1889 · [N.p., but likely Clearfield, Pa
by Walther, Albert
[N.p., but likely Clearfield, Pa, 1889. 201pp., plus four manuscript maps, twenty manuscript letters, and nine manuscript emendations tipped in at various points of the text. Folio. Contemporary three-quarter red calf and marbled boards, manuscript label on front board. Spine mostly perished and reinforced with black tape, boards rubbed and scuffed, corners worn. Hinges mostly separated but holding by cords, a few leaves detached. Text largely clean and highly readable. Good condition overall. In a gray cloth clamshell box, red paper label stamped in gilt. A fascinating manuscript memoir written by Albert Walther, a German immigrant to America in the mid-19th century. Walther's reminiscences describe his emigration to the United States, life and work in the 1850s, experiences fighting for the Union in the Civil War, and his life for more than a decade after, including working as an itinerant Bible salesman. Walther's memoir provides valuable insight into the life of a new immigrant in the "melting pot" that was mid-19th century America during a time of great social and political tumult, through an intense and bloody military conflict, and the reconstruction after. Walther's memoir encompasses several decades, including notes on his family in Germany from the 1830s and before. The bulk of the volume covers the period from the mid- 1840s to 1877, but an entry early in the text - recording the death of one of his sisters - is dated 1889, so it seems that he composed this journal, or began composition of it, in 1889. However, most of the entries from the 1840s through the Civil War period and on through the 1870s carry specific months and often dates for the events described, indicating that Walther kept a diary throughout his life, from which he composed (and possibly added to) this volume. Albert Walther was born in Birkigt, Germany in 1836 and lived there until August 1854, when at the age of eighteen he decided to emigrate to the United States. Working aboard a merchant ship, Walther made his way through New Orleans and eventually to St. Louis, where he found a community of fellow German immigrants. He worked briefly in coal mines and the lumber industry, among other various occupations available to the German- immigrant population at the time. After the outbreak of the Civil War, Walther was mustered into the 84th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers of the Union Army in October of 1861; the present narrative includes over sixty pages of content related to Walther's time in the 84th Pennsylvania, along with two manuscript battle maps and an important drawing of the first floor of Libby Prison, where Walther was held for over a month during the war. He later continued his work in the timber industry, then devoted much of his life to various Christian societies, for whom he became a traveling Bible salesman. Walther's narrative is supplemented by over twenty original letters tipped-in at various locations in the text, providing context to his personal narrative. The spelling of any excerpts that follow has been normalized to ensure clarity. Walther begins the manuscript with a dedication to his children below a makeshift title for the manuscript, which he writes as "Life, Birdplace [sic] and Scetches [sic] of persons and places connected with it of Carl Friedrich Albrecht Walther." Apparently he shortened his name to Albert Carl Walther during his time in America. He follows this dedication with an "Apology" regarding the memoir he meant to write, which was supposed to be based on a significant number of "documents and manuscripts, along with notebooks" that were now lost to him. According to Walther, this current narrative "must be much abridged lest I should permit fancy to step in and fill up the lake of memory, to pen only facts." Walther begins with his birth in Birkigt, Germany, and a general history of various family members over the course of the first fifteen pages. He also includes two manuscript maps of Birkigt here - one tipped-in to the text and another two-page version pasted to the front pastedown. In August 1854, Walther set sail for the United States and arrived in New Orleans on October 17, 1854; his journey is detailed in the opening pages of the memoir. He remained in New Orleans for a few weeks due to a quarantine necessitated by an outbreak of yellow fever that "was raging again in all its fury" in the city, preventing steamships from traveling up the Mississippi River. Walther was eventually allowed to travel to St. Louis, and arrived there on November 4. For the next few years, Walther worked briefly in the mines, but mostly for a timber company, eventually promoted to receiving clerk in 1857. In the early part of 1860, Walther relocated to Clearfield, Pennsylvania, where he met up with brother, Edward Walther. In his text, Walther describes the landscape, the people he encountered, and the difficulties of the trip itself, particularly when the steamer he was traveling in hit a sandbar near Pittsburgh. He eventually found his way to Clearfield by late May. Over the next year and a half, Walther worked for local farmers, joined the Bald Hill Literary and Debating Society, had a close call with a panther, and tried his hand at deer hunting. Walther joined the 84th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers in October 1861. From the beginning, Walther found himself at odds with his captain, Merrick Housler, when he learned that Housler had agreed to sell his company to Colonel Curtis's regiment. Eventually Walther played a role in Housler's resignation after testifying to Housler's "trickery." In Housler's place, Walther's friend James W. Ingram was made captain. The regiment was then immediately ordered to the front lines. Walther describes the first action of his regiment at Hancock, Maryland, and how easy it would have been for the Rebels to take them down if they had only known the Union forces numbered just 1,400 men. Walther states that Colonel Ashby wanted a truce, but General Lander pressed on the fight, refusing to surrender. Around