known to a few that a considerable fire had leveled to the ground some three dwellings. This one fact will show how we are situated and to what straits we are reduced to by the Lincolnites, not withstanding they have ousted our rightly appointed officers and placed in their stead Black Republicans, dyed in the wool. Several regiments have passed through the city today, but for what purpose or what destination I am unable to tell; but of one fact I am assured, and that is, they will not advance toward the Confederate lines. A Federal account of a skirmish near Vienna acknowledges the loss of forty five after being compelled to retire before superior numbers and if they thus admit defeat, it must have been a severe one as they are addicted to the most extravagant lying...
Private J. Vautier: Thursday 28th - Changeable with rain. The regiment escorted the 36th and 53d PV and 4th R.I. through town and got out to far, almost within the Reb lines. About 10 P.M. Co. I was called upon to go out and reinforce them. There was a heavy rain falling, but we went out as far as Springfield Station upon the cars, and found our services were not required. Rec'd 1 Letter and Wrote 2. In the early part of the evening I went with Chaplain Clothier to Colored Church.

November 30, 1861

A sentry from the 88th fires on a fleeing Union soldier and inflicts the first fatality by a member of the regiment. With so many regiments encamped on the outskirts of Alexandria, the city is rapidly becoming a garrison town of visiting soldiers. The influx of soldiers' dollars heralds the reopening of many shops, particularly those along King Street.

Private Vautier: Saturday 30th - Changeable weather. During the night, one of the Co. H arrested a soldier without the countersign. The Soldier attempted to escape but the guard shot him dead! Although it was the guard's orders - still I regard it as a cold blooded murder. Company H was celebrating it's cruel treatment of prisoner. They are from Reading, and mostly Pennsylvania Dutch.
Jacob S. Kram, Company A, 24: Alexandria, VA, Dec 18, 1861 - Well, we are still in the same old spot with very good prospects of remaining until next summer, and, as I have said several times, I am not sorry for it. The fact is there's nothing like a good warm bed to sleep in on a cold night and that is just what we would not get were we to leave here this winter. I would not object to being kept here during the war if it were not for one or two things. In Philadelphia they have given us the name of the "Potomac Home Guard Regiment" and sundry other names which I do not like, and which I think very inappropriate. Before we left Philadelphia they used to call us a "crack" Regiment, but now they call us the "cracked" Regiment, and it's all owing to our being kept here guarding the town, which is a job usually given to "one horse" regiments. If the people at home knew the importance of this position, they would, I think, give us the credit we deserve. One of the best evidences of our being a first class regiment, is the fact of our having received the praise of the War Department, and being kept here for so long. When we first took possession of the town it was almost deserted. All business houses being closed, and scarcely a person to be seen on the streets. Now, you could not get a house at any price, all being taken up by northern men. There has not been as much business done here in ten years as now. I will venture to say there is no more lively place anywhere in the North, and we claim credit for making it what it is. There are still a great number of secessionists here, and they need a good deal of watching to keep them out of mischief. It is very amusing to stand at the front door on a fine day, and watch the ladies as they cross and re-cross the streets every few steps to avoid walking under the American Flag, a great many of which are now flying in the town. I think you asked me about the condition of the soldiers, whether they were in need of anything &c. Well, on last Sunday I took a stroll through the camps outside of town, making a circuit of ten miles, on purpose to see the condition they were in, so as to be able to tell you about it. I am going through the different camps, I was surprised to see them so comfortably fixed having previously read in the papers of their suffering, &c, I imagined all sorts of things. Most of them have built of logs, neat little cabins with the tent for a covering, and most of containing small stoves. Those without stoves, have built under them, on one side, small ovens, which answer all the purposes of stoves. The men have plenty to eat and wear, and the only thing they wish for is a fight with the enemy. When that does take place, I think you will go to your dinner with a better appetite than you did after the battle of Bull Run. We are expecting a fight every day. Yours, J.S. Kram, Company A
Private Vautier: Tuesday Dec 24th - Clear Cold and very windy. Well tomorrow is Christmas, and our room thought they ought to have -something good for Christmas dinner. So we went down to the Cook and asked him what good things we were going to have for Christmas. "Rice" says Jim, "and you be damned thankful if you get that and enough of it." Well, rice for Christmas dinner - well that is rough surely.
Well the wise men of our room called a council, and determined to let others eat what they liked - as for us, we were going to have something extra. There are chickens in Alexandria says White. Yes says Andy, "but it would take $5 to get enough for all of us." "No, now it won't take that" says MacNichol "it won't cost us anything." That's so we all replied, and so we soon concocted a conspiracy against 3 particular houses who kept chickens. The next thing was to appoint a delegation to "gather them in" and settle the preliminaries. Nath White, Beiderman, Truitt and my honored self were appointed Executive Committee, with power to execute as many chickens as we could find.
About 11 P.M. we sallied forth. The first place we attacked was Mr. Taylor's, a rank Rebel, nearby. They had a large and very ferocious dog here. I was appointed to get over the fence and open the door. I crept over the fence, and kept a sharp watch for the dog, but as the wind was blowing a gale, nothing could hear us. I opened the gate, and then we entered the stable and commenced our search for chicks. Sergt. Levan, in the meantime, had joined us, and was a valuable acquisition to the party. He was so handy that we told him that he was an old hand at this business. We took all the old hens we could find, but left Taylor the rooster to raise another family with. But it seems Mr. Taylor did not appreciate our kindness in leaving him the "father of the flock" by the way he cursed the Yankees next day.
We then came out in the yard. Here there were several coops of fine fat pullets - well they were just the kind we wanted and we didn't spare any of them, for there was no old rooster there. We took them upstairs, and I closed the door and then we thanked Mr. Taylor for his chickens but he didn't hear us. Then we went down to a house on Prince St. and went in the back way and got along finely. The chickens here were not as nice and fat as Mr. Taylors were. As we were about though, Beiderman got hold of a noisy chicken, who much to our disgust, commenced to exercise his, or rather I should say her vocal powers. We imagined we heard somebody open a window, and all commenced to scramble out. Beiderman dropped his hat and as I was the only one inside now, he told me to bring it out. The cap had had the Company's letter on it and to leave that would be sure detection. I groped around in the dark, expecting every minute to hear somebody banging away in my vicinity. I managed to find the hat and then I didn't stay there long. We all skedadled up the Street and in the quarters as fast as our "pins" would carry us.
Wednesday 25th Dec - Clear moderate weather. Christmas Day. Happy Christmas to you reader, but as it is rather late now, maybe you won't like it, but better late than never. If you hadn't a happy Christmas, why it isn't my fault. I'll assure you I had. We had Chicken for dinner and Chicken for supper. Charley Hillson took the chicks down to an old colored lady on Vinegar Hill, and she done brown them for us. Received 2 letters.
Citizen Henry Whittington: Wednesday Dec 25th ..... Large numbers of drunken soldiers are upon our streets today to the great annoyance of our citizens, many of whom express the opinion that in the return of another similar festival, we may be entirely rid of these disgraceful crews that now infest every avenue.

