It is with pleasure to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and enjoying myself very well.
When reading Frank's letters, it helps to keep in mind the itinerary of Company I's activities over his three-month enlistment period. Below is a brief summary, courtesy of the Ohio Civil War Central research website. They note that During the 86th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry’s term of service, thirty-eight men, including one officer, perished from disease or accidents. No men died from wounds received on the battlefield.
June 11, 1862
The 86th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry mustered into service at Camp Chase, at Columbus, Ohio. The men in the regiment were to serve three months.
June 16, 1862
Officials dispatched the 86th to Clarksburg, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia). Upon arriving at Clarksburg on June 17, the regiment primarily served on garrison duty at Clarksburg and Grafton and on guard duty along the railroad.
July 27, 1862
Authorities ordered Companies A, C, H, and I of the 86th to Parkersburg, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia) to help fend off an anticipated Confederate attack. The assault did not materialize, but these companies remained at Parkersburg except for Company H, which guarded railroad track located east of the city.
August 21, 1862
The regiment consolidated at Clarksburg before moving to Beverly, Virginia (modern-day West Virginia) to prevent a Confederate invasion of western Virginia and Ohio. The Confederate force advanced in a different direction before reaching Beverly, and the 86th returned to Clarksburg, where it performed garrison duty for the remainder of its term of service.
September 17, 1862
The 86th Regiment left Clarksburg for Camp Delaware at Delaware, Ohio. The regiment arrived at Camp Delaware on September 18, 1862 and mustered out of service on September 23, 1862.
Now we begin with Frank's first letter written from Camp Chase on June 12.
Camp Chase June 12/62
Dear Pa & Ma,
Charlie, Lollmy (maybe a nickname for Marion) & Flora
it is with pleasure to write you a few lines to let you know that I am well and enjoying myself very well. I tell you I would not miss this trip for enything. we have lots of fun we have as mutch as I can eat we have farm(?) good butter good bread cuke and lots of good things. the Olde secesh is pened up in a large pen. we do not go within 10 feet of the fence. they have preaching every night. some of them ar very ency (antsy?) they try to get out. one of them got en olde case knife (table knife) - and made a saw and he sawed one of the bordes off. then one of the guards saw him and shot him. there wer 1000 men drawn up in the line of battle. they looked very nice. when i came the boys all ran and wanted to know if I came when they new I had came(?). they was glad. they all make the bigest fus over us. their is a man coming with some straw berrys. I must stop and get some. Well I have ate my berrys now there is as many wagons here as there ar in Minerva. and of all the fun I cannot tell. I can not mutch it is to mutch nois so you must excus my mistakes. I mess (eat) with the Captin Liet Brandt. we have a little coock I tell you now he can coock. he can fry the ham just right. we will get our uniforms today or to morrow. I have got my Drum. I must hurry there is more that was(?) write so I can not write mutch. the captin is in town. I mean Columbus when I say town. his brother is sick and he is taking care of him. the corn is very high here. the Boys just make a fuss(?) of me. they will give me everything. we live in as good a shanty as there is in camp. we lock our door every now. one night while we was assleep they came in and stole our bench. I have no more to write now. they are a going to drill now sow good by
This first of eighteen letters to Frank's mother and father, is actually not from Frank, but from First Lieutenant, Charles C. Brandt, who was among the officers in charge. According to records found in the on-line Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, he was born in 1837 making him 25 years old when he wrote this letter. It says he moved to Minnesota from Ohio around 1864. He was a farmer/mechanic by trade, and in 1877 was elected to serve in the Minnesota House of Representatives.
Below is the transcription of First Lieutenant Charles C. Brandt's letter. In all transcriptions, the faded handwriting has been deciphered to the best of my ability. However, there are gaps in places that were illegible to me. For the most part, the words of the letter have been transcribed with original spelling and grammar.
Camp Chase June 10th 1862
Mr. H. Foster
Dear Sir, It is now 10 P.M. and the first leisure moment I have is now devoted in answering your letter.
Frank was the last man, or boy, I had expected to see here, but am glad he is here, we need a drummer and he will answer first rate in that capacity, although he is young and tender yet. Capt. Day and my humble self are under obligation to you for the honor and confidence you have confer'd on us by giving your son in our care, be assured that we will do all in our power to keep him as comfortable as possible, we shall care for him the same as if he was a brother or son of ours, he will quarter and eat with us, his baggage will be carried, if gets sick we will attend to him, should it be series we will send him home; To comply with the whole of your request we can not have him musterd into the company for then he could not leave until the three months are up and would have to go wherever the company went, now under the circumstances we propose to let him go with us utill we leave for such places as you will not want him to go, then we will send him home. Our company is now full, we were musterd in with 100 men, the result of the election was for Captain A.V. Day unanimus, for 1st Lieut C.C. Brandt unanimus, for 2nd Lieut. S.S. Blackford from Marlborow by majorety over Marten and Firestone; Sergants to corporal will be appointed by captain and myself to morrow.
We expect to get into the 86th regiment for general service and expect to be sent to Cumberland, Md. where the 84th will go tomorrow, will you want Frank to go there and how long over shall stay is uncertain and it is not certain that we shall go eaver there, will not be sent to Washington; Frank can return if we go further then Cumberland. We expect to leave the State next week. if we get into the 86th, the 85 is for State service, our boys are anxius to get out. We have not drawn uniform and equipments yet, expect them to morrow or next day. Our men are in good spirits and good health with the exception of a few cases of diarhea, Frank is quite well, but has to sleep on the soft side of a board to night, government dont furnish feather beds. Frank will draw no pay from the government on account of not being mustered in , but capt. and myself will compensate him so that you and him will be satisfied.
