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Columbia soldiers complained about conditions at early war Camp Scott

Camp Scott 2

This illustration shows Camp Scott at the old York Agricultural Fairgrounds in York, Pennsylvania. Very early in the Civil War, Federal authorities converted the fairgrounds into an army base named for commander-in-chief Winfield Scott. Spring rains soon transformed the camp, home to more than 3,000 men by mid-May into a quagmire.

One soldier in the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry wrote home to the Columbia Spy praising the citizens of York for their kindness in providing food and hospitality but complaining about the miserable conditions at the camp in those early days:

“We are very anxious to go forward [to the front lines], anywhere to get out of the hole we are in. I refer to the particular locality in camp occupied by our quarters, not of course to the borough of York, where a soldier might quarter forever without impatience. Camp Scott is filthy, and if disease is not engendered by the pools of stagnant water, polluted by all manner of floating and sunken garbage, lying in the lower grounds of the camp and immediately about our quarters, my judgement is foully outraged, by sense of smell.

Col. [Thomas] Welsh most earnestly protested to Gen. Wynkoop this morning, against his command being kept in their present quarters.”

The soldier, who signed his letter as “Thirsty Squad,” added hopefully, “My next letter will probably be from the debateable (but I don’t think there will be much debate as to who will hold it) ground of Maryland — at least I hope so.”

He would get his wish.

Not long afterward, the 2nd Pennsylvania indeed packed up their gear and marched away from Camp Scott to the train station in downtown York.

This and that:

* The Licensed Battlefield Guides are still in business at Gettysburg. While the park-owned roads are officially closed, several public highways bisect the shuttered battlefield. Guides have become creative, giving heavily modified versions of their normal tours by using US 30, the Emmitsburg Road (old US 15), Route 116, and a handful of public cross-roads such as the Wheatfield Road.

* The Visitors Center, being privately owned by the Gettysburg Foundation, remains open although the crowds are a fraction of normal traffic for this time of the year. The bookstore and Cyclorama/museum are open for business.

* York County’s own Civil War attraction, Steam into History, has recently added horse-drawn carriage rides around New Freedom as another reason to pay a visit. The train ride is a relaxing and entertaining way to spend an afternoon. Have you taken a ride yet?

* The York Civil War Round Table will meet this Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the auditorium of the York County Heritage Trust, 250 E. Market Street, York. Admission is FREE, as is street parking. Ed LeFevre will present a first-person living history presentation on the life of Confederate general William “Extra Billy” Smith. The charismatic Smith reportedly made a rambling, humor-laced speech during the invasion of York which left both his men and the Pennsylvania bystanders applauding with enthusiasm and laughter. Just a couple days later, Smith was the oldest general at Gettysburg.