Monday, September 17, 2012

A Letter From Antietam Creek

Today, the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Antietam, is a day of reflection for many. We all know the battle's significance - it was the bloodiest single day in American history and the Union victory provided Lincoln with a much needed military success prior to issuing the Emancipation Proclamation. 22,000 fell dead or wounded and the battle changed the nature of the war. Roll that over in your mind.

But rather than offer my analysis on this day - as so many others are likely to do, I thought a soldier's reflections on the battle would be better. I came across this letter on an antique store website - I do not know the author. The sentiments expressed are typical. He thanks God for sparing his life, expresses patriotism, and tries to explain to his sister, who cannot possibly understand battle, that war is a serious business.

The Field
Antietam Creek
Sept 22nd,1862

Dear Sister -

                    I have just been through two hard fought battles and God has spared my life and again permitted me once more to again seat myself enjoying the same good health that I have ever enjoyed since I enlisted to write once more to you and I take great pleasure in so doing.  We have been in camp for two or three days resting from our hard marching and fighting.  We have had hard fare, nothing to eat while marching but hard tacks and water.  I tell you I am good for it I have stood it first rate.  I tell you what good courage and love of country will keep a man up a good while after he thinks he can do no more.  And after giving the rebels such a whipping as they have got on the Sacred Soil of Maryland I dont think we ought to disprond.  Still I feel bad to think of the lives that have been lost - and the many homes made desolate by the two late battles in which our regiment as well as others have been engage in But - I have been spared through them both without a scratch and I feel thankful to God for his great goodness in thus saving my life when it did not seem as though many of us could live to get out of it - I have thought it over a great deal and I have thought I should live to come back and with your help I hope it may be so but - still we cannot tell how it will be.  There is some talk that our regiment is agoing back to Washington to drill some more but I dont believe it for our regiment got a good deal of praise with the rest from Gen Sturgis who said the carrying of Antietam Bridge saved the battle of last Wednesday and covered our troops with glory.  But I think in the first battle that we were engaged on Sunday the 14th of Sept - we have one thing to mourn for and that is in the death of so noble a man and officer as Gen Reno he was a man that feared no danger was ever ready to lead on his men to the charge and I think his loss will be greatly felt by our devision which he commanded he had only passed through our Co and gone a little way before was killed.  I write Father a good long letter telling him all about the late battles that we have been engaged in and if he receives it I dont think it would be worth a while to tell it over again although perhaps there are many things I could not tell you in writing for the want of room and time to do it.  I believe I did not tell Father that our Lt Col was wounded in the shoulder not very bad though

Not exactly a sweeping narrative invoking the "crossroads of freedom" theme, but a valuable letter nonetheless.




No comments:

Post a Comment