Category Archives: Soldiers and Sailors

From Frederick Bartleson, 100th Illinois

Letter from Colonel Frederick Bartleson, 100th Illinois Volunteer Infantry, to his wife while captive in Libby Prison at Richmond.

February 26, 1864

Illinois State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

DEAR KATE:

I take this opportunity of sending you a longer letter than usual by the hands of a prisoner who has been exchanged. Owing to the fact that many here do nothing else but write letters, which, of course, as one would expect, are to be read, such an accumulation of letters ensued that an order has been issued, unduly severe, prohibiting more than one letter a week, and that to contain no more than six lines. This will account for what you have doubtless regarded as very brief epistles…

The question of exchange looks black, but perhaps it may clear up one of these days. Some special exchanges are being affected, and it is said that Capts. Sawyer and Flum, who were once on a line selected to be hanged, are to be exchanged.

You noticed the arrival of a number of officers who had escaped from Libby by means of a tunnel. It was, I think, the most clever performance in that line during the war, and we could see them coming up from their subterranean hole and issuing on the street in full view of the guards. Of course, there was great rivalry as to who should go, as all could not. For my part, I could only look on with regret, as it was impossible for me to crawl through or to make the descent, which was through a fireplace to the ground floor, where the tunnel was commenced. Some have been brought back, but the rest are safe. But the difficulties after getting out are very formidable. The country is swarming with scouts and patrols on the lookout for deserters…

Considering our number in this prison, it is a matter of as much congratulation as wonder that we are so healthy here. The same cannot be said of the Island. But there is very little smallpox among us, while it is said to be quite bad elsewhere. I was vaccinated and it took slightly.

My daily life: I go to bed about ten, get up a little after daylight for roll-call, then breakfast. Read, write, walk and talk and grumble for a while. At two P.M., roll-call, then have dinner. Read, write, talk and grumble till bedtime. Not a great variety, to be sure…

Being confined in a building, with insufficient exercise, is very irksome. But there is nothing which does not become systematic, and Libby has its life and its routine and its characters. I wish Dickens could paint and describe it. When I first came here, there was a newspaper edited by a chaplain and published weekly. It contained some good articles occasionally. Then for a long time there were French classes and German classes, and some soldiers improved the time very well.

Now, in regard to the relative treatment of prisoners by respective Governments, I have a word to say. No man can say that prisoners are as well treated there as they are here. There are two reasons against it; one is, they haven’t got the means to treat them as well, and another is, they haven’t got the disposition. They are fighting from different motives from us. We are fighting for the Union, a sentiment, a high and noble sentiment, but after all a sentiment. They are fighting for independence and are animated by passion and hatred against invaders.

When men fight for independence, it makes no difference whether the cause is just or not. You can get up an amount of enthusiasm that nothing else will excite. And while we feed our prisoners well, and it is our policy to do it, and while public sentiment would not justify any other course, they feed theirs they are not particular how. Public sentiment there will justify almost any treatment of the Yankees.

When a box is received, there is great joy with the recipient. If it is a dull season for boxes, great crowds gather around with the most vociferous cries and pass critically on each article received, tickled to death, like a child with a new toy. This prison life almost makes one a child again, and it is reason, undoubtedly, which purifies a man’s mind and makes him think he will be better when he gets out. Render him liable to good impressions–you imagine how I get along here.

The whole secret of making it endurable consists in having something to do. When I am in good trim and my mind is clear, I manage to make the day pass tolerably. Something to do at stated hours, making one forget where he is, is the secret. When there was a general belief that an exchange would be affected, I broke in on my ordinary pursuits and devoted myself to tracing the reliability of the rumors, which flowed in on us like a flood. I was more dissatisfied at that time than almost any other, when our hope vanished; so little doubt had I entertained, previous to that time, of the success of the negotiations which were going on.

A rumor here on exchange is dissected and analyzed with the utmost skill and acuteness. A thousand minds, eager and watchful, are brought to bear upon it. And no matter how absurd it may appear at first, it is gravely considered from all angles. Your old maid is no match at all for the Libby gossips. Curiosity here beats the most inquisitive form of that article elsewhere–and as for the exaggerations of a rumor after it is once started, no one can imagine them. I do not believe that on this subject it is possible for any inmate here to tell the truth. I am accustomed to say that here it requires twelve men to tell the truth.

