The Crooked Lake Review

Winter 2004

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Civil War News Items

contributed by

Richard Palmer

Only scattered and fragmented issues of Civil War-era newspapers published in Cortland still exist. The primary news sheet of the day was the Gazette & Banner, which was later merged into the Cortland Democrat. The editor did his best to report local news of the day regarding efforts to recruit soldiers. These items appeared in that newspaper on Thursday, Aug. 14, 1862.

Cortland Gazette & Banner, Aug. 14, 1862

Cincinnatus in the Field

The patriotic citizens of Cincinnatus assembled in large numbers on Monday evening in response to the call of the war committee of the town. The Presbyterian Church was filled to overflowing, and many stood outdoors, unable to obtain seats.

Hon. Oliver Kingman presided, and the meeting was addressed by Messrs. R. K. Bourne of Cincinnatus, R. H. Duel and M. M. Waters of Cortland, and H. Phelps of Norwich. A band of music escorted the speakers from Sperry's Hotel to the church, and during the evening played several national airs.

Twenty-one new recruits came forward and were sworn in as members of the company of Capt. Frank Place, and each one as he came forward was greeted by three rousing cheers from the vast assemblage. The town bounty, raised by voluntary subscription, already amounts to $34, and the committee means to make it up to $50.

Off to the War

A company of volunteers, raised in the towns of Dryden and Groton, Tompkins County, over one hundred strong, passed through this village this morning, on their way to camp at Binghamton. They were a fine looking body of men, and belong to the best families of Tompkins County. They were brought here by private conveyances, and took the 10:19 train for Binghamton. A large gathering of our citizens assembled at the depot, and bid them "God speed."

We noticed one instance worthy of mention. As the carriages containing the recruits, passed our office, we noticed several ladies, who had come with their friends to Cortland, to bid them good-bye, perhaps forever. One alone, driving the team homeward bound. She had just said good-by to her husband, father, brother and cousin, and was returning home with tearful eyes and heavy heart, to tread life's weary path alone while all that she loved on earth are fighting the battles of their country in southern climes.

Special Town Meeting

Notice is hereby given that a Special Town Meeting in and for the Town of Cortlandville, on Friday, the 22d day of August, 1862, for the purpose of voting upon the proposition to levy by tax a sum of money for bounties to volunteers who may enlist and have enlisted under the last two calls of the President; that the poll of the election will be opened and closed at the time required by the statute; and that this notice is given in pursuance of an application in writing signed by more than twelve persons eligible to the office of the Supervisor of the town. Dated. August 14, 1862.

Adin Webb, Town Clerk

A Letter From Gettysburg

by Lieut. John G. Pierce

John G. Pierce was born in the town of Locke, Cayuga County, raised in Truxton and educated at Homer Academy. He studied law with Horatio Ballard, and was admitted to the bar. He raised Company G. 10th Cavalry, and rose to captain, sometimes commanding the entire regiment himself. He resigned on Dec. 13, 1863, and apparently returned home. He died suddenly at Groton, on July 15, 1868, at the age of 26. Long before the battle, Gettysburg was a training site and supply depot, but as far as known, this was merely a coincidence and did not precipitate the battle, as the military presence had long since vacated Gettysburg.

Gazette & Banner, Cortland, N. Y.
Jan. 9, 1862
Army correspondence
Gettysburg, Pa.
Dec. 18th, 1861
Headquarters of the Porter Guards
10th Reg. N. Y. V. Cavalry

Dear Editor: - According to your request the last time I saw you in Cortland, I take the privilege now offered me by a slight cessation of duty, to inform you of our whereabouts, health and prospects, &c., &c. You will remember I told you of our anticipated departure from Elmira, on Tuesday, the 17th inst., and that we were ordered directly to Washington. But as fortune would have it, these orders were countermanded and instead of marching direct to Washington, we were thrown into a very quiet little town on the Maryland border, where we are now situated. We did not leave Elmira as soon as expected, owing to some hindrances occasioned by the consolidation of the Porter with the Morgan Guards, thereby delaying our departure just a week, from our first marching orders.

I cannot say I am remarkably pleased with the new arrangement of substituting as a place of rendezvous, Gettysburg for Washington, although the former place is in every way worthy of our most august presence. It was not our intention when we left Cortland to remain a short time at Elmira, and then rush precipitately down the whole eastern coast, treading beneath our feet all of the hydra heads of secession immediately, and laying them in ignominious ruin, but we calculated on marching to Washington, and there breast to breast with our country's men, to fight for the glorious liberties of true and enlightened America. But for the present we are debarred from this privilege, and must content ourselves with our present situation.