January 11, 1862

The "Report of a Guard Mounted" indicates that 258 soldiers are detailed for night shift guard duty in Alexandria. The troops are divided into both general and sectional inspections. The standard detail appears to average about 235 soldiers led by one lieutenant, seven sergeants, and seven corporals. A captain is assigned to oversee the entire operation. The shift record for January 11th includes the confiscation of 11 bottles of wine from 31 Prince Street, two-thirds of a barrel of whiskey from 27 Prince Street and two-thirds of a barrel of whiskey from 25 Union Street. Captain George Knabb of Company A is duty officer.

January 13, 1862

The town remains quiet except for the arrest of a woman on Fairfax Street for keeping a "disorderly house."

Private Vautier: Monday 13 - Cold and Cloudy. Wood is awfully scarce now. But our room manages to get by comfortably. Last night we visited several Hd. Quarters woodpiles, and laid in a good supply. We call our room "The Wide Awakes," and as a warning to overbearing petty and high officers too, we have inscribed on our door "Every dog has his day."

Note: It is unknown whether the soldiers refer to themselves as "The Wide Awakes" to convey their constant vigilance or whether they refer to their negative assessment of the radical abolitionist association of the same name. Certainly, “The Wide Awakes” would have a negative connotation to the southern citizens in Alexandria. It is also possible that the soldiers wanted their officers to know that they, “The Wide Awakes,” could not be mistreated without consequence.

January 18, 1862

The soldiers of the 88th receive two months wages or $26 per private. It is perhaps no coincidence that the arrival of the paymaster precipitates an increase in alcohol-related incidents with which the soldiers of the 88th must contend. Late Saturday night a report is received by the provost office indicating that gunshots were heard at a local house of ill-repute. As officers are rumored to be involved, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph McLean, execu- tive officer for the 88th Pennsylvania, accompanied by the duty officer, Captain White, Lieutenant Harksheimer, and a detail of enlisted soldiers respond to the call. Upon entering the house, Lieutenant Colonel McLean discovers the culprits to be two captains from the 63rd Pennsylvania.

