“Charming in every degree”: York impressed Altoona soldiers — Part 2
In my last post, we looked at a description of York from a soldier, A.J.G., in the 3rd Pennsylvania Infantry. He and his comrades from Altoona, Pa., occupied various homes and hotels in York before being congregated at Camp Scott on the old York Fairgrounds (at the intersection of King and Queen streets). A.J.G. [likely Adam J. Greer of Company B] and a fellow soldier, “Ben Bolt.”, sent letters back to their hometown newspaper talking about their experiences. The Altoona Tribune published them both in its May 30, 1861, issue.
Here are excerpts from Ben Bolt’s letter, dated May 26 from Camp Scott.
“Time with its fleety wings has borne us on through another week, with as much prospect of leaving [for the front lines] as when I wrote last. Among the many occurrences which happened through the week, was the arresting of a man in camp, on the charge of being a secessionist. From the facts of the case, it appears that he had been living in Baltimore for some time although a native of York; he, however, left the Monument City, and came to Camp Scott, and, among other remarks in the crowd, talked favorably of secession. An officer approached him and demanded him to show his colors, whereupon he pulled out a card with a secession flag imprinted thereon. He was immediately taken into custody, brought into Col. [Frederick S.] Stumbaugh’s headquarters, and finally sent to jail. Next morning, in default of evidence against him, he was released. It was quite evident that he was no spy, and probably no secessionist; he will, doubtless, not display any more secession flags in this vicinity.”
Bolt mentioned that a Franklin County company fashioned an image of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and hung it in effigy. They later took it down and burned it to the cheers of the men. “It was an amusing sight,” Bolt reported.
“All of the flags in town are displayed at half-mast, in memory of the gallant young Ellsworth [Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, killed by a secessionist after hauling down a Rebel flag over a hotel in Alexandria, Virginia]. Nothing could have transpired in the present rebellion, which could cause more profound sorrow, than the assassination of one so young and brave. His death at the present time will do more for the cause than his life could possibly have done. It has lit a flame of revenge in the hearts of those Zouaves, which will burn brighter and brighter, until the rebels are driven from the shores of the Old Dominion.”
He went on to discuss the question of enlisting for three years (versus the previous three month term) and whether this would hamper recruitment. “Everything is quiet in camp,” he concluded, “and the boys are remarkably well.”
Another Altoona soldier, J.A.B. [likely John A. Boyle], noted in the May 9 Tribune that York “is one of the most beautiful towns in the interior of the State. The citizens of the town and surrounding countryside are thoroughly imbued with the patriotic spirit that animates the North… the citizens of York have been very kind and liberal.” However, there were a number of “rowdies” among the soldiers in Camp Scott who were prone to fighting and disorderly conduct. Many of them were now confined to the guardhouse, a cell underneath the market shed in the town’s center square.