Eseck G. Wilber
Date of Birth
Date of Death
Sept. 15, 1864
155 years ago, Eseck G. Wilber passed away.
Letters Authored in Collection
|June 21, 1863||Parents (Wilber)||Marching towards Battle of Gettysburg from soldier who dies a POW Andersonville|
Eseck Wilber mustered into Co. K of the 120th New York 22 August 1862 at the age of twenty-two. Even those who have little or no interest in the Civil War would recognize the names of the places through which Eseck Wilber’s three year military service would take him; he would receive his baptism of fire at Fredericksburg, fight a desperate engagement at Gettysburg, and die a POW at Andersonville. Eseck was one of those prolific writers who captured history, scribbling it down on letters and into a diary as events unfolded, not knowing that these documents that he sent home to his family in Cairo, New York would become his legacy and a priceless inheritance for future generations. To our knowledge, he did not fight at Fredericksburg, but he was there and undoubtedly witnessed the slaughter of Marye’s Heights, but by the time he arrived near the Peach Orchard at Gettysburg to defend Sickle’s infamous Salient from the onslaught of Barksdale’s Mississippians, he was a seasoned soldier. The following, which was taken from Mark James Morreale’s “Awful Beyond Description: The Ordeal Of the Hudson Valley Regiments In the Army of The Potomac, 1863", is a brief account of Eseck's experience at Gettysburg.
Waiting for his turn to enter the fray, Private (Eseck) Wilber would declare, “We watched the moves of the battle with anxious hearts...The whole line rose as a man and poured into their ranks [probably the 18th Mississippi] such a terrible fire of musketry, as to bring them to a standstill within a few rods of us. Then for an hour or more, the dreadful crash of battle resounded.” Private Wilber remembered it this way:
“Mutering a silent prayr for the preservasion of my life I entered that battle field: with one wild yell we advanced on the enemy but they were comeing to strong. We no more then advanced before we were oblieged to fall back. At this time they had a cross fire on us and they were poreing in from three different ways…My Comrads were falling on evry side of me and I expected evry minut that it would be my turn next. Captain Barker [of K Company] fell shot dead instantly. The ball went through his head just back of his ears right through his brain.”(1)
Eseck was captured at James City, Virginia 10 October 1863 and subsequently imprisoned at the infamous Andersonville Prison in Sumter County, Georgia, where he died from disease 15 September 1864. He is buried in the Andersonville Cemetery. (See the picture at the top of the page).
(1) "Awful Beyond Description: The Ordeal of the Hudson Valley Regiments in the Army of the Potomac, 1863." Hudson River Valley Institute http://www.hudsonrivervalley.net/books/Awful_Beyond_Description.pdf summer 2005.
Eseck writes his parents on 21 June 1863 from White Gum Springs as his Regiment unknowingly begins its eleven day journey towards Gettysburg. He writes of hearing cannonading towards Leesburg which was quite likely the Battle of Upperville which occurred 21 June 1863 and took place about a dozen miles southwest of Leesburg. In the Battle of Upperville, the Union cavalry took on J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry which had been attempting to screen Robert E. Lee’s movements northward. Perhaps the most interesting part of the letter is a postscript in which Eseck writes of hearing of the death of the Colonel of the 4th New York. Undoubtedly, this was Colonel Luigi Palma di Cesnola who was severely wounded and taken prisoner on 17 June 1863 in the Battle of Aldie which took place about 35 miles northeast of White Gum Springs. Colonel di Cesnola won the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroics. The story surrounding the capture of the Colonel is quite remarkable, in that, Colonel di Cesnola was under arrest at the time for having challenged another officer to a duel. Colonel di Cesnola escaped from his guards, rallied his troops, and led them in four unsuccessful, but daring attacks on the Rebel lines.
Twenty year old Eseck Wilber is enumerated in the 1860 Census as living in Cairo, New York with his father, William S. Wilber, 50, his mother, Clarisa, 45, and two siblings, Fremont, 8, and Julia, 4, and a 19 year old female, Emeline Pulver, 19.
His parents and his brother and sister are enumerated in the 1870 Census and still living in Cairo. The spelling of the family’s name in the 1870 Census is “Wilbur,” which seems to have plagued Eseck during his military career. Note the headstone on his grave at Andersonville Cemetery in "Image 1." According to military records his name was also misspelled as “Welber.”