Henry Pool letters

Thanks to John Braden, noted expert on the 5th Michigan Infantry and a member of Company F, 3rd Michigan Infantry Reenactment Group, I have  copies of five letters written by Henry Pool (Company A) to the editor of the Jeffersonian Democrat, in Chardon, Ohio. (Henry had been born in Ohio and lived for a time in Geauga County.) Henry died of disease at the hospital at Savage Station, Virginia, on July 7, 1862. You can read Henry's updated biographical sketch right here.

field hospital at Savage Station, VA, after the battle of June 29, 1861

field hospital at Savage Station, VA, after the battle of June 29, 1861

Henry Martin Pool UPDATE 14 July 2018

Henry Martin Pool was born in 1843 in Ohio, the son of Massachusetts native Abijah Pool (1796-1868) and New Yorker Lucy  Foster (1800-1875). 

In 1830 Abiah was probably living in Hamilton, Madison County, New York. Between 1835 and 1837 the family moved to Ohio and from Ohio to Michigan sometime after 1843. By 1850 Henry and his family were living in Bowne, Kent County. In 1860 Henry was still living with his family on a farm in Bowne.

Henry was 18 years old and residing in “Grand Haven, Kent County” or Crockery, Ottawa County when he enlisted in Company A on May 13, 1861.  (Company A was made up largely of men from Grand Rapids, and many of whom had served in various local militia units before the war, specifically the Valley City Guards, or VCG, under the command of Captain Samuel Judd, who would also command Company A.) In 1862 Henry listed Bowne, Kent County, as his place of residence in 1862.

While little is known of Henry’s movements from the summer of 1861 through the end of the year, we do know that he was with the regiment at Camp Michigan by the first of the year. In fact, he was an occasional correspondent to the Chardon, Ohio Jeffersonian Democrat in Geauga County, Ohio, where he had once lived. Of the five known letters he sent to Julius Converse, the editor of the paper, he signed the first four “Scribbler.”

Camp Michigan, Jan 1st, 1862.

Mr. Editor: - As I am an occasional reader of your paper having a few leisure moments, I thought I would devote them to writing a letter for I’m thinking that perhaps some of the Old Geauga people might be anxious to hear from one who used to live in their midst.

Our regiment is on the extreme left of the Army of the Potomac, under the command of Colonel Stephen G. Champlin, 4th Brigade, that being under the watchful eye of Gen. J. [I.] B. Richardson, who does everything in his power for the benefit of the soldiers under his command. — General Heintzelman is commander of this Division, and has tried three times, within the last four weeks, to get an engagement with the Rebels; but they do not face the music. As soon as come in sight, they beat a rapid retreat toward Centerville, undoubtedly with the intention of stopping at Bull Run. But, if I am not grandly mistaken, we shall never follow them again into that place. You will, perhaps, ask why? There are several reasons. In the first place, they are whipping themselves faster where they are than we could whip them were we to move father, to take that place by force. Secondly, it would cost about double to support the army there that [than] it does here. Thirdly, the place would be of no account to our men if they could take it, as it is nothing but a long range of high hills, with one fort behind another, so as to shell each other, provided one or more of them are taken. So you will perceive that it would cost a great amount of ammunition and a terrible sacrifice of life, to take the place, and the war would be no nearer an end than before; consequently it would be very foolish to attempt it.

But Gen. Heintzelman is determined that they shall stand a brush with him, or he will permanently drive them from the place they now occupy, it being about three miles beyond Pohick Church.— Their pickets come up to within about one miles of the church. sometimes their cavalry come up to Accotink, two miles this side of the church, but I understand do not stay long. Five of them were felled to the ground at the church, a few days ago, by a company of our cavalry, who were out scouting. One company of our cavalry dispersed a regiment of their cavalry and one piece of artillery, with the loss of but one horse, and one man wounded. Our pickets extend to within one mile of Accotink, and the boys are generally anxious to get out on picket duty, as there is something in it to break the monotony of camp life.

A continual line of communication is kept up by the Rebels at Accotink and men on the opposite bank of the river, so that they are as well posted as to our movements as our own men, and until this line of communication is broken up, our men might as well stay at home; for they know every move that we make, and just to met [meet] it.

