Sarcastic Gettysburg soldier sent letters home from York’s Camp Scott: Part 3
Union troops train at Camp Scott in York PA in the spring of 1861. Among them were the new recruits of the 2nd Pennsylvania Infantry, a three-month regiment which included a company (the “Independent Blues”) from Gettysburg and Adams County. Their ranks included a soldier using the pen name “Bageney” who regularly recorded events for the readership of the Gettysburg Compiler. (sketch from author’s collection).
“Sunday morning, May 19th — Friend Stahle — When I last wrote you, I did not expect you would receive any more items from me connected with Camp Scott. But so the world wags; and we are still here, under marching orders, as we were one week ago. Every day we are assured that, “today we will move” but it seems it is only the escaping of a little gas from certain gas bags. I would like to know if Uncle Samuel intends to make a regular set of Camp loafers out of us; if so, I am afraid we will all be better satisfied if it was not for the imprisonment we undergo by being confined to Camp. It seems hard that freedmen should be deprived of their liberty, but I suppose it is all right.”
“We witnessed an occurrence which was calculated to enlist our sympathies. A fellow soldier was handcuffed and degraded by being drummed around the Camp, and then down the Main Street of York, and there placed in the lock-up, in consequence of a fight between two members of a Company from Pittsburgh, in which one man was wounded by a ball and the other was severely cut by a knife. These occurrences are greatly to be deplored.
I have just been told we will without doubt be moved today, which I hope may be so, and that we may be placed in a situation that I may be able to give some items which may interest your readers, and also give some good account of ourselves as a Company.
Notwithstanding the precaution we have taken to lock our camp-door in old Indian style, by pulling in the latch-string and placing a stick of wood on the outside, long after the drums cease to beat and all nature was hushed in sweet repose, some miscreant, worse than a traitor, entered our quarters, and therefrom stole one-half of a tallow candle and a whole box of matches. There are some other matters I should like to refer to, but have time at the present. All the men are reasonably well.
Alas, Bagheney and his regiment were not ordered to move on the 19th as he expected. Expectations of glorious action against the rebellious Confederates would have to wait. For another week the men languished in Camp Scott with the impression that they would move out to the front lines any day. The Pennsylvania regiments remained, drilling daily and enduring the boredom of not being allowed to roam the streets of York freely. Finally, on May 27, the correspondent took up his pen again and sent another note to Henry Stahle at the Compiler. His frustration boiled over in a rant against the Republican government.
“Camp Scott, York, Monday morning, May 27, 1861, Friend Stahle: — According to all human prophecy, I thought we should ere this have been at the seat of war. Our men are ‘spiling’ for something to do. Without experience in this line, you have no idea how men feel. There is certainly a screw loose somewhere in the Government arrangements. I believe Gov. Curtin is not the man for the times. He seems to be influenced too much by certain advisers. I do not wonder that the Pennsylvania regiments are called “the ragged buck soldiers.” I believe that unless some other arrangements are made, we will return home ragged. The idea may seem preposterous; nevertheless, these are stubborn facts.
York today has been thrown into a state of excitement in regard to the battle at Norfolk. I do not credit it. Our Colonel made quite a patriotic speech to the regiment on the strength of it. I though he would ‘bust.'”
Bagheney is referring to the Battle of Sewell’s Point which took place on May 18, 19, and 21 in Norfolk County, Virginia. A minor affair within the overall context of the Civil War, nevertheless at the time the fighting elicited headlines in both the North and the South. The Union gunboat USS Monticello (supported by USS Thomas Freeborn) exchanged cannon fire with Confederate shore batteries on Sewell’s Point in one of the earliest naval actions of the fledgling war.
Read the conclusion of Bagheney’s time at Camp Scott in the next and final installment in this brief series. The 2nd Pennsylvania finally gets their marching orders, but it is not to the front lines as expected.