|Unit History Project|
Note: The museum does not have copies of the originals.
A PDF file of this set is here.
Letter written for the family gathering
Dear relatives and friends
I am now reminded that the time for our annual gathering is approaching and as I cannot be with you in person, I shall have to tell you on paper how the past year has been spent by me.
The 17 of Sept 1861 with six others started from Strykersville to join the Ellsworth regiment which was being formed at Albany. At Aurora we met C. A. Woodworth recruiting agent and there I put my name down as a volunteer.
We started from Buffalo about Ten that evening and arrived at Albany the next morning in due time.
We were boarded and lodged in the barracks just outside the city and also drilled in the grounds adjoining.
A few days after we arrived there we elected our officers, W. N. Danks for captain, C. A. Woodworth 1st Lieut, E. A. Nash 2nd Lieut and then commenced drilling in good earnest.
On Monday the 21st of Oct we started from Albany for the seat of war. We got on board the boats about dark and started down the river. We came alongside the wharf at New York about 10th the next morning.
About noon we landed and marched down Broadway to the park barracks (city ball park).
There we stayed the night and the next day till about 4PM when we marched to the Jersey City ferry, crossed the river and about 10 o’clock got aboard the cars and started.
We arrived at Philadelphia a little before daylight on Thursday the 24th. Here we found a nice breakfast awaiting us prepared by the good people of the city. After partaking of this, we again went on board the cars and started out journey.
We traveled slowly sometimes for quite a length of time and arrived in Baltimore just at dark. We marched through the city to the other depot, where we got some supper.
We then got again on the cars, but here they were not the comfortable passenger cars we had had all along but freight and cattle cars, open at the sides. The night was cold and we went slowly and by the time we arrived in Washington about one the next morning we were chilled through. We were shown into the soldiers retreat.
Stacked our arms, spread our blankets on the floor and went to sleep. The next morning about 10 o’clock we formed in line marched through the city and about 2 or 3 miles outside of it on the Kalorama Heights and pitched out tents on Friday night the 25th of October the first time I slept in the soldiers’ house. The next day was spent cooking out food and making our tents more comfortable. The next day Sunday I was on guard. We had preaching by out chaplain, and in the evening he lectured in the river Jordan and the Dead Sea, his favorite subject he could hardly preach a sermon without running into it. He had accompanied commodore Lynch (since of the rebel navy) in his explorations of that river and sea.
On Monday morning the 28th of Oct we packed our knapsacks, struck our tents and prepared to march. About 10AM we started and marched through the city to Capitol Hill where we were reviewed by McClellan and the President and then marched back through the city through Georgetown crossed the river on the aqueduct bridge and marched to Halls Hill where we arrived about PM completely tired out and nothing to eat.
However the 83rd Pa which lay close by where we were to encamp had prepared us some coffee which we drank and then we went at it to pitch out tents. That night I felt homesick.
After 2 or 3 days of rest we commenced drilling, company drill with knapsacks in the morning, Regimental drill in the forenoon and brigade drill in the afternoon. This was kept up all through the month of Nov. and Dec., varied by an occasional turn on picket, a division drill and review and lastly by the grand review at Baileys Crossroad about the 16th of the latter month.
On Christmas we had a burlesque dress parade, which was repeated a few days later for the amusement of some of the Generals friends.
On the 14th of Feb we made a reconnaissance to Vienna and Hunters Mills, seeing no enemy but performing a march of 28 miles in one day over very bad roads for which we were highly complimented by the General commanding the expedition. With this exception we did little during the months of Jan and Feb as the weather was so bad as to prevent drilling.
About the first of March we received marching orders, we were ordered to have everything packed up, our guns stacked and equipment on. We were kept waiting some two or three days and finally the order was countermanded.
On the 8th of March after we had all nearly got to sleep we were called upon to come and get our extra 20 rounds of cartridges, to have our knapsacks packed, our haversacks filled ready for an early start in the morning.
About one o’clock the next morning we formed in line and started, the night was dark and the roads very muddy, making it altogether very bad marching. We marched first to Falls Church and thence to Fairfax [CB]. It commenced to rain soon after daylight, making it still more unpleasant.
We arrived at the latter place about 9AM. We took up our quarters in some deserted houses and made ourselves comfortable as best we could eating our breakfast, drying our clothes and the like. Soon other troops began to come in and a little after noon the rain having ceased we again took up the line of march. Our regt in advance of the infantry and preceded by 2 or 3 companies of cavalry.
About 3 o’clock we came in sight of the earthworks of Centerville and soon after we entered them without opposition, the place being entirely deserted. Here we spent the night, sleeping in the rebel barracks. The next morning we again took up our loads feeling very stiff and sore from yesterdays hard march, and started back for Fairfax and there we bivouacked.
