Camp Wilson Shooters Hill, VA 27 July 1861

My Dear Wife:

I commence this
letter today but it is uncertain
if I shall be able to finish it
as the long delayed time has
come, and our Regiment is being
paid off today, and it involves
some additional duties upon me
as Capt Wright is unwell and
has been for several days, with
dysentery and other derangement
of the bowels, Gammell and
myself are quite well. Your
two letters of last Sunday and
Tuesday came duly to hand
and gladdened my heart as
usual. I shall not attempt
to answer them in detail so
if I omit speaking of things
you have desired me to now I
will do so in some other letter.

[Well dear wife I have at last
"been in battle" and you ask
me to give you the full partic-
-ulars, that is more easily asked
than complied with for an
active participator cannot dis-
-cribe a scene of that kind like
one who is a looker on, and has
nothing to distract his attention
from the great scene before him
I wrote you from our Camp
at Centreville last Saturday and
I had not closed my letter a half
hour before we were ordered to be
ready to march at 2 1/2 P.M. but
that order was countermanded and
the time changed to 2 OClk Sunday
morn'g at the same time"we" offi-
-cers were told that there was to
be an engagement on Sunday
but where we did not know, and
I suspect officers high in com-
-mand were more ignorant than
they should have been, well at
1 OClk Sunday morn'g Lt-Col
Blaisdell came to our "bower"
and told us to call our men
without noise and have them
fall in, in perfect silence and
not even to brighten up our
Camp Fires which had nearly
died out, (this precaution was
nescessary as we know the rebels
were all round us, and must
be watching our movements),
all this was done and about
half past one we commenced
our silent dark march without
beat of drum or other noise save
the tramping of thousands of feet
and the rumbling noise of the
Artillery wheels, we moved forward
about two miles and were then
halted for some reason or other
and remained sitting and lying
by the roadside untill sunrise
when the orders were forward
again, and we made no more
halts except for a few moments
at a time untill we reached
the scene of action about 11
OClk Sunday forenoon. Our
march was a most tiresome
one up hill and down through
dense woods and over barren
tracts of open country the
men suffered much from want
of water and I can say for
myself that one swallow of
muddy water as thick as Molas-
-ses was most delicous, we
were also tired out from being
often ordered forward at "double
quick" time which was continued
until the men would stop
from utter exhaustion and you
must know the day was very hot
and we had our two blankets
a haversack with three days
provisions in it (and the men
their cartridge boxes with 40
rounds of ammunition in them)
slung on our backs, so you can
judge some yourself of how fit
we were to go into battle when
we arrived (the distance we
had gone over since starting in
the morn'g was not less than 15
miles) well without giving us
any time to rest each Regiment
was formerd into column and
advanced to the fight, and
now I can speak little more
than generally of the battle
as all who attended to thier duty
were sufficiently occupied with
their own companies, we first
went into action through an
opening in the woods and have
as soon as we cleared the woods
I realized that I was on a
"field of battle" cannon ball
& shells, were whistling over our
heads mingled with the peculiar "sing-
-ing" buzz of rifleball, all inten-
-ded for us but mostly just clear-
-ing our heads, on we advanced
with no one faltering up a
rising ground till we nearly
reached the brow of the elevation
when the command was "down on
your knees " and wait for thier fire"
this we did and almost instantly
a perfect storm of bullets swept
over and amongst us. Oh! Sarah
it was a fearful scene I cannot
describe it one must experience
it to feel it, our Reg'mt had
two killed and several wounded
in this first fire, we instantly
arose advanced to the brow of
the hill and delivered our
fire, we then fell back a few
rods reloaded and advanced
again, this movement was gone
through with several times
in all this the 5th Mass and
another Reg'mt were on our
right, going through the same
movements, after a while, a
battery of Artillery came up
and took position between "ours"
and the 5th then the firing
on both sides became hotter,
finally we the battery retired
from its position and "ours"
with the 5th and another were
ordered to follow and support
it, in the new position it was
to take, which was upon another
eminence farther to the right,
to get there we had to pass
through a narrow gully or
ravine, and here came the
during the engagement
when through a miraculous
power I was saved from being
lost to you dear Sarah in this
world. (I say "the time"! there
were probably thousands of moments
