While the 96th Pennsylvania kept warm in their makeshift winter quarters at Camp Northumberland in Fairfax County, Virginia, their wives and sisters on the home front prepared packages filled with necessities for soldiers wintering in the field.
Warm clothing, blankets, supplies for the hospital, and personal packages poured into the camp via Washington, DC. Chaplain Samuel Colt wrote this letter of appreciation to a fellow church leader in Pottsville to thank him and the ladies of the German Reformed Church for their generous work on behalf of the 96th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry.
Camp Northumberland, Headquarters 96th P.V.
Fairfax Co., Va, near Washington, D.C. Jan. 5, ‘62
Rev. Samuel Miller,
My Dear Christian Brother – Allow me to tender to the patriotic and generous ladies of the German Reformed Congregation of Pottsville, through you, their esteemed Pastor, our grateful acknowledgment for the valuable box sent on the 13th December by Express, (prepaid to Washington) containing the timely supply of 19 caps, 35 pairs of drawers, 13 undershirts, 10 comforts, 15 pillows, 8 pairs of mittens, 6 pairs of socks, 5 towels, a pillow slip, 2 sheets, a pair of slippers, a small roll of muslin wrappings, and a bunch of cotton, for our Regiment together with 14 parcels addressed to individual soldiers in our corps.
In the kind providence of God, our Regiment has thus far continued to enjoy remarkably good health, and we have but few sick in our Hospital Tent. The condition of these is made vastly more comfortable by the articles provided by the timely kindness and woman’s affectionate skill of the ladies of the German Reformed Congregation. The activities of the Winter campaign will doubtless render every donation of this kind necessities of the utmost important for increasing numbers of sick or wounded men. Many a poor fellow will bless the tender forethought which has provided in anticipation of his sore need.
The cape, comforts, and underclothes are appreciated by sick men in the field, I can assure you. The woolen mittens are urgently needed by hundreds of our men. The few dozen pair received by me, from all sources, are but as a drop in the bucket towards a supply. O, how I wished for fifty pairs to give to the men on guard last night.
Today, 800 men go out for Brigade practice, few, very few of whom have any covering for their hands this wintry day. The exorbitant prices asked for all such articles of supply in the neighborhood of the army, puts it out of the power of many to buy; then too, most of the men have assigned by allotment so large a portion of their pay for the support of their families at home, as to have nothing to buy with at any price.
It gives me pain to be forced to say to the constant applicants for mittens, “I have not a single pair left.” If the ladies of your church, with the others, charitably disposed in Pottsville, would send me on a large supply, they will greatly increase our obligation, and at the same time increase the efficiency of our men in handling the arms during frosty days and nights.
It is proper to add that this acknowledgment has been somewhat delayed by a desire to notice at the same time, a similar box sent for us to the care of the Sanitary Commission, by the Ladies Society, of which Mrs. A. Russel is President, sometime before, but as it does not come to hand, it may not be allowed longer to detain this expression of our hearty thanks to the loved ones at home for their kind and considerable exertions for our comfort in the army. The fair daughters of this patriotic charity will be held in grateful and affectionate regard. Most sincerely and truly yours, and theirs,
Samuel Fisher Colt
Chaplain, 96th, P.V.
The letter was published in the Miners’ Journal at Pottsville on January 18, 1862.