Here we staid until the 15th , drilling some each day. On the morning of the 15th about 6 o’clock we started for Alexandria. The road was very good at first and we got along finely, but about 9 o’clock it began to rain and continued to rain all day, harder and harder. About 3 PM we came to Camp Calafornia, about 2 miles from Alexandria, and as the regt were all away we turned into their tents and made ourselves as comfortable as we could, but the rain poured down so hard that a great deal of it found its way through the tents and altogether we had a rather uncomfortable night of it. The next day Sunday was pleasant but the air was cold and raw and until we got our clothes dry we were not very comfortable. We had to have the usual inspection of arms and knapsacks however.
On Monday we marched about half a mile onto a side hill and pitched our knapsack tents, or bivouacks.
Tuesday and Wednesday we drilled. Wednesday night and Thursday it rained, our tents were poor things and we were very uncomfortable. Friday morning the 21st we struck our tents, packed on our knapsacks expecting to start at 9 o’clock, but we were kept standing about in the mud until one PM, we then formed in line and marched down to Alexandria, embarked on the steamer Georgia and about 3 oclock moved out into the river and anchored. The next morning the whole of the division being on board the boats we moved down the river, the day was very pleasant and we had a fine time, about 11 PM the fleet came to and we anchored, the next morning at an early hour we again started and about 4PM arrived at Fort Monroe. Here we saw the famous moniter and the union gun. We remained on the boat that night and the next morning landed on the wharf beside the fortress. We then marched up the road past through the ruins of the little village of Hampton and bivouacked on the flat beside it.
The next morning we again struck tents and marched about 3 miles and again bivouacked in the edge of some woods, here for the first time since I was a soldier I wanted food and could not get it. However our train came up about 3PM and then we had plenty.
On Thursday the 27th we started on the march for Big Bethel, we arrived there about noon but found no enemy and after resting awhile we marched back to our encampment again. Every day we lay at this place we drilled unless it rained.
On Monday the 31st, we moved our camp across the road into an orchard a much drier and pleasanter place.
On Friday, April 4th we started on the march, passed Big Bethel alittle after noon, about 4 PM came to some quite extensive earthworks of the rebels from which they had been shelled by Capt. Griffith. Here we spent the night. The next morning we took an early start, it soon commenced to rain and continued all the forenoon, the mud was very deep and we proceeded slowly, we came in sight of the rebel works at Yorktown about 3PM. Our batteries had been firing at them for some time and we lost some men by their replies. From that day we seemed to sit down and do nothing. There was some firing on both sides but nothing of consequence.
On the 10th our camp was moved back about a mile. Our forces now [weot]. To digging and entrenching, the enemy occasionally making a dash on our pickets but nothing serious occurring. Soon after coming in front of this place I was taken sick, and did no duty all the time we laid there. On
Tuesday the 29th D. W. Gurnsey of our Co. was mortally wounded by a piece of shell, he was the first man killed in our regt.
The remainder of that week the rebels fired a great deal at our men at work in the trenches. On Saturday night the balloon made ascension. It had hardly got above the trees which concealed it from the rebels when whizz came a shell just dropping under it, soon another burst near it some of the pieces striking near out camp. It was hauled down in a hurry, put out of sight. All that night the rebels kept up a continuous firing dropping their shells in every direction.
The next morning out regt started out to dig in the trenches, I for the first time being able to accompany them. I was much surprised to see the amount of labor that had been performed by our troops, the roads that they had dug out from the sides of the banks, bridges built, ditches dug, and embankments thrown up. We had not arrives at the place where we were to work when we were told that Yorktown had been evacuated. At first we could not believe it, but on going up in sight of the works we saw the stars and stripes waving over them and our boys running over them, so we marched over to Yorktown and went on guard on the works. In the afternoon 3 companies of us went over to Gloucester Point and did guard duty there until Tuesday afternoon when we returned to Yorktown.
During our stay of nearly 2 weeks at Yorktown we had a very pleasant time though we had to be on guard about one day in three, we had plenty to eat as the rebels left a good supply of flour besides what we drew from Uncle Sam, oysters were very cheap and we had all we wanted every day, you at home may think you have eaten good oysters but you never get such ones as we did fresh from the river.
On Monday May 19th we were relived from guard at Yorktown and went on board boat bound for our army near the Chickahominy. The next morning about 10 oclock we arrived at White House landing. About 4 PM we landed and marched out some 3 miles on the RR and bivouacked. The next day our brigade marched some  miles and again encamped. The next day we marched about 10 miles and camped. At this place we staid till Monday, the 26th when we marched some 3 miles onto Gaines farm about 1mile from the Chickahominy. Here we encamped. That evening I went on guard. About 1AM our boys were awakened and told to be ready to march at 4 oclock. It had been raining all night and continued all that forenoon. At the appointed hour they started but as I was on guard I did not go with them.
The afternoon came off pleasant. We heard a great deal of heavy firing but knew not where it was, until the next morning when some of our boys came into camp apparently badly scared and said that our regt has been attacked by a superior force, all cut to pieces and scattered in flight. However before night news came in that our regt was still together, and though they had been in a severe battle and had lost in killed and wounded nearly a hundred.
