LETTER COLLECTION—SURGEON BENJAMIN ROHRER, 10TH PA RESERVE REGIMENT (39TH PA INFANTRY)—IDA ROHRER, “DAUGHTER OF THE REGIMENT”

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Consisting of nine letters dating between August 1, 1861 and May 3, 1863. Includes four sent by Surgeon Rohrer to his wife and daughter Ida; two received by Rohrer from his former regimental colonel and a Pennsylvania Militia Surgeon General; two sent to his daughter by an uncle and the wife of a fellow officer of the 10th Pennsylvania. Plus one from Rohrer’s father to his brother James Rohrer, soon to join the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves of the eve of Gettysburg.

All letters exhibit fold-marks. Else vg and entirely legible.  NOTE:  The ambrotype and CDV shown below DO NOT accompany the letters (see below).

Benjamin Rohrer was mustered as a surgeon into the field and staff of the 10th Pennsylvania Reserves (39th PA Infantry), 6/26/1861. He received a post-war promotion to Lieut. Colonel by Brevet, but was mustered out with his regiment, 6/11/1864.

The 10th Pennsylvania reserves was mustered near Pittsburg, June-July 1861. Posted at Tennally Town, MD, through the spring of 1862, the unit was attached to the Army of Potomac and participated in all major battles and campaigns from McClellan’s Seven Days before Richmond through North Anna. Leaving the line May, 31, 1864, just before Cold Harbor. Mustered out 6/11/1864.  During service it lost 160 killed and mortally wounded and 47 to disease for a total of 207.

Letters follow chronologically from Surgeon Rohrer’s first undated letter to Daughter Ida, whom became known as the “Daughter of the Regiment” after her visit with her mother to their Washington in 1861.

“My dear Daughter…I am always glad to see a letter from Mamma & you, but I want you to be more careful in writing. Mamma must give you a governor & then try to write neat & plain. Your last letter was not written as well as some others. I am glad that you have found nice little friends for playmates. You must be kind to them & never quarrel, you are getting older now and must behave like a lady. You are nearly as old as Aunt Carrie was when she first came to Columbia, nine years old, why you will soon be a big girl—so you were riding a donkey, never mind when the war is over I will get you a nice little pony to ride. I would like to have some of your strawberries, but most wish for is good Bread. I have not had a bit for six weeks, nothing but hard tack. / Good bye daughter write often to your papa.

**Rohrer’s letter to his wife, dated “August 1. 1861,”in which he discounts the danger of her coming to Washington in the wake the hysteria prompted by the earlier Union defeat at Bull Run

“Last evening I recd a letter from you as well as Pap. He seems to think would be running a risk in coming to Washington, if he judges from the Phila papers he is right, but there is no ground for it, the fact is this intense excitement is kept up by papers published a thousand mile from the scene of action.

We apprehend no danger whatever from an attack from the Reels, they are not so foolish as to commit such a suicidal act. Washington is impregnable at this time with near one hundred thousand men in and around, at least we think so and sleep as sound in our tents as if we were in China. Co. Baker’s Regiment is quartered nearly opposite our across the Bladensburg road, you know Will Fry is in it. He called to see me yesterday he looks well and is now the Col Baker’s orderly or messenger.

Bastruff’s line on a hill immediately back of Baker’s regiment. I called there last evening found them all well and glad to see somebody they new They have an elegant view of the city and along the Potomac down to Alexandria.

John Rohrer he is about 19 years old calls to spend a few hours every day yesterday his mother sent me a glass of plum preserves also a glass pickels a great luxury these times.

I have a great deal to tell you but I will wait until I see you, if you have not already started, do so on Monday morning and you will reach Washington at 5 o’clock in the afternoon where I will meet you—now remember if you receive this write immediately and leave Phila on Monday next so as to reach Washington in the afternoon. I believe they do not change cars between Phila & Washington. As to Ida you can use your own judgment in bringing her along—I would very much like to see her however I guess you had better bring her. Give all my love to all. Accept a great share from your affectionate husband B.R.”

**In this letter, dated “Camp near Harrison’s Landing, July 25, 1862, Roher informs wife of the general condition of the army in the wake of McClellan’s devastating defeat in his !862 Peninsula Campaign, making no bones about his disgust with slackers.

