In July of 1864, David A. Conner enlisted for thirty days as a Delaware Emergency Man, and was assigned to the Delaware 7th Infantry Regiment. That unit was tasked with the guarding of key rail lines in Baltimore County, MD. The 7,000 word story of his 30 days as an Emergency Man, and the story of how he met the woman who would become his wife, was written, according to him, twenty-five years after the events occurred. The manuscript belongs to Conner’s great-grandson, Fred Pepper of Federal Street, Milton, who discovered it in an attic where it had been lying for decades. Although there is no date on the manuscript, we can infer that it was written sometime between 1889 and 1890. Conner’s title for it, which appears on the final version, is “A Thirty Days Campaign;” I would have added the subtitle The Little Maid of Mankin’s Woods, the last words of the narrative. This is the title I have assigned to the posting.
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We don’t know whether Conner submitted the manuscript to any Delaware newspaper—for it was the right length to have been published in one of the newspapers of the area, either in serialized form or in its entirety—or whether the highly personal details of the courtship of Mary King, the “little maid of Mankin’s Woods,” made him reluctant to go the distance. It could also have been rejected after submission, but having read a number of stories in the Milford Chronicle from the 1890’s and early 1900’s, I think the story contains sufficient sentimentality and romantic sensibility, Civil War reminiscence without the gore, and pretty prose, to have been well received by Delaware readers. All the characteristics of Conner’s prose style that we see in his Milton News letters are present in this story.
The story contains many little details of the day-to-day existence of the Emergency Men, including some suffering inflicted not by the enemy but by the incompetence of some of the officers commanding them. Conner and his company never saw a Confederate soldier, let alone shot at one. But they did experience the more benign aspects of military life in the field, including the camaraderie (and drinking bouts) that comes with that territory. This aspect of the story is valuable, as the experiences of the Emergency Men of Delaware are little known to most of us, with their role such a brief one.
In terms of understanding David A. Conner as a writer, the narrative is even more valuable. For example, his idealization of women appears to have begun with Mary King, to whom all women in the future would have been compared, and he provides a nice physical description of her (auburn hair, deep hazel eyes, and youthful form). His apparent fascination with red-haired and auburn-haired women (see the August 16, 1907 edition of the Milton News letter) appeared in print after Mary’s death in 1901, and it was unclear to me where it stemmed from until I read his description of Mary. Her death hit him hard, and he never really recovered from it.
There is one issue that may be resolved, or not: Mary’s age when Conner first met her. He says, in the narrative, that she is about sixteen years old, which would have had her being born around 1848. Every other public reference to her age has her born in 1845, as does her headstone. We don’t know how she ended up with an aunt and uncle in Mankin’s Woods, or why. We don’t know if she needed to lie about her age in order to marry Conner in 1865 without the consent of her parents, or if they were even alive that year; we do know that the only witnesses were the elderly aunt and uncle whom she lived with. We may never know if Conner played fast and loose with the facts in order to add interest to his story or to suit his idealization of youthful innocence. What is clear from this story, in a way that we never quite see in his Milton News letters, is how hugely important she was to his life.
For these reasons, I am retaining the title “The Little Maid of Mankin’s Woods” in this posting, as the events around his romance had much greater impact on his life than the Thirty Day’s Campaign. I am also going to continue to refer to Conner as the “Bard of Federal Street,” even though the supposed signing as “The Bard” was my misreading of the words “The End” in the draft. He really did have literary aspirations (albeit never fully realized). The loftier title of “Bard of Milton” belongs to J. B. Welch, whose poems and songs were published and enjoyed a fair amount of success in his time.
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Notes on the text
Transcribing an old manuscript presents many challenges. The first challenge is, which version of the text are we looking at? The first version of Conner’s story was untitled and written in pencil, on both sides of poor quality unruled paper, without any divisions or chapter headings. This, as it turns out, was a draft; the final version, in a fine script written in ink, on the ruled side of good quality paper, was found by Fred Pepper a few days later. The final version has a title: “The Thirty Days Campaign.” It has chapter headings as well, and Conner signed it with his full name. In addition, what looked like “The Bard” as the signature of the draft version, became “The End” on the final. This second, final version is what I now believe Conner would have submitted for publication.
Regardless of whether the manuscript is a draft or final version, there is first and foremost the issue of how to ensure readability while still remaining faithful to the text. I have had to make some choices that are compromises, and I expect many readers will take issue with these. For those who prefer to read the unaltered manuscript, I have provided a scanned image of the draft for comparison purposes, at the end of this narrative. The version in this posting is the final, as it is the most legible and clearly was the author’s publication-ready manuscript. Scanned images of the final manuscript will be provided at a later date.
I have indicated Conner’s pagination in the body of the text, although that would not correspond to actual pagination in print.
