PVT. Joseph W. Welch MA. 38th Regiment

An account of one recruits time at Somerville's Camp Cameron in Aug/Sep 1862.

During the stay of Co. A, B & F of the 38th at Camp Day The Cambridge Chronical printed several letters from a "J. W. W." of CO "A". Joseph W. Welch was the only man on the roster with these initials. Like the majority of the men from these three companies he was from Cambridge, he was 29 years old when he enlisted.
His first letter, dated Aug. 13, 1862 and addresed from "Camp Cameron", was printed on Aug. 16. Much more of the letter deals with how the recruits passed their time than with military training.  In it he comments on the daily visits "by fair woman and brave men who bring sundry plethoric packages, the contents which make glad the hearts and tickle the palates of the recipients".  Welch comments on the "fine singers" in his company and how his barrack, number 8, has the "Jolliest men" in the camp. On the previous day they had hired a blind piper and a fiddler and danced.
So far actually drill and guard duty had been very light though they had recently been taught the art of "double quick" marching.  At this time the men of the 38th shared the camp with men who had been recruited to be replacements for regiment already in the field he also mentions that men had left the camp had left camp the day before to join several other regiments.
Letter #2 is addressed from "Camp Day", the camp had been rechristened during the week. It seems that with Simon Cameron's scandals the old name was no longer attractive so it was renamed for the new boss Lt. Col. H. Day.
Time spent in actual drill is still light only 2-3 hours each day. The rest of the day is taken up by many other activities among them "reading, ball playing, and coloring meerchums".
The lack of time training may have been a result of just how crowded the camp was at this time. Many of the men of the 38th needed to be furloughed each night, for lack of enough bunks,  so room on the drill field may have been short for each group. Again, Welch spends a good amount of this letter describing non-military matters. The City of Cambridge had thrown a reception for its home town boys that week. They marched to it, the Mayor made a speech and their friends and families attended to wish them well. Also that week the three Cambridge companies "gave a grand fete champetre". They decorated the parade ground with flags, lanterns and bunting. The invited guests arrived in three trolley cars and where led into the camp by Edmunds' Quadrille Band. Supper was prepared by their cook Emmett Weeks. Dancing both preceded and followed the meal.
At this point in time it was generally believed that the Cambridge companies would join the rest of the regiment in Lynnfield before it left the state.
Before the regiment could be united orders to leave for the front came. On Tuesday Aug.  26, one of the hottest days of the year, the three companies from Cambridge would leave Camp Day. The manner in which this was handled would cause some controversy. In his Sept  16th letter Welch tells how orders to leave arrived with such short notice that the men got no evening meal and no rations for the trip. They boarded a train in Boston at 6:00 PM and received noting to eat until they arrived in Philadelphia at 7:00 PM the next day.
Hosea Jewell, of the Cambridge Recruiting Committee, responded with a letter of his own. When rumors began to spread that the recruits would be called for that day he took it upon himself to find out the details. The State House sent him to Quartermaster McKim. When asked when the Cambridge companies would be 
sent for his response was "I don't care a ------ about the three Cambridge companies. They may stay where they are till they rot. I will never send for them. they have no business to be there. They may stay there till they rot....They may all go to the ----."  They soon got word to leave with no help from the Quartermaster.

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