In the spring of 1862, the war was favored by the Southern troops. General Robert E. Lee, Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, turned his attention to Pennsylvania having in mind the desire to capture the coal mine industry, the city of Harrisburg, the city of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia, and, eventually the bigger target, the Union's capital, Washington, D.C.
On July 7th of that year, President Abraham Lincoln issued his Proclamation, calling for 300,000 volunteers to serve for three years or the duration of the war. Subsequently, Pennsylvania's War Governor, Andrew G. Curtin, requested thousands of men to join and serve for shorter terms of service. These men became members of nine-month regiments. Many men of all ages were enticed to join the Northern cause to preserve the Republic. Teenagers and much older men, and many with families, left their children and wives, and their homestead and marched off to war.
One such man was David Demmy. He was born in South Hanover Township; perhaps near Union Deposit (the Union Deposit Cemetery contains a number of his ancestors). David had just turned 22 years of age on Monday, August 4, 1862. The next day he came a running along with other young men of the region and joined forces with local Hummelstown Doctor, James Henderson.
Perhaps it was a romantic notion to leave home and seek out a little adventure. Perhaps he was bored with working on the farm; perhaps he was already tired of the little pay he received! In those days, pay for farmers and unskilled-workers was a mere dollar-a-day. A Private in the Union Army was promised $13.00 and perhaps an enlistment bonus was worth $100.00! On top of all that money, a fellow would be given new undergarments, shoes, and a uniform that generally did not fit. In addition, he would be supplied with his meals and would assuredly be given the opportunity to see other parts of young America, other than the hills of central Pennsylvania.
Hummelstown was a buzz with recruiting talk among the men folk of the surrounding countryside. Local Doctor, James Henderson, who had a very lucrative practice, began to recruit men to defend the Union and reunite the nation. Patriotism ran high among the folks of that day and age!
David was among the men who boarded a train for Harrisburg. Upon arriving in Harrisburg, they walked up what is now Sixth Street to the entrance of Camp Curtin at what is now known as Maclay Street. These men enlisted and became members of Company C, 127th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers. In those days, the men were allowed to elect their own officers from among themselves. Doctor Henderson was duly elected Captain of Company C.
Camp Curtin was laid out on the former Dauphin County Fair Grounds. It was bordered by the Pennsylvania Railroad, along Seventh Street, towards the river at Fifth Street, and from Maclay Street to Reels Lane (today, Reels Lane is a small alley near Division Street). Camp Curtin was the largest training camp in the North. The headquarters buildings were probably constructed on the high ground along what is known as Sixth Street.
Camp Curtin 1861 - 1865
Camp Curtin drilled the men in the ways of military performance and issued them their first blue uniforms. At last, on August 16th, the 127th Regiment was formed with men mostly from Dauphin County. Others were from Lebanon and other local counties. The 127th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers was known locally as the "Dauphin County Regiment." The Harrisburg Patriot Newspaper Company was sure to follow the adventures of the One Hundred and Twenty Seventh Regiment.
Two days after the enlistment of David Demmy, his younger brother, Levi Demmy, who had just attained the age of 19, also left home and joined the 127th Regiment. In addition, there were men from Lebanon County that traveled to Camp Curtin. They became Company E. It was the patriotic duty of every able bodied man to go and fight for the government.
Still more men from Middletown, Dauphin County answered the call to come to the aid of the Union. One family from Middletown answered that call. John K. Shott became the first Lieutenant of Company H. His son also joined. John's wife was a very patriotic woman. Jeremiah Rohrer was elected Captain. On Saturday, August 9th he gathered his men at the Union Hall and began the march to the train station in Middletown. As they marched past his home, Jeremiah halted the men and dashed into his house. Upstairs his wife sat crying with a babe in her arms. At that moment, Jeremiah wanted to remain home, but duty and honor prevailed. They departed for Harrisburg.
Men from Adams County made up Company I, and men from Schuylkill County made up Company K.
The men had drawn rations and tents and were drilled and drilled most of the week. On Thursday the 14th, they marched to downtown Harrisburg and each Private was presented with fifty dollars that had been voted by and given to them by the Dauphin County Commissioners.
On Saturday, August 16th the men of the Regiment drew uniforms and then marched to Wallower's warehouse at the Pennsylvania Railroad where they drew their gleaming Springfield rifle muskets. These citizen soldiers, uncertain of their near future, were proud of their new guns and blue clothing. It took some considerable time for a big fellow to swap a small uniform with a little fellow that had a very large uniform.
The 127th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry departed Camp Curtin, leaving Harrisburg behind, on the Northern Central Railway on Sunday, August 17, 1862, at 9:30 a.m. They rode on flat cars; past York about noon, and then onto Baltimore about 5:00 p.m. They continued on the B&O Railroad to Washington, D.C. There they marched down Pennsylvania Avenue past the White House and over the Long Bridge on into Virginia, ever nearing the front lines. They began to feel that they were approaching the country of the enemy. And they were!
They garrisoned outside of the Capital where they were a part of the defences of Washington -- the Capitol building and White House. Their first official duty was to guard the Chain Bridge to keep the Confederates from crossing over the Potomac River into the Capital. Later, they became attached to the Army of the Potomac and in November 1862, the Regiment marched to Falmouth, Virginia.
Falmouth is the village, just across the Rappahannock River from Fredericksburg, Virginia. Their first combat mission was at the Battle of Fredericksburg. They later participated in the Chancellorsville Campaign and the Operations at Franklin's Crossing, Maryes Heights, Fredericksburg, Salem Heights, and Bank's Ford before returning to Camp Curtin to be mustered out on May 29, 1863.
Following the war, in 1863, David Demmy married Lydia Staley in Palmyra, Pennsylvania. He was a farmer living in Linglestown RD or Grantville. Two of their children died at birth. Upon his retirement, he lived with his son, William F. Demmy, in Penbrook. William's sister, Clara, lived next door in the duplex house. In June 1912, at the age of 72, his civil war pension was $24 a month.
Upon his death at age 81 in 1922, his death benefit was $100 and his estate was bestowed $75 from the Dauphin County Commissioners for his Civil War service. His burial in Shoop's Cemetery, Lower Paxton Township, Dauphin County, cost $201.50. His tombstone must have been very expensive! It still looks nearly new after 77 years! In comparison, the names and dates on tombstones in the Union Deposit Cemetery are worn nearly away.
Photographs and information provided by David Demmy's great great grandson,
David W.Demmy, Sr.