They apprehend the two captains, and as the group departs the building, General Montgomery arrives at the scene. A scuffle occurs, and one of the drunken captains draws his weapon and fires two shots at Montgomery before McLean and White wrestle the pistol from him. Unhappy at being disarmed, the captain lurches forward and is bayoneted by one of the 88th provost guards. Wounded, yet undeterred, the captain fights on as he is hauled off to the provost marshall's office. Lieutenant Colonel McLean's actions probably saved General Montgomery's life. Few of the Union troops in Alexandria would have appreciated McLean's action as many of the rank and file consider Montgomery far too pro-secessionist.

January 21, 1862

Captain J. Reeside White of Company I is again assigned as duty officer for the evening shift. Several taverns are closed because they sold liquor to soldiers, and several liquor stores are destroyed. A number of drunken soldiers from outlying regiments are apprehended. As usual the soldiers are incarcerated overnight in the Slave Pen. The Slave Pen had been the auction house of Price and Birch, dealers in slaves. The Slave Pen appears repeatedly in the log entries during the period that the 88th is assigned to provost duty in Alexandria. The building is utilized as a temporary detention facility for soldiers and officers caught drunk, without passes, or for patronizing local bordellos. Those soldiers caught in civilian clothing or not knowing the password -- which changes each night -- are detained in the local jail. The Slave Pen is usually overwhelmed with prisoners. Dr. J. H. Seltzer, the 88th's surgeon, states that there are, at times, two to three hundred prisoners crammed into the facility. He adds that the high walls have no roof over a large section of the cells, and prisoners are exposed to the elements as well as having to move in ankle-deep mud and filth on the floor.

Note: The slave pens that surrounded Price, Birch & Co. at 1315 Duke Street were torn down in 1870. Six houses were built there and they still exist. 1315 became the headquarters of the Northern Virginia Urban League, and in 2008 the League opened the Freedom House Museum. The Museum has a Civil War Jail Cell on exhibit.

January 26, 1862

A group of New York State Militia soldiers are arrested for disorderly conduct. One of the prisoners resists arrest and attempts to escape on the way to the Slave Pen. He is shot in the leg by a guard. The prisoner is then taken to the general hospital. The duty officer assigned that day is Captain William Powell of Company K.

Private John Vautier: Tuesday January 28th 1862 - Rainy weather. In an affair down on Vinegar Hill, Sam Thomas badly injured a New York soldier, who was carried to the hospital. Sam is a member of Company I. Recd 7 and wrote 8 Letters.
Private John Vautier: Wednesday 29th - Rainy weather. Sam Thomas had another affair in a portion of the town called "Hate" on Vinegar Hill, down near the jug in the wall. In this affair he shot and killed a member of a New York regiment. (PS) ( Note. Sam was court-martialed for this and acquitted. He afterward deserted, was arrested, attempted to escape, and was shot through the head and killed. The way of the transgressor is hard.)

Note: The area Vautier refers to as "Hate" is an area of town known as Hayti. Hayti is located by the railroad tunnel and is populated largely by Freedmen. The present day Department of Veteran's Affairs, which manages the Alexandria Cemetery, lists Samuel Thomas as having died on July 27, 1864 and being buried in section B, grave 3431. No mention is made of his execution for desertion.

February 1, 1862

Instances of soldiers stealing goods to make their living quarters more habitable lead Colonel McLean to issue Special Order 3 decreeing that no troops, enlisted or officers, will remove any furniture from civilian residences without orders from headquarters and sanctioned by the general commanding the post.

February 2, 1862

Company A, under command of Captain George Knabb, boards the steam tug Leslie and proceeds down the Potomac River to Mount Vernon. Here the company crosses to Maryland.

Earlier, there had been reports of covert Confederate signal lamps, and Knabb's company is sent to investigate. Little is found.

Private John Vautier: Sunday, Feb 9th - Clear and Pleasant weather. This morning there was a great deal of excitement occasioned by the arrest of the Minister in the St. Paul's Epis. Church. The congregation is strongly Seecsh, and the Minister has been in the habit of praying for Jeff and omitting the prayers for the President of the U.S. In the morning, during Service he was arrested and taken to the Provost Marshals Office.
The rage of the female portion exceeded all bounds, but they met some very good replies from the men, and the sensible ones too, in answer to the crimes of treason. The male portion of the "flock" kept quiet for they would have been roughly handled if they had said anything treasonable. Recd 1 letter. Wrote 1 letter, and sent 1 paper home.
Citizen Henry Whittington: Sunday Feb 9 - The sun shines to-day with an assurance of fair weather. An occurrence transpired to-day which will show the Hessians in their true character & bring down upon them the execrations of all true honorable men. The Rev Mr Stewart, whilst officiating at St Paul's P.E. Church, was arrested in the midst of the services & forcibly dragged before the military authorities simply for omitting the prayer for the President of the Untied States, and as the outrage was committed by men who profess to be our protectors, we record the facts of this desecration's they were detailed to us by an eyewitness & corroborated by others who were present.

