Civil War Twitter Project



In Their Own Words blog


I have recieved your letter in which you mention having been to Syracuse. I am glad you got the cart or wagon for our little Darling-RP


I have just returned from a reconicance beyond the lines of our pickets & have been in the saddle nearly all day.-RP


I have my Dear been troubled with my eyes which have been very sore & inflamed from what cause I am unable to conjecture.-RP


Tis 11 PM & all are asleep but the guard & myself & I am tired having drilled the men most all day.-RP


I will pay you all off when I get home by carrying you all in my arms.-RP


No Dear Wife I must not think of leaving till something is done & you may be sure twill be done as soon as it is possible for us to move.-RP


I say how should I meet their fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers & wives would I ever raise my head again? Would not you hate me.-RP


What would these men whom I have taken from their homes do & how, should they all, or some of them lost for want of a skillful leader.-RP


or should a battle be fought & lost to us in my absence what would I think of myself.-RP


If the exigencies of the service & honor of my Country demand my service I must remain.-RP


I must close though have not chatted half as long, or as much as I wish but you do not talk back, but tis not your fault I am sure.-RP


I think of you all often every day & dream of you nights such pleasant dreams too. Keep up a stout heart my wife & hope for the best.-RP


But I will not weary you with such matters dear wife, as such detail must be uninteresting to you.-RP


For our guns & horses would mire now should we move out of the road & perhaps even in the road.-RP


I can find but few that own they were there. I know too that little can be done till the ground is hardened and dried by wind & sun.-RP


but the Army of the west seem to do something & we have done little in the way of fighting since Bull run race. -RP


I know the difficulties are many. To raise equip & organize so large a force as we now have in the field in so short a time.-RP


As to the War my Dear. I will say but little as to much has already been said for the amount of work done by us.-RP


Stevens looks better by far than he ever did before, in fact all the boys from our place are in a far way of making first class soldiers.-RP


does his duty promptly & makes lots of fun for the boys, for he says some sharp things occasionally & is always good natured.-RP


George or Happy Abbot as the boys call him is strong fat & hearty & makes a good soldier-RP


I think it is to bad & I shall give him such a dashing as will make him glad to write every day if he does not mend his ways.-RP


Walt just told me he had a letter from Elmira Calkins saying she had not received a letter from Harrison in 8 weeks.-RP


exorbitant prices are charged full one hundred per cent above Syracuse prices in the way of dry goods tis outrageous.-RP


exorbitant prices are charged full one hundred per cent above Syracuse prices in the way of dry goods tis outrageous.-RP


Alexandria or Washington are such miserable places to purchase anything. _ RP


But winter will soon be over here as I saw blue birds around my tent (which is hedged about with cedar) picking berries from the Cedars.-RP


We had two inches snow on Monday. It commenced raining this morning & bids fair to rain all day, or a number of days. -RP


As near as I can get at the force of the enemy in our front, tis in the neighborhood of two hundred thousand & strongly fortified.-RP


Tis true that our Army have had glorious success in the west, on the coast & elsewhere lately, but there is still much to be done.-RP


Many ask that same question & none can answer, only guess at it. Time alone can tell the end is not yet.-RP (Camp California)


Jessie wants to know, is the war most ended. Bless her good little how I wish I could answer her question.-RP


and tell me how she likes her box, as I suppose Cox has got home by this time. -RP


Kiss baby from me my dear. Write often, direct to Alexandria Va & you Elvira shall hear often from Your Rufus-RP


Give my love to all & tell Jessie that she must write to Papa when she gets time-RP


Tis none of your rattling brass things but so smooth & at times so soft I want to hold my breath for fear I should lose a note.-RP


Band of the 2nd Artillery are now discoursing sweet music (about as far from me as Mrs. Coxes from you) at General Sumners Head Quarters -RP


It has rained most of the time since my last & is still raining & you may be sure that there is a perfect sea of mud-RP


The boys are cutting away at the stumps of which there is a perfect sea in view from my tent.-RP


Speaking of wood reminds me that we (although encamped in a forest that was) must soon move on or draw our wood some three miles.-RP


Covering the fire my dear, in those expensive a luxery for wood, but their day will return again with the sue of coal.-RP


but it would not speak its fire, even the last spark had, although deeply covered, gone out. -RP


Then I thought of the dog & cat who had basked in the heat thrown from its bright red sides-RP


About the father and mother who had occupied its hearth of the lads and little ones the who had played upon its tiles.-RP


looking at its old fassioned fire place, wished it could answer some very simple questions which crowded themselves upon me.-RP


A monument of what was once a happy home perhaps of some family of little ones.-RP


But I did see places where houses had stood, both brick and wood. Some chimneys blackened by fire & smoke were still standing.-RP


No man, no house with a soul in it, not even a cow, or any domestic animal down to a dog.-RP


We have a little excitement occasionally by the firing along our liens & the river. All of which you undoubtedly hear the next day.-RP


one Hart, from Lysander, transferred to my Battery. So that we may be considered fortunate as regards general health. -RP


I am quite well & so are all my men. I have discharged Four who could not stand the exposures incident to Company living-RP


carrier but will get some as soon as I go to Alexandria-RP


Franked letters don’t go free, but you will pay the postage as I have no stamps & don’t like to send money for them by mail carrier -RP


boys are all ready to harness & You will excuse my short letter. Except my love wife. Write often & believing me yours forever-RP


I shall go out for ball practice this afternoon at 2 ½ miles distance with shell and percussion.-RP


Yet I know they meant well & I bear no other than the kindliest feelings for them.-RP



Give my love to them both my Dear wife for they have been very kind to us and although we have not always agreed in something’s.-RP


Seriously I think it would be better if she would not work so much, but take the world as easy as possible.-RP


Mother is much better I am sure by this time, tell her she must keep more quiet, not work so much for others, for it learns them to be lazy.


At least he is as well as usual I suppose. Does he play draughts now & how does he make it with Sam?-RP


Kiss the little ones for papa & he will repay the debt the first opportunity. Father is well I hope.-RP


which must be cleared to prevent the enemy from expecting a lodgment and give the guns of the various forts greater range.


