Letter Home

(Written by a Pathfinder Member, Dorian Watt)

Dear Uncle Judd and aunt Beas,
I know its been a long time since I left home to join the confederate army and I hope you aint still angry about my leaving. I know I said a man’s got to follow his heart when it comes to war. Well, I was wrong. War aint so glamorous as I supposed it was and too many men have fallen since this thing started.
I think of home often and wish I was still there. Little Mary and Nath waiting up all night and brother Dorian sitting by the fireplace pretending hes cold all the time.
Word came down that we was to be marching over the river looking for ammunition and medicine. But I think we are heading that way just to teach the yanks there a lesson from the last time we crossed and they knocked us around a bit. There wasn’t too much enthusiasm among the men as some of them has family there. Just like me they left their homes and families because they believed in something greater, but just like me they never thought we’d be invading our homes.
But the new general, a cavalry guy, thinks we need to cross and deliver a blow for the cause, whatever that is anymore. We got our gear together and marched out of camp around 4 AM crossing the big river about an hour later. We marched north along a dirt road well passed the place where the previous skirmish took place then turned west fording a small stream at dawn. It was cold and the water was almost as cold wetting our aching feet. The only thing that kept most of the men going was freezing their feet if they quit marching. The road wound mostly west for a couple more miles.
Some time before noon, as I guessed by the sun, my watched stopped some time ago, we approached the stream again. Advanced scout come riding back about then and reported that a regiment of Yankees was guarding the bridge where we wanted to cross. Yankees from this area I guessed. Who was in that regiment I wondered.
Anyway the cav general sent us infantry forward along with the guns. No more did we start to deploy then the enemy guns opened on us. There was a duel that lasted a couple hours then, but we infantry had no time to stay and watch. We pressed forward toward that bridge and found it held against us. Our major wasn’t real happy with the general and we made a couple feints toward that bridge. They put down a lot of fire against us and suddenly the major got mad. We attempted to cross the bridge twice and were driven back both times. But when he saw the cav attacking the far side of the river and getting pushed around he started shouting about new orders. That general seemed to want nothing but the glory. He pushed the others around but they never gave much ground and always came back when he moved off in another way. We lined up to cross the bridge again, but the blue coats on the far side were suddenly reinforced. Don’t know if you remember Billy Jenkins, but I saw him get shot in the head as we crossed the bridge. I cant say but that hes dead. Poor Billy. You know he was an orphan.
I don’t remember much after that. Something hit me hard in the shoulder and searing pain erupted in my arm. I fell back as if in a dream landing hard on my pack. I must have gone under for a time for when I opened my eyes again there were three Yanks standing above me.
I was taken to a field hospital and treated by a yank doctor who said the bullet went all the way through but broke a rib and my shoulder bone. I guess the wars over for me. I cant say Im sad for that. A couple days after I was captured a captain come by and said I was to be paroled and should go home to wait for it.
Well heres my problem. Do I have a home to come to? I know I was a bit angry when we parted, but I sure am sorry for some of those words. I need to come home. For me the wars over. Could you uncle Judd and aunt Beas find it in your hearts to bring me back?
If you would write me and send the letter to the yankee officer here Im sure I could find my way back.
With much affection, your nephew,
Martin
Please write and tell me I can come home.

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Letter Home

(Written by a Pathfinder Member)