This letting men cross the picket lines on Gen. McClellan’s pass, I do not think much of, and hope soon to hear the order that no man be allowed to cross the picket lines upon any consideration. If a man wishes to do it he has only to show a pass with McClellan’s signature attached to t and I doubt if McClellan ever saw half of these passes that are used daily.

Because a man says he is a Union man, it is no sign that he is such here. Undoubtedly, there are some Union men about here; but, as yet, only one has shown it in actions as well as words. A man in Accotink owned a grist-mill. One day a man came into the mill with a small batch of corn to grind. There was certainly not more than half a bushel, and yet he came with horse and cart. The miller told him he was there to find out what he could about the Union men, and hear what was to be said about the boat that was burned there the night before, and that he had a hand in burning the boat. He, of course, denied it, and claimed that he voted the Union ticket. The miller told him he knew he did, but it was only to elude suspicion, so that he could act as a spy, and that, if he attempted to leave town, he would shoot him. He got a man to watch him, came up to our picket line, obtained some assistance, and took him. There is evidence enough to convict him, and he will probably meet the doom of a spy.

The arrest of Mason and Slidell caused great excitement here. Most of the soldiers were [wanting] to see them hung, but they are doomed, to disappointment. I can answer only for myself, but I can say that I am satisfied to let the leaders we have at the head of National Affairs, settle such matters as they see fit, feeling confident that they will act for the benefit of the country. Let not outside politicians interfere.

Well, the drum beats for roll call, and I must stop. Bidding all adieu, I subscribe myself. Yours etc, Scribbler [Henry M. Pool

Camp Michigan, Jan 5th, 1862.

Mr. Editor: - Nothing has occurred yet in our midst worthy of notice, with the exception of a Lieutenant of the Michigan 21[st inf] getting shot in the mouth. He was out a few days ago, looking around to see what was to be seen in the neighborhood of Pohick Church, when he suddenly came upon a party of the rebels, who fired upon him, one of the balls taking effect in his mouth, passing within about 1/2 inch of his jugular vein. He, however, is not considered dangerously ill.

A deserter came in here last night, from the neighborhood of Pohick Church. He gave a distressing account of their forces at that place. He says, if they are left where they are for 3 or 4 weeks, they will be completely starved out; that they cannot get half enough to eat now, and are poorly clothed. He states that their guard houses are full all of the time, on account of the men refusing to do duty. It is almost impossible to get them to out on picket, and, as a punishment, they are put in the guard house. If such is the case, where will they be by spring?

The winter weather  has only just begun here. Yesterday, the ground was, for the first time this winter, really white with snow. Our men, many of them, have put up log cabins, reminding the spectator of Uncle Tom’s cabin; while those that have not, have good Sibley tents with stoves in them , (although of their own purchase) and are in every respect in a condition to stand the winter weather finely. The soldiers are in the best of spirits, although New Year’s found the spirits in some of them, and owing to its not being of the first quality, sundown found some of the sons of man upon their backs. Yet peace and quiet reigned throughout the camps generally.

We have plenty of clothing and enough to eat and to space of such things as Uncle Sam furnishes such as bread (that being the staff of life), corned beef, pork, bacon once a week, fresh beef, beans, rice, coffee, tea, etc. etc. Last Monday your correspondent returned to the Brigade Commissary $22 worthy of our rations, for the mouths of Nov. and Dec, which goes into a company fund, to take care f the sick and wounded that need some delicacies that they otherwise would not get.

It is supposed that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 Rebels down the river, near Occoquan, where they have a battery commanding the river, and which place we probably shall have a chance to see within two weeks from now, as we are calculating to go down and try to clear them out, when the weather takes a favorable turn; the weather being too cold, and the ground too slippery to move with ease and comfort. Should we meet with good success in the expedition, which I have every reason to believe we shall, you will perhaps hear from me again. But for the present, I will leave you. Therefore, with my best wishes for your prosperity, and for the continuance of your worthy paper and the Union, I remain, as ever, your obedient servant, SCRIBBLER {Henry M. Pool]

Camp Michigan, Feb. 10th, 1862.