War shows her hideous head here in the destruction of buildings fences & cutting down of hundred of acres of wood land -RP


Mine however have upright walls like this_____so you see I have more room.-RP


Those we now have are 9 feet square for six men shaped like those toys which Jessie had with her soldiers.-RP


The men do however build ovens in the Earth within the tent which dry the surface and make them comfortable, if there was sufficient room.


I have sent Walt to the City for new tents which will be much better than those we now have which are shoddy & no room for stores.-RP


My Battery is well with two exceptions. Arthur A. Hart from Lysander & John E. Eggelston from Oswego County both are in Hospital -RP


impatient for work & well drilled in field evolutions & the firings, having one brigade drill every afternoon when the weather will permit


No boys play or Bulls run on our side you may be certain as the Army is in fine condition-RP


So when one gets over waiting there will be a fight & such a fight.-RP


The roads are good and we are ready for business. We are waiting for the enemy to attack & the enemy are waiting for us to attack them.-RP


They however have a little fun almost every day hardly ever loosing a man, but frequently have one or two wounded -RP


Yesterday I visited the Picket in front, but saw none of the enemy.-RP


As soon as we thresh of this flooring we shall then be ready to take another one on & be prepared too to thresh it clean. -RP


Up to the present time the weather has been very fine & there has been little discomfort among the men.-RP


No wind but freezing quite hard in fact I can hardly write my hands are so cold. -RP


The weather this morning is very unpleasant having snowed last night & is still snowing, but only to whiten the ground.-RP


but letters from you my wife I prize highly & always answer. -RP


all the letters which I receive are form you except those relating or making inquiries about some persons connected with the Army -RP


If I do not get one tonight I shall write to somebody else wife & then of course I shall get an answer.-RP


I have waited patiently all this week for a letter form you my love & will waite no longer.-RP


Give my love to all our friends & believe that I remain yours for ever -RP


Muster Day tomorrow & I have still some papers to make out.-RP


as to socks I can buy them for 26 cents per pair-RP


You speak of clothes Dear love now don’t worry yourself about clothes for me as I can buy what few I want-RP


The days are quite warm & pleasant. The nights are clear & pleasant with little frost.-RP


There is the finest weather here you ever saw. It has been very fine since we crossed the river.-RP


I know you will not be as happy & your visits among our friends as pleasant as if I were with you, but still Dear wife go out more. -RP


You must not my love shut yourself & our little ones up all the long winter.-RP


Dear I should like very much to ride with our little ones & a sleigh ride above all others, but I fear that will not be this winter-RP


I reviewed the N.Y. 85 Regt. By order of Gen Barry who was obliged to be absent.-RP


three days since a letter which I wish I had not wrote It was mean in me to write such a letter to the only friend I have-RP


a large force left for Virginia consisting of Infantry Artillery & Cavalry & it is supposed that something will soon be done.-RP


Washington & winter too we have very fine weather & what seems strange to you is that gardeners are setting out cabbage plants -RP


We have very mild weather here tis true we have some rain, but then tis warm not yet having snow or freezing weather. -RP


I am getting better. My cold is much better. My diarrhea has almost left me & I feel quite well.-RP


Write often love as I sometimes think you have almost forgotten poor Rufus, but then I know better Dear.-RP


Cabbage potatoes turnips & such fall produce not harvested yet & in fact many flowers in bloom this is a beautiful climate -RP


had I captured them I should have come into port with one at Each Yard arm, no mater what the consequences might be that follow.-RP


I see the Lying Scoundrel that dares to charge me of gambling & if I do not Enlighten his insides I hope never to reach heaven.-RP


I have been at the Head Quarters, to the White House and all over Washington, but I think of you every time I see a neat Parlor.-RP


We expected to be paid last week our Muster Rolls being all complete, but have been disappointed by the Adjutant General-RP


A severe cold has made me feel very bad a few days back. It has settled into a cough which keeps me hacking all the time night & day. -RP


The moon so bright and the air so mild that to a north man it seems like spring. - RP


Give my love to father mother & my compliments to enquiring friends-RP


Address your letters to Capt RD Pettit 1st NY Artillery, but write on my arrival at Washington-RP


move for Washington tomorrow, we have been delayed by not completing muster rolls in time & not receiving our camp equipage till today-RP


There has been some more fighting at Washington as you have seen by the papers, but they are not to be relied upon in military matters.-RP


The boys are improving finally in Drill 7 I hear of no complaints about food or usage in my Company-RP


Our guns have come, they are the 10 Pr. Parrot Rifled gun having an extreme range of two & one half miles & are effective at one mile.-RP


Having the Command as I told you before Dear of 20 Companies of men. Some Infantry some Cavalry and 7 Companies of Artillery-RP


with organizing the Companies drilling my own Company and performing the duties of Commandant of the Barracks I have little time to spare-RP


I have but two men sick & they have the measles and that is very well for 80 men.-RP


I thank her for the chickens she sent me they were very fine so were the tomatoes I must close for drill as the guns have come-RP


You say that our little dove is unwell, And Yourself Dear do keep your health. -RP


Love I have just received the box of delicacies you sent and I thank you for your kindness. Shall I send the box full of kisses in return.RP


That picture is ready and I will send by first chance. As you well know that a handsome picture is not to be made from my face. -RP


That Catsup was excellent & those strawberries were very fine. I have one jar of each left which I intend to keep for use in the field.-RP


Your sacrifice is Great. But many must make greater; even of life itself.-RP


I am glad that she is better for my little woman must not be sick. Kiss Jessie for me a bushel for me.-RP


I do think of you Elvira. You know I do with much kindness too, for I know how good a wife you are, so don’t scold me any more for that.-RP


Some Infantry some Cavalry and 7 Companies of Artillery with but three or four Officers competent to assist in Drilling & Governing them-RP


As to my time being occupied you were right. Having the Command as I told you before Dear of 20 Companies of men.-RP


say Dear that my time was so occupied as now Frank is here that I could not find time to write. -RP


