Sunday, December 16, 2012


Seaman Charles Leibig


Charles Leibig, Member of a tanker crew, Arrived in Norfolk after sinking. Says men of submarine spoke to them in German.

Norfolk Jan. 31, 1942: Thirty survivors of the the Tanker Rochester told today how a yellow trimmed light blue German submarine sank their vessel with torpedoes and shells at short range.
Three of their shipmates, in the engine room at the time of the attack apparently were lost. The survivors escaped in two life boats.  One of the life boats approached so close to the Axis raider that an oarsman had to take his oar from its lock and fend the off from the submarine.
The 6,836 ton Socony-Vacuum tanker was attacked about noon yesterday while enroute empty from New York to Corpus Christi, Texas, The survivors escaped in two life boats when they launched after the submarine fired fired a torpedo and then rose to the surface and began firing shells.
They were brought to shore by a naval vessel. After more than four hours afloat. In their lifeboats.
The Rochester was the 11th merchant ship sunk and the 10th attacked by German submarine prowling the Atlantic coast, seemingly with tankers as their primary objective. The submarines have been reported from Nova Scotia to Florida.
Survivors stated the first torpedo hit near the Rochester’s propeller then circled the ship and sent in another torpedo. The tanker sanl about an hour and a half after the attack started.
T.C. Watts of Elizabeth N.J. chief cook, ruefully remarked that “Davy Jones got a good dinner” because he was preparing dinner when the first torpedo landed and “soup, bread, meat and coffee were sprayed al over the place.
Charles Leibig, a seaman from Pottsville, said the submarine was not more than 50 feet away when it began shelling from the surface.
“We could smell the gun powder and hear the gunners talking,” he said.
In trying to get away we pulled toward the sub and at the same time the sub was approaching us. We got so close that one man pulled out his oar out of the lock, struck it against the side of the sub and pushed away.
“The sub was light blue, trimmed in yellow, the men spoke to us in German.”
Floyd W. May, of Galveston Texas a seaman explained that it took about fifteen minutes to abandon ship. He said he was in the number two lifeboat and that the boat, “stayed near the sinking ship top see if the men in the engine room would ever come up. The submarine also stayed around for 30 minutes, all the time on the surface with the men out on deck., “ he said.” They made no attempt to get any closer to us. As a matter of fact they seemed to pay no attention to us.. We saw no machine guns.:”
A.D. Lewis, seaman from Beaumont. Tx. Said “I was knocked out of my bunk by the first torpedo. He said he went up on deck and, deciding he had time, ran to the forecastle for his clothes and papers. When he returned he said the first life boat already had been lowered, “but I made it in the second boat.”

Charles Leibig enlisted in the Navy 1939.


At 18.05 hours on 30 Jan, 1942, the unescorted and unarmed Rochester(Master Alden S. Clark) was hit by one stern torpedo from U-106 while steaming on a zigzag course at 10.4 knots about 85 miles east of the Chesapeake Lightship. One torpedo struck aft in the engine room, killed one officer and two crewmen on watch below, destroyed the engines and communications and damaged the rudder and propeller. The survivors among the eight officers and 27 crewmen abandoned ship in two lifeboats when the U-boat surfaced nearby. The Germans waited until both boats were clear of the tanker to finish her off with the deck gun, but it jammed after firing eight rounds from about 500 yards. At 18.38 hours, a coup de grĂ¢ce was fired that hit amidships on the starboard side. The tanker immediately developed a list to starboard and sank after one hour.
The Samuel Q. Brown had observed the attack and sent radio messages that forced the U-boat to leave the area. The survivors were picked up after three hours by USS Roe (DD 418) off the Virginia Capes and landed in Norfolk the next morning. They had been spotted by an aircraft that dropped smoke bombs to lead the destroyer to them. One fireman died from burns on 14 February.

Monday, December 10, 2012


Coaldale Marine the first Marine killed in Action in World War ll.

