South Mountain by Rick Reeve

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

"I shall not be able to come home."

On a mid summer's day in 1861, Private Reuben Huntley of the 6th Wisconsin wrote a letter home to his wife about the Union defeat at the Battle of Bull Run. He tells her that he will not be able to come home, even though he is a 90 day enlistee. He knows that the war will last longer than the three months that everyone believed it would. Fast forward to September 1862, a corporal now, Huntley his moving forward with his unit into the fight at Turner's Gap. Through the din of battle, he can hear the sound of of lead punching through flesh. Suddenly he feels it, a sharp pain that forces him to the ground. His breathing has become difficult, he reaches for the spot where the pain originated from, he feels a wetness, looks at his hand and its covered in red, the color of blood. He knows the wound is serious, he begins to fade in and out of consciousness. He opens his eyes one last time to see comrades from Wisconsin pushing back the hard fighting rebels. He then lets out a loud exhale, closes his eyes, and goes to sleep.

Here is the letter from July 1861 that was written home by Reuben Huntley:

Camp Randall
Madison, July 23d,1861
My Dear Wife,
The disastrous results of the battle of Bulls Run has entirely altered our arrangements here. We are now under marching orders & shall leave this week. I shall not be able to come home. The Secretary of State has sent the blanks for the $500 bounty to Col. Culter for distribution, have John Y. see to the filling up . . . for you. I will send my wages as soon as received. You need not write to me until you hear from me again. God bless you and believe me the only thing that could distract me from my duties is the . . . of my family at home.
Good Bye
Your husband R. Huntley

Of the 11 men killed at Turner's Gap from the 6th Wisconsin, Reuben Huntley was one of them. It's a shame that if this was his last opportunity to see home before heading east, that he was not able to because of events elsewhere. He would lose his life fighting to save the Union in a field hundreds of miles from home. Maybe it's just me, but the one line in his letter forshadow's his eventual death on the battlefield. May he rest in peace.

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