The 1st West Virginia Infantry in Camp Poland

 Contributed by Jeff Berry

1st West Virginia Co. L and 6th Ohio, Co. L

This interesting image, taken in November of 1898, shows the 1st West Virginia Infantry, Co. L serving Thanksgiving Dinner to the 6th Ohio Infantry, Co. L. The 1st West Virginia Infantry stated in the United States during the war. The 6th Ohio served in Cuba. This dinner occurred at Knoxville, Tennessee. See the article for November 24, below, for more information  (Photo courtesy of Holley Pauley)
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The following articles provide information on the camp life experienced by the 1st West Virginia Volunteer Infantry at Camp Poland, Tennessee. The article appeared in the Knoxville Journal and Tribune..

The Articles:

October 2, 1898:

The fine weather yesterday did not pass without the usual amount of sport in this camp. In the early forenoon the football game against the Sixth Ohio was a feature. The attendance was large and the result was 4 to 0 in favor of West Virginia.  The defeated visitors did not go off and weep, however, because they soon found that their ball team had won. All in all the game was a success.

Lieutenant-Colonel Smith is well pleased with The Journal and Tribune’s special war edition. He contemplates getting out a detailed history of the First West Virginia regiment sometime in the near future. As he is a forceful writer, he will no doubt produce a publication that will be of general interest.

Chaplain Arbuthnot and wife are due to arrive Tuesday.

The regular tri-weekly band concert last night was productive of some good music and was enjoyed by all who heard it.

J.C.Hall, company K, chief artificer of the First West Virginia regiment, says he made one million of beer kegs during 1897, at $ 1.19 each and his brother made two more than he did.

Rev. J.M. Mealer, pastor of the Luttrell street church will preach in the chapel tent this morning at 8:30 o’clock.

October 3, 1898:

Nothing Definite Known as to the Time of Gen. Chaffee’s Arrival---Force of Six Hundred Soldiers Busy Laying Water Piper at the New Camp of the Second Ohio—Two Deaths in Division Hospital

The usual Sunday crowds were in evidence again yesterday at Camp Poland, The Middlebrook electric line carried thousands during the afternoon, running three cars together every fifteen minutes. The washout just beyond the Belt Line railroad has been repaired and the cars are running to the new camp of the Second Ohio. This camp entertained many visitors during the afternoon, which was something unusual, as the old camp was so far removed from the street car lines that but very few visitors from the city ever found their way there.

The Thirty-first Michigan regiment also entertained hundreds of visitors, and the dress parade was witnessed by a large crowd.

At Lincoln Park the crowds were not as large as on the Sunday previous, but there were enough visitors in the camps of the Sixth Ohio and the First West Virginia to keep the soldiers busy showing them about and otherwise entertaining them. The balloon ascension did not take place as billed, and the visitors were somewhat disappointed on that account as the thrilling feat of the soldier aeronaut was a great attraction on the Sunday before.
The crowds no doubt would have been larger at all of the camps but for the fact that something was wrong with the electric current of the street ca system, causing much delay in handling the passengers.

It is surprising to note what a large number of soldiers attend the various churches in the city. Officers and men alike avail themselves of the opportunity offered to attend church of their choice, and as a result the city churches have largely increased congregations.

At the camps the regular Sunday services were held by the various chaplains, or in some instances by city pastors, with the exception of the Second Ohio, which was undergoing the hardship of getting settled properly in its new camps.

At division headquarters yesterday there was unusual quiet, the place being almost deserted. The officers who make this their headquarters were all

There seems to be no definite information obtainable at Camp Poland as to when Maj.-Gen A.R. Chaffee, who has been ordered to Knoxville to take command of the Second division, will put in his appearance. It is understood that he is ill, and it may be at least several weeks before he will have recovered sufficiently to assume the cares and responsibilities incident to commanding a division of infantry.

Much satisfaction is expressed among the officers of the various regiment that General Chaffee has been assigned to this command. He is known as a most “excellent officer, and these officers who know of his former record feel confident that he will see to it that the troops under his command receive the best of care and consideration.

There are persistent rumors of additional regiments being ordered to Knoxville to fill the vacancies in the different brigades. These rumors, though persistent, refuse to be traced to an authoritative source of information.

October 3, 1898:

Fully five hundred people visited this camp yesterday, most of them going out for guard mount and dress parade. The latter was quite attractive and produced many favorable comments.

Colonel Spilman has received an extension of leave and will not return before about the fifteenth of the month.

The band furnished some excellent music yesterday. Its regular concert will occur tomorrow night in front of officers’ row. The band has been engaged to play for the celebration of the Daughters of the Confederacy on September 6th. Special selections will be rendered upon that occasion.