Wake Island was an American outpost in the central Pacific. Wake is a coral atoll, made up of three islands. Wake Island itself is the largest, and forms two sides of a triangle. Peale Island and Wilkes Island extend the two arms of Wake Island. The three islands are tiny – only 2.5 square miles in area, but their location in the central Pacific gave them a strategic significance far beyond their size. The Marshal Islands to the south and most of the Marianas islands to the west had been in Japanese hands since the First World War, when they seized them from the Germans.
Wake Island was an American outpost in the central Pacific. Wake is a coral atoll, made up of three islands. Wake Island itself is the largest, and forms two sides of a triangle. Peale Island and Wilkes Island extend the two arms of Wake Island. The three islands are tiny – only 2.5 square miles in area, but their location in the central Pacific gave them a strategic significance far beyond their size. The Marshal Islands to the south and most of the Marianas islands to the west had been in Japanese hands since the First World War, when they seized them from the Germans.

On December 8th, 1941 between 20 and 30 twin engine bombers in the opening attack on Wake Island, caught 12 planes on the ground  and put eight out of action and killed 25 Marines and some civilians.  Among those Marines was Pvt. John Katchak from Coaldale, Schuylkill County.
John joined the Marines in 1941 and was stationed at Wake Island.

On December 9, there were two more raids by planes which also carried incendiaries, but due to vigorous plane and anti aircraft fire damage was less severe than on the 8th.

A week before Christmas Katchaks parents received the telegram telling them that their son was killed in action on the attack on Wake Island.

From the book entitled, “Wake Island” by James P.S. Devereux  I take the account of burying private John Katchak, USMC.

Private John Katchak
Marine Detachment
First Defense Battalion, FMF , Wake Island

One grave was apart from the others . It was in the middle of Barningers’s battery position. It held the body if the first man of the First Marine Defense Battalion killed in action. In the air attack of December 9, a bomb had landed on the lip of the foxhole, killing him instantly. All they could do was make his foxhole his grave.
They made a small mound and pit some chunks of coral in on it. They didn’t have a book with the burial service in it, but they gathered around the grave. The lieutenant said they would say the Lord’s prayer for his soul. Some said the catholic version, some said the protestant version and some only moved their lips when they came to the parts they were npt sure of.. Then they went back to work. That was how they buried Private John Katchak, of Coaldale, Penna. Who was nineteen years old. Lieutenant Barninger, an unsentimental young man, noted in the battery journal: “ His grave in the middle of the battery position, serves as continuous reminder of the task before us, and a source of inspiration to us all.”




On December 16, 1941 the Pottsville Republican reported that the parents of Marine Corps Major Lither Brown stationed with the USMC in China, is a prisoner of war at Tientsin China. In an earlier letter from their son in October prepared them for developments which followed, as he said then that the Marines were in constant surveillance of the Japanese.
Major Brown has been in China for the past five years and is the author of the U.S. marines Handbook. Major Brown is a graduate of Pottsville High School Class of 1917.

“Major Brown was known by all Marines as “Handbook Brown,” in recognition of his authorship of the “Handbook for Marines,” the fore-runner of today’s “Guidebook for Marines,” the latest edition of which I understand is still a mandatory purchase for all Marines.  Major Brown, having laid down a few rules himself for Marines to follow, was a stickler for regulations.  If it wasn’t written down somewhere, said Major Brown, you can’t do it.  The Japanese military bureaucracy, operating under exactly the same ground rules, had no defense against this argument.  In retrospect, I think that Major Brown had a great time instructing the Japanese on how to properly run a prison camp.”
By Robert E. Winslow
Sergeant Major, USMC (Retired) (1939-1970)

The Following account of the capture of the China Marines is from the History of the US Marine Corps in WW 2.

On 8 December 1941 (Manila Time) ,
Japanese forces took their first Marine
prisoners of war—the officers and men
of the American Embassy Guard, Peiping,
and of the Marine Legation Guard,
Tientsin. A detail of 22 men from the
Tientsin detachment was captured while
stockpiling supplies at the Chingwangtao docks
in anticipation of an immediate evacuation.
The North China Marines were scheduled to
depart Chingwangtao on 10 December 1941 in the
President Harrison, which had evacuated the
4th Marines from Shanghai
during the last week of November.