I have just received ours of the 20th and you may be sure that I was glad to hear from you.-RP


Write Darling and let me know how you are and whatever incidents occur. Good By Elvira for this evening.-RP


It would please Jessie to see a line of men in two ranks a quarter of a mile in length as formed for parade.-RP


We have a good brass band here now & I do wish you could see one of our Dress Parades and here the sweet music at morning and evening.-RP



I know Dear that you must be lonely & vexed about many things, but keep up a stout heart Darling, as all I  hope & believe will end well.



my dear wife you must know that is no boys play to handle & instead so many Green Officers & Men.-RP



arrived safe on Monday evening with 25 men & found the boys all well and the next morning received orders to assume Command-RP



All of them green as to military drill. So you can see that I am very busy. Do write, dear wife often, don’t wait for me.-RP


I must now close as it is time for the General to visit for Inspection of my Command. I now have charge of over Eleven hundred men.-RP


She is a good girl I know, does she take good care of little pigeon, does she rock her & sing to her, come I want to know everything.-RP


rest assured that shall come as soon as I can and at all event before I shall remove South. -RP


About the farm Dear, that is in your hands.  Advise with whom you chose, and do as you like with it, rent it, lease it out, or sell as you think best.-RP


dear children I feel that I should do all in my power to leave you a good Government (of all blessings there are none greater)-RP


33 men out of 34 signed the temperance pledge during the war.  We have in fact all but Dickey of Lafsons and we may fetch him yet. - RP



I have not only my Company to attend, but command of the troops here, five companies sat present with the prospect of five more this week-RP



tell John to drive that tobacco as fast as possible  write to me Dear Wife and tell me how you are - RP


Give my love to Father, Mother & all enquiring friends tell Jessie that I send her two thousand kisses and kiss little Mary. - RP


I was Elected Captain Thursday without opposition of one vote & Friday were mustered into the U.S. service as Light Artillery. -RP



Dear I have been very busy since I have been here hardly having time to write, but my thoughts were with you every hour.



My Dear Wife how I wish that I could see you and our little ones to night but I hope to see you all sometime next week. - Rufus Pettit

The main feature of OHA’s Civil War Twitter Project is to follow the day-by-day course of this historic conflict through the actual written words of the local men who served.  One of those men was Rufus Pettit and the written record of his involvement begins today with a letter he wrote to his wife, Elvira, exactly 150 years ago.

Rufus Pettit was 36 years old when he mustered into the Union forces but he had plenty of prior military experience in local militias, as well as a stint in the Mexican War, where he distinguished himself as a leader who was popular among his men.  He was somewhat of a sharpshooter and legend has it that he once shot a Mexican flag off its pole.  Orphaned at age 3, Pettit was raised by his aunt and uncle on a farm in Cold Springs, New York, near Baldwinsville.  At the age of eighteen, he apprenticed with Syracuse architect, Elijah Hayden, who was an ardent abolitionist and likely influenced Pettit with his anti-slavery views.

While working on the family farm, Pettit relied on his military training and his leadership skills to recruit an army unit among his friends and neighbors and called it the “Cold Spring Rifles”.  When the Civil War started, Pettit’s unit became Company B of the 1st New York Artillery and was attached to George McClellan’s Army of the Potomac.  By almost all accounts, Pettit was a fearless “firm but fair” leader who was named Captain of his unit.  An article from the New York Tribune stated, “Pettit’s Battery is a famous one and its captain more than deserves all the reputation he has.”

By the time Pettit joined the Union ranks in 1861, he and Elvira had 2 small daughters, named Mary and Jessie.  As you will see, his loving letters to Elvira are filled with tenderness and affection for his young family.  Pettit was a very prolific writer and his narrative is particularly descriptive, and wide-ranging.  As we follow Pettit through the next 21 months of his enrollment, we will see the effects that such a devastating war can have on a man.  The sweet letters to Elvira are certainly no indication of the war-hardened man who would eventually come to be known by many as “Ruthless Rufus”.



The flag raised yeterday is on loan form Walter Welsh. Three cheers were raised for his loan and three for the ladies of Syracuse.


The boys of the 12th raised a flag at the mess table this morning. Three cheers were raised for the union.



A shortage of lead has befallen our boys, the 12th is no exception.



Col Walrath has given orders to arrest any newspaper reporter who shows in time of action.



A dead shot- Ed Thompson of the 12th's Homer Company killed two rebs at Bull Run. He is a resident of Cortland.



Drum Major Daily of the Onondaga has returned home. Though a young man, he beat the drum in the city of Mexico during its capture.



Hamilton White has brought home over $2500.00 to the loved ones of the Onondaga, well done , ye braves!



Rest has come for the Onondaga as they enjoyed Crackers and Ale this day past, provided by Gen Wadsworth



The 12th has been folded into The Wadsworth Brigade under the command of Gen Wadsworth and made of all NY units.




Capt Locke of the Onondaga enjoyed a brief visit to Syracuse, he has been cleared on all charges.



Lt Col Richardson is sick of Dysentery and Major Lewis of fever.


Several men of the 12th have deserted due to the displeasure of the new term of service.


Many of the 12th wish to be released and will re-enlist at home, but the government thinks otherwise. Officers are in the same situation


It has been announced that the 12th Regiment will remain in service of god and country for a full two year term.


The Onondaga will be stationed about a mile north of Fort Albany, a position of much importance.


The second company of cavalry for Capt Van Allen's regiment, was raised at 69 South Salina Street yesterday afternoon.


Capt Higgins is to organize a new rifle company come soon.


A.W. Phillips of the Onondaga has proven to be an exceptional Hospital Steward, honor where honor is due.


Capt Locke is under investigation for supossedly calling retreat at Bull Run when the order was not issued


The Onondaga's Hospital Steward has been called "One of the finest in the service of not only his country, but the welfare of fellow men."


The Onondaga regiment will be held for a full two year term of service



Michael Murphy a member of the Onondaga was killed at Bull Run, He bravely charged a reb trench when he fell, pierced by three bullets.



Col Walrath defends the regiment and declares “out on the traitorous sheet!” of the Syracuse Journal who accused the 12th of cowardice.



