Saturday, May 23, 2009

Schuylkill County Vietnam War Dead


This article today is for the memory of my brothers who fought and died in the Vietnam War from Schuylkill County. Men who went when their country asked and fought and died for each other.
I tried to find out as much as possible so as to keep their memories and what they stood for alive, so that we will never forget their sacrifices.

1. TSgt. Donald J. Seaman from Mahanoy City died 16 May 1965, from non hostile action. First of the 39 Schuylkill men killed in Vietnam. A 500 pound bomb being loaded on a B-57 exploded, setting off a chain reaction 30 Americans were killed from multiple shrapnel wounds.

2. LCprl David C. Ney USMC From Schuylkill Haven, died of non hostile action on 21 August 1965. Cprl Ney was killed when a C-130 aircraft crashed from engine failure that caused the plane to veer to the left and plunge into 40 feet of water of the coast of Hong Cong. Tragically this accident occurred when Ney was returning from R&R. He had already served nine months in combat.

3. SP4 Stephen C. Brisuda 1st Infantry Division US Army Killed in Action by small arms fire. 1 October 1965. From Frackville. Killed by sniper fire, while on a search and destroy mission in an area called the Iron triangle. He was the point man on the patrol.

4. SFC Gust Callivas, Frackville. U.S.Army. 221ST AVIATION COMPANY. KIA on 22 November 1965 and died of multiple fragment wounds to the head and neck during a mortar attack at Soc Trang, RVN.

5. PFC Dale Umbenhauer US Army KIA on 17 May 1966, from Pine Grove. Dale was a gunner in the 121st Aviation Company on Huey 63-08552. The Huey he was on collided with another Huey.

6. LCprl Michael C. Reed, USMC From St. Clair KIA, 17 September 1966. On his second tour of duty Reed died when his jeep ran over a land mine. He was driving the jeep alone when he manuvered his jeep to help a medevac crew when he struck the land mine.

7. PFC. David J. Verbilla 1st Battalion 3rd Marine Division, USMC from Tamaqua KIA 3 May 1967. His secomd platoon was pinned down by enemy fire during operation "Beaver cage". Under heavy machine gun fire, David volunteered to flank the enemy. He sprinted 100 yards across an open rice paddy, firing as he ran and freeing his comrades to advance. But before they could catch up to him a bullet to the head killed him instantly.

Dennis Eugene Hoffman
Private First Class

Home of Record: Orwin, PA
Date of birth: 06/03/1947

Service: Army of the United States
Grade at loss: E3
Rank: Private First Class
ID No: 52986135
MOS: 11B10: Infantryman
Length Service: 00

Start Tour: 03/10/1967
Incident Date: 06/02/1967
Casualty Date: 06/02/1967
Age at Loss: 19
Location: Kien Tuong Province, South Vietnam
Remains: Body recovered
Casualty Type: Hostile, died outright
Casualty Reason: Ground casualty
Casualty Detail: Gun or small arms fire


8. Dennis E. Hoffman, Orwigsburg, U.S. Army 1st Batt. 5th Infantry 25th Division “Bobcats” KIA 2 June 1967

ON THE WALL Panel 21E Line 036

9. Cpl. Howard A. Donald, 3rd Battalion, 5rh MArines, 1st MArine Division USMC From Tamaqua, KIA 8 July 1967 Was riding in a truck convoy when a land mine exploded, the open cab of the truck offered no protection from the flying shrapnel. He was severly wounded and died from his wounds.

12. Cpl. Reese A. Jones USMC, C Co, 1st Bn, 3rd Marines Quakake, KIA 11 October 1967. On 11 October 1967 Charlie 1/3 Marines engaged a larger North Vietnamese Army force in the Hai Lang Forest southwest of Quang Tri City, losing eight men. One of the dead was the Charlie 1/3 Commanding Officer, Captain William A. Neuss, who was awarded a posthumous Silver Star.
Charlie 1/1 Marines entered the fight on 12 October; they lost nine men including a combat photographer, Corporal William T. Perkins, attached from HQ Battalion, 3rd Marine Division. Cpl Perkins received a posthumous Medal of Honor.
Delta 1/3 was not as heavily engaged as the other two companies, losing one man on 12 October. He was serving as a genadier and operated an M-79 Grenade launcher. While trying to relive other Marines his unit was over run by North Vietnamese. he was shot in the chest with a 50 caliber machine gun, and killed instantly.

13. PFC. Merlin C. Hollenbach, Andreas, U.S. Army, 25th Infantry Division. Medic HHC D/3/22 Infantry KIA 22 December 1967.