At approximately 0800 on the 8th,
however, about 1,000 Japanese troop s
surrounded the Tientsin barracks, while
three enemy planes circled overhead .
The Marine gate sentry phoned his commanding
officer, Major Luther A . Brown,
and stated that a Japanese officer wanted to
speak to him. 3 The officer, a Major
Omura who was well known to Brown ,
brought a written proposal that all officers and
men be assembled in one place
in the barracks compound, and all o f
their weapons and equipment in another ,
while the Japanese took over. The alternative
to surrender was "that the
Japanese would enforce their proposal
with the troops at hand." 4
Brown told the major that he would
sign the proposal only if the Japanese
accorded his men the privileges due
them under the Boxer Protocol to which
Japan and the United States had been
signatories. Following a telephone conversation
with the local Japanese commander, Lieutenant General Kyoji
Tominaga, with whom Brown had bee n
friendly in prewar days, Major Omura
stated that Tominaga agreed to the stipulation
and that Japan would honor it if
valid. Brown believed that this stipulation should
have guaranteed the repatriation of his men. 5
General Tominaga arranged for
Brown to telephone Colonel William W.
Ashurst, senior Marine officer in North
China and commander of the America n
Embassy Guard in Peiping . Ashurst told
Brown that he was accepting a similar
Japanese proposal and advised the
Tientsin Marine commander to do the
same.° The embassy and legation guard thought
that if they offered no resistance, they
would be considered part of
the diplomatic entourage and therefore
would be repatriated. Unfortunately,
the basis for this belief was nonexistent.
Because their initial treatment was relatively
mild, and because they received
repeated informal Japanese assurance s
that they would be repatriated, the
Marines made no attempt to escape . ?
Following the establishment of communications
with the Japanese Government through Swiss diplomatic channel s
for the purpose of setting up the exchange of Japanese
and American consular officials, the United States
attempted to get Japan to recognize the
diplomatic status of the North Chin a
Marines. In a telegram on 26 December
1941, the Swiss Government was requested to
inform Japan that
"The United States Government considers
that its official personnel subject to this
exchange includes . . . the marine guards
remaining in China and there under
the protection of international agreement. . . .

In reply, Japan stated that "it is
unable to agree to include United States
Marine Guards remaining in China a s
they constitute a military unit."
The United States was busy at this time
setting up the exchange program overall, and
informed the Imperial Government
through Swiss channels that it would
revert to this point at a later date . Japan
inferred from this statement that "th e
United States Government do not insist
in inclusion of the Marine Guards in the
present exchange." 10 This inference
was incorrect because on 13 March,
when it provided a list of the Americans
to be repatriated, the Department of
State referred to what it had said previously
regarding the return of the Marine
guards and stated that it expected the
Japanese Government "to take cognizance
of their true status as diplomatic

Neither Major Brown nor Colonel
Ashurst, who had surrendered the Peiping
guard at 1100 on 8 December, knew
of this diplomatic interchange . On 3
January 1942, the Peiping Marines
were brought to Tientsin and quartered
with Brown's troops. At Major Brown's
intercession, Major Edwin P. McCaulley,
who had retired and was living in
Peiping but was recalled to active duty
as the Quartermaster for the Peiping
Guard, was relocated by the Japanese
to a Tientsin hotel, and later returned
to the United States on the first ex -
change ship.

On the 27th, the entire group of
Marines was moved, together with all
personal effects, by train to Shanghai,
where a Japanese officer told them in
English as they entered the prison camp ,
that "they were not prisoners of war
although they would be treated as such
and that North China Marines would be
repatriated." 13 Until the exchange
ships left without the Marines, the men
believed that they would be repatriated .
Brown said after the war that they
were convinced that they were at least
slated to be returned to the United
States, but that the excuse the Japanese
gave for failing to send them back wa s
that there was not enough room fo r
them on board the exchange ships.
This may have been a valid excuse, for
many grave problems concerning shipboard
accommodations arose which
threatened the whole repatriation process.

