York County soldier at Fort Monroe, Va. kept diary & wrote poetry
This old lithograph depicts Fort Monroe, a sprawling six-sided stone bastion located on Old Point Comfort near Hampton, Virginia. Completed in 1834 at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula, Fort Monroe (also known as Fortress Monroe) remained active as a U.S. Army base into the 21st century, although it is now scheduled for decommissioning. Despite Virginia’s secession from the Union in 1861, Fort Monroe remained in Federal control throughout the war, making it one of the few significant government facilities in the South not to fall to the Confederates.
Fort Monroe was a base for several major sea-and-land expeditions into the South, particularly the Carolinas. Major General Benjamin Butler, headquartered in Fort Monroe in May 1861, issued a proclamation that any escaped slaves who reached Union lines would not be returned to their masters. Soon thousands of black men, women, and children congregated near Fort Monroe. Their leading settlement became known as Slabtown for all the temporary wooden shelters they erected.
Alfred S. Bond of Hopewell Township, York County, Pennsylvania, was a guard at Fort Monroe later in the war (1864). By then, the fort was also in use as a transfer station for Confederate prisoners of war captured in the Overland Campaign and the Siege of Petersburg, as well as other campaigns and battles.
Through the graciousness of one of his descendants, I have transcribed the old diary, snippets of which appear in Civil War Voices from York County, Pa.: Remembering the Rebellion and the Gettysburg Campaign. Over time, I will present selected passages from Private Bond’s chronicles here on the York Daily Record‘s Cannonball blog.
U.S. Army aerial photograph of Fort Monroe in 2004. The is being decommissioned and will be preserved and repurposed. The Casemate Museum depicts the fort’s storied history, as well as that of Old Point Comfort in general.
Fort Monroe served as the headquarters for the 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery, a regiment recruited throughout the Keystone State early in the war. So many men flocked to the unit throughout the Civil War that in the spring of 1864 volunteers from the 3rd split off into a separate infantry regiment, the 188th Pennsylvania.
Among the new recruits earlier that year was Alfred Bond, who traveled to York on Tuesday, February 23, 1864, with plans to enlist in the 3rd Heavy Artillery. Born in Baltimore, Bond had married Elizabeth Hetrick on September 29, 1859, in Hopewell Township. The 1860 Census records indicate that he was a blacksmith living there. He stood 5′ 6″ tall and had brown hair and gray eyes.
In November 1862, Bond was drafted into the 166th Pennsylvania and served as a sergeant. He mustered out on July 25, 1863, and returned home to Hopewell Township.
On the 24th, he took the Northern Central Railway through Hanover Junction down to Baltimore to go sightseeing, including the city’s popular Washington Monument. He strolled the town and visited his mother, who “was not very well.” He stayed the night with her before returning to York in the railcars.
On a cold and windy 25th, Alfred Bond enrolled in Company H of the 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery (also known as the 152nd Pa.), with his papers dating back to the 20th. He was again a soldier.
The following day Bond took the train north to Harrisburg, where despite the blustery weather he spent the day walking about the town. On Saturday he received his enlistment bounty money, passed his physical examination, and reported to Camp Curtin. He received his uniform and accoutrements the following day.
Bond has a creative, lively mind, and he liked to write poetry in his spare time. Verses are scattered throughout his diary and often reflect his mood and attitude, as well as his observations of his fellow soldiers and army life. His strong Christian faith and religious upbringing are evident in many of his compositions.
Here is an example from the night of March 1, 1864, before he retired for the evening.
Not I alone – a thousand bosoms round
Inhale thee , in fullness of delight;
And languid forms rise up, and pulses bound,
Livelier, at the coming of the wind of night.
The following day, the weather broke and spring was in the air on a warm early March day. Bond, his mind perhaps recognizing the fragility of early season blooms, and possibly contemplating the fate of some of his youthful comrades, penned these somewhat cryptic verses:
Sweet spring full of sweet days and roses
A box where sweets compacted lie
Thy music shows ye have your closes
And all must die.
Sure enough the weather soon turned cold again, and two days later Private Bond and his comrades began their lengthy southbound journey to their new base at Fort Monroe.
“Friday, March 4 – Started for Fortress Monroe. Was delayed below Freeland by one train running into another one. Took the boat Adelade at Baltimore about sundown and run all night. Weather fair.”
More to come in future weeks as I present more of the previously unpublished diary of Alfred S. Bond, which may form the basis of a future book on the 3rd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery or some other project.
Copyright 2011. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited without written permission.