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Joseph E. Shaw Collection
38th New York Volunteer Infantry
joseph Shaw Letter 19
Donated by Robert Gritman

Head Quarters 38th Regt.

Dear Ed,

            I received your letter tonight about half an hour ago & hasten at once to answer it.  In the first place you will see by the heading of this letter that I have changed my place and am now with my Regiment.  The way it happened was this.  I was sent for by one of Gen’l. Kearny’s aides-de-Camp to come down to their Headquarters & help them to make out their Official Reports of the Battle of Williamsburg.  While I was gone Capt. Mindil sent for a fellow from my Company named John Byrnes to come & take my place until I returned.  While there he got some officers to use their influence & to get him there in my place, which they did, so I was returned to my Company.  I asked Capt Mindil what fault he found with me & he said he did not find any fault with me at all but that the General thought Byrnes wrote a better hand than I did.  Mindil was sorry to have me leave but could not help it.  I went to my Company & reported for duty.  I had not been there for two days before the Adjt. of my Regiment asked me to come into his office.  I hardly knew what to do until the Colonel came & asked me to come so I thought I would.  I have full as good a situation as I had before & if anything it is better as I do not have near as much to do & then I eat the same as the Colonel & consequently fare a great deal better than I did before.  The Colonel & the adjutant are both down on Byrnes for doing as he has done & both predict that he will not stay there long.  I have a great deal easier times now than formerly & as I am with the Regiment I stand a better chance for promotion.  The mail is not conducted very regularly as on a march it is hard to carry it through & that accounts for the delay of my letter.  With regard to that paper from Benedict I have not yet received anything from him when you write again tell me what course you wish me to pursue incase I receive one a subpoena.  As soon as I get paid off I intend to send home $20. & you can use all of it incase Gus does not want any.  If he should want any you can take the balance & use it in any way you may think best.  If Benedict should write to me telling me to testify on paper I should certainly make mention of your working Sundays and part of the nights.  I shall not take any particular pains to look for any such paper.  I am glad to hear Gus is getting along so well and I think now that with the warmer weather he will soon be all right.  I think that after the war is over “printing” will be very brisk in the South & would pay you to live here.  We are now about 20 miles from Richmond & our advance is within 15.  We expect to have a fight on the Chickahominy Creek about 8 miles from here.  It is warm weather here now & I have been in swimming twice this spring.  The way I happened to get into the battle was this.  I was in the rear of the troops & had charge of two baggage wagons, but hearing the firing I could not stay behind & as the wagons got stuck in the mud I left them & went to the front & before I knew it I was right into it.  The shells & shot whipped past in fine style.  I saw any quantity of dead & wounded men with all kinds of wounds.  I saw one man with half of his head clean off.  I did not have any gun but was merely a spectator.  I am getting along first rate.  All the boys are well and are able to eat their full rations of “salt hoss” & Ham, dry Tachies.  Give my love to Mother & all the folks & write as soon as convenient.

            I remain Your Afft. Brother
                        J. E. Shaw

P.S. I suppose you see by this time that the 38th is a fighting Regiment.  Gen’l. Kearny praised us very highly in his Official Report & so did Gen’l. Birney & Col. Ward in theirs.  Capt. Smith who Kearny recommends for notice is not on Birneys staff but Berrys it was a mistake in the paper.  Birney’s Asst. Adjt. General’s name is Mindil.  Ward feels very proud of us & is not ashamed to say to any one that he belongs to the 38th.  At Williamsburg we had opposed to us one of the best fighting regiments in the Southern Army viz; the “Louisiana Tigers”.  In one of my letters I spoke of the Regt. having received a new gun called the Austrian Rifle.  You may now judge of the accuracy of the weapon when I quote the words of the several of our prisoners who said they did not think it was fair to bring a whole Brigade of Sharpshooters against them.  The rifle shoots a conical ball and according to Secesh talk played the devil with their men the ball going through both front & rear rank man and sometimes wounded a third man in rear of them.  I must close now as it is time for tattoo.

Direct Co. “F”
38th N.Y.
                                                I remain & etc.
                                                J. E. Shaw


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

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