Henry Pippitt papers  1864-1865
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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.