No leaves or furloughs were announced yesterday. Applications continue to come in daily, however.

Lunch stand proprietors in the vicinity of the camp are stocking up, getting ready for pay day.

Regimental Quartermaster Jenkins continues to improve slowly, but is much better than he was a few days ago.

Rev. J. M. Melear, pastor of the Luttrell street church, preached in the chapel tent yesterday morning for Chaplain Arbuthnot who has gone home after his wife. The tent is in excellent condition having a platform, piano, large lights, tables, chairs, etc., in sufficient quantity to accommodate all.

The guardhouse inmates, about fifty in number are taken out a few moments daily for exercise.

The following have obtained sick furloughs and transportation to their homes: Privates Andrew S. Jones, company L, to Charleston; James W. Duty, company G, to Pennsboro; Charles L. Williams, company d, to Clarksburg.

October 5, 1898:

There is great rejoicing in this regiment over the information that comes from Parkersburg that the wife of Colonel Spilman is much improved. This will permit his return by the 13th of this month when his leave will expire.

Lieutenant-Colonel Smith has a special invitation to attend the opening of the Woman’s building on Main street and will take pleasure in being present if it is possible for him to do so.

All of the officers whose leaves expired yesterday failed to show up during the day, but their arrival is expected at once.

A ditch has been dug about the chapel tent and yesterday’s rain did not interfere with any one who desired to enter and write a letter or play the piano.

The band will have the honor of opening the only exclusively woman’s building ever erected in the south. The force that handles the sprinkling wagon had a day off yesterday.

Acting Regimental Surgeon C. T. Nesbitt was busy yesterday making estimates on what would be needed to start a first class regimental hospital. He said that he did not know when the supplies would arrive, but when they did work would commence at once.

There is a false report current that part of the men belonging to this regiment would soon be given a thirty days’ furlough. “While this lacks official confirmation, there is no reason to say that it is not correct” is the way a certain mind reader and hypnotist of the regiment puts it.

Dress parade was abandoned yesterday on account of wet grounds.

October 5, 1898:

The following men of the first West Virginia regiment have received sick furloughs and have gone to their homes: John H. Gillespie, company D, to Wheeling; Chas. E. Baggas, company K, to Hawk’s Nest.

October 5, 1898:

Major Baguley was asked in reference to the movement to establish a regimental hospital in the camp of the First West Virginia regiment. While this is his home regiment, he expressed himself as opposed to the movement, because he believed it was impossible to serve the sick of his command in a proper sanitary manner.

The record yesterday was:--Received 12, discharged 12, remaining 296; died, Ernest Waylett, Thirty-first Michigan, aged 25; James A.G. Reed, company E, First West Virginia, aged 22, home at Huntington. The remains of both men will be shipped home for burial.

October 6, 1898:

Yesterday was unusually quiet in this regiment, and but little was transacted outside of routine matters. The men took interest in watching the inspection of the Sixth Ohio regiment and a few of them polished up their guns and made other efforts to put things in first-class condition.
Adjutant White announced that in the past the First West Virginia regiment has been getting its pay first. This time he did not think that such would be the case, however. While along this line of conversation he also announced that the blue book did not permit a soldier to draw his pay while on leave or furlough, but that he must wait until the pay time when he could report in person to the paymaster.

Much interest is being taken in the concert to begin tonight by the regimental band in the new Women’s building on Main street. Chief Musician Mestrezat has arranged an attractive list of music that will no doubt prove very interesting. It is the intention of several men in the regiment to attend.

A half dozen members who have been off on leaves have returned and there are no officers out now, except Colonel Spilman.

A large squad of men were out participating in skirmish drill yesterday and exhibited considerable proficiency.

The game of ball billed for yesterday against the Second Ohio team was not played on account of inspection in the latter regiment.

October 7, 1898:

Orders wee issued yesterday from division headquarters relative to the different regiments taking practice marches.
The order is as follows:--

The following regulations for the conduct of practice marches are published for the information and guidance of all concerned:--Once each week or on days to be indicated by brigade commanders, each regiment of the division will make a practice march from its camp of not less than ten miles, remaining out one night and returning the following day.

The men will be equipped with shelter tents, ponchos, blankets and haversacks. There will be carried in wagons one days; rations, full, and necessary tentage for officers, Until further orders, the First brigade will operate south of the river, the second to the north, between the river and Second creek, and the Third to the southwest, between Second creek and the lower river. Marches will be made with proper tactical disposition of advance and rear guards, and in execution of an assumed and definite problem, involving the country traversed; the problem to be prescribed by the brigade commander, who may use all the regiments of his brigade in combination, if he so desires.

