Sunday, January 27, 2013

Part Five: "There was 600 of Them and 90 of Us"

Madison Court House, Virginia 
August 8th, 1862 
Dear Wife, 
     I take the opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you know that we have been in a fight today and have lost our good friend Robert Wilson. [Also] Robert King, Samuel McCoy and Samuel Hawk of our company besides 3 wounded & 8 taken prisoners with Captain John H Stewart & Capt John Hancock. 
     Malissa as soon as you receive this please go and tell Robert Wilson’s mother and go up & tell Louisa to tell Robert King's children that their Father is killed. 
      We have no way of sending home them and the weather is so very warm we have to bury them tonight. We will bury them and mark their graves so if any of person their friends comes after them they can find them. 
     Robert Wilson was shot through the neck and I fetched him 9 miles on a horse to our camp. 
     Robert King was shot through the neck. Samuel McCoy was shot through the head, the ball entering at the mouth. Samuel Hawk was shot in the back near the heart. 
     I have no more of importance to write as I am very tired after walking 9 miles so you will excuse this short letter and I will remain as ever, 
Your affectionate husband, 
James F Price 
Malissa if you see Sallie Wood tell her Charley McCoy is safe.

     And so the war began in earnest for James Price and the men of the 1st Maryland Regiment Cavalry.  Outnumbered two to one, the Union forces suffered over 25 casualties with more than 300 men killed.
     The fighting continued over the next two days and we have what appears to be James’ next letter home. His shock and grief are apparent as he re-tells of the demise of his friends, mentions other family and friends, underestimates the wounded by more than half, and blames the officers for the debacle. James finishes his letter home with a few homely notes about his friends’ burials and the disposition of their effect and then his traditional reminder of his love to his wife and son.
     Although Private James F. Price was promoted to Corporal the previous day, there is no mention of it in his letter.

Culpepper Court House, Virginia 
Aug 11 ‘62 
Dear wife, 
     I take the opportunity of writing a few lines to let you know that I am safe. We had to leave Madison Court House the same night after the fight and arrived here this morning where they have been fighting since Saturday and a very heavy loss on our side and some wounded. They are busy fetching the wounded here and it is awful to hear them suffering with pain. There is 700 wounded and they are going to commence fighting again this afternoon at 3 o’clock. 
     The 46 Penna is cut up very bad only 2 companies left of it. I was trying to see but could not find out where they are. I could not find Henry.  
     I carried Robert Wilson 9 miles on my horse and he fought bravely till he got shot and there was 2 balls in him 1 went through his neck and through is lungs he must have died instantly. 
     We heard of 4 more being found by the 1st Michigan cavalry after we left 2 killed and 2 wounded laying in the fence corner making in all 4 killed and 3 wounded and our captain and the rest taken. Five were out of our company. 
     Robert King had the lower part of his face torn off he was the first killed.  
     The rebels searched their pockets and took all they had even their boots was pulled off and taken. 
     You can tell Mrs. Wilson I will send Roberts clothes home as I can and Robert King's along with them. 
     Robert Wilson and King and Samuel McCoy and Sam Howk were buried that same night after the fight in a grave yard at Madison Court House. I have not seen Elick for 2 weeks but he was not [illegible]. 
     It was our officer’s fault the way our men was cut up so badly. Capt. Stewart run and plead for God's sake not to shoot him. 
     This is all I have of importance to write. Give my love to Leon and the same to you tell Leon to be a good boy and I remain 
Your Husband 
James F Price

     For the next five weeks James and the other men of the 1st Maryland were involved in battle after battle:  Fords of the Rappahannock 21-23 August 21-23, White Sulphur Springs, 23 – 24 August, Gainesville 28 August, Groveton 29 August, The Second Battle of Bull Run 30 August 30, Chantilly 1 September, Frederick 6 September, and Boonsboro 7 September. 
     Finally, he was able to write home. Almost the first thing James wrote about in this letter was a more detailed account of the fight at Cedar Mountain, the loss of his friends, his long trek with his dead friend back to camp, the hurried burial, the renewed attack by the Rebels late that same night, and more. 
     The Battle of Bull Run receives only scant notice but James carefully enumerates their friends and family and the news he has on the health and welfare of each. Sandwiched in between the Battle of Bull Run and a plea to his siblings to remain safely at home we learn that James lost his mother during the last month.

Arlington Heights Virginia 
Sept 13th 1862 
Dear Wife, 
     I received your letter yesterday evening dated the 14th and was glad to hear that you and Leon was well. Maliss we have had a pretty hard time of it. We have been fighting for 14 days. The fight we had at Slaughter Mountain we lost 4 men killed in our company and 11 taken prisoners some of which was wounded and crept into the woods and most likely have died. 
     King was the first shot. He had the lower part of his face blowed off. Wilson was shot through the neck and breast. 
     There was 600 of them and 90 of us. We ran into Jackson’s left wing while on his way to Cedar Mountain. We fought them as long as we could; they had us entirely surrounded and we had to cut our way through them. 
     They left shortly afterward and I went back and put Robert Wilson on my horse and carried him 9 miles to camp. We had to bury him that same night at 12 o’clock we dug them a nice grave and wrapped them up in their blankets. We could not get no coffins. The rebels came in on us and we had to leave before morning. 
     Meliss I lost 2 good friends, poor Bob fought to the last when I picked Bob Wilson up he had a smile on his face.  
     Meliss Henry [her step-father] was wounded at the Battle of Cedar Mountain he is at Alexandria and he is getting better. 
     The Battle of Bull-Run I seen many a pitiful sight. 
     Meliss we had to lay down on the ground and tie our horses to our leg and sleep. Our horses had the saddles on for 14 days steady and we had nothing to eat for 5 days but green apples and roots. The rebels burnt our supply train. 
     Meliss there is a letter for Robert Wilson from his wife and I will send it to you and you give it to his wife or his mother. 
     Meliss I saw Harry Evans and Roof and they are well. 
     Maliss I did not receive your other letter as is stated in your letter. 
     I have not seen Elick before the Battle of Bull Run but I believe he is safe. 
     Maliss we expect to get paid on Monday and I will try and get home if I possibly can. I was very sorry to hear of Mother’s death it would have been impossible for me to have got home at that time. 
     We missed 5 men at Bull Run we think they are taken prisoners. 
     Charles McCoy is in the hospital sick at Washington. 
     Meliss tell Ad and Will not to come out soldiering without they are forced to come or can’t help it. 
     This is all I have of importance to write. I send my love to you and Leon. Good bye for this time. 
Your husband 
James F. Price
[there is what appears to be a bloody smear on the bottom of this letter]

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