South Mountain by Rick Reeve

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

Friday, February 17, 2012

"I never before saw the ground covered with dead..." Letter from Private Thomas Williams, Co. K, 12th Ohio Infantry

The following is a letter from Thomas Williams of Co. K, 12th Ohio that was published in The Highland Weekly News on October 2, 1862. The paper was the local paper for Hillsborough, Ohio. Thomas enlisted in the 12th Ohio in June 1861 at the age of 18 and was discharged from service in December 1862. He was wounded at South Mountain, reporting here that he had his index finger on his left hand "tapped". He writes of his experience in the battle, the hospital scenes in Frederick, his views on the scenery of western Maryland, and casualties of the 12th Ohio.

Middletown, MD, Sept. 16, 1862

Dear Brother:
 I am well at the present time, with the exception of a sore hand. I suppose you heard of our severe engagement with the enemy on last Sunday. (the 14th inst.)

In the evening, I got "tapped" with a ball, which took off a finger on my left hand - the one next the little finger.- It is very sore a present. It will have to be cut off again, which will be a painful operation. Brother John escaped unhurt. So did Sylvanus Cox - or had, at least, up to yesterday evening. I don't know whether our division is in the engagement to-day, or not. It was not yesterday, as it was resting.  Thomas Stonestreet was killed; he never moved after he fell. Our regiment suffered a great deal up to the present time. I know of 4 killed, 7 wounded, and 8 taken prisoners - the latter were sent ahead as skirmishers - in our company alone; so you may know that there was a big loss. 

Gen. Cox's Division was in the advance, so we were in the fight all day Sunday. We made three different charges during the day, and drove the enemy every time. Once we got close enough to prick some of them with the bayonet. We took a great many prisoners during the day; I suppose our regiment alone took about 300. John captured one fellow. When he had his gun half loaded, he ran up to him with bayonet presented, and told him to "hand over his traps." The rebel replied, "Here, I am a prisoner," (handing over his "traps") and John marched him off with the rest, half scared to death.

In the last charge (just before dark) I was wounded, while within fifteen feet of the rebels, who were behind a stone wall, and I went to the rear; but the regiment pushed on and drove the rebels again. I was sent to the hospital at Middletown, where I now am.

The prisoners say they never saw men fight like our division did there- that there was not such fight before Richmond. We didn't stand off and let them shoot at us: but as soon as we could get sight of them we would charge, and that they couldn't stand. Our division has won a great praise among the officers. Gen. Cox thinks he can go anywhere with it- he has such confidence in the bravery of his men. And Col. White thinks there is not another such a regiment as his "gallant 12th." Major Cary was wounded; Capt. Wilson (Co. A) do; Captin Leggett reported killed. A Lieut. of Co. "G" was wounded. 
I suppose you saw an account of our "advent" into Frederick City. I tell you we went in there nice. The citizens of Maryland are nearly all Union people, and they are very clever to us. All of the wounded who are able to walk will be sent from here soon, to give room for those who are badly wounded; but where I cannot say. There are over 200 wounded in this hospital and there are nine or ten [hospitals] more in town. I tell you I have seen "sights" before, but this is the greatest I ever saw. I never before saw the ground covered with dead as it was with "Secesh" where we charged. We were so close to them, that we could not well miss them, when we fired, and we just "rolled" them. Those that the balls from our guns hit were nearly all killed. 

I have seen many pretty places, but never as pretty a country as that between here and Washington; no exceptions whatever. When you write again to John, direct as before. I cannot tell you yet how to direct to me; but I will write again as soon as I learn where I am to remain until my hand gets well.

My love to all, and remember me, as ever, your Brother,



1. Roster Co. K, 12th Ohio

2. Library of Congress. Chronicling America: Historic Newspapers, The Highland Weekly News, October 2, 1862. article [accessed Feb. 17, 2012].

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