We are made up here, as you can well imagine, of every variety of character and disposition. Sometimes I am sorry to say that the temper of some few is overcome and that fight is the consequence. We have had one or two of these little affairs since I have been here, but they were stopped. Of course, there is a public sentiment which condemns all such things, but in a population numbering nine hundred, we constitute a little village without the restraints of home.

The vermin are troublesome, so please put something in the box to help keep them off. We have bed bugs, too, and I presume that in the summer, we will find them very bad…

Now, dear Kate, I think this letter is long enough. I have not sent it through the mail in the ordinary way, but through the favor of a friend.

My love is all for you. Remember and give my love to all our friends.

Faithfully,

FRED

Note: Colonel Barleston had been captured at the Battle of Chickamauga and sent to Libby Prison. He was later released and was killed in operations around Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia, on 23 June 1864.

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Source: Tapert, Annette (ed.), The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Press, 1988), p. 186-89

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The Daring Escape from Libby Prison

February 9, 1864 – Colonel Thomas E. Rose of the 77th Pennsylvania plotted a remarkable escape from disease-ridden Libby Prison in Richmond.

Libby Prison | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

Libby was a four-story warehouse situated near the James River that held captured Federal officers. This building housed about 1,200 men in extremely overcrowded, drafty, and damp conditions that invited the spread of illness and disease. Rose, who had been captured at the Battle of Chickamauga, worked with Major Andrew G. Hamilton, a Kentucky cavalry officer, to tunnel out of the prison from underground.

After several unsuccessful attempts, Rose estimated that digging a 50-yard tunnel to a warehouse shed beyond the compound fence could enable prisoners to escape undetected. Rose opened a hole in the fireplace on the building’s first floor, which enabled him to gain access to the basement. He enlisted the help of other officers to tunnel out from there, and each man was sworn to secrecy.

The men worked in shifts in the east section of the basement, which they called “Rat Hell.” They collected the dirt in spittoons and emptied them among the basement straw and rubbish. The work took several months to complete; the prisoners estimated the tunnel to be eight feet below ground and just wide enough for a man to crawl through.

Colonel Abel D. Streight, who had been captured by Nathan Bedford Forrest, was the ranking officer and became the first man to use the tunnel on the 7th. He emerged short of the fence, but the guards did not see him. The hole was plugged and the digging continued.

Two nights later, a loud music show covered the escape of six colonels, six lieutenant colonels, seven majors, 32 captains and 58 lieutenants. The escapees scattered throughout Richmond, and when guards noticed their absence, the city’s alarms were sounded.

Rose and 47 others were eventually recaptured, and two others drowned while trying to cross waterways. However, 59 managed to reach Federal lines, making this the largest and most sensational prison escape of the war.

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References

Denney, Robert E., The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle (New York: Gramercy Books, 1992 [1998 edition]), p. 373; Fredriksen, John C., Civil War Almanac (New York: Checkmark Books, 2007), p. 396; Hoffsommer, Robert D., Historical Times Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986, Patricia L. Faust ed.), p. 436-38; Long, E.B. with Long, Barbara, The Civil War Day by Day (New York: Da Capo Press, Inc., 1971), p. 462-63; Robertson, Jr., James I., Tenting Tonight: The Soldier’s Life (Alexandria, VA: Time-Life Books, 1983), p. 124-28

From Aden Cavins, 97th Indiana

Letter from Lieutenant Colonel Aden Cavins of the 97th Indiana Volunteer Infantry to his wife.

Scottsboro, Ala.

Dec. 30, 1863

Indiana State Flag | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

MY DEAR TILLA:

All your letters express dread of harm to me in the battles around Chattanooga. You no doubt before this time have heard that I am still a breathing, moving corporal being.

We left Stevenson at the time I wrote you. We arrived here on the Memphis and Charleston railroad, a distance of twenty-seven miles over the worst roads for a level country I ever saw.

The weather grew warmer soon after I wrote you and it rained almost incessantly for four days. Our wagons only arrived here last evening, nearly worn out. We have our tents put up now and have dried ourselves and feel quite comfortable. It is expected that we will remain here for two weeks and then move farther along the road so as to be able to get forage for our teams…

A majority of the southern people whose homes are now within the federal lines are sick of the war and want peace on any terms. Texas and Louisiana have already deserted their confederates and their soldiers have made their way to their homes. Thousands of others are only waiting an opportunity to do the same thing. Northern Alabama is full of deserters from the rebel army. It is said that there are at least five hundred in this country. But when you get a man from south of our lines, he speaks as hopefully as Jeff Davis, and says that they would rather die than have any left to witness their subjugation.

