Calvary officer describes battle to wife as it happens
June 2, 1864
Charles Perry Goodrich was 33 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Frances D. Goodrich, was 29 when it was received.
Charles Perry Goodrich died 56 years, 7 months, 19 days after writing this.
It was written 156 years, 3 months, 26 days ago.
It was a Thursday.
Camp of 1st Wis. Cav.
6 miles east from Dallas, Ga.
June 2, 1864
Yesterday I received two good long letters from you, one dated March 22nd & 29th covering three sheets of paper, and the other dated April 27th. They are both old, but yet, very interesting to me, though it does not satisfy my intense longing to get one of a later date. I wrote you from one camp near Kingston on the 22nd. N the 23rd we were again in motion, but I was wrong in conjecturing that a part of the cavalry were to separate from the rest of the army for the purpose of making a raid or anything of the kind, for we kept with the army in the general forward movement. We moved steadily forward, skirmishing every day until we arrived here on the 26th. Here the rebels seem to have made their last desperate stand. Fighting has been going on every day and night since, and at this moment my ears are greeted with murderous sounds. The line of battle extends some six or seven miles north and south, we are on the extreme left. There has been some terrible fighting some three miles to our right. Gen. Stanley has by strategy on two different nights under cover of darkness tempted the rebs to charge his works. The bait took each time, and the rebs were mowed down by thousands. It is said that in front of Stanley’s division alone more than 3,000 dead rebels lie unburied. The enemy will not bury them and if our men venture outside their breast-works for that purpose they are shot down. The weather is warm and the stench is getting—
June 3—so bad that our men will have to fall back, or fight their way ahead through the rebel entrenchments soon are they will all die soon. There, I’ve finished that sentence if it did take two days! Confound the luck! As soon as I begin to write, something is sure to turn up to stop me! You will see how far I got yesterday—it was noon when the bugle sounded to horse. In these times, every man starts instantly at that “call”. The whole army seemed to be in motion and everything to indicate that we were to go right ahead over the rebels. Cannons were booming and the enemy’s shells were being thrown into our camp near where I was writing. As we moved out toward the enemy, the roar of battle steadily increased, while at the same time, as if to mock us, Heaven’s great artillery constantly thundered forth its loudest peals, while through the sulphurous smoke, the streaks of vivid lightning increasingly flashed. The scene was becoming almost terrific, when the rain began pouring down in such torrents as to put an end to man’s attempts to vie with thunder. It rained a good part of the afternoon, and but little fighting was done.
I think we shall be at it again this morning. The skirmishes even now are keeping up a constant firing & occasionally a bullet comes whistling in among us. None of our regt. Was hurt yesterday. A ten pound shell went through a horse a few feet from me, tearing the pants from the rider, but not hurting him. I was going to tell you about a charge that five companies of our regt. Made on the 26th, but I have no time to give a lengthy description now. We dashed upon a whole division of rebel cavalry as we afterward earned, took 44 prisoners, killed several, and lost but six wounded and two missing. The missing, it is ascertained from prisoners since taken, were killed. They were two as brave boys as ever lived. I was well acquainted with them. I was with them in the fight till we were nearly alone and close upon a dense mass of the enemy who were pouring a shower of bullets into us. They were not seen after that by any of us. I took two prisoners that day I encountered singly.
Eli Hunter was badly wounded in the left arm. I helped him off the field & saved him from falling into the enemy’s hands. He nearly bled to death. The surgeon thought first he would not live, but I have heard since that he’s doing well and & is likely to recover. I wrote a short account of our doings for the Madison Journal. I got the Adjutant to put his name to it so as to make it a somewhat official statement. Bill Bowers is taking care of Eli a few miles from here at the field hospital.
The boys are well. Alex McGowan is promoted to Sergt. & makes a good one. My health is first rate.
On the 26th our drunken Brig. Commander was taken prisoner. After the charge was made and we found the enemy had great numbers and had rallied and we were falling back, then he, like a fool as he is, rode up furiously, and not knowing the position of affairs, rushed into the enemy lines.
The mail is going out today. I’ve not another minute to write. Good bye.