I love this excerpt from my great grandfather’s Civil War Journal. He joined the Union army two weeks after the first shots at Fort Sumter and became a member of the 2nd Michigan Infantry. This is his description of the first days of travel to reach Washington, D.C. for orders. Since I was born seventy miles west of Detroit and now live twenty miles northwest of Pittsburgh, I very much enjoy his descriptions.
By Harmon Camburn from Civil War Journal of a Union Soldier
“June 7 – Landing at an early hour, coffee, bread, and meat were served to the men while standing in the street.
Many citizens of the place came to see the Michigan boys and give them words of encouragement.
A company of juveniles, fully armed and equipped, paid the regiment a visit. The little fellows conducted themselves in true military style and gave the 2nd Michigan three rousing cheers as a send off.
Leaving Cleveland by the Pittsburgh Road, we passed through Hudson, Ravenna, Wellsville, and other places where large crowds of people had congregated to meet and cheer us on our way. At all stopping places, the patriotic Ohio ladies were present with coffee, pies, cakes, sandwiches, lemonade, fruits, bouquets and whatever their loyal hearts suggested would be encouraging to those they regarded as their defenders. A day of excitement among these Ohio towns, relieved by long rides past oil derricks and iron foundries, terminated in the evening at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Here great crowds of people were ready to do anything that seemed necessary, and many things that were unnecessary. Pocket books were open to buy whiskey to fill canteens or bread to fill haversacks. Open generosity was the rule. Real wants were not calculated. To express a wish was to have it gratified on the spot. The need of caution against the universal desire to do something for the boys was very apparent, and the road to Harrisburg was taken with very little delay.
June 8 – This bright and beautiful morning dawned upon us amid the Allegheny Mountains. To boys who had been reared in the comparatively level state of Michigan, the wild and rugged scenery, and the towering hills of Pennsylvania were something to gaze at with awe and wonder. In the presence of these majestic piles of earth and rocks, the individual man shrinks into nothingness, and the immensity of the universe is increased in our estimate.
A little west of Altoona, the railroad runs on the mountainside in the shape of a horseshoe. On the inside of the curve, there is a sheer descent of three hundred feet, while on the outside the rocks rise perpendicular to a great height. Coming upon this spot without warning, with the train rushing along at full speed, one instinctively clutches the hair on his head as if to keep it from flying away.
The ever-varying landscape, as the train sped past lofty mountains, through green valleys and over flashing streams, beguiled the time till Harrisburg was reached in the afternoon.
The Pennsylvania Buck Tail Regiment had a camp here called Camp Curtain after the governor of the state.
Each member of this regiment wore in his hat the tip of a deer’s tail, and was supposed to have killed the deer himself.
At Camp Curtain, our tents were pitched for the first time. Here we spent our first night under canvass. The regiment had brought guns from Michigan, but no cartridge boxes or munitions. Both of these were issued to us here, completing our equipment. Camp duties being all attended to everybody went for a cool bath in the Schuylkill River. Thus refreshed after our long ride in the cars, we slept soundly regardless of our, to us, novel positions.