I, a few months ago, spoke to those who are now leaving them at every opportunity. But when they were shut out from their homes, their friends, and the dear ones that aforetime smiled happily around their firesides, they were subdued–not by federal bayonets or the fierce rattle of our dreadful musketry, but by sentiments deeply established in the constitution of man: love of home, wife, father, mother or children. There is a point beyond which few can go. One may endure any physical hardship, to gratify a feeling, a prejudice or a whim, or suffer death rather than a real or supposed dishonor. But most men are subdued when the ties of early life are sundered and all the joyous memories of “home, sweet home” are trampled under foot.

When, therefore, the rebels are driven from their homes and their places become occupied by our soldiers; when they are separated from their families by long and tedious days, they will give up the contest. However, they are now driven into so few of their pretended states that want may soon begin to wear on them. But misguided people will never consult their best interests until disasters, dreadful and ruinous, will overtake them.

I believe during the next summer and fall campaign most of their country will be overrun, and after that nothing but lawless bands of guerrillas will prevent the soldiers from returning home. Texas will be mostly conquered this winter; Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi are almost subjugated; their once fair fields are nothing but wastes–fences and barns and houses destroyed and all their substance and stock destroyed. Alabama and Georgia will have to yield in the next movement.

The rebels have a very large army and will have months to recruit it and gather up their scattered forces. What jealousies and discords may happen among them no one can guess, but unless something supervenes to thwart the intentions of the rebel leaders, there will be at least one more year of fierce savage war, and then I think the struggle will be over. I hope that dissensions, brawls and discord may creep into their ranks, so as to hurry up the time when all can join those they love so well and whose absence they so much regret. It will most truly be a day of rejoicing when the war-worn soldier returns to the side of his dear ones, where he can view them affectionately by day and rest sweetly with them by night.

I am glad Charley is reading Plutarch’s Lives. There is so much of the noble, generous and heroic acts in the narratives that it cannot fail making a lasting impression on his mind. You must see that he pronounces the proper names correctly. See Classical Dictionary.

My love to all. Write often.

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Source: Tapert, Annette (ed.), The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Press, 1988), p. 184-86

From Frank Phelps, 10th Wisconsin

Letter from Sergeant Frank Phelps of the 10th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry

Camp at Chattanooga, Tenn.

December 2, 1863

Wisconsin State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

MY DEAR FRIENDS:

Again has the army of the Cumberland with Hooker’s and Grant’s brave boys routed and scattered Bragg’s Army while yet exulting over their dear bought victory, if you call it that, of Chickamauga. You have ere this seen detailed accounts of the fight, but yet it may be interesting to know what I saw and did in the fight though the latter part was very small.

I will commence away back to the first signs we got of an advance movement. On the 19th of last month we had orders for each man to have 100 rounds of ammunition. The usual amount we have to carry is only 40 rounds, so we knew something was up. The next day, we had orders to go on picket with two days’ rations. Well, we went out, when it commenced to rain and rained almost every hour we were out.

While we were on the lines, we were not very far apart, only a little creek between us. The rebs were very friendly, coming down on the bank to trade papers, canteens or anything they could get. I had a New York Tribune, which I exchanged for an Augusta paper. The next day I exchanged a Wis. State Journal for the Richmond News. They wanted to get playing cards the most. One fellow offered me Greenbacks or gold if I would get him some. He said they had to pay $12 per pack for them and they were good for nothing.

We were on two days, and at the station where we were, 27 rebels deserted and came over. We were relieved on the morning of the 22nd. That afternoon we received orders to be ready to move at 6 a.m. on the 23rd. We got ready and then the order was countermanded. We were not to leave camp, but to hold ourselves ready to move at a moment’s notice. At noon, we were ordered to move out into the rifle pits. The position of our brigade and division is on the extreme right, and we expected that we were going to make for Lookout Mountain, or that there would be a general advance. At one o’clock, our heavy guns from Fort Wood and all along the lines opened on the enemy.

Soon we heard skirmishing on the left. Then we understood the movement. After some heavy firing, our forces drove the rebels from their rifle pits. When we stopped for the night, we were not allowed to leave the works as the rebels might make a movement on our right. During the night, we were moved up to support a battery of 20-pound Parrotts. Just before daylight, we were ordered to leave half of the regiment there (which was only 30 men) and take the rest down to Louis battery. The rest of the brigade had moved out to the front.

