The following is transcribed from the book Pittsburgh during the American Civil War 1860-1865 and provides greater detail on Camp Copeland:
Camp Copeland, located near the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks at Braddock’s Field, opened on August 1, 1863. The site selected by Major General Brooks commanding the Department of the Monongahela and General Joseph Copeland, accordingly set on a “beautiful ridge of natural drains on every side. Drinking water was good and sufficient quantity for all purposes.”
The Pittsburgh Post reported, “Troops at Camp Howe (Oakland) would be immediately quarter there, under the command of Captain Frank Beach of the 16th Connecticut Volunteers.”
According to the 1917 Unwritten History of Braddock’s Field, the camp encompassed a portion of the former Mill’s farm near Braddock’s Field. Brigadier General Thomas L. Kane assumed command of the camp on July 4, 1863, but was relieved two weeks later on July 18 by Brigadier Joseph T. Copeland.
The camp was subsequently named for 50-year-old Brigadier General Joseph T. Copeland of Maine. General Copeland, a Supreme Court justice in Michigan prior to the war, commanded the First and later the Fifth Michigan Cavalry before being assigned to a Michigan cavalry brigade. In July 1863, on the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg, command of the brigade was assigned to a much younger General George Armstrong Custer. The encampment opened in the summer and initially consisted of tents for several months.
In November 1863, Lt. Colonel Cross, Deputy Quartermaster in Pittsburgh, suggested buildings be erected at Camp Copeland, or that a portion of quarters still standing at Camp Howe, be repaired for immediate occupancy. It was not until December 1863 that the Quartermaster’s Office in Pittsburgh appealed to Washington for stoves to be procured for the camp. Although wood appeared scarce in the area, coal was abundant. Lt. Colonel Cross also noted that buildings could not be erected until January 1, 1864, due to nearly three weeks of ‘the most severe weather that had occurred for many years.”
In addition to the lack of shelter, more recruits arrived in January and February 1864, and no money had been seen to pay the men. It can only be ascertained that these first recruits to Camp Copeland during the fall and winter of 1863-64 suffered under appallingly miserable conditions with inadequate “makeshift” shelters prior to January 1864.
Sergeant Walter Collins, a drill instructor from Company M, 100th Pa. Infantry Regiment, “commissioned” the only known photograph of the camp (after barracks were erected), taken in 1864 while stationed at Camp Copeland, although the photographer himself is unknown. Walter Collins lived for many years after the war on Washington Street in Braddock.
In the 1864 photograph and the Plan of Barracks at Camp Copeland, Pa. (December 1864), the hospital measures 36 feet x 16 feet. However, a quartermaster report of March 1864 designated the newly built hospital as measuring 26 x 160 feet long, probably the correct dimensions. It was located approximately 60-70 feet northwest of the Pennsylvania Railroad tracks. Adjacent to the hospital are three buildings (35 feet x 16 feet) comprising of officers’ quarters, each designated to “billet” 36 officers. Three other structures, about 50 feet away and to the north of this complex, are also designated as “officer” quarters. These buildings are eight feet in height and have several doors and windows. The drawings appear to indicate three separate rooms within each building. In the extreme left is the Commandant’s house.
The other buildings are barracks, and according to a letter to the editor on September 13, 1864, from a soldier in Company F, 15th Pa. Volunteer Cavalry, held 200 men with seven men sharing the same bunk! According to the quartermaster report of March 1864, each building consisted of three tiers of bunks on each side of the barracks.
Seven barrack-building complexes are indicated in the plans. Four measure 130 feet in length x 16 feet wide, with three measuring 160 long x 20 feet wide. Each complex in turn consists of eight buildings for a total of 32 separate quarters. Twelve cook rooms containing twenty-one cooking stoves were included within the complex. A street forty feet in width separates a complex of eight kitchens from the barracks. The kitchens measure 12 feet x 20 feet. Forty feet east of the kitchens are the second complex of enlisted barracks, consisting of three separate rows or complexes. Each barrack complex measures 128 feet x 20 feet, with 6 separate compartments or buildings. The total buildings in this area number eighteen.
Approximately 60 feet south of the enlisted barracks and adjacent to the PRR tracks, are three additional buildings. Each measure 16 feet x 40 feet, and are designed as “guard house, commissary quarters, and quarters.” The plan for Camp Copeland indicated an area of approximately 7.0 acres. Trash middens and privies are not shown and would substantially increase the camp’s size. The plan of Camp Copeland is of much greater detail than the “Plan of Camp Howe.”
