William Henry Pohlman
Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
Photos from the Past
Lt. William Henry Pohlman
Lt. William Henry Pohlman, 59th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, was a distant cousin to Louise Marie Wilson, great-grandmother of Victoria Davisson, who provided this information. Lt. William Henry Pohlman died on July 14, 1863, from wounds inflicted on the 3rd day of the Battle of Gettysburg. He was a very brave man.
Three of his letters are presented below, two to Victoria Davisson's great-great grandfather, and his obituary, published in the Albany (New York) Evening Journal.
Photographs and information courtesy of Lt. William Henry Pohlman's distant cousin Victoria Davisson.
Lt. William Henry Pohlman
August 20, 1861
Cousin Lou has asked me to write a few lines to you, and thinking that it might possibly be a gratification for you to hear from your new "Cousin," I comply with her request. Words are wanting to describe her loneliness since your departure from "Love Cottage." Happiness would be complete, could you but be here to join with us in all our sports; but as you are not here, we must content ourselves by thinking of the absent one and wishing him all the success imaginable. Louise keeps up her spirits as well as can be expected. We should not blame her for feeling sad at times, for is it not perfectly natural to have a sigh in the heart after parting with cherished friends, and especially after parting with one upon whom is centered the tenderest affection of a warm confiding heart? I will try to do my part towards cheering the heart of your loved one; and when she mournfully sings "the long long weary day," I will try to get her off on to "Upidee." Tears will glisten in the eye at times, but---O the seam to speak of a heart brim full of love for one who is now far away. May you both be happy in each others love, and may the unseen future be to you both, bright and promising.
Remember your Cousin Mollie and should you chance to pass through the old Dutch city, fail not at least of giving her a passing notice if not more. Our house and hearts will be open to receive you, so rest assured you will have a hearty welcome.
Goodbye my "Cousin," and may God crown your ministerial labors with abundant success is the heartfelt prayer of
Mary Scudder Pohlman
Camp Fairfax Seminary
Dear Friend George [my great great grandfather - v.d.],
Who would have thought that such a long period should have passed away before I answered your welcome missive; I for one never would have believed it. Lots of past tenses. Well, I rather guess you would excuse me, if you only knew how much a soldier, in an enemie's country has to do. Work, drill, guard duty occupy the time pretty well, then again I have so many correspondents, that it is almost impossible for me to tend to them---at the present moment I owe 15 letters to my friends. Awful to relate, ain't it?
Our Regt. still remains at the Seminary, although we expect the summons daily for us to move our quarters further into the Old Dominion state. We live in hopes of such a change; for it is very tiresome to remain so long in one place. While our Camp has remaining stationary, not so with the inhabitants; for a long time we have been busily engaged on our Fort, which is named Fort Worth; it is now almost finished; then every three days, we send two companies out as pickets; again for the sake of variety our whole brigade is ordered out for a foraging expedition. It was on our last excursion of this sort, that we captured a large amount of wheat, hay, etc.; Munson's, Mason's and Edsell's hills were also taken possession of by our troops. Almost every day some of us are exposed to some kind of danger; but yet, though the trials and hardships of a soldier's life are very great, our boys seem cheerful, and are anxious to show what they can do for their country's honor. We did our duty at Bull's Run; but would like to give some more palpable proof of our prowess in the fighting line.
It is beginning to be quite cold, and we have to keep our blood in circulation by playing base and football, and "shiney on your own side"---It puts me in mind of College days, when I engaged in these often played efforts. Oh! what rare old times I have had in Rutger's halls---Well, they are passed, perhaps never to return. I received such a dear good letter from Louise [my great great grandmother - v.d.] the other day; it does me so much good to hear from kind friends; but I sadly, though necessarily neglect answering these heart cheering missives. How ashamed I am to say that I have neglected to answer your's of the 20th Aug, 'most 2 months. How much I hope that you may soon receive a call, and then ______. Can't proceed.