Col Israel B Richardson who commands the brigade that includes the Onondaga is the grand nephew of Gen Israel Putnam of the Revolution



The 12th has informed us the number of rebs killed at Bull Run was about 1000



The friends of the 12th are to sue the NY Tribune for libel against the claims of cowardice at Bull Run.



The Onondaga Regiment will close its term on August 13th when it will be reorganized.



It was not the 12th New York State Militia that was said to have retreated at Bull Run but the 12th NYSV. The 12th NYSM is sationed in VA




"The horrors of Manassas (1st Battle of Bull Run) weigh on my heart. Any man that supports a more agressive war should have been present, his vigar would be quickly cooled.



"Father, you will never know what it is like to face such an infernal horror."

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the first major engagement of the civil war the 1st battle of Bull Run. The First Battle of Bull Run, also known as the First Battle of Manassas (the name used by Confederate forces), was fought on July 21, 1861, in Prince William County, Virginia, near the City of Manassas. It was the first major land battle of the American Civil War.

Just months after the start of the war at Fort Sumter, the Northern public clamored for a march against the Confederate capital of Richmond, Virginia, which could bring an early end to the war. Yielding to this political pressure, unseasoned Union Army troops under Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell advanced across Bull Run against the equally unseasoned Confederate Army under Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard near Manassas Junction. McDowell's ambitious plan for a surprise flank attack against the Confederate left was not well executed by his inexperienced officers and men, but the Confederates, who had been planning to attack the Union left flank, found themselves at an initial disadvantage. Confederate reinforcements under the command of Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston arrived from the Shenandoah Valley by railroad and the course of the battle changed. A brigade of Virginians under a relatively unknown colonel from the Virginia Military Institute, Thomas J. Jackson, stood their ground and Jackson received his famous nickname, "Stonewall Jackson". The Confederates launched a strong counterattack and as the Union troops began withdrawing under pressure, many panicked and it turned into a rout as they frantically ran in the direction of nearby Washington, D.C. Both sides were sobered by the violence and casualties of the battle, and they realized that the war would potentially be much longer and bloodier than they had originally anticipated.

Locally the 12th NYV who had been kept in reserve were said to of marched into battle the most gallant way possible” and exchanged fire with the confederates at the height of the battle. When ordered to withdraw they did so in good style. The Onondagas suffered a loss of 20 men.



William Gleason of Liverpool, a member of Capt Locke's company, accidentally shot himself through the arm, but is doing well.


The Enfield Rifle has been issued to the 12th this day. A Large shippment of Sprinfield's are also being prepared to ship to Fort Monroe.


I can think of nothing more to write this time so good bye: We marched 9 miles from the city where we are now encamped.


I believe we received our first months pay the 13th of this month. Our amount was 13.50 $11 dollars a month and 2.50 traveling fees.


There is a company of cavalry expected from Syracuse. There is four or five Manlius boys in it.


I did not get a chance to see Chas Nims when he was here. I could not get away from our camp to go there. He was five miles from our camp.


The last time I heard from George he wrote that they had got another boy. They wrote that they were going to name him after me.


They have gone into Virginia with three days rations. We expect to follow them every day.


We have just had orders to be ready at a moments notice. There is a scouting party of two companies gone in advance of us.


Dear Father, When I wrote you last I was in somewhat of a hurry. I did not have time to write you any particulars at that time.


The 12th has recieved a band and can now enjoy the comforts of such.


While on Parade this fourth each man of the 12th wore his breast rosette, the same presented to them on the departure from our city


The ladies of Cortland have donated a Firkin of butter to the Homer Company of the Onondaga Regiment.


It is understood the Onondaga’s will have a new camp about 9 miles up the Potomac above Washington.


Some men happened upon a chicken in our tent street this morning. An excellet meal was made the likes of which have not been had in days.


The Onondagas will recieve new clothing as what they were sent off with has been considered to "shoddy" for service.


The Scorbic Taint seems as if to run rampant in camp.


The rifled muskets have arrived for the Onondagas. Every man is anxious to test them on the rebs.


President Lincoln and Sec Seward visited the Onondagas today. The president shook hands with many of the men.



It seems as if the 12th has no band and feels aggravated in consequence



Mr. Morse of Co. D passed from Typhoid Fever. A brave fellow thus prematurely called away



We are all but fasting here. A young woman gave us bread and cheese today and invited us to church, an invitation we gladly accepted.




The mysterious woman seen on Genesee Street has been identified as a wife of one of the Volunteers. She will be placed at the poor house where she can have some comforts.



A glorious flag made by the ladies of Liverpool was presented to Capt Locke’s company today



Mr. Griswold (quartermaster) has been untiring in his efforts to secure necessary comforts for our men. To charge him of neglect would be to wrong a faithful officer.

Logistics: An age old problem

The logistics of warfare have been a problem since the dawn of warfare itself. After all, someone had to collect the rocks, make the spears, and forge the swords. Furthermore, someone still had to keep account of the stores and distribute them properly.  Logistical jobs such as a Quartermaster were and still are widely considered a thankless job as an army is expected to have all its necessaries all the time and problems arise when it does not. After all hungry men do not fight well where starving men do not fight at all.

The American Civil War saw its share of logistical problems. Every regiment had a “Regimental Quartermaster” who’s sole duty was to provide the necessities like clothing, food, arms, ammunition, housing (tents), cookware ect. The quartermaster of course had the help of various army departments and agencies. However, with size of the army exploding to over ten times its previous size practically overnight and continuing to grow, it became more and more challenging to find enough supplies.

Such was the case for Quartermaster Griswold who was said to “be on his feet from 4am-10pm every day without a morsel of food between” trying to carry out these tasks. Many men did not understand army logistics and began to complain to the papers calling him “a neglectful fellow who is shirking his duties”. Several officers began to speak up and try to educate the men that the stores of the army had been depleted. The Springfield Armory could not produce enough rifled muskets and both Union and Confederate Armies began to import British Enfield muskets. Powder stores were at an all time low and armies began to forage the landscapes near camps for food. The eventual fate of Mr. Griswold is not entirely known. Some say he resigned his post, though there as no evidence to charge him with neglect, while other sources say he continued in his duties. Whatever happened, the case of Mr. Griswold and his logistical problems were quite typical of the hardships that would plague the army throughout the war.




