This week the Historical Society of Montgomery County received a visit from Carole Scholl and Suzanne Jaggers who presented their great-grandfather’s collection of diaries, letters, and a self-portrait. John Jacob Scholl had served in the 51st Pennsylvania Volunteer Regiment during the Civil War. His diaries, letters, and other papers were passed down to his grandson Milton Scholl, Jr. (Carole and Suzanne’s father and honorary HSMC Volunteer), and Milton became the caretaker of this precious collection.
Besides preserving his grandfather’s documents, Milton transcribed the diaries and letters. The sisters also donated a bound copy of the transcription and several papers, relating to John Jacob Scholl’s military service. Clearly a labor of love, Milton Scholl did an excellent job of preserving his family’s legacy by carefully storing the various pieces in acid free boxes, folders, and sleeves.
The diaries cover only about one year, from February 9, 1864 to February 23, 1865. It’s an exciting year in which Scholl saw action at the Battle of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania Courthouse, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg. At the Wilderness on May 5, 1864, he wrote, “9 AM. our Brigade took up the line of Battle about the centre of our column heavy wood along the line at 11-1/2 [11:30] our Brig. was ordered to make a charge also the whole line we drove the rebels out of their Pitts but being Flanked on our left were forced back. fighting desperate. Some firing continued and I was struck on the side and took the corner of the diary off.”
Photograph of the first diary with part of the left corner missing.
Throughout the diaries, Scholl lists his activities, how far the regiment marches, and details of regimental losses. He also keeps track of letters he received and sent, many of which he transcribed into the diary. From these we learn that he was popular with the young ladies of Norristown (though he describes himself as “bashful” in one letter). While the diaries list the bare details of Scholl’s activities, the letters provide us some insight into his thoughts. In one letter he writes of his Christmas meals, “Breakfast Hard Tack and coffee. Dinner. Pork and hard tack. Supper Coffee and tack and whatever pork was left from Dinner. Stylish way of f[e]asting wasn’t it.”
In another letter he writes “I never seen much enjoyment in the Army, but think it my duty to help crush this Wicked Rebellion. I enlisted and since I have made up my mind to see it through unless prevented by sickness, and if the Johnnies Chooses to make me their Target which I hope they will not do. So far I have been one of the lucky ones.”
Before and after the war, Scholl worked as an artist, and included among his papers was this pencil sketch.
After the war, Scholl moved from Norristown to Texas where he lived until his death in 1919. Milton Scholl, Jr., without whom the Historical Society would not have this wonderful collection, passed away last year, just a few days after Freda, his wife of nearly sixty years. HSMC is very grateful to the Scholl family for bringing us this extraordinary collection.