HdQrs Banks Army Corps
Near Sandy Hook Md Sept 21, 1862
My darling wife
I have finally an opportunity to write a few lines, but as it is late and I am tired I shall not be able to write much. Of course I shall not undertake to detail the events of the past fortnight.
My last letter to you was written on the 5th near Tenallytown and every day thereafter I expected to write, but we were kept in constant motion and could not even keep up our record of orders. What writing we have done has been during the few hours at night we would halt, and how I have mustered the strength to write all night (as it were almost) when completely exhausted by the days march is more than I can account for. Our marches were not long in miles, but fatiguing to the last degree for we would be in motion at daylight, march two or three miles then halted for hours expecting every moment to be ordered forward and this would be our experience until dark when we would bivouac wherever night found us. At Tenallytown we were put under Genl Sumners orders & he required us to move in two columns on the road side no matter how steep the hills might be, how thick the underbrush was or how many creeks were to be crofsed. As we were in search of the enemy we were obliged to take crofs roads, back roads and all kinds of roads, and be on our guard not to be taken by surprize. Where we were on particular days I cannot call to mind but on Saturday – one week ago yesterday we arrived near Frederick.
The next day (Sunday) we pafsed thro' Frederick and reached the vicinity of Middletown where we saw the fight in the mountains near.
The next day we moved thro' Boonesboro thence to the east of Sharpsburgh. Tuesday we lay under arms all day and made a night march to the north west of Sharpsburgh (the right of our line) where we threw ourselves on the ground and went to sleep to the music of picket firing just out of rifle range.
To the uninitiated this night march would have been imprefsive in the extreme – the steady
solemn tread of ten thousand men, the whispering orders of officers – the frequent halts and silent advance of one or two to examine the character of the ground ahead – the occafsional fire of some miserable straggler and so forth &c all tending to make men prepare their minds for something awful upon the break of day. Doubtlefs many who now are in Eternity had thoughts that night that they never had entertained before. As we anticipated soon after daylight we were awakened – for all (both officers & men) were sound asleep – by the sound of volleys of musketry in our front from which a piece of woods separated us. In an instant almost the officers were mounted and the men stood at "Parade Rest" for they had lain down as they were visz – in column by companies. We moved forward at once & found Hooker hotly engaged and in a half an hour was sorely prefsed at all points.
Our Corps was immediately deployed and engaged and terrible was the fighting. About 9 o'clock Sumners Corps came up and took our place, but soon was used up and all we could do on the right was to hold the original field with the combined remnant of Hooker, Sumner, & our own Corps. All attempts to dislodge them from a piece of woods on our right were futile and we had to remain content to hold the cornfield, which our gallant Corps took at its first charge. Not ten minutes after we entered the fight Genl Mansfield who was placed in command of our Corps on the preceding Monday received his death wound. The command then devolved upon Genl Williams and right handsome did he carry his responsibility notwithstanding he had not been informed in the least of the plan of operations only that Genl Sumner was to have been up at daylight and at that later hour he had not arrived.
He did not come until 9 o'c why the delay has not yet been explained. They treat Genl W. shamefully – calling upon him to command the Corps in an emergency and turning him back to his Divn to give place to some other man.
His peers all get the second star while he is still kept a Brigadier.
I cannot pofsibly detail to you now the trials of that day. Suffice it to say that the "iron hail" was so thick and my duties took me to so many different points (for only Capt Morgan & myself were on duty) nothing but the protecting care of my God can have saved me from injury. My little horse and self both yielded to fatigue about the same time, but not until our most important part had been played. I found water for both and few minutes rest revived us and we again entered upon our duties.
Oh how I love that noble horse and how I desire to keep him with me until I fall or reach home.
That night we (the Genl & staff) bivouacked upon the same ground of the night before. The command slept on the battlefield or just on its limits. The next day & night we remained on the field & in the afternoon of the day after that (Friday) we were ordered to Maryland Heights. We reached the base of these Heights about five miles back at 1 o'clock at night. At daylight yesterday morning we commenced ascending them with the whole command excepting Artillery & trains and after reaching the ridge followed it to the late battle ground of Col Miles command.
The distance was about seven miles and as the road was obstructed by fallen trees (designedly of course) we were obliged to take [ ?? ] of paths over rocks & thro' thickets which it seemed almost impofsible for horses to pafs. We arrived at the point designated without meeting an enemy, which was indeed was [sic] fortunate for us, for had we met them & they had opposed us determinedly our numbers would have been sadly reduced.
In the afternoon the command was moved down to the base near Sandy Hook where we are now encamped.
The forenoon of today I occupied in finding a good camping ground for HdQrs and the afternoon in getting the records into shape. Our tents are pitched, trunks out, and tonight we are having something nearer the comforts of Culpepper than at any time since leaving that point.
My darling one to relieve your anxiety I succeeded in finding an opportunity to telegraph you on Thursday. I hope you received it, for doubtlefs your receiving no letters increased your anxiety.
When shall I get home, I am tired and worn out. The scenes during the battle and of the field after the battle make me desire never to witnefs the like again, and when I think of the mean party spirit that still governs my patriotism vanishes.
Not a promotion, I will undertake to say, has been made on other than political grounds. I do not complain of this because I receive no promotion for I desire none. Let me go home and attend to my businefs & my family and I will be satisfied. But this I am not permitted to do. No one can resign unlefs in disgrace or physically broken down. You must stay and see political favor advance others or else descend to the same miserable expedient of begging some politician to help you to a promotion. I could say a great deal on this point, but I have said enough. I am worse a slave than I ever supposed it pofsible to be, and what makes me a slave is knowing that a mean party spirit governs the land and therefore I cannot wrap myself up in the cloak of patriotism and work patiently on.
I hope we shall be kept here a week or two, when doubtlefs we shall be sent somewhere.
Having had no rest since the 7th of August we absolutely require at least a week.
Dear Mollie, I desire more than ever to lead a Christian life – for God has protected me it almost seems in an especial way. He has kept you and the children in health and what more could I desire. When I think of this I almost fear that I do wrong to get so impatient with the bad men who rule us, yet if we never found fault with these things how would they ever be corrected.
Mollie dear I am so tired and must good night. Much love to J[ ?? ], your Father & all.
I saw Jim's 17th Regt & Col Withington at a place called Damascus. Genl Wilcox dined with us same day. The 17th did splendidly on Middletown Heights.
P.S. I have seen Mason Norvall two or three times. I also Henry Chipman in Frederick. Met Col Stockton the day before the fight The Mich Regts are sadly reduced in numbers. They have done the state great credit. I have just reread this and see that it bears unmistakable marks of haste, but it is written to only you. I do not mean that it is private strictly, but you will know how to excuse [or excise]