Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Henry Pippitt Papers, 1864-1865

James S. Schoff Civil War Collection

Finding aid created by
Rob S. Cox, November 1997

Summary Information
Title: Henry Pippitt papers
Creator: Pippitt, Rebecca
Inclusive dates: 1864-1865
Extent: 128 items
Abstract:
Virtually all of Henry Pippitt's surviving Civil War correspondence consists of letters addressed to his mother, Rebecca, documenting two intertwining themes: the Petersburg Campaign from start to finish, and Pippitt's personal campaign to keep himself and his family in good order.Pippitt's letters offer commentary on the last year of the war as seen through the eyes of a young working class man, grown up far beyond his years.
Language: The material is in English.
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu


Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1983, 1984. M-2073; M-2160; M-2177.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.

Copyright:

Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

Henry Pippitt Papers, James S. Schoff Civil War Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Biography

Pippitt, Henry, b. 1847

Rank : Private

Regiment : 2nd Pennsylvania Artillery Regiment (Heavy). Battery H (1862-1866)(112th Pennsylvania Infantry)

Service : 1864 February 13-1866 January 29

Henry Pippitt was born into a working class family in South Camden, N.J., the eldest son of a drunkard, strapped for money, and starved of familial stability. At only sixteen years of age in February, 1864, he was recruited into Battery H of the 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery to serve for three years. His pay -- sixteen dollars per month -- became the family's major source of income.

As a new man in a veteran regiment, Pippitt was sent immediately into the field, and after a brief three months at Forts Ethan Allen, Cass, and Whipple, Va., he was thrown into the fury of the assaults on Cold Harbor and Petersburg. Although he witnessed friends and new acquaintances dying in unthinkable violence, Pippitt adjusted with remarkable ease, coping with the death and separation as well as any soldier. By the time of the Petersburg assaults of June 16, he had become familiar enough with the psychological distancing involved in combat to coolly inform his mother "When you go into battle you dont think of being killed all you think of is push a head and kill all you can of the rebs" (1864 June 20).

These adjustments, however, were made more difficult for Pippitt by unsettling reports from home of his father's shenanigans. Assuming an authority that is hard to imagine for such a young person, he implored his mother "tell father in plain words that if he dont try & take good care of the family till i get home i will remmebr him when he gets old & cant work." Pippitt insisted that his father "might make a splendid living... if he would only try & have some ambition," and he enumerated the many chores that he had to perform while in the service, hoping to shame his father into acting more responsibly (1864 July 11). His father, it seems, continued to plague Pippitt throughout his service, though Pippitt -- who had his own brushes with alcohol and indolence -- never abandoned hope that his father would reform.

The 2nd Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery remained before Petersburg until September, when they relocated to the "Bermuda Hundred Front" at Point of Rocks (September), Chafin's Farm (October-November), and Point of Rocks again (December-March). At times, Pippitt could clearly see Richmond and the sight, along with the floods of Confederate deserters coming into Union lines, was heartening to him. By February, his thoughts began turning to his future, and he toyed with the idea of transferring into the 1st U.S. Heavy Artillery, which he felt might offer better living conditions and of course, a continuation of employment. The elation of sudden collapse of the Petersburg and Richmond defenses in April, however, was followed by long weeks dragging into months, as the 2nd Pennsylvania showed no signs of mustering out. Stationed near Petersburg, the regiment waited and watched the demobilization and transition into Reconstruction, but it was not until late January, 1866, that the regiment was allowed to disband.

Little is known about Pippitt after his discharge. That he lacked any sizable quotient of personal ambition is apparent in his own admission that he did not wish to rise above the rank of private, yet his desire to provide for his mother and family seems sincere and compelling. A photograph of Pippitt taken about the turn of the century (page 96 of Ward's book cited below) shows him looking very "respectable" -- and looking considerably older than his years.


Collection Scope and Content Note

Virtually all of Henry Pippitt's surviving Civil War correspondence consists of letters addressed to his mother, Rebecca, documenting two intertwining themes: the Petersburg Campaign from start to finish, and Pippitt's personal campaign to keep himself and his family in good order. Well written, if not particularly polished, Pippitt's letters offer fine commentary on the last year of the war as seen through the eyes of a young working class man, grown up far beyond his years.

Pippitt's personal struggles weave throughout the collection, surfacing at numerous points, and his various ways of dealing with his ragged home life are reflective both of the depth of his difficulties and his resourcefulness. He alternately castigates, cajoles, threatens or ignores his dead beat father, does his best to assuage his mother's depression over losing her son to the army, and her jealousy of the woman he courts, and he does his best to deal with or explain away his financial problems and his own lapses into drink. Throughout all of his experiences, military and personal, Pippitt matures physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Of particular interest is the letter of September 4, 1864, in which Pippitt describes why he is (again) out of cash. After sketching a somewhat fantastic tale of heavy rains, floods, and an entire camp swept away in the deluge, he swears that the story is the truth and not a lie. This and other letters illustrate an interesting dichotomy in Pippitt's character. Having grown up in a lower-class family, he is constantly aware of the shortage of money, both in camp and at home, but despite his frequent promises to send home sizable sums, he manages to fritter away most of his pay and at times, dips liberally into the already slender family purse to supply himself with what he calls "necessaries."

