1862-63: Sgt. James Drolsbaugh Notes

These notes were written by Sgt. James Drolsbaugh (1832-1873) of Co. F, 171st Pennsylvania Infantry. James was from Honey Grove, Juniata County, Pennsylvania, the son of John Drolsbaugh (1806-1882) and Catharine McConnell (1809-1875). He was married to Elisa “Belle” Marshall (1837-1922) and they had a daughter named Effie (1861-1870) who was frequently mentioned in his letters. Belle was the daughter of James and Isabelle (Campbell) Marshall. After James Drolsbaugh’s death, she remarried Jerome Thompson Shull (1854-1932).

James was mustered into Co. F., 171th Pennsylvania Infantry as the First Sergeant on 2 November 1862. He mustered out with the company on 8 August 1863 after 9 months service. Company F was raised in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. The 171st Pennsylvania were drafted militia. They were organized at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, in November 1862. They wintered at Newbern N.C. In April they were under fire at Blount’s Creek but suffered no losses. In June they were sent to White House Va. and were moved to Harper’s Ferry July 7 to assist in the pursuit of the Confederate army after the battle of Gettysburg.

Memoradum List of Jas. Drolsbaugh, Orderly Sergeant Company F, 171st Regiment P. V., Near Newbern, N. C.

October the 15th 1862

Memoradum of James Drolsbaugh from the time he was drafted the 15th of October 1862.

On the 16th I got the notice and I made a husking that night. The next day the 18th hauled in the corn. The next was the 19th, went to church. It was the last time I was there. On Monday the 20th, Beale took [William] Carter and myself to Mifflin and I stayed all night. Tuesday 21st, Banks Willson took 156 drafted men to Harrisburg. The 22nd we elected Wm. H. McClellen captain [of] Co. F, Schwalm first Lieutenant, Elias Crawford 2nd Lieutenant. The balance of Juniata men elected H. Stumbaugh captain, Wm. Shannon first Lieutenant, and George Fraley 2nd [Lieutenant]. Afterward report said Stumbaugh sold some 40 of his men to Capt. McClellen for 25 dollars so our company was full and on the 2nd and 4th of November, we had 97 men mustered into the service of the United States by Lieutenant Fetterman and Breyton. I was appointed First Sergeant on the 10th day of November 1862 and we were assigned to Colonel E. Bierer’s Regiment, Numbered the 171st Regiment. Our company was assigned to F. We did not stay long enough to practice regimental drill. We were just one time on regimental [parade] in Camp Simmons.

Left Harrisburg the evening of the 28 of November, got into Baltimore at 4 o’clock in the morning. The Union men and women hoisted their windows and run out their Union flags and cheered us all through town. They invited us to a splendid breakfast at the Union Relief Association. They treated us better than they did in Harrisburg. We took the cars for Washington on the 29th, got there at 8 o’clock that night, went to the Soldier’s Retreat for supper and then we went to the barracks and stayed till Monday morning. Our boarding was of the meanest kind at Washington.

On Monday morning the first day of December, went on board steamboat John A. Warner, went down the Potomac 250 miles, anchored at 6 o’clock on account of fog, slept in the dining room and on the 2nd, we started and got to Fortress Monroe at 5 o’clock in the evening. [We] lay in the boat till morning and then the 3d day of December, we started for Norfolk about 30 or 40 miles up the Elizabeth river. Took the cars in the evening for Suffolk. It was raining. We went in open cars. Got to Suffolk after dark and we lay in the woods that night. The next day, the 4th, we set up our tents in the evening. [Andrew W.] Harper took sick [and] died on the 9th and was buried on the 12th in the graveyard near Suffolk. He had the small pox or brain fever. We put up shanties and just got comfortably fixed when we got marching orders on the 24th of December and then there was nothing done till Sunday morning 928th). Then we took our journey through the mud and swamp and pine deserts. We marched 19 miles till 12 o’clock at night. December 29th we took our march for Gaitsville. At 12 o’clock we were halted by the rebels. Our cavalry was sent to the front and the rebels fled. We started and went to Gaitesville where we were to take the boat but the rebels got in ahead of us and we had to take another road after dark. The rebels came in sight of us. They were cavalry. I seen them ride through a cornfield. It was clear moonshine but we did not know how many there was. We got orders to halt and load. We were drawn in line along the road. The rebels did not advance on us and we were not anxious to attract them. After some time, we were ordered to sleep on our arms and we were so tired we lay down in the woods without supper and we did not care whether the rebels took us or not.