The next day we had orders to send the 3 days rations, and supposing they would be going “on to Richmond”, I determined to join them. I started with the train a little before sun down and traveled until about 10 oclock, when we stopped and spent the night in an old log school house. The next morning we started on, before we reached the regt we passed the battle ground and spent a few minutes looking at the graves of the fallen and then went on to the regt where we arrives about 10AM. A little after noon we had orders to march again and back we started for camp, where we arrived about 3 oclock the next morning pretty well tired out.
May 31st we heard the firing of the battle of Fair Oaks. That night our brigade was called out to support a party of engineers who were building a bridge. All day Sunday the 1st of June we were kept in arms, expecting to cross the bridge as soon as it was done. At night we were dismissed and allowed to sleep in peace. We remained in this camp (occasionally going on picket but having a pretty easy time) until the 21st of June when the rebels beginning to throw shells too close around us we moved our camp back about ¼ of a mile.
On the 26th of June we had orders to pack everything and be ready to march at a moments notice. About 3 PM we started. Soon after starting we heard heavy firing in the direction of Mechanicsville. After moving around in the woods for a while we started in that direction. A little after dark we halted on broad plain and stacked arms. The firing still continued at intervals, shells could be seen to burst over the woods. The next morning we started back, passing our camp ground, and after crossing a bridge over a deep gully we halted in the woods. Shortly after we were moved a little to the left, our regt coming up to the woods and facing the gully. The General told us we must hold that place at all hazards, not to let a rebel pass that ditch.
At first we laughed at this. Thinking there could be no danger where we had lain so long in perfect safety. But soon after columns of troops passing us, who had been in the battle of the day before, told us that they were falling back, and that the rebels were following the. So we thought it would be best to throw up some kind of breastwork, and we went to work at it. This occupied us for 3 hours. Some of our boys were out in front skirmishing but still no enemy appeared, though some firing could be heard in the distance.
About 2 oclock we began to hear quite sharp firing from the skirmish line, then heavy artillery firing on the right, and more shells came whizzing over and behind us, one coming directly into our line, killing one man and wounding another. One of the Generals aids came down to our regt and asked the Col to send someone up over the hill to see if any [force] was approaching. I ran up on the hill but could see no force, but I could see our boys crouching behind fences and stumps and firing and occasionally I could see the smoke arise from some bush or ditch and then came the sharp report and the whizz of the ball. I was about to return and report, when I saw 3 regts come into view, and with cheers and colors flying, advance double quick toward our skirmishers, the first line of which retreated, and I ran back to the regt.
But still our skirmishers did not come in and another messenger brought word that the enemy had taken refuge from the sharp fire of the skirmishers in a deep ditch.
Soon the firing in the right became sharper, then in front of us and our skirmishers came in, then the enemy appeared on the crest of the hill in front of us, but they soon retreated before the sharp volley which we gave them.
After a little they rallied but were again driven back, then the firing on the right became heavier, and the regt on the right of us had retreated and formed in line behind us, were fired into from the rear an terribly cut up. They retreated and passed us and the bullets sent after them made it the hottest of any time we had seen yet. The officers tried to rally them but it was soon found that the enemy had got in rear of us and our only chance was to retreat, then as the retreating masses crossed the plain to the river, the artillery of the enemy poured their terrible stream of grape [cannister] and shell into them. To escape from this I halted in the ditch, and the heavy smoke settling down it became almost dark and seeing a dim line which I supposed to be one of our regt. I with several of my companions went toward them, but we soon found out our mistake but too late for we were prisoners.
We were told to throw down our arms and were marched to the rear. There we were searched for side arms. There were some 18 or 20 of us from different regts. We were put in charge of a seargeant with 8 men and started for Richmond.
We at first proceeded slowly as there were several wounded with us, after going about 3 miles we came to a hospital and there left the wounded. We then moved on more rapidly but did not reach the city until after daylight the next morning. I was so tired that I fell asleep whenever we stopped and sometimes as we were marching, we were kindly treated by our guards and allowed to rest several times on the way.
Just before reaching the city we were overtaken by an officer having in charge 80 prisoners. We were ordered to fall into the rear of these and then were marched into the city. We were taken by a rather roundabout way until we came to a street that ran parallel to the canal and the river.
We were halted near a large building bearing the sign “Libby and sons, Ship chandlers”. Four at a time were taken from the head of the column into the building, their names and regts taken, their bundles, if they had any, and persons searched for anything contraband, their knapsacks and side arms taken from them. They were then taken into the back of the building and then to the two upper floors. These were about 120 x 40 I should think and there were from 350 to 300 on each floor all the time we were there.