There are a few spelling errors in the manuscript, and in the transcription I have corrected any that would needlessly detract from the readability of the text. Some words such as “today” were hyphenated in Conner’s day (“to-day”); I have rendered these few in their modern spelling. In a few cases, such as the use of the British defences instead of the U. S. defenses, I have let the original stand; however, I have left bivouaced in its misspelled form. The latter I left alone because I am not sure of how these words were actually written in Conner’s day.
The narrative is accurate as to the history and geography that serve as its background, with the minor exception of the name “Cockeyville,” which is actually “Cockeysville,” the location of the Delaware 7th Infantry regimental headquarters. Mankin’s Woods cannot be found on any modern map, but it was a real place in Maryland during the Civil War era; there are references to it in letters written by Pennsylvania “Emergency Men” stationed at Camp Bradford. The 1863 military map segment pictured below shows the location of “H. Mankin,” a local landowner or farmer. Mankin’s Woods presumably are in close proximity, between Camp Bradford and the location of “H. Mankin.” Camp Bradford was located at what is today 26th and Charles Streets, in Baltimore proper, the city limits having extended outward in the 19th and 20th centuries.
A Thirty Day’s Campaign
D. A. C.
In 1864 when General Hunter retired from before Lynchburg, General Lee took advantage of this retreat to threaten Washington, hoping thus to draw off Grant from the siege of Richmond. Accordingly General Early with twenty thousand men hurried along the Shenandoah Valley to accomplish this mission. Defeating General Wallace at Monocacy River, on the 10th of July he appeared before Fort Stevens, one of the defences of Washington. History tells how his plans were frustrated by “stopping a day,” and how he was compelled, “laden with loot,” to retreat and re-cross the Potomac; and that he subsequently sent a party of cavalry into Pennsylvania, entered Chambersburg, set fire to the village, and escaped, safely back into the Shenandoah.
Pennsylvania, Maryland and Delaware were in a tumult of excitement, all day long on Sunday, July 10th,–the day that General Early appeared before Fort Stevens. The trains on the Delaware Division of the P. W. & B. R. R. were thundering up and down the line, dispatching heralds, and distributing manifestoes, calling on the populace to arise, and defend their homes, and save the States from invasion.
The citizens flocked to the call, and boarding the trains were carried to the States’ metropolis; and that night, the city of Wilmington, Delaware,
was one of turmoil and confusion.
Monday was spent on preliminaries, obtaining arms, and the munitions of war—and on Tuesday the 7th Delaware Regiment of Infantry was sworn into the service of the United States, for thirty days, and rushed to the Susquehanna. Arriving at Perryville, we were landed; the excitement being so great that no trains were allowed to cross the river. The old steamboat Maryland, which was, at that time, used in ferrying the trains, carried us over, and we stood in all the splendor of battle array upon the soil of Maryland.
We were a beautiful mass of conglomerate humanity—beautiful in outline, and picturesque in construction—there were young and old, preachers, lawyers and doctors; some who have since played important parts on the theater of action, and passed their last accounts; others who are now standing on the pedestal of fame, important actors in the world’s grand drama. Dick Harrington[i], who afterward became celebrated in Washington history, and subsequently was the acknowledged leader of the Republican Party in Delaware, and the grandest actor at the Delaware bar, was a corporal in Company F; and the Rev. T. O. Ayres, now presiding Elder of Salisbury District of the Wilmington M. E. Conference, was First Lieutenant of the same company. Others I suppose are still here, struggling on, whose names time has effaced
from my memory. But if our occupations were diversified, so were our arms, for we had all kinds, from a flint and steel, to a toke rifle[ii], and a Spencer Seven-Shooter.
As I have intimated, we were landed at Havre de Grace, and here we bivouaced [sic] for a few days, being drilled and initiated in the beauties of a soldier life. Our evenings were spent by a portion of us in prayer meetings and by others as attentive listeners to our orators—Dick Harrington and a fellow we called “Parson Brainlow.” I have no doubt today, but these maiden speeches, made by Dick, on these sultry evenings, laid the foundation of his future greatness; but of “Parson Brainlow,” poor fellow! I never knew what became of him.
We must have enjoyed ourselves amazingly, for it was facetiously remarked, by the citizens of Havre de Grace, that the 7th Delaware prayed the first part of the evening and stole chickens the remainder of the night. But you know dear reader these war times, and our enemies said this.
A day, or two after our arrival a sloop-of-war was sent from Philadelphia to the mouth of the Susquehanna, with a battery of artillery from that part, and a company of marines under Colonel Farney, one of the most gallant-looking
men in uniform, that it has ever been my lot to see. We were in daily expectation of an attack from the rebs, but with the exception of a few scraggly forlorn-looking creatures, captured by scouting parties, none were seen by us.