On 2 February 1942, the North Chin a
Marines arrived at Woosung prison
camp, at the mouth of the Whangpoo
River near Shanghai, where they joined
the Marine survivors of Wake Islan d
who had arrived on 24 January . Also at
Woosung were a handful of Marines,
who, unlike the others, received diplomatic
immunity and were to be repatriated later in 1942.
These men were Quartermaster Clerk Paul G. Chandler,
First Sergeant Nathan A. Smith, Supply
Sergeant Henry Kijak, and Staff
Sergeant Loren O. Schneider, all members
of the 4th Marines who had been
left at Shanghai to settle government
accounts after their regiment had saile d
for the Philippines. 16 For some unknown
reason, unless they had been gulled into
believing so, the Japanese thought that
these last four were part of the U . S.
consular staff at Shanghai and therefore
entitled to diplomatic immunity.
Chandler and the other three Marines
became prisoners on 8 December, and
were transferred several times to other
prisons in the Shanghai area before
they, too, arrived at Woosung. This was
a former Japanese Army camp, approximately
20 acres overall, and completely
enclosed with two electrified fences. The
buildings were all frame structure and
unheated. Most of the prisoners were
not dressed warmly enough to withstand
the biting Chinese . winter, and
all were insufficiently fed. '

The following North China Marine officers were held at Hakodate #4, Nishi-Ashibetsu from July to September of 1945:Col William Ashurst, Maj Luther Brown, Capt James Climie, Capt James Hester, Capt John White, 1st Lt George Newton, 1st Lt Richard Weber, Navy Commander (Dr) L Thyson, and Chief Marine Gunner William Lee. 

For more info see North China Marines Web site

Thursday, December 6, 2012


At dawn on 7 December 1941 more than half of the United States Pacific Fleet, approximately 150 vessels and service craft, lay at anchor or alongside piers in Pearl Harbor. All but one of the Pacific fleet battleships were in port that morning, most of them moored to quays flanking Ford Island. By 10:00 a.m. the tranquil Sunday calm had been shattered, 21 vessels lay sunk or damaged, the fighting backbone of the fleet apparently broken. Smoke from burning planes and hangers filled the sky. Oil from sinking ships clogged the harbor. Death was everywhere. The fleet in Pearl Harbor, the focus of the attack, suffered the greatest loss; almost half the total casualties occurred when the USS Arizona blew up. Army, Navy, Army Air Force, and Marine Corps facilities across the length and breadth of Oahu, from Kaneohe to haleiwa to Malakole, bore their share of death and destruction. Hickam, Wheeler, and Bellows Army Air Force bases lost 217 men and 77 aircraft.
Among those killed in action is three Schuylkill County soldiers and sailors.

DECEMBER 7, 1941

A 21 year old Mahanoy City young man became the first  soldier to lose his life during the Second World War.

He was Jerome Szematowicz of 401 West Mahony St., a graduate of Mahanoy City High School.
Jerome was a chief mechanic in the squadron. He became an Army Air Corps Mechanic after completing courses at Chanute Field, Ill.
He was killed in action at Hickam Field, Hawaii, during the Japanese air assault on Sunday  December 7, 1941.
Jerome enlisted at Pottsville in 1939 and was serving with the 22nd Material Squadron.
In researching the action at Hickam Field on this day. It was reported that the first bombs dropped on the field killed a group of soldiers from the 22nd Material Sqd,, working on and trying to move a B-24 bomber. The Japs hit at 7:55 A.M., his squadron lost 27 men killed. The attack consisted of two waves of low level and high level attacks.
A flight of some 50 dive bombers and fighters struck Hickam Field. The first targets hit were the Hawaiian Air Depot's engineering building and the hangar area, where A-20, B-18, and B-17 bombers were parked wingtip to wingtip. With the large population of Japanese in the local community, sabotage had been feared more than an enemy attack; so instead of being dispersed and in readiness for immediate takeoff, the aircraft were bunched together in one place where they could be closely guarded. Consequently, they were easy targets for the Japanese, whose attack then widened to include the big new consolidated barracks and mess hall, the base theater (which was also used as a chapel), the post exchange, enlisted men's beer garden, and the fire station and guardhouse.
A total of 27 men from the squadron were killed in action on this day.