Now I am going to answer a very civic and respectable question, viz.; you want a photograph of the "animile," who is now inditing these few lines. In the first place, I have none of the original few left; secondly and lastly, I can't get any more, without going to Washington, (which is rather a difficult job). Therefore the conclusion arises, that you can't have a phiz of your humble servant. So to use the very philosophical remark of an ancient Mayor of one of our Dutch towns; "it is as it is, and it can't be any 'tiser."
War, and warlike operations agree with me first rate---I am not tired nor discouraged; but try to keep in mind that I am enduring for my countrie's honor. I fully realized, before I enlisted, what I would have to undergo, consequently I am not disappointed. My many poor fellows rushed headlong into the contest, and now begin to count the cost. This one thing is certain: New Jersey does not act fairly in regards to soldiers coming from other states, and enlisting under her banner. Some 1/4 of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd N.J. Regts. are from other states. Many of them have families depending upon them, after they had enlisted and were fastened---N.J. refused to pay them the before promised state pay. What would you call that? Well I must stop, give lots of love to Louise. Many thanks for papers received---and remember me as your friend.
Jan 14, 1862
Camp of the U.S.S.C.
Direction W.H.P. Signal Camp
Dear Friend Geo,
Snow on every side; slop in abundance; cold as Hades. This is a concise synopsis of the weather around these diggings. Now, I suppose you would like to know where these diggings are situated. Well, on the very summit of Georgetown Heights, where the coldest winds of Winter can have a full sweep at us; where rain and sleet patters on our devoted heads with tremendous force---here we are encamped. The reason of my being here in this camp, is because I have been detached both from my Company and Regt. and am now a member of the U.S. Signal Corps. Qui pensez vous? Big thing; but I declare by all that's good, I can't see it. We are now being put through a course of eprouts (?) of instruction, preparitory (sic) to being useful to human and soldierkind in general. Many of our boys have departed from our midst, and are now scattered throughout the Secesh country. On every expedition by land or sea they have gone. And I live in hope of clearing out one of these days myself. I go down to Washington and Georgetown quite often, and enjoy myself muchly. Last Thursday I went down to Annapolis with some supplies for the Burnside Expedition. Just got them on board in time; for half of the fleet had sailed and the few remaining vessels were under sailing orders and expected to go every minute. Queer old town. Ancient as the old Bible Relic. These Southern cities, as far as I have seen them, are miserable holes, and entirely undeserving the name of cities.
I had expected to answer your letter before but knowing of the change about to take place bot in my occupation and direction, I thought I would wait till I could give you my proper direction. Well, how is my dear Coz. Louise [my great great grandmother - v.d.]? Why has she not answered my last epistle? Do you know whether she received the letter I sent containing some few mementos of Secesh and the Marshall House. When you write to her, give her my best love and direction. You ask how I liked "Sojering." I answer, "first-rate." Many of my friends thought I came off under the power of impulse, and that the Romance of the new idea lured me on. They were horribly mistaken. I considered every hardship, every trial; and was not much mistaken as to what I would have to undergo. It is a very hard life, and many a poor fellow of feeble constitution has had to succumb to the pressure of circumstances and poor vittles. The Romance of War has faded to many a Soldier, and they would willingly get back to their homes again.
The weather has been very cold lately, and we have suffered somewhat from the effects of ugly weather. Very many thanks, friend George, for the papers you have sent me. I received them all. What do you think of England now? I don't think she will do much. Secesh is rather down in the mouth at the disposal of those infernal scoundrels Mason and Slidell. Her hopes of England's aid is knocked in the head. As for our army and movements, I am certain that some great advance movement is contemplated to act in conjunction with Burnside's expedition. Something must be done soon, or we will be ruined. Such a swindling of Government by Contractors etc. is unprecedented. The Gov. notes are already being held at a discount, and the North seems to distrust its own Government and the vast resources of the Loyal States. Millions and Millions are squandered for nothing. God grant that Sunshine nay bean through the impending clouds, and that the bright rays of peace may pierce the dark rifts(?) of Rebellion and Secessionism.
