Abel Herman - b. 1833 - d. Sept 12, 1864
Abel Herman was born in the year 1833 and died in a Civil War Prisoner Camp Sept 12, 1864 at age 33. Complete information on Abel Herman's final days can be found in the book, Resurrected Memories, The Story of a Lifetime by author Jim Herman, published June 2004 with PublishAmerica LLC and in the book Voyage to America 1766 published in June 2006. Follow this link for an excerpt in this historical fiction genre which is a letter Abel Herman wrote while a prisoner in a Federal Prison during the Civil War at a Rebel prisoner of war camp, Elmira, NY - 1864 (photo is from a commercially produced postcard available from US Government Archives and retail outlets)
Abel Herman was transferred to a recently opened Rebel Prison Camp in Elmira, New York, August 16, 1864, due to over crowded capacity at Point Lookout Prison, Maryland. Arriving dehydrated, weak and sickly due to the deplorable food and conditions from where he left, Abel Herman died in less than thirty days following arrival at Elmira, New York Rebel Prison Camp. He was found in his bunk the morning of September 12, 1864-seven months before the end of the war—by his two cousins Frederick Herman who also was transferred here two weeks before Abel, and Rufus D. Herman who was transferred here August 8, 1864. Abel Herman had served with cousins, nephews and relatives from Catawba County, North Carolina, whose fate fared some better and some the same as him.
Abel Herman married Pheobe KENT on Feb 13, 1853 in Catawba County, North Carolina. Ephraim Yount was the Justice of the Peace on the marriage records.
December 25, 1863—It is with such joy and gladness I write. I am fine and in no danger from the madness that has befell us to kill or be killed. Since August past my battles are over and now I have succumbed to lock up in a Federal Prison they say in the coastal town of Point Lookout in the state of Maryland. There are many of us rebels and we are guarded by the very people we have enslaved. Most are unkind but keep away at a distance from us. I miss the food near as much, but not altogether, as my family. It is you that have keep me warm when I freeze from the northern cold, and you my dear wife and children have been with me every day from when I first left. There is talk of exchange and hopefully each of us hears that our name will be called. But now a swearing of allegiance to the Federal Government must be uttered before selection. I swear not with many others, so must remain until wars end and the Confederacy rescue me. My wish for you to remain patient and hold my children, tell my father and mother, and all others, we will unite at wars end, whenever it may be.
Here I recount my duties from when I first enlisted.
We marched from Newton Township to High Point Township, North Carolina and joined many more that made us number to a Company of size. Staying only a short time here we next marched near twenty days to the port of Wilmington North Carolina and took up guarding the port as well as the coast to the south down to Fort Caswell. There we stayed the winter which was mostly mild with much sun for warmth and no cold from home. The local habitants were friendly and supplied more than adequate food, but they speak strangely.
In the spring of 1862 we were called up from our post to a seven day march north to New Bern, North Carolina en route for reinforcement of the town. There in New Bern our guards were taking on shelling from the Yankee fleet offshore. Arriving in late March was too late and we stayed but one night and fell to hasty evacuation from Federal ships, commanded by Admiral Burnside, landing in the harbor. From here we double time marched inland to the west thirty miles to Kinston town and there we joined up with General Branch’s Brigade.
During this very warm month of May 1862 we were ordered to march north to Virginia and join up with General Branch’s and General Lane’s Brigade which was called the army of Northern Virginia. Here we fought and engaged the Federal troops in a sharp fight at a place called Hanover Court House from which the over matched Federals retreated. My cousins Phanuel Herman and Daniel Monroe Herman, both who enlisted the same day with me, were not seen after the fight and it may be the Federals have them. It is my prayer they are confined rather than to be taken by a direct cannon ball hit. It was from here we marched a short distance and took up camp west of Richmond. I must tell you it is strange and not a good feeling to sight a fellow countrymen down the barrel, ignite the powder to ball and fell him. But if not to him, he will to you.
Our food is short as to the many that must be fed. Back in North Carolina it was plentiful and given to us freely from the farms we marched past. Here in Virginia the people are scarce and in hiding from the many troops, both North and South, which are about. It is understood and we wish them no ill will, for if us and family, we too would do the same.
