Description of Battle of Chancellorsville

Date Written

May 10, 1863

History Referenced

Thomas Effner McNall was 21 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Sibbel Seward McNall, was 52 when it was received.

Thomas Effner McNall died 5 months, 1 day after writing this.
It was written 160 years, 4 months, 23 days ago.
It was a Sunday.

May 10, 1863
Camp near Potomac Bridge

Dear parents,

The last I wrote you was when we were on the battlefield and the next day after I wrote, we were called on to support a battery in Burney’s Division near the Centre and that night we recrossed the river in the night and reported to General Pleasonton at Falmouth (but we supposed at the time that we were going down the river to cross the river below Fredericksburg). But instead of that we went into camp about two miles from the depot and that night it rained very hard and the troops all came back this side of the river. When we first heard that the troops had fell back to this side we did not believe it so Lieut. Phillips and I went up above Falmouth to learn if it was so. We came across the 1st Corps. They were the last that crossed and the sharpshooters were engaged on both sides while we were taking up the pontoons. So the troops are all laying now in their old camps, but the troops are all greatly disappointed at the movement but I don’t know but that is was the best thing we could do. If we had been reinforced as we had expected to have been by Heintzelman we might have held our ground. You see Sedgewick crossed the river here at Fredericksburg with the sixth Corps and charged and took the first heights then marched right on about three miles, then night set in, and the Rebs built large fires and then marched right around into our rear so at daylight Sedgewick found Jackson with 60,000 men between him and Fredericksburg so he had to cut his way to Banks Ford and recross and that is one thing that caused Hooker to fall back but I think if Hooker had been informed what Steinwher had done he would tried to have held the position until reinforcements had come up. I have not seen any N.Y. papers so I don’t know what they do say. They have not allowed any papers to come to the army since the fight. You will probably know more about the fight by what you see in the papers than I can tell you. But I can tell you that troops never fought better on either side (with the exception of the 11th Corps) than they did at the last battle. Our lost must be heavy but the Rebs must have lost more than we because they would charge in solid column on our batteries and we would pour the grape and canister into them like heil and mow them down like grass. We lost 14 in killed, wounded and prisoner. Some missing that we don’t know where they are. There was none killed in our company. Nine taken prisoner and have since been paroled and are at Annapolis now. I am safe and sound. I don’t think the bullet has been run yet for me but I have some for the Rebs. Love to all. I shall write as often as often as I can, from your son,
Eff McNall

PS Since I have been writing I have rec’d a letter from [Alini?] she had rec’d a letter from home. I shall write to her tonight.

[He then adds a line up the side of the letter]

I think there is going to be another move right off. We have just received orders to march in the morning. Tell the rest of the folks I can’t do much writing now days. They must not expect letters till after another move.

Scans of Letter