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    [Battle of Fredericksburg]. Clark Smith Autograph Letter Signed. 12 pages, 8" x 12.25, Fredericksburg, Virginia; December 11, 1862. Smith takes the small opportunity "amid the boom of cannonade the rattle of musketry with the whistling of shells about me" to "sit down on the amputating table" to write to his wife. The letter provides a detailed account of the Battle of Fredericksburg and of Smith's experiences.

    The large brick house known as the "Lacy House" was taken by the Union Army as a hospital and it was here that Smith set up. He describes the "dreadful suspense" felt by the army as they quietly worked to build pontoon bridges without drawing the Rebels attention. He goes on to tell of being caught in a cannonade, having to dodge bullets and having many narrow escapes:

    "The night was bitter cold and I was walking on the edges of the bluff to get warm when about 15 minutes before 5 oclock we heard a distant gun cannon. Soon after we saw a few Rebs flitting about from house to house on the bank. Soon another distant boom, then in a few moments another, and about 5 oclock another making 4 in all. We soon after saw a Reg of Rebs march across the street and were lost to sight behind the buildings, in about 10 minutes a signal Rocket was thrown up and they opened upon our men one of the most murderous fires you can imagine from two Reg. of sharp shooters protected by rifle pits, in buildings, behind stone walls and in a loop holed brick building...The shot and shell flew thick and fast from both parties. Their shell flying high over our heads and ours as high over theirs so far as I could see. I was sitting on a little stump just on the edge of the bluff when the fire opened. The balls flew thick around me whizzing close to my head and one striking the stump I was sitting on between my legs. I made up my mind they were getting careless of my rank and position in society and that if I desired to save my precious self I must get 'under cover' and I started for the ravine at my left. Had just got by the side of a large oak tree & was looking at our men when 'pud' comes a ball striking the tree and throwing bark into my face. I got behind the tree and had no sooner done so than 'pud'. 'pud'. Three bullets were after me and into the tree they went while I was safe behind it. I looked about for my Ambulance Corps but they had all run for the Lacy House except one Corporal who kept by me & especially when I was behind the tree...One of the nurses or ambulance men told Dr Hewitt a large story about my exposing myself too much & the Dr sent word I must keep back. I did so not going down to the edge of the bluff again but once. I then had a ball strike the ground within an inch or two of my toe throwing the dirt over me. I then kept back knowing I could do no good then. Still I kept dodging the ringers as they passed me probably not within 20 feet, still I could not help it. The music was not at all pleasant or harmonious as occasionally an old snifter of a shell would whizz-z-z-z past and then boom away beyond me while the bullets would zip past another would buzz-z-z by another would 'pud' into the ground near by.

    Later in the letter, Smith expresses both his pride in the men's bravery and his fears about the ordeals they must suffer while trying to cross the river. He writes, "I tell you it takes a man of strong nerve to take up a bridge plank and march out onto the bridge under such fire without even the excitement of fighting in return or in self defense but to boldly face such a fire without anything to protect or defend himself with and that within 25 rods of the devils it takes pluck I tell you...as I stood or sat there on the edge of the bluff watching the men at work before the fire opened I was in a terrible anxiety and dread. Such a feeling of anxiety and suspense I never experienced I could scarcely breathe. It was not fear for I need not have exposed myself at all if I had chosen but I felt that I must watch the men..."

    This letter is filled with vivid detail, and from the unique experience of a Civil War surgeon watching the battle and then tending to the wounded men coming in from the battlefield. A great addition to any Civil war or medical medicine collection.

    Condition: Letter has usual mail folds with light toning around edges. There are some areas throughout where the ink was smudged. A few spots of soiling, and there is some staining around where a paperclip held the pages together. There is a very small hole on the last page, which does not affect the text. Overall very good.


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    Auction Dates
    October, 2018
    25th Thursday
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