Detailed fighting during Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse
May 20, 1864
Marshall P. Wood was 26 years old when this was written.
The recipient, Julia Hunt Wood, was 24 when it was received.
Marshall P. Wood died 48 years, 3 months, 11 days after writing this.
It was written 155 years, 2 months, ago.
It was a Friday.
Camp Near Spotsylvania C. House, Va.
Friday May 20th 1864
My Dear and precious wife,
They have just came around and said that thare would be a mail go out today. And was I not glad for I want to write you and let you know that I am all right thus far. Thare was a mail come in yesterday. I got two letters and one paper from you. One was written May 4th & the other the 8th, the paper was the Mercury. Dear one I want to tell you about affairs here, although I cannot begin to give you an account of the dreadful battle we have had but a faint idea. No one can tell anything about it unless they are in the midst of it. When we left Bristoe Station our Reg’t and the 31st Me. were left thare to guard the railroad until the next day and then we started. All the rest of the troops was a head of us except some that was stationed along the road. The next morning after we left the Rhap. Station we heard cannonading and knew the ball had opened. They pressed us on pretty hard and the day was very warm and the dust so thick that we could hardly see each other. Just before noon I had to fall out and rest. I stopped about half an hour and then went on. Thare was some of the rest of the Co. coming along and we went about and found the Reg’t. had halted for dinner. We staid and came out of the woods and met the whole Corps coming out. We fell in and marched up on a hill and halted thare.
We laid all night on the ground and early the next morning we started for Chancellorsville. We staid thare over Sunday and on Monday we went into camp on the heights some three miles back of Fredericksburg, laid thare the next day and then went to the front again. Thare we formed in line of battle and the rebs began to shell us and our batteries began to shell them. Here, thare was one or two wounded in our Reg’t. We then advanced in line of battle up to the breast works over night until the middle of the afternoon and then we all moved away back into a large field and staid until just dark and then went back again. This was to draw the rebs into our breast works if we could. Thare is all kinds of traps fixed to catch them. Our Co. and Co. G went in as skirmishers. When we came back, we went back to our old works again but found no one thare. Some of the boys said they saw some but I did not. It had got to be dark by this time and rainy. All this time thare was two or three lines of battle behind us all the time.
Early the next morning we started to make an advance on the rebels. Our Co. and Co. G went ahead and deployed as skirmishers. We had not gone far before the bullets began to rip by our heads but we pressed on and came to the top of a hill and here we had to go down into a hollow and then up again on a side hill. The reb pickets lay hid behind their works. They saw us as we came over the hill and they poured into us. Here is where our Lieut. was wounded. I tell you the balls came pretty thick but we pressed on and in this hollow the first line of battle passed me and I fell in behind and followed up. After we got to the top of the hill three or four lines had passed me. Here we came to a pine woods. The lines pressed on and came to whare the rebels had cut the trees and had their rifle pits and masked batteries. Here the battle commenced in earnest. Our front lines rushed up and took their works one after another capturing 10,000 prisoners and over 40 pieces of artillery, three Generals and a good many stands of colors. I do not know how many.
Our Reg’t. suffered very much. We came in on the left and we had no support. We advanced up to their rifle pits and fought as hard as we could, the rebs one side and we the other. Pretty soon we saw the rebs coming around on our left a flanking us. We stood it as long as we could and finally had to fall back. The rebs came around on our left in three or four lines of battle and drove us right back over the works that our men on our right had took from them. The left Cos. Of our Reg’t suffered bad. Some Cos. was most all cut down. The ground was covered with the dead and wounded, poor boys we had to leave them on the ground. What was wounded the rebs took prisoners and some that was not wounded, but the rebs did not come far.
I fled with the rest over the hill into the woods. The balls a whizzing by me as fast as they could. I stopped and looked back and I saw the rebs in a rifle pit, their officer a swinging his hat and cheering them on. I let a ball at him and then went on and found the Reg’t. in the woods what thare was left of it. Some had gone one way and some another. We went around in the woods a long time before we knew whare we was. After a long time we came out in an open place and saw an officer on a horse and he told us whare to go. Here we went in to it again right into the edge of the woods in front of whare we got cut up so. We fought thare all day and finally the rebs fell back and we held the ground that we fought [over] in the morning. Here we built up some strong works and held them here a number of days.
Our poor boys [dead] had to lay on the field two or three days before we could get out to get them. Thare was a detail one night went out to bring them in but the rebs sharpshooters fired on them so they could not get them, but they went out the next night and fetched in some 30 or over and buried them in one hole in the woods. Oh, it was a dreadful sight to see them poor boys. But thanks to our Heavenly Father, I was spared through that awful battle. We laid thare until day before yesterday and then we made another advance on them. Thare was an Irish Brigade went in first in solid column. Our Brigade followed.
We went to their rifle pits but could not hold them. They poured the shot and shell into us tremendously. I never lay under such fire before. Thare was two or three killed and a number wounded that day in our Reg’t. Some of our Co. was hit a number of times, one has gone to the hospital. Our commanding officers are all wounded. Col. Titers is back sick. Lieut. Col. Babbit was wounded. Major was wounded, we had but two Capts. left in the Reg’t. Capt. Stone of Co. F. took command and he was mortally wounded day before yesterday. Our Capt. Has the command now. Our Reg’t. went into the battle the other day with 450 men and one half of them are gone now . We held the rebs all day Wednesday and at night we fell back into our old works. In the night about one o’clock the lines all fell back and left the ground all open for the rebs to come into their old ground again if they wanted to. Our Corps has moved farther to the left. We lay now right between Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania Courthouse about two miles from the C. H. After our lines fell back the rebs came into our pits whare we had left and [they] picked up a lot of things that we had left on the ground. Last night just before dark thare was heavy firing in that direction. I expect it was thare whare we left. I have heard this morning that our lines advanced on them after they had just got in and killed 1,000 and took a 1,000 prisoners, but do not know that it was
Dear one I must close for the mail is going out. We lay here in the woods fortifying. I heard that we was going to hold them here and not make any more charges. I hope so, for I dread it. I am well my feet have got well and do not trouble me anymore. Geo. Allen is all right. I have not heard from Thomas since he went to the H. Send my respects to these girls, Carrie J. Leder and to Susie. I got the paper that had the pins in and also all the names you sent.
My paper has got wet and most all spoilt. You may send this letter home or write to them about me. I hope you will get this. It has been a long time since we have had any mail. Before I must close, Goodbye from your loving Husband.
M. P. Wood