Page 11: Wartime Obituary of Mr. William Semple
Page 12: Wartime Death Announcements of Robert Reynolds via letter to his father James Reynolds by D.M. Patton and R.F. Moffat, Co. F; Letter from Chaplain R.A. Browne reporting results of Battle of Port Royal Ferry on January 1, 1862; December 18, 1861 letter from Samuel J. Book, Co. E to his friend "Mac".
[For the Courant.]
Another Volunteer Gone.
Died at Annapolis, on Tuesday Oct. 15th, 1861, Mr. Wm. Semple, of Mercer co., Pa., aged 45 years.
Mr. Semple was a farmer in moderately easy circumstances, surrounded by a lovely and interesting family, with all things combined to render him happy; but at the call of his country, he exchanged the plow for the musket, and the endearments of home for the vicissitudes of camp life; and with the New Wilmington company joined the Roundhead Regiment, under our townsman, col. Leasure. Whilst encamped near Washington, he was taken sick with fever, and when the orders for marching arrived, his comrades in hope of his recovery took him with them to Annapolis; but their care and solicitude were in vain, he continued to waste away, and on Tuesday he died as above stated. His remains were brought home by his brother on Sabbath last, and on Monday, surrounded by a vast concourse of friends and neighbors, were consigned to their last resting place in the Presbyterian burying ground near Greenfield, Mercer county, Pa.
The deceased was a worthy member of Neshannock Lodge No. 521, I. O. O. F., at New Wilmington, Lawrence County; in accordance with a request made prior to his decease he was interred with the honors and ceremonies of that institution, which service was conducted in a solemn and impressive manner by John Edwards, of New Castle, Chaplain to the order, accompanied by deputations from Wilmington, Mercer and New Castle lodges.
BEAUFORT, S. C., Dec. 28th, 1861.
MR. JAMES REYNOLDS: DEAR SIR: It is with unfeigned sorrow that I pen the painful news which this letter must convey, - the death of Robert; he died to-day at 4 P. M.; he took worse a week ago yesterday, and since that he went down very fast. We all thought the fore part of last week that he would be well again; he appeared so much better every way but on Friday the 20th inst., he took the dysentery; on Sabbath we took him to the hospital where he had good quarters and was well attended; we feared when he was taken there that he would not recover, but on Christmas and the day following, the surgeons had pretty strong hopes of his recovery, but the disease had taken too strong a hold on his system. Rob. Moffat or one of the mess was with him all the time, he wanted some of us to wait on him. At first I thought he thought he would not recover, but on Christmas he talked to me in such a way that I saw he had some hopes of getting better. The surgeon did not allow me to talk with him so I said very little to him. Part of the time he seemed to suffer a great deal of pain, but I think the greater part he suffered but little; in general he rested pretty well at night, but mostly waked up about the time he took his medicine. I know that the news of his death will be heart rending to a fond and anxious mother, yes, to all of the family, and will cast a gloom over the circle which has been robbed of one of its members, but take comfort in the hope that what has been your and our loss, has been his eternal gain. While on the Ocean Queen during his sickness there, I would read a chapter almost every time I was with him. His last request of me before we left the ship to land was to read him a chapter in the Bible which I did, he then felt the importance of being prepared for death, and since then, was often perusing his Testament, and may we not justly hope that thus obeying the divine injunction, “Search the Scriptures,” he found that Savior which is there so freely and fully offered to us all. After going to the hospital he was much engaged in prayer. I was with him this afternoon. I was not allowed to speak to him. He only recognized me once. Rob. Moffatt had been sitting up the two previous nights and I was staying with him in the afternoon. Will Reynolds had been with him in the forenoon. About an hour before he died, though he seemed insensible that I was waiting on him, I could hear him offering up petitions to a throne of graae, for Christ to save him. And will not he who heareth the ravens when they cry, he who has revealed himself as the hearer and answerer of prayer, hear and answer those which were offered in the name of his dear son. I know that the stroke will be much harder than if he had been called away at home attended by the kind, gentle and loving care of the dear ones there; with a mother’s gentle hand to smooth his dying pillow, but it lightens the stroke to draw near to him who chasteneth. I pray that God would grant you in your bereavement that consolation and