CAMP CORRESPONDENCE

From the

81st Regiment

 

Camp California

Feb. 7, 1862

 

 

To-day we are having the finest weather we have seen in a month, but it is very muddy.  The roads are in a condition almost impassable for troops to travel on foot

 

Yesterday a Company of the 8th Illinois Cavalry (who were out on picket duty) brought in two prisoners, one was captured on the old Braddock road while prowling around near our lines, to give information no doubt of our situation.  The other an old man, was arrested as a spy.  They both had their eyes bandaged and were conducted to the quarters of Gen. Sumner.  What disposition he made of them I am unable to say.

 

To-day Sergt. Boyd of Co. H, Capt. Harkness, was consigned to his last resting place.  He died in the Hospital in Camp with the camp fever, which prevails to some extent in the camp.  He was a good soldier and his loss will be deeply felt by all of his company.

 

There seems to be no indication at present of a forward movement, but there is no doubt when the word comes “forward” there will be something done.  There will be no Bull Run affairs in our ranks again.  Everybody is anxious for a movement.  But it is estimated that McClellan’s plan is to overthrow this rebellion with little or no fighting.  It is well known that the rebels are growing more and more discouraged with the war and the term of enlistment of a great portion of the soldiers expires in this and next month.  The rebel soldiers from all accounts are dissatisfied with their Government and have expressed their determination not to re-enlist but on the contrary are offering inducements for substitutes.  It is the determinations of the so-called Confederate States to keep their soldiers in the field whether they wan to or not.  They may be successful in detaining them but it is rather doubtful.

 

We have visitors from the “Bucktail” almost every day, they can be distinguished by the Bucktails on their caps.  Sergt. McIntosh and Schwartz of Co. F., Capt. McGee’s Company, paid us a visit a few days ago and were quite lionized by the boys as having participated in the late fight at Drainsville.

 

Fuel is very scarce here; every log, stick and tree has been used in our vicinity and now our fuel has to be brought some distance.  The water during the weather for the past month is very bad indeed, in some cases water has been used which was the color and almost as thick as mud.

 

Our chief Surgeon, Dr. Gardiner, deserves a few words from my humble pen.  He is a Philadelphian and was with the Regiment when it was first organized.  He had the largest practice of any physician in Philadelphia, and was at one time President of the Pennsylvania Academy of Medicine.  He left all these and by his efforts and others succeeding in raising the Regiment.  As a physician he is held in high respect by all who have come under his care.  Lieut. Thomas McNiesh, our 1st Lieut., has received an appointment as Major of the 3rd Tennessee Regt. which is now forming in that State.  He has accepted the office and I learn contemplates joining his Regiment soon.  Mac is a good officer and a fast friend and is fully qualified for the position offered him.  Before this rebellion broke out, he was a resident of Tennessee and owns a farm and other property in Knox Co.  He was compelled to leave it on account of his sentiments not agreeing with those of the southern chivalry, but nothing daunted he has made up his mind to pay his rebel friends a visit, but in a different light than when he left. 

 

Capt. Foster arrived in camp last evening and looks as if he had been fatted for a roast.  He makes a very good appearance and hides anything but flattering terms of recruiting in little Carbon.

 

I believe I have written all of interest to your readers and will now close.  Hoping I have interested your readers with my letter, I remain

 

                                                                        Yours Respectfully

                                                                                    Sergt. Sidney N. Hawk

                                                                                                Co. I., 81st Regt. P.V.

 

 

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Note on the writer:

        Sidney Hawk was born about 1842 in Pennsylvania, a son of Sidney and Elizabeth Hawk.  The elder Sidney was a native of either Virginia or Vermont, the sources differ on this fact.  The discrepancy might be due to the fact that both parents, mother and father, were deaf and mute.  The elder Sidney made his living as a shoemaker. 

          The younger Sidney enlisted in the 6th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (three months men) on April 22, 1861, and was discharged July 22 of the same year.  About October 15 of the same year he enlisted in the 81st Regiment, Pa. Volunteers, which was a 3 years enlistment.  He served in Co. I., entering as a sergeant and was promoted to 2nd Lt. April 22, 1863, then to a 1st Lt. & Adjt. in 1864.  He died in the Battle of Spottsylvania on May 12, 1864.

          Sidney’s siblings also played parts in the Civil War.  Brother Edward also served in Co. I of the 81st Regiment as a private, was discharged and then re-enlisted in the 183rd Regiment.  Samuel Hawk served in Co. G. of the 81st, enlisting September 6, 1861 and was discharged December 23, 1862.  He later re-enlisted.

          Even their sister Elizabeth was involved.  In 1860 she was married to William Isaac Connor who also served with distinction in the 81st. 

 

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Note on the letter:

          The beginning of the 3rd paragraph is as printed in the paper.  Sergt. Boyd refers to John Boyd who enlisted in 1861 and died in Camp California.  Capt. Harkness refers to Thomas C. Harkness, who was promoted to Major in 1863, then Lieut. Colonel and later resigned.

 

 

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By

Jack Sterling

October, 2003