this time, Walther mentions and underlines the use of Belgian Rifles several times. He then describes their expedition to Cumberland and beyond, writing about the daring of General Lander, including the capture of an entire Rebel camp. Walther then mentions the death of General Lander on March 2, 1862; Lander eventually succumbed to pneumonia at Camp Chase near Paw Paw, Virginia. Walther then provides an in-depth account of the buildup and events during the First Battle of Kernstown in late March 1862, taking up eight folio pages of his narrative. He details how Col. William G. Murray led the charge even though "the rebel artillery openeth a murderous fire upon us." The Union captured a thirty-two-pound gun. Colonel Murray was killed; Captain Housler got so frightened he ran off the field of battle (and later resigned after another disagreement with Walther and other of his men). Three musket balls passed through Walther's cap during the Battle of Kernstown, one of which shaved off a thin strip of skin along his scalp, from which hair never grew again. He comments here that "I believed the rebels had no bullet made for me, this however was a mistake." Walther includes a detailed manuscript map of the Battle of Kernstown, the first of two manuscript Civil War battle maps present here. This map is titled, "First Battle of Winchester or Cernstown [sic]" and shows woods, roads, skirmish lines, Signal Hill, and more features of the battlefield from Shields Headquarters and encampment in the south to the lines of the 84th Pennsylvania in the north. Other identified units include the 8th Ohio, Sullivans Brigade, the 13th Indiana, 40th Pennsylvania, and Rebel positions, among other features. Walther even includes the spot where Colonel Murray was killed. Over the next few months, Walther records camp life, details of the movements of the rebels, and the movements of his own regiment around Virginia, including a stop in Fredericksburg. Here, while serving under General McDowell, Walther records standing in review for none other than President Abraham Lincoln: "At last we were paid for our long waiting. President Lincoln led in the Review and as he passed along the line cheer upon cheer went up, but mark you when the Great General McDowell came up behind the President, the boys gave him another tune, groan followed groan, and while along the line from the left to the right the men cheered the President, as soon as he had passed and McDowell came up with his retinue the groans went up, there was such a deafening noise that the Earth seemed to tremble. And I can see the smile upon the President's face as he passed the 84th Pa, apparently enjoying the joke upon the great general." From May 30 to June 9, Walther details the activities of his unit leading up to the Battle of Port Republic and his own capture by the Confederate Army. The 84th Pennsylvania captured 300 Rebel soldiers, intercepted rebel mail and a great deal of currency intended for Stonewall Jackson, and were supposed to burn a bridge near the eventual battle site; Walther writes that the battle might have been avoided had his unit burned the bridge. Nevertheless, the Battle of Port Republic occurred on June 9; Walther's narrative of the preparations and battle comprise eleven pages of the present manuscript, and detail his and his unit's activities. The battle was a resounding victory for Stonewall Jackson's Confederate forces, and Walther was not spared the effects of the military defeat. Walther requested to be sent to the front lines of the battle, and he was shot in the side during the engagement. During the eventual Union retreat, Walther found himself stranded: "I called out for the boys Have I deserved to be left here by you?" A fellow soldier, Mich Steavich came back and put Walther on his back, but Walther refused to go, believing escape impossible and telling Steavich to make a run for it. Eventually, Captain Milton Opp of Company F came for Walther, who was taken to an ambulance. Walther sat at a coal pit while the Rebels made three charges. Captain Ingram carried Walther into the hospital, where he was laid down in the straw and given brandy to ease the pain and chills that began to set in. The battle drew closer and closer, and unfortunately the Union surgeons and staff had to retreat themselves, leaving Walther and others to be captured by the advancing Confederate forces. A fellow wounded soldier, Dr. Williams of the Ohio regiment, who had a musket ball in his forehead above his right eye, gave Walther a bottle of brandy to calm the chills as the Rebels stormed the hospital. General Jackson and others entered the hospital, took down information from the wounded soldiers, and swore them to an oath of parole. Walther includes the other manuscript battle map here, which details the Battle of Port Republic. The map records the salient topographical details, along with the positions of the combatants, including Stonewall Jackson's men, the rebel lines, rebel artillery, and the 7th Indiana. Walther notes the location of the hospital, "where I was taken prisoner." Now a Confederate prisoner, on June 14 Walther found himself in a hospital full of wounded Rebels. The next morning he was taken to Stonewall Jackson's camp, supplied with tents, and given food from Jackson's kitchen. Walther and his fellow Union prisoners-of-war were invited to worship at a quaint church, assisted there by Confederate soldiers. The preacher stepped up and began his sermon: "What surprise, the minister was none other than Stonewall Jackson himself, and a good sermon he gave us....I was well paid for the effort, and ever after esteemed Jackson a Christian General." Walther continued to record his experiences with Stonewall Jackson: "We were kept here for some days. During this time Gen. Jackson would stop frequently when passing converse with us, asking us questions, and giving us encouragement, in our life as prisoners of war...." On the afternoon of June 22, Jackson had to leave the camp. Walther records his conversation with Jackson before he left: "I asked him where he was going however not expecting an answer. He