Itineraries will be kept and maps made in accordance with article X: “troops in campaign,” and reports made to this office.

One company in each regiment will be left in charge of the regimental camp and property and the camp will not be broken.


October 7, 1898:

It would not have been safe for Spaniards or any other war like people to have appeared in the vicinity of the First West Virginia regiment yesterday. During the early afternoon most of the men wee called out for regimental drill, ( which will be held in the future on Tuesdays and Thursday, at 1:30 p.m.) and after they went into battalion formation, the grounds were found to be too small for practical work. “We will take to the woods!” was what Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, acting colonel said. The men were marched to the woodland nearby, where one battalion was placed in defense and the others ordered to take position. There was some active work for a few minutes and the movements through the underbrush and trees were made in a creditable manner. The officers were satisfied with the result.

Dress parade will be held at 4 p.m. hereafter that being the hour selected for fall and winter. This will allow the men plenty of time to get through with all their work before supper.

The estimates for the regimental hospital supplies have been made and Acting Surgeon Nesbitt states that work in this department will commence as soon as supplies arrive and orders are issued to that effect.

Willie Cahill, the mascot of company H, who had his leg broken while leaving Chickamauga for Camp Poland had been removed to his company street. He is not yet able to walk, but will be out in a few days.

Chaplain Arbuthnot has reached camp from Huntington, accompanied by Mrs. Arbuthnot and two children, who will spend several weeks with the chaplain.

The regimental band furnished the music for the Daughters’ of the Confederacy in the opening of the Women’s building last night. The music was excellent and was enjoyed by all, including some of the officers of the regiment.

Homer Grapes, company D, has secured a furlough and will visit Clarksburg.

October 8, 1898:


A general order was issued today organizing new army corps and designating various points where the troops shall be stationed. The Third, Fifth, and Sixth corps are discontinued; the First, Second, and Fourth corps reorganized. They are to be commanded respectively by Major-Generals Breckinridge, Graham, and Wheeler. The headquarters of each corps will be: First corps, Macon, Ga.; Second corps, Augusta, Ga., Fourth corps, Huntsville, Ala. The full text of the order is as follows:

Major-general J.C. Breckinridge, U.S.V., commanding headquarters at Macon, Ga.

First division, headquarters at Macon, Ga.:--
First brigade-Atlanta, Ga. Thirty-first Michigan, Fourth Tennessee and Sixth Ohio
Second brigade- Macon, Ga. Third U.S.V. engineers, Second Ohio and Sixth Virginia
Third brigade- Macon, Ga. Tenth U.S.V., infantry and Seventh U.S.V. infantry

Second division, headquarters at Columbus, Ga.:--
First brigade—Columbus, Ga. First West Virginia, 160th Indiana and Third Kentucky
Second brigade—Americus, Ga. Eighth Massachusetts, Twelfth New York and Third North Carolina
Third brigade—Albany, Ga. Second Missouri, Third Mississippi and First Territorial U.S.V., infantry

October 8, 1898:

Everything moved on with the usual harmony at his camp yesterday and the new routine of drills, etc., was found to work well. The regimental drill starting at 1:30 was, however, stopped by a heavy shower. Recall was sounded as the rain approached, but several of the men were soaked before getting back to camp.

Regimental Quartermaster, Jenkins, who has been quite sick, continues to improve.

Charles Lidick, of the hospital corps, has a furlough to visit his home at Wheeling.

There are two new inmates in the regimental hospital, Tom J. Collett, company E, who was recently released from the division hospital, and C.E. Nickels, of company E.

Business is increasing at different barber shops throughout the camp.

The band will give its regular concert tonight, and an attractive program is promised.

Chaplain Arbuthnot will preach in the chapel tent tomorrow morning at 8:30 o’clock.

The new routine of camp duties makes it almost impossible for the members of the base and football teams to practice much.

The announcement that the soldiers in Camp Poland would be moved to points further south is not received with great rejoicing in this regiment. Some of the officers and man of the men say that if they have to spend the winter in tents, Knoxville is a good enough place for them. But little is heard lately about going home among the men. Several applications are made for furloughs, however, weekly.

October 8, 1898:

An unusual amount of activity about the grounds yesterday was caused by a number of patients getting ready to leave on furloughs for their homes throughout the country. The following went out last night be special sleepers to Cincinnati, at which place they will take different roads for their homes:

Walter Kincaid, company K, First West Virginia, to Hawks Nest
Thomas Kennef, company K, First West Virginia, to Charleston
George E. Hughes, company I, First West Virginia, to Hancock
James C. Prince, company C, first West Virginia, to Hinton
Huston Peters, company K, First West Virginia, to Charleston
Wm. H. Perault, company H, First West Virginia, to Dunkirk, N.Y.
J. Mathews, company M, First West Virginia, to Belton
E.E. Pack, company G, First West Virginia, to Barnesville, Ohio

October 9, 1898:

Saturday is a great day in this camp to the men who admire exercise other than that of carrying guns, digging ditches, etc. The time is taken up in athletic sports. Yesterday there was a spirited game of ball between members of the First and Third battalions.