Dear Uncle Judd,
I know its been a long time that I have written, but pencils and paper are so often lacking in our camp. Some of the boys is writing a newspaper and they manage to get most of the paper before the rest of us. It is sometimes interesting and sometimes not, but its always good for a laugh.
Anyway, since the last time I wrote we have formed a new company, that of Sharpshooters. For some reason they chose me to be one of them, perhaps it was that Henry rifle you sent me last month. A lot of the boys were a little jealous of me then, but they were happy as well. This company was only a few of us, but it does comprise the best shots among us. About a week later we actually received our green coats.
Headquarters saw fit to send us a company of cavalry for some reconnoitering around here, unfortunately about half of them had no horses. Any way we did some training with them. There’s a bugle calling us out I will write more soon if I am able.
Today we ran into the rebels again. On a narrow bridge nearby crossing a slow moving stream to the north of the town we were camped in we came across them. Cavalry and infantry trying to move into town. For the time being we were still attached to the dismounts and were ordered to prevent the infantry from crossing the bridge. This was the first time I was called into action as a sharps hooter and we covered the right of the skirmish line as the dismounts crossed the bridge and dealt with the rebel infantry there. They was held at bay for some time then retreated back to the hills to the north. Several of the dismounts were hit.
We waited there for a time till word came to send part of us to the right because a number of rebel cavalry were seen there. We joined with the infantry there as they formed up among some cottonwoods and oaks and pressed forward. It wasn’t long before the rebels arrived in force. First, a force of mounted cavalry attacked and drove both wings back but the line held. Then our left was attacked by a company of dismounted rebels firing revolvers at us.
One of the first of us hit was the chaplain, who had donned a rifle over his collar and fought like fury. He was only wounded in the shoulder and arm and after a brief rest and some patching up he came back. Two others were killed there. One was the widow Markum’s son Willy. He was a good soldier but the widow is going to be heartbroken. Only his little brother is left of all her children.
AS the battle progressed it seemed the rebs stayed clear of me and my repeater. Every time they started getting close I unloaded a few rounds and they ran. Some of them went after the dismounts left on the bridge, but though they were driven back across they didn’t break.
One heavy loss was Capt Warrenton shot through the chest as he led a counterattack that drove the enemy from the field.
I couldnt help but think about brother Martin, who ran off to join the confederate army when the war started. Sometimes I think I could see him across the sights of my weapon, but I pray not. I wonder if hes the same as he was before the war thinking about rights and so forth. Maybe this will all end before either of us are found by a bullet.
Give my love to aunt Beas and sister Mary. I hear she has a beau. Write again soon. I share your letter with Nath and the others from home.
Your nephew ,
Sergeant Dorian Watt
PS: Please send another tin of your special liquid. It is getting cold and that certainly keeps a body warm on those nights. Write soon.

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Addendum to Battle Report on Pipestone.

There was one item that I reluctantly attempt to report. An event that was so strange that it defies the imagination. I bow to the pressure of my peers in finally reporting this strange activity.

We were sitting around the fire speaking of the recent battle and our hopes for the battle on the morrow when out of the deep darkness two even darker figures appeared. In their hands gleemed the strangest weapons we had ever seen. The flashed out bright green and red in the darkness and hummed loudly as they swung them about themselves. These weapons appeared to be made of light. They were obviously some sort of sabre or sword, but the construction of such a weapon is quite beyond my ken.

These two figures, I hesitate to declare they were men though they may have been, obviously disliked each other for they declared epithets in a strange and foreign tongue and swung those weapons at each other with great vehemence.

Awestruck, we watched the spectacle for nearly ten minutes before one of them was apparently struck by the other’s light-like weapon. All went dark for some time and then suddenly they appeared again. Thye fought for some minutes then vanished again.

We breathed a collective sigh of relief that they had not come after us but such strange weapons wielded by such obviously fell persons would have been devistating to us all. There would have been few of us to fight the battle the following day.

After some time we saw in the distance those two flashing lights swinging and flashing along the top of the cliff wall far to the east. Fascinated we watched as these two beings fought back and forth along the top of that ridge. Then they disappeared again, only to appear in another location. Throughpout the night these two creatures and their mysterious weapons appeared all over the battlefield and the surrounding trees and camps. Then, just as mysteriously as they came, they went never to return.

I fear to speculate on what we saw. I fear to speculate on what sort of weapon those swords of light were. I can only say that what we saw both fascinated and terrified us. some believed they were some sort of new Yankee weapon, but those swords were never seen by us again. Some believed that we saw two demons fighting over the dead on the battlefield, but why would two such creatures from hell wish to harm each other and why would they not have come after us. One suggested a pair of magicians or wizards but that suggestion died with little discussion. I only know what we saw and experienced, and only report it because those who saw it pressured me to report it.