The camp’s location in proximity to the town of Braddock kept the local citizens in constant touch with the soldiers, whose numbers at one point reached 6,000. Although complaints concerning conduct of the troops appeared rare, some problems existed with a camp of this size. Many of the fences bordering the camp had been removed and used for firewood, resulting in animals of the surrounding farms occasionally straying. Religious services held at the camp on Sunday afternoons were frequently attended by many of the towns’ people. A sad civilian accident occurred at the camp when one of the Mills boys, while handling a rifle, accidentally shot himself, dying shortly afterwards.
By February 25, 1864, approximately 2,500 troops occupied the camp, many arriving daily while others left to join their regiments. During the spring of 1864, the camp experienced substantial illness resulting in several deaths. The dead were buried in the old Robinson graveyard, although later removed by the Government to the Soldiers Plot in Allegheny Cemetery. Approximately 1,500 troops had arrived at Copeland by March 1864.
The March 30, 1864, The Daily Post reported, “There has been five deaths at Camp Copeland since Saturday (March 27, 1864): James I. Billig(?), Private, 57th Pa. Volunteers; Frank Nichols, Private, 85th Pa. Volunteers; on March 28, Thomas Mc Roberts, Private, 112th Pa. Volunteers; J. T. Toby, 11th Pa Volunteers; George Saider(?), Private, 18th Pa. Cavalry, died. Although a number of new buildings have been erected and the work of renovating the camp has been rapidly going on, there is said to be still considerable sickness prevailing.”
A letter written on March 15, 1864, by Corporal Fred Pettit, Company C, 100th Pa. Volunteer Infantry, from Camp Copeland describes conditions in the facility at this time. The 100th had spent the winter stationed with the Army of the Cumberland in Tennessee. Marched back to Pittsburgh in February 1864, the command granted a month long furlough to the troops on February 7 to extend to March 8, when they had orders to report back to Camp Copeland:
Dear parents, brother, and sisters: ‘Well, we are still in Camp Copeland in the midst of the mud, cold and wet. The fact is we might as well have remained at home all this time. A great many of the regiment have been home again and are just getting back. William Smiley just now came in. Our recruits have just been transferred to the regiment.
Last night an order was issued ordering every man to remain in camp, and that the recruits be drilled 4 hours daily. We are having as good a time as could be expected under the circumstances. Johnson Wilson came up yesterday and remains with us until tomorrow. He brought a great many things for John and David, amonst [sic] other things a fat chicken which we cooked for dinner and it was pronounce excellent.
We get plenty of good soft bread, pork, coffee, and sugar. We have what is called the wedge or A tent. We are messed 4 in a tent. Hege (James), Wilson and I are in one. David has not been well for a few days but is better.
It is very uncertain how long we will stay here. I think we would be better contented if we were farther from home. Do you miss us all at home? I believe we are just as fond of home as ever we were.
Quite a number of the boys employed an assistant to share the joys and sorrows while they were at home, and a great many more formed an acquaintance that may lead to something more serious when this cruel war is over if we should be spared.
The last of the regiment finally arrived at Camp Copeland by March 22, 1864, leaving the next day on a troop train for Baltimore, Maryland, eventually destined for duty with the Ninth Corps and the Army of the Potomac.
The soldiers of Company M, 100th Pennsylvania Infantry, presented a flag to the regiment to be carried alongside the State Color while at Camp Copeland. The flag was carried throughout the 1864-65 Virginia Campaign, receiving substantial damage during the Battle of the Crater at the siege of Petersburg,
The name of Camp Copeland changed to “Camp Reynolds” when the one-armed infantry commander, Colonel Martin Hardin, assumed command in April 1864. The Daily Post reported on April 1, 1864, “It is said that General Copeland has been relieved of his command at Camp Copeland, Colonel Granger to be his successor.”
In a follow-up story a week later, however, the Post reported on April 8, 1864, “We have learned that General Copeland has been superseded in command of Camp Copeland by Colonel Harden, late of the 12th Pennsylvania Reserve Corps [ed. Actually the 12th Pa. Volunteer Reserve Regiment] , lately of General Dix’s staff. Colonel Hardin is a graduate of West Point and has seen hard service in the field during the present war.” When Hardin assumed command, he renamed the camp “Camp Reynolds,” in honor of General Reynolds, killed July 1, 1863, at the Battle of Gettysburg.