Lieutenant-Colonel Smith is one officer, who is outspoken in his preference of remaining in Knoxville, if the regiment is to spend the winter in the south. He does not think a move would greatly benefit the men, but is, like a true soldier, submissive and will go to Columbus when moving orders reach camp.

Adjutant W. J. White was in a meditative mood yesterday afternoon and spent some time in writing to a friend at Morgantown how all the members of the regiment were not starving to death. A list of food allowance was enumerated and other information sent that will open the eyes of his friend at home.

“Why.” Said the adjutant, “it appears to me that the administration is being done an injustice and the army injured by enlisted men to a great extent as well as the yellow journals. Some of the fellows who did not get a chance to go to Santiago think that when they go or write home they must have as rough an experience as did the veterans of the late war or their part of the war will be a failure.”

Lieutenant Farrer, of company A, has secured a ten days’ leave and gone to Parkersburg.

Chaplain Arbuthnot will hold religious services in the chapel tent this morning at 8:30 o’clock. This will be his first regular service since returning from Huntington, where he recently spent a leave.

The regimental hospital tent is empty, not an ill or indisposed person being in it.

The band gave its regular tri-weekly concert last night.

October 10, 1898:

The members of the First West Virginia regiment have no time for idle thoughts or unusual lounging on Sunday. They have most of the week-day routine of camp life to go through with, and as one of the private yesterday put it, “there is not much Sunday in the army.”

At 8:30 o’clock Chaplain Arbuthnot preached his first regular sermon in the new chapel tent. He delivered a forcible and instructive sermon, but his auditors were not as numerous, perhaps, as they should have been.

About noon the weather cleared and soon after visitors began to arrive. Guard Mount and dress parade wee witnessed by one of the largest crowds since the regiment went onto Camp Poland. The extra drill work during the past week pit the men in better condition than they had been and the result was easily seen yesterday.

Colonel Spilman’s leave will expire on Wednesday and he is expected to arrive on that day or Thursday morning. Since his departure for Parksburg he gained some information that will be received with pleasure by the men in his regiment.

October 11, 1898:

On Sunday night a notice was received from Major Ballance that general inspection would commence yesterday morning. That officer, accompanied by Major Shunk, appeared in camp early and both were soon at work. They spent all of yesterday and will be today and perhaps part of tomorrow getting through with their duties which consist of watching regimental, battalion and company drills, examining arms and equipment and looking into the accounts of the different departments. The inspection of the First has no doubt proved satisfactory as the men are kept under strict discipline.
Major Shaffer, of Third battalion left last night on a leave going to his home in Moundsville, where he will take a needed rest.

Lieutenant Hale, of company G, has received a leave and will visit relatives and friends in Charleston.

Chaplain Arbuthnot has commenced a series of meetings in the chapel tent. They will be held nightly at seven o’clock and will continue indefinitely.
Regimental Quartermaster Jenkins continues to improve slowly.

The regular band concert will be given tonight.

October 12, 1898:

Majors Ballance and Shunk do not permit any grass to grow under their feet and the government mule that expects a fresh bite about where they are, will have to break through the guard lines and forage for it. The inspection of the First West Virginia regiment commenced on Monday morning and like that in the camp of the Sixth Ohio, will be thorough.

The men were inspected as a whole on Monday and their arms careful examined. Nearly the entire day yesterday was spent in squad, company, battalion and regimental drill. The inspectors will today proceed with their work and examine the books, but will hardly be able to finish by night.
J.B. Hallwood, a contract surgeon, of New York, has arrived and been assigned to duty. He will assist Surgeon Nesbitt in conducting the new regimental hospital when the ordered supplies arrive. The hospital has no inmate now.

Rifle practice will soon become an important feature of work for the members of this regiment. A good range has been selected near the woods just to the west of the camp. A few of the men were practicing yesterday.

The regular tri-weekly concert of the band was billed for last night.

Rev. Arbuthnot, the chaplain, did not have a large attendance at his revival services last night on account of the threatening weather.

