Special Collections. train going over bridge on hucklebery trail from Imagebase image number NWALIFF0005

William Latham Candler

Papers, 1861-63, Ms1997-007


July 7, 1862; letter written from camp near Harrison's Bar, VA

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Camp near Harrison's Bar, Va
July 7th 1862

My dear Brother
I wrote you a few lines the other day; but I rather think they were anything but what should have been written by an officer and a soldier; but I assure you, I was rather a "played out" specimen when I came in here; no one but an officer in our Division can form any idea of what we went thro' from Saturday morning until Thursday. The experience I had had before this last "skedaddle" was greater than nine tenths of our officers; but the grand military change of position (!) knocked all previous experiences in the head. I had neither bodily nor mental strength when I got here and for a day or two was a perfect old woman; Tuesday the day of our Artillery fight, was one of the hardest I ever passed. From 2 A.M. on Sunday until Tuesday night my horse was not unsaddled and I had hardly a wink of sleep; from Saturday night until Tuesday night I had but four hard crackers and two cups of coffee; and when I went up to our Batteries Tuesday noon, I was a mere baby; and shells coming over made me as nervous as an old maid. I have had some good meals and three or four good nights rest, and I'm all right again. I say all right, that is in spirits, but it will be weeks in this hot climate before I can regain my flesh and strength. I keep on duty because I don't dare to give up. The weather is fearfully hot, just at present; and as our Staff lost everything we had, we are not in a state to lay off and keep cool. When we got here I had one suit of clothes, consisting of jacket, vest & pants, one flannel shirt, one pair thick woolen drawers, one pairs socks, ditto boots and two handkerchiefs. I've made a raise

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of a couple of shirts since and hope to be able to get some other things from sutlers[?] in a day or two. I had just got myself in comfortable trim when we were ordered to leave Fair Oaks and destroy, our trunks and everything which we could not carry on our horses. Lawrence had two large trunks & Austin a chest full of things, they had to "go the way of all flesh". All our tents and mess arrangements, crockery etc. was destroyed. It was an infernal outrage, for we might have brought everything along as well as not. Major Chandler has gone; he was with the Regt when they went forward to charge, but I can find no one who saw him afterwards; my impression is that he was taken prisoner, perhaps wounded but I do not feel at all anxious about his life for I feel confident he is not seriously injured. I saw him the last of any one whom I can find out, I had been to Genl. Sumner's and drove on the field just as Col. Wyman was shot; as I rode by him one of the men who was with him called to me for a Surgeon, as there was a lull in the fight I jumped off my horse and ran to the 1st to get a Surgeon, I asked Major if there was a Surgeon with the Regt, he told me that Dr. Munroe was on the left, but before I could get him, the fight broke out again and I had work enough with the Genl. The 1st was then immediately ordered to advance. They got into a fearfully hot place, but the gallantry and pluck exhibited by the 1st + 16th Mass. + 26th Penn. saved the Army of the Potomac. McCall's Div. had been ahead of us, and held the enemy in check for some time; but finally the whole Div. disappeared like a flash; and instead of being the supports of a flank of a Division we suddenly found ourselves assailed with almost overwhelming force by an energetic enemy rushing on in the full flush of having beaten an enemy; the 16th Mass. were our right; and the way they received the enemy was one of the most noble acts which has been done in the army; Col. Wyman, Lt. Col. Major & Adjutant rode up and down in the rear of their lines ex-

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horting their men to do their duty; on the enemy came fairly crazy certain of driving the apparently small force opposed to them, but they counted without their host: they struck Hooker's Division, just where "Fighting Joe" was sitting on his horse, and, as in two fights heretofore, Longstreet and Hill struck a "snag" which they could not get over. The 16th gave them Yankee Doodle and the 1st Mass + 26 Penn. followed up with variations, which so surprised Mr. Rebel that he fell back and only made known his presence by a light attack on Kearney. We lost some, but not nearly so many as might have been supposed; Col. Wyman of the 16th was killed. Lieut. Col. Meachem + Adj. Merriam of the same Regt wounded. Major Chandler + Lieut Sutherland missing + three Lieuts wounded lightly out of the 1st. The only wonder to me is that we arrived on the James River at all, for so far as I could learn there was no order nor leader in the whole retreat. I came back from Bull Run in one "skedaddle" in a perfectly undisciplined army; and I have made a second in probably the best disciplined and steadiest army in the world, and I honestly think that the former retreat compared with the latter taking into consideration the morale of the two armies, was superior in order and generalship. The changing front by a flank movement in the face of a superior force is the most hazardous thing in military line[?]; and the successful accomplishment of the movement by us, without the loss of our Artillery and trains is one of the greatest feats in military history; it redounds to the credit of the Com'g Genl and tends to increase his reputation for ability as a Commander; so let it be; but I assure you that had the enemy followed us up as closely as they ought to have done, our story would have been very different. I am heartily sick of the Army of the Potomac and shall consider no minute of my life luckier that the one which shows me I am no long a member of that great failure. We have seen fighting enough; few people realize the amount of fighting

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our Division has had. We have lost over three thousand men in the Battle alone and are the only Division in the Army which can say we have always slept on or in advance of our Battle Fields. But we are terribly used up now, both officers and men and to place us in the weak point of the line (if there is any weak point which I doubt) is a perfect outrage. Mac is bound our Division shall not have one moment to rest in. We can whip the enemy if they attempt to attack us here, which I doubt very much; they have delayed so long and lost their only chance for success. I can not see ahead at all; not a bright spot is visible to me anywhere, we are here with an army completely used up; and who as a body have lost confidence in or at least question the ability of their chief. The new troops which will be levied or volunteer will not be in a situation to take the field for months to come; foreign war, the inevitable result of foreign interference, seems imminent. Pope is somewhere's with his army; let him look sharp that Stonewall Jackson + Lee don't make a rapid movement on him and before we can hear of it give him a sound thrashing. Our men fight well, splendidly, never even in the grand armies of Napoleon was there such a determined and brilliant courage shown as has been on every field where our volunteers have fought; we can whip the southerners at tremendous odds when on the field; but they out general us, in every move; and everywhere we have encountered them we have been met by superior numbers; There is no use denying the fact, the material of our army is far ahead of that of the enemy; but they have better commanders; and I fear that until some change is made in the administration of the army we can never as a body be successful. The chances of our remaining here, for a month or so are good, for what we can do I don't see. Can't you get off for a few days and come down, boats run from Baltimore to Fortress Munroe every day and from there, here. You have friends enough who can get you all the passes necessary. Give my love to all at home.
Your aff. Brother
William

P.S. I'm afraid I shall have to draw on you for some money for mine is about gone and Paymaster's are minus.


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