comfort which his holy spirit can communicate. – Think not that his life has been sacrificed in vain. He offered his earthly all on the altar of his country in this her hour of need, and his life was as truly sacrificed in her cause, for her honor for the main tenance of the institutions, blessings and rights that we enjoy as though he had fallen on the field of battle. Many of our country’s soldiers must fall by wasting disease as well as in the bloody conflict, and all are equally martyrs to our country’s cause. We will bury him to-day, where already quite a number of our Regiment have been laid to rest. As a soldier is buried we will bear the remains of our comrade and mess-mate to his long resting place, there to sleep, awaiting a joyful resurrection when all God’s redeemed shall be called home to glory. My heart-felt sympathy and prayers are with you in this bereavement, I know it is hard to be resigned; I know what it is to mourn the loss of those near and dear to me, but the promises of God’s will are full and free, and in these we may find consolation in the most trying hour. That we may feel the resignation of God servant of old, by which he could say when bereaved “The gave and the Lord hath taken away, blessed be the name of the Lord” is my earnest prayer. We will send as soon as possible all belonging to him to you by express. Rob. Moffatt will write some to you in this. With my prayers that God’s grace and love may lighten the stroke, and his richest blessings to rest upon you,
I am in sympathy. Truly yours,
MR. JAMES REYNOLDS: - DEAR SIR: I need not here repeat the painful intelligence which this letter already conveys, all I shall do is express my heartfelt sympathy to you in the loss of your son Robert, and offer a few words of consolation to you and your family. It is indeed a painful task for me to pen these few lines, and, oh, well I know the painful affliction this letter will convey to you. – It has pleased God in his wisdom and goodness that I should walk the path of affliction, and my prayer is, may the Lord comfort you and strengthen you to bear this affliction. He ahs promised to comfort those that mourn, and we know his promises are sure, thanks be to his name that you and your family and his acquaintances mourn not his departure at these that mourn the loss of a friend without hope. No, Robert left behind him a comfortable assurance, your and our loss is his gain. He has left this world of sorrow, and is now wearing that robe of righteousness that his redeemer has prepared for him and all those that love him. It was my privilege to be with him a good deal all through his sickness, as it was D. Patton’s also; he was frequently in prayer and diligent in the study of his testament. On Christmas morning he asked me to read a chapter to him. I did son, he then said he wanted me to pray for him, after I told him we all prayed for him; I asked him if it should please God to call him away now, what was his hopes for the future, he said they were bright, he experienced a comfortable sense of the pardon of his sins and felt that his Savior loved him, and would take him to himself; he experienced not very much pain the last three days, Monday and Tuesday he suffered considerable, he bore it very patiently; on Wednesday he got relieved a great deal of the pain and rested quite easy till the last. I know this will be a hard stroke on his mother and you all; it lightens the affliction of friends to be present and around the dying couch. This privilege you were denied; may God give you grace and strength to bear up on this affliction; you have lost a kind and affectionate son and brother, we have lost a beloved mess-mate and companion in arms, and our country a brave and noble soldier, ever at his post when in health, but he is gone, he fills a soldier’s grave, covered with a soldier’s glory, he has finished his work and has gone to receive his reward. An inventory of his effects will be taken by the Captain, and they shall be sent to you by express, he had $3.89 in money which he put in my care which I shall send to you the first opportunity; however, I shall write to you again when I get all his effects collected together, and before they are sent home. My feeling at this time will not allow me to go into a lengthy detail of his thins at the present; all I shall try to do is express my heart-felt sympathy to you in your affliction hoping that these few lines may comfort you. All his acquaintances here and mess-mates sympathize with you in your loss, and may God comfort, console and bless you in this your trouble, is the earnest prayer of your humble friend and sympathizer.
R. F. Moffatt.
BEAUFORT, S. C., Jan. 3d, 1862.
As I have learned no mail would leave for a few days, I have postponed further writing till now. The Colonel came in last night, and I have the most interesting particulars of the battle.
