Monday, January 21, 2013

1863 January 8 Camp Knight near Falmouth

                             Camp Knight near Falmouth
                                   Va. Dec. 8th[sic] 1862

My Dearest Birdie;
  to get a letter  I have been wishing & expecting
to get a letter from you in answer to one or both of
my last; but am as yet disappointed.
  Had the pleasure of a visit from Clinton last
Wednesday  He is very well.  Does not feel any
inconvenience from his former wound after having had a
very thorough trial in long marches & severe fighting.
If we remain at this camp this week he will
probably visit us again.  The probabilities are
however, that we will move during the week; but
whether it will be for battle or for  a to change the
base of opep operations I cannot tell.  There never
was more beautiful weather, nor better roads than
we now have for operations.  Yesterday I walked over
to the Hd. Qrs. of General Sulley (which is a beautiful
place) & the buds of flower bushes were swelling as
     the end of
large as ^ my little finger: just ready to open into leaves.
  If we could  only have confidence that a move would be
made upon a wise plan, & that we could have
reasonable hope of success, every man that is able
to carry his gun would vote with both hands to
move & fight.  But whatever the correspondets[sic] of
northern newspapers & official reports may say, it is

[page 2]
impossible to make the army, privates or officers believe that
the last battle was wisely planned, or the attack wisely made or
wisely carried through.  What I wrote you was literally true, with regard
to the battle on our right wing, when the stone fence & three or four
of the rebel batteries were.  All the operations on our left, were of
course beyond my observation.  At the place we were, it was
impossible for our infantry to kill 1/4 as many as we lost.  On
our left, according to both northern & southern accounts our
army used more artillery on Saturday & the enemy were not
quite so well protected.  Consequently there were more rebels killed
there.  The rebels admit a lost of some 2000.00[sic]  Our surgeons
here said three days after the battle that there were 15000.00
wounded to be sent to Washington.   Our men who went over
with a flag of truce to bury the dead, say that on a small part
of the field, in the vicinity of where the 24th N.J. fought, that
they buried 1650 dead.  Or army is reported in northern papers &
in official reports to be in good spirits, & not demoralised;
Now it is a fact that the morning after the battle, that the 24th
could only report seventy five or eighty men for duty.  More
than half the Regt are on the sick list, or can just drag
about & try to perform the ordinary guard.  Picket & police
duties of camp & one half of the erst are grunting or growling.
  There are some however who are up & ready for every duty
& never complain
  In our Regt we have two captains on duty, & one just
returned to duty & only four Lieuts who are not commanding
cos & two Capts without a commissioned officer.  Some were
killed, some wounded & sick.   Some other regts are as bad
& even worse than ours.  Our Capt. 1st Lieut, are in George
town at the hospital, sick & the 2d Lieut. D. Reed Brown was
injured by a shell the morning of the battle, but is
well & in command.
  The 20th Massachusetts came into service with over 1000
men, has recruited 198 since & now only numbers 350.  the 8th
Ohio numbered 1000 & now numbers 110 having lost 40
out of 150 that went into the Fredericksburg slaughter.
  The California Regt numbered 1500 when it entered
the service & now has a little over 300.  These are not single
instances, but are general.  And now  All the old soldiers
with whom I have conversed, & with whom our own men have
conversed, are down on the course pursued by the admin-
istration, are down on the removal of McClellan, & down
on the management in the last battle.  This is all truth
as I would utter it before a tribunal of the Most High.
  Yet were I to publish them (& more that might be pub-
lished just as true)  I would immediately be arrested, in all
probability, & indefinitely assigned a lodging in Fort
Lafayette or Warren
Now look at the above, & at my former letters &
compare them with the accounts in the northern papers
with the official reports. What I say can prove by
the army & what they say cannot be proved by the army.
  Moreover the arm will admit that the rebel account
published in the Phila Inquirer about the Battle at Fred
ericksburg are very nearly correct.  Much more so than
than the northern accounts.  This is humiliating to one who
sincerely loves his country, & would rather than any thing else
earthly; that she would be right: but I must if I tell
the truth admit it.  I had seen no accounts from the
south until  since I wrote, & but little from the north, & was
not a little surprised to see how nearly correct the southern
accounts were.
  If you look at the Inquirer of the 24th Inst. 3d page, Southern