A little before noon we received a quarter of a loaf of bread and a little fresh bread and in the afternoon the same of bread and a little soup. This was the fare all of the time we were in the building. The next day was Sunday, and we got no breakfast till 2PM. We failed in getting our half loaf only 2 or 3 times but we never got it with any regularity. The bread was most generally good. The beef always lacked salt and sometimes was altogether unfit to eat. The soup was never so rich or greasy as to turn ones stomach, though he would never eat it unless he was hungry. However I must say, food never tasted so good to me as this did.
The 4th of July was celebrated by neither people; soldiers, nor the prisoners in Richmond. On that day we received only one fourth of a loaf of bread and our fresh beef was spoiled and condemned by the officer of the day, but we failed to get any other. But I think it was boiled again to season our soup the next day.
On the 11th of July we were removed from our quarters in Libby and sons building to Bell island in the James river. Here we were much better off in some respects, as we could have purer air and a chance to bathe in the river, which I did not fail to improve. I with 7 others were so lucky as to have a good tent, and indeed most of them had but there were a good many who had no shelter at all.
Our food on the island was the same as in the building, unless we managed to add to it by some means. Once or twice I helped unload a load of bread from the flat which brought it over and succeeded in carrying off a loaf for my own benefit. While our regt was at Yorktown, one of the boys found a book of blank checks, the leaves of which he tore out and gave to the boys. One of these consisting of 5 checks, I had in my pocket when we came to Bell island. We conceived the idea to fill these out and pass them as money. Four of these filled out like one which I will enclose brought us 8 dollars worth of bread at Secesh prices. This was shared by all in our tent, and although it would not go a great way it helped some. On the 29th of July my 21st birthday I had the best meal that I had while a prisoner. The night before one of the boys was near the commissary and succeeded in bringing off a whole liver. We had a little grease skimmed off the water in which the beef was boiled, and which we could buy at the rate of 50cts a pint, none of it being allowed to go into the soup. In this we fried our liver and then added some flour and water to the gravy, this made an excellent sop for our bread, of which we had a little extra, and we all had a hearty breakfast.
We were of course anxious to get away from this place and our principle topic of conversation was, when and how we should be paroled or exchanged. We were often assured, that within two weeks or 10 days we should be paroled, but as the time passed and we saw no sign of it, than at first, we began to think it was only a story to keep us from attempting other means of escape.
However on the 1st and 3rd of August quite a number of sick and wounded were removed and we began to hope there was some chance for us. On Monday night the 4th of August about 10 we were called out and all who thought they were able to walk 10 miles had their names taken down.
The next morning they commenced carrying bread and meat out beside the road that led from the island. And in the greatest hurry began to fall in next to the guard so as to be the first ones out. But it was 10 oclock before they commenced. They then took them out in squads of 100 at a time gave them their rations, and passed them on. Finally we were all out, and then we came to the stairs which went onto the bridge which led from the island, such a crowding I never saw, all seemed to think unless that unless they were first off they would not get off at all. Finally we were all across and then we started. We passed through Manchester, crossed the river back to Richmond side, and then took down the river. The day was extremely hot, but we all pressed on with alacrity, for we felt that we were going to freedom.
In the afternoon we met the prisoners for which we were exchanged, coming from the transports. From them we asked how far it was to the transport, how they liked the Yankees, etc.
Finally about 9 oclock we came into the field beside the river and throwing ourselves on the ground and slept till morning. About 10 AM we went onto the transport and started down the river. We arrived off Harrisons landing a little after noon and anchored. Toward night we moved up to the wharf and landed. Those belonging to Porters Division were called out and we were directed to our regt. Arrived at the regt I found only Adelbert waiting to greet me, the regt having gone across the river, and Henry Hotchkiss and Hogan being in the hospital. The next day I went to see them but learned they both had gone north, but at night found that Hogan had only been moved to another hospital or ward of same, so I send the next day to see him.
On Sunday the 10th of August the regt came in from picket. And almost immediately we were under marching orders. All the knapsacks and extra luggage were sent to the river to be shipped, all the sick were sent north. Henry and Adelbert with them. I was detailed for the ambulance corps, there being 10 from each regt, for this purpose, we are to march with the ambulances and on the field of battle to carry off the wounded, no one else being allowed to do it.
On Thursday night we were ordered to strike our tents and prepare to march. Although we were kept up we did not get fairly started till morning. That night we crossed the Chickahominy and bivouacked. The next night at Williamsburg. Sunday night we stopped in our old camp in front of Yorktown. Monday we marched to Hampton, and Tuesday we were ordered to Newport News. The regt embarked the same night, but we could not get out ambulances until Friday. Saturday we anchored in the river near Aquia creek. Tuesday we landed at Aquia creek and now the 28th of August are laying about ½ mile from the wharf. Where the regt is we do not know, we are expecting to leave here at any time but when we do not know.
I commenced this letter for the Annual but fear the family gathering has already passed. I should dearly loved to have been with you but under the circumstances it would be impossible before another year has passed I hope this unhappy struggle may be settled and all be allowed to meet again together/ While I was a prisoner I had entertained the hope that we should be paroled and discharged or at least have a furlough, but since I have come back, and see how much men are needed I am content to stay. But few are better able to stand the privations of a soldiers life than I am, and although it is anything but pleasant for me, I am willing to bear it for our dear country.