In more narrowly military terms, the collection contains several brief, but powerful letters describing the hard life in the Petersburg trenches, skirmishes, and the battles of Petersburg, the Crater, and Cold Harbor. A curious side note is Pippitt's tale of the Confederate defenders of Petersburg under-mining Union forts facing the city following the Crater disaster. The series of letters written from Point of Rocks and Chafin's Farm illustrate not only the constricting stagnation of the siege effort during the winter of 1864-65, but the gradually deteriorating morale of the Confederate forces, seen in a flood tide of deserters.

Finally, Pippitt's use of language is often as interesting as what he says. His use of phrases such as "dead beat" (24:45), "helter skelter" (24:66), "if he don't like it, he can lump it" (24:37), or "let [the landlord] know that you haint a going to be shit on by him" (24:38) seem thoroughly up to date, and are an excellent record of urban, working-class patterns of speech.

Subject Terms

    Subjects:
    • United States. Army. Pennsylvania Artillery Regiment, 2nd (1862-1866)
    • Petersburg (Va.)--History--Siege, 1864-1865.
    • Reconstruction (U.S. history, 1865-1877)--Virginia.
    • Fathers and sons.
    • Mothers and sons.
    • Courtship.
    • Military deserters.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African American.
    • United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Trench warfare.
    Contributors:
    • Pippitt, Henry, b. 1847.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Box   24, Schoff Civil War Collection  
    Henry Pippitt papers,  1864 April 23-1865 December 4 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Bibliography

    Ward, George. History of the Second Pennsylvania Veteran Heavy Artillery... (Philadelphia, 1904).