February 10, 1862

The building housing the prosecessionist Alexandria Gazette is mysteriously set aflame during the night. Soldiers are dispatched to combat the flames, but there is little enthusiasm among the troops for saving the building. In spite of the proximity of a fire station, the building is gutted by fire.

Private J. Vautier: Monday 10th Feb - Splendid weather. David Hurst of Co. D was buried today. There is printed in the town a violent Rebel journal called the "Alexandria Gazette." It has been persistent in it's opposition to the Government, and spits out its treason whenever it can. But the days of the "Alexandria Gazette" were numbered.
During the night, some person forced an entrance, and set fire to it. The engines were quickly on the ground, but notwithstanding the threats of the Officers, but few men would man them. The building was totally destroyed together with 2 adjoining buildings. All the presses were also destroyed.
During the day, the "Wide Awakes!' came across, among other things, a barrel of mackeral, half burned. By knocking off the outside of the barrel, we soon secured as many splendid salt fish as we could carry. We feasted on mackeral after this. Recd 2 letters.

Note: Private David Hurst (Hirst) was laid to rest in section A, grave 1075, of Alexandria National Cemetery. The Veteran's Administration lists his date of burial as February 28, 1862.

Citizen Henry Whittington: Monday Feb 10 - This is one of the brightest mornings we have enjoyed for some length of time, and there is some prospect of fair weather. The Rev Mr Stewart who was arrested yesterday, was released in a short time, the authorities at Washington (as we learn) disavowing the act. Could any stranger who might have been in our midst yesterday and witnessed the scenes described in our account of the arrest of Rev Mr. Stuart have supposed that they were in a land of boasted freedom where free speech was tolerated? And yet the fanatics who are trampling the dearest rights of freemen under their feet, profess to be warring on behalf of the Constitution which was formed by our forefathers & which secured to every man the right of thought & speech...

February 9, 1862

Special Order No. 26, issued by General Montgomery and published in The Alexandria Chronicle, decrees that "the practice of making offensive remarks and demonstrations to the Guards, Military men, and Union citizens of this city, by females and others of Secession proclivities will no longer be tolerated. All those offending in such matters will hereafter be promptly arrested and treated as circumstances may require."

February 10/11, 1862

Second Lieutenant William Thomas of the 3rd Maine is caught by provost guards of the 88th visiting a "house of ill fame" located on the corner of Pitt and Queen Streets. While there, he gives his uniform to "Miss Schuster" who, replete in her plumage as a federal officer, strolls about town. Second Lieutenant Thomas is placed under arrest and ordered to report to his regimental commander. Captain George Fairlamb of Company D, the duty officer, notes the fire at the local newspaper on Prince Street between Fairfax and Royal. A suspicion of arson is alluded to in the duty log, and Fairlamb opines that, "There is a sad deficiency in the appearance connected with the fire department." Captain Fairlamb is not the only officer to note this deficiency.

Citizen Henry Whittington: Tuesday, February 11th - A gloomy and (?) morning has dissipated the prospect of fair weather & rain or snow again seems inevitable. The office of the Alexandria Gazette, in which the "Social News" is published Was consumed last night by fire. As is doubtless the work of an incendiary, it is fair to suppose that the act was committed by the Hessians in our midst, as no citizen is allowed to be upon the streets after 10 O'clock. The fire took place long after this hour. And in justification of our suspicions, we learn that threats were made in the hearing of our citizens last night by these villains, that this office should be destroyed; owing tot the fact we presume, that it contained a truthful statement of the brutal outrage committed on the Rev Mr Stewart on Sunday last, and which the editor characterized as one of the grossest outrages ever perpetrated on this side of the Atlantic...

February 12, 1862

Soldiers of the 88th PVI and the 8th Illinois Cavalry are called out to protect St. Paul's Church in Alexandria from an anti-secessionist mob. The soldiers succeed in clearing the street at bayonet point, and the church is spared destruction.