I pray that to those who read this that they do not believfe we were drunk. There was no alcohol available to us that night. And some other drug in the air or in our food surely would not have created a hallucination so vivid and so common to all who observed it. So here it is. Take it for what you read and pass this on or destroy it.

Respectfully submitted (with trepidation),

Sgt Dorian Watt

PS: I pray this does not effect my chances of promotion, please verify this with all those who survived the battle previously reported on.

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Battle report: Pipestone Minnesota, 2014

Battle report: Pipestone Minnesota, 2014
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We traveled north on what some called another invasion. It was long and arduous, but there were few shirkers who fell out on that trip. We camped in a wood lot at the base of some hills near a small lake. The first we knew of the Yankees was their early morning attack which we were able to drive back after some heavy fighting. There was a town nearby and we suspect they had some militia there who may have come to the aid of the enemy.
Anyway we knew they were out there and we sent scouts and pickets to keep us well informed as to their whereabouts should they return. Meanwhile we consolidated our forces and prepared for an attack. It was not long in coming and soon we saw the columns of blue soldiers advancing on two fronts, one from a road along the hills to the south and another from the hills down into the valley from the east. We formed our lines and marched out to meet them. The first of the enemy that our skirmishers engaged were those already in the valley and they were able to hold them off for a time even though our men were outnumbered. It was as if they were waiting for the other column to arrive. Our main body of troops entered the battlefield through a narrow cut through the belt of trees that lined the roadway and drove the yankees back toward the steeper hills to the east. It was not long before the second line of the enemy appeared and attacked our left flank. It was a hotly contested fight and casualties were mounting on both sides. Our regiment took about 30% casualties during that fight. But we were the master of that valley. We drove the yankees to the foot of the hills and pounded them. At last we charged and they broke, all except a battery on top of the hill. They managed to get in a couple of enfilading rounds of canister before finally retreating under the pounding of our own cannon. We fell back to the line of trees to rest a bit knowing that they would be returning.
That evening our some of our scouts returned saying that the enemy had all but vanished. The colonel decided that we needed to send a company into the town to get information and maybe provisions. On the way it began to rain and it rained profusely for some time flooding the narrow streets. Some of us took shelter in a brick building that housed an inn that served strange food. Disks if bread topped with meat and vegetables that they called peetsa, or something like that. We confiscated a number of them and enjoyed a small feast. Anyway we returned to camp with little information and some provisions. It continued to rain off and on throughout the evening and night. I was thoroughly wetted that evening.
Next morning, Sunday, it was wet and cloudy, but the rain had apparently moved on. Our chaplains had small services and our pickets waited. Another scout returned with the news that the enemy had been sighted once again marching from the east, in greater numbers. More local militia we hoped, but it was not. They were regulars and veterans seeking to catch us unawares. They did not. We were ready for them and formed our battle lines and met them in the same valley that we had met them the previous day. Their cannons were devastating, tearing huge holes in our lines and their infantry was solid. They had been heavily reinforced but, as was somewhat usual, we had not. Our regiment was in the thickest part of the fight and we received the brunt of the attack and our soldiers fell thickly upon the field. Soon almost all our officers were down and nearly 60% of the men as well. We could not take that pressure and several of the men broke ranks. Others were mixed in with other units and a confusing mass developed that soon began to retreat, as slowly as possible at first, but we bowed to the heavy pressure of the yankee fire and at last fell back passing through the trees and finding a haven behind some buildings and rocks. Apparently driving us off the field was all they wanted to do, for they never continued the attack. Perhaps they believed we had more men in the trees again. They reformed atop the ridge line to the east and watched. Under cover of darkness we escaped across the river and retreated south back to our own lines.
The general counted the raid as a masterful success, but we who had fought and those who died up there in the north though somewhat less of it. The first day was good, but we were forced to retreat on the next. What information of the enemies movements or plans I do not know. Soon, perhaps, this cruel war will be over and we will all return to our homes and wives and be free once again to live and work as we deem it best.

