In the words of the soldiers themselves

85thCover1_Vol1As much as possible, I wanted the men of the 85th Pennsylvania to tell their story in their own words. For this reason, this book includes quotations from 50 men in the regiment. As the war progressed, men from the regiment were killed or went home, reducing their overall size as well as the number of potential sources. (This was especially true in the cases of Lieutenant Colonel Henry A. Purviance and Private Robert Roddy, newspapermen in the 85th Pennsylvania who wrote detailed accounts for readers back home during the first two years of the war). I therefore turned to accounts written by men from their brigade or division. I also quote from Confederate soldiers, the Official Records, and period newspapers. The stories of the men in regiments with whom the fought and the stories of the men they fought against help to tell the story of the 85th Pennsylvania.

The quotations included by the author are often paragraph size or larger. Using large blocks of quotations is normally not recommended in writing history. Despite recommendations to use shorter quotations, I have chosen to quote the men in more substantial segments because I believe it adds context to their experiences. Furthermore, I like the way the soldiers of that era expressed themselves with the written word.

This narrative tries to follow the soldiers’ stories as they lived and tried to survive the war. For example, many men recorded their thoughts about Confederate land mines left in the road as they retreated from Williamsburg, Virginia in 1862. Not many men were wounded by these “torpedoes,” including none in the 85th Pennsylvania. Nonetheless, the author included a half dozen or more stories of the soldier’s reactions to these “infernal machines” to supply the reader varying perspectives from the men as they trudged up the Virginia peninsula. The author often has included multiple accounts of the same event, such as how Fort Wagner (South Carolina) was booby-trapped by Confederates just before their departure in September of 1863.

In each chapter concerning a battle or campaign, the author will provide an overview of the event, and then go back and tell the story using the words of the participants.

Although the 85th Pennsylvania was not involved in turning points events such as Antietam, Fredericksburg, or Vicksburg, they nonetheless had many fascinating experiences. Some of them helped Professor Thaddeus Lowe launch his celebrated observation balloon in 1862 during the Peninsula Campaign. Others in the regiment were cared for by Clara Barton, the war’s most famous nurse. They were also stationed with African American troops in Charleston and were in reserve for the famed assault on Fort Wagner in 1863 led by the 54th Massachusetts. They experienced trench warfare at both Charleston and around Petersburg. Some, including, Stephen Clendaniel, were involved in a large exchange of prisoners in 1864. And finally, some others including John Clendaniel were in the front lines for the surrender of Lee’s army on April 9, 1965 at Appomattox.

This book is meant as a tribute to John Clendaniel, Stephen Clendaniel, and the rest of that group of a thousand or so western Pennsylvania farm boys who served their nation and their cause with determination and honor.

Dan Clendaniel

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For more information about the 85th Pennsylvania, visit Dan’s blog, The 85th Pennsylvania in the Civil War.

Monongahela Books: an independent publishing company

Longbuilding_narrow Monongahela Books is an independent publishing company located in Morgantown, West Virginia. It is situated in a 19th-century storefront overlooking the Monongahela River in a ghostly district of town that vanished a good many years ago. You can still get a glimpse of it, though, on certain turn-of-the-century postcards that turn up now and again in flea-markets and junk shops.

We are easier to find on the Web, at MonongahelaBooks.com. We specialize in books of local history, military history and regional literature. Our titles include books on the 18th century frontier, the Civil War, the First World War and the Great Depression.

Our literary offerings include new titles by Jared Carter, Dana Gioia, Peter Whitfield, BJ Omanson and the only book-length study of the recently rediscovered poet of the First World War, John Allan Wyeth.

Monongahela Books also carries an extensive selection of used books, mostly on American history. You are welcome to peruse our titles at leisure in our Used Book Annex.

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