United States Army Air Corp.
Hawaiian Air Force, Hq & Hq Squadron,

- 17th Air Base Group, Hq & Hq Squadron
- 22nd Material Squadron
Station: Hickam AFB, Pearl Harbor, Oahu, Hawaii
Casualty List: 28 KIA - 42 WIA*


John E. Burns a graduate of Pottsville Catholic High School in 1933 was killed at Pearl Harbor while serving aboard the USS Arizona which was sunk by Japanese Aircraft.
Weeks before the attack Burn’s family received a letter that stated  he was to be reassigned to San Diego for schooling in diesel engineering.

In early January his family received  the letter.

A telegram received by his parents stated,
“After exhaustive search it has been found impossible to locate your son John E. Burns, of the USN and therefore has been officially declared to have lost his life in the service of his country as of December 7, 1941. The department expresses to you its sincere sympathy.”


Seaman 2/C George Stembrosky, 20 who entered the Navy in September 1940 was killed in action at Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.
Killed While serving aboard the U.S.S. Nevada BB-36..
George is buried in the Gettysburg National Cemetery.

On December 7, 1941 At 0910 at Hospital Point, Honolulu the crippled 
  USS Nevada was trying to escape the harbor when Japanese planes concentrated their attack on it. Afraid that if the ship sank, it would block the harbor entrance, Admiral Pye ordered it beached five minutes after its skipper, Captain Scanlan, came aboard. The Nevada had three officers and 47 enlisted men killed, and five officers and 104 enlisted wounded. The Nevada was back in service
before the end of 1942.
The Nevada Beached 

DECEMBER 7, 1941
DECEMBER  8, 1941.


Pvt Edward Cullen Hq. Sqd. 11 Bomb Group, Shenadoah.
Pvt. Metro Stednitz, 18th Air Base Sqd., St. Clair
Pvt. Herman Chattlin, 12 th Signal Platoon Chief Telephone Operator. St. Clair.
T/Sgt. Harry Fetterolf, Mediucal detachment, Llewellyn.
Corp Norman J. Smeltzer..Port Carbon
Pvt. Clyde N. Seabold 18th Bomb Wing, Port Carbon
Pvt. Charles E. Goss, 31st Bombing Sqd. Port Carbon
PFC William Auer HQ. 5th  Group.
Pvt. Walter Barasha, 58th Bombing Sqd. Shenandoah.
Pvt. Peter Brunda, 23 Material Sqd. Coaldale.


Pvt. Fred W. Corbin Battery G 3rd Defense BatteryAshland.
Harvey Smith Jr….USS West Virginia.
John M. Roberts Asst. Gunner US Navy Pottsville.\
Oscar Welde, USS Cachalot.
PO Lawerence J. Ryan USS San Francisco, Mahanoy City.
WO. Richard Wagner, USS Louisville. Port Carbon
1/C Seaman Thomas M. Coogan USS Tucker, Port Carbon.
Pvt. Eaymond Klitsch 53rd Brigade AA. Pottsville
Pvt. Lamar Kintzel, QM Corps, Pine Grove.
Pvt. Joseph J. Yutgus HQ Battery 53rd Coast Artillery AA. New Phila.
Pvt. Alphonse Msedalis Battery 64 Coast Artillery. Minersville.
Pvt. George Klutchka 64th Coast Artilery Battery F. Minersville.
Pvt. John J. Knarr In telligence Battery 53rd Coast Artillery. Mahanoy City.
Pvt. Evert Hoffman 64th Coast Artillery Battery K, Locust Dale.
Corp. John J. Shuler Battery A Coast Artillery, Llwellyn.
Pvt. James L. Heim Battery E 64th Coast Artillery, Sacramento.
Pvt. Joseph Kentusky Battey K 64th Coast Artillery, Shenandoah
Pvt. Francis McDonald Intell Battery 54th Coast Artillery, Middleport.
Pvt. Albert A. Saluta Battery K 64th Coast Artillery, Shenadoah.
Pvt. Michael E. Delinko HQ Battery 53rd AA Battery Arnout’s Addition.


