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100 Years Ago

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Boredom and Perils of Army Life

Between battles, it was common for the soldiers to experience many weeks of either general camp life or marching between locations. Each day in camp began with roll call. In his memoirs, Sgt. Oldroyd of the 20th Ohio fondly remembered the comedy of some men who it seemed were always oversleeping, and then rushing to make roll call. He recalled one "...trying to get his pants on between his bed and the line, his foot caught in the lining, hopping along like a sore-footed chicken." After roll call, the men usually cleaned up the camp and split wood for fortifications/fires before breakfast.

Mail call, when it occurred, was a favorite event. The frequency of mail delivery depended on the location of the regiment and its proximity to the field of battle. Perry Township resident turned soldier, David Staley, received a letter from his wife Mary dated May 22, 1864. "Dear Husband...I begin to know how it goes to be a war widow and I think it is a very lonesome life...We look forward to the time when we can behold your kind and welcome face once more...Your wife, Mary A. Staley.

A much more important, but infrequent event, was payday. The diary of Sgt. Oldroyd reflects his thoughts in an entry he made on June 12, 1863: "Money cannot do us much good here among the hills, but we can send it home. Many a family is dependent upon the thirteen dollars a month drawn here by the head of it." In a letter to his brother in Sidney on February 26, 1863, Cassius Wilson of the 118th Ohio reported, "We expected to be paid off this week but since this excitement (an enemy advance) I do not know when we will be paid off." Sgt. Oldroyd was more pointed when on July 2, 1863, he noted: "The rumor now runs that the paymaster will be at hand tomorrow, but he is about as reliable as Johnston (the rebel commander), for we have been something like a week looking for both these gentlemen."

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Receiving letters from home made military life more bearable for those far from home...

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David Staley

'Civil War' segment written in July, 1998 by Rich Wallace


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