DescriptionCivil War Archive of Sergeant James Drolsbaugh, Company F, 171st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The archive includes an eight-page journal, 7.75" x 9.75", on four single disbound sheets, covering the period October 15, 1862 to March 28, 1863; sixteen letters, various sizes and lengths (most two pages), most written in ink, dating from October 28, 1862 to March 27, 1864; a document, 5.5" x 8.25", dated August 1862, from the United States Deputy Marshall notifying Drolsbaugh that he is eligible to be drafted into the United States Army; his appointment, 14.75" x 9.5", as First Sergeant in Company F of the 171st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Militia, signed at Suffolk, Virginia, on December 24, 1862; a document, 8.25"x 11", from the Pennsylvania's Adjutant General's Office, dated February 12, 1889, with official seal, certifying Drolsbaugh's service as First Sergeant in Company F of the 171st Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and an albumen, dated 1867, of Drolsbaugh's daughter Effie and Thomas M. Drolsbaugh, possibly the son of James and Elisa Drolsbaugh. Also included in the archive are several documents relating to Thomas M. Drolsbaugh's service in the Ohio National Guard in the 1890s.
Drolsbaugh's journal, which begins on October 15, 1862, the day he was drafted, reads like a running narrative of five of his ten months of service in the 171st Regiment. He noted his regiment's arrival in Baltimore on the early hours of November 29, 1861, during which time he and his fellow soldiers received a much better reception than previous Union regiments. "We left harrisburg the evening of the 28 of november got into baltimore at 4 oclock in the morning. The union men and weeman [sic] hoisted their windows and run out their union flags and cheered us all through town." The journal then recounts travels through Washington, D.C., Fortress Monroe, Norfolk and Suffolk, Virginia, and Gatesville, North Carolina, where his regiment met Confederate resistance. "December 29th took a march for gaitesville at 12 oclock we were halted Buy the rebbels. our cavalry was sent to the front and the rebbels fled. we started and went to gaitesville where were to take the boat but the rebbels got in ahead of us and we had to take another road. after dark the rebbels came in sight of us they were cavalry. i see them ride through a cornfield...but we did not know how many there was. we got orders to halt and Load. we were Drawn in line along the road. the rebbels did not advance on us and we were not anxious to attack them. after some time we were ordered to Sleep on our arms and we were so tired we lay down in the woods without supper and we did not care whether the rebbels took us or not." On January 1, 1863, Drolsbaugh and his regiment arrived at New Bern, North Carolina. While in North Carolina, the regiment, according to Drolsbaugh, "plundered all their houses and took what they wanted . the weemen [sic] would scream and cry but it of no use. i thought a pity of them for all they were robbed and i did not steal or take anything from them." Drolsbaugh thought New Bern was "a splendid town and country," although the rebels "burned the best part of the town before they left it." On January 22, 1863 the regiment learned that Confederates were planning to burn down the rest of the town, so they erected fortifications. "we got to work and made a rifle pit 185 yds. long...the ditch was 10 feet wide 8 feet deep all done...we extended our rifle pit afterwards to the neuse river and the 75th regiment built a fort in front of our rifle pit." Although this threat did not materialize, another Confederate threat did. On March 13, 1863, "rebbels commenced Driving in our pickets and threatened to burn town...a brisk cannonading commenced above town and lasted till dark when the rebbels was repulsed and drove back. we were drawn up in line of Battle at our breastworks Saturday and Sunday morning at 4 oclock the rebbels began to come down the Trent river on Sunday. So at 2 oclock our Brigade went out to meet them....Monday morning we advanced to the rebbels works and found them deserted."
Drolsbaugh's fifteen letters, all addressed to his wife and daughter, complement the journal he may have been sending home concurrently with the letters. The letters concentrate on camp life, his health, and his interest in his loved ones at home.
There are three letters written from New Bern, North Carolina, where Drolsbaugh's regiment was stationed for a time in 1863. In a February 13, 1863 letter, he writes of the physical effects of a march. "i was nearly Dead after out march. i was all overheated and Broke out and the blood run out of my nose for several days. i was so weak for 2 Weaks i could hardly walk but attended to my business all the time." In this letter, Drolsbaugh admitted he likes army life despite its "Trials and Troubles." He would "certainly Bear the Toils and trials with more pleasure and pride than i doo" during war time.
One letter addressed to "Dear friends," dated May 13, 1863 from Washington, D.C., was written by an E. Duncan on behalf of Drolsbaugh, who was sick. "I am sorry to inform you that my friend Jas. Drolsbaugh is sick at present. he has not been well for some time but was able to go about until the 11 inst. he was taken to the hospital. he is better this morning. he thinks he can come to camp in a few days....i cannot tell what is the matter with him as the Doctor will not tell us." Drolsbaugh's protracted illness may explain his journal stopping at March 28, 1863. In a May 27 letter, Drolsbaugh, in a very shaky hand, informed his wife and daughter that he was "getting well again. i have had the Swamp Fever. i can Walk about every day But i am so nervous i cant write." By June 22, Drolsbaugh was out of the hospital and back in camp in Washington, D.C, but "not doing any duty."
Condition: The letters have the usual horizontal and vertical folds. Several have small stains and tears around the edges without affecting text. Four letters, three written in pencil, are faint. Drolsbaugh's journal was once sewn together but is now disbound. The photograph of Effie and Thomas Drolsbaugh is cracked and torn on the left hand side, affecting image. Other documents are folded but otherwise all items in the collection, except for the photograph, are in good condition.
In a letter dated November 5, 1862 from Camp Simmons, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, just a few days after he mustered in, Drolsbaugh informed his wife that he had been appointed "Orderly Sergeant" and that he was sorry "to leave my companions in my tent but i have to do it. to morrow i have to go and tent with the Captain...but i would rather stay where i have been as the officers are generally very high livers and they live on the best the market can afford. i want you to fix my fine shirt and send it to me the first chance you have as i am promoted to Orderly Sergeant i will have to get boots and buck skin gloves to come half way to my elbows."
James Drolsbaugh (1832-1873) was a farmer from Honey Grove, Juniata County, Pennsylvania, the son of John Drolsbaugh (1806-1882) and Catharine McConnell (1809-1875). He was married to Elisa "Belle" Marshall (1837-1922) and they had a daughter named Effie (1861-1870)and, possibly, a son named Thomas. Drolsbaugh was drafted and mustered into Company F., 171th Pennsylvania Infantry as the First Sergeant on November 2, 1862, and mustered out with the company August 8, 1863 after nine months service.
Company F was raised in Juniata County, Pennsylvania. The men of the 171st Pennsylvania were drafted. They were organized at Camp Curtin, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in November 1862. They wintered at Newbern, North Carolina, and in April 1863 they were under fire at Blount's Creek but suffered no losses. In June 1863 they were sent to White House Virginia, and were moved to Harper's Ferry on July 7 to assist in the pursuit of the Confederate army after the Battle of Gettysburg.
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