“I Remain as Ever Your Affectionate Son Freddy”
When Daniel R. Gilbert Sr. opened a dusty, mildew-laden box of papers put on permanent loan in the Moravian College Archives by the Frueauff family in 1994, little did he know that he was at the beginning of a project that would come to fruition twelve years later with a book published by Moravian College.
The Frueauffs have had a long connection with Moravian. The president’s house on Church Street was built in 1819 for John Frederick Frueauff, then principal of the Young Ladies’ Seminary, forerunner of the modern Moravian College. The box contained more than 100 letters written by John Frederick Frueauff’s grandson and namesake during his Civil War military service.
John Frederick Frueauff the younger was a 23-year-old lawyer in 1861. Deciding that it was his duty to support the Union, he served as an officer in two Pennsylvania volunteer regiments: first as a lieutenant for a three-month enlistment, April to July 1861, in the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers, and second as a major for a ninemonth enlistment, October 1862 to July 1863, in the 153rd Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers.
Gilbert, professor emeritus of history and College archivist, immediately recognized the importance of the letters and arranged with the Frueauff family for their publication. Freddy’s War: The Civil War Letters of John Frederick Frueauff finally came off the press in late January.
“These letters are from the early years of the war, which were quite different from the later years. The public perception of the Civil War is almost completely from 1864-1865,” said Gilbert. “The first part of the war (particularly on the Union side) was often fought by men who had little or no military training or experience. The draft had not yet been put into place, and the tactics were still Napoleonic. In the later part of the war, Grant introduced ‘total war’ tactics that have been used in all modern wars, and the command chain, logistics, and supply system in the Union army became much more organized and sophisticated. Weapons, also, were modernized, and the latest technology—for example, in the form of surveillance balloons— was employed on the battlefield.
Freddy experienced some of that modernization—he reenlisted in 1862, possibly to beat an impending draft the next summer, and he saw the observation balloons near Fredericksburg—but for the most part he reported on the conditions of the early war.
“Freddy himself was an amateur,” Gilbert continued. “His regiments were volunteer units, led by elected officers without military training. By the latter part of the war, the amateurs had grown up and learned something in fighting, or they were dead, or, like Freddy, they had left the army.”
The letters, which Gilbert says are out of the 19th century school of letter-writing, are packed with information. “You’re dealing with an urbane, sophisticated, worldly man, who had traveled everywhere. You see so much more in his letters than you normally see in Civil War letters. One of the things they bring out is the intrusion of politics into the war. The popular impression is that everyone in the Union was a Republican, was against slavery, and was against the South. It was much more complicated than that. Freddy made it very clear that even within a unit, enlisted men and officers could be sharply divided politically. He criticized, for example, one of his superior officers whose loyalty to the Union was in doubt.
“There is also a tendency, fostered by Hollywood, to give a picture of the Civil War as one of constant fighting. There were long periods without battles, and life behind the lines meant too many hours in camp with poor food, inadequate sanitation, often rampant disease, and constant boredom. When Freddy finally got moved to headquarters to serve as acting assistant inspector general, it was plain that he was pleased to have something interesting to do at last. And although he enjoyed some aspects of military pageantry, he had no illusions about the ‘glory’ of battle, especially after Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.”
Gilbert credits Moravian’s former president, Roger H. Martin, with securing the permanent loan of the Frueauff papers to the Moravian College Archives. “He was one of the first people who really grappled with the question of what Moravian was going to be down the road, and he was a real friend of the archives. He recognized the importance of our heritage in addressing the question of our future.”
The efforts of many people went into the production of the book. Michelle Matuczinski, secretary in Reeves Library at the time (now secretary to the Economics and Business Department), transcribed many of the handwritten letters. “Mickey deserves an awful lot of credit,” said Gilbert. “The letters were written under field conditions, and the handwriting was often faded and difficult to decipher.
“At times Freddy would launch into German or French, particularly when he was mad at somebody. I would send a page where the German was absolutely impenetrable to Winfred Kohls [professor emeritus of history, and a specialist in German and Russian history]. Win was of great help in translating these passages.
“The reference staff in the library couldn’t have done more to dig up information on who people were. My former student Sue Dreydoppel ’74, executive director of the Moravian Historical Society in Nazareth, was particularly helpful in figuring out Freddy’s family.
“Susan Woolley, editor of this magazine, and Judith Green of the Publications Office edited and corrected the text (except for Freddy’s own lapses, which were carefully preserved), and Susan prepared the index and designed and and produced the book.”
This edition of Freddy’s War was funded by a generous grant from the Charles A. Frueauff Foundation, which was established by Freddy’s youngest son in his will in 1950. The foundation has also supported scholarships at Moravian for many years. The hardcover book is available from the Moravian College Bookstore.