Letter from “Anon”, Co. D, from Camp Wilkins, dated June 3, 1861

Co. D, 10th Pa. Reserves [Jefferson Guards].
June 3, 18611

My Old Friend, Reporter:

Supposing it might be interesting to some of your readers to have an account of soldiers’ life in Camp Wilkins, it occurred to me that it would be a pleasant way of spending spare time to write a brief description of what we have experienced, and send to you to be published or not, as you see fit.

This camp, as you know, was organized as a camp of instruction, and has now been occupied by volunteers for more than four weeks, and not a uniform or a gun has yet been supplied to them. Consequently, many companies, knowing how impossible it is to make any proficiency in drill without uniforms, have furnished their own, and I hope there will be sufficient State pride and honor to renumerate [sic] those spirited young men who thus sacrifice their time and means to support the honor of our Commonwealth, and to defend their country at large, and that too, without any assurance that they are going to be re-imbursed [sic] by the State.

I am among those who are slow to censure high authorities for little deficiencies in their administration of affairs, knowing the labor devolved upon them.; but I can conceive of no excuse for feeding two thousand men in a camp of instruction, and not providing them with uniforms or guns to drill with. Just imagine two thousand men receiving a month’s instruction, and not knowing how to load a gun or make a charge. It looks like child’s play to us, and we perform our duties with a like seriousness and interest. Consequently, if fifty armed secessionists were to break in upon us, we would in all probability run like so many sheep. But stop! we should have remembered the old motto, nil desperandum.

Just now, while writing, we are aroused by a thundering shout, the sure token of good news. What is the cause of this outburst of delight? I raise my eyes to see three wagon loads of arms entering the gate, and will now drop the subject, hoping that the next account you hear of us, we will all be armed and equipped for service. But in self-justification we must add that we had no knowledge whatever of this timely arrival until it made its appearance at the gate.

As for those entrusted with the care of the camp, it is but just to say that they have made every exertion to provide for the comfort and improvement of the men. Col. McLane, the commanding officer, has been as anxious as any of us to procure arms for the men, and has accomplished all that could be done in the way of training troops. Quartermaster McKelvey and Commissary Weaver have provided the men with comfortable quarters and plenty of good eatables. We have not the least reason to complain in this respect. I can speak for our own company and state that we have fared sumptuously every day, receiving all necessary substantials from the State, besides a fair supply of delicate edibles from the loved ones at home. I think there is not one of our company but has improved in health and strength. Speaking for myself, I never felt better, never enjoyed myself more.

It is interesting to see the variety of amusements invented and enjoyed by the boys in the evening after parade. We have company drill in the forenoon, dress parade in the afternoon, and the evening to ourselves. (Another shout welcomes the Arrival of more guns).\r\n\r\n It is a source of general rejoicing that the camp will move this week to Hulton Station [Camp Wright], twelve miles up the Allegheny river; but it is reported one battalion will be left here, and all are apprehensive that they may be the unfortunate ones left behind. The new camp will be called Camp McCall, in honor of the old General who located it.

Great joy was experienced last Wednesday on account of being ordered to Uniontown, and many a shout went up in welcome of that news; but the reaction was the more severe when it was learned that no troops were wanted in that direction, and when we all had to turn to camp M’Call again, as the only hope of change. So far as I can learn, the men do not desire to be removed because they are uncomfortable, but because they are comparatively idle, for nothing can be more irksome than a soldiers life when deprived of excitement.

But the hour of duty has arrived which, happily for your patience, will compel me to close.

A Jefferson Guard

  1. Washington Reporter & Tribune: 6-6, 1861