What I would not give to see my wife and son on this fine day. The capitol looks as if a busy market.



I should like to see all at home now but I shall trust for the future, be it sooner or later.



I have not thought of coming home yet. When I started in the soldiering life, I made up my mind to see this through or die trying.



The Elmira Advertiser says it regrets the departure of “The Boys from Syracuse “They had become a favorite with us”



I would pay any man woman or child from Salt Point to see the capitol it is so splendid.



The government has provided us with envelopes so that we must pay no postage to write home.




The guns they gave us at Elmira are not of any use. The war dept will give us the rifle musket maybe next week.



They have given us guns that kill at both ends and now they try to drown us out!



The boys have had to dig trenches around the tents all this week due to the rain



The boys have been hammered by rain night and day for some time



The reason we have not yet seen Virginia is the lack of proper arms. We expect riffled muskets this week.



Secessionists are all about. A man was arrested yesterday on suspicion and placed under guard



We brought branches to set up shade trees on our “Salt Point Street” (tent row)



We have been very careful what we eat and drink, several men have been poisoned



We lay on our arms all night, expecting an attack.




We are now under canvas and getting a taste of solider life. We find it no boy’s play




Col Walrath has remarked he is “ready to shake hands or fight” the population of Baltimore.




Col Walrath’s baggage train was attacked by a mob outside Baltimore, the baggage was forwarded to Washington.



We arrived in Baltimore, the looks of the populous made us aware that we trod over a volcano





We arrived at 12 o’clock in our unfortunate capitol. I occupy a splendid room that belonged to a Sothern senator.



Capt Brower’s daughter Ada has been recognized as “Daughter of the Regiment




A supply of clothing has reached Elmira today too late for the Onondagas, it will be forwarded to Washington.





One of the cars occupied was marked with chalk “Salt Pointers – Care of Uncle Sam-Handle with care”

The Salt Pointers Bound to Have Fresh Air

A number of men in The First Onondaga were Salt Pointers by trade (men who attended to the large salt vats) thus earning them the name, “The Old Salt Point Boys”. They were said to be very energetic fellows and on May 1st when the Onondagas headed out from Elmira to Washington D.C. they demonstrated just how energetic they actually were.

Early that morning the boys were crammed on to a small train with rough board seats, and no way to “get at the light of heaven”, because the train had no windows and only a single, small, locked “barn” door. The Salt Pointers were no sooner seated then they began to demonstrate their ideas of ventilation. Several minutes of vigorous jabs with bayonets and knives left every man with a window of his own. Soon heads were seen popping out and the cheer “One, Two, Three – Red, White, Blue – Salt Point – Tiger!” rang through the air. In any other time the actions of the Salt Pointers would have been seen as a crime. However, the army saw fit to excuse the boys who were shut up in that dark prison as they started their eventful journey south.




The Onondagas had a good time yesterday which they will talk about “away down south in Dixie”




William Post provided a number of kegs of lager, gingerbread, piles of crackers and bushels of apples.



On Invitation of Wm Post, the 12th visited the gentleman’s plantation for several days rest



Col Walrath’s men have reported to of been told to expect some rest come soon.


Arrangements are being made to escort the Onondagas on their trip to Washington.




Will we be provided with rifles in Washington instead of these useless muskets in our hold?


Musket Vs Rifle What’s the difference?

Those not overly knowledgeable in the historic military arts often ask what the difference between a musket and rifle is. The differences are large and important to understand as each is designed to suit a very specific purpose. Muskets first went into mass production during the 17th century as flintlock muskets (flint striking steel to create a spark then igniting a powder charge). A musket was not intended to be an accurate weapon. It’s barrel was “smoothbore” meaning not grooved (like that of a rifle) which prevented the projectile from flying straight. Use of muskets required many men to fire in unison creating a wall of flying lead at the opponent. A rifle’s grooved barrel (known as rifling) caused a projectile to fly straight when fired, making the rifle a much more accurate weapon. However, rifled weapons (also called “rifled muskets”), were much more expensive to produce than muskets. During the Civil War the two most common weapons were the 1853 Enfield Rifled Musket and the 1861 and 1863 Springfield Rifled Muskets. These were percussion cap (more reliable than flint) and had strong rifling to insure accurate single shot firing. Early on, volunteer and Militia units were often given conventional muskets of the 1830’s and 40’s which were generally smoothbore and not designed for mid 19th century warfare. Any man issued a musket would undoubtedly want for a rifle, and a large number of soldiers even purchased rifles from the civilian market and paid for them out of their own pockets.




The volunteers are generally loafing about their quarters and sunning themselves outside



The Onondaga Regiment prepares to depart Elmira for Washington D.C. Soon.



Coffee takes the place of all other luxuries here, some men drink a gallon a day!



The Zouaves know not of their future movements but that they would remain at the battery for a month



5/18 continued – The recipient knows well what use to make of them on the Rebs.




A Pair of Navy Colts have been purchased for Capt Church of Company A of the Onondaga Regiment…




Corporal Tusk has been diagnosed with the scorbic taint as of yesterday.





Some 30 or 40 men of Capt O’brien’s Company of Oswego broke into the cookhouse and upset nearly everything



Elmira sees many men armed with knives and pistols and some scenes of shameful character.




There is very little sickness among the men, we expect to be uniformed by Tuesday.



There is very little sickness among the men, we expect to be uniformed by Tuesday.




The bright sun of this morning beholds the Onondaga Boys, hearty and humorous but spoiling for a fight!




Paper caps were placed on the miscreants and marched until they were sufficiently punished

“Flunkies Provide Merriment for Troops”

Col Townsends regiment left Albany on May 10th for Fort Schuyler at Thong’s Neck, on the east river about 12 miles from NYC.  The trip was said to be pleasant and healthy until a brace of “Flunkies” from Company K of the 12th began to make trouble.

