Early War Correspondence; June 15, 1861 Letter from Capt. Leasure; Partial letter to Editor dated June 30, 1861
From the New Castle Courant
EXTRACT OF A LETTER From CAPT. LEASURE.
CAMP LEASURE, Gunpowder Falls, June 15, 1861:
E. C. Durban, Esq., -
Dear Durban: I was down at the Hospital at Melvale, day before yesterday, and those there are doing well. We have just enough suspicious surroundings to keep us on alert, and last night during my absence at York, to see Miller, my line had an alarm but it did not amount to anything. It was merely some night prowlers who got a little too close to J. H. Gilliland who was on sentinel duty, and failing to come to time when challenged, he sent a Minie ball at them by way of hint that we were not all asleep. In my absence Orderly Book had charge, and the fellows pitched into the bushes to feel for the enemy with their bayonets, but whoever had been there kept shady, and the guards lay on their arms till morning. These little affairs keep us sharpened up, but I shall not absent myself from the line again after night. The alarm last night satisfied our fellows, that they can come out in double quick, and rally into line of battle the entire length of our line in a few minutes, and gave them to understand that they can depend on each other. I had carefully prepared and instructed them for all night attacks, and they now see the advantage of instructions against all possible emergencies. I take the whole company except the Quarter Guards to White Hall at seven in the morning, where I drill and instruct them in all a soldier’s duty under all circumstances till half-past ten. These company drillings are a sort of school where I teach them theory and add practice at the same lesson. In the afternoon we practice target firing with our Minie muskets and revolvers. I have a large number of splendid marksmen with both weapons. With the musket nine shots out of twelve will hit a man in mortal port at three hundred yards, and at fifty yards out of a hundred shots with Colt’s pistols ninety would bring down a man. I am absolutely dumbstruck at the proficiency of our boys who had never fired either musket or pistol two months ago. These Maryland people look at each other in pale dumbness when they see a Minie ball go through two dry railroad ties at three hundred yards, and when they see a soldier put his six revolver balls into the size of a man’s hand at thirty to fifty paces. This bridge guarding in these solitary mountain fastness gives us a most splendid opportunity for target practice, and well do we avail ourselves of the opportunity. But after all, our main defence is the bayonet for there our splendid muscle will tell against what our Union friends here, call the spinadle-shanked scions of the double F. V’s. Our post is really a post of honor and our regiment is in the most active duty of any of the Pennsylvania line. We are detached from Negley’s Brigade, and are not attached to any other, but are what our facetious Major Hays calls an “Orphan Regiment” without any relations except stepfather Curtin. I have per-emptorrily forbidden any of my men writing home for publication any letters eulogistic or otherwise of their officers, as it is a punishable offence under the rules of the service, and the men who are most apt to do these things, are not always the most apt at other and more soldier-like qualities. Capt. O’Brien and myself are stationed nearly four miles apart but we visit and communicate with each other as often as possible, and although we command separate companies, we have but one heart and one mind, and each feels all the interest in the welfare and members of the other’s company, as his own. We feel that they are all alike ours, and know no company or individual distinctions. In the regiment, we are universally known as the “Twin Captains” and in feeling and sympathy perhaps justify the sentiment that gave rise to the same. We divide the duties, and in some things I attend to the interests of both companies, in other things he does.
We perhaps, just now, do not realize the exact relative importance of our present duties, but the delay of a single train on this great army thorofare, for a single day, might change the results of a whole campaign, and derange the best laid plans of the Commander-in-Chief. All these weeks soldiers have gone whirling and cheering past us to Harper’s Ferry via Chambersburg – now they go back to make a similar demonstration on some other stronghold, and we here are with watchful eyes and willing hands keeping open the channel of communications, for if this road were left unguarded for a single day or night, every bridge would go down. We have just received the COURANT of the 12th, for which a thousand thanks.
Yours, very truly, D. LEASURE
BALTIMORE, CO., Md., June 20th, 1861.
E. S. Durban:- Dear Sir: - Since I last wrote you, the mortal remains of one of the little band which left on that holy Sabbath morning, amid the tears, and prayers, and blessings of the thousands gathered there, have gone back to you. R. S. Gibson is dead. Endeared to all by his kindness and cheerfulness, he is lamented by every one in our companies. He has fallen in a noble cause, and will be remembered in all future time as one who gave his life for the good of his country. Henceforth, the line of the Gunpowder will be hallowed ground to his many friends, and they will be able to say, “he died in defence of freedom, and the right of man, in 1861,” as many now say with honest pride, “my father or brother, died at Black Rock or Erie, in the war of 1812.”
On Wednesday of last week, Private Childs of Company H, 12 Regiment, stationed near the Relay House, seven miles on this side of City, fell asleep near the track of the N. C. R., and a train of cars passed over his left arm, rendering amputation necessary. He is slowly recovering.
A Private in Capt. Tomlinson’s company, stationed above Parkton, was run over by a hand car on last Monday evening, and very severely cut about the head and face. He was taken to the hospital.
A very sad and fatal affair took place in Co. C, Capt. Stewart. “Loafer Bell,” noted for rowdyism and insubordination, went to a tavern in company with three others, and became intoxicated. A guard was sent for them, but they resisted, taking one of the muskets. The guard was increased, with orders to bring them “dead or alive.” They again resisted, and the guard fired, killing Bell instantly, and wounding another in the arm. The survivors have been sent to Fort McHenry where they will be hung. That even life itself cannot be weighed in the balance with a strict performance of military duty, is one of the most difficult and important lessons for the Young Recruit. Obedience and attention are the life guards of a soldier.
Mr. Joseph D. Sankey, of Company F, is recovering, and will probably return home upon a furlough. J. R. Miller is still very ill, there is but little hope of his recovering. His wife and brothers are with him, and he also receives every attention from Mrs. Strine, the kind hearted landlady of the Hotel where he is stopping. It is with pleasure I call attention to the many kindnesses of this estimable lady to the Lawrence Guards. She should be remembered kindly by all their friends. The ladies of York have been unremitting in their attentions to the wants of the soldiers. They made (note: the rest is cut off)
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