S/Sgt. Edward Covelsky 44th Pursuit Sqd. Pottsville.
Pvt. Michael E. Delinko 45thPursuit Sqd. Pottsville.
PFC Guy Hand Army Mechanic 741st Ordance Company. Schuylkill Haven.
Pvt. Francis P. Zigmund Mechanic in Air Corps. Port Carbon.
Corp. George D. Pollack 25th Material Sqdn. New Phila.
Sgt. John Kudlak  45th Pursuit Sqd. Marlin.
Pfc. Joseph Botto HQ Sqd. 18th Air Base, St. Clair.
Pfc David Fessler, 741st Ordance Company, Summit Station.
Pfc Charles A. Zelonis 18th Air Base. Shenandoah.
Sgt. Alfred Drabinis, 44th Pursuit Sqd. Middleport.


Pvt. John Weiss, Station HospitalPottsville.
Corp. Paul Smerko Co. F.35th Infantry.Minersville.
S/Sgt Vincent F. Seminsvage 35th Infantry Hq. BatterySt. Clair.
Pvt. Emil Sanilko HQ, Company 35th Infantry. Pottsville.
Corp James J. Whalen Co. I 27th Regiment. Mahanoy Plane.
Pvt. Anthony Gregonis Co. M 27th Infantry. Minersville.
\Pvt. Eugene Carlin, Company C 21st Infantry. Mahanoy City.
Pfc Mike Vengin, 1st Batt. 8th Field Artillery. Llewellyn.
Pfc Joseph Ondo, HQ Service Company 11th Medical Regt. Llewellyn.
Pfc George Schuler, Co. C 10th Infantry, Llewellyn.
Pvt. William J. Clery, Co. L 21st Infantry, Tremont.
Pvt. William A. Lesher,  Hq. Com. 25th Infantry, Ashland.
Pvt. John J. Coyne Co. E 3rd Engineers. Ashland.
Pfc Peter A. Vasura, Co. K 35th Infantry, Port Carbon.
Pfc Martin Peelman, Co. M 27th Infantry. Poret Carbon.
Corp. Edmond Lynaugh, Co. H. 77th Infantry ,Port Carbon.
Pvt.Donald F. Sorber Co. K 35th Infantry, Shenandoah.
Pvt. Paul F.Buckley Battery C 13 Field Artillery, Shenandoah.
Pvt. Robert Heisler Signal Company Aircraft Warning. Schuylkill Haven,
Pvt.Nick Latanishen, Co. B. 19th Infantry, Buck Run.
Pvt. Francis L. Edwards Signal Company Aircraft Warning, Hegins.
Pvt. Paul Ridgers, Battery A Field Artillery 24th Infantry Div. New Phila.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Schuylkill County Soldier Fights At Dranesville, VA.

The "First Federal Victory South of the Potomac" 

