BULLET STRUCK LETTER FROM THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG Featured in America’s Civil War Magazine – A Graphic Content Letter Describing the 97th New York’s Action on December 13th, 1862 – “WE ADVANCED INTO A CORNFIELD… SOME ALONG THE LINES WERE HIT BY BULLETS & SOME BY GRAPE & SHELLS.” “SOME TOOK OFF THEIR KNAPSACKS, AND I WAS ONE AND LAY MY HEAD ON THE BLANKET PART, ALLOWING THE OTHER TO STICK UP ABOVE MY HEAD FOR DEFENSE. IT WAS THEN PROBABLY THAT MY KNAPSACK GOT ITS WOUND.” “THE REBS FROM THEIR ENTRENCHMENTS IN THE WOODS, POURING THE BALLS & BUCK SHOTS INTO US. MEN WHEN HIT WOULD NOT FALL SUDDENLY & STIFFLY AS I HAD IMAGINED, BUT WOULD RATHER SETTLE DOWN APPARENTLY SELECTING A PLACE WHERE TO LIE OR SET DOWN.”
This 4-page letter in ink was written by John P. Garrett, a musician in Company E, 97th New York Infantry. This letter was featured in the November 2012 issue of America’s Civil War magazine. That magazine would feature an interesting “relic” each month on the last page of the issue. The caption for our letter is, “STRUCK!” They did a nice job of photographing the “hit” and quoted from the letter but failed to list the writers name, which is clearly signed. The letter is clearly written and there is absolutely no question what happened to it as Garrett describes what, when and where!
Here is the content, starting with a really interesting heading:
- In camp at no particular spot but supposed to be about 2 miles from Fredericksburg but certainly on the North (safest) side of the Rappahannock. Wednesday morning Dec. 17th, ’62.
- Friend Justice, Having a lazy morning over us and mild weather. We indulge ourselves in “laying around” and HW & JP both are writing to their friends; I have just filled a sheet for my immediate family and will say a few words touching matters in our sight and hearing.
- This is indeed a busy place. 10s, 100s, 1,000s, 10,000s, etc. What’s the use of guessing as to numbers in a time like this? THE MASSIVE BODY APPEARS TO BE (CONFOUND THE REBEL BULLET; IT WAS FIRED INTO MY KNAPSACK DURING THE FIGHT OF SATURDAY, THE 13TH, AND INJURED THIS SHEET IN THE WAY YOU SEE, AND PROBABLY 150 OTHERS WHICH I WILL HAVE TO USE AT TIME, IF PERMITTED) lying by and waiting for a call to go somewhere. You will know where we are to be before we ourselves know.
- Anyway you can look at it, the war is hard, but it might be worse. THE BATTLE FIELD IS BOTH CRUEL AND INTERESTING AND IS JUST THE PLACE FOR A COWARD TO BE PUT IN. OUR COLONEL GIVES HIS NEW RECRUITS PRAISE FOR STANDING UP SO FEARLESSLY DURING THE ONLY REAL BATTLE IN WHICH WE HAVE BEEN ENGAGED.
- The only man that did anything short of standing up square was a Utica chap. Every Trenton Boy, the Col. says, was in his place and up to his duty.
- Virginia farmers have suffered and do still awfully suffer so you must well know from the fact of this Beautiful State being the middle ground, fences all gone so far as we have gone.
- The country is, I have no doubt, of itself, healthy, rich soil, mild climate, capable of producing all kinds of fruits & grains. Excellent for grapes, easy winters and we are told moderate summer.
- Should the Institutions of this State ever become free institutions and the Union be maintained, it appears to me that Northerners will come by Townships and commence a system of operations on a plan so entirely new to this region. Commence dairying and as a matter to follow of enriching the land that then the country will improve.
- The land which is now growing up with young timber and resting will then be doubled & tripled in price. Laborers will get pay for their labor. Schools will be established and the country will in a few years be entirely changed in character, and this I think will yet be.
- Now Friend, ESH, I won’t speculate any further on the maybe if such & such a thing is to take place. But as I came here expecting to participate in, or if not, actively participate in to see and hear the rush and roar of the battle, as poets call it.