Hardin was born in Illinois in 1837. He lost an arm in battle near Catlett’s Station, Virginia, in spring 1864 before coming to Pittsburgh, Pa. Colonel Hardin, however, commanded the camp for less than two months, requesting and receiving orders on May 14, 1864, to rejoin units in the field. Hardin would retire from the army in 1870 as brigadier general. Captain Ford next assumed command of the camp, then occupied by only a few hundred men.
The Post of July 15, 1864, reported that, “Yesterday Captain Wright received orders to send forward the Invalid Company doing duty at Camp Reynolds under command of Captain Ford. There is now but one company left in camp and they will be ordered to leave soon for the front.” However, this would not last long, for the camp’s population soon mushroomed due to the raising of new units in Western Pennsylvania.
The July 21, 1864, Post reported 12 companies assembled at Camp Reynolds, under Lincoln’s July 1864 call for 24,000, one-hundred-day militia. These troops assembled under the command of Colonel J.B. Clark, Lieutenant Colonel Ballentine and Major H.K. Tyler. By August 29,1864, some 1,500 men had gathered at Camp Reynolds. The following week, September 2, 1864, the Post noted that, “2,000 volunteers are at Reynolds, and there is ‘plenty of room'”. But on September 12, 1864, the camp’s roster more than doubled to 5,000 troops, and over-crowded conditions are recorded. The following day, September 13, 1864, Lieutenant Veech of the Regular United States Army assumed command at Camp Reynolds, replacing Colonel Morris, a direct result of the problems caused by the crowded conditions.
In the 1922 History of Pittsburgh and Environs recorded that the 204th Pa. Regiment organized at Camp Reynolds near Pittsburgh, September 10, 1864, and the 212th Pennsylvania on September 15. The 204th Regiment of the Line, also designated the "5th Regiment of Heavy Artillery, “commanded by Colonel G.S. Gallupe, recruited ten companies from Allegheny County. The Post of September 26, 1864, reported that 300 substitutes were all that remained at Camp Reynolds. The 212th Regiment formed at Camp Reynolds since the 204th had exceeded its numbers of recruits.
The Post of October 3, 1864, noted that over 500 recruits had deserted within the “past few months. The military authorities are making an effort to recapture some of them, and guards nightly patrol our streets and visit all places public amusement in order to hunt them up.” The Provost Marshall’s Report of October 5, 1864, by Major W.G. McCandless, Provost Marshall and Military Commandant of the Post at Pittsburgh, recorded some 3,837 soldier sent to Camp Reynolds had consisting of: white recruits, colored, deserters, stragglers, convalescents, and granted furloughs. The drafted men totaled 131, in addition to 319 substitutes.
With the end of the Civil War, an order of April 29, 1865, commanded Camp Reynolds to close after 22 months of continuous operation; and the Pittsburgh Gazette of May 3, 1865, reported, “the mustering officer in this city has received orders to muster out the drafted men heretofore on duty at Camp Reynolds.”
Although the troops at Camp Reynolds had departed in May 1865, the Quartermaster General did not order the buildings to be sold until December 1865. An inventory of structures remaining, conducted on November 4, 1865, listed the following 37 still-standing buildings at Camp Reynolds: 9 buildings (officers’ quarters); 6 barracks; 2 quartermaster’s stores; 2 commissary buildings; 1 prison; 1 guard house; 5 out-buildings; 1 stable; 1 forage and store house; 1 carpenters’ and blacksmith shop; 1 quarters for mechanic and teamster; 1 hospital with 2 wings; 1 bake house; 4 cook houses, and 1 laundry. At that time, an auction was recommended to make the wood available to local miners looking for material to build winter quarters. Of note are many smaller buildings listed on this report that are not shown on the Plan of Camp Copeland from December 1864, only one year earlier.
The last structure removed from the camp proved to be the hospital that stood until May 1866. The wood from this building was given to the Freedmen’s Bureau.
The Pennsylvania Railroad later designated”Copeland Station” near this location and present Copeland Street, in addition to the “Copeland Cemetery” – a name actually applied to the Monongahela Cemetery – are the only known reminders of the large camp once located here.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]