“…We have a fine view of the review ground from our tent…They commenced on Tuesday. Gen Sumner on Wednesday, Gen. Heintzelman, yesterday, Genl. Franklin & today the Fighting Corps of Genl Porter is out. Each corps has from 35 to 40 regiments & looking over the list when in line there is a perceptible difference some from a line twice as long as others the short ones having been in a number of Battles whilst the others escaped for instance in our Brigade the 6th Regt was left hear the White House & of course didn’t lose a man. Dr. Bowers regrets very much the fires circumstances. He say he would give 1000 dollars to have been there. It will be period in our history and of the world history, as there has never been anything like it on record.  I meant Dr. White of Delaware , one of the surgeons who remained behind & was taken prisoner.  He says there were more of our surgeons left than were of any use, as they had no instruments & very little medicine. He thinks many stayed back to get a little notoriety as they did nothing at all. We brought nearly all of our along, and those that were left got along very well. Even Capt. Adams came to life again. He passed our place last Saturday in the Boat & sent a note up stating that he was getting better & would even join us again. The entered near the nipple & came out at the side of the spine and of necessity should have proved fatal. But I now think that it struck a rib & followed it around the spine.

Lt. Elder has been sick for nearly three weeks and as he was laid up all last fall I advise him to resign which he did & is now on the way home. He is a little hysterical when unwell & I was glad to get rid of him. The chaplain too has sent in his papers & had them approved he went along with Elder, not much loss to the regiment—in fact the Army is fast getting rid of all excessiveness. As long as we were Sunday soldiering all these outside arrangements were very desirable, but now as we are in a sickly climate, deprived of all comforts & nothing but hard work before us—those whose Patriotism was only skin deep sweated it out running from Mechanicsville to Harrison’s Landing. Poor miserable specimens of humanity—they mope about camp—whining and telling of their suffering while they succeed in getting the resignation accepted when they become convalescent all of a sudden We have lost Major Smith, chaplain, Quarter Master, Elder, Capt. Partridge, Lt. Steward, Lt. Douglas & Lt. Coleman all within ten days. There may be one or two more in the regiment who desire to located farther north & by so doing benefit the service. You need not have sent your letter to Ab as I have written nearly the same to him—on the same day—the only letter I did write.

I would like to get home if it were but for a day to see how [you} look. Are you getting gray? I am. I expect by the time the war is over to return with _____& a flowing white head. Give my love to all, many kisses for daughter & yourself & love undivided. Ever your affectionate husband. B.R.

**

In this letter, dated “July 25, 1862" former 10th PA regimental commander, Colonel John Swayze McCalmont, writes to Surgeon Rohrer from his home in Franklin, PA. He commanded the Regt. from 6/29/1861 to 5/9/1862, and writes in response to a letter received the surgeon following the 7 days battles for Richmond:

“Your letter of the 9th was a long time on its way. I write at the earliest moment. The hardships of the regiment has endured and the severe fighting it has done since I left are wonderful, and for which the names of all engaged who have done their duty, deserve to be placed forever on the roll of fame.

I suppose the weary days cannot even be imagined by those who took no part in them. I am glad you are over them safe for I do not believe you will have anything like them again. Keep in good heart. I think it will soon be over, so that you will rest on less precarious ground, even if the contest should not be ended. But it seems as I had supposed that the troops will be in for it all summer and fall without the prospect of release. Were Richmond taken it would not be so hard for them. I suppose that event will not take place for a month or so. It seems to me likely that the Rebels will evacuate it, but not without some struggle. The threatening aspects of Pope’s command may compel them to send some of their force toward Gordonsville.