The next morning we expected to have a fight, but it was still all along the lines. At 10 o’clock, there was some firing away off in Lookout Valley where Hooker had his camps. Pretty soon the firing became more general and the first thing we saw was our men charging up Lookout Mountain. It commenced to rain about noon and it was so foggy we could not see very well. At dark, we held the mountain. Our brigade had driven the rebels on this side and joined Hooker. We expected to go out and join the brigade during the night, but they could get no horses for the battery, so we had to stay.

The next morning was clear, but awful cold. The rebs had left Lookout Mountain and our forces had gone over through the valley toward Missionary Ridge. Hooker had got to Rossville, which place we made our stand on Monday. Left here is a large gap or pass between the two ridges. From this place Hooker could come up in the rear of the rebels on Mission Ridge. Sherman with Grant’s Western boys had gone up the river to where Chickamauga Creek empties into the river and crossed over, bagging about 100 rebs that were making rafts to float down the river to break our pontoon bridges. Here we took possession of a large knob on the north end of Mission Ridge, while Maj. Gen. Howard with the 11th Corps opened communications with Sherman from this way…

Soon I could see our line advance. Our brigade held the right, forward they went, but the hill was steep and high and the rebels were packed in their rifle pits. Our men come up within range when they fire and charge up with the bayonet. The rebels either retreat or surrender. After charging the rebels out of five lines of rifle pits, we reach the top of the hill and, almost at the same time, the batteries of the rebels stop firing. They have been firing on Sherman and Thomas as fast as guns could be worked. A cheer reaches us, and on the double quick do our men face towards Sherman and go to his relief.

The rebel center is broken. We have got all of their heavy guns and hold possession of all the ridge except where the railroad goes through. There the rebels have massed the remainder of their army. From that point they can rake the whole ridge with grape and canister. We can see 20 different guns open almost at the same instant. Guns that had been firing towards Sherman all the forenoon are now firing in the opposite direction. The roar of musketry and artillery is heavier than before; a huge column of smoke rises away over to our right. The rebels are burning their stores. Hooker is working there. Night comes on and the rebels hold their position on Tunnel Hill. Sherman had been repulsed three times, but the fourth time he was victorious and the rebels had to leave.

That night, all was still. Bragg’s Army had been defeated and driven from every position. Chickamauga had been avenged. That night our forces bivouacked in the rebel camp. The next morning our forces were in pursuit of the retreating rebels. At Ringold, Bragg tried to make another stand. He had chosen a good position, but our column, which went on our old road from Bridgeport, over the mountain to Trenton, came up in his rear, and joined onto Hooker. He was soon driven from there. Here our army had to stop on account of supplies. During the night our brigade started back and reached here the next afternoon. Bragg lost all of his artillery and about 15,000 prisoners. This is the first fight down in this section of the country that the old 10th was not in the front ranks. Our brigade was there and we would have been if we had officers, but one regiment had to be left back, and we were that lucky regiment…

Yours as ever,

FRANK W. PHELPS

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Source:

Tapert, Annette, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: First Vintage Books, 1988), p. 180-83

From Henry Curtis, 37th Illinois

Letter from Lieutenant Henry Curtis of the 37th Illinois Volunteer Infantry (also staff officer to Brigadier General Julius White)

Knoxville, Tennessee

November 21, 1863

Illinois State Flag | Image Credit: All-Flags-World.com

Being a rainy day and nothing doing, I will write you, though when this will get through is very problematical. On the night of the 13th, we got word that the enemy were building a pontoon bridge six miles below us. I took 25 cavalry and made for it, leaving orders for a regiment section of artillery to follow.

It was very dark and there was but one road down the point, at the extremity of which the bridge was and the woods each side were impassable with undergrowth. I expected a vigorous opposition and never hated a job worse in my life. However, by scientific maneuvering, I got to within 250 yards of the bridge and to within 50 yards of a heavy picket without firing.