Letter written for the annual 1863zzz
Dear friends at Shadow Nook, another anniversary of the Family gathering is approaching, which without doubt I shall be absent from, as I was from the last. Though it would be a great pleasure to be with you, but as I cannot, a letter as to how I have passed the year may be interesting.
When I wrote you last we were at Aquia Creek. We remained there about 2 week, and during that time the 2nd battle of Bull Run was fought. On the night of the 30th of August we loaded our ambulances on the steamer George Weems, and the next afternoon landed at Alexandria. We went just outside the town and during the night started for Centerville. We got [there] and took a load of wounded and started back.
When on the way back some 2 or 3 miles from Centerville there came up a hard thunder shower. The road was filled with teams and we were delayed for an hour or more, and during that time the battle of Chantilly was fought, in which Gens Harney and Stevens were killed. It was not more than a mile from us, but at the time we had no idea it was so near.
We came on to Fairfax CH that night and the next morning we left our wounded at Alexandria. That night we marched to fort Cocoran, and the next morning the troops went and encamped on their old ground where they had passed the preceding winter. The whole brigade did not cover the ground which two regts had then occupied, though another regt had been added to it. We remained at this camp a few days and then returned to Alexandria. We staid there 3 or 4 days and then we went to Arlington Heights. Here the boys expected to stay a few days and rest, but had only begun to fix up a camp when they were ordered into Maryland. A part of the ambulance corps remained at fort Corcoran to repair and draw other ambulances. While there I visited the Patent office and Smithsonian institution in Washington twice. During this time the battle of Antietam was fought. On the 2nd of October we started to rejoin the army at Atietam. We crossed the aqueduct bridge and arrived at Sharpsburg on the 3d day. The country we passed through in Maryland was very fine, and it was a little like home to get into a country undevasted by war. We remained at Sharpsburg sometime (..)but had little to do. While there I was in the hospital a week with fever and ague, but quinine and capsicum soon drove it off, and I returned to duty again.
On the evening of the 30th of Oct. we left Sharpsburg and marched to Harpers Ferry, we crossed the river late in the afternoon of the next day, and proceeding some 3 or 4 miles into Loudon county, encamped. We remained in that camp the next day and the day after we again marched on. We stopped at Snickers gap 2 or 3 days at White plains 1 day and at Warrenton a week. Here McClellan was relieved and Burnside took his place. We arrived at what is now called Stonemans switch on the 25th of Nov.
After staying there sometime we began to think we might stay there all winter. So on the 4th of Dec we moved the camp of ambulance corps, to a more convenient camp for wood and water, and went to construct as comfortable quarters for the winter as possible. So myself and 3 comrades constructed a pen about 9x12ft of pine logs 6 inches in diameter. On one side we cut out a door and made 2 bunks one above the other and on the other side we constructed a fireplace, outside according to Virginia practice, which by [them] is a very good one notwithstanding it looks odd to us, as not so large a space is taken up by the brick work. Ours had no brick or stones about it. The sides and back were made of logs plastered with clay and the upper part of 2 barrels with the heads knocked out one above the other. Our hut was roofed by a fly from a large tent which we had picked up at fort Corcoran.
We had not been in this camp more than a week when on the morning of the 11th of Dec we were awakened by the booming of cannon. Soon we received marching orders. So we took off the cover to our house packed up our things and started. We did not go over 2 miles before we stopped and finally staid the night. The cannonading continues at intervals all day. The next day was quite still and we moved onto the night opposite the city of Fredericksburg. During the nigh our troops crossed into the city, and early the next morning our ears were saluted with the thunder of cannon and the rattle of musketry. All day we remained in sight of the charging columns. The roar of musketry and cannon was incessant, though we had but little artillery on that side of the river. Occasionally our heavy rifled pieces on this side of the river would send a shot hurtling through the air and it would be seen to burst on the other side over the woods. About 4PM our division crossed the river and soon after a party of the ambulance corps. We however did not go out upon the battle field. As darkness approached the firing slackened and finally ceased. About 11PM the ambulance came over and we went out upon the field. Either the description appearance of a battle field is not so terrible as many descriptions I have read or else I have become hardened. A dead soldier does not appear differently from a sleeping one which surround him, and our soldiers when wounded make but little fuss about it.
We returned to this side of the river about 3 the next morning. During the forenoon a party of us went into the city to clear pit some houses for Hospitals. Monday we moved all the wounded to hospitals on this side of the river, and the same night the troops returned. The next day we returned to our old camp. We found our bunks taken out and our chimney gone, but we put on our roof and soon had things nicely fixed again. We were agreeably surprised about Christmas time by a visit from cousin Demetrius Smith. He staid with us 3 days enjoying the best of soldier fare.