14. Major Leonard R. Demko USMC , Pottsville.
On Friday, 05 Feb 1968, a CH-46A (BuNo 153986) from Phu Bai was tasked for a medical evacuation flight in the vicinity of Hue City to pick up three seriously wounded Marines. The aircraft was crewed by
Major Leonard R. Demko, pilot
Captain John J. Burke, copilot
Corporal Gerald W. Conner, crew chief
Sergeant James D. Shelton, gunner
Corporal Norman O. Copeland, gunner
HM1 Jack Ehrhardt, Corpsman
While enroute, the aircraft was fired upon by enemy troops. HM1 Ehrhardt was hit by a round which penetrated his right thigh, destroyed the hip socket, and exited from his right buttock. Acting on Ehrhardt's instructions, one of the gunners packed Ehrhardt's entry and exit wounds, splinted his leg with Ehrhardt's M-14, and injected a syrette of morphine. Ehrhardt was placed on a stretcher near the CH-46's rear ramp. After consultation with Ehrhardt, Major Demko continued the mission. As the aircraft approached the pick-up point it again took fire, this time wounding one of the gunners and seriously damaging the aircraft's hydraulic and fuel systems. Although prone on the stretcher, Ehrhardt was able to tend to the gunner's wound. Because of the damage to the aircraft, Demko aborted the mission and attempted to return to Phu Bai.
He was unsuccessful. The CH-46 entered an uncontrolled pitch-up, rolled inverted, crashed, and burned. Demko, Burke, Shelton, and Copeland died in the crash. HM1 Ehrhardt and Cpl Conner were picked up by their wingman, but Conner died of his injuries 15 days later at the USAF Hospital in Cam Rahn Bay. HM1 Ehrhart was evacuated to the 106th Army Hospital in Yokohama, Japan, and eventually recovered from his injuries.
The President of the United States
takes pride in presenting the
posthumously to
United States Marine Corps
for service as set forth in the following
For heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight as Aircraft Commander of a UH-34 transport helicopter with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 364, in the Republic of Vietnam on the evening of 19 November 1967. While returning to its base after a search and rescue mission in support of a large helicopter borne assault force, Major Demko's helicopter was diverted to an emergency medical evacuation mission in support of a Marine rifle company. He arrived over the designated area and approached the landing zone. Just prior to landing, his aircraft came under intense enemy automatic weapons fire and was directed away from the site by the ground force. Orbiting over An Hoa and establishing radio contact with the Marine unit, Major Demko was informed that the wounded Marines were being moved to the landing zone. Then, after an hour, he was requested to return to the hazardous area for the evacuation. In complete darkness and guided by a single strobe light, he skill- fully landed in the zone as a heavy volume of tracer fire passed just above the rotor blades of his aircraft. Embarking six wounded Marines, he lifted from the site and, effectively utilizing the terrain as cover from the hostile fire, moved beyond range of the enemy's weapons before gaining altitude for the return flight to a medical facility. His exceptional ability and determined efforts were an inspiration to all who served with him and were instrumental in accomp- lishing the hazardous mission. Major Demko's courage, superb airmanship and unswerving devotion to duty at great personal risk were in keeping with the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the United States Naval Service.
For the President
/s/ L. F. Chapman, Jr.
Commandant of the Marine Corps

15. Sp5 William D. Eltringham, Branchdale, U.S. Army KIA 06 February 1968

16. Sp4 George C. Schultz, Pottsville U.S. Army 101st Airborne Division, 506th Infantry Rgt. 3 BDN. KIA 22 February 1968.

17. Capt. Thomas J. Margle, New Philadelphia, USAF.14th ACS, 14th ACW AC-47D 43-49859. On the night of the 14th a spooky gunship from Phan Rang was shot down just five miles south of the air base during a close air support mission.

18. Sgt. John A. Oscelus Cumbola, Sgt. U.S. Army Co. A 2nd Bn. 39th Infantry. 9th Infantry Division KIA 11 April 1968. As a member of the Army Selective Service, SGT Oscelus served our country until April 11th, 1968 in Dinh Tuong, South Vietnam. He was 20 years old and was not married. John died from small arms fire/grenade. His body was recovered. John was born on May 17th, 1947 in Cumbola, Pennsylvania.
SGT Oscelus is on panel 49E, line 026 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. He served our country for one year.

