Thursday, April 11, 2013

The soldier's story behind the love story (1)

First of two parts

Some of the events that became the 50 days of Our War fell into my lap. One of these was the story of Carrie C. Deppen and George W. Ladd.

It all started on eBay. One day, an auction listing came up for a book called Dearest Carrie: The Civil War Romance of a Myerstown Girl and a New Hampshire Boy, by Richard R. Long. I bid, and I got it.

Carrie Deppen (courtesy of Richard R. Long)
Myerstown is in Pennsylvania. Carrie was the daughter of Judge Gabriel Deppen. On a mid-June day in 1861, he took her to Lebanon, Pa., the county seat, to cheer for one of the many troop trains passing through on the way south. George W. Ladd of West Concord, N.H., was on the train. He was a private in Goodwin’s Rifles, Company B of the 2nd New Hampshire Volunteers.

Ladd tossed a card out the window. On it he had written his name and regiment. Carrie Deppen picked the card up and wrote him a letter, beginning the romance in the title – a romance by mail. They never spoke or met.

My chapter in Our War focuses on the relationship that developed between Carrie Deppen and Susan Abbott, George Ladd’s mother. The purpose of this blog post and the next one is to share comments about his service and the war from Ladd's letters to Deppen that do not appear in the book. He was an articulate, well-read young man of 22, excited to be in the army and dedicated to the Union cause.

These excerpts follow the 2nd New Hampshire from its first fight at Bull Run to its second fight there, during which Ladd was mortally wounded. At the end I’ve added information about what became of Deppen. I’ve read a lot of Civil War letter collections, and as I think these samples will show, this is a superb one. Dearest Carrie was published in 2004 by Masthof Press in Morgantown, Pa. It is worth reading cover to cover if you can find a copy.

Camp Sullivan, Washington, D.C., July 24, 1861 (three days after the battle of Bull Run):

Chaplain Parker is on the right in this photo.
“The rebels poured in on us from masked batteries from all sides but our army hurried everything before us until the rebels were reinforced by fresh troops and some officer-less troops gave the alarm and our whole army fell back, but it was not as bad as represented. The city folks were afraid that Beauregard [Confederate commander at Bull Run] would attack Washington, so Gen. McDowell [Union commander] ordered us into the city where we arrived about noon Monday and they call it 62 miles, and as we had no rest from the time we marched which was 15 miles from the scene of the conflict, why such a worn-out lot of soldiers was never saw in W. [Washington], I trow. But we are getting over it nicely and shall soon be ready to wipe out that defeat if you can call it such. . . .

“I am thankful to say I escaped without a scratch to show. Well such is the fortune of war and it may be my turn next but it I am shot it is one consolation that I died fighting for one of the most glorious causes that ever existed.”

[As described in an early chapter of Our War, the 2nd New Hampshire was one of the first Union regiments on the field at Bull Run and one of the last to leave. Its men suffered terribly on the chaotic retreat. Ladd rationalizes and exaggerates in his account  a common fault in soldier letters, especially letters about battles.The retreat to Washington was a little over 30 miles, not 62. There was fear in the capital, but the Union army’s return there was not merely a dutiful response to orders from above.]

Camp Sullivan, Washington, D.C, Aug. 4, 1861:

“I will parade at 5 reveille and we drill by comp. for one hour, then breakfast, then at 9 o’clock the guard is detailed, 8 men in each comp., and the rest loaf . . . Then we go on dress parade 1½ hours, then supper and at a half past nine, tattoo is beaten when the rules are ‘lights extinguished’ but the boys will blow them out and light them again. We have footballs for each camp, and baseballs, clubs, dancing – are you a dancer? And we have some splendid singers in our regt. and also a fine band who nightly discourses sweet music to us and which reminds us of home on the commons. There, the bands played, gave promenades, concerts, and although I am no musician, I love music, don’t you, Carrie? . . .

“It is most [almost] time for [church] service, but we have to go by companies. . . . I wouldn’t miss hearing our chaplain (Rev. Parker of Concord, my own city [Henry E. Parker, erstwhile pastor of South Congregational Church]) as he I a good and brave man. During the battle just a fortnight ago . . . he was on the battlefield in the midst of shells, and was shot while taking care of the wounded and didn’t leave the hospital till all that could be taken away were in ambulances. Such a man deserves praise and he has endeared himself to the regiment.”

Camp Union, Bladensburg, Md., Aug. 25, 1861 (Afternoon 3 o’clock):

"We were highly honored today. Pres. Lincoln, Sect. Seward, Sect. G. Welles, Gen. Mansfield, and other distinguished guests came to our meeting we had in a beautiful grove in the rear of our tents. Then we passed review which occupied the time till 2 o’clock. . . . We are encamped on an old battlefield on which battles were fought with the British in the War of 1812, when the city of Washington was taken and burnt. Then this is an old dueling ground, where a good many foolish men have stood up and shot at each other. . . .

“There are any quantities of ‘darkies’ here of all shades . . . they are all slaves. Sunday is a holiday for them and they come in here in the afternoon at dress parade decked out in white clothes which form a striking contrast to their sable countenances. They carry all their bundles on their heads and it looks odd to me to see a lot of them with large baskets of fruit and clothes on their heads.”

Camp Beaufort, Md. Jan. 12, 1862:

“I have been in the South before the war commenced and although I love warm weather, still give me ‘our side of the Jordan’ – the Northern States.

General Henry Morris Naglee
“If I had to live here I should hire someone to take me off and kill me   or I should die by inches as this is the most forsaken country it has been my lot to sojourn in. How different from the beautiful valley of the [Susquehanna] in your own State where the R. Road winds its way.”

Camp Beaufort, March 5, 1862:

“Did I speak of our new Brigadier General? We expected to have Doubleday but we have one named ‘Naglee’ [Henry Morris Naglee] and as soon as he came in, he put on his three-cents airs and said that the brigade had to go by the army regulations as he belonged to the regulars. He had all the officers of the guard in the brigade under arrest because they went to the guardhouse to receive him when he came round one night, but Gen. Hooker let them go and some of our boys were at headquarters on guard and Naglee came home about 10 o’clock and didn’t have the countersign and the boys arrested him (as they have a right to do) and he had to send for his Agatant to let him go. He sent down to our pioneers [engineers] a plan for a guardhouse to keep prisoners in and didn’t leave any door or window in it.”

[Naglee, a West Pointer, class of 1835, had a colorful, if sometimes troubled, life. He was arrested during the Mexican War for having two Mexican prisoners killed without orders. As a brigade commander during McClellan’s Peninsula campaign, he was wounded at Fair Oaks. After the war he returned to California, where he had been a banker and brandy distiller with a large vineyard near San Jose. There he had woman troubles, leading to two public scandals.]

Camp Beaufort, March 23, 1862:

“As to sleeping accommodations, what composes my bed is this, two cedar poles run across the tent about 4 feet from the floor of the tent and on them are nailed barrel staves and then I have one blanket under and another over me and that is my sleeping apartment, (how would you like that?) and there I lie and sleep soundly and dream of – well, I shan’t tell.”

To be continued

1 comment:

  1. Just found two copies of this book on Amazon. Only 1 left since I just purchased the other. Looking forward to it.