McClellan was not reinforced in time and now is beginning to be developed the result of that policy which required to do everything without effective and spirited cooperation. I think he will not lose by it in reputation. Think it is evident that the public opinion is very uncertain until the end and even then I see that of the officers you only lost poor Gaither Adams & those having turned up at Richmond. Adams wound is in the chest & hope it will not disable him and that he may soon recover. I am glad that all the reports speak so favorably of the conduct of the 10th.  I hope it behaved as well as any other regiment. It is capable of doing great things if its officers all do their daily duties with vigor. Some of the officers of the 10th receive from the men very great praise and I have also seen their merits mentioned in the report of Maj. Stone which has bee published. But I have not the means of knowing whether Maj Stone was observant of the conduct of the whole regiment. Some parts of it do not appear as yet very clear. The only way to have correctly suppose was for one to have been there and taken part and then it would appeared very distinct. I am not strong yet doctor. My head aches return every few days and I cannot venture much in the sun even with a straw hat…

The people are still excited about the war. They require every soldier to do his duty, but they don’t seem to comprehend their own duties so well. However, they are doing pretty well here. This county will raise its quota of one company in a few days without bounty. I think two companies will be raised. Since I have come home my brother Alfred has a great notion of trying his hand and I suppose will soon be into it. In many of the counties I think they will have to draft. My best respects to McKinney, McGuire and others inquired. Yours very truly, John S. McCalmont.

Note: The McKinney referred to is Asst. regimental surgeon David McKinney, who was commissioned 6/29/ 1861, and was promoted to Surgeon and transferred to the 134th Regiment.

**

In this letter, dated “Aug. 1, 1862“, Uncle Atlee” writes to Surgeon Rohrer’s nine year old daughter Ida, “Daughter of the [10th PA Reserves]

 

Regiment.”

“Dear Ida…As Grandma was not here I read your letter and though I would answer right away. I was wishing you would come along with Grandma to Columbia so that I could see you, your friends Lilly Fry, Annie Miller and other often ask about you and wonder when you are coming to see them. I think your photographs are very good, tell you mamma she forgot Myer’s  she sent 2 to each of the ret and forgot them. Tell her to send 2 to me and I will give them, I guess you miss Aunt Sallie and Carrie  but I think Aunt Annie can keep you straight, much love and many kisses, I remain you uncle Atlee.”

**

In this letter, dated, “Near Lexington, Kentucky / August 15, 1862 H.T. Daniels, the wife of Captain Charles McDaniels (later breveted to Major) 10th PA Reserve Infantry, writes to Surgeon Rohrer’s nine year old daughter Ida, “The Daughter of the Regiment.”

“My darling little friend Ida….You cannot judge of my surprise and delight upon opening one of Mr. McDaniel’s letters not long ago to find you well remembered features looking me in the face & that of your dear Mother for very dear you both rendered yourself to me in one short sojourn together at old Father Marshalls, your kindness to me has been & ever will be remembered & I felt so much gratified, more than you can image, to  think you still remember me & have been kind enough to send me your photographs both of which I prize so highly, in return I send you one of mine which is rather an indifferent one, but it is the best I have just now. I often wish I could have you both with right now in my Kentucky home in the absence of our loved ones. I think I could the time pass pleasantly to you both in seeing out beautiful country. I wish you would write to me, dear Ida, nothing would give me more pleasure to hear from you & your Ma. I hear from your PA through Mr. McDaniels  & shall never feel grateful enough to him for his kindness to my husband.

Have got another ____ Piggie yet? As you used to call it, I often think of you feeding it.  I wish you could have some of our prettier white ones that are flying around. Present my kindest love & a kiss to your dear Ma & also accept one for yourself dear Ida. It is a poor way to send them on paper, isn’t it? But is  the best we can do now, so good bye won’t you please write to me some time. How is your Aunt Carrie. I feel as though I new them all from hearing you talk so much about them. I must say good by one more. Believe  me ever / your affectionate friend / H.T. McDaniel.

 

**

In this letter, dated from the “Battle Field near Sharpsburg, Sept. 23rd 1862,” Rohrer writes his wife of his return to his regiment after ten days absence, having missed the South Mountain fight and the Battle of Antietam. He advises her to use her own judgment in regard to her affairs.

“I read your last letter on my return to the Regt. I came here last evening after being away ten days. The boys are all cheerful and anxious to move forward. Major Mahon has bee with me all night. Knowles & Will Nike were here they belong to the militia and came down from Hagerstown. In regard to your affairs just you use your own judgement in the matter you know better what is right than I do. I of course expect to pay your boarding. Make any presents to mother or girls you deem proper. I leave all those things in your hands. I write in haste & enclose a letter to Ida from Mrs. McDaniels, the enveloped is ____. I got it out of a haversack. In haste, your affectionate husband. B.R. / Kisses to daughter & love to all.

