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          SPECIALIZING IN ORIGINAL CIVIL WAR MEMORABILIA        
57th PA. Infantry – Thomas C. Zahniser Gives a Great, Graphic Description of the Start of the Peninsula Campaign – “THEIR LIMBS WERE TORN FROM THEM AND THEIR ENTRAILS WERE HANGING OUT.”
Thomas C. Zahniser Enlisted as 1st Sergt. Of Company F in the 57th Pa. Infantry on October 6th, 1861. Our letter is dated, “April 18th, 1862, Head Quarters Hamilton's Division Jamison's Brigade”. It is 8 long pages written in nice dark ink. Zahniser is an excellent writer and gives great descriptions. The letter has staining but no breaks… just lots of character!


Here is that great content:

• “I wrote at Fortress Monroe, where we sailed to, from Alexandria. We were encamped 2 weeks near the ruins of Hampton a place about 3 miles from the Fort. This town was burnt last summer by the rebels before they left- that place.”

• “It was one of the oldest towns in the state and located in a very heartsome place. But nothing marks the spot now but ruined walls and chimneys, not a house in it.”

• “The land in the vicinity is like a garden. It is quite level and not a stone or stump on it. The timber land here is principally pitch pine, though the fences were made mostly of chestnut rails which were brought from a distance at a cost of 50 dollars per thousand, but our army made them get.”

• “I don't believe that there was a 1000 rails within 3 miles of where we were encamped. We used nothing else for firewood…”

• “We had been on the boat 48 hours and landed late in the evening. It was dark ere we stocked our arms and being weary we lay down supper less, the night was dark and threaten rain. We were soon awakened from our slumbers by the rain which was coming down in torrents. The night was engulfed in darkness. Having no shelter, no fire, our clothes all wet, and it still raining, we felt rather "slim".”

• “Soon some of the 16th Massachusetts boys came and took a part of our Regt. to their quarters, where we were kindly entertained for 2 days during which time the weather was very inclement. Our Brigade then encamped together. We use oil cloth blankets for our tents, these we have to carry with us, when 2 of them are tied together they are the size of a small quilt, this we stretch over a pole 2 lh feet high, then 2 mess together or we can put 4 blankets together and then 4 mess in one tent, about 15,000 landed at the Fort with us.”

• “There were 18 boats that conveyed us. Soldiers were coming down the bay all the time we were at Hampton.”

• “WE SAW THE "MONITOR" WHICH DROVE BACK THE "MERRIMAC". YOU CAN SEE NOTHING OF HER EXCEPT THE LITTLE PIVOT BOX ON THE TOP. IT IS REPORTED THAT SHE HAS CAPTURED THE MERRIMAC; SHE WAS A GOD SEND TO THE FORT FOR IT HAD NOT BEEN FOR HER, THE FORT WOULD HAVE BEEN IN POSSESSION OF THE REBELS, AS THE OTHER GUNS HAD NO EFFECT ON THE MERRIMAC.”

• “Ex-president Tyler Mansion is across Hampton Creek from Hampton. He died a Rebel his son is in the Rebel army.”

• “Two weeks ago today we left Hampton and arrived here after 2 days march, so quiet was everything kept that none of our officers knew anything of us leaving till the eve before we left. The first day was nice and cool we passed by the battle ground of Big Bethel, this place was still in the possession of the Rebels till a few days before we marched.”

• “I saw where our men fired into each other. Our force was under Pierce and the Rebels under Magruder.”

• “There are but 2 buildings in this place, a dwelling house and Church. The former our men burnt as we passed it. We encamped the first night where the Rebels had their Head Quarters, it is a splendid mansion, the owner was there and a few old worn-out slaves. They all said that the Rebels took it by force.”

• “It was all the officers could do to keep the boys from burning the buildings, as we all believed him to be a rank "Secesh". The house was richly furnished, a fine piano was in one room and some of the boys was no was backward in trying their hands on it. The house was vacant the old fellow run round like "a hen on a hot nest". 
 The boys helped themselves in spite of the officers to the sheep, hogs & cattle. We all had plenty of fresh meat that night.”

• “The next day’s march was hard as it commenced to rain at 9 and continued till after 2 pm. The roads was muddy so many going along cut them up as the roads were filled 4 men in width for 48 hours they were marching all the time. The way we marched, our brigade would pass one and then we would rest till they passed us and then we would start again etc.”

• “IT WAS RATHER AMUSING TO HEAR THE DARKEY'S TALK. SOME OF THE BOYS ASKED THEM IF THEY THOUGHT THE REBELS SHOULD WHIP US, "OH! NO YOU HAVE SUCH HEAPS OF PEOPLE. THEY NEVER CAN STAND AGAINST YOU FELLOWS." OUR BANDS SEEMED TO ATTRACT THEIR ATTENTION. WE ASKED THEM IF THEY HAD SUCH. "OH LOR MASSA NO DEY ONLY HAVE LITTLE THINGS TO PLAY ON." WE WOULD ASK THEM WHERE THEIR MASTER AND MISTRESS WERE, "OH! GONE TO DE ARMY. ALL GONE AWAY." THEY LEFT NONE BUT THESE WORN OUT SLAVES, ALL THAT WAS FIT FOR ANYTHING THEY TOOK WITH THEM TO DO THE HARD WORK.”

• “They blockaded our way for miles. We are now within 3 miles of Yorktown and within 1 1/2 miles of the Rebels Batteries. Our Picket lines are within 34 of a mile of their breastworks.”

• “We first encamped in open ground alongside some woodlands, but they commenced to shell us. So we encamped in the woods.”