[page 3]
news, you will see a little below the middle of the 2d column,
an account of Longstreet's corps.  His forces were behind the stone wall
we so unfortunately fired away at during the fore part of the
battle, & it was this stone wall that the Penn. Brigade in which
Wm Victorne of Lewisburg was, charged upon late in the after
noon.  Victorne told me the men withered away as they advanced,
so it was impossible to proceed.  His Co. numbered over 70
when they started upon the charge & came out with 22.  This
was the loss of 2 or 3 minutes.  I watched the charge with
breathless anxiety, fearing an unfavorable result.  I saw the
bravery of the men, saw them withering away like dry grass
before a prairie fire: Saw them waver & then with desperate
resolution press on amid the sulphurous fire & storm of
bullets.  But alas bravery could not win the prize: they faltered
again, reeled, & then fled in confusion until they reached the
valley under the ridge where we all formed in line of battle.
  It was with difficulty the officers could stop them here.
  Mc Law's Division probably immediately in front of our Div.
In the Near the top of the 3d column under the heading "The Extent
of our Victory, it is said that whiskey was probably dealt out freely
to the northern troops.  It was not so.  As to sharpshooters & bayonets
being used & artillery being used, I cannot say, only, that the word
was passed down our lines, that the Sergts were ordered to
shoot down or bayonet any man who faltered & ran back.
  There was no necessity for such an order to the New J.
soldiers, nor any other so far as I saw, for every man seemed
ready to do his duty.Some one who was more friendly to
the Irish Brigade than strict justice will allow, published
a statement in the Washington Starr[sic], that Kimball's Brigade
did not do very well.  Kimball published a card refuting it.
The truth is Kimballs Brigade opened the battle on our
right & formed the line of battle as near the enemy as any
      were able to stand
others troops ^ stood during the fight. The Irish Brigade relieved
ours & 50 or 60 ran up to a short fence 40 or 50 yards in front
of us & when our Brigade was ordered to cease firing.  The 50 or
60 that ran forward of us found the fire too hot, & in a few
minutes returned as quick as they went.  The 24th & 28th N.J. Regts.
never were in a fight before, & if it is bravery for new troops to re-
main under such severe fire, & see their comrades falling on
every side & continue to fight on after they have been relieved
& ordered to stop, & that without any hope of victory: If it
is was generous for them to remain, weary & hungry & wounded until after
midnight, looking after the wounded of their own regiment
& getting them into ambulances to be taken to Hospital & at
the same time giving water to the wounded from other
states & covering them over with blankets picked up on
the battle field; then they N. Jersey volunteers were heroes
& covered themselves all over with glory.
  The N. Jersey soldiers have not had justice done them
by the correspondents of other papers.  The papers in other
states have correspondents who are of course more
interested in their own men, consequently little N. Jersey
is passed over, unless some one who is a little disposed
to misrepresent chooses to do so.  Lieut. Brown & Sergt Springer
both republicans, urge me to write to some paper & tell
the truth & then say it won't do,  you might get into
trouble.  They, in writing home, refer their friends to the
Southern news from the Inquirer of the 24 for the most
correct accounts of the Fredericksburg battle.  Sergt
Springer says the Seventh Va. regiment, which was the only
one on our right was mostly on the right of the St.
(see my former letter)  advanced to the fence opposite

[page 4]
the one to which the 40 or 60 of the Irish Brigade went &
returned from, He was with the Virginians at the fence
They all stayed there until they shot away all their
ammunition, & were obliged to retire. Sergt Springer received
a ball through his pants on his right hip, slightly breaking
the skin.  The Sergt got ammunition & fought on his own
hook nearly all the afternoon.  while acting as Srgt Major
I supplied him & several others who had selected places of their
own to fight.  The retreat from the Va. fence is probably
wh & the retreat of the brigade Victorn was in is probably
what the rebels allude to in their account of the driving
our right back.
      I have just been handed a notice of Kimgballs
Brigade, taken from the Washington Starr that is entirely
untrue.  At least so far as our Regt saw.  But before
giving particulars I will see an orderly of the 8th Ohio
heard of him the particulars of the two O. Regts.
   Now Darling I am relieved & gratified to night
at receiving two letters from you of the 25th & 26th Insts.  I can
am sorry that you were so unnecessarily uneasy about the severity
of my wound, & Calvin's & Clinton's safety.  I had no time to write
but knowing how anxious your[sic] would be I scratched in pen
cil enough to inform you of, as I supposed our safety.
   You know darling I tell you the truth, & hold nothing
back.  If I at any time fail to mention Calvin you may
know that he is not injured or sick.
   You must not be uneasy about my shoulder.  It is
getting well fast.  I have been offered the privilege three
times y our Surgeons of going to the Hospital at Wash
ington, but being able for the duties of the Office of the
Sergt Major & the Coln not having a man to take my
place, I refused to go. The Adjutant said Saturday to
the Dr. while he was dressing my shoulder, that I was
the pluckiest man in the Regt. While others not
half as badly wounded as I were going to Washington
I couldn't e got away from duty.
  Capt. Dunlap & Lieut Smith told me just as they were
leaving camp that Coln. Roberson had written a very
flattering letter to the Gov. of N.J. & urged him to give
me a commission.  A. Lieut. told me yesterday that
I was to be a Lieut. or Capt. but notwithstanding all this
it may not be & Darling you must not hope, only
to be disappointed.
Now Darling if I have said too much about myself
pardon me, & I will speak of another subject near my
heart, my own Darling Birdie.  I had no opportunity to
present that Patriotic song you wrote to Co. B. that suited in
consequence of our being constantly on the move.  The
morning of the battle, we were standing in line,waiting
for other regts to form, & supposing this would be the
only opportunity for all the boys to hear it, I read it
to the Co.  When partly through Genl Kimball rode up
& talked to the Col & then to the next Co. so it was a par
tial failure.  A number of the men spoke Y said that
was the best of any thing yet.  After the battle the Capt.
wanted me to read it to him.  He was delighted with
it, & introduced the subject to the Coln. a day or two after
He of course must hear it, & borrowed it to write
a copy to send to his wife who lives at Salem.  The
men have had me read it 3 or 4 times, praise it,
& as quick as they can get the money will  have it prin
ted in nice style

[upside down in top margin of page 1]
   I have no way to send the bullet but by mail,
which I will try.  Have wished you had it, but was fearful
it would get lost.  Am fearful of the same if I keep it.
  It appears as though all the Pa. relatives are falling in love with
Vineland.  You need not send me another comforter: My
throat is stronger than it has been since the bronchitis
first troubled me, & my health better.  In fact I have al-
most arrived at the magnificent proportion about the stom
ache you so much admire.  You have doubtless received two letters
from me since you wrote; one containing some false curls of hair
I picked up from under foot in the St. in Fredericksburg. I sent
some Sabbath school tickets I picked up on the sidewalk to my little dar
lings.  Want to write more but cant. good night
                                                       Your Soldier Husband

Captain Henry S. Spaulding, 38th New Jersey Volunteers

MSS 38-156

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