Capt. John J. Knox, Co. D, 5th Michigan Infantry Writes Home on the Battlefield of Chancellorsville!
John J. Knox, a resident of Clarkston, Michigan, enlisted as a Private but immediately became a 2nd Lieutenant working his way up to Captain in January 1863. He was wounded at the battle of Fair Oaks, Va. on May 31st, 1862. In this letter we find him still on the battlefield and describes to his wife the hard fought battle of May 3rd, 1863. Here is that great content:
- Headquarters 5 Mich. Vols. On the Battle Field Va. May 5, 1863. My Darling Wife, This is the anniversary of Williamsburg – one year ago today I stood beside my fallen comrades and battled for my Country’s Freedom.
- For the past three days I have been witnessing and participating in just such scenes – and Oh – my dear one, I feel thankful to almighty God for sparing my wicked and reckless life this long.
- Could I represent my feelings, my thoughts of you when death stares me in on every hand? You would know I loved you – fondly and dearly loved you. But were you not my own and had you, after I learned to love you, cast me aside, the battlefield with all its horrors would have been sweet to me.
- I know not how long this battle will last, or how it will be terminated. But yet, think that I will pass through unharmed and will be permitted to return to you unharmed.
- But should it be otherwise, I can only hope your future life through the kind interposition of Him who ruleth all things, may be more happy than your past.
- I do not feel like writing, am tired out. ON SATURDAY WE FOUGHT ALL DAY AT INTERVALS, CHANGED POSITIONS AND FORMED LINE OF BATTLE NO LESS THAN 13 TIMES.
- Saturday night we found the enemy had flanked us and at 11 1/2 p.m. formed again. Our Brigade and General Ward’s were expected to route 30,000 Rebels. IT WAS INDEED A FORLORN HOPE, AND EVERY ONE FELT AS THOUGH WHEN HE EXITED THE WOODS, HE WOULD NEVER COME OUT ALIVE.
- ON WE WENT STILL AS DEATH, WHEN ALL AT ONCE ONE OF THE MOST TERRIFIC FIRES I EVER HEARD OPENED UPON US – MUSKETRY AND ARTILLERY – ON ON WE WENT, YET WE COULD HARDLY DISTINGUISH FRIEND FROM FOE.
- CHARGED OVER AND TOOK THE BREASTWORKS UP TO THE MOUTH OF THE CANNON, AND WERE REPULSED. AND WHAT IS THE MOST SHAMELESS AND UNPARDONABLE OF ALL IS WE WERE FIGHTING OUR OWN MEN – THE 12TH ARMY CORPS. IN THAT CHARGE WE LOST 27 MEN.
- It is getting dark and we are preparing to move, so I will for the present dose.
- Wednesday evening – beat a hasty retreat this morning and once more at Camp Fairbanks. J.J.K.
- P.S. Thursday Evening Since we returned to camp, I have been so busy making our reports that I have not had time to write to you. So soon as I get time, I will write you all the particulars and sketch the field from late operations. I tried to telegraph to you yesterday, but they would not allow any messages to pass over the lines. I am going to try again tonight. We are again under marching orders. Your own, John. Walter is well.
Since the letter is only signed “John” it is fortunate that it comes with its original envelope addressed: “Mrs. Jno. J. Knox Clarkston, Michigan”. The envelope has an imprinted 3 cent stamp with a “Washington, D.C., May 9, 1863” postmark. The letter is 4 pages written in easy to read pencil with the last page in ink. Very rarely do we see letters written directly on the field of battle.
#L5-5-63 MI – Price $950