To be particular with the discretion of our affairs, so that I may acquaint you with their general significance, I might as well give you in detail a short history of our proceedings up to the present time. I was quietly reading law, as you are aware in the office of the Hon. Horatio Ballard at Cortland, N. Y., about the latter part of September last, when I concluded to raise a company of mounted volunteers for immediate service. I repaired as soon as convenient to a proper recruiting station, and opened a recruiting office. I was sufficiently successful after a few delays to start for Elmira with a sufficient number of men to form a company organization.

During this, I had been so fortunate as to secure the services of Lieut. A. D. Waters, fresh from the 23d Regiment, N. Y. V., who gave a particular attention and energy to my endeavors. We proceeded to Elmira, as aforesaid, and after a series of military wigging and shifting peculiar to military affairs at the present day, succeeded in filling a full company with a Captain at our head, of whom we can justly feel proud. We remained at Elmira some seven weeks from our first arrival, subsisting of course upon the hospitality of Uncle Sam, patiently waiting for orders for our removal farther south, to our field of future labor. I might say in relation to our regimental affairs, there were forming at Elmira, on our first arrival in that place two distinct, independent, regimental organizations, the Morgan Cavalry and the Porter Guards.

Our preference was for the Morgan Cavalry as we considered its privileges superior to the other organization. Owing to a partial delay in both departments, it was considered necessary and important to consolidate these two organizations into one, which was finally consummated, the new Regiment retaining the Morgan basis, and the appellation of the Porter Guards. This is the 10th Regiment of New York Volunteer Cavalry, denominated as the Porter Guards.

After receiving marching orders from headquarters, of course it was our business to conform in them, and accordingly every preparation possible was perfected for our departure. As I have said before, we were delayed a week in our preparations. Finally, however, on Thursday morning, the 24th inst., we took our departure for our Southern home. It was a cold, frightful, blustering morning, the very worst of the season in Elmira, except the day previous. But as the day further advanced, the darkened black clouds that had presented such a dismal appearance flitted away towards the mist and nature assumed a more generous hue.

We pleasantly rolled along the beautiful valley, in which Elmira is situated, looking out now and then, upon the broad opening prospect upon either side, joyous in our departure, hopeful as to the future, when suddenly upon the left, burst upon our vision one of those majestic ranges of hills preparatory to the entrance into the Alleghenies. In a moment all thought of future warfare and of departed scenes vanished, and every eye was trained to behold the monster Olympus, turning upwards amid the very clouds. But this scene, fills up the whole soul with a singular enthusiasm. Passing along through the valley which winds its serpentine course at the foot of these mountains, one is almost surprised at the sudden development of new ranges, spring up at intervals apparently transverse and at right angles with those favorable to which he is passing. This is owing particularly to the crookedness of the route.

As we are standing upon the platform of the rear car, we can hardly see half a mile distance back over the track, which he has passed. Yes, there were indeed The Alleghenies, in all of their magnificence, regular, yet random, yet shaped, for the convenience and comfort of civilized men. There was indeed a primeval simplicity throughout the whole journey, through the mountains that looked backwards to the days of aboriginal scenes: log houses low down amid the numerous bushes, groveling in uninhabitable insignificance, small clearing rampant and overgrown with thick underbrush, &c.

Yet, even among all of these, there were at times rich farm houses in all of the luxuriance of wealthy pride. Farmers opulent with their timbered lands, had here established themselves in this wild and romantic scenery, to drink in the rich intelligence of wood uncontaminated by the vices of corrupted and degraded man. As the mountains began to be left behind and the towering peaks to die away in the far off dismal distance of the skies, our cars were saluted by the loud whistling of the engine, and upon looking out we beheld but a little in advance, a small collection of houses, standing at the base of the declining mountain.

Here we halted a few moments, and beheld the works of man, in its first stages of collectable originality. A hut, hog pen, a store, a school house and there a few dwellings. Yes, verily the foundation of perhaps a mighty city. From this we passed on to enjoy the beckoning scenery beyond us in the distance. Soon the mountains began to give away on either side and a wide open country spread out before us. Here was the smooth stream of civilization just verging in a great sea of humanity. Troy seated in the very heart of fertility, next broke upon our vision. Upon our arrival at this place we were greeted by a thousand cheers—handkerchiefs waved from snowy hands, flags floated from the housetops, and were twined in the most enthusiastic gyrations, hats darkened the very presence of the village, and as we passed along, amid thundering shouts, patriotic devotion swelled up from a thousand hearts. This is the patriotism of Pennsylvania.