19. Sgt. Michael J. Kaplafka. Mahanoy City, U.S. Army. KIA 12 June 1968 by hostile fire.

20. Sp4 Harold J. Kissinger, Pottsville, U.S. Army KIA 17 September 1968

21. Pfc. Dennis E. Witkowski Shenandoah, U.S. Army 27th Infantry Rgt. 25th Division. KIA 18 September 1968.

22. Lcpl Edward L. Daubert Pottsville, USMC. KIA 21 September 1968.

23. Lcpl William D. Frantz Schuylkill Haven, USMC, KIA 17 October 1968 on the 17th October 1968. On a medevac mission in mountainous terrain, the CH-46 Med-evac aircraft went inadvertently IFR and crashed. The wreckage was not located until the following day due to weather."
CH-46D BuNo 154794 crashed on a ridgeline about 12 kilometers southeast of Ca Lu. The six men who died were
HMM-161, MAG-39
Capt Joseph L. Powell, Alexandria, VA, copilot
1stLt James N. Sweet, South Lima, NY, pilot
Cpl John R. Ferrazzano, New Hyde Park, NY, aircrewman
LCpl Robert M. Cheek, Wolcottville, IN, crew chief
LCpl William D. Frantz, Schuylkill Haven, PA, gunner

24. Pfc. Francis P. Baldino, Ashland, USMC, KIA 14 November 1968.

25. Cprl. David F. Heiser, Orwigsburg, U.S. Army KIA 14 November 1968.

26. Cprl. Paul J.Mitchel, Mahanoy City, USMC, KIA 23 February 1969 Killed in Action February 23, 1969 Hill 327, 1st Marine Division Alpha Line Danang, Republic of South Vietnam Cause: hostile, ground casualty, other explosive device.

27. BM3 Ronald P. Yuhas, Shenandoah, U.S. Navy, KIA 23 February 1969 Check out the Blog ‘Do the right thing” story.

28. Sp. Richard D. Roberts, Pottsville, U.S.Army. Non Hostile 24 June 1969/

29. Sp. William R. McNelly Co.F. 75th Infantry Division 23 June 1969.

30. Cprl Joseph M Hashin Jr. Minersville United States Army. Killed in Kontum Province, South Vietnam August 6, 1969.

31. Sgt. Paul F. Kostick, Gilberton, U.S. Army KIA 25 August 1969

32. Pfc. Thomas P. McKerns, Mahanoy City, U.S. Army Co. C 31st Infantry regiment. KIA 28 August 1969

From a soldier who served with him “.He was in the TOC that morning, brand new in country and in the company. The Col. came in looking like a wounded bull and asked Norm to come along. There was an empty seat on the chopper. He never came back. The chopper was shot down and everyone on it died.”

34. Sgt. James G. Anderson, Schuylkill Haven, U.S. Army KIA 4 May 1970.

35. Sp4 Lawerenece E. Scheib, Tower City, U.S. Army, KIA 29 August 1970. C/2/17 CAV#67-17699 A/C was involved in a Ranger team insertion. As the A/C settled into the LZ it was hit repeatedly in the forward section by 12.7mm AA machinegun and RPG fire.

36. Sp4 John J. Farnsworth Jr. Frackville, US Army, KIA 13 November 1970.

37. Sp4 Gary G. Geiger, New Ringgold, U.S. Army KIA 25 March 1971.

Tipping No Photo
38. Major Henry A. Tipping USAF, Schuylkill County, MIA KIA, MAj. Tipping was flying rescap for the SAR attempt to find A pilot who had ejected near the DMZ on the 1st. The Skyraider was orbiting at 5,000 feet near Thon Cam Son within the DMZ when it was damaged by 37mm AAA. The aircraft crashed din flames a few miles away and Maj.. Tipping was unable to escape and was killed.

39. Pfc. John McMonegel Girardville, USMC KIA 29 August 1967


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Remember Our Veterans This Memorial Day

For those who served, apology unacceptable

Published: Monday, May 11, 2009 4:12 AM EDT
To the Editor:

As Memorial Day draws near, it is time once again to reflect upon the sacrifices many Americans have made for our country and fellow servicemen.

As a Vietnam veteran who has lived through years of the disgraceful stigma that was put upon us, it is hard to understand why Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are undergoing unnecessary accusations about their stability and mental health in reference to our national security.

It is unfortunate that our current administration rarely talks about the successes of our troops, their victories or the integrity of their service. Although the administration states that it supports them and will take care of them and supposedly give them the treatment they rightly deserve.

In reality, no one disagrees with this. But the constant denigration of veterans has a lasting effect on how the public views America’s military. Homeland Security recently singled out Afghanistan and Iraq veterans as being susceptible for so-called right-wing recruitment and having trouble reintegrating into their communities. Because of an outcry from veterans organizations, the Homeland Security secretary issued an apology for the accusation stating, “It’s not an accusation but an assessment.” Well, that is not an acceptable apology for these veterans who served honorably for their country.

President Theodore Roosevelt said, “A man who is good enough to shed his blood for his country is good enough to be given a square deal afterward. More than that, no man is entitled, and less than that, no man shall have.”

Thank you, veterans!

