Valley of the Shadow
The War Years
Spring 1861–Spring 1865

Letters & Diaries


Henry Bitner and Friends (1861-1863)

Henry A. Bitner came from a Democratic family in Shippensburg, Franklin County. He and his friends Alex “Ellic” Cressler, David Daihl, Thaddeus “Thad” Donely, William Kindig, William Martin, and David Shoemaker all lived in Southampton Township before the war. Most still lived with their parents and siblings. The census taker in 1860 listed Bitner, Daihl, and Martin as farm hands. Donely worked as an iron moulder. Cressler and Kindig taught school. Though Shoemaker left Franklin before the war, he maintained ties in the community through his friends and through his aunt and uncle, Conrad and Lydia Kyner, who lived a few houses away from Bitner. By 1861, Shoemaker lived in Darke County, Ohio, where he worked as a teacher.

Bitner and his friends were mostly young men in their early twenties when the Civil War began. During the war, Bitner remained in Southampton, teaching school, adjusting to married life, and serving as county assessor. Each of his friends served in the Union army, except Cressler who moved to Chambersburg. Donely and Martin served in the 130th Pennsylvania, Daihl in the 77th Pennsylvania, Kindig in the 170th Pennsylvania, and Shoemaker in the 11th Ohio. Kindig died in September 1862 of wounds received at the Battle of Antietam. At least Daihl, Donely, and Martin survived the war. By 1870, none of the men were still living in their parents’ households.

The following links provide access to the most likely matches in the Valley of the Shadow databases:

Henry Bitner

Alex Cressler

David Daihl

Thaddeus Donely

William Kindig

William Martin

This collection of twenty-two letters begins with the early months of the war in May 1861 and ends in May 1863. In these letters, Bitner’s correspondents maintain their ties of friendship even as the war scatters them through the borderlands of the North and South. Alex Cressler writes from Chambersburg in the months immediately following secession and notes the gathering of troops in and around that city. Thad Donely and William Martin report on the activities of the 130th Pennsylvania in Virginia in 1862 and 1863, and David Daihl and David Shoemaker from Tennessee describe the positions of the 77th Pennsylvania and 11th Ohio, respectively. William Kindig writes about the 170th Pennsylvania and describes in detail its participation in battles around Culpeper and Manassas, Virginia, in 1862.