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    9th New York Cavalry Archive. Letters, approximately 75 in total, written by members of the 9th NY cavalry including John and William Hiller, George C. Wooly, and Everett W. Torry. The letters are all war dated and range from November 11, 1861 to November 7, 1863. The majority of letters in the collection are from John Hiller, who served in Company D. It should be noted that the spelling and grammar of the letters is very poor, so all excerpts have been corrected to be more easily legible. Also accompanying the letters is an unidentified tin type of a Union cavalry soldier, possibly one of the men in this archive.

    The unit was known as the Stoneman Cavalry, after General George Stoneman, and saw action at important engagements such as Williamsburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Brandy Station, the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and the Appomattox Campaign. It has been argued that the 9th NY cavalry were the first to fire at the Confederate army after the two armies encountered each other outside of Gettysburg. They claim the first shot was fired by Corporal Alpheus Hodges on the Chambersburg Pike, although this has been challenged by the 8th Illinois Cavalry who believe they took the first shot.

    As cavalrymen, it was important to have quality horses and equipment. John wrote home on July 2, 1862 near Alexandria, to notify his parents that he and his brother had procured some fine horses and were enjoying their time. He wrote, in part: "...we are well except little sore, riding a horseback, we got our horses the first of July, and we didn't have chance to get our saddles before we left and rode them bare back, and had nothing but a rope halter. We had some fun, some of the horses had never been rode before...William and I have got each of us a good horse."

    The following month, the two Hiller brothers arrived at Culpeper, Virginia just as the Battle of Cedar Mountain was concluding. Although they did not participate in the fight, they still witnessed the destruction and aftermath of the battle. On August 15, 1862, John wrote from Locust Dale, Virginia, in part: "it is with joy I write you a few lines as our lives are still spared as we have seen some hard times since the battle here. We didn't get where the fighting was till it was over. We got there in the night some time and from the battle field to Culpeper we meet the wounded soldiers all along the road for several miles. It too looked hard. The next day we went out a scout and it was Sunday morning and they all thought there would be another fight but the rebs got enough and since then we have been chasing them up. We passed over the battle ground and we saw several of the rebels soldiers lying on the ground there was for days after the fight."

    In September the 9th NY Cavalry was stationed around Washington, D.C. in an attempt to pin down General Jackson. John's letter of September 8, 1862 reads, in part: "We are about five miles from Washington, we're in the woods, and we have to forage for our horses most of the times. Old Jackson runs so fast we don't know when the rebels will get whipped out." A little more than a week later, the cavalry was still in pursuit of Jackson, and were now newly armed. A September 19, 1862 letter reads, in part: "We are still lying near Washington. We have just got some new carbines or rifles. They only weigh five lbs. we all like them we can kill a rebel every minute. We expect to soon have a chance to try them since the rebels are coming back to Virginia...have you seen anything of Stonewall. They say his army is playing out I hope that is the case."

    In one of his letters, Hiller records an unusual phenomenon, when Union soldiers were deserting after the Battle of Fredericksburg. This in itself was not unusual as morale had hit a low after the Union's devastating defeat, but Hiller goes on to claim that the deserters went on to join the ranks of the Confederate army. The January 28, 1863 letter reads in part: "...we are camped in the pine woods on the banks of the Rappahannock River. It is some twelve miles from Fredericksburg. We are to the right of Burnside...we have seen some hard times this last week. Our horses have to keep them saddled night and day & most of the time we expect to have a fight soon. The rebels a regiment close to us. Our boys picked up twelve of our own boys trying to run away from Burnsides army when they was out on a scout there is lots of them running away in to the rebels lines."

    Another battle that the 9th NY cavalry was lucky to avoid was the engagement at Chancellorsville. Rather than participate in the battle, the unit was stationed across the river at Stafford while their comrades were cut down or taken prisoner by the Confederates. Hiller wrote on May 9, 1863, in part: "There has been a hard fight across the Rappahannock again it is a dreadful one thousands have been killed some of our boys in our regiment was killed & if we had been mounted we would have been in the fight too, but we had to stay here to guard Stafford. Some of the regiments was half killed and taken prisoners. I will tell you the rebels fight like tigers."

    At the Battle of Gettysburg, the 9th NY cavalry met the Confederate army in the early hours of July 1 along the Chambersburg Pike. The bravery shown by them on that day and the following two days of the battle earned the unit a beautiful monument, which was dedicated on July 1, 1888. Following the battle, John wrote home with a short description of the battle at Gettysburg and the subsequent chase after the retreating Confederate army. His letter, dated July 13, 1863, reads in part: "today finds both of us well as usual although we are some tired of long marches and being up nights and laying on the ground for our humble resting place. Only when we don't sleep in the saddle. We have had a good deal of rainy weather here lately and it makes it pour cold rain, but we are in good spirits for we think the rebels is about played. One more battle like Gettysburg will tell the story for the rebels were piled up on heap and now want to care for their wounds. They beg for help. I can't tell you much about the fight only it was a warm place. The whizzing of shells and balls made the air ring." In a letter from John's brother, Ami Hiller, on July 20, 1863, we learn that John had some near misses during the battle, as he writes, "I had a letter from the boys they are well. John said they were in the battle of Gettysburg he got his horse hit twice but came out safe."

    As mentioned above, other letters included in the archive are from William Hiller, George C. Wooly, and Everett W. Torry. There are also a few anniversary ribbons, which commemorate the recruitment and mustering out of the unit, as well as a CDV of General Stoneman. Some letters are accompanied by their original transmittal envelopes.

    Condition: Letters range from very good to good, with usual mail folds and varying degrees of toning and soiling. Light foxing is present in places. Tintype case is worn and beginning to separate. The tintype has cracks and some imperfections.


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