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A Letter From Cynthiana

Updated: Oct 26, 2023

Pembroke S. Scott was twenty years of age when he enlisted as a private in Company B of the 118th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. According to the 1860 Census Pembroke lived at home in Taylor Creek Township, Hardin County, Ohio, with his mother Jane, older sister Ruhama (or Rahanna), younger sisters Cynthia and Margaret, and younger brother Charles.

The 118th O. V. I. was organized on September 1st, 1862, part of Lincoln's call for 300,000 more. Serving in mostly a guard capacity during its early existence, the 118th would spend the majority of its early existence guarding the Kentucky Central Rail Road which ran from Covington, Kentucky (just across the river from Cincinnati) to Nicholasville, south of Lexington. While engaged in this duty near the town of Cynthiana, Pembroke penned this letter to his mother Jane, with a reference to a butternut ornament:

Camp Kimbrough, Cynthiana, KY

June 3, 1863

Dear Mother,

I write again to you. It rained last night. It is bright and clear this morning. We can see the corn across the field smiling in the sunshine. The air is quite cool and refreshing which causes a lively flow of spirits. I hear the soldier-boys in almost every tent gabling away as usual. The drum has just commenced, pealing away and I must go and drill. Here I am again, we drilled one hour in squads of 18 or 20, commanded by sergeants and corporals. The captain drills us twice a day, sometimes 3 times.[1] We drill skirmish drill 2 o’clock in the afternoon. We go about half a mile from camp in an open woods pasture to go through these Indian exercises. It is good exercise and we like to go with some more freedom then we usually have in drill. I once said something about a butternut ornament. The captain has it yet. The evening after he got it, he gave us a short lecture on the subject of butternutism and I believe he’s sound on the subject. Among other good things he said, “Those designated butternuts are those known to be traitors to their country and disloyal to the government." That he considered it an insult that anyone should remember him with such tokens of respect and that the letter called for an answer and also that he would give the boys in Company A voice in said letter. He also proposed that we should with inverted arms bury it with a hole in the ground, indicative of the end of Rebels and rebellion. He also told us how the term butternut comes to be so common. It was thus: when the rebellion began, the South found themselves short of coloring material – indigo etc., thence to supply the place used white and black walnut bark to dye the clothing to cover the backs of the black hearted Rebels of the South who are now striving to conquer a loyal force they never numbered and doing their very best (worst) to upset the government under which we and they have lived so long in peace and quiet: but such a “peace!” Well they must be worse, better than they have been. They must take off that old pair of spectacles (the pair they used to look through black skin for money), and read, as though they never seen it before, the “royal loyal law” of their fathers, commit the 10 commandments and live up to their requirements. Also they must know all about the old rusty Declaration of Independence, certainly none the worst for age, again they must read the Holy Bible, and last though not least, they must make the “Constitution of the United States“ a special every day study, and become inbred with its teaching, resolved to be civil members of society or they perhaps be used like the child Dr. D. writes about, until they become “inert” material, and hence another family will have to be brought up superior to their Pa and loyal “unto the powers that be.” Mr. President, I say for this state of things brought about in this wise as otherwise. I should like to see Thornton and Jennie and Maud and Sigel and Jonnie and Mark and Bill and Mort and Maria and Coz. John and brother Clark and Sis Mags and Mother Scott. Give my love to all and write soon.

Pembroke S. S. Scott

American Battlefield Trust map - 118th's position indicated by orange circle

The 118th Ohio Volunteers would be brought to the front later in 1863. Seeing action at Mossy Creek, Tennessee at the end of the year, the 118th would be involved in the Atlanta Campaign. At Resaca, Georgia the 118th was in Milo Hascall's brigade of Henry Judah's division. It was the fight at Resaca on May 14th, 1864 that Pembroke S. Scott would be killed in action. He is buried at the Chattanooga National Cemetery.


[1] Captain Solomon Kraner who would be wounded December 29th, 1863 at Mossy Creek and later resign his commission.

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