Private John Vautier: Wednesday 12th - Clear weather. In the morning we formed inline and marched back to our quarters again, to the music of "The girl I left behind me" by the fife and drum. In the afternoon a mob collected in front of the Church and Co. I were quickly formed and marched down in quick time to protect it.
"The Three Eights" - The mob became violent, and we were ordered to clear the street, which we did at the point of a bayonet. Affairs had now reached a crisis. Over 1 000 of the 88th PV, and 8th ILL Regts were armed to the teeth and would have soon overpowered us when Major Gile appeared on the spot and in a voice of thunder asked what it all meant, and then ordered the mob back to their barracks. They didn't go though.
Genl. Montgomery also appeared, but as he was suspected of friendly feelings toward the Seesch, he was received with but little favor. The Major finally pacified the crowd, and they separated. During the excitement, some genius called for 3 cheers for the 3 Eights, and it was enthusiastically given. Always after this our regt and the Illinois regt were known as the "Three Eights." We remained in the Church all night and bunked in the cushioned pews. Recd 2 and wrote 1 letter.
Citizen Henry Whittington: Wednesday Feb 12 - The sun shines brightly today & the weather is mild. St Paul's Church was occupied last night by the military, it is said to save the building from destruction, as a portion of the 8th Illinois Cavalry had sworn to level the edifice with the ground, and as they could only be appeased by raising the American flag, they were allowed to be gratified, and the objectionable Rag now waves from the sacred enclosure. It shows what kind of discipline obtains (?) in the Hessian army here, where one company can set at defiance the two regiments now occupying this place, and were wrath is only appeased by gaining their ends, Well the facts are these, Co K, 8th Illinois Cavalry had determined to destroy St Paul's Church and to this end had gathered in large numbers in the vicinity of the of the building, where the authorities placed a guard there as already stated, and they were only satisfied when they were permitted to raise the Stars and Stripes (which is now the emblem of oppression) above the building...
Citizen Henry B. Whittington: Thursday February 13 - ... Numbers of U.S. flags were place upon the buildings of our citizens, it was said to protect their property, but we suspect that it was to mollify them, as in every case they were southern in their feelings...

February 13, 1862

Special Order 31, Headquarters 88th Pennsylvania: "The disorderly practice recently manifested by the garrison of raising flags over different private buildings without orders of Proper Authority and in violation of good order and military discipline is disapproved and in the future is prohibited unless with the proper authority. By command of General Montgomery."

February 14, 1862

Orders are issued prohibiting local liquor dealers from selling alcoholic spirits to the soldiers. Merchants caught selling liquor have their stocks confiscated and face closure of their establishments.

An anonymous soldier in Company F writes a despondent letter to the Reading Gazette & Democrat complaining that a much anticipated barrel of sauerkraut met with foul play. A good citizen in Reading donated a barrel of sauerkraut to soldiers in Company F and consigned it to Captain H.R. Myers, the commanding officer. When the troops arrived at the express office to claim their barrel, they found it contained only a very small amount of sauerkraut. Being a good soldier, the writer points no finger, but suggests that in the future, any kind soul wishing to donate edibles to soldiers in Company B, do so only by consigning the shipment to a sergeant or private.

Private John Vautier: Monday 17th - Rainy and very disagreeable. Received marching orders. We had been carrying on pretty high lately, and it is probable that the powers that be were displeased with our conduct.
For the past week we had procured American Flags and Tom Neal, Jesse Tyson, and Myself had visited several of the most violent Secceshionists and nailed the colors on their houses, whether they wanted them or not.
It was very amusing to see the long faces they put on when we knocked at their doors and politely asked them where they would like to have "their" flag put. We plainly told them that if the flags were removed, that their house would be removed too. Somebody even went so far as to privately nail a couple on Genl Montgomery's house one night, and when he saw them, he ordered them to be removed. Packed up and bunked in St. Paul's Church for the night.

February 18 - April 17, 1862

The regiment is split into two battalions. Companies B, F, G, H, and K remain in Alexandria; Companies A, C, D, E, and I are posted to Fort Stanton, south of Anacostia, Maryland. Both are under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph McLean. Colonel George McLean remains in command of the regiment, but also accompanies his brother Joseph to Fort Stanton. The soldiers of the 88th are assigned to man the defenses at Forts Baker, Davis, Goodhope, Ricketts and Greble, plus two other unnamed forts. The remaining battalion of the 88th, composed of Companies B, F, G, H, and K continues provost duty in Alexandria throughout this period under the direct command of Major George Gile of the regimental staff.

February 20, 1862

Captain John Dull reports he now has 52 recruits mustered into service, but still needs a first lieutenant. The companies detailed to man the forts on the Anacostia River begin to arrive at Camp Kelly and over the next two days establish their encampment. Colonel McLean mandates the following schedule: in the morning reveille at 5:30, roll-call at 6, company commander's report from 6:30 to 7:30, breakfast at 7:30, surgeon's (sick) call at 8:30, guard mount and battalion drill at 9:30, and then dinner call at 12 noon. In the afternoon the schedule begins with the company drill from 1:30 to 2:30 under the immediate supervision of the company commanders, dress parade at 4, tattoo at 6, roll call at 9, and taps at 9:15. February 25, 1862. Tragedy strikes the regiment when Captain Griffth's five year old daughter dies of burns. The Griffith family comes to Alexandria to visit the captain, and as his daughter stands close to an open grate fire, her clothing ignites. In spite of every effort to save the child, she dies three hours later. Her body is escorted back to Reading, Pennsylvania.