We rested well until the 26th of June and were fighting fit, from when we broke camp, crossed the Chickahominy River and engaged the Federal Army of a General McClelland. Our boys from the 28th here attacked his right flank on a Thursday evening a little north of the town of Mechanicsville. Moving about day and night, we encountered engagements seven days consecutively at Cold Harbor, Frazier’s Farm and Malvern Hill. Never in my sight would I have thought to see such fierce and violent battles. Day was filled with cannon roar and whizzing musket balls and pistol bullets. Canister bursts sprayed deadly grape shot like rain from unknown source while cannon ball blast tore the earth apart. Night brought the cries of the wounded and removal of the dead. I have never seen so many people all in such small a place as we traversed the short distance between the battles. I am told now that these battles took a name of The Seven Days Battles hence they occurred around Richmond from June 26 to July 1, 1862. Rumors abound later that the Federal General McClelland’s army numbered two hundred thousand from the start and lost twenty thousand dead before retreating. We did not retreat or loose ground but we lost in death nearly the same as the Federal troops by loosing nineteen thousand five hundred. Word came down that our General Lee spoke of us defeating the finest army in the world as spoke by an English officer before the seven days. The English officer called McClelland a young Napoleon. General Lee said then McClelland met his waterloo from the loss.
From these seven days of battle we came upon and settled to a good rest and camp east of Richmond. Our forager boys brought in corn and other vegetables while we were not called upon to labor not once until word came for a battle campaign planned into the state of Maryland. From the 20th of July we took up a long march, so large a group you could not see from front to back, to attack the Federals at a place called Cedar Run. It was here we had a sharp fight encountering and defeating them from the open farm fields on three days consecutive August 7th, 8th, and 9th. Again from the loss of life it seemed a hollow victory since the Federals and our boys lost almost the same dead; One thousand eight hundred Federals; one thousand three hundred Confederate.
Marching on behind the retreating Federals, we arrived back in Virginia at Manassas and fell into a bitter tough battle. This was the second time for a battle here and some call it second Manassas, others call it Bull Run. It was a vicious two day affair, both day and night. Off on our left flank by a railroad cut next to the river, our fellow soldiers under A. P. Hill ran out of ammunition and used rocks from the railroad bed to crack the skulls of the Federals so close by. It was here that my cousin George Daniel Herman took a grape shot from a canister on the 29th of August. The wound in his arm is clean and he will most likely return to duty shortly. We later got word that this was like the first battle here in that we took victory and said to have loses of life set at eight thousand compared to seventeen thousand Federals. It was the fiercest fighting I have beheld and the Federals fled in such a hurry they left their dead. Dreadful tired from battle we marched on and caught them at Ox Hill, near Leesburg, Virginia. After a hard fight we drove them from the field and they disappeared into the woods.
Marching on with no rest we crossed the Potomac River near Leesburg on into Maryland, making but a short stop at Frederick, Maryland. From a hill overlooking the railroad bridge across the river, our battery setup cannon and fired on the bridge until it took enough hits to crash down to the water yet still on fire.
Phoebe, I entrust you to protect these words from my children as you see fit. Relay to them my love and longing, with much to say that surely I will be home sooner now than when I have been gone these more than two years. So much I would give to have your cooking and take you to bed. It is only now that I can rest from no fear of dying, although it is in confinement with guards saying we are not worthy of living. It is indeed strange to see people who were slaves sitting with muskets and now exhorting authority over so many who were past masters.
Our marching continued endlessly, only stopping for engagement battles and skirmishes. Through Maryland we left, crossing the Potomac River back into Virginia near Williamsport and on down the river through Martinsburg to Harpers Ferry. It was here at Harpers Ferry we captured twelve thousand troops and also some of the largest stores of arms and ammunition a mind could comprehend. From here on to Sharpsburg and a close by place called Antietum with battles stirring up every day. From a distress message received, we double quick marched up the river to Shepard’s Town, crossing the Potomac River back into Maryland, engaging the Federal Army as we relieved General Longstreet and General D. H. Hill, who were in a fierce and deadly battle with the Federals along the river bank. Our relief lent a hand to drive the Federals from the battle field. We continued the fight well into the night, shooting at the sight of any flash or cannon fire, then immediately moving quickly away to avoid the like. Near first light we were chased back across the river where we regrouped and chased them back across to the other side. The Potomac River crossing there at Shepard’s town was red from blood and the bodies floating in the waters were a sad sight to take a look at. It was said the Federals lost three thousand dead to only two hundred and sixty-one of our boys.
