Excerpt from "Reminiscenses of Finch Hollow"
"All these sights and sounds
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by Arthur E. Crocker
of Johnson City, N.Y.
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Mr. Arthur E. Crocker was a descendant of the pioneer Crocker family which came to this locality (what is now known as Johnson City, NY) about 1794. The following is an excerpt of his writing entitled, "Reminiscenses of Finch Hollow", written in the early 1900's and given to "Your Home Library" in Johnson City, NY by Rena Crocker Leezer, a daughter of Arthur. Mr. Arthur E. Crocker was born in 1840, and passed away in 1910.
You will find this interesting reading as Mr. Crocker describes his experiences working as a civilian employee of the Government for the railroads and various battles he was eye witness to during his employment in the south.
of that afternoon were so indelibly
impressed upon my mind that
memory will keep them fresh and
accurate till my last day on earth."
- A.E. Crocker
"The spring of '62 opened with great activity in military circles.
Volunteers for the Army were being enlisted in every town. Several of the boys from Finch Hollow were serving in the 27th New York.
Early in March, Peter Wentz advertised in the Democrat for men to work on military railroads in Virginia for the Government offering 90 cents per day, free transportation and rations. These employees would be civilians and could quit the service at any time.
The proposition seemed attractive to my mother, who immediately called on Mrs. Richards. These two evolved a plan to induce John Richards and me to apply for this service, no doubt feeling that a few months' trail would satisfy us that there is no place like home. John and I called on Wentz at the Globe Hotel, Binghamton, and engaged to go with his party which would leave for Washington fire days later.
It soon got noised around that Arth and John were going to work for the Government in Virginia and others wished to join us. Wentz urged us to bring all the boys we could, and when the time came for us to start, fifteen sturdy young country boys from Finch Hollow and the River District were in our party. About 250 men filled the special cars provided for Wentz's party. Our party of 15 men were clean, respectable boys, but a large percentage of the others were thieves, cut-throats, gamblers, sots, or tramps. We were thoroughly disgusted with the company we were in, but decided we would not back out now.
How well I remember the incidents of that day! Father and Mother came down with me to Squire Richards' in the morning, and Mother remained while Father took our luggage to town. The day was bright, but cold. Snow banks lined the fences but the fields were bare. Roads were muddy, so John and I decided to walk to the railroad; Mother and Mrs. Richards bid us good-bye on the porch while the girls, Lucy, Olive and Helen walked with us across the lawn, and tearfully watched us as we walked up over Collins Hill and to the railroad.
Arrived at Binghamton we reported to Peter Wentz, and then our party got together and kept together during the trip. Everything was hurly-burly, rush and hustle till our train started, then we had time to rest and reflect. All of our party were disgusted with the company we were in, and I think some would have deserted at the first stopping place, if we had not decided that we would stand together and "tough it out" for three months, when we were promised free transportation home if we wished to go.
The trip to Washington was without special incident. Along the banks of the Delaware huge banks of ice were jammed in amoung the sycamore trees, and the river was in many places running between vertical banks of ice. At New York the weather was a little warmer, and in Washington next day the streets were dry. Clouds of dust were swirled around by the wind, and the weather was oppressively warm.
I remember that this difference in climate, the contrast between the snow banks and mud in Broome County, New York, and the midsummer conditions in Washington surprised me wonderfully.
All the country south of the Mason and Dixon line was like a foreign or unexplored land to most people of the Northern states. I knew absolutely nothing about it except what I had read in books, and the impressions I had received from reading about Virginia were so different from the reality that I began to question the accuracy of descriptions and even history. We stopped but an hour in Washington, or till Peter Wentz could get a pass for his party from the Provost Marshal to Alexandria, Virginia. Washington and all points south of it were under military rule, and nobody was allowed to cross the Potomac without this pass.
We arrived in Alexandria in due time and were taken to a forlorn looking barracks called the "bull pen".
The night was cold and no fire in our quarters.
Richards and I bunked together and after we were asleep, covered warmly with our two blankets which our mothers had provided for us, some of our tramp companions who were not so well provided for, stole both blankets while we slept, and we never saw them again.
The cold awoke us, and we spent a cheerless night as indeed were all the nights and days during the two weeks we were quartered there.
Cold rains came on, and the discomforts we suffered sickened us of our job.
We had nothing to do except to stroll around in the mud, eat our hardtack and bacon with good coffee served in tin cups. None of us had much money, and nearly all Richards and I had was required to purchase more blankets.
Finally Peter Wentz sent for me one day, and said, "Crocker, you appear to be about the only man who can keep a time-book, so I shall make yoiu a foreman at $2.00 per day. Pick out about fifteen men for your gang and report at Depot platform at 10 o'clock for work at Burks Station." I lost no time in picking out our Finch Hollow crowd, and we were all as happy as clams at high tide.
During the next two months we were busy sawing wood for the engines and all of us enjoyed it. We were quartered in the station house and fixed ourselves up quite comfortably.
Suddenly this Orange and Alexandria Railroad was abandoned. McClellan moved with his army to the Peninsula near Richmond, and my gang was ordered to White House Landing. Joe and Josh Finch declined to go there. They went home and never afterward came South.
"All these sights and sounds
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