Detailed fighting at South Mountain and Antietam
Sept. 20, 1862
Marshall P. Wood was 24 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Julia Hunt Wood, was 23 when it was received.
Marshall P. Wood died 49 years, 11 months, 11 days after writing this.
It was written 156 years, 8 months, ago.
It was a Saturday.
Near Sharpsburg Md., Sept. 20, 1862
In the Battle Field
My Dear wife,
Once more I am permitted to write a few lines to you dear wife and I ought to be thankful that my life is sparred. Dear wife, I have seen sad times since last I wrote. I have been in two battles since I have been out here and am in the midst of it now. They are fighting on our wright [sic] today. But our left wing is not doing anything today. Dear Julia we have had a dreadful battle last Wednesday. They say it is the hardest one that has been fought. Our Reg’t. suffered some but not as bad as a good many. There was 9 killed and 40 or 50 wounded. In our Co. there was one killed and four wounded, some of them not very bad. The one that was killed was Geo. Fox from Keene. He was not a rod from me, when he fell. The ball went right through him and struck another fellow right on his buckle to his belt and bent it all up. Two others and myself picked him right up and carried him right off the field. But the air was full of shells and bullets all the time. Pieces of shell would strike within ten feet of us all the time. We carried him about a quarter of a mile and left him for the night and he was buried the next day. Dear wife I wish I could tell you all about it but I cannot. I cannot give you any idea of it. But dear I am thankful to my Heavenly Father that he has spared my life through so much danger and permitted me to write to you dear one. I suppose you have been very anxious about me, but I am safe thus far, but cannot tell how long I shall remain so.
Dear Julia, the first battle that we was in was last Sunday. Oh dear one you cannot tell any ones feelings the first time going into battle. The battle was on Hagerstown Heights. It was on a range of very high hills. We could see them up there before we went up. They was throwing shells at us all the time but we marched right up the hill after them. They was right on the top of the hill when we got most up to them. There was a lot of troopers on a head of us before we got up to the top of the hill. We stretched out to the left before a cornfield right in front of them but not in sight. The Cap’t. told us to fix bayonets and charge on them. The bullets was a flying over our head like sixty. Then we did so and over the fence we went and up the hill through the corn a yelling like tigers. We passed over one or two Reg’ts. that lay flat on the ground but we did not stop for them except when we got to the top of the hill. They was not there they had fell back but the shells came in pretty fast. We marched on into the wood to our left into the brush as thick as ever you see them. The shells would burst within ten feet of us, the pieces would fly all among us. One or two of the boys was hit but not very bad. After we got out of the woods, we marched on a little further and came to a little hill. We had first got to the top when the bullets flew into us. Some of us fired at them and they went off. One of our Company was wounded. The ball went through his thigh. We was ordered to fall back on to the top of the hill whare we first was when we got to the top after we had made the charge. We had not been there more [than] ten minutes before the enemy came up where we was a few minutes before and pitched into us. There was other Reg’ts. between us and them so we did not fire. We fell back a few rods and laid down on the ground and laid there all night. In the morning the enemy had retreated back and all was quiet. We did not lose many men but the ground was covered with the rebels.
We marched on after them for about 20 miles and they made another stand on the other side of the river. That was Wednesday and here we had a dreadful fight. There was a bridge [Burnside’s Bridge] we had to get before we could get across. We had to fight pretty hard to get it but we did and it was our Division that took it. Gen. McClelland give us the praise of taking it. I cannot write with a pen so I will take a led pencil. The enemy fought hard all day. The next day they did not throw but a few shells, but they kept their pickets out all day. I was sent out on picket and I shot two of them for I see them fall and how many more I shot I cannot tell. The enemy fell back on to the other side of the Potomac and are there now. They did not make much coming into Maryland. They say they have lost 50,000.