The 30th [of December 1862], we started on a double quick. Marched till 9 o’clock at night when we arrived at Holly or Branden Landing. It was raining and cold wind. We lay on the river bank till 11 o’clock at night when we got on the steam sail ship Scott. December the 31st 1862, we took sail on the Chowan river. We crossed the Albemarle Sound. The water was muddy and smooth but at 12 o’clock at night when we were crossing Pamlico Sound, there was a great storm. The waves ran over our ship. The sailors were frightened and our men got seasick. Some of them was almost thrown out of bed.

New Year’s morning it got calm and we landed at Newbern, North Carolina about 3 o’clock in the evening. We were marched 1 and ½ miles from town and encamped in a field and got orders to build shanties for ourselves and on the 6th and 7th of January, we were mustered in for pay.

Notes of my travels from the 15th October 1862

Went home to see my friends 2 times when I was at Harrisburg. The country through Maryland was splendid farm land but poor buildings. Washington City is a handsome place but they did not treat us well. They sweetened our coffee with sour molasses and gave us stinker meat. We seen Fort Washington on the Potomac river and Mount Vernon. We seen the Monitor gunboat, the rebel Merrimac, the Craney Islands, Roanoke Islands, Rebel blockade and the forts. Suffolk is no better. The country is level and swampy—nothing but pine timber on our march and we took 3 days rations. Our blankets, tents, and 4 rounds of cartridges on our backs. Our load was about 50 pounds. We did not go many miles till the soldiers began to throw away their blankets. Their load was too much for them. It was very warm and muddy. When we got out among the secessionists, our soldiers took their horses, chickens, bread, applejack, sweet potatoes, and made them cook for our men all they had. The white men were nearly all in the rebel army and white women was attending to the farming. In North Carolina there was far better buildings and a greater amount of cultivation. Our men plundered all their houses and took what they wanted. The women would scream and cry but it of no use. I thought a pity of them for all they were rebels and I did not steal or take anything from them. There was about 50,000 of our men and you may think they would scare anybody. Some of the farmers was butchering. Some had 30 hogs hung up and our men took as much meat from them as they wanted and tore down their bee hives and eat their honey. We were in General [Francis Barretto] Spinola’s Brigade and he was as mean a man as ever lived. He made us wade through the swamp and would not let us walk on the foot bogs. Sometimes we rolled up our pants, took off our shoes, and waded the creeks. Our colonel said he never seen men run as far and as hard as we were but he had to do what the general ordered him. Our colonel is a perfect gentleman. Newbern is a splendid town and country. The rebels burned the best part of the town before they left it. The inhabitants of North Carolina are mostly for the Union. Great numbers of them are enlisted in our army and they are fine men. There is thousands of negroes here working around our camps. There is from 70 to 80,000 troops here and they are still coming.

Notes ended and commenced on the 8th of January 1863. Nothing of importance was done except building good quarters and we had brick chimneys and lived comfortably. At 9 o’clock on the night of the 22nd, we got orders to pack up and be ready to march again 7 o’clock the next morning and report at the block house across the Trent river. We did so and also ordered 25 men out of each company with spades. When we got to the block house, we learned that Jackson had sent word for the citizens to leave town for he was going to burn the town. Our Colonel said he expected enemy here before night. We got to work and made a rifle pit 185 yards long and 65 yards half done. The ditch was 16 feet wide, 8 feet deep. All done again 9 o’clock at night. We extended our rifle pit afterwards to the Neuce river and the 75th Regiment built a fort in front of our rifle pit.