Some of our men becoming sick, a building was improvised for an hospital, and as we were without the means to properly care for sick soldiers, the ladies of the town generously loaned us pillows and brought us little delicacies to tempt the palate; for which act of kindness they will ever be held in grateful remembrance, by the writer.
Our stay in Havre de Grace was, however, short, for on Saturday after our arrival we received orders to break camp. On the morning of that day we struck our tents, rolled our blankets, and swung them over our shoulders, marched to the river where we stacked arms. Here we lay all day, or straggled about the town, waiting for transportation, we knew not where; and not until late in the day did a boat arrive. This we boarded, after much delay, and steamed out on the placid bosom of the Chesapeake. We stowed ourselves away, anywhere we could, tired, hungry and exhausted, for many of us had had nothing to eat since the morning.
The solemn stillness of the night was only broken by the dull thud of the steamer’s paddles, and the low conversation of the guards on the
lower deck. This music was, however, with the assistance of tired nature, sufficient to lull us to sleep, and when we awoke, on Sunday morning, we were at the dock at Baltimore. The sun arose, on that morning, and lighted up a lurid sky, and on this, the hottest day of that hot summer, we lie upon the upper deck of that vessel, exposed to vertical rays of a burning sun, without any protection, or lolled around the docks, drinking the nauseating hydrant water, until many of us were prostrated by sickness, and some by sunstroke. To add to the uncomfortableness of our situation, and particularly our stomachs, we had nothing to eat. There was plenty on board, in charge of the commissary, but our officers had neglected to distribute rations before we left Havre de Grace, and we could not get them now. So famished had many of us become that a piece of bread kicked over the deck of the boat was esteemed a luxury.
Late in the afternoon we were ordered into line, and marched through Baltimore, leaving the sick to follow.
A short distance from this city is located Mankin’s Woods, and at this sylvan spot we halted; orders were given for a distribution of rations; fires were built, and coffee made. A slice of pork which we singed
over the fire on a stick, a slice of bread, and a pint of coffee was that night a feast to our hungry natures; after eating which, we rolled over in our blankets and were soon in the arms of Morpheus. The moon looked down on us with the same beaming splendor as it did on Sennecharib’s[iii] host, but when morning downed, it found a living army instead of a dead one.
Preparations were now made for a permanent camp, the ground was cleared off, avenues were laid out, and our tents were pitched, and guards posted. Drills, again, became the order of exercise, and the prayer meetings, and orations which engaged our time, of evenings at Havre de Grace, were superseded by mirth-provoking fun, and camp enjoyments. O, we were learning fast! If not the real essentials of soldierly qualities, at least, the part that most easy affects the morals, to which human nature is prone.
To the eastward and contiguous to Mankin’s Woods is a small rivulet, or was at the time of which I write, which was crossed by a footway. On the north side of this rivulet, was a little knoll, on which stood a little cottage, the body of which was painted white, the roof red, and the shutters green. Within this cottage lived a gentleman and his wife, and also a sixteen-year-old Miss, the niece of the couple. The name of the Miss I will not give—as she is yet living—but for convenience in expression, in relating my true narrative, I will abandon the rules of courtesy and
simply call her Mary. I think, if she ever should see these lines, she will forgive me for this breach of etiquette.
How I first became acquainted with Mary I cannot, now, exactly tell, it was not though the formality of an introduction, with the lifting of the hat and the bowing of the head on my part, and a beautiful little curtsey on hers; but a kind of picked up acquaintance, brought about in nature’s own way.
I am passionately fond of all kinds of flowers, and particularly the water lily. Along the banks of the rivulet of which I speak, and at the season of the year of which I write, wild flowers abounded, and water lilies grew in abundance. It was my habit, during our short stay at this place, when off duty, to go beyond the camp and stroll along this rivulet which possessed peculiar attractions for me. I would gather the lilies, and pluck the wild flowers, and form them into a bouquet, and keep them a day, when they would wither, and die. Late one afternoon, I was walking along the stream, I had already gathered my flowers, and completed my bouquet, and was meditative, thinking, perhaps, of home, when suddenly emerging from behind a cedar bush, which hid he from my view, I came upon Mary—the first time I had ever met her[iv].
She was sitting upon the ground, in the act of taking off her shoes. I spoke politely and would have passed on, but she in youthful glee exclaimed, “O, what a beautiful posy you have!” “See, there is a pretty water lily out there,”
continued she, “and I was just taking off my shoes to go after it!”
“Allow me to get it for you Miss, I can do it quicker than you,” said I, at the same time taking off my shoes, and wading after the lily. Having secured it—and it was a nice one—I placed it in the middle of my posey and walked ashore. Seeing my act, she looked very demure, as much as to say ”I don’t think you to keep it!”
