Finding History in the Corners

I got in to history because of my great grandfather William F. Osborn’s Civil War journals. He was an assistant surgeon with the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry and was, for a few days, a prisoner under Confederate guard during the Battle of Gettysburg. My grandfather, his son, transcribed them sometimes in the 1940s and 50s. But I got to hold the real ones when I was seven.

Not long ago, I studied the journals more closely and discovered a wealth of information written on the end papers and sometimes upside down in the corners. A good historian always looked closer. In one journal from 1864 he laid out the order of how the 11th Pennsylvania Volunteers lined up in the end papers of the front. Being a civilian in life before the war, he had to figure it out.

Right of Reg D. I. E. C. A. K. H. B. F. G. Left of Reg.

On the end papers on the back, he wrote down the officers with each company.

They were:

A Noble Capt Amstrong 1st Lieu

B Haines capt Stran Phillips

C Cap Shawl 1 L 2

D Capt Overmine (?) 1st L Hall 2 More

E Piper Hammond Briggs

F Chalfant Anderson McCutchin

Perhaps someone out there recognizes the names. Historical research is like peeling an onion or better a collection of dots that eventually connect


2 thoughts on “Finding History in the Corners

  1. I don’t know any of the names but I know about how regiments were organized. The regiments started with about 1,000 men divided into ten (sometimes twelve) companies. Each company had a captain, one first lieutenant, and one second lieutenant. These were both jobs and ranks and the early volunteer regiments elected officers and sergeants. I am puzzled at why the regiment lined up in that order. Perhaps it was just the way the colonel wanted.

    Regiments were commanded commanded by a colonel who was assisted by a lieutenant colonel and a major. If they broke the regiment up into battalions (two or more companies), each of them might command a battalion.

    In practice during the Civil War, many jobs were vacant as officers and sergeants fell in battle or to sickness, or were seconded to staff jobs at higher headquarters.

    Wikipedia has a bio of the regiment.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I thought it was interesting how WF (as we call him) wrote out the order in his little pocket journal. He was a civilian doctor, after all, signed up into his state’s regiment. It’s a though the list is there to remind him how a regiment laid out. The son of a Presbyterian minister it must have been something to step into army order or disorder as he sometimes writes of.

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