Western Frontier 1855~63

The information in this section is supplied by Thomas A. Stein who writes: "My Great Great Grandfather was William Vogal, he enlisted on May 10 1855. He was in Company D and was sent to the Oregon and Washington territory. I have letters that he wrote in old German and we had them translated as best that they could be. I am looking for more information on the activities of Company D from May 10 1855 to October 1861.

Record of William Vogel: Born 1834 and left Germany at the age of 18. I enlisted in U.S. Army 9th Infantry on May 10, 1855, I was then just 21 years old. At Fortress Monroe our Regiment was organized., from there we were shipped by way of the Isthmus of Panama, to Oregon, Washington Territory where all of the Indians were on the War-path, and re-enforced by tribes from the East side of the Rocky Mountains. We had some hard work to do but had the advantage of the Indians by superior weapones they having for the most part bows and arrows. In 1858 they broke out again on account of cruel treatement of the whites.

In 1860 I enlisted for 5 years more and when the rebellion broke out I applied to the Sec. of War for my discharge in order to accept promotion in the Vol. Army, in the 73rd Pa, Vol, I participated In the following battles: Cross Keyso Va., Chancelersville, Slaughter Mountain, Second Bull Rub, Gettysburg, Whauhatchie, Tenn., (foot of Lookout Mountain) Missionary Ridge, Tenn., On Coming back to Chattanooga I resigned to join the 5th Pa. Calvary. In the Cavalry under Sheridan the engagements vith the Rebs in front of Rishmond, Petersburg, on the raids as far down as North Carolina and the encounters with the Guerillas are too numerous to mention. The Cavalry was always kept busy day & night. After the surrender of Lee at Appamatox we thought we could go home, but our division was kept in service until Sept. 1865. I commanded my Company the whole time and sometimes two. The skirmishes we had would,. have been reported as Battles in the Spanish American war.

Fort Monroe, June 11, 1855

My Dear Charles,
You are silent and are patient and I thank you. You are right. Please forgive me and I will write to you and your family. I have a short time to do so. Saturday, May 19, we departed from-here (Jamestown) on a big sea steamer to Fort Monroe and arrived on Sunday evening and 'til Tuesday noon we had to pass by the doctor one more time. Fort Monroe is the largest fortress in the navy and is about 11 miles from Norfolk. We did not get our real uniform yet but have to exercise 2 hours every day and have to work very strict. From money is not much to speak of because everything is double as expensive as in any city. Every 2 months we get paid $19.50, from that $1.00 is kept back for medical insurance. We will probably stay here for 6 months to 1 year and then out into the wilderness, New Mexico or Florida to maintain discipline under the indians. When we get there, first we have to build housing for the officers then for ourselves. The old soldiers tell us we will like it there much better because we will have more free time and more to eat. We have a bad deal here. If you ask for your rights they put you without delay under arrest. Then we have to be with the riffraff of people. When we complained to our officer to have some rights, the spokesman was put in arrest and we were promised things would get better soon. But that is all from here. But I never felt 1 minute sorry that I became a soldier because I am finding out very much and also I am in the same place for 5 years. Often I think of you and your loved ones and hope and wish I that your are all very happy for a long time. Charles, Please do not let me wait too long for a letter from you and also tell me news from everyone in Newark. Please write Mother as often as you can and tell her I will write soon and I have a small present for her. Now for you and your wife, everything good.

I am yours and always loving brother,
Wilhelm Vogel

Old point Comfort
Fort Monroe

Camp Semi-ah-moo, October 7, 1858

My Dear Charles,
I am very happy to receive an answer after so long a time and that I am not forgotten and I release you from all your guilt.

Perhaps you would like to start any kind of used business in Portland, Olympia, but as I say nothing is sure. I would like to find a place, when I am free, in California. In that state it is backwards. Through the Fraser's River gold diggings, there is better work to find than in Washington or Oregon. That is the surest way and you should not forget to get an acknowledgement.

We are having here a hard service, 25 men as escorts and a few survey officials in the region of Mount Backer. A few of the escorts did not come. Some are sick and a few were free brown nosers. Today, for instance, I am on guard duty 'til tomorrow morning at 8 o'clock and maybe I hour later. I also belong to the boat crew and have to for 1 day in the woods and split firewood and then the thing starts again from the beginning. And our food is in tune and manners. Today rice and beansoup, tomorrow beansoup and rice. It is only good that I have only 18 months left and then I will leave next spring and hope to resume our nomad life in the northwest direction to clean up the place from the British.