said I am going to curtail McClellan, he is pressing our forces too hard at Richmond. I said you had better look out for McDowell! My suspicion against that General was confirmed in the answer of Gen. Jackson. He said: I have no fear of McDowell, if Gen. Shield can be avoided, I am saved enough. I said, but you certainly know that McDowell has 40000 of as good troops as ever marched! Well said he, I admit all that, but they will not be brought in action. I was surprised as well as baffled. He continued, If there were nothing else to fear than McDowell the war would be at an end in a week for I have no fear of McDowell, no more than to need my wife upon promenade." Walther next found himself in Libby Prison in Richmond, where he was held from late July to September 7, 1862, when he was released after a prisoner exchange. He describes his experiences inside the prison in several entries. Walther's most impactful passage concerns the inspection of his wounds by a prison doctor: "Upon examination he found a seap about 5 by 8 inches and about one inch thick upon my back directly below my neck and across my shoulders. When the Doctor came around I asked him to see this. He took of the seap and beside the matter that was under it along with the matter there were thousands of lice. The Doctor had me cleaned, and under present circumstances I thought I was very much favored. Speaking of lice they were plentiful and of enormous size...as soon as death arrives they start marching somewhat like ants all in a row following in the trail....When a man along side of me died with what proved to be smallpox! at once I saw them march down the legs of the couch and upon the floor, I amused myself in changing the course of march from time to time obstructing the march of what might be called the leader. Well they were company which clung to us through all adversity in life only leaving us after death." Walther also includes a schematic drawing of the first floor of Libby Prison, where he stayed while an inmate there. The drawing depicts about 130 beds, four of which have small notations indicating who occupied the beds, including the bed Walther slept in himself. The "water closet" is in the far left corner and the Hospital Stewards Dept" is in a large room on the opposite corner from the restroom. The "Canal Alley" and the "Street" sides are labeled just outside the walls of the prison. During the prisoner exchange that freed Walther and 700 more from Libby Prison, he records a long passage on the wretched state in which he found most of his fellow prisoners, "the largest number of the boys were nearly naked." The men then took part in a forced march of about twelve miles to Harrison's Landing, where they were reunited with the Union Army. Upon seeing the "star and stripes," Walther fell to the ground weeping in relief. After recovering for about a week, Walther was sent to Fort Delaware; along the way, he saw the U.S.S. Monitor and his steamer was stopped by Confederates, but not detained. He arrived at Fort Delaware on September 14, and occupied much of his time with starting a theater club and producing plays for his fellow troops. In early January 1863, Walther was sent to Chesapeake City, Maryland, where he was promoted to an adjutant position for the Pennsylvania department. The next month he rejoined the 84th Pennsylvania, and records much on the officers and men he still found serving with the regiment. His second stint with the 84th was short-lived; in late March, Walther was discharged after an examination by doctors prompted by an incident in which he apparently refused to salute a superior officer. Walther proceeded to return home to his brother's house in Clearfield. The remainder of Walther's manuscript autobiography is taken up with his life in Pennsylvania after the war. He records his marriage to Emma Virginia Strickland and his working life. Walther spent the immediate postwar years in the logging business. He and his brother transported timber on rafts down the Susquehanna River to steam mills for processing. Walther's descriptions of his work are quite detailed and engaging, and include passages on the quite dangerous nature of the work, as well. He also includes much information on wages earned and other details of a lost trade. Following his career as a timber man, Walther joined several Bible societies, including the Clearfield County Bible Society and the American Tract Society, and traveled throughout Pennsylvania selling Bibles and giving talks at various church meetings. This late period work takes up a healthy majority of the latter quarter of Walther's manuscript, as he records the number of families he visits, how many Bibles he sells, and how much his efforts bring in through donations to the societies. Walther's narrative is also important for the sheer quantity of people he mentions by name throughout his story, providing a rich basis for cross-reference with other contemporary sources. The letters peppered throughout Walther's manuscript are from a variety of correspondents, and range in date from 1857 to 1877. Many of the letters are written in German, some of which were sent to Walther from Germany, including at least one from his mother. At least six of the letters come from his brother Edward, one from Pennsylvania in 1860, just before Walther decided to join him there, and continuing through August 1877. There are also letters from James Ingram, with whom Walther served in the Civil War, and a duplicate of a letter sent from Walther to the district secretary of the American Tract Society in 1877, among others. Albert Walther's manuscript memoir contains a wealth of information - about the immigrant experience in 19th-century America, the German immigrant experience in Pennsylvania and the Civil War, the canvassing trade from the point of view of an immigrant, and much more. A highly-readable and research-worthy manuscript narrative recounting the interesting and active life of a German immigrant in mid-19th-century America, including his detailed account of Civil War service in his newly-adopted home.
(Inventory #: WRCAM56325)