DD Jones, 1LT+ Reg QM 88th Pa Vols, Camp Kelly, Near Fort Good Hope: March 3 1862 -
Dear Sir:
...You will be surprised perhaps to learn that the main portion of our regiment is located here on the Maryland side of the Potomac about three Miles South of the Capitol across the Maryland Bridge. If you could make it conveniant to visit our Camp I should be most happy to see you. Or if I could learn in time the day you would be in Washington would gladly meet you there. We are guarding these new fortifications Fts Baker Staunton Goodhope, while other companies are still doing police duty guarding Alexandria. I was there when the arrest of the leading Secessionists were made. It took several weeks close watching and sifting with the aid of two efficient defectors and the information we had gained to bring matters to a culminating point. Give friend Woodward my kind regards and tell him nothing would afford me greater satisfaction than the privalige of pulling the hang mans knot around the neck of that Cashier and several others of the leading Secessionists captured last week. They carried on secesh communications with the rebels constantly and although captured their mail about New years we could not find out the parties until now. This mode of conveying the mail was by short notes from one family to the other until it reached beyond our lines...

March 18, 1862

The companies stationed in Alexandria train for urban warfare. The account left by Private Vautier is superb in its detail. Accounts of training for urban fighting in an era dominated by Napoleonic tactics are rare.

Private John Vautier: Tuesday 18 March - Clear and pleasant. The street fighting drill practiced by regiment. As this is a novel as well as pleasant drill, I will describe it.
The regiment is formed on platoon front, and the platoon is in the charge of a Lieutenant. (16 men with 8 man front is a platoon, and 8 men with 4 man front is a section.) The platoon is counted (but not divided yet) off into sections, and a Sergt takes the left section. At the command "march", the whole regiment steps off. The first platoon then "halts", "aims" and "fires" and the command is given "By sections, right and left face, file right and left march". The right section then turns to the right, and files left halts, and loads. The left section turns to the left, files right, halts, and loads. The next platoon performs the same manouver, and so until the regiment has passed. When the first platoon shoulders arms, and right/left faces by file right and left, by front face, they are then a platoon again. In the service 6 months today.
DD Jones, Regt QM 88th PA Vols, Washington D.C., Camp Kelly, D.C.: March 21 1862 -
Dear Sir:
Your very interesting favor of 19 inst. is duly received. Friend Ebert visited us in Alexandria before we left there and I was much pleased to see him, he bring also an acquaintance of mine, his Soninlaw Lieut Bookhamer* got mustered into the regiment through my influence and although a little lame in one leg, makes a good officer. The late news from our army and navy as you very justly remarked have of late been of a shining character, and I was anxious to learn what impression they made upon the public mind at home. Here of course in the Army the mind is so buoyed up that every soldier wants to be off to share in active suppression of the rebellion by taking an active part in the fight. Genl McClellan has kept the Army idle so long on the Potomac that the troops are beginning to doubt his honesty of purpose. May he for his own reputation soon prove the correctness of his strategy, and clears Virginia of the rebels without bloodshed, for that can only atone for the exercise he has put the Gov to the last four months feeding + providing for this large army to keep at bay an army entrenched behind wooden guns.
There is a large fleet of Steamers (over forty) such as the John A . Warner, Kenneb, Vanderbilt, (sound boat) etc taking troops on boards at Alexandria to start some expedition down the River. No one knows where they will land. If the enemy is of sufficient number this side of Richmond to flank them, it will be done. Genl Heinzelman will command he being a Pennsylvanian and a mid officer, the expedition will be composed mostly of soldiers from our State. We are anxious to get along, but on account of the regiment performing garrison duty, and now the command separated, it cannot be accomplished. Only such as were placed in the front rank will be taken. We cannot all be in front. Our duties were responsible and arduous. Secesh was more predominant in Alexandria than any other town or city this side of rebel lines, they to were so near the line that is was impossible to keep them from crossing the lines, being familiar with every acre of ground outside the city a constant communication was kept up between that place and the south, occasionally we would capture a rebel mail and the carrier, but it seemed two would spring into their place. The Gov lately had two of the best detectives assisting us in Alexandria, and when we at last (up -es) that led to the capture of quite a nest of them, that very night a messenger passed through our lines to Richmond, in a few days afterwards you may perhaps remember reading in the papers of the arrest of a number of Union men in the latter place. Four companies of the regiment are still guarding the old rebel nest. Genl Montgomery was much censured and I think very justly for the course he pursued towards the rebels. They could always obtain greater favor from him than Union men. Our Colonel George when in command was just the opposite and gained the approval of all Union men that his popularity made the old General very jealous, he was afraid of him, and to keep himself in place managed to bring another Army officer to get the main portion of the Reg moved out, which of course the Colonel had to accompany. I trust that will not save him. May he never be confirmed. had they ordered us with our five companies to guard the outskirts of Washington instead of taking that number from another regiment nothing would have been thought of it, but to send us here was uncalled for. We are guarding five unfinished fortifications, simply to prevent the guns from being spiked. Frankly five men could do the same thing. In my opinion, the Government has more than it knows how to use. They certainly are not all employed to advantage. The men come to fight, so why keep them back if some get killed, that we may expect. However we must all abide our time and as for the expense, so long as the people at large are satisfied the soldiers ought not to complain.