Mr. Editor: — As day after day glides past, each brings us nearer the terrible struggle which must ere long take place — a struggle for liberty; and nearly every day brings us the joyful news of some Federal victory, reminding us that, although we were lying here, idle, as it were, upon the Potomac, a Garfield, a Burnside, a Butler, and others, are not letting the Rebels rest in peace. But, while we are lying here, let not our friends at home be worrying about us, for I can assure them that we are better off than we would be at home, these hard times. Therefore, let those at home be contented to stay there, and get a living, and pay their taxes, through this campaign, and they will do well. We are contented to stay here, for we feel confident that, as soon as the right time comes, the General commanding will give us the order to march forward, and, when he does, that there will be a desperate struggle for a few days, and the a great day of rejoicing, when the prodigal sons return. Yea, there shall be more rejoicing over the one State that returns to its loyalty, than over the twenty and three that go not astray.

The health of the soldiers upon the Potomac is as good as could be expected. However, the small pox is getting to be rather a common disease, and, in several cases, it has been fatal, although, as yet, none in this regiment have had it, and it is hoped that we shall escape such a dreadful disease, which is far more dreaded than the balls of the enemy’s guns. Our officers are taking every means in their power to prevent any such disease from getting into any of the regiments, by keeping them separate and within their own lines.

Whilst this regiment (Mich. 3d) was out on picket one week ago, one man got his arm broken by the accidental discharge of a gun, he has since had it amputated. While there, Cap. Loring [Lowing], Co. I, went out scouting. Although the weather was very bad, they determined to go until they found the enemy. They went as far as Occoquan Creek, at which place the enemy is stationed, with some considerable force. They appeared to be enjoying themselves well, as they were dancing to the music of fife and drum, to the tune of Dixie. After finding out all that he wanted, as to their position and numbers, he thought it would be well to put in the variations; so, seeing some armed soldiers by themselves, he opened fire upon them, which was immediately answered from the other side of the creek. It is needless to say that the tune was exchanged on short notice, as they doubtless expected that it was a general advance, which they had been anticipating for a long time. We have been expecting it ourselves for some time, but circumstances have transpired that will prevent our moving until spring, at least upon that place.

We have a different Colonel from the one we had at the time of the Bull Run affair, and who is a strict temperance man; and the longer we are with him the better like him. Col. Champlin is a man about 33 years of age, of medium size, and, in the true acception [?] of the term, is a gentleman. He receives the admiration and respect of the Generals over him, and bids fair to receive a promotion, to which his good judgement and military capacity entitle him.

There is a good deal of firing down river every day, but, as yet, I have not heard of any damage being done.

More anon. SCRIBBLER [Henry M. Pool]

Camp near Yorktown, Va., April. 27th, 1862.

Mr. Editor: — As time wears away, many changes take place. So with our residence; when I last wrote you at Camp Michigan, little did any of us think that a few days would bring us to a camp in sight of Yorktown. This is a place which, to look at, does not seem to be of any importance to any one, yet our enemies have got a stronghold here, and, were they allowed to remain in peaceable possession, might make it a place of considerable importance to them. A prisoner that was taken a few nights ago, in a skirmish, said that they could whip us out easy enough when we commenced the attack, for they were 60,000 strong and we only had about 10,000 here. — Such seems to be the stories that their leaders have told them to keep their courage up, but it will need something besides talk, when our guns open upon the, some fine morning, just before they awake. Saltpetre will not save them then, neither can Jeff. Davis, for, if he is here then, he will wish he was further South.

Our camp is in the advance, near the center, within sight of their works, in a piece of woods; but I suppose the enemy do not know our exact position here, or we should not be allowed to remain so long. We are in good shelling distance of them, and in range of their heavy guns. A few days ago, they sent us their compliments in the shape of a hundred pound shell. It came crashing along through the trees, and burst but a few rods from our camp; but, fortunately, nobody was hurt.

Our guns keep up our regular firing through the day, and the pickets generally have a chance to try their guns through the night. The enemy have made several ineffectual attempts to drive in our pickets, but have always been driven back with heavy loss. A few nights ago, quite a large body of them came out, and tried to take a battery that was on picket. Our men allowed them to come up within 12 rods, without firing a gun and then opened a deadly fire upon them with such effect that they fled in disorder back to the fort, leaving 300 of their killed and wounded upon the ground. Our loss was about 20 killed and wounded.