And A Schuylkill County Soldier was part of it.
The Battle of Dranesville


A small Virginia hamlet, is situated in Fairfax county, about twenty miles from Washington, and about fourteen from Leesburg. On a commanding hill at the eastern edge of the village the Leesburg and Washington and the Leesburg and Alexandria Turnpikes form a junction. The confluent roads form a single highway from this point to Leesburg. From the point of junction this road dips into a small valley and crosses a smaller hill, on which stands the village church in a grove of massive oaks. The view westward from the church towards Leesburg commands a rolling, open country of farm and woodland. The turnpike, crossing this tract, may be plainly seen until lost in a piece of woodland in the distance.
        This roadway, before the railroad paralleled it some four miles away, was a main line of travel and commerce. Long caravans of "schooner" wagons with white canvas tops, droves of horses, sheep and cattle, stages well loaded with passengers, gave life to the old highway and brought thrift to every wayside village and hamlet. This was the golden age of the "wagon stand" and "tavern." With the march of progress and the coming of the railroad, wagons, stage coaches and taverns were relegated to the limbo of things that were. The jangling music of the wagon bells, the tootings of the stage-drivers horn, the noisy commotion of the wayside inn are only echoes that faintly survive in the memories of very old men. Progress has her victims no less than grim-visaged war.
        Dranesville in other days was a recipient of the bounty that flowed from the old-time commerce. With the passing of the turnpike traffic an unbroken quiet settled upon the village until the stillness was rudely broken on a memorable winter afternoon of 1861. The roar of cannon and the rattle of musketry announced to the village and the surrounding country that the tide of war, which had rolled at a distance, was now right at hand. 
From the Battle of Dranesville.

   One of the first engagements after the Union defeat at Bull Run was a small engagement by Federal and Confederate foraging parties, five days before Christmas of 1861, at the town of  Dranesville, Va.  The confederate command consisted of a foraging  party of infantry and cavalry of Joseph Johnston's command. With the foraging party was a 150 men of J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry, and 4 regiments of infantry. The Union forces consisted of 5 Pennsylvania infantry regiments and a battery of 4 cannons. Both commands moved out simultaneously and meet in combat near the farm lands of Dranesville, Va.
   Serving with the 6th Pennsylvania Reserves was a Schuylkill countian, Lieut. Jacob A. Bonewitz, who wrote a descriptive account of the fight, which would become a big morale lifting victory for the Union forces.
        Langlytown Camp, Pierpont January 8th, 1862.

   Dear --- We had a little fun on the 20th of December last in Dranesville with the rebels. I shall not enter into details, as I suppose you have seen the particulars of the fight in the papers.
   We left our camp a little before daybreak on the morning of the 20th and started for Dranesville on a foraging expedition. We got as far as Difficult Creek when began throwing skirmishers out in front of our regiment. As company A, and our company K, are the two flank companies, we were thrown out on the left of the pike. Company A near the road, and my company on the left of the former. We started through the woods on quick time. I was the only officer in our company that day. The Capt. was in Washington, and the other Lieut. was at home on leave of absence. As I said before we started through the woods on quick time for some three miles, when we came out into a large clearing. I was about one mile from the regiments on a double quick. I started my skirmishers on a full run in order to keep in advance of the regiments, and we kept this up for four miles. Some of my men gave out, and fell back on the reserve that was coming on. It was pretty severe but we had to do it. After getting within a half a mile of Dranesville, there were some twenty shots fired at us, doing no damage, we kept on. I was now in an open field and just about to enter a pine thicket, when I discovered something wrong in there. I passed the word along the line of skirmishers to halt, which was done immediately. I then looked in the woods again, and saw one regiment of infantry, and one of Cavalry laying there not more than five rods from left hand man, while a Sergeant was not more than 20 paces from myself. I then passed the word along the line again, to rally on the road, and on the Regiment. When the Rebels observed this, they opened fire on us with muskets, and shot one of the men through the arm, this however did not frighten him much. He followed us. We got on the road and meet the Regiment. We were then ordered across the hill to support the left-our Battery. The balls were now flying like hail from the rebel infantry. When they saw us try to cross the hill, they opened their large guns on us. The shells and canister poured upon us. After getting near half way across, two of my men fell. One was shot through the side, and the other in the leg. They crawled behind a small bank near the pike, as we had no time to lose going over there. When I got a little further a piece of shell struck me on the leg tearing off one of my pantaloon legs, and scratching my leg slightly. We got a little further, when two more dropped, that had got in my company (strangers) They died in a few minutes: but we got across and now came our time for operation. Our Battery opened on them and the Rebels were soon laying in all kinds of shapes. Some with no heads on; some with no arms, no legs, and some you could not tell what they were. We soon silenced their battery. We then made a charge on them through the woods. I must admit they can run faster than we can by a good deal, but they could not run out of sight of our balls. The woods were full of them. There was one spot were we could scarcely get over the dead and wounded rebels. Our loss was 10 killed and 30 or 40 wounded. The Rebel loss was severe. There were 170 rebels buried the day after the fight and we brought in some 40 of them wounded and 14 prisoners. All in all, it was a complete victory for Uncle Sam. Our wounded are doing well in the hospital; are in good spirits, and express themselves anxious to have another chance at the rebels soon. In our Regiment their were three killed, and thirteen wounded, of which three belong to our company. The Bucktail Regiment; our Regiment, and the 9th suffered the most. The 10th  and the 12th I believe, did not lose a man, as they were not in the hottest of the fire.
                                              Yours &c.
                                              Lieut. J.A.B.

