The Battle of Sailor’s Creek & the Surrender at Appomattox – William Shepardson Company A, 37th Mass. Infantry
This 4-page letter in nice dark ink was written by William Shepardson, who had just been promoted to Sergt. Major on April 1st. William had enlisted in July of 1862 and was a resident of Chicopee, Mass. Here is the great content:
- Camp Near Burksville, Va. April 22nd /65
- Dear Sister, I received your very welcome letter before we commenced our last campaign, since which time you may well believe I have been a witness of and an actor in the most thrilling and exciting events that have transpired in the whole history of the war.
- I HAD THE HONOR TO BE ONE OF THE LINE OF SKIRMISHERS THAT OPENED THE FIRE ON THE NIGHT OF THE FIRST DAY OF APRIL WHICH WAS THE COMMENCEMENT OF THIS LAST GRAND CLOSING SCENE WHICH HAS RESULTED SO GLORIOUSLY FOR OUR ARMS IN THE CAPTURE OF PETERSBURG & RICHMOND WITH LEE AND HIS ARMY.
- ON THAT NIGHT WE STORMED THE REBEL WORKS. WE BROKE THROUGH THEIR LINES AND FELL LIKE LIGHTENING ON THEIR FLANKS. THEY COULD NOT STAND OUR CHARGE AND RETREATED. WE FOLLOWED THEM NIGHT AND DAY, GENERALLY COMING UP TO THEM IN THE AFTERNOON, POSTED ON SOME HILL OR RISING GROUND, WHERE THEY COULD GAIN A STRONG POSITION, THEN THEY WOULD GIVE US BATTLE AND GET ROUTED AGAIN, AND AT NIGHT RETREAT AGAIN, WHEN IT WOULD TAKE US ANOTHER NIGHT MARCH TO CATCH THEM.
- Thus we followed them from the morning of the 3rd until the afternoon of the 6th of April when we came upon them at a place called Sailors’ Creek, about 50 miles from Petersburg and 70 from Richmond. HERE WE FOUGHT ONE OF THE MOST DESPERATE BATTLES IN WHICH OUR REGIMENT WAS EVER ENGAGED.
- THERE WAS OPPOSED TO US A BRIGADE OF MARINES BROUGHT DOWN FROM RICHMOND TO REINFORCE LEE. IT WAS COMMANDED BY ONE OF LEE’S SONS, AND BEING OPPOSITE IN LINE OUR REGIMENT ENCOUNTERED THEM.
- They were armed with rifles, sabres, and pistols, and they pressed so close upon our line in order to use their sabres that the fight was in many instances hand to hand, but they soon found out that they were no match for us.
- PERHAPS YOU MAY REMEMBER THAT OUR REGIMENT IS ARMED WITH THE SPENCER REPEATING RIFLES (SEVEN SHOOTERS) SO THAT ONE OF US WAS EQUAL TO SEVEN AGAINST THEM, AND WHEN THEY CAME IN CLOSE RANGE OF OUR SEVEN SHOOTERS, THE FIGHT WAS SOON ENDED.
- OUR REGIMENT CAPTURED THEIR TWO BATTLE FLAGS AND ALMOST THE ENTIRE BRIGADE OF MARINES WAS EITHER KILLED, WOUNDED, OR TAKEN PRISONERS WITH LEE’S SON, THEIR COMMANDER.
- Our Regiment besides the above captured the colors of one of their forts on the night of the first attack. I have not time now to write you the particulars of our further pursuit of the Rebels, and I suppose I need not for I presume you have read it in the newspapers, perhaps better than I can write it. Suffice it to say that GRANT PUSHED US AFTER THEM WITH THE MOST UNRELENTING TENACITY UNTIL THEY REACHED APPOMATTOX COURT HOUSE, WHERE LEE WAS ALMOST ENTIRELY SURROUNDED AND NOT BEING ABLE EITHER TO FIGHT OR ESCAPE, WAS COMPELLED TO SURRENDER WITH HIS WHOLE ARMY.
- O ABBIE, IF I SHOULD LIVE A HUNDRED YEARS, I COULD NEVER FORGET THAT DAY WHEN WE REALIZED THAT WE HAD FOUGHT OUR LAST BATTLE AND THE WAR WAS OVER. THE SHOUTS OF WILD EXULTATION THAT BURST FROM THE LIPS OF MANY THOUSAND MEN, THE BOOM OF A HUNDRED CANNON, THE STRAINS OF EXULTANT MUSIC FROM A THOUSAND MARTIAL INSTRUMENTS, TOGETHER WITH THE LONG LINE OF STACKED ARMS AND UNTOLD NUMBER OF PRISONERS IN CASE AND GUARDED COLUMN, ALL SERVED TO MAKE INDELIBLE IMPRESSION UPON THE MIND OF THE BEHOLDER.
- But Abbie, I never should have believed it possible that I could endure what I have endured in this last campaign. I have been six days and nights, almost without sleep, picketing, skirmishing, marching and fighting. I HAVE MARCHED WITH MY FEET SO SORE AND BLEEDING, THAT THE BLOOD FILLED THE HEEL OF MY STOCKINGS AND STUCK THEM TO MY FEET SO THAT IT WAS PAINFUL TO GET THEM OFF.
- I have marched for two days with food, only a little hard bread and the water I drank from my canteen, and all this because I felt that the victory was certain, and that this was the last stroke of the war.
- But I have already extended this letter perhaps too long. We are now resting ourselves in this pleasant camp and thinking friends and home. I had a letter yesterday from Anna, a very good one too. She says the folks are all well, which I was glad to hear. I want to hear how you all are in N. Y. I expect I shall get home early in the summer. Perhaps by the fourth of July.
- I suppose it is about moving time with you. Is David and Libby coming back to the city to live? Give my respects to all friends who inquire for me, especially always to Mrs. Daren. With best love to yourself and John. Tell me what kind of a place it is where you are going. The number, etc., so I shall know where to direct, and please write me as soon as you can. As soon as I hear from you, I will write further. Yours very affectionately, W. Shepardson Sergt. Co. A. 37 Reg. Mass. Vols. 1st Division 6th Corps
A wonderful content letter and especially nice comments about their “7 shooter” Spencer Rifles!
#L4-22-65MA – Price $1,595