|CIVIL WAR NOTEBOOK - HISTORY IN THE MAKING
When 19 year old Daniel Chisholm joined the army, the United States was at war with
itself. Leaving his hometown of Uniontown, Pennsylvania in 1864, Chisholm fought
with Army of the Potomac in the final campaign of the Civil War, as Gen. Grant pushed his
superior numbers in bloody head-on collision with Gen. Lee's dwindling Confederate
Army. The Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Five Forks, Appomattox
- the battles that raided across Virginia will live forever in the nation's memory.
At war's end, Chisholm returned to his family home where he had the foresight to preserve
his personal chronicle of the war. He collected the letters he had written home,
along with his memories and transcribed them into a diary. The result is an
extraordinary glimpse into one Union Soldiers life.
This is not the story of generals and statesman, graduates of West Point, the
affluent. This is a grueling story of blood and guts, half naked and freezing,
hungry and disease ridden common soldiers of the most tumultous war everknown.
This is a story of brother against brother, father and son, forsaking all
others and fighting the cruel elements for patriotism and what they believed was for the
welfare of their homelands. The long exhausting marches, making and breaking camps, eating
hardtack biskits and sleeping while marching.
The elements of the weather, whether it be hot or freezing,
of bullets flying and cannon balls going through a man's guts. Truces so they could
bury the dead. We see Union deserters executed and starving Confederates
surrendering. We rejoice when peace does come and we mourn when our president,
Abraham Lincoln is assinated. And, lastly, rejoicing to get home, what ever it may
be, to a hot delicious meal of squirrel pot pie.
The difference between what the generals expected and what
they recieved was significant. In 1864, they disvocered they were not filding a
hardy corps of savvy combat soldiers. Instad they had come to relay on what they
called a core group of thousands of "greenhorns". Ther new men were either
reluctant draftees who had to be carefully watched or they were volunteers like thos in
the 116th Pennsylvania Company K, men who had enlisted for a variety of motives and
marched south expecting a completely different sort of war than the one that confronted
In 1864, none of the greenhorns was completly naive.
Before they were drafted or had enlisted, fellows like Daniel Chisholm or Samuel Clear
talked to men who had experienced combat. But neither the veteran soldiers they
spoke to nor the offices who led them had had much of an opportunity to stand back and
look at how they come by their combat skills. And few of them could know how much
the Civil War would change in its last few months.
The recruits of Company K were to experience the warfare of
the future, not the conflict the veterans were familiar with. In the recruit's war,
the body count would serve as a scorecard. Combat would be made all the more
miserable because it would be relentless; the troops would come into contact with the
enemy nearly every day and never let him go. But they would not march across fields,
their banners flapping in the wind and meet the foe head on, they would fight it out from
behind roks and trees and breastworks and trenches and wire entanglements and wooden
obstruction. In Virginia, they would fight the sort of war the great enemies of
Europe would come to know in 1914.
Most modern readers are familiar with what the Civil War was
like at the outset. In July 1861, thousands of patriotic Union and Confederate
volunteers, wearing brightly colored parade ground uniforms, met on fields near Manassas,
Virginia. There, in what is today suburban Washington DC, the soldiers of each army
confidently expected to trounce the other.
The war, many believed, would be won for their side in that
one battle. Throughout the struggle bands would play sprightly marches. All
wounds be superficial. Every man would conduct himself as a hero should and there would be
plenty of glory to go around.
Instead, what the eager Northern and Southern patriots
discovered was that this war would be ugly, painful, corrupt, and for some,
embarassing. Confederates would call July 1861, Battle of Manassas and remember it
as bloody and confusing, won only in its last hours when Southern railroads
delivered reinforcements in a timely fashion. Union soldiers would call it the
Battle of Bull Run and remember it as something worse than defeat.
On this battlefield, the bands did play for a while.
But the wounds were not superficial. Infantry armed with muzzle loading rifles that
fired soft lead Minie bullets discovered that they could inflict horrible damage to a man
at a great distance. Gunners found out that their artillery cold be used for more
than just firing solid iron cannon balls at advancing lines of enemy troops; with crude
time fuses, they could lob hollow shells filled with explosives on top of their foes; by
loading their guns with the cans filled with lead slugs and sawdust they could convert
them into enormous shotguns, killing dozens of soldiers with every blast.
Sunday, April 9th--Near clover Hill, General Lee
We had a smart shower of rain the after part of the night. We was up early and
pressing the Johnnie Rebs closely, our division in front and the 1st. Brigrade forms the
skirmish line. At 11'o'clock the rebels halted and formed into solid line of battle
and faced about. We turned off the road by the right flank oand formed in line of
battle in a muddy corn field but close to the main road and within about 200 years of the
Johnny Rebs.There we stood the two armies facing each other and we expected to tight the
worst battle of the Campaign. Wheile we were waiting for orders flags of truce cam
thrugh our lines and passed to the rear. We was sure now they had given up the
ghost. By this time, we had stacked arms on both sides. We were ready for
anything and there we stod watching but at 3 pm, our Division got the
word that an order was read to the effect that General Robert E Lee had
surrendered the Army of Northern VA to the Army of the Potomac commader Ullysses S.