Stu Richards


Tuesday, May 5, 2009


After publishing this article I was contacted by a member of Lt. Currey's family. Lt. Currey was the co-pilot on this aircraft. Mr. Bill Black. Mr. Black has a memorial set up for Lt. Curry and this is the plague that supports the memorial.
I was also contacted by Mr. Walter R. Koslowsky from New Phila, who was a nephew of Corp. Yuda. He also gave me additional info on him. In writing this story I am glad to have helped out these families.

This is a composite story that I compiled from information gained in the Pottsville Journal of April 9, 1945 entitled “2 COUNTY FLIERS ARE LOST ON SAME BOMBER” And information obtained from the USAAF official records and various books dealing with this bombing raid on Tokyo, Japan, on March 9-10 1945.
It is in honor of two Schuylkill Countians, crewmen and buddies who served together on B-29 42-63569 and were killed on this very important mission.

Today 64 years later there are those who still write about and call this mission a war crime. But I look at it as a mission that brought the war closer to and end and saved the lives of millions of American Soldiers, Marines, Sailors and Airman who would have had to invade Japan. And I am thankful for the brave air crews who took part and thank our fellow Schuylkill Countians Corporal Edward Yuda and Michael Chalanycz for their bravery and sacrifice for there country and fellow servicemen.

Early on the morning on March 9, 1945, at the North field of Guam Air base members of the 314th Bomb Wing, 19th Bomb Group, 28th Squadron went to their 8:00 A.M. briefing for the up coming mission. As the crews waited they discussed what they thought was going to happen. As the briefing officer stood toward the front he stated ”Tonight We Bomb Tokyo”. Sitting through this briefing was Corporal Michael Chalanycz, from Dowdentown, near Minersville and Corproral Edward B. Yuda, Port Carbon. Chalanycz and Yuda were crew members on 1st Lt Robert Auer’s aircraft, Tail number 42-63569 a 29th Sqd. “Big M” Boeing B-29.-25-BA, built by Martin Aircraft at Omaha.
Michael Chalanycz 19, was assigned as a gunner in the 19th Bomb Group, his family believed that this was only his second mission over Japan. He entered the service in February 1944 and went overseas in February 1945, he was based in the Marianas. He graduated from Branch Township High School in 1942. He was born in Jonestown.
Edward B. Yuda, 21, entered the service in February 1944 and had been overseas only five weeks. He has flown eight missions as a tail gunner in the 19th BG.
This mission was unique in the sense that the tactics utilized were completely different that what the crews had flown before. Most of the crews were taken back by what they were called to do. The mission called for a maximum effort incendiary raid. Three wings of B-29’s were to take part, the 73rd based on Saipan, the 313th based on Tinian and the 314th based on Guam. The 314th, Yuda and Chalanycz squadron was just newly arrived at North Field on Guam. The 314th having arrived during the months of December 1944 thru February 1945.
Normally the B-29’s weighed 140,000 pounds loaded, with an effective range of 3,250 miles. The B-29 was pressurized so crew members did not have to use air masks at high altitudes.

B-29's 314th near Mt. Fugi
For defensive armament, the B-29 was equipped with non retractable turrets mounting ten .50 caliber machine guns and one 20 millimeter cannon (which was dropped from later models). All turrets were remotely operated by a General Electric central fire control system.
They bombed from high altitutde. Anywhere from 10,000 feet to 30,000 feet.
This mission designated as “Mission # 40 would put 334 B-29’s in the air. 12 pathfinder planes preceded the main bomber formations about one hour before the main attack. The pathfinder aircraft would lay out an area around the target, so that the main bombers would drop their loads within the area.
A successful incendiary raid required ideal weather that included dry air and significant wind. Weather reports predicted these conditions over Tokyo on the night of March 9-10, 1945. A force of 334 B-29s was unleashed - each plane stripped of ammunition for its machine guns to allow it to carry more fire-bombs. The only guns remaining on board would be manned by Corporal Yuda in the tail. Corporal Chalanycz would act as an observer on board.

