|Oct. 23, 1861, Poolesville, Md.
My Dear Wife
I gave you such a disconnected mess the last I wrote you, written with so many interruptions I hardly know what I said. Up to this time we know 5 captains and 4 Lieuts still missing and they are in all probability prisoners. Two companies have no officers D. (Worcester) and K (Blackstone) The latter has a sick Lieut. and Goddard has been detailed to Command till he is able to do so, which leaves me in command of Co. B.
It is reported that a rebel picket told some of our men across the river, they have got one of our Captains which they took in the morning-a tall sandy complexion man, and if true is probably Capt. Simonds--I hope it is true. I have felt all along that he was not killed. I sent two men at two different times in search of him and if he had not been taken think they would have found him.
When we got to the river that morning found the 5 Coís which had been on the island had already crossed and we soon after crossed over and joined them about a mile this side of Leesburg--before we reached them however Co. H (Southbridge) had a severe fight with a Co. of Miss riflemen who attacked them while concealed in rifle pits - they gave them three vollies which drove them out of the pits into a cornfield with a loss of 1 killed and 8 or 9 wounded - about this time the rebel cavalry appeared and made a charge and Co. H retreated to the woods, bringing all their wounded off but 1, and the one killed which the cavalry took.
When we arrived on the ground Co. A were out skirmishing and soon after Co. B was ordered to relieved them. Capt. S. took the 1st platoon while I remained with the 2nd in the edge of the woods as a reserve. Very soon afterwards our skirmishes were attacked by both cavalry & Infantry and driven in. That was the last we ever saw of Capt. S. But was seen on the retreat by several of his men & I think he must be a prisoner as I sent after him twice & And nothing could be found of him.
Well Libbie it is no use for me to try to give you an account in detail of our fight. I have been obliged to leave this more than a dozen times, & you will see that I have already got one thing in twice. You will doubtless see a better account of it in the papers than I can give as the agent of the associated press was here all day yesterday.
We were under their fire which was a sharp one with rifles some time while they were in the woods & out of our reach. We also have our line of battle formed in the woods which of course protected us a great deal - the fight lasted till about sundown when Col Devens had the order to retreat to the river. After we got to the river, & they kept up their fire, we made another stand and held it a while, but it was no use. We had either got to be shot, drowned (unless we could escape by swimming) or taken prisoners. Some of the boys asked me if they might swim the river, but I kept them in line till after Col Devens said he was ordered to let the men take care of them selves, when off came their uniforms & in they plunged, that is those who could swim.
I tell you Libbie there were some sad faces about that time & I hope never to see the scene repeated. I should have been a prisoner in all probability unless shot, had not those boys taken me over. We came to Poolesville that night, where we arrived about 12 oclk - most of us bare footed - I was not -had on my stockings. I heard some one calling me & upon going in the direction saw Frank Marshall standing on the edge of the water with nothing but hat, shirt & draws on. He wanted to know if he might go over--I told him if he thought he could get over to go, he did not remain long on shore I assure you. I watched him till I thought he would make the trip surely. But after getting on to the island myself and inquiring of several for him, without learning anything of him I began to fear he was lost, but in a few minutes who should appear but him, safe and in good pluck - he came through barefooted & I guess stood the trip as well as any of us.
We are all somewhat tender footed yet but in a weeks time weíll be in good running order again. I under stand there are now some 230 missing which is much better than I supposed that night. I thought then if we could ____ 250 of the Regt would be lucky.
We have these rebel prisoners here who will go to Washington today, Capt, 1st Lieut, & a Sergeant, the Lieut is a Miss man--he said he was a Virginian but his military buttons betrayed him. When he was taken he begged hard for his life, & looked all the time as though every minute would be the ____ when I saw him. One of the prisoners (I donít know which) told Church Howe that those fellows with light blue pants & dark coats did not seem to care anymore for "bullets" than hard crackers, and if all the crowd had fought as well as they did the rebel could not have drove them - that is a report I hardly believe he said it.
I think I did not mention that Col Ward was wounded and had to have the leg taken off. He takes it very cool and is in good spirits - Col Devens is a brave old fellow & the boys have all confidence in him now. If he had the military experience in proportion to his courage he would drive the wounded. He done well though the other day. He told me the men exceeded his expectations in firmness & courage - seemed perfectly satisfied with them. (Thursday morn I thought my other letter a disorganized mess but this beats it all.
There were only between 6&7 hundred of the 15th in the fight with 2 Companies of the 20th Mass, & portions of the California and Tammany Regts. In all some 1600 men against a force of 3 times that number. There will doubtless a great many yet come in of that missing as they scattered up and down the sides to avoid being taken prisoners. Yesterday Harry Rich, Joe Marshall & H.T. Pope came in and we have heard of two more at Edwards Ferry this morning--Captains Bowman, Rockwood, Studley Gatchall(?) are yet missing - the latter it is said was shot crossing the river (Thursday Afternoon).
I never had such work writing letters--I am detailed "Officer of the day" today and am full of business - Donít you think they are short of officers? That is a post belonging to Captains when there is any. I was surprised enough to see them come down to 2nd Lieut. Well a small ____ makes considerable of a gun now a days. Donít mention it even to Alfred or Ann M_____. I have got to go over and take a look at the town guard. So I must close - I must write George & Mother if she is away from F I hope you are not worrying yourself about me. You will probably get my letter tomorrow. Give my best love to all. Good bye with much love to yourself & many kisses.