On the 30th of Dec. part of the ambulances were started to follow a reconnoitering party. We stopped late on the evening near Richardsons ford, and the next morning a party of us took stretchers and followed the troops across the river. We marched some [8 or 10] miles up the river and recrossed at Ellis ford. Nothing was hurt except one rebels horse, s rebel cavalrymen were captured. Spent the night on the woods, and early next morning started back to camp which we reached about 4PM. We remained in this camp enjoying ourselves as best we could, until the 20th of Jan, when we moved again we set out for Richmond. But a rainstorm put an end to the movement we got back into our old quarters after 4 days absence. We passed the rest of the winter with but little to do but amuse ourselves.
On the 1st of May we left our winter quarters never to return again as we supposed. We proceeded at once to United States fords. The army had started some days before and had crossed at Kellys ford and had driven the rebels across the Rapidan river, and were now holding position at Chancellorsville on the plank road, between Fredericksburg and Orange CH. On the 2nd of May a party of us took stretchers and crossing the river on the pontoon bridge proceeded to the battle field. We found our division on the left of the line and they had had no fight so far.
About 4PM if I recollect aright. The hard fight on the right commenced in which the 11th corps was driven back. It did not disturb us however passed the night at the hospital in the rear of our division. The next morning the fight commenced as soon as light. We repaired to the field and found our corps had gone to the right and the 11th had taken their place. There we went and occupied all day carrying off the wounded. Most of the fighting was in the front lines, but occasionally the batteries near which we were stationed would open on the enemy with grape and cannister. There was not much firing in the afternoon but when night came I was terribly tired, and I never slept sounder than I did that night on a plank for a bed.
On Monday the 4th there was but little fighting mostly between the skirmishers. Tuesday there was but little. About 4PM there came up a heavy thunder storm. Soon after it commenced I went to take the knapsack of one of the men of my company to the hospital as he was sick and unable to carry it himself. Then we got there everything was packed and ready to move across the river, all of the wounded had been moved across, and there were none of the ambulances left. So the Dr said I would have to go along with the sick ,am and get him across the river. We got down to the river alittle after dark, but 15 minutes before the river had become so high that we could not cross, the upper pontoon had to be taken up to lengthen out the two lower ones. Artillery was coming sown and when the bridges were finished we had to wait until they crossed. So we had to stand in the drizzling rain until 12 oclock when we succeeded in getting across. We went up into the woods beside the river and spent the night as best we could. The next day we returned to our old quarters.
Saturday the 9th of May, went with some ambulances to U.S. ford for some wounded rebels, we got back to camp the next day. On the 12th all of the ambulances started for U. S. ford to cross the river under a flag of truce, for our wounded who were taken prisoner. I was left in camp as guard. They returned the 16, on the 28th our division moved and took position along the river as pickets from Banks and US ford.
On the 4th of June our brigade moved to strengthen the force on the right. The 2nd division taking our place. We made our headquarters near Crittendens mill about 2 miles from Ellis ford.
On the 16th of June after dark we marched to Morrisville. The next day to Cattlets station. The next to Manassas junction. We staid there one day and then marched to this place, on the Alexandria and Winchester turnpike, Loudon County Va. In this sketching the principal events of the past year as a soldier I may have made mistakes.
Although I have seen some hard times as a soldier, I have had some pleasant ones, and have never been sorry that I volunteered in my country’s cause. I hope that before another year passes this war will be settled. And at the next family gathering, if my life is spared I may be with you.
With much love to all of our dear friends and relatives gathered in the old homestead I close.
Letter for Annual.
To the dear relative, gathered at the old homestead at our annual gathering.
Another year has passed since you last met. And though I had hoped to be with you at this and yet may be, I sear myself here to chronicle the events through which we have passed the last year.
I wrote you last I think from Middleton Md, where we were stopping for a day to rest after the hard fought battle of Gettysburg and the march from there in pursuit of Lees retreating army.
The next day we marched to Antietam creek, a few miles above the battlefield of that name, of the year before/ For 2 or 3 days we were menacing the enemy, hoping to receive reinforcements, so that we might be able to attack and destroy him, but he escaped across the river.