    Partial Subject Index
    Absence without leave.
    • 1864 December 5
    African Americans--Virginia.
    • 1865 May 21
    • 1865 July 4
    Arlington House, the Robert E. Lee Memorial (Va.)
    • 1864 May 24
    Camps (Military)--Virginia.
    • 1864 May 2
    • 1864 May 18
    • 1864 July 11
    • 1864 August 10
    • 1864 December 16
    Chester Station (Va.), Skirmish at, 1865.
    • 1865 April 18
    Christmas.
    • 1864 December 24
    City Point (Va.)--Description and travel.
    • 1865 March 27
    Civilians--Virginia--Civil War, 1861-1865.
    • 1865 April 8
    Cold Harbor, Battle of, 1864.
    • 1864 June 5
    • 1864 June 9
    • 1864 June 10
    Confederate States of America. Army of Northern Virginia--Surrender.
    • 1865 April 11
    • 1865 April 18
    • 1865 April 22
    Copperhead (Nickname)--New Jersey.
    • 1864 August 14
    Courtship.
    • 1865 April
    • 1865 May 9
    • 1865 June 2
    • 1865 June 13
    Davis, Jefferson, 1808-1889.
    • 1865 March 22
    • 1865 May 30
    Dead.
    • 1864 July 19
    Death.
    • 1864 May 25
    Deserters, Military.
    • 1864 May 24
    • 1864 June 30
    • 1864 July 15
    • 1865 January 2
    Deserters, Military--Confederate States of America.
    • 1864 July 11
    • 1865 February 24
    • 1865 March 2
    • 1865 March 8
    • 1865 March 18
    • 1865 March 22
    Diarrhea.
    • 1864 June 27
    Dinwiddie Court House (Va.)--Description and travel.
    • 1865 May 21
    Dutch Gap Canal (Va.)
    • 1864 November 13
    • 1864 November 22
    Enemy--Relations.
    • 1864 July 11
    • 1864 September 12
    • 1864 October 13
    • 1864 December 5
    • 1864 December 16
    Escapes.
    • 1865 May 30
    Executions and executioners.
    • 1865 January 2
    Fathers and sons.
    • 1864 May 19
    • 1864 May 25
    • 1864 July 11
    • 1864 July 19
    • 1864 July 29
    • 1864 November 17
    • 1864 December 8
    • 1865 January 30
    • 1865 October 26
    • 1865 October 27
    • 1865 November 14
    Floods.
    • 1864 August 17
    Food.
    • 1864 October 31
    Fort Ethan Allen (Va.)
    • 1864 May 2
    Fourth of July celebrations.
    • 1865 July 4
    Grant, Ulysses Simpson, 1822-1885.
    • 1864 August 1
    Landlords.
    • 1864 July 29
    Lee, Robert E. (Robert Edward), 1807-1870.
    • 1865 March 22
    Lincoln, Abraham 1809-1865--Assassination.
    • 1865 April 18
    • 1865 April 20
    Military discharge.
    • 1865 June 21
    Mothers and sons.
    • 1864 May 25
    • 1864 May 28
    • 1864 November 17
    • 1864 December 17
    • 1865 January 30
    New Market Heights (Va.), Battle of, 1864.
    • 1864 October 5
    • 1864 October 13
    Newspapers.
    • 1864 August 14
    Packages from home.
    • 1865 January 27
    Pen-pals.
    • 1865 April
    • 1865 May 9
    Petersburg (Va.)--Description and travel.
    • 1865 April 5
    • 1865 April 8
    Petersburg Campaign, 1864-1865.
    • 1864 June 10
    • 1864 June 20
    • 1864 June 27
    • 1864 June 30
    • 1864 July 8
    • 1864 July 11
    • 1864 July 15
    • 1864 July 19
    • 1864 July 21
    • 1864 July 29
    • 1864 August 1
    • 1864 August 6
    • 1864 August 7
    • 1864 August 8
    • 1864 August 10
    • 1864 August 11
    • 1864 August 17
    • 1864 August 18
    • 1864 September 3
    • 1864 September 12
    • 1864 October 5
    • 1864 October 13
    • 1864 October 17
    • 1864 October 27
    • 1864 October 31
    • 1864 November 10
    • 1864 November 13
    • 1864 November 18
    • 1865 April 5
    • 1865 April 8
    Petersburg Crater, Battle of, 1864.
    • 1864 August 1
    • 1864 August 6
    Petersburg, Battle of, 1864.
    • 1864 June 20
    Petersburg, Battle of, 1865.
    • 1865 April 5
    • 1865 April 8
    Picket duty--Virginia.
    • 1864 May 2
    • 1864 July 8
    • 1864 July 11
    • 1864 September 14
    • 1864 October 31
    • 1864 November 22
    Pontoon-bridges.
    • 1865 March 27
    Presidents--United States--Election--1864.
    • 1864 November 10
    • 1864 November 13
    • 1864 November 15
    Prisoners of War.
    • 1864 December 5
    • 1865 May 30
    Prisoners of War--Confederate States of America.
    • 1864 October 13
    Race riots--New Jersey.
    • 1864 September 14
    Raids (Military science)
    • 1865 April 18
    Reconstruction--Virginia.
    • 1865 May 21
    • 1865 July 23
    • 1865 July 27
    • 1865 August 2
    • 1865 August 16
    Richmond (Va.)--Capture, 1865.
    • 1865 April 5
    Richmond (Va.)--Description and travel.
    • 1864 September 28
    • 1864 October 13
    • 1865 April 5
    Sharpshooters.
    • 1864 June 10
    Sherman, William T. (William Tecumseh), 1820-1891.
    • 1865 April 27
    Soldiers--Alcohol use.
    • 1864 October 5
    • 1864 October 13
    • 1864 October 17
    • 1865 June 29
    • 1865 July 4
    Soldiers--Confederate States of America.
    • 1864 September 12
    • 1865 March 22
    Soldiers--Confederate States of America--Religious life.
    • 1864 September 12
    Soldiers--Death.
    • 1864 July 21
    Soldiers--Religious life.
    • 1865 March 18
    Souvenirs (Keepsakes)
    • 1865 January 2
    • 1865 January 30
    • 1865 February 2
    Stealing.
    • 1865 January 19
    Stealing from corpses.
    • 1864 July 19
    Torpedoes.
    • 1864 October 13
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--African Americans.
    • 1865 April 5
    • 1865 April 8
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Medical care.
    • 1864 May 7
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, African American.
    • 1864 June 20
    • 1864 August 1
    • 1864 December 5
    • 1865 April 5
    • 1865 April 20
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Participation, Indian.
    • 1864 June 10
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Postal service.
    • 1864 July 15
    • 1864 October 17
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Songs and music.
    • 1865 March 2
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Trench warfare.
    • 1864 July 8
    • 1864 July 29
    • 1864 September 17
    • 1864 October 31
    United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Women.
    • 1865 April 8
    United States. Army--Artillery.
    • 1865 February 23
    • 1865 March 12
    • 1865 March 22
    United States. Army--Leaves and furloughs.
    • 1864 December 28
    • 1865 January 12
    • 1865 January 15
    United States. Army--Officers.
    • 1864 May 28
    United States. Army--Officers--Alcohol use.
    • 1864 May 28
    • 1865 August 16
    War wounds.
    • 1864 June 5
    War--Psychological aspects.
    • 1864 June 20
    Washington (D.C.)--Defenses.
    • 1864 May 19
    Women--Virginia.
    • 1865 April 8
    • 1865 April 20
    • 1865 May 25
    Wounded soldiers.
    • 1864 June 30