The 1st Delaware Volunteers at America’s Bloodiest One Day Battle, Antietam – “ALL THE COLOR GUARD WAS EITHER KILLED OR WOUNDED. THE STATE FLAG WAS ALMOST SHOT TO PIECES, THE STAFF CUT INTO TWO BY A BALL.”
This 6 page letter written in nice dark ink William F. Smith who enlisted as a Captain in Company D of the 1st Delaware Infantry. Smith would eventually advance to Major before being wounded severely in the siege of Petersburg, Va. 10/27/64 when his right leg was amputated. Smith is writing home to his mother from Bolivar Heights on October 3rd, 1862.
• Dear Mother, I received yours of 28th & 29th last night. I was afraid you would get to hear of the 1st Del. being in battle and be alarmed for our safety. But we have both come out without being hurt. [William’s brother Thomas also served in Company D]
• There is a great many reports going around about this regiment and very few are true. I joined the regiment on Sunday night. On Monday at 5 o’clock A.M. we started to join our division which was at Keedysville acting as reserves to the army of the Potomac, we arrived at Head Quarters about 1 o’clock P.M. and was reviewed by Brig. Gen. French commanding the division. We stopped there all night.
• Next morning we started for the field of battle. We all thought that our Brigade was in the reserve, but it was not long before, we were ordered to go across the field, and by this movement we were brought in front.
• Then we went by the left flank that brought us in line of battle. We were halted and ordered to fix bayonets. We began to think something was to do. We marched in line of battle. Max Weber’s Brigade in advance, our regiment on the right of the Maryland 5th in the center, New York 4th on the left of the Brigade, then Connecticut 14th was our second line and was intended to support us.
• The brigade behind us was commanded by the Colonel of the 14th Connecticut. We marched in line some mile and a half, when the Rebels made their appearance on our left. The New York 4th commenced firing on the Rebels.
• We still continue to advance, the shells coming over our heads, till we got through a cornfield that Rebels had to hide in, we drove them out of there.
• They fell back to a ditch at the foot of the hill. [BLOODY LANE!] They also had a division in the cornfield on the hill opposite to the field we was in, as soon as we got through the corn field, the Rebels poured a volley into us. We got over the fence and up to the top of the hill, and there laid down and fired at the Rebels after firing some ten minutes, we received orders to charge.
• We started, when a battery opened upon us together with all the infantry in the cornfield and at Brigade on the right so we was between two fires.
• ALL THE COLOR GUARD WAS EITHER KILLED OR WOUNDED. THE STATE FLAG WAS ALMOST SHOT TO PIECES, THE STAFF CUT INTO TWO BY A BALL.
• The fire was so hot we had to fall back with a great loss. It was here that Capt. Watson & Leonard was killed. Capt. Yardley, Woodall, & Shortledge was wounded. The regiment fell back to form, but got mixed up with the different regiments.
• Major Smith and about 150 men went up a lane and got on the Rebels right where we poured a directed fire upon them. Capt. Rickards was killed up here and Lt. Col. Hopkinson was wounded in the knee at the same place.
• We fought here sometime till we got relieved, then tried to reform the regiment, which we found a very difficult for they were in all the regiments around fighting. We however got about 150 together and encamped for the night.
• The Rebels retreated under a flag of truce. They sent to get their wounded. Gen. Porter followed them the next day and drove them across the Potomac, they are at Winchester at present.
• Our loss is 230 killed and wounded. Our company lost 6 killed and 20 wounded. So you can see we stood as well as any. Company “D” was the last to leave the field.
• Grover has been made Corporal of Company D. I am in company C. Capt. Rickard K Company known as the Irish Brigade of the 1st Delaware Regiment.
• I saw Mary Lace at Harpers Ferry last Tuesday. She is in the hospital department belonging to Sedgwick’s Corps. Her son is in Baxter’s Fire Zouaves. She was at the battle of South Mountain and Antietam. She told me about Father being in Philadelphia last week. Mr. Lace there with her but was going. He could not stand the hardships of soldier’s life sleeping on the floor was too hard for him.
• The President reviewed the whole Corps. last Wednesday. I expect we will move somewhere before long as it always follows when he reviews us. Was John made 2nd Lieut. or orderly Sergt, tell us in your next. We both send our love to all. From your Affectionate Son, W. F. Smith.
The letter is in fine condition and full of great content. In Foxes Regimental Losses, the 1st Delaware was one of the 5 hardest hit regiments at Antietam with a combined loss of killed, wounded and missing of 230. There just aren’t that many 1st Delaware letters out there… especially like content like this one. This letter comes with 50+ pages of research.
#L10-3-62DE – Price $1,595