Graphic Description of Battle of Malvern Hill by Joseph R. Manson 12th Virginia Infantry – “IT WAS A SAD SIGHT TO WALK OVER THE FIELD OF BATTLE AND GATHER UP THE DEAD TO BE PLACED WITHOUT COFFIN OR SHROUD UNDER A FEW INCHES OF DIRT. THERE WE PLACED THE DARK-SKINNED CREOLE FROM THE SWAMPS OF LOUISIANA WITH THE INVADERS FROM THE OLD GRANITE & GREEN MOUNTAIN STATES OF THE NORTH…”
Joseph Richard Manson enlisted at Hicksford, Va. as a 1st Lieutenant on February 2nd, 1862. He served in Company I of the 12th Virginia Infantry. Our letter dated, July 12th, 1862 fines Manson writing his mother about the battle of Malvern Hill that had occurred on July 1st. The letter is written on brown Confederate paper, folded and used as an envelope with “Due 10 Petersburg, July 14” postmark. Manson writes in nice dark ink 4 pages… all in remarkably excellent condition. Here is the content:
- Camp Falling Creek July 12, 1862. My dear Mother, I have been intending to write you some time, that is as soon as I should rest in one place long enough. This is the first moment I have had.
- Bob says my letters put you all to crying, and I must not write in such a soulful strain. I CAN’T SING OTHER THAN A MOURNFUL SONG FROM SUCH A LAND AS THIS FOR ALL AROUND ME ON MAN, ON BEAST, IN THE GREEN FIELDS WHERE GOD INTENDS, THE “HERB TO GROW FOR THE SERVICE OF MAN, I SEE THE DESOLATION OF WAR.”
- Since I wrote you, I have participated in the 7 days battle before Richmond. You have no doubt heard that I am all safe, for I wrote sister and to forward you one of my letters. WE PURSUED THE ENEMY FOR FOUR DAYS. WERE UNDER FIRE EVERY DAY WHICH WOUND UP WITH THE BATTLE OF MALVERN HILL WHERE THE YANKEES SOUGHT THE PROTECTION OF THEIR GUN BOATS.
- THIS BATTLE OF MALVERN HILL WAS CERTAINLY A DESPERATE STRUGGLE AND HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR BAD MANAGEMENT ON THE PART OF OUR GENERALS, AS I HAVE SINCE BEEN INFORMED MIGHT HAVE RESULTED IN A TRIUMPHANT VICTORY FOR US.
- As it was when the battle ended at 9 o’clock at night, we had made no break in the lines of the enemy altho we had fought for three hours.
- I WAS IN THE FIGHT FROM BEGINNING TO THE END. HAD A GOOD VIEW OF THE WHOLE FIELD AND WITNESSED THE BATTLE WITH ALL ITS TERRIBLE EXCITEMENT AND ATTENDANT HORRORS.
- We lost 2 of my Company killed. 4 wounded. WE SPENT THE NIGHT ON THE FIELD AMID THE CRIES OF THE WOUNDED AND DYING, WHICH WE COULD NOT GET OFF UNTIL NEXT MORNING.
- I NEVER SPENT A MORE MISERABLE NIGHT AND NEVER CAN I FORGET IT. IT SEEMS TO ME I CAN HEAR THE FAINTING FEEBLE CRIES OF THE POOR WOUNDED FELLOWS FOR “WATER, WATER,” RINGING IN MY EARS NOW.
- LINE OF BATTLE AFTER LINE OF BATTLE OF OUR TROOPS WERE SCATTERED BEFORE THE TERRIBLE CONCENTRATED FIRE OF THE ENEMY’S SPLENDID ARTILLERY.
- NEVER WAS ARTILLERY BETTER SERVED THAN THEIRS WAS ON THAT OCCASION. SEVERAL EFFORTS WERE MADE ON OUR SIDE TO CHARGE THEIR BATTERY BUT ALL FAILED.
- SOME FEW OF A LOUISIANA REGT. GOT WITHIN A FEW FEET OF THE BATTERY WHERE THEIR BODIES WERE FOUND NEXT MORNING. BUT NOT A MAN EVER REACHED IT ALIVE.
- THAT NIGHT THE YANKEES TOOK OUT TO THEIR BOATS, LEAVING THEIR DEAD FOR US TO BURY AND HUNDREDS OF THEIR WOUNDED FOR THE CONFEDERATES TO CARE FOR.
- THEN IT WAS A SAD SIGHT TO WALK OVER THE FIELD OF BATTLE AND GATHER UP THE DEAD TO BE PLACED WITHOUT COFFIN OR SHROUD UNDER A FEW INCHES OF DIRT.
- THERE WE PLACED THE DARK-SKINNED CREOLE FROM THE SWAMPS OF LOUISIANA WITH THE INVADERS FROM THE “OLD GRANITE & GREEN MOUNTAIN STATES OF THE NORTH, AND THERE THEY WILL REST UNTIL THE LAST TRUMP WHICH WAKES THE DEAD.
- OUR MEN MARKED THE GRAVES OF THE SOUTHERNERS WITH A ROUGH BOARD UPON WHICH IS RUDELY CARRIED THE NAME AND RESIDENCE OF THE DECEASED. I COULD BUT THINK OF THE MANY SAD, SAD BEREAVED ONES WHO WILL WANDER OVER THE FIELD DAYS HENCE TO DECIPHER THESE MEMORANDA IN THEIR SEARCH FOR THE REMAINDER OF A SON, A HUSBAND, OR A BROTHER.
- I believe it takes a heart immune to human suffering to have the courage of the battlefield. I am not ashamed to confess that I never want to witness another.
- God has kindly preserved me amid its dangers, & still preserves my health amidst much sickness and suffering in camp. I am nearly broken down sometimes on long, hot marches, & I am thankful that a rest remains. I have slept so much in the wet ground without tents in evening recently that I must have taken cold in my limbs. But altogether I hold out better than I thought I would.
- All the other officers sick and gone home but myself. I am very much obliged for the nice box you were so kind as to send me. I received your letter too which I forgot to mention sooner.
- Don’t expect me to write often. I SHALL HAVE TO SEND THIS WITHOUT A STAMP AND MAKE YOU PAY THE POSTAGE. You have heard that Bob is quite sick again and gone home. Minnie & sister were down at camp to see me yesterday. I enjoyed their visit so much. My love to Aunt Betsy. How much I wish I could go and stay a few days with you & rest. I mean to go if we ever have peace. Write to me. Direct to Richmond. Your affectionate son, J. R. M.
Rarely do we find a Confederate letter in such fine condition which includes excellent Confederate postal history. On the cover portion, Manson does his return address also.
#L7-12-62VA – Price $1,395