But when I approached her and said, “Permit me Miss to present you with my bouquet and your lily combined,” her eyes danced with joy.
“Will you indeed give me this? O, it is so beautiful! I am so glad!”
“It is yours, Miss.”
“My name is Mary—May, B____” said she. “Won’t you go to the house with me and see uncle, he loves soldiers and so do I.”
(Reader allow me to remark herein that in these days, when surrounded by soldiers and unknown people, familiarity was not deemed an unpardonable sin.)
“I will accept your kind invitation,” returned I, as I sat down and put on my shoes. Having accomplished this necessary duty we started for the house, she chatting gaily about the soldiers, the birds and many natural objects, while I was intent on studying my youthful companion.
She was young and pretty, with auburn hair,
pearly teeth, and rosy cheeks, and as she in the guileless innocence of her young maidenhood, merrily expatiated on the hospitality of her uncle, I thought I had never seen one so beautiful. Her eyes were of a deep hazel, and looked into my very soul. She was dressed in a blue cashmere dress with pink bodice, while on her head she wore a jaunty hat, which formed the coronet to the waving ringlets which fell gracefully, all around her lovely neck.
We reached her home and as I had given her my name she introduced me to her uncle with a naiveté as charming as it was unaffected. I had found out during our conversation, that she was well informed for one of her youth, and my presentation to her uncle confirmed the belief that she was well-bred in the etiquette of polite society. An accomplishment, I acknowledge, I did not anticipate in one so young. Where she had obtained her education I did not then know, but months afterward I learned her whole history; it, being altogether personal, will not be related in this conversation.
The old gentleman received me kindly, as did also his wife; after the compliments of the day were passed a desultory conversation was carried on for some time which would be of no interest to relate in our story; I thought the old gentleman rather inquisitive, as to my parentage, my home, and my standing, but attributing
this to his senility, I took no umbrage, although I could feel the hot blood mount to my cheeks as I glanced at Mary during some of his random talks.
However, the evening passed pleasantly, and I took my departure, promising to call again. Mary accompanied me to the little gate that enclosed the yard, where with a merry shake of the hand I bade her good-bye, and hurried back to camp. The shades of evening were already gathering as I passed our guards, who knowing me asked no questions.
It must not be thought, O, gentle reader, that this was my last interview with Mary. I met her thrice more while at Mankin’s Woods.
On two of these occasions I walked quietly out of camp, in the afternoon, ostensibly for a stroll, but in reality to see the little maiden; on both of these trysts , I returned to the regiment long after nightfall, and being without the countersign, was obliged to run the guards, which I successfully did, as the watch was not over strict.
While encamped at this place, Corporal Dick Harrington wishing to go home, asked for a furlough, and was refused. Presuming on his standing, as the son of a judge, he took “French leave,” but was arrested at Havre de Grace while attempting to cross the Susquehanna, and sent back to headquarters.
The Colonel had his stripes taken off and condemned him to sweep camp for a week. This was a humiliating penance to poor Dick, yet he went
to work with the vim of the man he really was, and after a few days of labor, in consideration of his cheerfulness, and good behavior, the punishment was remitted.
“Strike tents! Strike tents!” was the order that went thundering along the avenues, on Sunday morning. “Where to now?” was the inquiry from hundreds of mouths. But no one knew, except the officers, knew; and rarely ever do, on these impromptu removals.
“My God!” said I to my comrade, “I must run down and see my gal! Will you take charge of my gun, I will put on my accoutrements, and be back by the time you start?”
“Yes,” said he. “Be quick.”
Away I went with the speed of a young deer, and not five minutes had elapsed from the time I left camp, until I stood beside Mary.
“Good bye Mary!” I said, my breath coming quick and hot, from my hard run,. “we are going to leave.”
“When?” she questioned.
“Now. We have orders, and the boys are striking the tents. I just ran over to bid you good bye, and must now go!”
“O, must you go? Will I ever see you again?”
“Yes dear, you will see me again! Good bye now, I cannot linger! “One kiss love!”
She turned her cheek to me, and pressed my hand, but said not a word. I have her a parting
salute and hurried back to camp. I was in time, and might have tarried an hour longer, but I did not then know that “large bodies move slowly.”
We were, after much labor and vexation got in readiness for marching; the tramp was very short, for a train of cars soon appeared from Baltimore, and took us on board.
It soon became apparent that our future occupation would be guard duty on the line of the Northern Central Rail Road. We were there distributed, between Baltimore and Parkton, with headquarters at Cockeysville. Company F, to which I belonged, and to which in the future of my narrative I shall pay more particular attention than I have in the past, was stationed at Glencoe; our commissioned officers were Captain John Gosden, First Lieutenant Thomas Oliver Ayres, and Second Lieutenant Philip Green.
