The Battle of Fourth Winchester – A Great Escape – Action Filled Letter by William H. Sanger of the 2nd New York Cavalry Under Custer – “THE CUT-THROATS WERE CLOSE BEHIND ME YELLING, ‘KILL THE YANKEE SON OF A B— —H. SHOW THE BLUE BELLIED YANKEE SON OF A BITCH NO QUARTER…’”
This 6-page letter in ink comes with its original envelope. It is written from Camp Russell which was on Round Hill northwest of Winchester. Here is the great, great content:
- Hd. Qrs. 2nd N. Y. Cay. Camp Russell Dec. 8th /64. Dear Nick: The 2nd N. Y. Cay., the famed Ira Harris Lt. Cay., formerly commanded by Kilpatrick, Davies, etc. & now by Gen. Custer has been operating in the Shenandoah Valley lately, is there now with Sheridan’s Army, and I am Captain of Co. E of above named Regiment.
- If you answer this letter, I expect it will be full of censures and reproaches for not having visited you according to promise whilst at New York and most certainly for not having kept up a more faithful correspondence. I do not deserve them however. My stay at New York was so short that I hardly had time to say Good bye to my own folks. I fully expected my company would be detained there at least two weeks, but we were sent off just two days after our arrival there, just as I was making preparation for a short and pleasant stay with you.
- I begged & implored Gen. Jackson, commandant at Hart’s Island, to allow me a few days longer stay, but the old bear was obstinate and insisted upon my instant departure. And since I left there I have been jerked and flung around in such an unaccountable manner, into such out of the way places where a mail never thinks of coming and been kept on active duty so continuously that till the present time, I have never had a single opportunity to pen you a decent letter.
- ONCE I HAVE BEEN STRUCK BY A BALL, BUT THE PLATE ON MY SABER BELT SAVED ME, AND I HAVE HAD THREE HORSES SHOT FROM UNDER ME.
- Engaged Oct. 19th at Cedar Creek. Nov. 12th Cavalry fight at same place. 1st Lt. and 3 men badly wounded.
- Nov. 22nd fight at Mount Jackson. 5 men seriously wounded, besides an infinite number of severe and nasty scrapes with guerrillas. But my usual good luck has attended me, and if ever we get into Winter Quarters, I shall consider myself sound, healthy, happy and well.
- I MUST RELATE AN ADVENTURE, THE NARROWEST ESCAPE I EVER HAD. I was stationed at Salem Va. to guard the railroad and assist Lt. Col. Maus (John A. Maus) of the 202nd Pa. Vol. with 60 men. Twenty of these I had on picket. One day 5 guerrillas came from a patch of woods near the road and confronted our pickets. When I heard the firing, I immediately moved out with my 40 men, and Col. Maus ordered me to charge on them.
- I protested against doing so until I examined the woods which might secrete a large body of them. But he insisted upon my doing so with an oath, asking me if I was afraid. This got me mad. I divided my men into two squads. Sent one to the left on a hill to watch my rear and see me protected, whilst with the other I charged down the road where the Johnnies had concentrated.
- We passed the woods in safety. The chase grew exciting. We approached nearer & nearer to them and when we had gone about a 1 1/2 miles and just as we were about to put our hands on them, POP! Bang! Wang, and such a yell as you never heard came from our rear.
- I LOOKED BEHIND AND THERE WAS 75 OF THE CURSED BUGGERS DRESSED IN OUR UNIFORMS AND RIGHT ON TO US. A high stone wall on both sides of the road kept me from going to the right or left. I urged the boys to a keen run, they following and shooting into us.
- Once in a while one would drop and THE WAY THE BALLS FLEW AROUND WAS A CAUTION. By & by we came to a patch of woods. Quick as thought we dashed in. This allowed us to scatter & showed us more chance. I was to the rear directing them when THE REBS FIRED A VOLLEY KILLING MY HORSE INSTANTLY.
- I had to foot it for life as THE CUT-THROATS WERE CLOSE BEHIND ME YELLING, “KILL THE YANKEE SON OF A B— —H. SHOW THE BLUE BELLIED YANKEE SON OF A BITCH NO QUARTER,” etc. etc.
- The way I flew was a caution to slow travelers, THE BARK OF TREES & SPLINTERS FLYING INTO MY EYES & BULLETS HISSING UNCOMFORTABLY CLOSE.
- They were so close I could almost feel the heat of their pistols on my neck, when luckily I came to a wide ditch. With an awful effort I cleared it. This gave me a chance to get a little ahead. I improved it & was just climbing over a stone wall fence when they again appeared & fired a volley after me.
- I legged it up a hill to a patch of woods some 15 rods off, they firing all the time and just as I entered the woods, a spent ball struck me in the back of the head, and stunned & thoroughly exhausted, I fell between 3 or 4 large stones.
- It took them some time to get across the fence. They chased me but failed to discover me. When it got a little dark, I started for camp and dodging between their pickets & after being chased by them twice more, I finally succeeded in reaching there in safety.
- THEY ALL LOOKED UPON ME AS ONE RAISED FROM THE DEAD, HAVING ALREADY REPORTED ME AS WOUNDED AND A PRISONER.
- 10 OF MY COMMAND SUCCEEDED IN ESCAPING. 2 OF THE REMAINDER WERE KILLED & 8 WOUNDED. WE SECURED THEM THE FOLLOWING MORNING. I WAS ENTIRELY EXONERATED FROM BLAME, BUT COL. MAUS WAS SEVERELY CENSURED.
- Remember me kindly to your father, mother, sister & relatives. How about your brothers in the Mtd. Rifles. Tell them where I am. How are the young ladies? Bless their hearts. How I would love to see them once more. Henriette, Mary Louise & all of them. Give my best regards to them all. Don’t forget Trip. I think that is the name of your hot dog.
- Write me soon & let me know all the news and whether I correspond regularly or not (something I cannot). Always remember me as your friend. W. H. Sanger.
- Written crosswise on last page: Address Capt. Wm. H. Sanger Co. E 2nd N. Y. Cay. Washington D. C.
This letter has probably the most exciting “escape” story that we have read… and from a great Cavalry unit.
#L12-8-64NY – Price $1,095