Letter from Hiram J. Ramsdell, June 28, 1861 from Camp Curtin

June 28, 1861
Camp Curtin

Our camp looks dreary and deserted now and is indeed a lonesome place. Since the forepart of last week we have had busy times and dull times, the one succeeding the other, until it has settled down at last into what now bids fair to prove a continued “winter of discontent” until our final departure from this to a more congenial place, i.e., the battle field.

While we are to remain in a camp of instruction Camp Curtin is doubtless the best place for us; yet it seems that the weather was never so hot, the dust never so deep, and the shade trees never so scarce as present. We cannot exercise out-of-doors in the heat of the day, and when its cool we have plenty of drilling to do, and frequently when its not so cool. Tents in very hot weather are anything but comfortable, and if only we can get under the shade of a board we have not the ambition to be anything but satisfied. Lonesome, lazy place! Barracks deserted, tents unoccupied and a dreary waste of ground – unpleasant reminders of a camp of lively thousands – have a tendency to materially assist a melancholy nature in making the possessor of it and those around him decidedly miserable.

You have already been informed that two Regiments from Camp Curtin were sent to relieve Col. Wallace’s Regiment which was hemmed in by the rebels in Maryland. One of those regiments was the celebrated Kane Rifle Regiment, and the other Gregg’s.

Early in the afternoon of Friday of last week a messenger arrived here from Harrisburg with the information that an Indiana Regiment was hemmed in by the secessionists, and an order was immediately issued for the two Regiments to start as soon as they could get ready. Boxes had been carted to camp containing the Minie Rifles for the Kane Regiment and the Bucktails were in high glee. Oh, they were to have their uniforms and equipments and everything in prime order, and we of Sherwood’s company were to be tailed on to some Dutch regiment with old flint-lock muskets, and never to be heard of again. We were the butt of all their jokes and I must confess that we ourselves did not feel in the best of spirits; but we were soldiers and had no right to complain.

The time come and the boxes were taken to the several companies and opened. The open air was too hot for most of us, and we sneaked to our quarters and got out of sight of the buck-tails, feeling as a Shanghai rooster seems to feel after having been nicely whipped by a common dung hill. A few, however, who did not care for jeers hung around and were really, they said, pleased to hear the Rifles had come. As soon as the boxes were opened the boys seized the Minnie Rifles with an avidity that showed plainly how fondly they had learned to prize them. The bayonets were taken from their places and fixed to their guns; and some bystanders suggested that they were the strangest Minnie Rifles they had ever seen – they thought the saber bayonet always accompanied the Minnie Rifle. But Kane said that his regiment were to have the Minnie Rifle and Kane wouldn’t lie.

On a little closer inspection the guns were found to be minus the improved sight. That seemed very strange, really; but they must be the Minnie Rifle; Kane said they were to have them. They then discovered no primer was on the lock of the arm; this also seemed strange; but they must be the Minnie gun after all – Kane would have nothing else. Next, a piece of brass was found set solidly into the lock, as though it were put there to cover and hide the pan of an old flint lock. Other little arrangements were found to differ from their idea of the Minnie Rifle, such as a large and smooth bored barrel and highly polished on the outside; polished iron mountings instead of brass; long barrel and general finish of the arm; yet our boys said they must be the Minnie Rifle; for Kane had ordered them long ago and they had been in the Arsenal for some time, waiting until the buck-tails should have orders to march. Finally, upon closer inspection, when the mark “Harper’s Ferry, 1837” was found upon both lock and barrel, the yells and oaths which came from the buck-tail Regiment might have gladdened the heart of His Satanic Majesty. They were immediately yclept Kane Rifles, and the men swore they would never shoulder such arms after they had been promised the Minnie Rifles.