- I WILL DESCRIBE SOMETHING OF THE ONE OF 13TH [THE BATTLE OF FREDERICKSBURG] AS A GROUND WORK. WE (OUR REGT. & BRIGADE) HAD BEEN LYING EASILY ON A DRY, SIDELINE GROUND STOPPING NORTHWARD, THE REBS BEING IN ENTRENCHMENTS ABOUT 1 MILE FROM THE RIVER; AND 1/2 A MILE FROM THIS SLOPE, A LINE OF PICKETS HAD BEEN KEPT OUT EVER SINCE OUR TROOPS FIRST TOOK POSSESSION.
- 9 O’CLOCK A.M. WE GET THE ORDER TO FORWARD; OUR FIELD OFFICERS (REGIMENTAL) WERE ON FOOT, BUT BRIGADE OFFICERS ON HORSEBACK. WE ADVANCED ALMOST SOUTH AND CROSSED A ROAD IN 15 RODS, FENCED WITH DIRT WALL & TREES INTO A CORNFIELD WHICH WAS IN MANY PLACES PRETTY SOFT AND ADVANCED ABOUT 100 RODS AND FORMED LINE OF BATTLE; AT THE SAME TIME, HEARD ORDERS, SKIRMISHERS ADVANCE! A LINE OF MEN WERE THEN SEEN TO GO FORWARD, SOME STOOPING, SOME CRAWLING, ETC. ABOUT 15 TO 20 FEET APART IN A SINGLE LINE UNTIL WHEN SOME 12 RODS AHEAD OF US, THEY WOULD STAND UP AND FIRE, LAY DOWN TO LOAD, OR BECAUSE THEY WERE HIT.
- THE BALLS FIRED BY THE REB SKIRMISHERS, IF PASSING BY OUR SKIRMISHERS WOULD GO PLUMB INTO OUR LINE. AT THE SAME, TWO OR 3 BATTERIES AT OUR RIGHT COMMENCED PLAYING INTO US SHELLS & SOLID SHOT, GRAPE & CANISTER, ON WHICH OUR LINE WAS ORDERED TO LIE DOWN. THE MEN OBEYED WITH A WILL AND SOME WERE REALLY FLAT, REGARDING THE MUD BUT LITTLE, UNTIL THINGS GOT PRETTY HOT, SOME ALONG THE LINES WERE HIT BY BULLETS & SOME BY GRAPE & SHELLS. THE MAJOR PART, HOWEVER, FLYING JUST ABOVE US AND GOING INTO A LINE SOME 20 RODS IN OUR REAR.
- SOME TOOK OFF THEIR KNAPSACKS, AND I WAS ONE AND LAY MY HEAD ON THE BLANKET PART, ALLOWING THE OTHER TO STICK UP ABOVE MY HEAD FOR DEFENSE. IT WAS THEN PROBABLY THAT MY KNAPSACK GOT ITS WOUND.
- PERHAPS IN 1 1/4 HOURS OR THEREABOUTS THE WORD CAME ‘ATTENTION, FIRE,’ THEN FIRE AT WILL, LOAD & FIRE, GIVE IT TO `EM. THE REBS FROM THEIR ENTRENCHMENTS IN THE WOODS, POURING THE BALLS & BUCK SHOTS INTO US.
- MEN WHEN HIT WOULD NOT FALL SUDDENLY & STIFFLY AS I HAD IMAGINED, BUT WOULD RATHER SETTLE DOWN APPARENTLY SELECTING A PLACE WHERE TO LIE OR SET DOWN.
- Also the rattle of the small arms was much less noisy & loud than I had supposed. However, it is all bad enough in all conscience, and I find that the boys who have been in all the battles of the Reg. dread a battle & want the war to close.
- Does it look any more favorable for a closing than before I left home or since election? Please send me a paper & write. I have never received one, and my last letter was written about Thanksgiving. I have sent a great many home. Truly Yours, J. P. Garrett.
For Ed. S. Hughes, Esq.
One of the finest “hit” relics that we have seen. A wonderful piece for display. Not only that, but a wonderful description of the 97th New York’s action at Fredericksburg.
#L12-17-62NY – Price $3,500