We are 100 yards from the American border. Since there is no water nearby, we had to go over the border and make a camp. My friend Hisser is sending through his greetings to you and would you please tell his brother that he is sending 2 letters to his-parents and he hopes the letters get to them. We are having plenty of newspapers. The company gets 12 different ones weekly also the N. Y. state newspaper. How come you don't hear from Paul Gunter, W. Metzger and Rarwohert? Did you try to find out from them? Please excuse my writing but I only have a few minutes to talk to you. Now farewell my dear Charles and don't forget that in the wilderness is beating a loving heart for you and I wish you have the same for me. Greetings for your dear wife and my dear nephew, but you are special and I will never forget you.

Wilhelm Vogel
Co. G 9th Infy. N. W. Boundry Survey, Escort
Camp Semi-ah-moo W.I. (?)

* (An investigation of Canadian rivers led me to a river called the Similkameen River in British Columbia just north of the present American Canadian border. Semi-ah-moo and Similkameen are probably one and the same. C. G. Stein, Jr.)

Camp on Skagit River, July 1859

My Dear Charles,
From far away in the wilderness in the middle of the Cascade Mountains, through which our way goes. I received your letter from June 1, and so I will write back even if it is very uncomfortable writing on a fallen tree.

You thought I did not get your letter from January this year. But I did and answered you right away. By now you should have received my letter. Please write soon again about Philadelphia and your opinion about California. I may have to take your suggestion and only too much would I love to take you up an your friendly invitation to come back to the states. There is still very much time to think about it and I can ask you many questions about it you have not mentioned

A good soldier is never far from death but we should look to the good in the future. I feel sad almost crying since we are marching again and I am watching over my comrades. Because if the strange water of the woody speikas (?) and other bad food almost all of my comrades have dysentery and feel very bad. We may even the scurvy mania if we don't receive fresh food and medicine soon.

Our party, which is the advance guard, consists of 16 men and 1 sergeant. We hope in about 3 months to be on Lake Okanagen that is on the other side of the Cascade Mountains. There we will released from the 2 companies of our regiment and we will start way back to Fort Stettercom ~ W. I. Washington State?).

If you could only see these mountains. They are high, large many. You would'nt believe this but we are doing this on foot with the survey boxes and instruments and this harsh environment thin air. We are experiencing horrifying heights and looking with astonishment at each other, asking can we make it with nothing to hold on to. Then if you look down you see a little lake with sky blue water in your astonishment while still on a ledge 2000 feet high.

The landscape is as when a painter painted it. The colors are so bright. The water is beautiful. If someone described this to me I would have said that person is crazy and many others would have agree. This another world-wonder that I saw for myself and have to tell you all about it.

Last summer part of our company and the survey officers on summit of Cnelosveck ~ three of our people were sent to the other side of the lake in a canoe. On the return trip the canoe turned over. All 3 were good swimmers but only 2 made it to the banks. The 3rd drowned. We all looked for him for I week but it was fruitless. As the experts said to us, the water is very cold and the lake contains many minerals that let not the body come to the surface.

A few weeks later as our party arrived again at the lake, 4 men were sent to the other side. They saw something and when they came closer they recognized our comrade. We were all surprised at how good the body looked altogether. A part of back was probably a few days in the sun and a bump on his skull what must have happened when he fell. His skin was (?) and hard like a soldier. The clothes were in good condition. He had a letter -in his pocket. When it was dry we could still read the letter. We buried our fellow countryman with a military honor and built a memorial with his name, rank, how and when he died and when we found him again on it. It may be a 100 years before someone comes this way again.

Did you get my letter from January 10, The letter was ressed to Newark. I have no more time to write and close with the hope to hear from you very soon. Please give your brother-in-law and his wife my best regards and should anyone of you know of a beautiful girl maybe you could say a nice word about me. Then it would be personally easier in Philadelphia for me. My best to your dear wife and my dear nephew. To you my very best greetings.

Your Brother,
Wilhelm Vogel
Forget never your little brother.

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