Those of our readers who have carefully read the preceding part of our story, have doubtless been led to believe, that soldier life, with our regiment had many attractions; and that our lot was easy, when compared to the hardships our fellow soldiers were then experiencing, in battling with the Southern army. We appreciated our situation. And at this season of the year to be stationed in
this part of lovely Maryland was a treat which in our loftiest imagination we had not looked forward to.
Glencoe is beautifully situated: long undulating hills, covered with grassy sward, and lovely valleys, in which sparkled flowing brooks, that shimmered and glistened in the morning sun, and whose serpentine courses were interspersed with miniature cascades, adown which the water flowed with soft gurgling noise that fell upon the ear like the misty dreams of fairy land; all this combined to make Glencoe lovely; and when we add to this scenery, the beauty of the growing crops, and delicious fruits—for the devastating hand of war had not reached this section—the whole becomes a panorama scarcely ever witnessed, never excelled.
Opposite the station was a magnificent building surrounded on all sides by verandahs, and in front of which a grassy lawn extended to the railroad tracks. From the house a graveled walk extended, on one side of the lawn, to a rustic spring house within which a fountain of pure sparkling water was continually bubbling up, and running away.
We encamped, or rather we stacked our arms, and deposited our baggage, and commissary stores, on this green lawn—for the weather was so beautiful that we pitched no tents, and when it rained, we went up and stretched ourselves
on the floors of the verandahs that surrounded the building. After appropriate preliminaries, a committee was appointed to wait on the owner and inquire his name. The committee returned in due time and reported that the gentleman’s name was “Marvell.” Accordingly our camp was named “Camp Marvell.”
The people belonging at the station, on the opposite side of the way, called the old gentleman a “rebel.” but he often came to our camp—a pleasant, portly, good natured old man, and withal sick—and would stay for hours at a time, and talk pleasantly with our officers. So good and kind was he that he invited our officers to send the cooks—for we had regularly detailed cooks—to his truck patch, and select all the tomatoes, cabbages, and other vegetables they wanted for the use of the company. This we did, and lived splendidly on a vegetable diet.
But people will be suspicious, and our friends at the railroad station intimated that it was not because he loved us, he gave us vegetables, but because he thought we would take them anyway. This we would not have done, any wise man knows (?).
After our camp arrangements were attended to, our picket guards were thrown out, on three different lines, of three reliefs each. Our posts were, about, one and a quarter miles from camp.
During the day while one relief was on, the others would forage around the country; at dinner we would go to one farm house, and at supper to another, and get our meals. We would always offer to pay for our entertainment, but our entertainers would receive nothing.
I remember one night while on post on an unfrequented road, I hear the sound of horses’ hoofs on the ground, apparently coming toward me. I halted, on my beat, and faced the noise. Presently a horseman appeared, coming in a canter.
“Halt!” cried I, when he was within hailing distance. Not pulling up immediately, click, click went my gun lock, and “Halt!” I cried again. This time he came to a stand.
“Who comes there?” said I.
“Friends,” said he. “I am a gentleman, and this is a lady,” pointing to a female behind him on the horse, and whom I had not before noticed.
“I live at the farm house yonder, and have the privilege of passing within the lines. I suppose you are instructed to let us pass?”
“I think we are. Pass.”
I mention this incident to show the novel mode of travel, the Maryland farmer had in these days. For it was a novelty to me to see a gentleman riding on horseback, and a lady seated behind, with her arms around him.
Another incident I will relate: One afternoon
the unusual manners of the officers, and others, attracted my attention, and I thought “Something was up.” When we lie down after night, I did not go to sleep—in fact, I did not. Some time, about midnight I suppose, six or eight shots were fired in quick succession, in the direction of one of our picket posts. The long roll was quickly beat and our company came out pell-mell and fell into line. I acknowledge I got in the rear rank; but when the captain marched us around and “about faced” us, I was brought directly in front, that is, in front of our line of battle. Lieutenant Green came down the line and seeing me, said “D____ give me a chew of tobacco?”
I had but one chew, and thinking I should never need any more, freely gave him it.
We stood in our position for a few minutes when the train from Baltimore was heard thundering on the track. To keep the light from the locomotive [from] showing our appearance, the stentorian voice of Captain Gooden commanded, “Fall on your faces!” This evolution was performed in beautiful style by all except one man, who resolutely stood his ground and hollowed, “Blamed if I’m a-goin’ to hide! I ain’t afraid of all the rebels in Maryland!” And stand he did. I am sorry I cannot recall the name of this hero, for such bravery should not go unmentioned. We lie on our faces until the train had passed, when at the captain’s
command we arose again.
A few minutes later the tramp, tramp, tramp of a body of men was heard coming down the rail road track. When within hailing distance, Captain Gooden again called out, “Who comes there?”