I wish I could write them in full. – Enough to say our gun-boats came in on them from both ends of the river, while (a regiment or two excepted who had been brought up in steamers from Port Royal and were landed direct from them on the enemy’s shore after the fire opened,) the infantry had been marched out and kept concealed over night ready to cross the flatboats at the proper moment. Gen. Stevens devolved the directions and command of these latter troops on Col. Leasure. He took his glass and sat down quietly by himself on the shore where he could look directly at the fort and into the mouth of its one big guns. Stragglers, including New York reporters, would come strolling along, and get a look through the glass, but the Col. Was amused to observe that, whether they saw little or much, the gun was the last thing they saw, their curiosity was satisfied, they returned the glass and walked on. The Col. knew they wouldn’t be apt to waste shot on a single person so he sat there, examined all the enemy’s positions and especially where their infantry were concealed, and by his orderlies furnished this intelligence to the gun boats to let them know where to fire their shells. The havoc these made, as the Col. could see, was fearful; 15 men were killed probably in the fort, and 60 to 80 infantry behind their cover. The Roundheads hung out the glorious old flag on the Fort being the first to enter. The loss on our side was 1 killed and 3 wounded, all in the Mich. 8th.
R. A. BROWNE
BEAUFORT, S. C. Dec. 18th, 1861
FRIEND MAC: - I suppose you are beginning to think I have forgotten you else gone up the spout, or at least that I am not very punctual in answering your letters, but I give you my old excuse, want of time, and particularly would I plead it since coming to South Carolina, but time is not all that is wanting, as I did not have a sheet of white paper for two weeks previous to our coming up to Beaufort and then only succeeded in getting this, on which to write you by breaking into a Lawyers office, but hark! I hear a noise, the boys are crying, “mail, mail,” and I must postpone writing till I see whether I get a letter; yes here is one, and I see it is from you. It is read. I answer in brief, that I am neither dead nor buried nor do I want to be for a long time yet, but I have pleaded want of time as excuse for not writing, do you wonder what keeps us so busy? I will tell you, after landing at Hilton Head Island and our baggage being brought to shore, we had to fix up our camp, dig wells and stand picket guard, and make out reports, and then our Pay Rolls were to make out, which was no small job, and our brigade had to build a fortification about a mile long 40 feet through at the bottom 15 or 20 feet at the top and 15 feet high, then in front of it, we dug a mighty ditch pretty near equal to the Ohio River, then to make the matter still the worse for the Captain and I, Lieut. Nelson took the measles in a few days after we landed, and has hardly gotten over them yet. The Captain is also on the sick list now, and has been for about a week, speaking of our fortifications here my opinion is we made Hilton Island or the Fort one of the strongest places in the United States, I believe three thousand men, placed inside the fortifications, would whip all the men, old Jeff. could bring against them, even were it the whole South.
On last Friday morning our Brigade got orders to strike tents, and prepare to move. In a very short time, we were ready, went aboard the Steamer about noon, at dark started for Beaufort, which you know is on Port Royal Island; we got to the docks without any accident, did not go ashore, till Saturday morning, staid in town till evening, then took our tents out west of town, and went into camp on Sunday morning, were ordered to put 24 hours rations in our Haversacks, Canteens, muskets and 60 rounds of cartridges in our cartridge boxes we started to the crossing on the other side of the Island, accompanied by the 50th Penna. Regiment and two pieces of artillery. Its distance from Beaufort is just ten miles; and we made it in 3 hours which I think was pretty good marching. The Rebels had all crossed the river before we got there and were encamped on the other side. We saw plenty of them. They fired at Co. H, Capt. Moore, which was sent up the river on a scout but their fire had no effect. We ate our dinner of hard bread, (all the kind we have had since leaving Annapolis) cold meat, and water with a very good relish. After Gen. Stevens had taken a survey of the place, he posted us so we could _rive back any body of troops that might try to cross the river, he staid at this place, till Monday at noon, when we were relived by another Regiment, we then marched back to camp and took considerable of snooze for we slept none the night before, for these reasons, first the Rebels kept up such a fareal noise, and next the knats and mosquitos were so bad, the liken to eat us up, they drew more blood from me, than I want their former victims do. Tuesday and Wednesday we rested, yesterday and to-day we are under light marching orders. I will not pretend to give you a description of the fight here, as see some very true accounts of it in the papers. But allow me just to say this to you if you want to get your visibilites raised systematically, just try and get to witness such a scene it was by far, the grandest sight I ever saw, whilst to those among whom our shells were falling it must have been as terribly awful as hell itself; but I must just say to you before closing that Beaufort, is a very nice place, the houses are furnished in the very best style and the loss sustained by the Rebels in having here was great.
Hoping to hear from you often.
Am with respect yours &c.,
Saml. J. Book.
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