Capt Root and several other men of his company refused to take the oath of allegiance which naturally excited and disgusted many of the said “true – hearted” volunteers. Men began to round up the “unworthy” and put them under guard, on bread and water.  Paper caps were placed on the miscreants and they were marched until they were sufficiently punished.. However, they continued to refuse to take the oath and were drummed out of camp later that afternoon, (an age old process used to drive men from the camp.)





The 12th have received a shipment of Havelocks at Washington today



No regiment made a better impression on parade today than Captain Butler's of Syracuse.



One man escaped guard of the Onondaga Regiment, a reward is offered for his return.




So keep your eye on the 12th Regiment, for we will make our mark, so help us god!

Until further notice all entries will be taken from Misc newspaper filings of CNY




It is the love I feel from my country and the deadly hatred of its foes, we never realize the love we have for her until she is in danger.



Each man has his rations placed in front of him, if he does not like it he must starve.

The Syracuse Boys Culinary Protest

Mr. Augustus Cook, a member of Captain Butler’s Company writes to the Baldwinsville Gazette, that of the thousand troops at the Albany Barracks, eighty eight are Onondaga boys. “I am writing this letter on a pile of mattresses 8 feet high, with a pie plate for a desk; 4 boys are playing cards at my right hand, while ten or twelve are signing “I wish I was in Dixie” using the substitute more appropriate “I wish I was in Baltimore!” Five tables each 80 feet long, and 6 feet wide, are our “hotel”. Each man has his rations placed before him, if he does not like it, he must starve. All the companies seemed to be satisfied with the food until the Syracuse Boys came down, then grumbling commenced, and finally two thirds of our company refused to go to the tables! The result was we had a different cook, and the meals are decidedly better. So much for the rebellion!”

Until further notice all excerpts will be taken from the letters of an anonymous member of the Homer Company in the Onondaga Regiment to his friends in Marathon NY




The new army’s supply problem is too much. It is literally bursting out of the seat of it’s pants!

The Pants are too Big

Typical of disorder of the army was its constant supply problem on both sides of the conflict. The 12th NY Volunteers, “The Boys from Syracuse”, were no exception. Upon arrival at the Clinton Street Barracks in Elmira NY most men had no doubt been looking forward to being issued their uniforms and finally getting a taste of military life. However, the scene was not all parades and camp life, as one solider recalled “The pants don’t fit!” While at Elmira the boys of the 12th were issued a grey suit of pants and a jacket, as well as a pair of coarse army shoes. Another solider recalled  “Our clothes were a poor and shabby lot. Some of the pants were all together to big to wear, and the jackets big enough to cover an army mule. Other garments were too small, especially the pants….The jackets of some of the men could not be buttoned but had to be laced like a shoe or hang open all the time. Oh my! How mad some of our men were at these clothes…How to live in peace without the sin of swearing and rough talk not fit to be heard was hard”

5/4/11 excerpt will be from the Baldwinsville Gazette





Full Regiment of volunteers sent from Old Onondaga. This is a fact of which our citizens may feel well proud.

The 1st Onondaga leaves for the War

On May 2nd 1861 the spectacle outside the Jefferson Street Armory was described as “a busy and interesting scene” as the members of the 12th NY Volunteer Infantry Regiment, or “The First Onondaga” made their preparations to leave for Elmira NY, where they would officially muster in.

Over 20,000 men and women flocked to the armory and “by their words and deeds as well as by their presence” give cheer and encouragement to the 809 young men of the 12th before the group of Syracusans escorted them to Vanderbilt Square. Once there a number of young ladies passed through the ranks, affixing rosettes of red, white and blue to the breasts of the men, pledges of their interest in the cause which these brave men swore to uphold. They also placed a bible in each man’s breast pocket, before cheers were raised, and the men boarded a special 16 car train at precisely 2pm. As the cars moved off slowly, the immense crowd of spectators gave rousing cheers, which were heartily responded to by the volunteers.
Amid the firing of cannon, the music of several bands and the cheers of thousands the 1st Onondaga Regiment departed from our city…



The members of the printers craft are well represented in the volunteer service, so many that the usual full supply is getting scarce.




4 full volunteer companies left this city (Syracuse) at 2:15pm for Elmira




Now it is determined that the Onondaga Regiment shall Rendezvous at Elmira





Volunteers attached to the Onondaga Regiment will reach this city on Monday





The Canastota Volunteers Daniel Crouse has employed a surgeon and barber to go with his company of the Onondaga Regiment.





Capt Bower is the recipient of a Smith & Wesson revolver presented to him by members of his company.




There are three company vacancies remaining in the Regiment. The election of field officers will take place tomorrow.


The electing of officers: A popularity contest

Out of the ten companies to comprise the 12th NY Volunteer Infantry Regiment, 7 were ready by April 25th 1861. J Mosher Bower was the Captain of once such company. The common practice of the election of Officers dates back hundreds of years but by the 1860’s it was only seen in volunteer units. Usually the outstanding man who decided to form the outfit would be elected as its commanding officer. These were often popular men who might own a tavern or have a skill. It bears nothing that many men were illiterate and not able to carry out the duties of an officer. At any rate officers in volunteer outfits were primarily well liked and it was not uncommon for the men to give gifts to their Captains and Lieutenants as signs of their respect and appreciation.






Patriotic citizens have undertaken to provide a supply of rubber blankets for the Onondaga Regiment.





April 23rd

A full volunteer company from Batavia [arrived at] Syracuse. While at the Depot, a bystander shouted “You’ll all be shot boys!...”



April 22nd

Four cases of drunkenness were disposed of this afternoon. 3 of them are volunteers, the other agreed to enlist.




April 21st

Sheriff Wright of Onondaga sends his sons and says although Astor has given $4 million to the cause, “I give more than he”


Syracuse Zouaves Leave for the War

On April 15th, Butler volunteered his men for federal service. The news kicked Syracuse into a patriotic gala. There was a flag famine and the young ladies were said to be “stunned by the glory of the handsome young soldiers” as they started making blue woolen shirts and flags for “Johnnie Butler’s men”.