You can't imagine, dear friend, how sorry I was to hear about your poor success in getting settled. How I would love to see you and Lou cosily settled in some nice little parsonage. Well, "Never give up."
You ask about our clothing. I have plenty, more than I can carry; many of the poor fellows don't fare as well. I must now stop. So Good bye and ever remember me as
Lieut. William Henry Pohlman
Albany Evening Journal
Another noble spirit has fallen a victim to this cruel rebellion; another martyr is added to the long list---so glorious, and yet so sorrowful---of those who have died that the Republic may live. Lieut Wm H. Pohlman, Acting Adjutant of the 59th N.Y. Vols., was the only son of the Rev. William J. Pohlman, Missionary of the American Board to China. He was quietly pursuing his studies preparatory to the ministry, at Rutger's College, N.J., when the first gun at Sumter aroused an indignant people to arms.
"He heard his Country call, and his life's young dreams Grew dim, and faded in his duty's light. Danger was in the pathway in its beams And death, perchance---but Freedom's cause, and Right."
Having obtained the consent of his guardian he enlisted as a private in the 1st Regiment of New Jersey Vols., and hastened to the seat of war. His peculiar qualifications, however, soon pointed him out as fitted for something better than the mere ordinary duties of the camp, and upon the formation of the Signal Corps he was accordingly transformed to that efficient arm of the service; and with distinction and ability performed the duties incumbent upon him in all the campaigns that followed, until December last  when he was promoted to a lieutenant in the 59th N. Y. Vols. Though a stranger to the regiment, his goodness of heart and firmness of spirit soon made him friends and admirers, and it was not long before they learned to love him and to anticipate great things from the brave and noble boy. Nor were they disappointed. In the fight at Chancellorville, they found that they had not misplaced their confidence; and at the battle of Gettysburg, occupying a post of greatest peril---
"The clear and dauntless eye, the lips compressed, Revealed his knightly spirit calm and high."
By the fall of the brave Col. Thomas, who was wounded on the morning of July 2nd, Adjutant Pohlman was the only remaining officer of the staff, and the command of the regiment devolved upon himself and the senior captains. And how well and nobly he sustained himself during the battle of July 3rd, may best he described by an eye-witness of the fight.
"Young Pohlman was everywhere, cheering and inciting his men by his own example to deeds of noble daring. About four o'clock his left arm was shattered by a minie ball, and they entreated him to withdraw to the camp, but he answered, "Not while I have my sword arm left." In about an hour afterwards his sword arm was disabled by a shot through the wrist which severed one of the arteries, and faint and bleeding he was reluctantly compelled to retire from the field."
The first intimation of his friends had of his condition was contained in the following lines written very imperfectly in pencil and directed to his only surviving sister dated Camp near Gettysburg, July 4, 1863.
"The great battle of the war has been fought. We are successful. The rebels have been repulsed at every point. The lists of the killed and wounded give evidence of the severity of the contest. The usual good fortune which has attended me in thirteen battles of the war has forsaken me in the fourteenth engagement. I bear honorable wounds in my Country's cause. The wounds are slight, but still may forbid my using a pen at present. I shall soon write again concerning my whereabouts, until then, farewell."
But, alas, the wounds which he in his unselfishness deemed so slight, proved fatal; and he was obliged to rely upon other hands to convey the intelligence of his whereabouts. But kind friends cared for him, while he gradually sank into the arms of death; nor were words of Christian comfort and consolation denied, as he calmly and quietly yielded up his spirit into the hands of God who gave it, on the morning of July 21st in the 21st year of his age.
"Speak his name proudly!'tis a hero's name, A patriot hero; strong, and true, and brave--- Who seeking no reward, nor warrior's fame Gave heart, and hopes, and life his land to save.
Speak his name quietly! It is his no more--- But the 'new name' God giveth to the blest; The struggle and the tumult are o'er, He hath sweet peace, and joy, and sainted rest.
Albany Evening Journal