“A detachment from Company I!” replied the commander. “We are trying to find out something about the firing a while ago.”
“We are now drawn up in line, “explained Captain Gosden, “and I am about to send detachments to each of my picket posts, to inquire into the matter.”
“Well, we will return to camp and report.”
Detachments were according to the captain’s orders dispatched to our several picket posts, and in one of these squads was the writer.
At each post, every man on the post had heard the firing, and according to his statement the balls had passed directly over his head. We returned to camp without finding the enemy. I afterward found out it was a false alarm, brought on by one man. I always suspected the man; and he subsequently told me, that he went out that night with two revolvers and shot them off, and was lying under the fence when the detachment going to visit the picket guard on that line passed. After it was beyond hearing, he quietly slipped back to camp.
It was generally believed that our officers were at the bottom of the affair, but they denied any knowledge of the matter. The Colonel was wroth, and had he known the officers were guilty would have had them court marshalled [sic].
After being at Glencoe a few days, asked the Captain for a furlough for twenty-four hours. He gave me a note of reference to Colonel Housefield, and a pass to Cockeysville. The Colonel gave me the required furlough, and a pass to Baltimore. I boarded the next train, and after arriving at the city of “monuments,” proceeded on foot to Mankin’s Woods. Here the First Delaware Cavalry were now encamped, many of whom I personally knew. I crossed the rivulet and went directly to the little white cottage, the home of Mary—for my object in seeking a furlough was to go to see her. She was greatly surprised at my sudden appearance, “It was so unexpected!” she exclaimed.
We talked and chatted for some time at the homestead, and while her aunt was busy with her duties of the house, we walked out to enjoy an August day in the shady grove, nearby. During this stroll many things were talked of which it is not necessary for me to rehearse, suffice it to say that arrangements were made for a correspondence between ourselves when I should return to my home. I knew my term of enlistment would soon expire, and it
would not be long before I should be in mail communication, with this little girl who was now absorbing the greater part of my mind. My visit was pleasant, but necessarily short, as the passage of time admonished me, I must leave in order to catch the train, so bidding a lingering adieu to little May, I hurried away. Passing through the woods, I stopped a few minutes to talk with my acquaintances of the cavalry, who bantered me with my appearance in that locality, and good-naturedly remarked, “That’s a good-looking gal over the brook, D____. I reached Baltimore in time, took the train and returned to camp.
While at our present station, our regiment was supplied with an assistant surgeon. Dr. Wescot was from the “Army of the Potomac” and as far as I am able to judge, an able man in his profession. Why he had left the “Army of the Potomac” was a mystery to us all, for, as we reasoned, a man of his apparent ability would be, more likely, of more service to the government in a large body of men, than in a small quantity of troops, like ourselves. But as Dr. Wescot was always full of whisky, when he could get it, we strongly surmised that whisky was the cause of his removal from the “Army of the Potomac.”
Be that as it was, Dr. Wescot was with us, and in his official capacity he visited the different companies, at their various stations. On one occasion, a little boy having been run over by the cars, had his foot crushed, and amputation became necessary. A consultation of the resident physicians was held, at which Dr. Wescot was present, and at which, it was decided that our surgeon should perform the operation. This he did, after a Catholic priest had administered the Holy Unction to the little fellow; and if any of us had had any doubts before of Dr. Wescot’s efficiency as a surgeon, they were removed by the mechanical ability he displayed in this operation.
As we were guarding a line of rail road, it was claimed by the “boys” that we had a right to ride, when, and where, we pleased without paying fare; but the officials on the trains did not see it in that light. I will not discuss the merits of this question at this distant day. The “boys,” believing in their right, would get on the train for a ride, and the conductors, believing it their duty, would put them off.
One day myself, in company with Dr. Wescot—who, by the way, was quite congenial company, and made himself familiar with the “boys,” particularly if they had money—jumped on the train to go to Parkton, a distance of nine miles.
“I can put you through,” said the doctor, “you’ll have no fare to pay while
you are with me!”
Nor did we. The Dr. stood on his official dignity, and the conductor allowed us to pass free. At Parkton the surgeon got a little “fuddled”; and when the last way train stopped at that station, he missed it. I caught it running, and being without my escort, seated myself on the outside steps of the last car. When the train stopped at a station I would jump off and mingle with the crowd, until it started again when I would get on. In this way I managed to reach Glencoe. The doctor was obliged to take the express train, which stopped at no stations between Parkton and Baltimore. When this train passed Glencoe, I saw Westcot through the window, who was sitting as upright as a statue. The next day he returned from the city.