The lead bombers arrived over the city just after dark and were followed by a procession of B-29’s that lasted until dawn. The fires started by the initial raiders could be seen from 150 miles away. The results were devastating: almost 17 square miles of the city were reduced to ashes. Estimates of the number killed range between 80,000 and 200,000, a higher death toll than that produced by the dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima or Nagasaki six months later.
Each aircraft would carry 24, 500 pound clusters of the M69 type. The M-69s, which released 100-foot streams of fire upon detonating, would send flames rampaging through densely packed wooden homes. Superheated air created a wind that sucked victims into the flames and fed the twisting infernos. Asphalt boiled in the 1,800-degree heat. Each of these small bombs weighed about seven pounds.
As Yuda and Chalanycz sat at their briefing they were probably shocked as were all the crews when they found out that they were going to bomb from only five to seven thousand feet. At this altitude the crews felt they were sitting ducks for Jap anti aircraft fire. As the orders stood, General Curtis LeMay ordered the bombers to attack at low altitude and at night.
Takeoff for this mission was scheduled for the early evening, From 6:00 to 7:00 P.M. for the different wings. Most of the crews just waited around, some in anguish over the thought of going in at low level, others angry at Le May for ordering such a mission.
Just prior to engine start, Lt. Auer would line up his crew and give them their briefing, the engineer would have completed his pre flight inspection and then climb into the aircraft and ready his panel for engine start, the gunners would enter the aircraft and position themselves in their seats, as they had no guns on board this mission their pre flight would have been about their own personal gear,, life preservers, parachute, helmets etc. Corporal Yuda would have had to go through his normal prefight, for he was in the tail gunners position which was still active.
Yuda’s Check List would include.

Corp Yuda's Tail Gun Position
Pre flight inspection, sights, turrets, guns, ammunition, camera etc.
Crew Inspection
Start Put-put when battery switch is turned on
interphone check
parachute and oxygen.
Phone call signal light
Combat station inspection.
Taxi Alert
Prepare for take off
Put-put off After gear and flaps are reported up
In the air check operational, sights, turrets and guns
Enemy alert aircraft

Corporal Yuda as the tail gunner on this aircraft was responsible for defending the bomber from stern attacks. A few hours before take off he would have removed long belts of 0.50 cal. Ammo from wooden boxes and makes sure that each and every round was clean and aligned so as to prevent any jamming of the guns. He then hauls all this ammo up into the rear of the aircraft and loads the ammo into metal ammunition containers located at the sides near the back of the compartment he will occupy. The gunners position six feet high and four feet square. His seat can slide down and unfold. He will look through four windows on the side and a bullet proof window in front, so has to sight his twin guns.

Tail Gun Sight
After take off the crew settled down to the long run to Japan. And most were with their own thoughts. As they approached Japan the orange glow from the previous bombers and the pathfinders would light the way. Search light s scanned the sky looking for the bombers. The closer they got they could see other aircraft locked in the beams of the enemy searchlights. Flak burst surround the aircraft, and below Tokyo was a burning inferno.

Tonight The bombers' primary target was the neighboring industrial district of the city that housed factories, docks and the homes of the workers who supplied the manpower for Japan's war industry. The district hugged Tokyo Bay and was densely-packed with wooden homes lining winding streets that followed random paths - all the ingredients necessary for creating a perfect fire storm.

Throughout the night B-29’s flying in streams 400-miles long, firebombed central Tokyo for nearly three hours. Within 30 minutes of the first bomb, fires were burning out of control, embroiling the city’s center in a firestorm with temperatures reaching 1,000° C (1,899° F), hot enough to cause water to boil in canals and fire-safety cisterns. Over 100,000 people—men, women, and children perished and a million were injured, 41,000 seriously. Another million were made homeless in the scorched capital wasteland. It was the highest single-day death toll of WWII. But it was bringing closer the end of the war. Japan was paying dearly for the lives it cost in American service men.

As B-29 42-63569 approached the target, the flak was heavy, heat from the fires burning below caused heavy thermals and made the aircraft bounce around. The searchlights were blinding and possibly the aircraft was illuminated in one then many search lights, and with a blinding explosion flak hit the aircraft. Other crews reported that:

“The plane was in a formation consisting of 7~8 planes and flew over from the direction of Tokyo at an altitude of approx. 2,000 meters, and was hit by flak and disintegrated in 3 sections.”

An After action report from the 28th Squadron reported that :

“10 crewmembers including 1/Lt. Robert J. AUER (A/C) Aircraft Commander were killed in the crash.
Their remains were buried in cemeteries of Saihoji temple, 5-chome, Aoki-cho, Kawaguchi-shi and Tokoin temple in Edobukuro, Kawaguchi-shi, respectively.

“Cpl. Walter C. GRUBB (and one unknown flier?) bailed out and was taken prisoner.
he was turned over to Tokyo Kempei Tai, then interned in Tokyo Military Prison, and burned to death in the fire air raid on May 25-26.”

Mar. 10, 1945, B-29 (#42-63569, 314BW, 19BG) crashed in Edobukuro, Shibagawa
Park, Aoki-cho 2-chome, Kawaguchi-shi, Saitama-ken.
Note: 1 of the 14 B-29s lost in the above mentioned Mission No.40.

42-63569 19th BG MACR 13822, Auer crew. Shot by AA fire and exploded in mid air and crashed in Aoki-cho, Kawagichi City, Saitama Prefecture. 10 KIA, 2 POW's: survivors were moved to Tokyo, but burnt to death in fire at Tokyo Military Prison on May 25, 1945.

