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Joseph E. Shaw Collection
38th New York Volunteer Infantry
joseph Shaw Letter 17
Donated by Robert Gritman

Head Quarters Birney’s Brigade
Camp near Yorktown Va

Sunday Night Apl. 13th 1862

Dear Ed,

                        I received your exceedingly welcome letter today and as I have time now I thought I would answer it immediately.  In the first place I am very glad to hear that Gus is getting along so well and hope he will continue to thrive under the glorious sunshine of the smiling mouth of April.  In my last I stated that we were before the forts and batteries of Yorktown and intended to attack them next day (Monday 7th) but as it rained here for three days and nights in succession it rendered the “sacred soil” unfit for traveling and in consequence we did not get our siege guns & etc. here in time.  We have moved Camp twice since last Sunday as the Rebels kept firing at us until they got their guns ranged for our encampment and then they commenced to shell us with a vengeance.  So we had to move.  In our march to this our new Camp we were obliged to pass within a half a mile of and in full view of the rebel batteries.  In passing their fort one of the four horse ambulances belonging to these Head Quarters was fired at and the shot struck the off pole horse cutting his neck half in two.  The other horses however escaped unharmed.  We had a skirmish here Friday & Saturday and there was some pretty heavy firing for about 4 of five hours until night closed in and spread her dark and gloomy mantel over the scene.  We are now camped in the midst of a thick wood, and at night it looks beautifully just imagine about 2 or 3000 fires in a compass of a mile surrounded by 3000 men and you can form a faint idea of what it is.  However by this time two weeks from now you will hear of either our victory or defeat.  I am sorry you did not get a share in the ‘Courier” business but perhaps it is all for the best.  Something else may turn up that will be more to your advantage than that.  I should stick to Benedict like his shadow until I got paid.  I am glad to hear you have got so comfortably settled and I suppose you appreciate it too.  With regard to getting transferred to Sedgwick’s Division I have this to say (Ahem!),  I like Birney well.  I like Sedgwick well, but, if I should be transferred I would stand a better chance for a promotion in this way – here with Birney I have but a Brigade to be put into but with Sedgwick I would have a Division so you see the chances would be quadrupled.  I have not heard anything with regard to it being transferred yet but if I do I will let you know.  I like the Officers of the Staff first rate and we get along well together.  Have you heard from George since he was to the City and how is he?  Give my love to Mother & all the folks and let them know that I am well & etc. & etc. & etc. & etc. & etc.      & etc.  Let me know how the Goose question ends and whether the dog was “downed on the goose”

            Excuse everything & with love to all.
                                    I remain                      
                                    Your Affectionate
                                    J. E. Shaw

P.S. & can you send me a “free Press” just as well as not.  If so, do, but if it can not be”did” why never mind.

            J. E. Shaw (Brig. Clerk)
            Birney’s Brigade
            Hamilton’s Division
            Near Yorktown

P.S.  Monday morning 6 A.M.
            There was a skirmish last night about two o’clock and for about 10 minutes there was some heavy firing.  I have not yet learned the particulars of it.
                                    Your Brother

Write as soon as possible



New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History
Last modified: October 17, 2011

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