On April 21st, some 47 enlisted men and three officers were announced in the morning papers, but young men still wandered into the armory wanting to go along as the parade assembled for a march to the depot in Vanderbilt Square. The Citizen Corps, The Hook and Ladder Company, and Engine Company 4 marched Johnnie Butler and his men to the depot. There the ladies pinned a rose on each man and three cheers were raised; 3 for Butler, 3 for the men, and 3 for good luck.

Then the squads moved in front of the Globe Hotel, where Butler received a 34 star, nine by six foot silk flag made the day before while Butler exclaimed “I will testify by my acts how much I love my country”. All the while, the joyous sounds of singing could be heard throughout the station.
The train came in from the west and, as the Zouaves boarded the standard goodbye was “Three months at most”. The girls were kissed and the train sped away from the station while Captain Butler stood on the rear platform unfurling his new flag in a storybook pose... The war had become personal for the citizens of Syracuse.

With Butler’s Syracuse Zouaves off to the war, local attention centered on the building of Col Walrath’s 12th NY Volunteer Infantry Regiment



The birth of the 12th NYV Infantry Regiment (1st Onondaga)

Col Walrath has established his head quarters at the rooms over Major Louis’ Saloon on E Water Street.

On April 15th 1861 the official call from President Lincoln was published for 75,000 volunteers to put down the southern uprising and restore peace to the Union. Some groups, such as our Syracuse Zouaves, were proud that they had been ready before the call was actually made while other men scrambled to recruit and form their own regiments, a matter of much distinction. By the 20th, Col Ezra L Walrath was one such man. He had served as a Captain in the Citizen’s Corps and a Colonel in the 51st Regiment NYS Militia for many years. He was then elected Col of the 12th NY Volunteer Infantry Regiment to be raised primarily from Syracuse as well as Liverpool, Homer, Batavia and Canastota. Though the Syracuse Zouaves were the first men to leave Syracuse for the war, the 12th would be the first regiment (usually ten companies of 100 men a piece) to leave and would be known as “The First Onondaga” “The Dozen” and “Old Salt Point Boys”

April 19th

Capt Butler is still in Albany to enroll his company. It is thought they will report themselves in readiness by Wednesday of next week.

April 18th

The Syracuse Zouaves have been accepted as one of the companies to compose a regiment being organized by General Townsend of Albany.

April 17th

The Zouaves have opened a recruiting office in the Bastable Block, from which the national flag is displayed.

April 16th

Zouaves continue to camp and make arrangements for departure


April 15, 2011

Butler to Gen Townsend- My men are ready. I will travel to Albany and enroll my Zouaves as a company in your regiment.

In order to set the stage for “In Their Own Words” all tweets until July 2011 will be quoted from the Syracuse Journal entries corresponding to the date they were printed exactly 150 years ago.


April 14, 2011
Syracuse Zouaves, the First to Leave Syracuse

Gen Townsend to Capt Butler - It would afford me great pleasure if you would undertake to raise a company in Syracuse.

John Butler, a 26 year old Merchants Bank Clerk, did not know it at the time, but the snappy militia company he raised in 1860 would have the distinction of being the first men from Syracuse to enter the war. The Zouaves were the city's showy young men. They drilled and paraded until they were widely considered the best drill in central NY. They resolved to stay away from saloons and disreputable establishments and wore small gold shields over scarlet ribbons on their left chest.

Their flashy uniform was based on French military history. The Onondagans wore light blue shirts and dark blue jackets trimmed with gold braid, loose red trousers, white leggings, blue caps and a neatly rolled blanket on their knapsack. The inspiration came from Elmer Ephraim Ellsworth of Chicago when he formed one of the first American Zouave units. The Zouaves were the darlings of Syracuse as they strutted through drills at banquets and public meetings and later took to camping in front of the armory every night wrapped in rough blankets. Soon their public profile took on a much more serious nature as Butler readied his Zouaves for battle.

April 13, 2011
Fort Sumter, the Second Day

April 13, Hotshot from Southern batteries set the officers’ quarters ablaze at Fort Sumter, threatening the powder storage. While some men continued to fire their guns, others worked to remove powder to the casemates (underground storage) before securing the magazines’ doors against the flames. cnyhistory.org for more info


Around 1:30 p.m ., enemy fire destroyed the flag pole, though the colors were quickly recovered and placed on the fort's wall. Col. Louis T. Wigfall of the Confederacy arrived from Morris Island (Confederate Post) to begin unofficial negotiations with Union Major Anderson for a cease fire and surrender. Soon, other officers from Beauregard's headquarters arrived and arranged a formal surrender and evacuation to take place on April 14. Despite a 34-hour bombardment, Fort Sumter had suffered no significant damage to its exterior walls, but the enlisted men's barracks and officers' quarters had been gutted by fire. Remarkably, no one had been killed on either side.

The surrender ceremony began around 2:00 p.m., on April 14, 1861. On round 47 of a planned 100-gun salute, a gun discharged prematurely, killing Pvt. Daniel Hough of the Union—earning him the misfortunate of being the first soldier to die in the war. The salute was reduced to 50 shots, and Hough was buried on the parade ground. Around 4:00 p.m ., Maj. Robert Anderson led his command out of Fort Sumter while the band played “ Yankee Doodle .” The newly formed confederacy had achieved their objective of the seizing of Fort Sumter, which plunged North and South into full scale war. Locally, we see young men rising to the occasion with talk of forming volunteer regiments to answer President Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers for 3 months. The 12 th NY Volunteer Infantry Regiment was one of the first in the field but, some men such as the gallant men, of Butler's Zouaves, were ready even before the call went out.