Colonel Spilman’s extension of leave expires today and he is looked for in camp tonight or tomorrow

October 13, 1898:

The “promenade dance” to be given in honor of the officers of Camp Poland by the members of the “Women’s Building Board,” will be postponed till Monday night. The ladies of the board will receive and be assisted in entertaining by some of Knoxville’s fairest daughters. The introduction committee will consist of some of the younger married couples. It is the special request of the officers that this will not be a strictly military affair-so it is hoped the young gentlemen of the city will participate. Cards of admission can be obtained from Col. Gardner, Thirty-First Michigan; Capt. White, First West Virginia; Capt. Collier, Second Ohio; Lieut. Fisk, Sixth Ohio; Lieut McAllister, Fourth Tennessee; Lieut Walker, First West Virginia; Mr. Tom Calloway, McCormick Clothing Co., or at Woman’s Building at 8:30 Monday night.

October 13, 1898:

Colonel Spilman returned last night from an extended visit to Parkersburg. He was called home nearly a month ago on account of illness in his family and remained until all danger was past. The announcement that the colonel was back caused rejoicing in camp, and several men were so pleased over his return that they saluted several times. The colonel will, no doubt, go right on with the new general order of routine, which is in effect.

The men were out drilling yesterday afternoon and battalion formations were specially attractive.

The supplies for the regimental hospital have not arrived, but work will commence as soon as they do come. There are now about twenty men unable for drill duty I the entire regiment, while the regimental hospital has one inmate.

Majors Ballance and Shunk have finished their inspection of this regiment and the men are resting easier.

Chaplain Arbuthnot is meeting with success in his chapel tent meetings. The attendance increased nightly and considerable interest is being shown by the men in the meetings. Last night Chaplain Harbaugh, of the Sixth Ohio regiment, preached a forcible sermon that was listened to attentively.

Sergeant Bell, of the band, is out after an illness of two weeks.

Band member Wysong will soon leave on a brief furlough for home.

Postmaster Jerry Russell reports an increase in business.

Captain Cramer was officer of the day yesterday and had his eyes on the construction of some new sinks.

Tonight is the time for the regular concert of the band.

October 13, 1898:

The following men left last night on furloughs going to their home towns;

Sergeant Thomas Daywalt, company A; J. Davis, company D, of First West Virginia regiment

November 24, 1898:

"It is definitely settled that the First West Virginia regiment will get away from Camp Poland on Saturday, going to Columbus, Ga. Transportation has been arranged for and will be ready. Colonel Spilman stated yesterday that the regiment would get away in five sections, leaving as early in the day as possible. The first two sections will carry tentage, arms, wagons, etc., and will be loaded near Lincoln Park. The men will board the cars near the Southern depot and leave in the following manner: Major Shaffer and battalion on the third section, Major Banks and battalion on the fourth section, and Major Lyons and battalion on the fifth section. The colonel and his staff will also go on this part of the train. The order to leave Major Shaffers’s battalion here for, guard duty has been revoked and all the members of the regiment will get away together. It is expected that the regiment will reach Columbus, by noon on Sunday and dinner will be ready for the boys, the 160th Indiana now in camp there, having promised to serve the first meal to the new arrivals.

Today the affections of the “snakes” will coil around the “buckeyes” of the Sixth Ohio regiment. The friendship started between these companies at Chickamauga and continued at Camp Poland will receive added strength. The West Virginia officers have extended an invitation to those in the Ohio camp and likewise to each company of the regiments to join in the participation of a big dinner. All day yesterday men were busy along the different company streets arranging for the feast and everything is in readiness for a joyful time even if the wind does blow. The menu will consist of turkey, oysters, cranberry sauce, pies, potatoes, beef, cakes, fruit, coffee, etc. Peter Kern had an extra force of men at work last night baking about 300 turkeys for the occasion, and he gave the job his special supervision.

The dinner will last from 1-3 p.m. and after it is over a football game will be played for the amusement of the guests. The game will be between company A and an all-regiment team and the line-up will be as follows:

Company A -  Positions  - All-Regiment
Holmes - O - Synder
Gillmore - R. E. - Young
Childers - R.T. - Condrine
Mills - R.G. - Sergt. Huff
McCreary - L.E. - Rodgers
Brannan - L.T. - Minnehan
McComas - L.G. - Goodwin
Davis - Q.B. - Payne
Jones - L.H.B. - Gibbons
Caverlee - R.H.B. -  Thomas
Thompson  - Q.B. - E. Barr"


The Journal and Tribune (Knoxville, TN), October 2, 1898; October 3, 1898; October 5, 1898; October 7, 1898; October 8, 1898; October 9, 1898; October 10, 1898; October 11, 1898; October 7, 1898; October 12, 1898; October 13, 1898; November 24, 1898 - Contributed by Jeff Berry

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