We are working day and night upon breastworks, right under the mouths of their guns, and at about good rifle shot yet wholly unobserved by them. There is a cleared field in front of their forts, and then a dense thicket, so that a man would be wholly unobserved at a distance of 20 paces. At first one man proceeded, and, with his hatchet, commenced cutting away the brush and throwing them to the front, making it still thicker and higher, until several found room to work. Presently the picks and shovels commenced throwing up an earthwork. About 5 o’clock, another Regiment come filing along, and take the place of the one at work, and continue the work until the morning, without speaking above a whisper, when another takes their place, and so the work goes from day to day, until it is completed.

Could you but be with us, Mr. Editor, and watch the movements of our General (George B.) but for a week, and see with what alacrity all branches of business are carried on, never would you allow another article to be printed in your valuable paper, condemning him for his incapacity to have command of the vast army which us now under him. He is a true type of General Scott. If a fort can be taken by losing 99 men, and 100 are lost, the one hundredth man, he believes, is murdered. If he is incapable of filling his place, examine General Halleck’s report to the Secretary of war, after the battle of Pittsburg Landing, in which he says that every battle that has been fought successfully has been carried out to the letter, according to McClellan’s orders. He further says that McClellan possesses one of the most masterly minds that America ever knew. At any rate, let not those at home complain so long as we that are in the field do not. We are willing to do what we are ordered by him; to do and await the consequences; but we are not going to be driven into another Bull Run by the hot-headed political demagogues who care more for a few of their coppers than for the life of a fellow man. We have got a big battle to fight here, and enough will get killed at the best, but we are confident that he will have all things ready before he begins the attack.

We are going to have a ball here at Yorktown, one of these days, and all good loyal soldiers are invited to attend. No admittance for Secesh (ladies or gentlemen). No intoxicating liquors allowed upon the ground, by order of George B. McClellan, Manager-in-Chief. Those that will not dance must pay the fiddler.

But it is getting late, and I must close my scribbling for this time. Several Geauga boys are in this Regiment. All well. Yours, as ever, SCRIBBLER, Co. A, 3d Reg. Mich. Volunteers [Henry M. Pool]

Camp near West Point, Va., May 11th, 1862.

Mr. Editor: — Since I last wrote you near Yorktown, things have taken a different turn. You will recollect I told you we were going to have a ball at Yorktown in a few days, and all good loyal soldiers were invited to attend. Owing to the sudden departure of the principal actor, the performance will not come off at that place. But the parties met on Tuesday, at a place near Williamsburg, and opened the ball without ceremony, though the music was lively on both sides.

After leaving Yorktown, we marched about 3 miles, encamped Sunday night, the 4th, and, early in the morning, took up our line of march through mud knee deep and rain falling fast, so that our progress was rather slow. We had not gone far when we heard heavy firing ahead. Soon we were ordered to make a forced march to reinforce Gen. Hooker, who had, as we then supposed, come upon their rear guard, and commenced an attack upon them. We made a forced march for about 8 miles, (the mud growing deeper all the time,) when we were ordered to unsling knapsacks and prepare for action. Although a more weary set are seldom seen, yet every man was in his place, and anxiously waiting for the moment to come when he would have a chance to assist in clearing out this rebellious people. We then marched about a mile and a half father, when the chief of a battery came to the General, and told him that he wanted the best Regiment he had to defend his battery. The General told him to take Col. Champlin’s Regiment, it being our Regiment that had that honour confered [sic] upon it. We were bound to keep our credit good, if the case required it. We were, therefore, taken off to the left wing, where the enemy were trying to turn our flank, and were drawn up in front of their works on the left of the army, to keep them from flanking our men who were fighting. The rest of our Brigade were ordered in front of their main works, to relieve men that had been in there for several hours, without ammunition, but refused to give an inch until reinforcements came up, holding the enemy at the point of the bayonet. The Michigan 2d and 5th, and New York 37th charged upon them, and drove them from their rifle pits and through a slashing about one hundred rods from their batteries, which kept raining shot and shell among them in torrents.

