|from The |
| Poolesville Md., Oct. 24
Co. D. 15th Reg. M. V. M.
My Dear Brother:---I wrote a hurried letter to George on Tuesday, giving a rather confused account of our sacrifices on Monday, and having a little time to spare, will give you a further account. The roll was called this morning, and thirty four men of Co. D., are missing, and the companies throughout the regiment have suffered about the same, none of our men having returned since yesterday morning. It is safe to presume that the missing are either killed or taken prisoners. It may have been a military necessity to cross the river at the place we did, but why in the name of heaven and common sense, the 15th Mass. regiment , the only one in the vicinity having those miserable smooth bore muskets, should be the first to cross and bear the brunt of the battle, is more than can be counted for. You may set that down as a military blunder.
You cannot possibly get a worse account of affairs in the papers than the very facts, and I will only give you my experience in my first fight, which was rather a tough one. The superior force of the rebels made it impossible for us to make a charge of the bayonet at any time, they having the advantage of the woods and the up hill position. I went through the Zouave drill of loading while lying on my back, and when I had loaded I would turn over and get upon my knees and fire, and turn on my back and load again. I should think I fired about thirty rounds, but I cannot swear that I killed but one rebel, a lieutenant. The twentieth Massachusetts regiment was on our left. and while my eyes were watching closely a company of rebels, that were in advance of the main body, the Captain of Co. D. the twentieth, gave an order, “Forward Company D” and I thought it was our Captain Studley, and I did go forward with a will, for I had my eyes on this lieutenant, who was saying to his men, “Give no quarter to the Massachusetts sons of -------!
I leveled my musket when I had got near enough to be sure, and down he came with a yell. His men fired at me, one ball struck me in the left breast, but my pocket was full of articles, among them the rest of J------“s picture, which was shattered all to pieces. Another ball hit me in the pit of the stomach, but the buckle on my belt marked U. S., prevented any digestive organs being disturbed in their work, but it took my breath away for a moment. As soon as I was struck I went back and found that I was considerably in advance of our company. Soon after this we commenced a gradual retreat towards the river, fighting like tigers, while the bullets rained like hailstones amongst us.
We were driven to the very banks of the river, and there was no retreat from them except by swimming the river. Colonel Devens was perfectly cool and acted bravely through the fight, and though he was a poor swimmer, he would not surrender. I was near him at the waters edge. he said, “God be with you all,” “Every man for himself,” “I shall not surrender,” and stripped himself and plunged into the river. Many followed suit, I among the rest having thrown my gun into the river and stripped off everything but my shirt and pantaloons, and emptied my pockets, including my pocket book. The rebels fired volley after volley at us until we got nearly half way across, and though I saw a number shot, and there were many drowned in the river, yet I escaped without a wound.
After I had swam the river I was so cold I could hardly travel; but I met a surgeon, who told me the only thing that would save me from the fever and ague would be , either to take a big horn of whiskey, or keep moving until I got dry; and I started for the camp about 12 o’clock at night. I was a little tired and somewhat hungry, having had nothing to eat since morning, but I found hot coffee and plenty to eat, and soon felt better, and turned into my tent and laid till morning, when I was detached to do guard duty at the camp, which was tough, but necessary. Today I feel almost as good as new, but I am lonesome, for five out of my tent are missing, and one is in the hospital.
Yours, for the Union,