Opening Shots of the Civil War Fired 150 Years Ago Today

April 12 1861, a mortar shell, fired from Fort Johnson, exploded over Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War. www.cnyhistory.org for more info


As March turned to April, Fort Sumter began running low on rations and, following much deliberation, Lincoln decided to re-supply and hold the fort. On April 4, Secretary of War Simon Cameron sent a message to Major Anderson (in command at Fort Sumter) that a naval expedition would attempt the action, “and, in case the effort is resisted…to reinforce you.” Four days later, a messenger from Cameron arrived in Charleston to inform Confederate General GT Beauregard of the planned expedition. The information was telegraphed to Montgomery Alabama, and on April 10, Confederate Secretary of War Leroy P. Walker responded to Beauregard that if the intention was to “supply Fort Sumter by force you will at once demand its evacuation and if this is refused, proceed in such manner as you may determine to reduce it.”

The next day, April 11, members of Beauregard’s staff arrived at Fort Sumter demanding its evacuation.  Anderson refused, but told them, “If you do not batter us to pieces we will be starved out in a few days.” The officers returned later that day and Anderson explained that unless he received “controlling instructions from my Government or additional supplies,” he would leave at noon on April 15. However, since one of the Union relief ships was already just outside the harbor’s entrance, Beauregard was not willing to wait. Anderson was informed that Fort Sumter would be fired upon beginning at 4:30 a.m. on April 12.

At the designated time, a 10-inch mortar shell, fired from Fort Johnson, exploded over Fort Sumter, beginning the Civil War. Soon, 43 Confederate guns and mortars opened fire from all directions. At about 7:00 a.m., Anderson responded in kind, with Capt. Abner Doubleday commanding the first gun that fired in defense of the Union. The American Civil War had started.



Setting the Stage for the Beginning of the Civil War and the Formation of the First Onondaga Regiment

Lincoln's victory in the presidential election of 1860 triggered South Carolina's declaration of secession from the Union. By February 1861, six more Southern states made similar declarations (Tennessee, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Virginia to join later). On February 7, the seven states adopted a provisional constitution for the Confederate States of America and established their temporary capital at Montgomery , Alabama (later moved to Richmond Virginia). Confederate forces seized most of the federal forts within their boundaries. President Buchanan protested but made no military response apart from a failed attempt to re-supply Fort Sumter using the ship Star of the West , which was fired upon by South Carolina forces and turned back before it reached the fort on January 9 th 1861. However, governors in Massachusetts, New York, and Pennsylvania quietly began buying weapons and training militia units.

On March 4, 1861, Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President. He stated he had no intent to invade Southern states, nor did he intend to end slavery where it existed, but that he would use force to maintain possession of federal property. His speech closed with a plea for restoration of the bonds of union.

Fort Monroe in Virginia, Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina, and Fort Pickens , Fort Jefferson , and Fort Taylor , all in Florida, were the remaining Union-held forts in the Confederacy, and Lincoln was determined to hold them all. Under orders from Confederate President Jefferson Davis , troops controlled by the Confederate government under P. G. T. Beauregard bombarded Fort Sumter on April 12, forcing its capitulation. Northerners rallied behind Lincoln's call for all the states to send troops to recapture the forts and to preserve the Union, citing presidential powers given by the Militia Acts of 1792 . With the scale of the rebellion apparently small so far, Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers for 90 days. For months before that, several Northern governors had discreetly readied their state militias and they began to move forces on April 13th. Confederate sympathizers seized Liberty Arsenal in Liberty, Missouri on April 20, eight days after Fort Sumter. On May 3, 1861, Lincoln called for an additional 42,034 volunteers for a period of three years.

Nationally, both North and South became extremely patriotic and each professed that they would beat the other within three months; an optimism that became less and less realistic as time went on. The 12th NY Volunteer Infantry Regiment (the "1 st Onondaga Regiment” or “The Dozen”) consisted of companies of which were recruited at Syracuse, Liverpool, Homer, Batavia and Canastota and was mustered into the U. S. service for a three month term at Elmira on May 13, 1861. It was one of the first volunteer regiments in the field, which sets the stage for local involvement in the war.

The first series of Tweets for OHA's “In Their Own Words” Twitter project will consist of newspaper accounts and miscellaneous letter excerpts that follow the activities and movement of the First Onondaga Regiment, prior to the Project's introduction of brothers James and John Phillips on July 10 th , 2011.



  OHA Launches New Twitter Project to Commemorate 150th Anniversary of the Civil War

On Tuesday, April 12, which marks 150 years to the day after the start of the Civil War, OHA will launch an exciting new Twitter Project that follows the lives of 6 local soldiers who served in the Union forces. Through daily Twitter entries of selected excerpts from their own diaries and letters, now in the OHA Collections, James and John Phillips, Herbert Wells, Alonzo Clapp, David Nelson, and Augustus Dwight recount their experiences and eyewitness accounts of the most devastating war in America's history. Twitter followers will come to know and appreciate these courageous local men and experience the heroism, heartache, loves, losses, triumphs and tragedies that were experienced by them exactly 150 years to the day after they happened. Followers will see how the beautifully eloquent language of the Victorian era creates a poetically ironic twist to the raw and, at times, horrific scenes they describe. Their patriotism is inspiring and their stories are compelling and emotionally moving as they provide first-hand testimony regarding the ordeals and observations of the typical Civil War soldier.

OHA will provide the backgrounds of these soldiers, including their family, professional, and personal information on its website ( www.cnyhistory.org ) prior to their enlistment. Until the dates that their personal experiences in the war commence, OHA will Tweet additional first-hand accounts of other local soldiers, and original newspaper reports, that will set the scenes for the introduction of these 6 special men. During the course of the war, OHA will occasionally provide additional website updates that will add context to the 6 soldiers' own stories, which will be unfolding day by day via Twitter. Each of the OHA website updates will enhance the soldiers' own words and shed light on their experiences through the historical review of relevant battles, political decisions, and the progress of the war, as well as personal developments on the “home front” concerning family issues and related local events.

Follow OHA's Twitter Project today at twitter.com/OnondagaHisAssn and begin to follow these young men and honor their legacy in a way that will bring you to the front lines of our country's greatest conflict through the hearts, minds, and words of these unforgotten local heroes.


Onondaga Historical Association Museum & Research Center
321 Montgomery St.,  Syracuse, NY. 13202
Phone 315-428-1864, Fax: 315-471-2133