Sent for the infantry to come out, but they had been ordered back–could get no further than I was, as the road was a narrow lane. I waited until near daylight and fell back. Reported I could get no more men. I went down again with 30 men, about halfway, the rebels being advanced. Took a position in an old church and held it with some occasional firing. (Brigadier General Julius) White wanted me to go on, but I sent him word that I could not without more men. Burnside had now got to our position (where the brigade was). I had sent a small regiment of cavalry to my aid. They were scared and stayed some four miles back. Burnside sent me orders to go on. Of course I went with what I had, though I had told White and him a dozen times I could do nothing but should get whipped and surrounded. Charged up a big hill in front, got the fire of about 200 men and got well whipped in a very few moments. Drew back and had just formed a line when about 100 rebels opened on my rear from the only road to get off by. They were right on us, and the chance looked bad. Only one side was open and they were making for that. Away we went over fences and through brush on the full run and bullets flying thick enough. Got out at last, losing three killed, some half dozen wounded and as many horses. Lost about six prisoners, their horses being shot and they caught.

White was coming up with the brigade, but I did not know it, I could only get back by circling round some 15 miles at Lenoir, a town six miles from our camp.

Camped for the night, it being dark, and the next morning went after the brigade. Burnside had gone on the evening before with the 9th A.C. and our brigade and driven the rebels nearly to the bridgehead. I found them on the retreat again, it not appearing advisable for him to go on. We lost some 100 men or more driving them in. Hope B. got it satisfactorily into his head, that 20 cavalry couldn’t go to the bridge!

The bridge is precisely where I told the chief of engineers it would be, but he, being a West Point man, of course would not admit I would know anything! We fell back to Lenoir that night, and I went into line. Only one small brush in the night and we killed a couple of rebels…

Our brigade (one being away) took the advance at 3:00 a.m. At 12:00 p.m., we went into line at Campbell’s Station, 15 miles from Knoxville. The 9th A.C. was not fighting heavily. We were to let it pass and check the rebels. They came down thick, but we broke from lines and held them until dark. Fell back a mile, our brigade holding the enemy and coming off splendidly. General B. said he never saw troops behave so well on a field of battle.

At dark, started for this place, our brigade in rear, arrived next morning and are now in position and fortifying. Got no hits myself. One shell hit right beside my horse and two shrapnel burst right in my face but never a scratch did I get. We’re now on the defensive here–enemy are very slow and I think can’t take us in; if they do you’ll not see this. We fire occasionally and so do they. We have enough food for present purposes and are in good health.

Was pretty well worn out when I got here, having no sleep, nothing to eat, and being in the saddle day and night from the start some 24 hours longer than most of the others. Am now quite recuperated. November 29th–still besieged. The rebels made assaults early this morning but were repulsed. We took some 300 prisoners. December 4th, reinforcements arrived at last.

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Source:
Tapert, Annette, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: First Vintage Books, 1988), p. 177-80

From William Nugent, 28th Mississippi Cavalry

Letter from Captain William Nugent of the 28th Mississippi Cavalry to his wife

Hd. Qrs. Cavalry Brigade

Tupelo, Miss.

September 7, 1863

Mississippi State Flag | Image Credit: AllFlagsWorld.com

MY DARLING WIFE,

The hour of your trial is approaching and I feel very very uneasy on your account. I hope and trust in the Giver of all good, though the thought that you are so far away, so near the enemy’s lines and surrounded by so many dangers makes me feel quite blue at times: and were it not for the elasticity of mind and heart which characterizes me, I should have long since grown utterly despondent.

War is fast becoming the thing natural, tho’ abhorrent to my feelings. I got at it just as I used to go at law-suits. Still I am not by any manner of means fond of the profession. The idea of being continually employed in the destruction of human life is revolting in the extreme. Necessity imperious and exacting, forces us along and we hurry through the dreadful task apparently unconscious of its demoralizing influences and destructive effects both upon the nation and individuals. I wish Uncl. Saml. would recognize his nephew and give us peace. I do not desire a reconstruction and a hollow truce, a servile place in the family of nations and to eat the bread of dependence while I am denied all the privileges of a freeman. The Yankees say that when we are conquered they cannot afford to let us have the right of trial by jury, because they say a “secesh” jury would clear us all, neither can we have our own judges or exercise the elective franchise. This is the doctrine held by their main supporters and is the one which will be practiced by them if they are successful. And yet our weak-minded friends are willing to lick the hand that would smite them and pay court to the hardhearted minions of abolitionism. I own no slaves and can freely express my notions without being taxed with any motive of self interest. I know that this country without slave labor would be wholly worthless, a barren waste and desolate plain–we can only live and exist by this species of labor: and hence I am willing to continue the fight to the last. If we have to succumb we must do it bravely fighting for our rights; and the remnant must migrate. If the worst comes, we must go over to England or France, and become Colonies again. Never will I be content to submit to Yankee rule. The Russian yoke would be preferable. The close fisted Yankees would filch our pockets at every turn–France I would prefer. Her policy is more enlightened than that of England and she would give us the rights and privileges of freemen. It would be her policy and doubtless when her affairs are straightened in Mexico, she will recognize the importance of a more decided policy in American affairs.

