“I send you $5 in Confederate money. I and some of our men took it out of a dead rebels pocket.” – George A. Spencer, Co. I, 7th Rhode Island Infantry – Near Spotsylvania C. H., May 20th, 1864
The 7th Rhode Island was a hard fought regiment with almost 200 casualties at the battle of Fredericksburg, our writer being one of them. In 1864 the 7th had just concluded the battle of Spotsylvania Court House and George gives a graphic description of the carnage.
George A. Spencer was a resident of Bristol, Rhode Island. Throughout the war George wrote many “colorful” letters (he liked to make small caricatures). This letter is 5 pages in length, written in nice dark ink, and we kept it in our collection because of the great content and the “souvenir” he sends home. The $5 Confederate note, which he includes, is dated September 2nd, 1862 (not the common 1864 variety). Here is the content:
- Camp 7th Regt. R. I. V. Near Spottsylvania C. H. May 20th, 1864. Dear Parents, I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. We moved from center of our lines to the left last night and here we are throwing up breastworks.
- WE WAS INTO THE FIGHT 8 HOURS YESTERDAY AND LOST 6 KILLED AND 19 ONLY WOUNDED. One more was wounded in our Co. named William.
- We have no officers that know anything in our Regt. now. 3 of them skedaddled yesterday, and the one that had command of us led us right up to the Rebel Battery so we could see them work their guns and kept us there 3 or 4 hours, and THEY WAS FIRING GRAPE AND CANISTER AND SOLID SHOT AT US ALL THE TIME.
- THEY CUT TREES DOWN THAT WAS 8 INCHES THICK JUST LIKE STRAWS. I TELL YOU WE HUGGED THE GROUND PRETTY CLOSE, AND EVERY MAN THAT RAISED HIS HEAD A FOOT GOT A BULLET THROUGH IT FROM THE REBEL SHARP SHOOTERS.
- If we had stayed there 20 minutes longer there would not been any 7th R. I. They had almost surrounded us when we had the order to fall back and the way they poured grape and canister into us when we left was a caution.
- I can’t tell how fast we fell back but twas not slow. CLARKE WHITFORD’S GUN WAS STRUCK WITH A SHELL AND BENT IT UP LIKE A HOOP. THE SAME SHOT KILLED A SERGEANT AND 3 MEN IN CO. H.
- …the 6th Corps lays right side of us. I went over to the 2nd today and see Henry and Geo. Bush. They was all right. Allen Monroe got wounded in the hand and so did George Engram.
- Henry got 2 letters from you today and so did I. I got Ella’s picture too and 50 cents. We can’t buy anything to eat here because there is no sutlers allowed here. So you see money is of no account.
- I WILL SEND YOU $5.00 IN CONFEDERATE MONEY. I AND SOME OF OUR MEN TOOK IT OUT OF A DEAD REBEL’S POCKET.
- James Neal is all right and he says he is as taught as a boiler and so is Ezra Sherman. He got a letter from home today.
- 30 Rebels just came into our lines and give themselves up. Send me some paper so I can see how the Battle goes on. I don’t think we have drove Lee 3 inches. I think we got the worst of it yesterday.
- THE IRISH BRIGADE TOOK ONE LINE OF THEIR BREASTWORKS BUT THEY GOT DROVE OUT AGAIN. OUR LINES ARE IN THE SHAPE OF A HORSESHOE.
- What do they think of it at home? OUR REGT. IS MOST PLAYED OUT, ONLY 180 MUSKETS. Our Co. is the biggest one in the Regt. Co. H has got only 2 men and 2 Sergeants. Allen Pierce run every time we went in, but you need not say anything to anybody. If you show this letter to anybody, scratch out these few lines.
- It is so dark I can’t see to write any more so good bye. Write as soon as you get this. From your son, Geo. A. Spencer Co. I, 7th Regt. R. I. V. Washington D. C.
At one time we owned all of the Spencer letters. We also had a beautiful Tintype of Spencer, which is now in a private museum. Fortunately, we kept a beautiful color photocopy of that image and it will frame up beautifully with the letter and $5 Confederate bill.
#L5-20-64RI- Price $895