Letters of Lt. Philo P. Rayen, Co. G,

 Provided by Bill Balint, great great great nephew of Lt. Philo P. Rayen , original letters soon-to-be (by the end of 2014) part of the Indiana University of Pennsylvania Library Civil War Soldiers Manuscript Special Collection   

Thanks to Bill Balint for contributing these letters from his Roundhead ancestor.   Lt. Rayen was killed at 2nd Bull Run, August 29, 1862 and is presumably buried at Arlington National Cemetery as an Unknown Soldier.   A memorial gravestone for Lt. Rayen was unveiled in a ceremony on August 22, 2004 in the Old Cool Spring Church Cemetery in Mercer, Pennsylvania, his home.

Photos:  (L) Dedication of Memorial Headstone and (R) War time image of Lt. Philo P. Rayen from Balint Family Collection


Websmith's Note: Company G's commissioned command was decimated at 2nd Battle of Bull Run, as Captain Simeon Brown was also killed and 1st Lt. Thomas Curt was wounded.  Col. Leasure wrote in his "Glimpses of a Nation's Struggle", 1887 article for the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States (MOLLUS), that the battle aftermath left no line officers in Company G.  Curt became Captain of the Company a month later after his wound healed.  Sgt. Samuel R. Grace commanded the company for a few days until he was wounded at Chantilly, September 1, 1862.  Grace was promoted to Captain Dec 2, 1864 and was the last commander of Co. G. --David L. Welch

Below is an excerpt from a short biographical profile written by Bill Balint on Lt. Philo P. Rayen that gives background to the man and soldier that was part of the 2004 Memorial Re-dedication Ceremony. 

Philo P. Rayen was a second lieutenant in the Union Army who was killed in action during the U.S. Civil War at the Second Battle of Bull Run near Manassas, Va. on Aug. 29, 1862.  A chalk drawing, four of his surviving letters home, a pension application filed by his mother, some census records, a brief service record and a single mention of his death in a battle report contain all that is known about his life.


Lt. Rayen was a member of the 100th Pennsylvania Regiment--commonly referred to as the Roundheads.   A resident of Worth Township in Mercer County, Philo enlisted as a private in Company G early on  Aug. 31, 1861 at Pine Grove (modern day Grove City).  He was twice promoted prior to his death at age 30.


Lt. Rayen was single and operated a small farm with his mother, Clarissa.  His father died shortly before the war.  Philo's parents were natives of Boardman, Ohio.  His sister, also named Clarissa, married William Penn McCullough.  Their grand daughters --Mary, Margartet, Hazel and Mildred --are represented here today by various grand children, great-grand children and great-great grandchildren.


The long-dormant search for Lt. Rayen's burial location was revived thanks to two events.  The first was the publishing of the book, "Campaigning with the Roundheads" in 1989 and the second was the emergence of the Internet.  Although a definitive location was never found despite nearly 15 years of research, Lt. Rayen is thought to be buried in an unmarked grave at Arlington National Cemetery along with some 2,000 other soldiers whose bodies were moved from Virginia battlefields there in 1866.  A monument to those dead is located near the Lee-Custis Mansion.  (Websmith Note:  See Arlington National Cemetery Website writeup on the Civil War Unknowns Monument)


The stone monument is inscribed with the following:


The Roundeads monument is located at the Antietam National Battliefield Park near Sharpsburg, Md.  The remaining pages offer transcriptions of Philo's letters to his sister, a sample of an original letter, photos of the original Battle Flag and Roundhead Monument, a list of their movements during Philo's tenure, a copy of his mother's signature from 1863 when she filed a pension claim in Mercer County and a certificate of Philo's Union service created by the Naitional Parks Service.  These pages represent only a small portion of the family's collection of documents related to Lt. Rayen's life.  Access to other research materials can be obtained by contacting the Mercer County Historical Society.





The letters below are transcribed by descendant Bill Balint.   All of the letters are provided in thumbnail image format based on scans from a hardcopy that Bill sent to the me in July 2014.  I have added commentary to each letter as presented to the left of the scanned/transcribed letter images.   --David L. Welch

Partial transcribed letter of January 15, 1862 to his sister from Camp Stevens, S.C.  Also shown are copies of the original letter to show his original handwriting.  Camp Stevens (Philo spells it as 'Stephens'), is named after their commanding general at that time, General Isaac Ingalls Steven. The content of the letter primarily focuses on describing the action at the Battle of Port Royal Ferry, January 1, 1862.  He also discusses the health of his company, the weather and the negro shanties they were quartered in during the push to drive the Confederates out of the area.

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Long March 18, 1862 letter to his sister with no date shown but states the day in the body of the letter and the year is inferred based on description of South Carolina environs.  The previous letter, gives some insight into Lt. Rayen's personality and sense of humor--this letter even more so.  He refers to the rebels as "Filthy Buggers", describes a humorous story of US Cavalry soldiers and Rebel Soldiers getting into boats on opposite sides of an inlet rowing toward each other and then both boats becoming stranded in the inlet when the tide went out, creating a rescue mission for both sides.   He compares the current good health of the regiment by saying, "And in fact, we are about as fat and quite saucy as so many woodchucks".  Interesting, also, the nautical comparison of a friend's left leg with rheumatism as a "left propeller". 


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May 13, 1862 letter to his sister.  This letter discusses his letter writing/correspondence with his sister and others in mathmatical terms using fractions.  You can tell he feels like he has not received as many letters from home as he has sent and so a little sarcasm comes through. He also discusses the year round plentifulness of fruit in the South Carolina campaigns and feels spoiled compared to availability of fresh fruit back home--especially "berries" ("..."from the bottom of my heart I do pity you poor devils at the north who have to wait until July or August for berries and then run all over the country and tear half your clothes off for a quart or two of berries")  He also mentions the martial law imposed by Major General David Hunter throughout the Department of the South that frees all slaves that come within the Union lines--this prior to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation.

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This June 21, 1862 letter to his sister primarily describes the June 16, 1862 Battle of Secessionville and the anguish he feels from this and from missing family, with special concern about his ill mother back home.  He describes how the 8th Michigan attacked the Tower Fort (Lamar) too soon and was unsupported.  Other regiments like the 100th PA had to double quick to support the 8th Michigan but to make matters worse, they were marching by the right flank such that right was on solid ground and the left was on swampy ground.  The battle lines thus did not meet as the left (where Rayen and his Co. G were) got bogged down into swampy ground and had trouble catching up to the line on the right and were also exhausted by the time they caught up because of slogging through swampy conditions.  Of the four letters, this letter seems to to be the most deteriorated, much of the upper half of the first page difficult to decipher.  As such, illegible sections are indicated by "underlines".

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When Lt. Philo P. Rayen was killed at 2nd Battle of Bull Run, August 29, 1862, hardship affected the family. His father had already died years earlier and so his mother had lost both her husband and her son.  Her son's commission was a primary source of income for the Rayen Family farm back home and so his mother Clarissa needed income to support the family. The thumbnail image to the right is a Widow Pension application. Below that is some narrative by Lt. Rayen's great great great nephew, Bill Balint about content of the Widow Pension application. -- David L. Welch


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