Respectfully submitted
Sgt. Dorian Watt, Fremont’s Pathfinders

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150th Fort McPherson, North Platte: August 16-17

150th Fort McPherson, North Platte: August 16-17

I’d like to get a roll call of everyone who is planning to attend the North Platte event Aug. 16-17. So far, I know of myself, Tobey, and four Nissens (4 soldiers, 2 civilians)? Impression for those that can do it will be the 7th Iowa Cavalry, 1863 in the Nebraska Territory (shell jackets or sack coats, forage caps or slouch/Hardee hats), anyone coming as infantry should go standard federal uniform for soldiers on frontier duty in the 1860s. There is a dance before the Candlelight Tour on Friday night (which starts at around 9:00 and is open to anyone wishing to participate). Site will open to the public between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m. Saturday morning and will end with a flag ceremony at about 3:30 p.m. that afternoon, proceeded by a small shootout between the soldiers of “Fort McPherson” and the “citizens” of North Platte. Horses had originally been planned, but circumstances are increasingly looking unlikely for their use; time, distance, and money being rather tight at the moment, so Pathfinders will probably all take the field on foot as infantry in garrison and dismounted cavalry awaiting remounts.

Again, if I didn’t list you as attending, then you haven’t told me FOR SURE that you were/are coming. R.S.V.P. so I can get numbers to Joe Carlson, breakfast and lunch Saturday are being provided by the museum and the Kearney crew, so they need to know! May seem a bit far and out of the way for us, but a chance to show our support for our good friends from Kearney and help out historic sites and museums in Nebraska!

Lt. Shane

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The Battle of Gettysburg

Sergeant Dorian Watt’s after action report on Gettysburg is up in the Pathfinder Update 2013 section.

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June 5-6, 1863

The Battle of Franklin’s Crossing, also known as the Deep Run Battle, took place near FredericksburgVirginia on June 5, 1863. Union forces under GeneralJohn Sedgwick skirmished with Confederate troops under General A.P. Hill during a reconnaissance to determine the movements and location of General Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia. Confederate forces repulsed the Union probe. The small fight was the first action in the Gettysburg Campaign.

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June 3, 1863

The first elements of General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, 75,000 soldiers strong, was on the move, having left Fredericksburg, Virginia in a westerly direction. The decision to invade the North a second time was now underway. One of the first actions of what became known as the Gettysburg campaign occurred near Fayetteville, Virginia.

The Federal Ninth Army Corps from Kentucky was ordered to Vicksburg to augment Major General Ulysses Grant’s army.

Democrats led by New York Mayor Fernando Wood, met at New York’s Cooper Institute to urge peace.

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Rock Creek – June 1-2, 2013

The Pathfinders were at Rock Creek.  Photos are up under the Photo 2013 section!

 

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April 24, 1863

The Union army issues General Orders No. 100, which provided a code of conduct for Federal soldiers and officers when dealing with Confederate prisoners and civilians. The code was borrowed by many European nations, and its influence can be seen on the Geneva Convention.

The orders were the brainchild of Francis Lieber, a Prussian immigrant whose three sons had served during the Civil War.  One son was mortally wounded while fighting for the Confederacy at the Battle of Williamsburg, Virginia, in 1862. Lieber’s other two sons fought for the Union. Lieber was a scholar of international law who took a keen interest in the treatment of combatants and civilians. He wrote many essays and newspaper articles on the subject early in the war, and he advised General Henry Halleck, general-in-chief of the Union armies, on how to treat guerilla fighters captured by Federal forces.

Halleck appointed a committee of four generals and Lieber to draft rules of combat for the Civil War. The final document consisted of 157 articles written almost entirely by Lieber. The orders established policies for, among other things, the treatment of prisoners, exchanges, and flags of truce. There was no document like it in the world at the time, and other countries soon adopted the code. It became the standard for international military law, and the Germans adopted it by 1870. Lieber’s concepts are still very influential today.

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