The next day we marched to Berlin, a little town on the Potomac, a few miles below Harpers ferry. It was a very long march, and why we were urged on so I cannot imagine, for we lay there some 2 or 3 days, doing nothing before we crossed the river. We crossed the river and were again in Virginia, on the 17th of July. The river at this place must have been 1000 or 1200 ft wide. We crossed on a pontoon bridge, but there had been a bridge of some 10 or 12 arches that had been burned the first summer of the war. We progressed through the valley of Virginia, by easy marches, but we marched every day. The blackberries were ripe at this time, and such quantities of them I never before saw. The entire army feasted on them for 2 weeks,
On the 23d of July we were in Manassas gap, and the advanced guard had some fighting with the rebels but nothing of importance. On the 8th of August we received 4 months pay and while we remained there we were clothed and received rations of soft bread and vegetables. Meanwhile the RR bridge at Rappahannock was being rebuilt. On the 16th of Sept we crossed the river and advanced to Culpepper. There we remained some time, until it became apparent that the rebs were on foot to attempt to turn our right flank and get between us and Washington. So on the 10th of Oct we broke camp and moved 3 or 4 miles from Culpepper toward the Rapidan river, but returned the same day, and that night, of the next morning, were on our march northward crossing the Rappahannock about 4PM the next day at Rappahannock station. The next day we went up the river a piece and in the afternoon crossed the river again at Beverly ford and advanced some 5 or 6 miles toward Culpepper, but during the night we marched back again and the next night stopped near Cattlets station. The next day about 4 PM we reached Manassas junction. Soon after we got there the rear was engaged by the enemy and we marched back to their support but were not needed. Soon after dark we started back again and arrived at Centerville about 3AM. The 3 of 4 succeeding days we were marched about between Centerville and Fairfax on the lookout that the enemy should not flank us, but he finally seemed to think it not worthwhile , and did not cross Bull run. Finding that he was falling back, on the 19th of Oct we again crossed that classic stream and that night bivouacked on the battle field.
Few fields show, after so long a time the wounds of battle as this one did. But few of the slain had been buried only a little dirt had been scooped from the ground and thrown over them and grinning skulls and fleshless hands and feet were protruding from their scanty covering. The shelter tents of the living were pitched, in some instances close beside these graves of their old companions. The boys of my company identified the remains of one of our seargents by his body belt on which his name was cut.
The next day we marched to three mile station, where we remained some days for the RR to be repaired. On the 7th of Nov we advanced to Rappahannock driving the rebels from their fortifications on the north side of the river and taking some prisoners. The next day we crossed the river at Kellys ford, but the next day our Div recrossed and remained some days on the north side of the river when we again crossed to the south side of the river and encamped for a week or so. On the [20th] of Nov we crossed the Rapidan at goldmine ford and advanced some 5 or 6 miles beyond.
The next day we advanced some 10 or 12 miles along the plank road, the advanced guard having some skirmishing with the enemy, and driving them back. The next day we went back a little and taking a narrow road through the woods, we came to a place on the Fredericksburg and Orange pike, known as Robinsons tavern. It rained all that day and was very muddy. The next day we relieved the pickets of the 2nd corps on the road 2 miles from the tavern. There we remained 4 or 5 days, the rebels had strong works at the top of a hill, and it was useless for us to attack then, even if we could have driven them back, it would have been of little use, for it was getting so late and the roads so bad. It was very cold all the time we were there and the roads were frozen quite hard.
On the afternoon and evening of Dec 1st all of the forces were withdrawn except the pickets and about 3 the next morning we left and crossed the river at Rappahannock station, and went into winter quarters. The ambulance corps was encamped about half a mile from the regt. There were 8 in our squad 4 of us in one tent about 10 ft square and 2 in each of the other tents. Besides we built another good one with a big fire place at one end and tables and stools, for the kitchen and dining room for the squad. There we lived very comfortably and much better than soldiers do. We had not much to do but make ourselves as comfortable as possible. On the 24th of Jan 1864 our regt received orders to go to Alexandria, but as they still belonged to the brigade we remained at Rappahannock. Some of them came up every night as train guard, so we occasionally went down with them to the city. On the 29th of April the regt returned to Rappahannock and on the 1st of May we crossed the river and moved to near Brandy station. May [Cd] to near Culpepper and that night we started for rapidan for another campaign in Virginia.
We crossed the river about 9 Am the next day and moved along the plank road until about 2PM. When we halted near the house in which Stonewall Jacksons arm was amputated after the battle of Chancellorsville. The next morning we moved a short distance along a road which ran at right angle the plank. The troops were formed across the road and about noon the enemy came up and fighting commenced, and was kept up until dark. The next forenoon there was some skirmishing and in the afternoon there was some skirmishing and in the afternoon the rebs threw some shells which came unpleasantly near us and one of our stretcher bearers was wounded, but he was nor right with us and we did not know of it until sometime after. That evening the rebs made a sharp attack on our right and came near turning it, and we fell back to some breastworks which we had thrown up. The next day we had but little fighting, and at dark we were ordered to the train to go with the wounded. We marched to Chancellorsville where we arrived about 3AM. We laid down and slept there for an hour or two, and then took the road toward Fredericksburg till within 8 miles of that place, when we turned to the right and went toward Spotsylvania CH, some 8 miles.
We arrived at the lines about 10 in the evening but could not find our regt, so we laid down and slept and the next morning found it without trouble. Found that they had marched hard all Saturday night, on a different road from ours, and had gone into a position the next morning where they had not been properly supported, and had been flanked and had lost heavily. A good many though, that they had supported killed, were taken prisoners and were recaptured a few days after by our cavalry. We had no fighting that day. The next day there was some hard fighting, but our brigade was formed and expected to charge near where they had lost so heavily the day before, but the order was countermanded.