Grant. It did not take us by surprise for we had been looking for it for some
days. But when we kenew it to be a sure thing, what a loud, long glorious shout went
up. The first thing I knew. I was rolling in the mud and sveral of the "CO.
K" boys piled on top and wallowed me in the mud, they were tripping each other and
rolling in the mud and laughing the war ended. In fact, I never saw a crazier bunch of
fellows anywhere either before or since. I cannot tell what all was done but it took
two hours to was the mud of. Then the artillery opened, there was not one peice but
what belched out the glad tidings that could be heard for miles and miles.
Wednesday, April 12th
This is a beautiful morning and we were on the march early. We reached a poing at
Farmville, we halted and unfuled th old tattered and torn flags. At 500pm, we
marched thru town with drums beating, bands playing and the colors flying.
Thursday April 13th--March to Berksville Station
All up and on the move, Our Division the 1st, raced with the 2nd Division for Berksville
Station. The officers had a bet who would reach it first.Col St. Clair Mulholland
was the head of the brigade regiment and had the lead. Some 6th Corp wagons were
crossing the bridge and one wagon stnding on the Railroad another driving up on it,
blocked our way and stopped us. Col Mulholland ordered them taken away but the train
master refused and the Col. drew his revolver and told him to move else he would shoot the
mules and the master.
Monday, April 17th
All the troops were happy and were celebrating when the news of President Abraham Lincoln
had been shot. No one spoke or moved. The "Stars and Stripes " were
quietly lowered and old torn shreds of flags slipped out of the hands of the Color
Sgts. The regiments were dismissed and moved slowly to quarters.
Wednesday, April 19
The weather is still beautiful. We picked up this morning and moved across the Railroad
. The silent gloom pervades and hovers around camp. We are now fixed up in a
pretty good fashion.
A great number of lives were lost in this futile War between the States. The economy
was ruined, for the most part. Lives torn apart... some never returned.
We traveled all night and this morning finds us at Manchester. It is a very
nice little town. The James River runs between it and Richmond which we can see over
the hillside, it looks like quite a large city. It has been just one year since we
struck the first lick of the campaign to capture Richmond at the wilderness (May 5,
1864) Was she worth the powder, and the lives lost, was it for the best: Who can
tell, not me I declare. I feel so good now, I think I would do it over again.
But how many brave boys are laying by the wayside, echo answers how many, 76 men that does
not answer at Roll Call, 14 Enlisted Men and 2 commanding officers answer to their
names. As we drop off to sleep, I feel very sad.
Sunday--May 6th--from Manchester through Richmond
This is a beautiful day and all the troops are up early and fussing around as we
cross over to the late rebel capitol on our pontoon bridges as the Rebs had burned the
This day one year ago we was pelting away at the Johnnie Rebs in the battle of the
wilderness. There we go, we pass over the pontoons, the taut stretched lines that
hold them give back and forth. As the current strikes the boats the men all stagger
like as if we were intoxicated. We finally strike the graded stretch, pass the
burned district and find that few streets look like streets now. We pass old Libby
Prison and Castle Thunder. Now the windows are filled with miserable looking faces.
Roughs of all nations, I think. The prisons are gloomy looking and if I had my will
they would be laid low before another night passes.
We have passed through Richmond and as we stood and gazed at
the many forts and works so solid and so strong and firm, and so wall manned and mounted
with huge guns, one Fort had four 100# guns, it would have been hard to storm. They
were fixed in good shape and no mistake about that. As we passed through, the Stars
and Stripes floating well out, brass bands and drum corps almost countless. So one
we go and marched three or four miles and turned off the the road into a clover field and
prepared to make night camp.
The next few days found us crossing many areas of beautiful
country. Hanover Court House, Chickahominy River, and on May 10th we reached
Fredericksburgh at 12 o'clock noon. We found it a terrible torn down place.
One small frame was perforated on all sides with bullet holes. looked like two Bushel
Balls had passed through it. One large brick a cannon ball had pierced two
gables. The stone wall where the old Irish Brigade was hurled against with such
fearful loss, crossed where Joe Hooker had his pontoon bridge.
The next few days was a continuance across the devastated
lands and on May 13th we crossed Acquia Creek and commenced to ascend the heights, very
steep and at the top there are two forts built in 1862. We stacked arms and rested
awhile and then on a few more miles and stopped at sundown for the night. We could
see the Dome of the Capital in Washington City. Such chattering and congratulations
to each other went on, and how good we feel tonight for we are in hopes that soon we will
be on the trains speeding home.
