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Robert H. Caldwell Papers: Transcripts - MS 623
Camp Vance Sep 15th 61
Dear folks at home
Thinking that a letter from Camp Vance might not be unacceptable I thought I would improve the present opportunity by letting you know how camp life agrees with me. Well as you are aware we left Elmore about 8 oclock and run down to Fremont arrived there just in time to see the train on the F. & P. R.R. leaving for Finlay and so we were as we thought left behind but after waiting a short time we saw the train backing down again to receive us aboard the Conductor having noticed us and wads so accomodating as to return for us We arrived in Finlay about 11 oclock formed in the street and marched through town halted in front of the Reed House ands pretty soon the boys might have been seen coming ou of the different groceries with something under their arms that had very much the appearance of Gingercake and in a very short time I made a chance of becoming perfectly satisfied that it was the above named article without any of the modern improvements attached to it Well after satisfying our appetites we re formed ands marched to Camp. Arrived received our equippage, pitched our tents, cooked our supper and then commenced, our camp life in earnest. You had just ought to have seen us cooking our supper, we are divided of for the present into messes of about 10 men in each[.] We drew six tents ands the same number of kettles each tent having one kettle. Ands a plate, knife, fork and spoon also a tin cup to each man. At present our mess is composed of G. Claghorn, Ezekiel Rice, Norman Easterly, Wm Easterly M Runnels Russel Rice, myself ands several others.
I enjoy cam life very much but our things are not cooked quite as nicely as I have been in the habit of having things but what of that we must get accustomed to eating some dirt. Last night the boys had a dance on our parade ground in front of our tents one of the boys played the Jews harp while the rest tripped the light fantastic toe most of them barefoot. They kept it up until about ten oclock when the musician becoming tired of playing the dance broke up and all turned in for the night with the exception of Barnes, ands a few more who were detailed for guards. To day G. Claghorn, E. Rice, R. Rice and Ingraham are detailed ads guard my name not having been called as yet ad it comes near the lower end of the list. I have just finished eating my dinner we had boiled beans, fried and boiled beef, boiled ham, potatoes good bakers bread, and what is more we have as much as we want, we sleep warm as our tent floor is covered with good new straw to the depth of about four inches and with the addition of our blankets it makes just as goods a bed as one could wish for The boys drew each one single blanket and as soon as we are mustered in we will each draw a double one. This forenoon George Smith and I went down to Finlay and took a look about town it ids a place of about 2500 inhabitants. The buildings are very much scattered and consequently the town covers a large extent of territory. There is to be divine service in camp this afternoon at 2 oclock I expect to attend. Yesterday noon we elected our commissioned officers they consist of Captain Gibbs, first Lieut Vantyne 2nds Woods we are to elect our noncommissioned officers as soon as we are mustered in which we expect will take place tomorrow. There are at present about 600 men in camp parts of companies a large number having returned home on furlough. I must close as I have no more room. R.H. Caldwell
Camp Vance Sep 15th 61
Thinking that a letter from the above named place might not be unacceptable I thought that I would improve the present opportunity by giving you some particulars in regard to my camp experience. Last Friday myself in company with about sixty others started for this place arrived at Fremont, exchanged cars by getting aboard of the train on the F.& G. R.R. destined for findlay arrived at our destination at about 11 oclock formed the company in the street marched through town, halted in front of the Reed House, the principal hotel in the town when most of the boys started for the groceries for ginger bread and after each one had stowed away a sufficient amount of that article we took up our march for the camp which is situated about 1 ½ miles from town upon a fine rise of ground. We received our tents and the rest of our equippage which for a whole company consists of 12 tents the same number of camp kettles, one plate, knife, fork, spoon & cup to each man besides we draw one blanket apiece for the present until we are mustered in when we are to receive a double blanket to the man. Perhaps you would like to know how I like Camp life well I can say I am satisfied, to be sure we have to eat a little dirt but that makes no difference with those who don't care and as for me I never was very particular and for that reason I can get along very well. There are about ten men in my mess the most of whom are good boys such as George Claghorn, Ezekiel Rice, Russel Rice, M. Runells, &c &c. We have just returned from dress parade (a parade of the whole regiment) the first in which I ever participated it was a very fine and imposing. The brass band is still playing while I am writing. In dress parad the different companies form in line of battle, that is the whole regiment forms across the grounds in two ranks or two lines when the Colonel puts them through some moves then the band plays marching up and down the lines. The Colonel then gives the command present arms when the whole reg raises their right hand to the shoulder then the Col then gives the order shoulder arms when the arm is dropped to the side. The first sergeant of each comp is then ordered to the front and centre of the reg and report their companies giving the name of the company and number of men in each company they then return to their places when the captains of the different comp march to the front and centre and salute the Colonel when he returns the salute. The comp are then marched to their quarters where they partake of their suppers, taking it altogether it is quite a sight. I suppose by this time you will think that the sabbath is pretty effectually broken but if you had been in the camp today you would have thought that Sunday had forgotten to make its appearance. At this moment while I am writing within six or eight feet of me in another tent there is a party of boys playing euchre and others are washing dishes while some are singing and nearly all swearing but perhaps you may think that is the case with all the boys, not so for there is quite a number of good civil boys in our company. But as it is getting dark I must close. Give my respects to Edith Willson.
