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.
Jewitt-Pennock-Foster and Cool-VanPelt Family History Copyright © 2015