April 14, 1862

Brigadier General Daniel Butterfield orders the 88th to proceed to Manassas to guard the Orange and Alexandria Railroad. The 88th's area of responsibility is from Lancaster Station west to Catlett's Station. Movement of the 88th begins as soon as they are relieved by the 99th Pennsylvania.

Private John Vautier: Monday 14th April 1862 - Warm and cloudy. Nath White and I took a walk today out in the country, for we are tired of laying around in camp. We went out into Maryland, and wanting to get a drink, we stopped at a poor miserable looking hut to get some water. There was no one but a poor miserable looking woman, and she was half scared to death by our presence.
The hut had only one room in it, with no floor any hardly any furniture. It was almost as bad as some of the Negro huts we have visited. We often, whenever we get the chance, talk and visit the Negro population. It is amusing to hear their ideas and one thing another. Well, we continued our journey, and set out for a man whom we saw ploughing a field. Talked to him for a while, and then "put" for some place else. The old farmer had caught sight of us, and cut off our advance and brought us too. He showed us all around his farm, his hot beds, his barn, pigs, and stock in general. Then took us in the house and set before us a repast of ham, eggs, bread and butter, milk, etc. We done justice to Mr. Grimes cheer, and thanked our stars we had fallen into such good company.
We found the honest old farmer sound on the Union question, and not by word only, but by deed also, for he would not take any recompense for the excellent repast that he gave us. We then went over to his brothers at Grimes Crossroads, but he wasn't so generous. Returned at dark after a little walk of about 20 miles. We found the boys had received marching orders, and were busy packing up for the morrow.
The boys were all in tip top spirits, for now they said we were going to see some service. Some had gone so far as to have said that we would never see a Reb or battle. April 16, 1862. Companies B, E, F, G, H, and K under command of Colonel McLean move to the railway station.

April 17, 1862

Companies A, C, D, E, and I under command of Major Gile embark on a steamer to Alexandria. They then board a train to "Camp Starvation" where they will join McLean's battalion. The reunited 88th moves as a regiment to Clouds Mill, Virginia, where they are placed under the command of Brigadier General Hirem Duryea, late of the 54th New York Infantry. They are assigned to guard the Orange & Alexandria Railroad line between Bull Run and the Fairfax Courthouse. They encamp at Camp Reliance and remain posted there until May 6, 1862.

April 27, 1862

The 11th PVI and 88th PVI are detailed to guard the railroad line from Alexandria to the Bristoe/Bristow Station and to the Manassas Gap. It is the first time the two regiments work together, and the men form close bonds that last the duration of the war. The 11th and 88th are often in the same brigade and together go through some of the most severe battles of the war.

May 7, 1862

The regiment marches back to Alexandria. Mayor McKenzie presents Colonel George McLean, commanding the 88th PVI, with a sword on behalf of the people of Alexandria, Virginia. The regiment prepares to move to Fredericksburg.

May 8, 1862

The 88th marches down to the Alexandria waterfront and embarks on the steamer North America. Unknown to the soldiers, the steamer is bringing them into the thick of war. It is a war that will last another three years. Of the original regiment, only 109 soldiers witness the surrender of the Confederacy at Appomattox.

Endnotes to Civil War Entries

(Grouped by author in alphabetical order)

  • Jones, Daniel, to John Jordan Esq., Quartermaster Papers, transcripts in the hand of 1LT.D.D.Jones, Collection no. 1546, Box #9, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
  • Kram, Jacob S., Pottsville Miner’s Journal, December 1861.
  • Vautier, John. The Vautier/McKnight Papers and Diary File. Carlisie: U.S. Army War College, Military History Institute, Reference Branch.
  • Whittington, Henry, Whittington Diary, Special Collections Section, Alexandria Library, Alexandria.