They held their position until morning, when we were ordered in front, but they had fled, leaving their dead and wounded by the hundreds upon the field.— We buried 1,300 of their men for them. One barn contained 140 wounded. The General gave his troops great praise for their coolness, bravery and good shooting, as most of their men were shot through the head. Our loss must have been heavy, though I think 300 will cover the killed, and 700 the wounded. Very light, compared with theirs, allowing their percentage in position.

All along, the road is lined with muskets, cannon, caissons, wagons, ammunition, dead horses, etc. etc. When they left a cannon, the would cut the pole and nearly all the spokes. The road is also filled with prisoners returning, showing that our men are following close upon their tracks. Most of them seem to be very glad to get out of a bad scrape, as they call it. They report that they intend making another stand at Chickahominy Swamp, eight miles this side of Richmond.

A telegraph dispatch, this morning, brings news that General Wool had taken Norfolk with 500 prisoners, and that the Rebels had blown up the Merrimac, to keep it from falling into our hands.

At Yorktown, we did not drive them out by fighting. We dug them out; and if they had staid [sic] there three weeks longer, we would have undermined them and blown them out. The side of the road was laid with torpedoes past their fort. — Several of our men were killed by them while marching through, but it was soon found out where they were, and the General says that the prisoners shall dig them up.

I am spinning my letter out to a great length, and must stop; but I must give you a few words from Magruder, taken from the lips of a wounded Virginia, after tge battle. During the engagement, Magruder says, “If they are men, I can whip them, and can out-general them; but if they are devils, I cannot, nor can I out flank them.” So we must be devils, according to his theory.

Yours, as ever, H. M. Pool, Co. A, 3d Reg. Mich. Infantry.

Henry was a good friend and comrade of George W. Miller, also of Company A and also from Bowne. On May 31, 1862, following the battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia, Miller was reported missing in action. On June 5, 1862, the regiment was eight miles from Richmond when Henry wrote to Miller’s mother.

Mrs. Miller,

Being a particular friend of your son George I took the liberty to open this* and answer it, as George is undoubtedly taken prisoner. We had a terrible battle Saturday 20,000 of us against about 60,000 of the rebels. After a terrible conflict we drove them back although our losses were heavy. Our Captain [Samuel Judd] was killed, First Lieutenant [George Judd] badly wounded through the shoulder. First, Second, third and Fifth sergeants wounded.

We have made a thorough search for George but as his body could not be found, he is undoubtedly taken prisoner. He was a good boy, a faithful soldier, we all deeply regret his loss, yet pray that it may be but for a short time.

Our company killed, wounded and missing [were] 30; among the killed was William Daniels [company A], Norman G. White (of company C [D], Samuel Dodge [company A], Jared Harrison [company A], Henry Ward [company A], Ansel [Anson] Lewis [company A], C. D. Smith [company A], The rest wounded, most of them slightly. William Morse  (company C) wounded in the knee. [He eventually died of his wounds.]

Yours in haste. Please let my friends, Mr. Crashes’ folks know if convenient that I am well. I have not written to them for a long time because it is impossible to get postage stamps.

Yours with respect, H. M. Pool.

By mid-June Henry was sick in Berry’s 3rd Brigade hospital at Mrs. Allen’s farm (possibly near White’s Tavern, Virginia, along the Charles City road), suffering from fever and diarrhea.

Henry was reported missing in action on July 1, 1862, and in fact he died of erysipelas (a skin infection) on July 1, 1862, at Savage Station, Virginia. He was presumably among the unknown soldiers buried near Savage Station.

Interestingly, many years after the war, the editor of the History of Troy, Ohio, claimed that “Martin Pool joined his fortunes with the 3rd Michigan Infantry, in the earlier stages of the conflict. On the first day of June 1862, the battle of Fair Oaks was fought, while nearby, in a hospital, among others, Martin was lying helpless. The hospital was captured, and there is every reason to believe that the inmates were bayoneted in their cots, comrade Poole with the rest.”

No pension seems to be available.

His parents are buried in Augusta Cemetery, Kalamazoo County.

field hospital at Savage Station, VA, after the battle of June 29, 1861

field hospital at Savage Station, VA, after the battle of June 29, 1861