Direct to Findlay, Ohio.
Care Captain Gibbs
21st reg O.V.
Camp Vance Sep. 17th 61
When I wrote last Sunday, I forgot to state several things which I had thought to say, and among others I wished to say that Alfred Price asked me to send his guitar to him by somebody going to Fremont or if not, to send it by express. It is at Mrs. Ryders and you will oblige me very much by attending to it for me.
We have fine times in Camp, last night it rained very hard and the guards were called in on that account and as a matter of course the boys took advantage of it and went visiting. About 200 of the boys went promenading and among the rest several from our mess and this morning about two oclock a goose came into our tent which had been disturbed in its slumbers and as a matter of course we took compassion on and kept it from the rest of the mess but the poor fellow died some time in the night just because one of the boys out of mere sport placed the head of the winged biped in one place and his body in another and as we don't like to see anything go to waste we caused it to take the place of the beef with which we are supplied. This is a mere sample of what is taking place all the time in camp. Yesterday we had our Dress Parade of the whole regiment and we were put through the regimental drill for the first time. That is we were marched A round the grounds by plattons some of the plattoons being composed of whole companies it was a very fine sight there being about 600 out on parade the rest of the reg being home or on furlough. The colonel is endeavoring to make arrangements so that he can take fourteen compys into the 21st regt. I don't know how soon the regt will leave here but as near as I can find out I expect it will take place in about two weeks[.] I expect to make a visit home before we move. Just about five minutes ago a guard was put in the guard house for allowing a man to pass his beat without a pass from a commissioned officer[.] At this minute while I am writing there are a lot of boys singing campmeting hymns in the tent next to ours. We have dances, foot racing, wrestling, jumping &c going on nearly all the time. Sunday eve Martin Bowland threw the Capt of Compy D. the officers mix with the privates at all times and taking everything altogether we have very fine times. Last Sunday morning a company came in from Defiance and they brought their Notebooks with them and when they have leisure time they all join in singing. I intend to make the acquaintance of some of them. In my last I forgot to tell you how to direct your letters.
You can direct
R.H. Caldwell Findlay Ohio
Care Capt. Gibbs 21st Regt O.V.I.
(P.S.) I wrote to Juliet last Sunday. Please tell me how you get along with the mile. Give my love to Father, Mother, Willie, and all enquiring friends. R.H.C.
Camp Vance Sep 25th 
It is now ascertained beyond a doubt that we are to leave this place early tomorrow morning via Carey We have received orders to pack up and be ready to start by 2 o'clock.
