South Mountain by Rick Reeve

South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A 6th Wisconsin man writes home..

In this letter, a soldier of the 6th Wisconsin writes home about the battle that occured below Turner's Gap and other happenings in the month following the battle.

Centreville, Md.
Oct. 8th, 1862

Dear Mother,

Your welcome letter of the 27th reached here yesterday. The note I wrote on the battlefield was wrote in great haste as a citizen from Hagerstown happened along the lines during the afternoon and offered to carry letters to the office. I judged by his appearance (wrongly it seems) tht the letters are as apt to go into Secepia as Wis. We are camped on the banks of the Potomac nine miles from Harper's Ferry. Have moved twice since the 17th for Sanitary reasons. Are yet in the immediate vicinity of the battlefield. Nothing of any special interest has occured since I wrote you last. We were reviewed last week by the President and Generals Halleck and McClellan and the Corps Division and Brigade commanders. Abraham looked wll and took especial interest in the Iron Brigade which was pointed out to him by Gen. Reynolds our corps commander. According to a recent field report there is at the time in this Army Corps thiry thousand men drawing pay. Of this number seven thousand only are reported for duty, this will give you a pretty good idea of the waste of war of these twenty-three thousand. A great many are slightly wounded and will return to duty in a short time. Others in two or three monthes. A large number of sick, or imagine they are, others feign sickness. And it is perfectly astonishing the war our surgeons allow themselves to be guilled by these hospital soldiers.

In regards to the inquiries sent by Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence regarding William. I will just say that sometime about the first of June we marched from Fredericksburg to Catletts there expecting to take the cars to Front Royal to intercept Jackson. After waiting two days we marched for haymarket at Catletts. William was unable to march and was left there and did not rejoin the company until the beginning of August wheter he wrote during his absence from the company I am unable to say but immediately after his return he was engaged in writing letters to his parents and to his friends at Bladensburg. William often talked to me of his friends at home and frequently on the arrival of mail expressed surprise and regret that he failed to recieve letters from home. In the early part of August we again started on the march which was ever since til the battle of Sharpsburg been rapid and continuous and for weeks together under Pope's administration we were not allowed to write at all. You can tell Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence that William was to brave a boy to forget his Father and Mother.

In order that you will better understand the locality I will explain the whole affair to the best of my ability. The action was commenced in the cleared fields on either side of the turnpike, these fields were on the side of the mountain and were bordered by woods. The surface of the ground in these woods was very rocky and precipitous. The enemy having two regiments to our one soon flanked us on the right and poured and exploding fire into our ranks. We were then moved by the right flank into these woods to drive the rebels out. It was executing this maneuver that William was struck. He was in the center of the company and I was on the right and consequently knew nothing of this being hurt until after the Rebels fled. I then passed down the lines to ascertain who was hurt in Co. I when I found William. Sgt. Clarwater had helped him behind a tree and spread his blanket for him. He recognized me at once in the darkness and asked me for water which I gave him, procurred another blanket for his head and one to cover him, expressed himself satisfied but appeared advers to talking. I remained with him intending to accompany him to the hospital as soon as the stretchers which had been sent for camp up not thinking his wound was a mortal one (he died before the stretchers came, about two hours after he was struck) he told us that the shot came from a man directly in front in that case the wound would not have been a mortal one as he was struck from the right or glanced to the left after it struck his person. He was buried in the field on the very ground we contested with the enemy. There is five others of our regiment and on of the 16th Ill. Cavalry in the same grave. They lay sid by side head boards at the head of each on plainly stated the name, reg't, and co. of each of the occupants. Should his friends wish to disinter the body and in case the headboards are destroyed William lays second one from the left as you face the head of the grave, the first man on the left is the cavalryman, easily distinguishable by his short jacket. They are buried between two large boulders there is just sufficient room for the grave and one of the rocks is an inscription, Viz. Wisconsin Dead. This was made by one of out boys with a bayonet broken for the purpose. There would be no difficulty in finding the spot as it is forty rods on the right of the turnpike on the southern slope of South Mountain between Boonsborough and Middletown. Clarwater was left with a detail for this purpose and he tells me that William was buried in the best manner possible under the circumstances and I have the above details from C. as were we on the day following the fight in hot pursuit of the enemy.

The weather is spendid, the roads dry, everthing for active operations. we are constantly speculating on the cause of this inaction we are not so blood thirsty as we used to be that is we are not anxious for another fight, but want the ball kept in motion even if we have to take the brunt.

The health of the troops is excellent, mine was never better. My regards to all the friends.

My love to the Family
Yours affectionately,

Geo. D. McDill

1 comment:

  1. As far as I know these graves ans the "Wisconsin Dead" rock are still in the field.

    Bill Christen