Several days encampment at Glencoe, and our short life at that place was ended. Our term of enlistment as “emergency men,” had about expired, and orders were received one evening to return to Delaware, to be mustered out of service. The train to take us to Baltimore, had left Parkton, taking up the companies along the line, and was already at Glencoe, awaiting our pleasure. We were formed into line, and as we had been so hospitably treated by the old gentleman Marvell, our officers deemed it true courtesy to march the soldiers up to his residence, and bid him “good bye,” or make some demonstration to show him we appreciated his kindness. Accordingly, although the locomotive was “toot, tooting” for us to board the
train, we were marched to the gentleman’s residence, and gave him “three rousing cheers,” after which laudation we called on him for a speech.
“Gentlemen,” said the old man, “I cannot make a speech; but here—pointing to a pile of demijohns he had brought out—is whisky, brandy, and gin; come up and help yourselves!”
We were not loath to accept the invitation. and were marched up to the verandah, by our officers, in squads of four, and partook of the stimulants; then again, giving this model man “three cheers,” we retreated to, and boarded the train, where officers were already becoming impatient, at their delay.
We soon reached Cockeysville, the headquarters of our regiment. As we knew it would take some to get the company here, on board, many of us alighted; and having been stimulated before leaving Glencoe, we felt like another dose. Going to the hotel we commenced engineering. I went up to the bar, and producing my canteen: “I would like to have a canteen of whiskey,” said I.
“You can’t have it,” returned the vender of “rot gut,” “It is against the Colonel’s orders.”
Dr. Wescot, who was standing by, took the canteen, and presenting it to the bartender said, “Fill that canteen with whiskey!”
“It is against the colonel’s orders!” again answered the bartender.
“Never mind,” continued Wescot, “I am surgeon of this regiment, and I recommend it.”
The vender of bug juice canteen, quite reluctantly, and filled it, returning it to me.
In course of time we left Cockeysville and proceeded toward Baltimore, having but two or three other stations at which to stop. It was a pretty night and the soldiers were in the best of humor. Many of them had raised their spirits up “by pouring spirits down,” and songs, and witticisms, enlivened the ride, and along that route the evening air was resonant with hilarity, made so by the voices of returning soldiers. We arrived in Baltimore during the night, and marching to the depot of the P. W. & B. R. R. to be ready to take the train that would be for our accommodation, we bivouaced around the depot, anywhere we could until the morning.
When day dawned we were a sleepy, tired-looking set, as we arose and were seen straggling around the depot. Many of us had imbibed rather freely the night before, and felt rather the worse in consequence. After sauntering around for some time I espied Wescot approaching me. Tapping me on the shoulder, he inquired, “Got anything in your canteen?”
“No,” replied I, “every drop gone, but if you will go to a restaurant with one, I will pay the bill.”
He agreed. We went and were satisfied.
About ten o’clock that morning a train was at our disposal, on which we embarked
for Wilmington. We were going home, and if we had been absent only a short time, our hearts were, nevertheless, buoyant, and our spirits light. The landscape, as the train gently skipped over the track, presented a generous panorama, beautifully diversified as it was, with hill and dale; and after we had crossed the Susquehanna, every object along the route greeted us with welcome familiarity. We reached Wilmington and went to Camp Brandywine, in the suburbs of the city. Not being mustered out that day, we had the privilege of the evening. We returned to the city in squads, and engaged ourselves that night in visiting the many places of amusement the place offered.
Next morning we were at our several posts, and being drawn up into line, by companies, a dispute arose between two of these over some trivial matter, which came near resulting seriously. So far did the anger of each arise against the other, that Captain Hall, commanding one of the disputing companies, ordered his men to load their guns. At this stage of the proceedings the colonel ordered Company F and another company to march between the disputants and arrest them. The movement was made, and the tumult stopped, without the necessity or resorting to harsher measures. That day we were mustered out of service; and marched into Wilmington, where, at the general rendezvous for arms, we deposited our accoutrements into the keeping of Uncle Sam.
Another night in Wilmington; a bath, a change of clothing, and the enjoyments the evening brought
to us. The following day a special train was provided to carry us to our homes. Boarding this, we were hurried along down through Delaware, stopping at every station, where those who lived in that vicinity might alight. I soon reached Felton, where I left my remaining comrades, and was conveyed to Frederica, where I was warmly welcomed by my friends. And thus ended my “thirty days campaign.”
Dear reader, if the campaign, the history of which I have related, was ended, an association, or a friendship if you please, that had its origin during this campaign, had not yet reached its culmination, and in order that you may understand the finale, it is necessary that I write the brief sequel to this true narrative.