We are all glad to think that we are going to move. I heard with pain that our respected Captain was worse again and that it would impossible for him to meet us at this place, but that it was possible he might overtake us at Camp Dennison. It is now ascertained that we are going to Louisville, Ky we are all well pleased to think that is to be our destination. Today Charley brought Wm Buffington and Gillson to Finlay with the understanding that they were to be mustered in but when the officer was ready they began making complaints saying they were not able to go, and upon the testimony of James Easterly the officer was willing to accept them anyway but the cowards refused to be mustered and they will have the pleasure of walking home as Liut Vantyne would not pass them home. It is the wish of the boys that you will give them a reception that will be a warning to all other milk and water men. To day we were visited by several of the Elmore and Fremont ladies among whom were Mrs. Ryder Strong Woodworth, Mrs. J.S. Tyler, and Mrs. Claghorn. Also Toot Tyler, Charleys wife and Mrs. Woodworth and Mrs. Geo Claghorn are going to stay to see the Dress Parade which is to come off at four o'clock. As it is almost time to turn out for that purpose I must close by saying that as we are not going to receive our uniforms until arriving at Columbus I shall be obliged to take my sachel along with me and when we do receive them I will send my clothes home. I will write as soon as possible again perhaps from Columbus, if not, from Camp Dennison at any rate as soon as possible. I will write to Juliet as soon as we get settled.
You must excuse me for using a lead pencil as it is very difficult getting a pen
Camp Dennison Sep 27th 
Dear folks at home
We left Camp Vance yesterday morning about ½ past 6 oclck took the train for Carey and arrived there in time to connect with the train on the S.D. & C. R.R. Arrived at Kenton about four oclock and were regaled with a supper by the citizens for which we were all truly thankful. The next town of any importance at which we arrived was Bellfontaine a town of about 3000 inhabitants. We also passed through Urbanna the town near which cousin Martha lives. I got off the train at that place and enquired for the whereabouts of James Caldwell and was informed that he lived about four miles out of town. Just about dark we passed through Springfield atown of about 7000 inhabitants. The next place was Xenia a town of considerable importance. We arrived at camp about 2 oclock this morning and slept in the cars until daylight when we were transferred to our barracks which consist of houses made of pine lumber capable of accomodating about 20 men they need some repairing but when that is done they will be quite comfortable. We have just finished drawing rations. I don't see how government can afford to supply her men so liberally We this morning received sugar cured hams in the shape of meat the nicest meat I ever saw, and we received everything else in proportion. This morning the noncommissioned officers were appointed the boys had the privilege of electing the orderly and when it was given out that those who were going to run for that office should step out in line, about 6 or 7 boys stepped out and I soon saw how the thing had been worked and I refused to run. George Claghorn and James Bumpus had been electioneering privately for some time and when the rest of us understood how the thing had been worked all those who had contemplated withdrew with the exception of James Bumpus, G. Claghorn, and Ezekiel Rice. Among those who withdrew were Michael Rice Russel Rice and myself. When the votes were counted the result stood James Bumpus 29, G. Claghorn 17, E. Rice 5 and so Bumpus was declared elected. And then commenced the appointing of the rest of the officers which I think was done very unfairly for some of those concerned and myself among that number. The officers were appointed by Lieut Bantyne and resulted in the appointment of Claghorn as 2nd sergeant Mike Rice 3rd Russel Rice 4th George Smith 5th and myself 3rd corporal. I believe if Cap Gibbs had been present the result would have been different but I must abide by the decision of the superior officers. As it stands it is better than being a private as the wages are $15.00 per month and I am exempt from guard duty and have a better chance for promotion in case I am deserving, and I intend to do my duty in every respect and if at the close of the war I am still 3rd corporal I intend to have it said that it was not on account of incompetency. Camp Dennison is situated in a vally which is entirely surrounded by high hills the Miami river runs along the south side of camp. The R.R. runs through the centre of camp which is very handy for transportation. This morning I visited a battery of rifled 6 pound brass guns the battery consists of 6 pieces and is commanded by a Cleveland man I don't remember his name. I believe they are going to practice this afternoon. We are going to receive our uniforms and arms tomorrow. It is said we are to leave this place next Monday morning for Louisville, Ky. If we do I will write and let you know. When you write direct Camp Dennison, care Lieut Vantyne Co K. 21st O regiment. Charley sends his respects to you all.
