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    "On every side were graves, many places the skeletons of our poor fellows were out of the ground. It is a hard sight"

    Union Captain Jacob S. Winans Archive, dated August 4, 1861, through May 2, 1864, and consisting of over forty letters (most with their original transmittal envelopes) written to family members. A successful young lieutenant who was well-liked by his men in the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteers, Winans writes detailed letters of his regiment's activity, which included several significant battles such as Gettysburg. This collection of letters and one photograph is well organized and well preserved. Expected stains and soiling are present. Also included is an oval image of the young officer (overall 8" x 10") with mounting remnants in the margin.

    Jacob Winans, the son of a doctor from New Brighton, Pennsylvania, enlisted for a three-year term on May 24, 1861, mustering into the 9th Pennsylvania Reserve Volunteers (also known as the 38th Pennsylvania Infantry), Company "H". The regiment, which elected the popular young man as a lieutenant, served in the Pennsylvania Reserves under the command of General Edward Ord. Originally part of the Army of the Potomac, the regiment transferred to the Virginia Peninsula in June 1862 to participate in the Peninsula Campaign, the Union's first large-scale offensive in the Eastern Theater led by General George McClellan with the intention of capturing Richmond. In August 1862, the regiment transferred to the Army of Virginia where it fought in the Second Battle of Bull Run. It soon rejoined the Army of the Potomac and fought at South Mountain, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Winans and his regiment were then sent to Washington, D.C., where they licked their wounds sustained from those battles. Winans was promoted to captain in December 1863. The regiment then fought at Gettysburg, where, on July 2, it distinguished itself at Little Round Top. Winans mustered out on May 12, 1864, and was brevetted a major in March 1865. After the war he settled in New Brighton.

    Hailing from the banks of the Ohio River in western Pennsylvania, Winans, the junior lieutenant of the regiment, likely caught his first glimpses of slaves while training at Camp Jackson, just two miles from Washington, D.C. In a letter dated August 4, Winans mentions one of those early encounters with slaves: "There are some of the most beautiful residences about here I ever saw. There are not many slaves here, although I seen several today. They are mostly house servants, and appear to be well contented. I think they fare much better than the free negros in and about New Brighton."

    After the regiment's first battle - a victory at the Battle of Dranesville fought on December 20, 1861 - Winans writes news on December 29, 1861, about the victory celebration: "The day of the fight, I was very unwell [ill with diarrhea] could not have marched 5 miles without giving out. Would liked to have been there very much. . . . We were received by Gov. Curtin today, after the review the regiments that were engaged in the fight were formed into a square, and he made a few remarks, he has given orders that the word Dranesville shall be inscribed on each regimental flag that was there in honor of the victory, it being the first engagement that the Reserve Corps has been in, and also the first victory deigned on the Potomac. He gave Gen. Ord great praise for acting so gallantly, the Gen. is a great favorite with the men, he is really a fine officer, is very strict in the literary matters, but has none of the overbearing dignity that usually characterizes officers of the regular Army when they are among volunteers. As our men were coming in, one of our number[?] gave out, Gen. Ord noticed him and immediately dismounted and gave him his horse." A few days later on January 3, 1862, Winans reports that "The officers belonging to the Reg'ts that were in the fight presented Gen. Ord with a fine assortment for his gallant conduct at the battle."

    In a letter dated March 6, 1862, Winans tries to alleviate the worries of his parents by assuring them that "The danger of being killed is one of the least dangers of a soldier. There are more die with disease than on the field. When you hear such reports of a fight as those you have had lately in which two thirds of the men are killed by a bayonet charge, just set it down as false." Later, at the end of his March 18, 1862, letter, he reports that "my colored servant missing, reported that he was drowned."

    Winans spent most of his time during the Civil War in Virginia near the enemy. In a letter dated April 29, 1862, from Catlett's Station, twelve miles southwest of Manassas, the soldier comments on the hope that those rebels had for victory in the early months of the war: "Most of the populace are secessionists but they profess to be Union. They still have hopes that Jeff will succeed. Some of them think that the war will last for 10 years. Yet all seem anxious that the war will close soon, but they have an idea that the Federal Gov't will be willing to compromise on their terms, viz. the recognition of the Confederate states as an independent house[?]."

    As part of the Army of the Potomac, the 9th Regiment served under the command of General George McClellan. Most soldiers respected their commander, as Winans shows in a letter dated July 26, 1862: "Were received by Genl. McClellan yesterday. He complimented us on the way we had behaved in the late battles & on our good appearance. Our men think there is none like McC--. I believe it would raise a mutiny if he was superseded." Three months later General Ambrose Burnside replaced McClellan.