The railroad leading to Beaufort run close by our camp on the west. The Trent river on the north, and close to our quarters run the Green Spring creek. On the east runs the Neuce river and our camp is 1 mile south of New Bern city. Nothing more of importance till the 27th of January. I got orders to detail 3 men to go on shipboard so I detailed George McConnell, Alex[ander] Arbuthnot, and Isaac Shetterly. They left the morning of the 28th on board the vessel the 29th [January 1863] at 9 o’clock in the morning, destination to Elizabeth City.

I would say here that when we left Suffolk, Absalom Goodling was sent to Fortress Monroe Hospital.

On the 9th of Fenbruary 1863, our whole company was detailed to cut down timber at different points. No one was left in camp except some few sick and the provost guards. John Landis and myself started a Union prayer meeting February the 1st 1863.

On the 9th of February, I went and seen all the battleground of Burnside when he took Newbern. The trees that was 1 foot in diameter was shot off by cannon balls and I seen as high as 20 balls in one tree that was not more than 18 inches in diameter. The small bushes and saplings were cut off by minié balls. There was any amount of clothing and graves. Some were buried decently and many of them had head boards. Many more had not and their grave all grown over with grass. Others were taken up and conveyed to their respectful homes. The rebels were thrown in heaps—some holes 10 feet square were filled up.

February the 21st 1863, the flag staff was raised and Sunday the 22nd, Spinola’s Brigade was inspected and the flag hoisted on Fort Spinola and 32 guns fired in memory of our beloved Washington. It rained very hard all day. We were as wet as we could be. The 25th of February, Major General Foster reviewed the troops of Newbern, estimated 16 or 18,000 men. March 4th 1863, Major General Foster reviewed our brigade and in the evening of the 4th of March, we got orders to cook 3 days rations and hold ourselves in readiness for a march at an hour’s notice. On the morning of the 6th, we took up our line of march 6,000 strong. Encamped at McDenry’s farm, 8 miles from Trenton. Saturday morning got orders to have breakfast over and pack our knapsacks and overcoats in a vacant house near our camp, E[phraim] Duncan was detailed to guard our baggage. We loaded our arms and started for Trenton and were halted 2½ miles on this side. The cavalry rode in and the rebels ran away so the citizens surrendered the town to us and we came back to our baggage, took some crackers and coffee and started for Jacksonville. Run into camp at 8 o’clock near White Oak river. Built a bridge on Sunday morning, heard the rebels call their roll, planted a brass battery on the bank till we got the bridge built [when] the New York Regiment crossed over the bridge and then the 171st. These two regiments were drawn up into line of battle in a large field but the rebels were not to be found. So we went on to 8 miles of this side of Jacksonville and took some prisoners. The cavalry rode into town and captured some horses and prisoners and came back to camp and Monday morning went to Swansville. Drove them out and took their horses and at 10 o’clock we started for home and came back to White Oak river and encamped over night and Tuesday morning, started for home. It rained nearly all day. The mud was very deep. Got into camp at Newbern at 8 o’clock. Friday the 13th rebels commenced driving in our pickets and threatened to burn town the 14th. We went to town to celebrate that day in memory of the day it was taken but we was turned back to prepare for a fight. The rebels throwed one shell into Pollock’s Street so a brisk cannonading commenced above town and lasted till dark when the rebels was repulsed and drove back. We were drawn up in line of battle at our breastworks Saturday and Sunday morning at 4 o’clock, the rebels begun to come down the Trent river on Sunday so at 2 o’clock our Brigade went out to meet them and encamped 3 miles on this side of Pollocksville. The rebels throwed up a rifle pit near Pollocksville. Sunday night our company went on picket. The countersign was Montreal.

Monday morning we advanced to the rebels works and found then deserted so we came back to camp again. Sundown on the 16th of March 1863. Thomas Smith and Nicholas Breide was detailed the 14th of March to attend to the cannon on our breastworks.

March the 26th, went out at night, got a boat and seine and caught a splendid lot of fish. The 28th of March at 1 o’clock, we got marching orders with 3 days rations.



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