A/C 1st Lt Robert Auer
Pilot: 2nd Lt Harold Curry
Nav: 2nd Lt William Lemmons Jr
Bombardier: 2nd Lt Homer Allington
Radio: 2nd Lt Robert Booker
FE T/Sgt Pedro Closener
Radar: Cpl Jack Anderson
CFC Cpl George Micott
Right Gun: Cpl Walter Grubb
Left Gun: Cpl Michael Chalanyca
Tail Gun: Cpl Edward Yuda

Monday, May 4, 2009

The 41st Virginia Infantry Regiment A Letter Picked up at Fredericksburg Va.

Below is a letter picked up on or near the battlefield of Fredericksburg by a member of the 129th Regiment from Schuylkill County.
Unfortunetly it was not signed or completed. But if anyone has a roster of the 41 St Virginia. And with the info provided in the letter it might be possible to find out who wrote it.

Camp 41st Va. Regt. Near Fredericksburg City Va. Bright and Sunny
February 7th , 1863

Devoted and Fondly Remembered Mary;

As nothing can afford me more pleasure than writing to you I will devote the leisure hours of this sweet morning in so doing for when I am writing to you the lively and bright bye gone day looms up before, and I almost think it is reality, but when I come to think where I am It causes a sigh to escape my heart, why Oh why does cruel fate allot such to my destiny, oh that I could say I was happy, and contented with my lot, but I cannot. I am not contented and cannot be. But & forget let that pay. We are now quite comfortable in our tents, with chimney’s more so than our friends imagine at home. It is true that we have long been without tents, or any other kind of shelter and exposed to the wintry winds and rains, but that cause could not be helped as we were continually on the march, but we are now, and have been for the past six weeks, in good tents and within the last two weeks we have almost erected a little city, with its nice little streets and side walks. If I am not to get any nearer home, this winter I would like as much to stay where I am. I wish I was an artist to draft my quarters so you could see them, I know you would admire them. But not because I made the building after my own fancy, what a beautiful site at the close of evening when the glorious sun is setting, behind the western hills, was our camp and the landscape arena present. You remember I am a great lover of ………. But ungifted to catch the beauties of the landscape and transfer them to canvas, unpracticed in the simplest movement of the artists ………..can only stand and admire what providence has spread around us soldiers who are battling for our country’s honor., and liberties and as color escapes or fades and the beauty augmented, I bow with admiration at the object and increase love to him whose hand has garnished the heaven and whose goodness is as manifest in where his love works, as in the constellations glories of the firmament, whose sisters combine to enrich. Wish heating light wonders of a peace and she infinite seems exhausted to give with starry luster earths evening canopy.
The stimulant to taste our regiment was thrown in great excitement not long ago since the alarm drums was sounded and the Yankees as well as we fell immediately on line of battle and for some time great excitement prevailed on both sides of the Rappahannock. The cause was the burning of a dwelling by our pickets and three or four bombs that had been thrown in it on the last fight exploded and we as well as the enemy thought that they were signals but Ali is quiet now. It is the general information that a fight is inevitable and that our furloughs have been stopped, and those who are on them are ordered to report to their companies, as soon as time will admit, our next fight will prove to be grandest ever fought on the Rappahannock river, for since the last fight they have been preparing for another fight a great many batteries are visible that have been recently erected for the last few days they have been moving large bodies of troops up and down the river. If we are to fight in the quarter the sooner the better. I want to see it end as soon as it can be done. You will be surprised to hear that I have been elected from Sergt. Of company B to 1st Lieut in Company G of the regiment and because I stayed over my time at home the brigade General has a loan of officers, West Point graduates, to examine and see if I was qualified for the position, and because I missed one word, they reported me incompetent and they have ordered me again to Company B this is imposition, and I will have revenge if it cost me my own life, the fact of this business they are not willing to see a sergeant promoted to a commission. But I was company G’s preference and was duly elected their first Lieutenant and even elected by acclimation. I have written to some of my influential friends, one in the Senate and the other a member of the house of delegates, these friends have written me word that they would see the Secretary of War on the subject, and if they can get me off, they will, and I can then join any company, I may chose. If I get off I will join some other company perhaps the City Battalion. I will never serve in any regiment to which I am by law; I am entitled to a commission. I have faith fully been serving my country and always worked for the promotion of her good, the men know this fact and want me their officer and I mean to have justice done for them and myself. I have never since I have been in the service, arose in any position that I did not work my way up; favors have never carried me a step. This regiment works by favors altogether since I have written the Colonel, have found it out and thinks that the secretary of war will decide with me, that I am entitled to be relived from the duty which this regiment, and he wishes me to take my old position of Sgt Major. I politely told him I was not going to hold any office below the one I was entitled to and if I get my rights I