Edgar Haviland Letter

Soldiers of the Civil War / Battle of Gettysburg Letters

The Edgar Haviland letter was written just one month after the Battle of Gettysburg and describes his experiences there.


Headquarters 76th NY Vol.Near Rappahannock Station VA

Aug. the 11th 1863

Dear Mother

I have just recieved your letter and was very happy the letter came for I did not know whare to write and was very glad to hear you was well and had a good time in New York. You said you was thare when the riot broke out [New York draft riots]. I suppose you was most scared to death. I would like to have been thare with our Regiment. Those devils would thought that thare was no use talking for a while. we would not commenced with blank catridges on them but would gave them the balls if they was so ancious for armies.

Now I will comence and tell you all about our campaign this summer. You know we was at Pratts Point last winter about two months. We recieved marching orders for the Battle of Chanslersville and went thare in one day. It was a mighty hard march through the woods and over hills and through vallies. We arrived on the battlefield about One O'clock. Thare was a great many men engaged when we came thare so we was on the reserve. The Fifth, Forteenth and several other regiments ware in the front.

That day thare was the hardest musketry that I ever saw in my life. The boys ware all ancious to get into it. Just then our old Brigadier rode up to us and said "if those regulars break and run you brave fellows must open the ranks and let them through and take the front but they should hold their ground." So we did not get in the musketry that time.

Then about night we found out that the Rebs was leaving their position and trying to get in the rear of us and then we fell back to the Rappahannock River and could see the Rebs trying to cross but it was no go. we went acrossed and headed them and drove them back.

Then we fell back to the camp called camp near White Oak Church. Thare we remained thare for one month. We heard after a while that the Johnneys ware in Pensilvania. We recieved marching orders the next day to find them. We marched night and day for eight or ten days. Came mighty tough for us. We arrived at Gettysburg on the first of July and we had a grand celebration of fireworks. We was on the head of the colum that day and our Regiment was on the lead of all of the troops which caused us to get in the battle. The first day we had a great many killed and wounded from cannons before we got into the musketry. The men fell like sheep on all sides of me. When we first came on line thare was a Corporal hit with a cannon ball and fell wright back into my arms. In such times a man dont have much time to take care of the men so I threw him down. No sooner had I done that than thare was another one fell by my side which was a Dundee boy whose name was James B. Bush of Barrington. His fathers name is Thomas Bush. I was sorry the bullet hit him fore he was my tent mate. He was a fine little fellow about my size [Bush would die of his wounds on August 22, 1863]. In a few minutes our Captain [Robert B. Everett] was killed and then the Lieutennant [Phillip Keeler] was in command of the Company. It was not long before he recieved a wound that will make him loose his leg [Keeler would die of his wounds on August 2, 1863, at a hospital in Albany, New York]. Thare was no commissioned officers and then I took the Company in hand myself and maid it go first best. Just as I took command of the Company Sergeant Walter B. Wood of Barrington was killed. He used to live with Carmens folks and likewise with Selea Baileys folks and a few minutes I heard some one say that B. F. Carpenter was killed [Benjamin F. Carpenter, Corporal of Co. A]. That maid me feel like as if I would like to speak a word to him before he was gone fore good so I went down the line to find him and found him but he was dead and so [h]e could not speak to me. I had it in my mind to feel in his pockets. I know he had ten dollars but the next regiment [56th Pennsylvania] was ordered to move back to the woods which was about ten rods distance. I saw they was going and I new we would go to for the rebs had us flanked on three sides. So I hastened to my command and just then we was ordered to the rear to the woods. The Major in command of the regiment ordered me to give my gun to one of the men in the ranks but that made me mad for I wanted to shoot with the rest of the boys and I asked him if he would not let me keep it and he said "you must be a d-d fool, you have got your hands full now without a gun." So he said "you are a brave little devil." Those are just the words he used and afterwards he was killed. He was a Gentleman and a Grand Officer. His name was (A. J. Grover) [Andrew Jackson Grover, 31-year-old commanding officer of the 76th NY].

Now I will tell you all what I think. I think I will get a commission as a Second Lieutant, that I have been working fore fore three months. Dont tell Pap of this fore he will say it is all a dam lie. This is all at present. Write soon

Your Son


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