The camp is in good order, quarters good and clean, rations ample and good, there are about 4000 three month troops here, no others, also about 1800 prisoners and more of the later are expected sooner. Upon I have nothing further to add, be perfectly easy about Frank, all of your requests shall be complied with, let me hear from you soone and often, I will allways answer prompt. Direct all to Lieut. C.C. Brandt in care of Capt. Day, Camp Chase, Columbus, O.
Regards to all.......
Lieut. Charles C. Brandt
Frank A. Foster was our grandmother Helen Foster Pennock Jewitt's uncle; that is to say her mother Florence Foster's brother. Florence and Frank, along with their siblings Charlie and Marion, were the children of Henry A. Foster and Mary Ann Zimmerman. More on all of these relatives in future posts. But for now, let's explore this firsthand account of life as a 14-year-old drummer boy in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the summer of 1862.
Frank was a member of the 86th Regiment Ohio Volunteer Infantry (OVI). His was the three-month regiment mustered in May 27 - June 10, 1862, and mustered out September 25, 1862. He was in Company I. His name is listed here about a third of the way down... Rank: Musician.
The regiment was assembled at Camp Chase in Columbus, Ohio, about 150 miles from Frank's hometown of Minerva, a small farming community. At that time, it would have been about a three- or four-day journey under good travel conditions. At first I was amazed that his parents would have allowed him to travel so far from home at the age of 14 and more importantly...
Why would his parents allow him to be subject to the dangers of war?
Upon further reading, I discovered that, especially during the earlier and less deadly years of the war, a farm boy getting sent off to join the soldiers for a summer was considered to be a lot like going off to summer camp, and it was a privilege or special treat for a young man to get the opportunity through family friends or other connections, to experience being in a real army. Frank's assignment as drummer boy also meant he would not be exposed to the kind of danger the other soldiers might; in fact drummer boys and buglers were generally entitled to better living conditions than the rest of the troops.
Why did all the regiments have musicians?
May 22, 2015 feature article by Timothy Walch in the Statesman Journal, an Oregon newspaper:
Music was an integral part of the war from recruitment to battle, to bereavement and finally to homecoming. Music woke the troops at dawn and sent them to bed at night. More important, music stirred patriotic spirits, directed troops in battle, buried the dead and celebrated victory. The most elemental form of Civil War music was heard on the field of battle. The sound of fife, drum and bugle gave instructions to the troops to advance or retreat among other actions. Through the smoke and confusion, these sounds provided direction and focus to the action at hand.
According to Wikipedia, initially musicians were required in each military unit. Young boys were assigned to be musicians so that the older boys and men would be available to fight. A Union army regulation of July 1861 required every infantry, artillery, or cavalry company to have two musicians and for there to be a twenty-four man band for every regiment. However, the July 1861 requirement was ignored as the war dragged on, and as riflemen were more needed than musicians.
And what about Camp Chase: What was it like? Can you still see it today?
According to the Ohio History Connection, part of the Ohio History Center based in Columbus, OH:
In 1861, the federal government authorized the creation of Camp Chase. Organized in Columbus, it was a recruitment and training center for the Union Army. Camp Chase also served as a prison camp. Civilians loyal to the Confederacy and Southern soldiers were held inside the prison stockade. During 1861 and early 1862, most of the prisoners were from Kentucky and western Virginia and were arrested for their disloyal political sentiments. Following the Battles of Fort Henry and Donelson in February 1862, Union authorities detained numerous Confederate officers and enlisted men as prisoners of war at Camp Chase.
During 1863, the number of prisoners housed at Camp Chase at one time was more than eight thousand men. Living conditions at Camp Chase prison camp were harsh. The large number of men in close quarters also led to outbreaks of disease. During the course of the Civil War, over two thousand Confederate prisoners died at Camp Chase, and by 1863, the prison established its own cemetery.
The Union military closed Camp Chase at the end of the Civil War. Over the years, the location, now known as Columbus' Hilltop neighborhood, was redeveloped for residential and commercial use. What remains to commemorate the site today is two acres of land, consisting primarily of the Confederate cemetery.
In 1896, William Knauss, a former officer in the Northern army, organized a memorial service for the dead Confederates. Judge David F. Pugh, a former enlisted soldier with the 46th Ohio Volunteer Infantry which saw much frontline action during the war, said in his speech at that service:
"Carrying two wounds made by Confederate bullets, I am perfectly willing that their graves may be decorated, and even to participate in it when their survivors are not numerous enough to do it. I am willing to admit that their heroism is part of our national heritage."
On June 7, 1902, a monument to the Confederate dead was erected at the cemetery. Memorial services have been held at the cemetery every year since 1896. Camp Chase is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
They were men who died for a cause they believed was worth fighting for
and they made the ultimate sacrifice.
The bronze statue of the confederate soldier atop the cemetery's memorial structure was vandalised in 2017 following a deadly white nationalist rally at Charlottesville, Virgina. With funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs, the toppled and decapitated statue was restored and replaced in May of 2019, amidst controversy.
Tim Nosal, a spokesman for the Veteran's Affairs National Cemetery Administration in Washington, D.C., said the Camp Chase cemetery on the National Register of Historic Places falls under the National Preservation Act of 1966, which establishes government-wide policies about responsible stewardship for historical properties. Learn more here.
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