Once again we marched to Martinsburg, stopping long enough to dismantle railroad beds and the iron tracks. It was a safe task, but tiresome for our poor bodies so long from good food. From here we continued and took up camp at Bunker’s Hill. We tarried but two nights and food was brought in. Normally I would not eat stew made from dead mules, but nourishment was needed for all of us. Next we marched up and through to the Shenandoah where destruction from war battles lay frozen in time. Crossing the Shenandoah River near Winchester we wound the mountain to the top. It was a nine mile climb feeling like fifty. Below the once productive and proud valley lay in blackened ruin as far as the eye could see. Over the mountain we marched on to Fredericksburg and found a sharp engagement—our first in many days. This December 13, 1862 battle would be our last since winter was arriving swiftly and here we made winter camp. After we drove the Federals back across the River, women and children slowly passed by our lines to find their homes from where they left before the battle. These poor souls make a heart cry out, but we stand silently and watch them go by.
The winter of 1862-1863 in Fredericksburg was cold. More so than any I have felt these more than two years from when I left you. There is so much not to do in winter camp but boredom to drive you crazy. From our more than twenty thousand soldiers, it was said over one thousand deserted for home. I too longed for home here more than for the Confederacy. I fear not the battles more than the home guard. Too keep me here with sanity I think only of you and my children and the day I gloriously come home to their open arms and hugs. Never will I set foot again from our Carolina Catawba lands and county.
Breaking winter camp in late April, the springtime was upon us and upon the land. Marching on to Chancelorsville we combined with more of our boys to form more than fifty thousand. Engaging Federal troops of like force we drew a most bloody battle on the 2nd of May. Throughout the night fighting did not cease; nor did we sleep. Cannon fire and burst along with the deadly grape shot from canister fire made the air deadly thick with unseen death. The morning of the 3rd we advanced to the Federals left U flank and here I took a minor wound to my shoulder. It was tended and wrapped with no damage except to skin. Sadness befell us all, not for my wound, but this same day our General Stonewall Jackson took shot and became gravely wounded. We learned later he passed on the 10th of May where he was taken to Guineas Station. It was a Sunday.
From this Chancelorsville battle great loss was suffered. Federal losses were seventeen thousand one hundred and our losses were ten thousand two hundred. It is even hard for me, one who was here, to understand this so many are dead.
Marching away from the victory at Chancelorsville on what was left of the plank road by the Courthouse, we again crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah River as we marched down the valley. We encountered only Federal Scouts who chased away to report our coming. We learned of rumors that we were headed to invade the North with all our army in one place. Crossing the Potomac—for what seemed to be so many times not counted—we passed through Williamsport and all the way through Maryland uncontested.
The last of May we arrived and rested and began a most large battle on the farmlands of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Here we fought day and night for three days on July 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, in this year of 1863. It was a victory and loss all throughout the day. Screams for hold that line mixed with fallback and regroup were continuous. On the 4th day July and the 4th day of engagement, we fell back and left. We have heard here at prison the Federals won the engagement driving all rebels away from Gettysburg. It is most difficult to tell if we win or loose any of these large battles since we are not privy but to only information in our company unless passed down the ranks days later. It is engrained to us, for safety and victory, to follow orders and sight down and shoot the Yankee boys. The word spoken here confirms over twenty thousand Federals and twenty thousand of our boys lived for the last time here on what once was good farmland of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
The last battle for me, in this everlasting war, occurred while leaving the great battle of Gettysburg. My cousin Rufus Herman and I are all that is left together of the five that joined up, what seems now so long ago. While we retreated, the Federals intercepted our company at Falling Waters. It was a sharp fight and I was knocked down from the blast of a cannon ball nearby—but not wounded. While lying unconscious, our boys negotiated a peaceful crossing for our company to retreat, and was granted same by the Federals. Most thought I was dead and left me behind only to wake up to troops of Federals only. I don’t know the outcome for cousin Rufus.