I hope the enemy now discovers that the possession of the River is a barren victory. Their Western produce finds no market and the foreign demand will not be very large or extensive either at New Orleans. Their commerce is fettered by childish restrictions and the Southern privateers keep them uneasy. Cotton cannot be found and flour and bacon is not a commodity of much exchangeable value. A few men, in authority, may make fortunes; but the poor man who brings his flat load of corn and potatoes expecting to return with a pocket full of money will be utterly mistaken. The Yankees won’t see this until too late to remedy the evil. They are not far-seeing enough. If they only had the negroes at work on the plantations under their masters, they would have realized some beneficial results.

We are now camped at a place memorable in this war, and whose name will live in history. We are occupying Genl. Bragg’s old Hd. Qrs. and have a cozy time of it–and if the enemy don’t disturb us soon we will be quite comfortably fixed…

Old Pillow is conscripting every man in the whole country. He is no respecter of persons. There is in consequence a terrific quaking among the noncombatants and substitute men. Judge Handy has just decided that the principal is liable unless his substitute is over 45 yrs. of age; and is in any event liable for militia duty. This will make the nice young gentlemen quake in their shoes, and force them to “come to the centre.”

My health continues good–I am endeavoring to get Clarence promoted so that he can come up here and be with me, and, I think I will succeed in due course of time. The Company is, I am sorry to have to say, going to pieces, numbering now only some twenty-nine men for duty.

Give my love and kisses to all. Do the best you can, and ever remember that you are supreme in my affections. May God Almighty bless, comfort, protect and preserve you is the prayer of

Your devoted husband,

WILL

—–

Source:

Tapert, Annette, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: First Vintage Books, 1988), p. 175-77

From Spencer G. Welch, 13th South Carolina

Letter from Dr. Spencer Glasgow Welch, a surgeon with the 13th South Carolina Volunteer Infantry

Camp near Orange Court House, Virginia

August 2, 1863

The South Carolina Flag | Image Credit: Wikipedia.org

DEAREST:

In a recent letter I promised to write you more about our campaign in Pennsylvania.

On the night of the 29th of June, we camped on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where they extend into Pennsylvania. On the morning of the next day (30th), we renewed our march. Shortly after starting, it began raining, but the road was hard and well macadamized and the rain made the march rather agreeable than otherwise.

On this same morning, we passed where a splendid iron factory had been burned by General Early, of Ewell’s Corps. It belonged to a very celebrated lawyer and politician of Pennsylvania by the name of Thaddeus Stevens, who is noted for his extreme abolition views and his intense hatred for slave-holders. The works are said to have been worth more than $100,000. The burning had thrown a great many operatives out of employment, and they seemed to be much distressed.

During the day we wended our way up the mountains… In the afternoon about one or two o’clock we halted and bivouacked among the mountains. Our stopping-place was in a basin of the mountains which was very fertile and contained a few very excellent and highly cultivated farms. A while after we stopped, I started off to one of these farmhouses for the purpose of getting my dinner, as I was quite hungry and wanted something different from what I had been accustomed…

Upon returning to camp, I found that an order had been received during my absence to cook one day’s rations and have it in haversacks and be ready to march at five o’clock next morning. This at once aroused our suspicions, for we concluded that we were about to meet the enemy. Next morning about five o’clock we began moving. We had not gone more than a mile and a half before our suspicions of the evening previous were fully verified and our expectations realized by the booming of cannon ahead of us in the direction of Gettysburg. Upon looking around, I at once noticed in the countenance of all an expression of intense seriousness and solemnity, which I have always perceived in the faces of men who are about to face death and the awful shock of battle…

It was really a magnificent sight. The country was almost destitute of forest and was so open that it was easy to see all that was going on. Our division (Pender’s) continued to keep within about half a mile of Heth’s. McGowan’s Brigade was at the right of the division and the 13th Regiment was at the right of the brigade. This being the case, I could see from one end of the division to the other as it moved forward in line of battle. It was nearly a mile in length…

Officers who have been in all the fights tell me that they never saw our brigade act so gallantly before. When the order was given to charge upon the enemy, who were lying behind stone fences and other places of concealment, our men rushed forward with a perfect fury, yelling and driving them, though with great slaughter to themselves as well as to the Yankees. Most of the casualties of our brigade occurred this day (July 1). As the enemy were concealed, they killed a great many of our men before we could get at them.