Men cried and swore and laughed alternately, and it was the opinion of some that there would be a mutiny in the camp. It is human nature to laugh at the misfortune of others and when the buck-tails had ceased abusing us, it was our turn to rally them and we did it with a will. The excitement had nearly reached a climax and the hero Biddle was the only one to quell the disturbance. He came out from Head Quarters and poured oil on the troubled waters for half an hour, and the buck-tails very sensibly concluded to take Kane’s Rifles until those of the Minnie pattern could be procured, but they took them wearing bluer countenances than it has ever been my lot to see. They consoled themselves with the belief that they would have the Minnie arm sometime, and I presume they will.

Their uniform consisted of a dark blue blowse, blue cloth fatigue cap and army shoes. The Tioga boys left in good spirits and yet there was some sad faces, I think, because we were not to go with them. They went as far as Hopeville, and were informed by telegraph that Col. Wallace’s command had been reinforced and they were ordered to camp at Bedford Springs. Orders were soon after issued for them to move on to the State line near Cumberland, Md., where at last accounts they were stationed. There were probably thirty men in the hospitals here, unable to march at the time of their leaving. Lieut. Rose of our company has been detailed to conduct all able to go their Regiments, and will start next Monday.

A ray of sunshine, not of the usual stamp, visited our two companies a day or so before the final exit of the Kane Regiment. The patriotic people of Wellsboro, never known to be behind in anything, have given us new assurances that we are not forgotten at home, and they have our warmest thanks for the nice Havelocks we so much needed. Much praise is due the ladies for their promptness in making them. The boys united in giving them three hearty cheers. Three were also given Charley Sears, who kindly interested himself in their purchase and manufacture, and who came here and presented them.

Much talk had been occasioned in Camp on account of a rumor having gained general circulation that when (?) we get paid, we are only to get pay for one month’s services, when we really have been here more than two months. I care not what excuse the authorities may have for such a course, if this new indignity is attempted to be committed on a few thousand innocent men, who have been duped enough already by the promises made only to be broken by those in high places – you need not be surprised to learn that they did not quietly submit. They have the money and if we do not get it, it should be the duty of the press throughout the State to unite in condemning an injury so foul and so unbecoming to a State like this. We left Wellsboro on the 24th of April, and since that time we have been spending our money and wearing out our clothes, being supplied with only good living by the State. True, we have got a few articles of clothing which we do not need, such as overcoats, drawers and undershirts. But we must take up with $11 pay. I hardly believe they dare add another so foul an insult to the hundred others already committed; but we shall see what we shall see, and I will let you know the result. It is said that we shall get a month’s pay and our uniforms next week. Another promise!

Our friend Whitney is still with us. He ought not complain at his usage, for those who have given him encouragement have been guilty of everything low and disgraceful. He has stood by us ever since we left our homes, and we had learned to hope that he might get some good position, for he had been promised it.

The company feel in better spirits since the return of our commissioned officers. Two were absent for several days on furloughs, and our Captain was engaged in collecting old arms of the State. He brought with him some pieces of ordnance. Sherwood is commanding this camp at present.

A Michigan regiment has been in camp here several days waiting for arms. Their gray suits look well. Having received their arms (muskets) they will leave next Monday for Washington, via Baltimore.

We have finally been organized into a regiment, styled the 6th Regiment of the S.R.V. Corps with the following companies: Iron Guards, Capt. Ent, Co. A; Union Guards, [Capt.] Raush, Co. B; Honesdale Guards, [Capt.] Wright, Co. C; Washington Rifles, [Capt.] Dixon, Co. D; Montour Rifles, [Capt]. Gore, Co. E; Northern Invincibles, [Capt.] Bradbury, Co. F; J.D. Cameron Infantry, [Capt.] Kehler, Co. G; Towanda Rifles, [Capt.] Gore, Co. H; Susquehanna Volunteers, [Capt.] Schull, Co. K; Tioga Invincibles, [Capt.] Sherwood, Co I; and the following officers: Col. W.W. Rickets, Lieut. Col. Penrose, Major H.J. Madrill, Adj. Harding.

We have no idea when we will leave here.


  1. Hiram J. Ramsdell, Tioga Invincibles, Co. H, 6th Pa. Reserves. Letter published in the Wellsboro Agitator: 7-3-1861