I was marched from Falling Waters and joined by more of our boys as we made our way down from Maryland to the Old Capital Prison in Washington, D.C. I must say if the Federals would send out to fight the large flock of troops around this town, our boys might have a tougher time of to win this war. I stayed here one month and was marched out to this place in Maryland, arriving on August 8, 1863.
It is this Christmas day I celebrate the gracious gift of our Savior and I think of you and my family to whom I long to see before the next celebration of our Lord Jesus Christ.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION O PHEOBE KENT HERMAN
Pheobe Kent Herman was the daughter of John L. Kent (b. 1791) and Sarah Reynolds Kent (b. 1807) from Wilkes County NC. Phe0be remarried Joseph Davis and had one son, Deline Davis b. Mar 28, 1868.
ADDITIONAL FAMILY HISTORY ON PHEOBE KENT HERMAN
This appeared in the Tarboro Southerner, Tarboro, NC, Thurs., June 9, 1881:
In the year 1839, Mr. John L. KENT and family lived quietly at their home near Paint Rock, Tenn. That same year, forty-two summers ago, Mr. KENT, in company with a man named SHEPHERD, left his home for California, taking with him one son, John, and two daughters, Abigail and Pheobe. Year after year rolled on and no tidings were had from the party until at last it was learned that Mr. SHEPHERD had been shipwrecked. This being the only news that could be had the general supposition and conclusion was that Mr. KENT had also perished in a like manner.
The young members of the family grew to be men and women, and twenty years from the above date the gray hairs of the mother sank quietly into the grave. One son, William, went to Louisville, Ky., and there died in 1865, while Benjamin sought a home in Arkansas, and there died in 1872. Samuel J. KENT, another son, married a Miss ROBERTS in 1862, and nine years ago left the old homestead and moved to Marshall, Madison county, N.C., where he still lives. Willis M., the youngest son, also lives near Marshall. Two daughters died; another, Sarah Ann, married a Mr. DAVIS, and is now living in Tennessee. After all the vicissitudes of the KENT family and all their efforts to solve the mystery that shrewded their parental head, no tidings came of the missing one for 41 long years.
One bright day during last year Samuel J. KENT was purchasing some leather in a tan yard near Asheville, when in the course of conversation with Mr. Wm. S. RAMSOUR, who once lived in Hickory, but now employed in that yard, he learned to his utter astonishment that his father was not dead, as supposed, but living near Hickory, Mr. RAMSOUR having met the old gentleman here in Catawba county. It was very hard for the son to realize that his father was yet living. The news was communicated from one member of the family to another until all that are living heard it and have come here to visit him. The first to learn of his whereabouts, however, by some means was the last to get here to see him. Samuel came to Hickory this week with a car load of tobacco to sell on this market, and last Tuesday he celebrated his 46th birthday by visiting his father---it being 42 years since he saw him.
As to the other side of this peculiar circumstance we know but little. Anyway, the old gentleman did not go to California, but came to Catawba county, and lived on the place now known as the W. P. REINHARD's mills tract, four miles from Hickory. Not long after he settled in this county he married a widow lady of considerable wealth in South Carolina, and soon after this he suddenly disappeared leaving behind the three children brought here from Tennessee and the new wife. The latter, however, soon found it better to be at her old home in the Palmetto State.
Year after year again rolled around and the children here were at as much lose to know his lodging place as the first family in Tennessee, who had long since remembered him with those who silently rest in the tomb. One of the daughters, Pheobe, married Mr. Abel HERMAN, a very estimable citizen of the county, who was killed during the late war.
The other daughter, married Mr. Wallace PROSPST, who now lives on the same place Mr. KENT left behind. The son, Mr. John KENT, Jr., became a very useful citizen and was deputy sheriff when he left the county to enter the Confederate service, where he went as lieutenant in Capt. Thos. LOWE'S company, 28th regiment. He died in camp near Richmond.
Year after year passed, and in March 1879, his sudden presence after such a continual absence made those in this section feel the grave had refused to keep one that had long been in its possession. Since his return his home has been with his daughter, Mrs. PROBST. He will be ninety years old the 4th of next July, and is entirely blind, but is usually active and lively for his age. He went home with his son, leaving here on Thursday night's train.
Thus endeth the second chapter of this mysterious biography.