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Glimpses of Soldiers' Lives: Private William P. Haberlin

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Private William P. Haberlin of Battery B, Pennsylvania Light Artillery
Private William P. Haberlin of Battery B, Pennsylvania Light Artillery
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.37550

William Haberlin enlisted in the Pennsylvania's Battery B Light Artillery on October 11th, 1861, during the American Civil War. His passion for the Union cause is evident in the poem he composed in thin script on a square of paper:

Now to the field again I'll go ..." Poem by William P. Haberlin
"Now to the field again I'll go ..." Poem by William P. Haberlin, between 1861 and 1864.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/ppmsca.31269

Now to the field again I'll go
For the Union to defend
Until Jeff Davis is made to know
His kingdom is about to end

And now if I would not live
To hear freemen shout for joy,
This miniature to you I give
In memory of a soldier boy

His regiment mustered in at Pittsburg soon after he enlisted and spent two months with the 77th Infantry at Camp Nevin before marching to Munfordville, Kentucky. During spring and summer of 1862, it moved throughout northern Mississippi and Alabama. It closed the year at the Battle of Stone's River in Tennessee, where the regiment "won the praise of the commanding general," William Rosecrans. In 1863, it saw action at the Battle of Missionary Ridge.

Battle of Nashville. Print by Kurz & Allison
Battle of Nashville. Print by Kurz & Allison, 1891.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/pga.01886

Many of the regiment's members, including Haberlin, reenlisted in early 1864. It then served under General Sherman on his march to Atlanta, and later joined General George Henry Thomas's force in Tennessee.

The battery left Pulaski, Tennessee, on November 23rd, arrived at Columbia on the 24th, took position the 25th, crossed the river the 27th, took another position on the 28th, and on the 29th prepared for battle.

On December 2nd, 1864, General Ulysses Grant sent a telegram to Thomas, instructing him to attack the Confederates under General Hood immediately. Thomas, however, wanted to wait for cavalry reinforcements. According to The Union Army, vol. 6, "It was a case of the man at the desk a thousand miles away trying to direct the operations of the man in the field." Thomas finally acquiesced, while arguing that Grant's plan would be "hazardous." Secretary of War Edwin Stanton responded with a sarcastic telegram to Grant--"as if all war was any but hazardous."

Nashville, Tenn. Federal outer line. Photo by George N. Barnard
Nashville, Tenn. Federal outer line. Photo by George N. Barnard, 1864 December 16
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cwpb.02087

Thomas prepared to attack, but then snow fell, and the coating of sleet covering the ground made quick movement of the troops impossible.

The snow melted by December 14th. The Union forces saw great success over the next two days, taking over 400 prisoners and driving the Confederate army back from its original line into the surrounding hills during the Battle of Nashville.

On the 16th, the Union troops formed a continuous line of battle facing the main Confederate works on Overton's hill. Thomas then commanded a charge on the hill, in the hope of taking over the road, and thus the Confederate retreat. The Confederates, however, responded with heavy fire that forced the Union troops back.

This charge dealt the Union army its worst losses, and it is likely when Haberlin was killed. On December 16th, 1864, he fulfilled his second stanza, and left only that "miniature"--to whoever was its intended recipient, and to us two centuries later--"in memory of a soldier boy."

View of the outer trenches on the last day of the battle in front of Nashville. Photo by George N. Barnard
View of the outer trenches on the last day of the battle in front of Nashville. Photo by George N. Barnard, 1864 December 16.
http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/stereo.1s02540

Sources:

"Batty B Pennsylvania Light Artillery Battery (Union).” The American Civil War Research Database. http://asp6new.alexanderstreet.com/cwdb/cwdb.object.details.aspx?handle=regiment&id=102408 External link
[subscription resource - access inside Library of Congress buildings]

The Union Army: A History of Military Affairs in the Loyal States, 1861-65 -- Records of the Regiments in the Union Army - Cyclopedia of Battles -- Memoirs of Commanders and Soldiers. Madison, Wis.: Federal Pub. Co., 1908, 629-632.

“William Haberlin.” The American Civil War Research Database from History of Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865, (1870).http://asp6new.alexanderstreet.com/cwdb/cwdb.object.details.aspx?handle=person&id=101031790 External link
[subscription resource - access inside Library of Congress buildings]


Compiled by: Ann Tyler Moses, Liljenquist Family Fellow, 2012. Last updated 2012 August.
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  November 7, 2012
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