Miners Journal February 15, 1862.

Monday, January 16, 2012



Pottsville soldier sent to Alcatraz as a guard.
Miners Journal November 11, 1900

Private Charles R. Schatstein of Pottsville was brought home from fighting in the Philippines, were he saw active service fighting against the Filipinos. He was in a very serious condition and admitted to the hospital at San Francisco. After he recovered he was assigned to duty with Company No.2 of Convalescent stationed at Alcatraz Island.

Dear Parents:
Alcatraz is a small Island situated northwest of San Francisco direct by north of the Presidio. It lays in about the middle of the bay and has a swift current running around it so that a small boat has a hard time to land.
The U.S. uses it for a military Prison, but before but before they got it was an old Spanish Fort. Its area is about 12 acres and is solid rock. Known in and about San Francisco as the Rock.
It is well fortified and has quite a few large guns on it. Most of them being 12 inch . To me it looks like a large stationary battleship.
The prisoners are men who have been soldiers but have been dishonorably discharged from the service. Their imprisonment ranges from six months to 50 years. They are divided into three classes according to their conduct in and about the prison. When they enter the prison they are all second class and are made first class or third class according to the way they conduct themselves while at work. They are distinguished by the bands on their hats, white, red and yellow, meaning 1st, 2nd and 3rd class respectively. The first class are trusted men and allowed to go around without a sentry. Some work on the dock, some drive teams some are painters, bakers, farmers, general police, lamp lighters and almost everything imaginable.
Second Class haven’t got it quite so good. But third class is kept to work from 7 to11:30 a.m. and from 1 to 6 p.m... They are not allowed to talk, smoke or even stop work for a minute and must walk lock step to and from work.
There are six different prisons and the will accommodate about six hundred prisoners. Three prisons being old and three being new. There are at present about 400 hundred prisoners.
To guard these prisoners there are two companies, Co H of the 7th Infantry and Convalescent Co. No 2 composed of men who have been sent back from China and the Philippines sick or wounded. I have become well enough to do duty in both companies which are not full, there are about a 150 men for duty giving us about four night in the duties of a guard and other military duties which give us little time to ourselves. Out near the eastern part of the island is a light house kept by an ex soldier. And right at the end is a fog bell and tide gate all kept by the same man. The fog bell is wound up by a large key and runs down like a clock. This bell is kept wound up and as soon as it begins to get foggy it is started and will keep going for 24 hours unless stopped.
We also have two life saving crews here composed of soldiers out of the two different co0mpanies. But our boat is gone now. The other day three prisoners escaped from the prison ward of the hospital picked the lock holding the boat and they haven’t been heard of since.
The beginning of last month a trusted prisoner who worked in the carpenter shop made a box and got some one to nail him in and carry him down to the dock so that night when the boat came to get the guard that brings the prisoners back that go to Presidio to work, he was put on the boat and put out off on the main land. He had it nicely arraigned to have some person open it, and in that way he got a way, but we got him back a few days afterwards, he was caught at Sacramento. He said some one gave him away to get the award of $15 dollars. Poor fellow has ten years to serve now.
We also have a reading room and pool room, shooting galleries, dance hall and last but not least a canteen where the boys go to get on their jollification so you see we have lots to keep us busy.

I guess that will be it for a while

C.R. Schatstein Conval. Co. No 2 Alcatraz Island.