when I escaped as narrowly for
during the whole of the fight
which lasted about 5 Hours
our Regmt was constantly engaged
and under the hottest fire
a perfect "leaden rain and
iron hail" the bullets were
whistling about my ears so
it seems strange I was
not hit) we were rushing
down this ravine upon the
keen run. I alongside of my
platoon (and at this time we
were passing directly between
the fire of one of our own
batteries on the right and one
of the enemies on the left)
when I heard a "firing" and
simultaneously an explosion
and over I went backwards
to the ground for a second
I was partially stunned but
and the thought passed through
me that I was "hurt" but instantly
I got on my hands and knees
and found I could move I could
see that the blood was running
down my face but I jumped
up and rushed after my com-
-pany, and overtook them at
the bottom of the gully before
they had got fifty rods from
where I fell in a few minutes
we were halted and a Sargeant
in Capt Butters company gave
me some water from his Canteen
and upon washing the blood
from my face, I found I had
received only a slight wound
on the side of my nose which
bled freely but was not much
of a cut and now to show you
what a narrow escape I had (al-
-though I did not know it at the
time) the man a piece of the
shell which burst and knocked
me down struck the man
who was touching me in my
platoon and tore away all
the lower part of his abdomen
making a most horrible wound
he was carried to the rear to
the temporary hospital but
Doct Bell who dressed the
wound says he could not possibly
have lived more than three or
four hours his name was John
P Mead and he belonged in
So Reading he had a wife and
one child I am told, he with
another man of our company
named Geo D Torrey were left
at the hospital when we retreat-
-ed (as there were no means of
taking our wounded with us)
and we have heard nothing from
them since, for I will state
here what you have probably
seen in the papers, that we
have it from what seems good
authority that after our retreat
the rebels blew up the Hospital
and inhumanly murdered every
wounded man they found. for
the sake of humanity I trust
this may not be true, but this is
certain, up to this moment we
have had no tidings of any of our
wounded or missing in addition
to the two I have named above
one of our men by the name of
Newell is missing, this compri
-ses the whole "loss" of our Comp'y
although we have two or three in
camp who were slightly "hurt"
the Capt Gordon you speak of
was the large stout man you
saw at Camp Cameron that
we called the "child of the Regmt"
he was not killed but only
slightly wounded and his fate
is as uncertain as that of the
rest of the wounded, and while
upon this subject let me state
that the loss to our Reg'mt in
Officers is two Captains and one
Lieut missing and one Lieut
killed, I have rather digressed
and will now resume this some-
-what indefinite account of my
experience of the day. After hav-
-ing washed the blood from my
face we remained in the gully
ten or fifteen minutes, the
Artillery had gone on and
taken position upon the hill
but they only retained it a
few minutes they were obliged
to give way, and came tearing
down the gully at a fearful
rate to get out of thier way
we had to clamber up a steep
bank 15 or 20 feet high and
over a rail fence into a field
while doing this I lost my
sword my scabbord got caught
in the fence and the sword
dropped out and I could not
regain it at the moment I
went back in a few minutes
alone over the fence although
the balls were flying merrily
around me but it was gone,
soon after I got Capt Gordons
sword (he had just been carried
from the field) and I carried
that until we arrived back
here in Camp. After the Artillery
had passed down the gully
we formed in column and
crossed over it charged up
the hill and drove the rebels
from thier position and this
particular part of the battle-
field we remained in till the
retreat commenced sometimes
charging and then falling
back (it would take more time
than I can now give to continue
the account of the battle further
and besides the more I write
about it the more I seem to
make it unintelligble so I
will begin to draw to a conclusion)
till finally from some unex-
-plained cause all the columns
engaged seemed to break at
once and a retreat commenced
and it finally became such
that the men from the different
Regiments became so mixed
up that it was impossible to
collect them together again.
You will hear and see in
the papers all sorts of accounts
of the battle the retreat and
the causes which produced this
or that result, how this Regiment
behaved gallantly and that
one did not, how if this thing
had been done the battle would
not have been lost etc.
all I have got to say is this
that "our Eleventh" went into the
fight as soon as it arrived and
continued in it without any
cessation, and the whole time