The next day there was some cannonading but very little loss of life. The 12th, the 2nd corps made that famous charge early in the morning, and that evening we were moved to the left to support them, as it was expected that the enemy would make desperate efforts to retake the ground, but there was nothing done and the next day we returned to the right. The night of the 13th we started out and were told we had 7 miles to march. The past 2 or 3 days had been rainy and it was terrible muddy marching. We however arrived on the pike from Fredericksburg to Spotsylvania CH about 3 the next morning, and about 2 miles from the latter place, but the rebs were between it and us. There was no fighting however only a little picket firing. We were behind works which the 9th corps had thrown up and the rebs were strongly entrenched.
We remained there until the 21st nothing of any particular interest going on. About noon the 21st we commenced to fall back. The rebs followed us up sharply, but after we had got across a little stream half a mile in the rear, the 6th corps covered our retreat. We marched till 9 oclock that night, and the next day we started early again our brigade in advance, our regt supporting the skirmishers. About noon 3 of our regt were wounded by a shell from a rebel battery of flying artillery. We went into camp a little before dark that night.
The next day we crossed the North Anna river about 5 PM. About 6 out corps was across with several batteries and had several more in good positions on the other side, when the rebs came down on us thinking we had only a small force across, and that they could drive us into the river but they were driven back and badly cut up. That night out men threw up breastworks, but the next day all was quiet, the rebs did not attack, nor did we advance.
The next 2 days there was no fighting except between the pickets. Our troops were engaged in tearing up the railroad. The night of the 26th we recrossed the river. The next two days we marched rapidly down the river and crossed the Pamonkey the afternoon of the 28th and encamped a mile from it on the south side. The next day we marched along slowly as the way had to be felt out in front of us.
The next day we advanced a couple of miles, there was some skirmishing in front of our division, but the division on out left was attacked and driven back some.
The next day there was no fighting in our front.
The next day we advanced about a quarter of a mile, there was a swamp directly in front of us so that we had to go some distance around. Our skirmishers were about 200 yards in front of us, on a little hill and about 1000 yards from the rebel works. Our boys went to work at once to throw up breastworks. A little before dark the rebs advanced driving our skirmishers, but they could not come over the hill, it was so swept by our fire. Our men were so protected that we had no wounded, though we carried off 2 or 3 from the regt which was skirmishing. The next day about 3PM we withdrew from that place leaving only the pickets.
We had not gone more than half a mile before the pickets of our corps on our right were driven in and the rebs were coming around rapidly on our right. I began to think that Grant had played the game of moving off to the left and leaving only the pickets, once too often, but he was prepared, and it was renewed the next day, and I think the Johnnies got the worst of it. Our regt though not really engaged the next day lost 4 men killed and 16 wounded, so we had plenty to do to carry off the wounded.
Our boys threw up breastworks and remained there until the night of the 5th of June. When we moved out and went to the left in rear of the army. On the 7th we went to the left on the Chickahominy to do picket duty. On the night of the 12th we moved down the river 6 or 7 miles, and early the next morning crossed, and out corps moved up a short distance to cover the crossing of the remainder of the army. At dark we started and marched until 2 the next morning. And as soon as light started again and reached the James river in the afternoon. The 16th we crossed the river on ferry boats, and the same afternoon about 4 we started for Petersburg, and marched 16 miles with a few short halts. The next day we laid still and rested. The next day we advanced and there was some sharp fighting, but our regt was support and we had only one wounded, by a ball striking a limb and glancing down. After dark our brigade move up to the front and threw up breastworks within 600 yards of the rebel works. The next morning the rebs commenced firing at every head that appeared above the works and within a short time we had 3 men killed, after that our men were more careful, and by keeping up a fire on the rebs it made it dangerous for them to show their heads, and no more were hit. The next day however we had a hit a quarter of a mile in the rear, where we had gone for water.
The night of the 20th we went to the rear out of range. And the next day we moved to the left, and in the evening advanced and threw up some works. Our regt was for a few days in the rear of the first line. But then moved to the left of the line and threw up some strong works and bomb proofs, and do not at all fear the rebs driving them out. We still remain there and are taking it easy. The pickets do not fire at all, and it is seldom that a shell comes over, so that we move about without fear. On the right picket and artillery firing is going on constantly.
Preperations for siege are going on rapidly, and it will not be long I think before the rebs will be startled by the fire of our big guns.
In about 2 months my time will have expired, but if you have the family gathering at the usual time in August I cannot of course be there. When I first enlisted we all thought the war would be ended in six months, or a year at the longest. But 3 years have passed and I do not see that the prospect is any brighter than we then thought it was. Although I have been blessed with excellent health, and have never been wounded, I do not like the profession of arms, and have determined to abandon it, but if I think my country needs my services, I am ready to go again even for a lifetime, rather than this rebellion should succeed in severing our union.
With much love to all the Uncles, Aunts and cousins gathered at the old homestead, I remain ever yours.
New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History