Sunday is spent near Alexandria and hundreds of citizens are
here and the questions are endless. On Monday, camp is packed and all headed to Fort
Bernard. The view from this point puts me in mind of Krepps Knob at West Brownsville,
Washington Co. PA. We can see for miles. On Tuesday, all are up early getting
the camp in shape. Major William A West of Uniontown came to see us as did LT.
James D Cope, commander of Co. "K". Things are very lively here almost like a
bit city. Thousands and thousands of troops scattered over miles, everyone milling around
to pass the time.
Thursday, May 18th
one year ago today in the charge on the rebel works near Spottsylvania, I was
struck with a Minnie Ball. The ball went through my blouse pocket, hit a knife,
spoon and fork in one handle and ten rounds of cartridges, I was knocked senseless for
some time and when I came to, my regiment had gone on. leaving me for dead. It was
late evening when I came into camp. Battery K of heavy artillery being a part of it,
Jim Black, Cooney, George Claybaugh, Boney Mitchell, Ganny Chew and lots of others that I
knew were there. I was glad to see them as I was hurt pretty bad.
Time in camp passed quickly till Monday, May 22nd, as
we were getting ready for the grand review at Washington. We drew new clothing and
were busy getting everything in shape. There were thousands of troops pegging away,
cleaning and washing clothes and guns and equipment. The Army of the Potomac,
Shermans Boys and Phil Sheridans Troopers all bent on the same point. So we work
away and try to make ourselves look the best we can.
The next day, we packed up and marched to the long bridge of
1 1/4 mile and at 10Am passed over and up Thirteenth Street near Pennsylvania
Avenue. Such a din of people, packed every place except in the middle of the
street. The White House and public buildings was covered with buntings and flags,
distinguished people and officers, the Old 116th passed by with her thin ranks and old
torn flag, nothing but Staff and Fringe, we got a good old send off. We seen James
Joliffe on his crutches and many others that had been cut down with shots and shells from
the Wilderness to Lees Surrender.
Everything is so vast and big, for three days and a half this
has gone on. Shermans Vets, Sheridans Cavalry and the Army of the Potomac, there seemed no
end to it. A few more days and this will end.
Thursday, July 13th, I went to the regiment to day and the muster reports and rolls are
all ready. I came back and disbanded my Pioneers and sent them to their companies
and regiments. Lt. Cope ordered me to take charge of Co. K as Orderly Sgt. I
told him I was a disbanded Pioneer. The next morning we was mustered out and ready to
leave. Hezekiah Dean and I start for Washington city and arriving, I called on my
Uncle Thomas Clear and Aunt Sarah and the cousins welcomes us and wants us to stay but I
told him I had to go to Harrisburg but that I would return later and spend time with them.
What a glorious time we had. But my thoughts often goes to the poor boys that lay by
the wayside from the wilderness to the surrender of Lee on April 9th. if only we had them
along, our cup of joy would be full.
we arrive at Pittsburgh and got on the Uniontown train and we reach Uniontown at
7pm. The platform was jammed with people, friends to greet us and their
friends. I got my supper and at 8 pm started the long trek up the Mountain Pike to
Monroe. I arrived at Boss Rushs at 2 am and threw myself down on the floor. At
daylight our old friend, Boss woke me ..I could smell the ham and coffee. After
doing full justice to the breakfast, I start for Ohio Pyle Falls and I arrive between 8
and 9 am. I get a warm reception so I take off the old Army Blue and put on the Citizen
Clothes and felt well satisfied with myself and felt I would do it again if need be.
Daniel and his brother, Alexander are but two brothers that
fought the valiant effort In the War between the States. An unnecessary
struggle that could have been prevented save for the Ego of Mankind.
On August 3, 1912, Daniel Chisholm suffered a stroke that paralyzed him and
was ill 18 months and died February 14, 1912. Surviving his widow, Sarah, two sons,
Alexander and Clarke; a brother Alexander Sr; a sister, Jennie Chisholm and one
granddaughter, Sara Chisholm all of Uniontown PA.
A pioneer merchant in Uniontown, Daniel was one of the best known men in Fayette
County. He was born in German township February 26, 1845. He was the son
of the late Alexander and Mary Ann Williams Chisholm, the former a native of Halifax, Nova
Scotia. His father was of Scotch blood, the clan of Chisholm having a prominent
place in the chronicles of the history of Scotland in 1315. The plaid worn by the
famous Chisholm clan in the Highlands is still worn in the mountains of
Scotland. In the reign of King David Bruce, Sir Robert was a powerful northern
baron. In Strathglass, Inverness was Erchless Castle. Near this place, William
Chisholm, the great great grandfather of Daniel, was born.