**

In this letter, dated “Hd Qrs PA Militia / Hospital Department / Harrisburg Oct 17/62”, PA Surgeon General writes Doctor Rohrer to assure him of his support of his plan of having the Pennsylvania sick and wounded transferred to state authority:

“…I regard to the request made before I left the Division be assured I have not forgotten you. But I have no authority at present in the matter. The Governor is trying to have the Pennsylvania sick 7 wounded transferred to the state. Should this be done an opportunity may offier to aid you in your object. In that case it will my pleasure to second your endeavors. Keep you eye open for the chance & when you see how the thing is determined “govern yourself accordingly.” / Sincerely your friend / Jas. King / Surg. Genl.”

**

In this letter, dated “Phila May 3rd 1863”, Surgeon Rohrer’s father, W.S. Rohrer, writes reprovingly to his “black sheep” son, James M. Rohrer, Surgeon Rohrer’s younger brother. Two month later This James Rohrer would in enlist as a Sergeant in the 10th PA Reserve Regt., 1 July 1863 [Gettysburg] and would be mustered out a month later, 8/2/1863. He father enjoins him to “be obedient to Benjamin as I have great confidence in his judgement.”

“My dear Son….I rec’d you letter dated e April 18th but have been under pressure by professional business to give it nay attention before this evening. Nothing would rejoice me more than to accede to your request if I could, from you past conduct gave any assurance that your present promises would be faithfully fulfilled. But you know, as well as I do, that my confidence has been so repeatedly abused that it will require the closes devotion to your profession and the studied regard honesty, integrity to overcome the unfavorable impressions that your past course has produced. Until that day arrives, you must remain a barrier to our happiness & a thorn to our sides. This blessed result blessed 2 of us and thrice blessed to yourself—cannot arise from more promises but must be the offspring of good acts—of a persistent, determined, undeviating, untiring course of excellent personal and professional conduct. Come to us with a _____ thus chastened and verified and will receive you with open arms and forget the past.

With these consideration both your mother & myself think it best for you to remain where you are & be mustered into . To begin the study of medicine and go regularly through every branch critically until you master it. You have the ability, all you want is the application. As to returning to Phila. For the purpose of prosecuting your studies, that is out of the question. I am satisfied from past experience that could amount to nothing. Already years of valuable time and golden opportunities have been more than wasted & I do not want to have a repetition  of this under my own eyes, which I am satisfied would be the case were you here. I had hopes ere this to have had your assistance—but my plans have all bee frustrated and I fear unless you commence a new life that age infirmity will be upon me before that desirable result can be accomplished.

Give you kind regards to Benjamin & tell I would pleased to have a letter from him. Be obedient to Benjamin as I have great confidence in his judgment& I know that he will deal justly with you. With the hope that the good Lord will guide and & protect you & return you to us a boy the example of industry & integrity, I remain as ever your affectionate father / W.S. R.

We have included in the photos below, a digital photo of a pair of images previously sold by The Horse Soldier which were part of the Ray Richey image collection; the first is a quarter-plate ambrotype of Dr. Rohrer in uniform with his daughter Ida. The Dr. has his right arm around his daughter’s waist. She is standing beside him on a low platform so her height almost equals his. She wears a plaid dress with white collar and is clutching a doll to her chest. With the image was a piece of paper with an old ink inscription that reads “DR. BENJ. ROHRER + DAUGHTER IDA 1860 AGED 10. KNOWN AS DAUGHTER OF HIS REGT.”

The second image is a CDV of Dr. Rohrer by himself.  Bottom of the mount has a period ink inscription that reads “B. ROHRER SURGEON 10TH REGIMENT P.R.V.C.”  Reverse has no photographer’s imprint but does have a period pencil inscription that reads “B. ROHRER CAMP PIERPONT 1862. POPPA.”

These images do not accompany the letters – we thought you would appreciate seeing them.

 

Solid set of wartime correspondence of a Surgeon of the 10th PA Reserves and his family.  In blue plastic folder, accompanied by letter transcripts.  All letters in protective sleeves.   [JP] [ph:L]

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