Boredom & Illness
Theodore Chase still found a way to serve his regiment in spite of missing their greatest battle
Someone once said that war is long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of sheer terror.
For Theodore Chase, it was all boredom.
Chase enlisted in what would become the 151st Pennsylvania for nine months service in 1862 during the American Civil War.
He entered the regiment as a Second Lieutenant and kept a detailed diary of his time in the Union Army. The Warren County Historical Society maintains that diary, as well as letters written home and numerous personal affects from his service and his post-war life.
The diary tells of the enticement of enlisting, the boredom of camp life and the strains of time spent in an Army hospital.
Chase couldn’t have known it when he enlisted: Though he wasn’t present at the major battles the 151st was a part of – Chancellorsville and Gettysburg – he still found a way to serve: Caring for the men of his company in the wake of the bloodiest battle of the war.
All italics are his words.
¯ Oct. 23, 1862: Left Warren on the 7.30 train. Arrived at Erie at 10.30. Left at 2 p.m. Arrived Cleveland at 5.50. Changed cars. Left at 6.05.
¯ Oct. 25. Got to Harrisburg at 6 o’clock this morning – went to Camp Curtin, drew tents, blankets and cooking utensils and were ‘Soldiering in good style at dark. Boys all feeling well.”
Company F of the 151st was recruited entirely from Warren County.
“We staid at Harrisburgh till November 26th, during which time we drilled and were organized into a Regiment, known as the 151st RPV (Reserve Pennsylvania Volunteers), 2nd in lieu of the draft.”
The 151st then proceeded to Baltimore and then to Washington and remained there until Dec. 3, when the men marched to Alexandria and then via rail to Union Mills. “(G)ot there at 4 o’c, – laid on the ground all night – very cold and frosty.”
“Staid here doing picket duty on the Bull Run till the 13th day of February 1863 when we left for the Army of the Potomac. Got there on the 16th of the same month.”
¯ Jan. 1. 1863: “Weather clear and beautiful – but health not very good. Buried John G. Gregory of Co. F who died yesterday, this being the frist man lost from this company. This is all we did today – very quiet on Bull Run.”
A second man died on Jan. 11 – Peter Miller “who died yesterday with measles, the 2nd man from this company – and a fine man too.”
Jan. 13: “Great excitement along the line this morning. Private Dan Weed was shot through the leg by a Reb from the opposite of the run. He escaped unseen.”
Jan. 25: His first mention of home – “Morning warn & foggy. No preaching today. Spent my time thinking of home and writing letters to my friends.”
Six inches of snow fell on Jan. 28 but much thaw noted on Jan. 31 on a day he described as “lonesome.”
Feb. 4: “Cold high wind all night – continues so through the day. Done nothing but hate myself all day.”
Feb. 8: Chase notes “MUD KNEE DEEP” (capitals in original).
On February 13, the 151st went on the move.
Their first day with the Army of the Potomac?
¯ Feb. 17: “Got up with two inches of snow on us. Pitched tents in a corn field – very muddy. Snow four inches deep at night. Everything quite comfort – able at dark. All tired and hungry. Health very good. Just something of soldiering.”
As the calendar flipped to March, Chase was pleased.
¯Feb. 28: “Day extremely nice and pleasant. Done nothing today. Glad that I can count Feb’y among the things that were all quiet. Health good. Farewell Feb’y.”
The regiment remained At Aquia Creek on the Army’s Rappahannock line keeping provost duty, essentially functioning as MPs.
That meant there was much time spent doing absolutely nothing.
Chase laments that at times in his diary in Feb. and March.
On March 29, he went with fellow officers “and got our Ambrotypes,” a form of photography. “Health middling.”
An opportunity to see President Lincoln didn’t boost his spirits.
¯ Apr. 9: “Morning clear and pleasant. 1st Corps inspected by President Lincoln & Gen’l Hooker & staff. Went to it. Found it as I always thought – a great nuisance, a great cry & no wool. Ought to be annihilated. Got back to camp at 3 o’clock, tired and hungry, all of us. Don’t think I’ll do again – if I can get out of it. Saw Mrs. Lincoln and the boy, about 10 years old.”