will decline any position he can give... He finally winds up by saying I was not old enough to be a first Lieutenant of any company while on active service. He admitted I might be competent, but the Captain wanted to resign and the first Lieutenant would be promoted to his rank. I told him he knew that if justice was dealt out tome, I would get my office, but as I was not his or the first Lieutenant Colonel favorite I would not have justice, he walks off as hearty as a prince and we have no words on the subject as yet and I do not care if he never says a word to me again about it. We have had a terrible snow storm up here, but stood at better than I had anticipated we would, we have not had much suffering in our regiment as we all the men seem pretty well supplied with clothes and shoes. A Louisiana Brigade and ours used to fight snow balls while the snow lasted, officers and all. Our Brigade used to whip them everyday, you just ought to have seen them charger us, our brigade would repulse them every time.
Your kind and affectionate letter came safe to hand on last evening and I embrace this the first opportunity of writing an answer to your highly appreciated letter, nothing can afford me more pleasure than writing to you and I assure you that they are always received with the deepest emotions of gratitude. Often when I am lonesome and weary out with camp and these old familiar scenes of the soldiers life. I read and re read those old letters written by yourself, and they always cheer me up that I can go about my military duties with a light and cheerful; face knowing that one, sometimes think of absent … if I know that you ever thought of me half so often as you are thought of, Mary the world might frown but I would heed it not so long as I was remembered by lovely Mary, time would there roll on faster and not drag on as the present, things would in general present a sweeter view of the world and would then look happy and I would be happy, but I beg and entreat you not to get offended at what I have said and treat me with contempt by not writing tome again, then indeed would I be un happy. if anything in this life could make me so. But what I have written you treat as nothing, knowing who it comes from, but never the less it is true.
Enclosed you will find an article relative to my treatment received at the hands of my Colonel, which I had published in the Richmond Whig to show the public what mean and unjust laws are enforced upon the soldiers , if I was a colonel, I am sure I would feel quite cheap after seeing such a piece in a public news paper which referred to me. I hear that our Brigade General is to be promoted to a Major Gen. soon and his old … to form part of his commission as Major Genrl. And that our command will be sent to Tennessee or down to Waverly Station Sussex County Va. nearly all of his companies in the regt. are from down that portion of the state and they are raving to be sent there. But our company and company G are for staying this side of Richmond. I had rather stay up in the Blue Ridge Mountains than go down in that sickly county, though we could hide in the dismal swamp from the Yankees.
I must now finish writing for the morning as my duty will not admit of my avoiding anymore. I must now go and drill, as the drum is rolling for battalion drill in which will not be over until late in the evening. But in the morning I will finish this long letter if such it can be called, you will be tired of reading by the time you get through with it this much, so good bye until the morning.
Well according to promise I will end this letter. I received one from home this morning which brought sad intelligence; it said the small pox was in the county and that it was at Mr. Stagg’s. I have heard that I had a nephew down with it and worst of all my only sister is there and if she was to have that hateful disease I would almost go mad. For she could not survive such an attack, I would not care to live on an other day if she was taken from me, she is all I live for, and if I was to lose her, “all”,”all” would be gone and Joe would be left, she only one of his fathers family. May the supreme being for such to be my destiny in this world with no father , mother, brother or sister, horrible. I could give all up but not my sister, for no one could love a sister better than I love mine. And I know she thinks more of me than many sisters think of their brothers, for as the old adage says; the narrower the brook the stronger does its current flow. She has but one to love, and I have the vanity to say it is all centered on one object, (myself) . I have never received a line from her since I returned from Charles City. I have received letters from all around the County, and no one said a word about it thinking how unhappy it would make me, and the reason that she has not written to me was because that hateful disease was around her. I can not imagine how it could get so far in the country. I hope Mary from the heart that your home will not be visited by such a monster. I hear that it is all over Richmond raging in families as well as in the hospital. One of our regiments was sent off this morning to encamp by itself for fear that some of them had it and that it might spread all over the Brigade. I believe I as live are as have it, and unless great care is taken it figures any one so much by leaving so many years. Enough on that unpleasant subject. Hoping again it may not infest your home. Well this sheet has almost given out, so I will have to finish on another sheet, If you are very busy you will have to take this down several times before you finish it.

NEW INFORMATION...............................................................................
Receved this email June 11, 2010. Helping to find who wrote this letter/
Thank you Sherman!