Camp Dennison Sep 29th 61
You must excuse me for neglecting for so long a time to answer your letter but the fact is I have been so busy moving for the last few days that I have hardly had time to think about writing to any person. Last thursday morning we left Camp Vance for this place had a very fine ride through the finest country I ever saw arrived at Camp Dennison about 2 oclock friday morning and remained in the cars until daylight when we were marched to our quarters which consist of shanties capable of accomodating about 20 men each, ours has a butry, two large bunks and three tables, besides a writing desk and several benches. I think they can be made more comfortable than the tents[.] There is at present about six or eight thousand men in camp and I doubt if there is a sick man among them. The camp is situated among a lot of high hills and is in as picturesque a place as the most romantic individual could wish for. On the outskirts of the camp the is a hill from the top of which a very fine view of Kentucky may be had. Last friday I visited a battery of rifled brass cannon six in number they throw a round ball of six pound weight and a slug of twelve and one half pound a distance of three miles one of the guns was at the fights of Philippi and rich mountain in western Va[.] We received our arms yesterday they are rifled muskets. We have not yet received our uniforms but expect to in a short time. We expect to be ordered to Louisville Ky in a few days and if we do I will write from there in the mean time you can direct to Camp Dennison care of Lieutenant Vantine Company K. 21st O. regiment. Since receiving your letter I have been home I went home sat and stayed until tuesday I had a very pleasant time. You may send the Oberlin papers if you please. I have got that likeness of yours on
Camp Dennison Sep 29th 
Thinking this a suitable opportunity to let you know what is doing and what has been done in camp I seize the present time for so doing. I wrote last friday upon arriving at camp but as all was confusion and disorder upon our arrival that it was almost impossible to collect one's ideas but at present the condition of things is greatly improved. Our camp (that of the 21st) is situated upon the eastern side of the C.C. & C. R.R. it is very finely situated entirely surrounded by high hills there is one hill close by the camp from the top of which a very fine view of Kentucky may be had, distant about five miles from this place. There are at present about six or eight regiments in camp at this place. I wrote in my last that close to our regiment an artillery company was encamped. I could not think of the Captain's name who was in command but have since learned that his name is Sanford the company came from Cleveland. I wrote on our arrival at this place that it was expected we were to start for Louisville on Monday next but I doubt it very much as we have not yet received our uniforms but are expecting them every day. We received our arms and accoutrements yesterday afternoon, our guns are rifled muskets with the exception of those received by the two flanking companies (A and B) who received enfield rifles[.] It is quite comical to see some of the boys since they received their arms, this morning I had leave of absence from camp and nearly every one that I met with was rigged out with everything that Government allows them and the great heavy musket atop of all and as the strutted about (as they thought) among the greenies no doubt they thought they would pass for veterans, but the fact is it takes something else in addition to being able to carry a musket to become a good and efficient soldier. I needs time to discipline a regiment so that they may be of service upon coming into action as when such a time arrives we expect to dance to a different music from that which we have in camp, but I doubt if there is a man in our company if offered the privilege or returning home would accept it we are bout to see the thing out if we are allowed to live through it. There is not a sick man in our camp at present and I doubt if there is one in Camp Dennison it is so very healthy at this place. There is a Railroad bridge about seven miles west of this place which is guarded by Government and last Friday night there was two men shot while making the attempt to burn it. I don't think much of this part of the state as farming land it is so hilly, but on the way to camp we passed through some of the most beautiful farms I ever saw but I did not see such nice corn anywhere on the route as can be raised in the Black Swamp. When you write I wish you would state how Cap Gibbs is getting[.] I am anxious to know as we would all like very much to have him with us as soon as possible. As I am using George Claghorns pen and he is anxious to take my place at the writing desk I shall have to bring this latter to a close. I wish you would tell me if William has gone yet and whether Jerry has taken the mill. But I must close give my love to Mother, William, and Willie and tell Willie to be a good boy and when I come home I will bring him something to remember the war by.
From your son, Robert Caldwell
(P.S.) I will write to mother next time when you write direct it to Camp Dennison care Lieutenant Vantine Comp K. 21st Ohio reg and if we have left it will be forwarded to me
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