Stopping here but a short time we were soon again under way, the scenery gradually widening and narrowing from town to town, all presenting the same hue of alabaster, until evening closed the scene. We arrived at Williamsport about 6 o'clock in the evening, and here found waiting for us the forward train that had preceded us about an hour. Here trains were joined, making in all about 30 cars of human freight. The evening was dark as ebony and subsequently it was impossible to get a view of this city. But from its numerous lights shining like so many stars it had the appearance of opulence and taste.

We remained here about half an hour waiting for an express, delinquent about the same time. We left this place in great spirits, and rolled along down the Susquehanna. It was impossible on the account of the evening to discern much of the face of the country, but standing upon the platform of one of the cars, I peered off in the darkness and saw by the glimmering of one line start, that it was, the seat of magnificence. In the morning we woke looking out upon Harrisburg.

The Susquehanna rolled sluggishly between us and the town, in sparkling tranquillity. I did not visit the city, but I saw its stately spires, sparkling in the morning sun, and the dome of the State House, shimmering afar off in the distance, with its long train of swelling houses, spread out like an undulating forest for miles around.

Between us and the city, near a long tunnel, bridges which connected either shore, and was the only means of communication from us to this city. Looking backwards from whence we came, I discovered we had described in our course an arc of mighty circle following the bend of the river, and the side of the hills for miles together. In fact Harrisburg lies so almost in the centre of a circle whose circumference is a mighty chain of hills, for miles and miles in the distance.

I was somewhat surprised on being informed that the little notch far away to the North, just perceptible, and in the centre of a long range of hills, was the place through which we passed to Harrisburg. It seems that nature fairly anticipated the wants of man, of his desire for communication with the various parts of the world, and left unfilled this little edifice for the convenience of mankind.

At Harrisburg we met the Ira Harris Guards from Staten Island, on their way to York, (a village in the lower part of Pa.) for rendezvous. After remaining here for some three or four hours, we again steamed away for our destination. We were in doubt for a long time whether we should go to Washington in direct or Gettysburg. But our doubts were dispelled, upon arriving, by news confirming our destination as Gettysburg.

From Harrisburg to York there is a broad open country, sparkling with distant rivers. But another portion is very stony. Large boulders reared their huge heads high in the air. Indeed some portions were so remarkably stony that the rocks seemed clamoring for superiority. Thousands of large boulders upon a few acres.

At York, the cars remained some 30 minutes. This place is about 14 miles from the Maryland border 56 miles from Baltimore, and 49 miles from Gettysburg, and contains 14,000 inhabitants. It is a pleasant town, though rather antiquated in appearance. Indeed, hardly any of those southern towns has that sprightliness of appearance that our northern towns have. Most of the houses are of brick formation, and dingy at that. I have every reason to believe it contains patriotic hearts. From every window, salutes were given by waving of flags and handkerchiefs. Steering up town we got a full view of the main street, which was ordinary, plain, unpretending. We passed out of this place amid the cheers of the populace.

We arrived at Gettysburg about half past nine in the evening, having passed through pleasant country, via a certain junction through Hanover, a town of about 1,500 inhabitants, and slept in the cars over night, as no place was prepared for our reception. We are now quartered about town in several places, one company in a hall, another in a Court House, another in a School House, &c., &c.

One company is pleasantly situated in a hall alley, but destitute of balls. The alley is very comfortable, at one of which once used as a saloon, we have a fire and write letters (where I am now writing this) on an eating table, under curtains, for instance as in Barton's. Yesterday we pitched our tents, but they have been condemned as too cold for the winter season.

Barracks will soon be furnished, though none are yet erected. Our reception has been the most hospitable. Soldiers passing in any part of the town are earnestly invited by the most wealthy of the citizens to dine with them. I, myself, have enjoyed the hospitality of a very worthy gentleman for one lodging and two meals, who was very urgent in his invitation. His name is Witherow, and has two blooming daughters, a very charming inducement for further entertainment. We are to receive our horses and arms soon. We are fully uniformed otherwise.

Today a very melancholy occurrence happened that has sent a thrill of gloom through every soldier's heart. A young man, by the name of John Congden, who had been home on furlough, was just coming into town. I believe he resided in Syracuse or Marcellus. He was standing on the platform of the cars, looking up at our tents, slightly leaned beyond the edge of the cars, when he was struck by posts of the railroad bridge, and killed instantly, falling some twenty feet, striking upon a large stone. He is to be buried tomorrow with military honors. We are all well.

Fraternally Yours,

2nd Lieut. John G. Pierce

Company G, Porter Guards, 10th N.Y. V. C.

Gettysburg, Adams Co., Pennsylvania

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