    By early January 1863, the 9th Regiment was in sad shape: "Our men are not in good condition. Many are almost barefooted. In fact, none of them are well closed now." The regiment was also in need of new recruits: "There has been great efforts made to have this division sent to the state to recruit, but Sec'y Stanton has refused to allow us to go. Col. Sickles (commanding the division) received a letter from some 'official' in Washington in reply to one he sent, which was written in Sec. Stanton's office and dictated by him (Stanton) stating that the Regt. in the P.R.C. would not be consolidated, as has been reported it would, and that they would be retired on light duty, as soon as others could be brigaded and sent out to fill our place." By late January, the regiment was ordered to Washington ("It has finally been decided to take us to Washington for a while, we expect to go some time this week. Gen. Doubleday (who is our commander) has been appointed military governor of D.C. and through his exertions we are to go along with him [January 31, 1863]"). Once there, the soldiers received new uniforms and the regiment new recruits. "I have the largest and best company (so the Brig. Inspector says), in the Regt. Although some of my men are rough and wild. They are easily governed. I think that I get along better with my company than any other company commander in the Regt.," Winans bragged in a letter dated March 30. "All the vacancies has been field except for 2nd Lieut."

    In the weeks prior to the Battle of Gettysburg, Winans' letters report on the movements of the Army of the Potomac, now under the command of General Joseph Hooker. By early June, his regiment was "ordered out of Washington very unexpectedly. It was reported that Gen. [J.E.B.] Stewart (Rebel) was advancing on W-- with a heavy force of Cavalry & some artillery [June 10, 1863]." Fourteen days after the Battle of Gettysburg, Winans writes from Lovettsville, Virginia, on July 17 about the army's hard marching while chasing the fleeing Rebels: "We march from 10 to 30 miles a day. We usually halt about 5 or 6 o'clock P.M. And pack up, ready to march about 5 A.M. . . . We left Gettysburg, the 5th marched through Frederick. Crossed South Mts. at Foxes Path (south of where we crossed before) went south of Boonsboro passed near Sharpsburg, crossed Antietam, went toward Williams Post. We came up to the Rebels the 9th -- our pickets commenced skirmishing and we kept it up until the Rebels got across the river. We advanced our lines every day, bound the Rebels in position. We formed a line to attack an advanced only to find them gone. We would then have to halt and hunt them up by skirmishing. We worked on in this way until the 15th. . . . [On the 14th], I advanced my lines and drove the Rebel pickets back to their rightful hits. Gained a heel where I was ordered to halt and repost. While I was awaiting orders. Capt. Maynard came out to see me. The Rebel sharpshooters saw us and commenced firing, he had to dismount as their balls came very close but did no harm. . . . We made a general advance, but found no rebels. . . . Our Cavalry is in advance scouting. They pick up a few rebels. They have driven the enemy from most of the gaps near this." But General George Meade, who was given command of the Army of the Potomac just three days before the battle, did not aggressively pursue General Lee's defeated and vulnerable Army of Northern Virginia, despite pleas from President Lincoln, who thought the war hung in the balance. By the time Winans wrote his next letter on August 2, the Union Army was near Washington with "no indications of a move soon. On the contrary, everything looks as if we were to remain here for some time." The Army of Northern Virginia had escaped and the war continued for almost two more years.

    In October, the regiment finally moved thirty-two miles west back to Bull Run, an area that Winans knew well since his regiment had participated in the battle there one year earlier. "Camped upon the same ground we fought upon last summer. I went over a pass of the field. On every side were graves, many places the skeletons of our poor fellows were out of the ground. It is a hard sight [October 23, 1863]."

    Often in his letters, Winans defends the soldiers against accusations leveled against them from the American public. Responding to a chaplain's letter regarding complaints about whiskey abuse, Winans states, "I admit that there is a great deal of whiskey drank in the Army. And that many of the officers do get drunk, but still it is not so general as he states. Whiskey is issued to the man occasionally after they have been marching and lying out in the rain. Every time some of them get pretty drunk. But because a few, who would get drunk any time, do make beasts of themselves, I do not think that it is exactly right that the whole Army of the Potomac are drunkards" (November 1, 1863).

    Three days before the Battle of the Wilderness, Winans, who was camped twenty miles away and knew that he would soon muster out, notes that "We were relieved last Friday by a Division of Colored Troops." In that same letter he goes on to speculate what Gen. Lee will do next, "It is thought that we move very soon. . . . It is reported that Lee is leaving the Rapidan, some think he is going to Richmond, others down the Shenandoah Valley. We will find out very soon whether he has left" (May 2, 1864). Ten days later, the young captain and his regiment mustered out.

    As a Union officer, Winans, who is obviously educated, writes many details about his military career and his new environment in the American South, including difficult marches; arresting rebels who had taken the oath of allegiance; taking care of his regiment; and much more. This collection of letters is worthy of much more research.

    Also included is one issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer (eight pages, February 4, 1864) with a front-page article entitled "Pennsylvania Reserves on the Peninsula-Defense of Major-General McCall-Important Official Documents-Details of the Great Seven Days' Conflict."


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