Stu, I stumbled on your blog while working on the Wikipedia page for the 41st Virginia Infantry (yet to be posted) and think I may have the identity of your letter writer. Beginning in the early '70s a Virginia history professor largely self-funded a series of books on every unit from Virginia in the Civil War and I borrowed the 41st's from the library (41st Virginia Infantry, by William D. Henderson), and it includes a roster sheet in the back. This one is pretty thorough and I feel pretty confident saying every man who served in the regiment for a significant length of time is in here.

It looks like your best bet is Joseph E. Folkes, described below:

"Folkes, Joseph E.: enl. 4/22/61, Washington Point, Norfolk County for 1 year; private in Company B; Sergent 11/5/61; re-enlisted for the war March 1862, received a $50 bounty; late June 1862 at General Hospital, Camp Winder, Richmond with remittent fever; July 1862 serving as acting regimental Sgt. Maj.; AWOL November 1862 - January 1863; court-martial 1/23/63, charged with AWOL, found guilty and sentenced to forfeit 2 months pay, 'court is thus lenient in consideration of the high character of the accused'; 6/20/64 reduced to private; 8/1/64 appointed regimental Sgt. Maj. by order of Major William Etheridge; wounded 8/19/64 at battle of Weldon Railroads/Globe Tavern; 8/22 - 8/36/64 at Confederate State Hospital in Petersburg; 8/26/64 given sick furlough to recuperate; December 1864 to April 1865 at Chimborazo Hospital No. 2 (in Richmond)"

The other possibility is below, but some more about the other characters he mentions in the letter. The Colonel he mentions is almost certainly William Allen Parham, who took over the regiment officially in July 1862, and had commanded Mahone's brigade at Sharpsburg/Antietam. Parham would be recommended for brigadier general by his former commander, John R. Chambliss, in March, but never nominated. Folkes (if that is the writer) has heard incorrect gossip, because Billy Mahone (his brigadier general referred to in the letter) would not be nominated to major general until July 1864, and then he would turn down the rank (though maintaining his rank as temporary major general bestowed a few days earlier). The brigade would also not go to Tennessee or Sussex, but two other divisions of his corps would be detached with Longstreet to lay siege to Suffolk. The lieutenant colonel he refers to appears to be Joseph Powhatan Minetree, who was briefly returned from recovering from an injury, but would be gone again shortly. Major William Etheridge, who later recommended Folkes to the post of Sgt. Maj., was the effective second in command.

In early February, the 41st Virginia moved their camp from Salem Church on the Plank Road (it's still standing on VA3, surrounded by strip-malls) to United States Ford to guard against a sudden Union attack. My book notes that early 1863 was a hard time for Company B, because of the review boards passed by the Confederate Congress, illnesses, and wounds. Company B ended up with no officers in early 1863 and Lieutenant Charles Denoon of Company K acted as commander (after Chancellorsville, he would be the senior officer in the regiment for a short time, but they finally got him at the Crater). For instance, at the time of his letter writing, the Captain of Company B was John M. Tucker, who had been wounded pretty bad at Second Manassas as the first lieutenant, and been made captain in January when Clay Drewry (of the Drewrys of Drewry's Bluff) resigned, but was not at all well and not actually with the army. In Company G, where maybe-Folkes wants to be first lieutenant, the captain was John Archibald Weddell, who was unhappy. One of his brothers had been mortally wounded at Glendale and the other had left the unit because he was too obese (both had been captain of Company E). He hung around, though, and would be killed at Chancellorsville, along with all the other officers of the company, and the omnipresent Lieutenant Denoon would take over Company G, too.

I have a friend who has an account looking up Joseph Folkes to see if she can find him and his only sister in a census, and I'll let you know if she does find him.

The other possibility is:

Frith, Henry W.; enlisted 5/29/61 in Manchester, Chesterfield County for one year; Sergeant, Co. B; b 1835; 5'5", gray eyes, light brown hair; First Sergeant 11/3/1861; March 1862 re-enlisted for the war, received a $50 bounty; POW 6/1/62 Seven Pines; imprisoned at Ft. Delaware June 1862 to August 1862; exchanged at Aiken's Landing 8/5/1862; 2nd Lieutenant 6/1/63; from 6/16/64 to 6/27/64 at Chimborazo Hospital No. 3 in Richmond for acute diarrhea; 1st Lieutenant in September 1864; commanding Company B in late 1864; paroled at Appomattox

I see no reason to doubt that the letter's author didn't know his own rank, but I am not totally confident that every sergeant major in the regiment that was also in Company B was recorded. Folkes and Frith are both sergeants at the time of the letter writing, though Frith is First Sergeant so probably wouldn't describe himself as being elected from "sergeant of Company B." He also never served as master sergeant, though Folkes had been acting in that position, so he could "take [his] old position of Sgt. Major."

Anyway, thanks for giving me a fun mystery to poke around, hope this is all interesting to you.