I had returned home, as I have written, but the pleasing memories that haunted my mind centered on object only—Mary; the little maid of Mankin’s Woods. Certainly I had formed many acquaintances among my comrades, friendships, long afterward held in pleasant remembrance, and had nothing of regret to look back on, yet my meeting with her, was the first scene, in the first act of a young dream, which was destined to play an important part in the after consideration of my life’s history. Do you wonder then, when I tell you that on my arrival home I immediately dispatched a letter to Mary, telling her of the event,
and many other things? Well I did, and when I now recall the contents of that letter, I am surprised at it ebullitions, and the impetuosity that must, at that time, have characterized my youthful brain. A correspondence was opened between us, that was mutually agreeable, as subsequent events have proven, and though the effusions that passed, when reviewed by a calmer mind, might have appeared like the fond ravings of a happy banalities, yet, to me they were pregnant with celestial thoughts, and are still cherished as happy memories.
I had been home, scarcely three months, when my desire to again visit the little Maryland cottage became so intense that I actually made the journey.
I arrived in Baltimore and hired a man to drive me to the scene of three months ago. Mankin’s Woods was still the rendezvous of a body of soldiers, whom I did not know, but as I was now dressed in the garb of a civilian no pass was necessary for one to cross their lines. I arrived at the home of Mary. She was in a transport of joy, at seeing me, although my visit was not unexpected. It was lovely weather, and the four days I spent with her, who I must now call my love, was one round of unalloyed pleasure, made doubly so by the attentive care, and encouragement extended to one by the “old folks.” Each day we would wander through the woods or along the little rivulet, heretofore related to, and although the November frost had nipped
the flowers, it had also changed the remaining foliage into variegations of crimson and gold, presenting a kaleidoscopic view that is seldom witnessed anywhere but in country life. We enjoyed these rambles; and if the conversations of our happy selves on these occasions could be reduced to print, they would present a conglomeration of ideas only indulged in happy lovers. At the expiration of my allotted stay I again took leave of Mary, this time, however, with feelings far different than I had parted with her at other times. Our promises were made and during our present intercourse our hopes for the future had been discussed and our plans for life partly mapped out; and our temporary grief at our present separation was tempered by the anticipation of future bliss.
I had, heretofore, no definite course in life marked out, but on my arrival home, I diligently set myself at work to establish on a firm basis a business that should bring me a competence and provide for the comfort of my intended.
November waxed and waned, December with its snows and ice, came and passed away, January with its chilling winds and uncomfortable blast, inaugurated a new year, February followed hard on its predecessor, and found me again in the little cottage, by the rivulet; and on the morning of February the 24th, 1865, the Baltimore Sun contained the following notice, the real names being omitted:
D ____, M____. On Tuesday, Feb. 23rd, 1865 at the residence of her uncle, at Mankin’s Woods, near this city, by Rev. R. H. Nemo, Miss Mary ___, & Mr. D___ ____, of Delaware
Twenty-five years have passed since the events I have records, and with them many of the characters who have figured in our story: Captain Gosden has long since gone to his account, Lieutenant Thomas G. Ayres, as has been already stated, is the presiding Elder of Salisbury District, of the Wilmington M. E. Conference. The short and fair young life of Lieutenant Green is finished, the gifted and talented Dick Harrington sleeps beneath the sod, near his native capital; Dr. Wescot I never saw again. The others who have been silent and unimportant actors in this narrative, are scattered over the various States of the Union, above or beneath its turf; the writer should, barring affliction, be at the zenith of his life’s story; the beautiful May of 1865 has become a matron of forty-one years, the roses have faded from her cheeks, and in their place now shines the permanent beauty of mature womanhood; her deep hazel eyes still retain their piercing glance, and in them yet sparkles the fire of girlhood; her auburn hair is not yet streaked with silver, and falls in graceful clusters over a fair and noble brow;
her form, once so lithe, is now become […], and she appears younger than she is.
Around her cluster eight children, three of whom have passed to women’s and man’s estate, while the remainder are bright little cherubs, happy in their lovely innocence.
We often sit of evenings, after the children have retired, and talk of the days of our early love, and the reminiscences are pleasant and agreeable, and while others may have cause to curse the war, I bless the day I started on a “thirty day’s campaign,” and first met Mary, the little maid of Mankin’s Woods.
D. A. Conner
Links to scanned images of the final version of the manuscript:
[i] Richard Harrington (1847 – 1884), born in Dover, DE, was considered by many to be a fine lawyer and a brilliant orator. He spent a number of years in the District of Columbia as an attorney and advocate, and made his reputation as an orator there. He returned to Dover in 1875 to practice law, and entered into Delaware state politics. He was appointed chairman of the Republican State Central Committee of Delaware in 1882.
[ii] More accurately called a toke-down rifle, this was a .22 caliber repeating rifle.
[iii] Sennecharib, an Assyrian king, laid siege to Jerusalem in the 7th century BCE, and according to the Old Testament, his army was destroyed by divine intervention. Schoolchildren in the 19th century were required to memorize a poem by Lord Byron that related this story.
[iv] The underlining is by DAC