under such a perfect storm
of cannon balls shells and
musket balls as might have
appalled the stoutest heart
yet there was no flinching and
I venture to say veterans of a
hundred fights could not have
done better this may sound
like egotism in one so
interested, but I write this not
for publicity but only for the
eye of one dearer to me than
the life so often in deadly
peril on that day I did my
duty faithfully and I know
others did. And now I know
the question that has arisen
to your lips many a time while
you have been reading this.
How did you feel when you
first went into action? and
this question I cannot answer
to my own satisfaction I am
concious of no feeling of fear
or a wish to be out of it there was a sort of feeling of indiffer
-ence mingled with the thought
of how light a hold I had upon
life amid such a storm and
then my thoughts were so concen-
-trated upon the fight that I
thought of little else most of
the time it somehow seemed
as if I was but taking part
in an ordinary occurance of
everyday life. Of our retreat
from the field I must say
but little now, it was harder
to bear than the fight, worn
out with fatigue hunger and
thirst we reached our Camp
at Centreville about 8OClk
in the evening and it seemed
utterly impossible to proceed
further but we had hardly
thrown ourselves down on the
ground before orders came to
break up the Camp instantly
and fall back on Washington
great Heavens we all said
it cannot by done what march
235 miles more tonight it is
utterly impossible." yet by
half past nine we had started
(in all about 5000 troops) and
can you believe it? most of
us accomplished that journey
that night. I walked every
step of the way
and with
other Officers & men arrived
at the end of the "Long Bridge"
which crosses the Potomac into
Washington at 8OClK Monday
morn'g, then we were detained
by orders from Head Quarters till
Tuesday noon, when wagons came
for us and we rejoined our Regmt
here that afternoon. Now just see
what we accomplished from
Centreville to the battle ground
15 miles; back again 15 more
making 30 and from Centreville
to Washington 25 miles in all
55 miles added to this the
ground travelled over during the
fight of 5 Hours and I don't
think we) 70 miles too high a
mark all this done between
1 OClk Sunday morn'g and
8 OClk Monday morn'g, 31 Hours
without food or rest. I have
told you how I lost my sword
on the battlefield, well just
before going into it we were
ordered to unsling our blankets
and Haversacks as they would
encumber us, this we did leaving
them in a pile intending to take
them again after the day was
finished but we retreated by
another way so we lost all
them, and on our march from
Centreville to Washington my
Revolver was stolen from me.
(Gammell also had his stolen)
so you see this was an unfor-
-tunate day every way. Since
our arrival here we have been
very quiet recruiting our strength
by rest. My ankles are are
very much swollen yet but
otherwise I am in excellent
health, what or when our next
movement may be we know
not, there are all sorts of
rumors but none reliable,
troops are arriving in great
numbers and another battle
is not improbable, but we
wo'nt anticipate. I have
written so much that I fear
you will hardly make sense
of it, and I have probably
omitted a great many things
I should have spoken of, but
I have not time to revise it,
write me as soon as you get
this without waiting for
Sunday. Since I commenced
we have been paid off up to
the 1st of July and as soon
as I can get to Washington
I shall send you home
money enough to make you
very comfortable. I shall
be obliged to buy another
sword and a revolver
is unfortunate just now.
Say to Tommy that I
rec'd his letter with much
pleasure and will send his
things home as soon as possible.
Those curiosities he asks for
were both hard and easy to
obtain a rebel bullet was
easy enough got but they
were rather hard to bring
away from the field, and
the piece of Bulls Run Bridge
was on our retreat rather
hard to get as a rebel
battery walked that same
bridge and we were obliged
to give it a [illegible] and
forded the stream some
distance down up to our
waists in water, and now
I must leave off although
I could say a great deal
more, what would I not give to
see you.

I kiss you in spirit
love and kisses to the children
and remembrances to all
Your loving Husband