Guide to the Benjamin Hagenbuch Papers, RG 309
Listed by: Paul Martin & Michelle Nelson
Date: February 2001
Size of Collection: 16 letters + one photograph
Biographical Sketch: Hagenbuch served in the 210th Pennsylvania Infantry during the Civil War.
Scope / Content: Consists of letters and transcripts of letters written from various points in Virginia. Photo of Hagenbuch in uniform. (Click here for image in new window)
Jan. 1, 1862. Camp Piermont, PA. He tells his wife how happy he is after receiving her box of food. His friends were greatly impressed by the food also. He hopes to be paid tomorrow.
Sep. 27, 1864.On a transport ship to City Point, VA. His unit departed Camp Curtin by train, got one the steamship at Baltimore, passed Fort Monroe, and arrived a t City Point four days later. What their assignment will be is unknown. He names many friends , and they are all hoping to get paid. He is worried what his wife will do if he doesn’t get paid soon.
Oct. 18, 1864.HQS. 210th Regiment. He has been removed from picket line duties, and made a company clerk. He also is to be detailed as a servant to the Regimental Colonel. If that is not permanent, he will come back as a clerk. He would also like to be a commissary clerk, if the other jobs don’t last.
Nov. 6, 1864. Mouth of Cedar Brook near Fisher Hill. He is cold and back on picket duty. Water is plentiful and they wash their shirts in boiling water each week. They have a shed to break the wind and a fire to help warm up. He sees signal flags daily and flares at night. He sent a vote for “Old Abe” home.
Dec. 13, 1864. Virginia. He has returned from a seven day raid which destroyed forty miles of the Welldon Railroad; and then burned all buildings and houses along the line of march. They also took all animals and food supplies. He did not do any theft or burning. The inhabitants were very outraged by the soldier’s actions. Confederate forces, Bushwhackers and Guerillas killed many union stragglers. Some of his friends are missing.
Jan. 10, 1865. Division HQs, 5th Corps. He is furious that he has not yet been paid, so that he can send money home. The rain is continuing, and has damaged their wood and canvas huts. Over one hundred men are very sick form exposure, cold, exhaustion and lack of food on the raid. Twenty-five have already died at the hospital. The camp is in swampy condition, and more will die soon. He has a friend’s stationery, but no stamps.
Jan. 20, 1865. 2nd Division HQs. He is happy to hear his wife and sons have shoes. He is angry that his unit will not be paid until march, and that the government is not taking care of its soldiers. He is in good health and his job is not in direct danger in front areas. He has no stamps, and gets no mail or food boxes.
Feb. 19, 1865. Hatcher’s Run, 2nd Div. Hqs. He has received his wife’s letter, the first in three weeks. A hard battle is described in which the third division broke and ran to the rear. The shells scared away the doctors, who left the wounded behind, other soldiers saved the wounded by carrying them to the rear. His guards could not stop the retreating soldiers, and he did not fire at them.
Feb. 23, 1865. Hatcher’s Run. The paymaster is in camp, and he expects to be paid, but has been warned it will be only four months worth. Pay problems are very irritating.
Feb.25, 1865. Hatcher’s Run. Deserters from Gen. Lee’s army are increasing. They say that the will to fight is very low. They are amazed at their ration of a pint of corn meal, compared to union army rations. They had no coffee. He gave a young deserter a cup of coffee, his first in six months. He is amazed that the rebel soldiers fight so hard on such poor rations. He praises the work of the Christian and sanitary commissions for soldiers. There is heavy cannonading around Petersburg. Rumors of being paid tomorrow are spreading. An old man came to find the body of a son killed in Battle, and Hagenbuch told him the site where it could be found. He discusses various Friends, some with caustic remarks. Most soldiers think the end of the war is near.
Mar. 10. 1865. Hatcher’s Run. Mud conditions are terrible and guard duty over stragglers is constant. He is hoping to be home soon to his wife an children. He tries to explain why the north is still drafting soldiers.
Mar. 18, 1865. Camp Near Hatcher’s Run. He is happy to hear that his money arrived safely at home. Soldiers are sending extra clothing home, as they are under marching orders. At a St. Patrick’s day celebration yesterday, three soldiers were killed by horses. He tried to get a furlough, but it was denied. Many new union recruits are arriving by train, and rebel deserters enter union lines daily. Everybody thinks the war will end soon.
Mar. 26, 1865. Hatcher’s Run. There was a big battle yesterday, with heavy losses to both sides. He heard that 400 dead rebel soldiers were found in an area no larger than a city lot. It is thought that Petersburg is being evacuated, as skirmish lines no longer have contact with rebels.
Apr. 9, 1865. Camp near Hatcher’s Run. Three days of prior battles resulted in losses, but the rebels were defeated, and many prisoners were taken. A shell hit very close to him.
Apr. 28, 1865. Camp along Nottaway River. His unit has a nice camp while guarding the railroad. He hopes to come home soon, as he has only four more months of service.
Undated letter. He is smoking a pipe now while writing the letter. Many soldiers are being court-martialed to be returned to their regiments. It is raining, and the roads are terrible. Many mansions and buildings have been knocked down to provide wood and furniture for soldiers' huts and fires.
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