Description of Spotsylvania Battlefield
May 17, 1864
Jacob W. Sattles was 21 years old when this was written.
Jacob W. Sattles died 26 days after writing it.
It was written 155 years, 6 months, 4 days ago.
It was a Tuesday.
Spotsylvania County, Va.
May 17th, 1864
I write these few lines to you hoping that they may find you in the enjoyment of as good health as they leave me. For the last fortnight the Army of the Potomac have suffered greatly. They have been called upon to engage the enemy once more, and have won more laurels to be placed upon the scroll of Fame and Glory—But the glory cost us at least fifty thousand men. It is very dear glory where we can count our dead by thousands and our wounded by tens of thousands, not saying any thing of the Prisoners they have taken. But they have suffered also—Their loss is nearly as great as ours. We captured 8000 Prisoners, beside 21 Guns and 21 stand of Colors.
This is the second time we have moved and been engaged with the enemy. Our Battery shelled the Rebel lines, while the old division of our corps captured 2 Guns and Caissons, besides bringing in the Rebel wounded that lay between our Skirmish lines. During the last 91 hours I have had but 7 hours sleep and I feel more like a dead man, than one that is living. But I expect I shall make up for lost time tonight. We have stopped operations for a few days and we are all glad of it, for we greatly need rest. Heaven only knows that we have been pretty roughly handled. Gen’l Grant uses us harder than any Gen’l we have ever had, but he fights the Rebels with more determination than any Gen’l ever did in the Army of the Potomac. But the old Army cannot stand many battles like the ones it has lately been engaged in. We either must get more men or become completely cut up, so that there will not be many of us left. I have seen some very horrible and sad sights of which I will give you a few examples.
After our men had taken the enemies works on the morning of the 12th I went over the field to see what execution we had done. In some places I saw them piled 7 and 8 deep where they fell. I saw one man that had 83 bullets in his body. I saw another that had 37 in his leg alone. While his body was one mass of jelly. I saw one of our men who had 7 bullets in his cap, 5 of them in his head. There were two trees in the rifle pits that were cut off by bullets, just as though a man had cut them down with an ax. They measured 2 feet and 8 inches in diameter. I never saw anything like it in all my life. But the Boys are not disheartened or discouraged. They feel confident that Gen’l Grant will take them safely through to Richmond. But it is my firm conviction that we will never take Richmond. I think Gen’l Butler will be the one to march into the place first. But I must close. Remember me to all, and hoping you are all well. I remain Your Soldier Boy,
Direct to Battery B, 1st N.J., 2nd Corps, Washington D. C.