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William Latham Candler

Papers, 1861-63, Ms1997-007

May 10, 1862; letter written from Mayor Saunder's house Williamsburg, VA

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Office of Provost Marshall
in Mayor Saunder's house
Williamsburg Va. May 10 62

My dear Uncle
I sent you word the day after our fight that we had had a fight and that I was unhurt, I have been quite unwell since. and have been obliged to work every atom of strength I had. We marched into this town yesterday morning, as I rode thro' in the wagons, too unwell to walk, one of our officers came to me and notified me that Genl Grover had been appointed Military Governor, Lt. Col. Wells Provost Marshall & myself Assistant Prov. I jumped out and went into Provost H'd Qrs, and there found so much to do and every thing in such disorder that I made up my mind I must work; you know a Candler has a good bit of the mulish trait of stubbornness in their character, and altho' yesterday I could hardly see, I have worked like "thunder," eaten good food and tonight feel mainly well, but very tired. You know I was Prov. at Fort Albany, and have learned how to look out for myself; I was dissatisfied with our old quarters in a hotel, and this morning we moved into a splendid house evacuated on Sunday by Mayor Saunders + family. Furniture, carpets,

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crockery + darkeys are here, we have six horses, cows, sheep etc, and intend for the few days we may be here to live. Our troops all passed thro' this town yesterday and day before, we understand that the enemy have made no stand at the Chickahomanie, but have fallen back to about ten miles from Richmond; where they have large entrenchments and intend making a "big" fight. We had an awful fight on Monday, I see the papers give the credit of the fight to Hancock's Brigade, it is too bad, judge for yourself, Hancock, on the right, did not go into the fight until afternoon and lost about 30 men; Hooker's Div. alone fought from 6 1/2 A.M., until five P.M. without a single man reinforcing us, (Kearny's Brig. came in at that time) on the left we lost about two thousand (2000). I must condense as much as possible for it is late. From Saturday at three A.M. until Sunday at 6 A.M. our Regt. was on picket, (under a heavy fire from Yorktown). We got our Breakfast that morning, at twelve (without rations in our haversacks or any dinner) we started on the pursuit, and marched until ten P.M. (the last three hours picking our way thro swampy woods). No supper, at midnight it commenced to rain. At 5 A.M. routed out. No Breakfast, wet

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foggy and so muddy, marched or rather "dragged" thro' a mile or two of "pudding". The enemy ahead. First Mass. forward as skirmishes and we had to take our position in front of Fort Magruder (some 400 yds). We had to go thro' some six hundred yards of most infernal fallen timber. I managed to get the enemy's sharpshooters out of a few of their rifle pits (I had the extreme left of our line; the officers senior to me were separated by heavy timber, so I had N. Hamp. + a portion of Mass. men under me for some three hours) those on the right did the same, and we managed to silence four or five of the enemy's guns; one of the Rebel officers told me we killed every gunner. We lay there until 11 1/2 a.m. and it was a warm place I assure you. The enemy's sharpshooters got into trees on the edge of our timber, on the left, and gave us a very galling fire. At 11 1/2 we were withdrawn some four hundred yards, the enemy's reinforcements began to come in, and the heavy work commenced. The N. Jersey Brig. + Sickles', were in the woods on our left and just after we took our second position, fighting nobly but reinforcements drove them back, and the first thing we knew, Johnny was giving it to us on three sides, with ----- which we knew meant something. ------- ordered to fall to the rear, in

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in doing so we had to go along some sixty y'ds in a road. Of all terrible infernal positions I ever knew that road was ahead. I can only compare the noise to a hail storm of egg-sized hail stones; it seemed as tho' every man who raised his head, fell. Every man went across that road into the woods in the most expeditious manner possible. In the woods we made a rally, but the enemy were on the opposite side of the road, and we had no time to form into companies. All dashed at them (more than half our men with but a round or two of ammunition) and drove them way back. Reinforcements came to them and we went out again. Four times we charged them in that way N. York, N. Jersey, Penn. N.H. + Mass men all mixed up. It was "damn the order, Hooker's says we must hold them until reinforcements come" and we did. The last time we fell back, I heard great cheering and as I reached the Road there was one armed Kearny at the head of his Brigade. Both sides have lost heavily. Sumner with 20,000 men lay all day within two miles of us, Hooker's sent to him five times for assistance, sent a Regt and cleared the Road; but he refused to send aid. I understand he has been sent to the rear in disgrace. The battery of Regulars, refused to fight their guns, our chief of artillery called for Volunteers. a portion of a New York Battery worked the guns and N.H. + 1st Mass men held horses. How many men were against us we can't say, but we have sick, wounded and prisoners from 42 Regts, every one we have asked says he was in the fight. We buried some four hundred of their dead and have found twice that number of sick, wounded in and around this place. We may stay here three or four days; more as soon as possible, Yours ----- haste

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