There were a good many dwellings in our path, to which the Yankees would also resort for protection, and they would shoot from the doors and windows. As soon as our troops would drive them out, they would rush in, turn out the families and set the houses on fire. I think this was wrong, because the families could not prevent the Yankees seeking shelter in their houses. I saw some of the poor women who had been thus treated. They were greatly distressed, and it excited my sympathy very much. These people would have left their houses, but the battle came on so unexpectedly to them, as is often the case, that they had not time…

The fighting on the first day ceased about night, and when our brigade was relieved by Lane’s North Carolina Brigade, it was nearly dark… When they drove the Yankees to the long high range of hills, which the Yankees held throughout the fight, they should have been immediately reinforced by Anderson with his fresh troops. Then the strong position last occupied by the enemy could have been taken, and the next day, when Ewell and Longstreet came up, the victory completely won. If “Old Stonewall” had been alive and there, it no doubt would have been done. Hill was a good division commander, but he is not a superior corps commander. He lacks the mind and sagacity of Jackson…

On the second day of the battle, the fighting did not begin until about twelve or one o’clock, from which time until night it raged with great fury. The reason it began so late in the day was because it required some time for Ewell and Longstreet to get their forces in position.

On the third day, the fighting began early in the morning and continued with the greatest imaginable fury all day; at one time, about three o’clock in the afternoon, with such a cannonading I never heard before. About 150 pieces of cannon on our side and as many or more on the side of the enemy kept up for several hours. It was truly terrifying and was like heavy skirmishing in the rapidity with which the volleys succeeded one another. The roar of the artillery, the rattle of the musketry and the wild terrific scream of the shells as they whizzed through the air was really the most appalling situation that could possibly be produced. Our troops (Pickett’s Division) charged the enemy’s strong position, which they had now entrenched, but with no avail, although we slaughtered thousands of them.

On the night of the 3rd, General Lee withdrew the army nearly to its original position, hoping, I suppose, that the enemy would attack him; but they didn’t come out of their strongholds, for well they knew what their fate would be if they met the Confederate Army of Virginia upon equal grounds. On the 4th, our army remained in line of battle, earnestly desiring the advance of the Yankees, but they did not come. During this day the rain fell in torrents, completely drenching the troops…

On July 5, we recrossed the Blue Ridge Mountains. Climbing the mountains was very tedious after so much toil, excitement and loss of sleep, but we met with no obstacle until we came to Hagerstown, Md., where we stopped on account of the Potomac’s being too high to ford. While here, the Yankees came up. Our army was placed in line to meet them, but they did not dare to attack. In this situation we remained for several days with them in sight of us.

After a pontoon bridge was finished at Falling Waters and the river was sufficiently down to ford at Williamsport, we left the vicinity of Hagerstown. It was just after dark when we began leaving. It was a desperately dark night and such a rain I thought I never knew to fall… It appeared to me that at least half of the road was a quagmire, coming in places nearly to the knees…

Being very tired, we all lay down and nearly everyone fell asleep. Suddenly the Yankee cavalry rushed upon us, firing and yelling at a furious rate. None of our guns were loaded and they were also in a bad fix from the wet of the previous night. They attacked General Pettigrew’s North Carolina Brigade first. Our brigade was lying down 50 yards behind his. I was lying down between the two brigades near a spring. General Pettigrew was killed here. I was close to him when he was killed. It was a serious loss to the service. We fought them for some time. Then General Hill sent an order to fall back across the river, and it was done in good order.

The attack was a complete surprise, and is disgraceful either to General Hill or General Heth. One is certainly to blame. The Yankees threw shells at the bridge and came very near hitting it just as I was about to cross; but, after we were close enough to the river not to be hurt by our own shells, our cannon on this side opened upon them, which soon made them “skedaddle” away.

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Source: Tapert, Annette, The Brothers’ War: Civil War Letters to Their Loved Ones from the Blue and Gray (New York: Vintage Books, 1988), p. 169-75