Bibliography

Diaries and letters

  • Dull, John to H.S. Moore, 5 November 1861, transcript in the hand of Captain Dull, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg PA.
  • Jones, Daniel, to John Jordan Esq, Quartermaster Papers, transcripts in the hand of 1LT.D.D.Jones, Collection no. 1546, Box #9, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.
  • McLean, George, dispatches to Governor Curtin, September-October 1861, Transcripts in the hand of Colonel McLean or Adjutant, Pennsylvania State Archives, Harrisburg.
  • Morning Reports, 88th PVI, regimental Volumes, 88th PVI, National Archives, Washington DC.
  • Vautier, John. The Vautier/McKnight Papers and Diary File. Carlisie: U.S. Army War College, Military History Institute, Reference Branch.
  • Whittington, Henry, Whittington Diary, Special Collections Section, Alexandria Library, Alexandria.

General

  • Bates, Samuel. History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-65. Harrisburg: B. Singerly, State Printer, 1870. Reprint, , Wilmington: Broadfoot Publishing Co, 1993.
  • Casey, Silas. “Infantry tactics for the Instruction, Exercise, and Manoeuvers of The Soldier, A Company, Line of Skirmishers, Battalion, Brigade, or Corps D’ Armee”. New York: D. Van Norstrand, 1865. Reprint, Company I, 7th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry National Regiment.
  • Dyer, Fredrick. A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion. Cedar Rapids: Torch Press, 1908. Reprint,/CD, Carmel: Guild Press of Indiana, 1997.
  • Taylor, Frank. Philadelphia in the Civil war 1861-1865, Philadelphia: City of Philadelphia, 1913.
  • War Department. The War of the Rebellion, A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Reprint/CD: Guild Press of Indiana, 1997.

Michael Ayoub is a Foreign Affairs Officer at the State Department and a retired Military Intelligence Officer with a background in Special Operations. He has had a lifelong interest in American history and counts seven Civil War veterans among his ancestors, including Captain Charles McKnight of the 88th Pennsylvania and Major General John R. Brooke of the 53rd Pennsylvania. Mr. Ayoub is married and the father of two children. This article is an excerpt from the soon-to-be-published The Campfire Chronicles, the Words and Deeds of the 88th Pennsylvania.

When Michael Ayoub was 12 his grandparents gave him the sword of his great, great uncle Charles McKnight. This visceral piece of physical history ignited his life-long passion in American history and particularly the Civil War. Ayoub’s interest in learning more about the owner of the sword ultimately led to his compiling The Campfire Chronicles, the Words and Deeds of the 88th Pennsylvania. The Chronicles comprise the letters and diaries of 34 soldiers serving in or with the 88th Pennsylvania.


Charles McKnight enlisted as a private in the 88th PVI on September 30, 1861. He was 21 years old. Private McKnight was wounded several times. He lost a thumb (see photo) at Second Manassas; he was wounded again at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse. He served as a regimental Color Bearer and, while carrying the flag, one of the most hazardous war duties, was thumped on the head by a spent round of Confederate grapeshot. Assumed dead, he was left on the field. Awakening in the night, McKnight stumbled back to Union lines and rejoined his regiment. He fought at Petersburg and was present at the Confederate surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. He was mustered out with the regiment as a Captain or Company Commander on June 14, 1865. He returned home and married his childhood sweetheart, Jeanette Anderson. In 1880 he died of tuberculosis and complications from pleurisy he contracted in the trenches near Petersburg. He was 37 years old.

Captain Charles McKnight 88th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, 1865


Editor: Linda Greenberg Fall 2008 Hessians in our midst Provost Duty in Alexandria 1861-62: The 88th Pennsylvania Volunteers by Michael Ayoub


A rare photograph of Union provost guards in front of the Slave Pen on Duke Street. In the better known photograph taken by William Pywell in1863 the tree has been removed and three windows added to the wall behind the soldiers. The lack of windows indicates that this photograph was probably taken in the winter of 1861 or 1862. Note that the infantrymen appear to be wearing dark blue trousers and not the standard issue light blue trousers. The Cameron Guards/88th Pennsylvania were initially issued matching dark blue jackets and trousers. It is possible, given the date and uniforms shown, that these soldiers are from the 88th Pennsylvania. Also note the third soldier from the left. He is wearing standard issue light blue trousers and holding what appears to be a saddle. It is possible he is from the 8th Illinois Calvary. Fifth from the left stands the sergeant of the guard, and closest to the tree stands the duty officer.

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