• “Our Regt. has been in one skirmish. It was this day week ago, the 63rd P.V. under Col. Hays (which forms part of the Brigade) was out on picket duty and we had 2 batteries shelling their breast works. 3 of the rebel regts. came out and made an attack on the pickets who were in the edge of some woods. There was nothing between them and the Rebels but an open field. Our Batteries were playing upon them all the time. But they could not reply with theirs for some of our sharp shooters were in some rifle pits and would pick off their gunners as soon as they made their appearance. So these Regts. came out for the purpose of taking our batteries and pickets…”

• “GEN. JAMISON GOT WORD AND THE BRIGADE WAS CALLED OUT IN DOUBLE QUICK TIME. OUR REGT. WAS SENT TO THE RELIEF OF THE 63RD THE OTHER TWO WAS SENT OUT HIGHER UP FOR FEAR OF AN ATTACK THERE. COL. HAYS CAME IN ALL HASTE AND SAID THAT HIS MEN COULD NOT HOLD THE BATTERIES, AS SOME OF HIS MEN WERE THEN DROVE IN. OUR COL. TOOK THE RIGHT WING OF OUR REGT. AND HAYS, THE LEFT THIS TIME THE REBELS WERE CHEERING AND STILL ADVANCING ON OUR PICKETS. COL. HAYS TOLD THE BOYS TO FOLLOW HIM HE WOULD LEAD THEM. OUR COL. TOOK US THROUGH SOME WOODLANDS SO THAT THEY COULD NOT SEE WHAT FORCE WE HAD TILL WE REACHED THE SPOT. THE COL. GAVE US THE WORD AND WE STARTED WITH A YELL. THE REBELS FIRED BUT ONE ROUND AND THEN RETREATED. WE FIRED 3 ROUNDS A PIECE. OUR REGT. ACTED BRAVELY.”

• “Col. Hays swore that the 57th would of took their batteries if he would of let them. Our company had one man wounded in the leg he was 3rd. Sergeant. Co. E had one severely wounded. At first it was thought a mortal wound but he is getting better. The 63rd had 2 men killed and 2 wounded making in all 2 killed and 4 wounded. It is strange to me that more was not killed for BULLETS FELL AS THICK AS HAIL.”

• “SOME MADE NARROW ESCAPES. THEY HAD THE BAND SHOT OFF THEIR CAPS AND FOUND BULLET HOLES IN THEIR CLOTHES.”

• “The Gen. has promoted our Regt. for their conduct in that skirmish it is now the second Regt. in the Brigade.”

• “OUR COL. IS A TIGER TO FIGHT HE WAS IN THE MEXICAN WAR. WE CALL HIM ROUGH & READY.”

• “Col. Hays is of the same stamp he was in Mexico too. He has a prime Regt. It is the first in the brigade.”

• “Our Regt. has been on picket 3 times since we came here. We are out yesterday and we lost one man. The rebels threw a shell at a squad of men along the picket lines killing 2 and wounding 2. They were but a few rods from where our Co. was on the reserve.”

• “THE TWO THAT WERE KILLED WERE THE MOST SHOCKING LOOKING SPECTACLES THAT AN EYE COULD BEHOLD. THEIR LIMBS WERE TORN FROM THEM AND THEIR ENTRAILS WERE HANGING OUT. THEY LIVED BUT A FEW MINUTES.”

• “There is more danger in picket duty than in battle, not a day passes but 2 or more are killed and not more than % of the Regts. will they trust on picket. Our men are shelling all the time, the booming of the cannons is ever on the ear.”

• “It is said in our skirmish the Rebels lost over 50 men but no one can tell for certain. We were called out twice last night and formed in line of battle but was not called into act-ion. There was heavy cannonading and musketry for over an hour. It is said that Smiths Division took one of their batteries which consisted of 6 pieces and they took 100 prisoners. Our loss was 15 killed and that of the rebels over 30. The night we were on picket, we took a prisoner, he was an orderly sergeant. He said that we might whip them here but we could not at island No.10, at Corinth at Ft. Donaldson & Pittsburgh Landing. This shows how they keep their soldiers in ignorance of our victories.”

• “MCCLELLAN AND HIS AIDES PASSED US BY THE SECOND DAY, HE IS A NOBLE LOOKING MAN.”

• “It is reported that Jeff Davis has come on with heavy reinforcements, and that they have 500 canon, some of the largest caliber. They are well fortified. Upon this battle hinges the fate of them in Virginia and upon this battle hinges the reputation of McClellan and the Army of the Potomac.”

• “It will be a bloody fight but I don't think McClellan will prominence till victory is certain. The next battle our Regt. will not come off so safe.”

• “This is most a beautiful country, but oh the awful desolation an army makes. No one has any idea till they see it. All the farmers have left their plantations and stocks & property some of them had over 1,000 bushels of corn and wheat, the nicest corn I ever saw. Some had sowed oats but now their timber is destroyed, fences all gone, buildings torn down, besides the other rubbish that an army of 100,000 would make. Oh! It was horrible!”

• “How soon the battle will come off none of us know, there will be shelling all the time. But I will write as soon as the battle is over if I am living which I hope I will be.”

• “We are all well and in good spirits. Write as soon as you get this address. Washington City, D.C. Hamilton's Division Jamison Brigade T. C. Zahniser.”


10 weeks after writing this letter, Zahniser was taken prisoner at the battle of Charles City Cross Roads on June 30th, 1862. He died of disease as a P.O.W. A quality letter for the collector or historian.

#S155PA - Price $495































































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