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    Asst. Surgeon William Buck, 6th Maine Infantry letter. Treating drummer boy who had been shot and removed the bullet himself! One of the most amazing battle letters!
    A 4 page letter in nice clear dark pencil is written on blue stationery. At the battle of Antietam William Buck was Assistant Surgeon to Dr. Holmes. The letter is headed, "Camp near Williamsport, Md., Sept. 22/62" and comes with its original envelope with Hagerstown cancellation. Dr. Buck is writing his friend D. H. Bartlett in Harmony, Maine. Reads in part:

    "...when I arrived in Alexandria, I found the River covered with transports crowded with soldiers. Upon inquiry I ascertained that they were McClellan's troops just arriving from Fort Monroe and as luck had it, my Regt., the 6th Maine, landed the very day I arrived there. Be assured I was glad to thus readily meet my home & friends. We moved out about two miles back of the city & camped there 2 days. At this time there was a big fight going on near Bull Run between Pope's & Jackson's forces & we were ordered to march in that direction."

    "On the second day of our march at 9 o'clock in the evening when within a short distance of the Battlefield, the roads were so crowded with stragglers, Army wagons, etc., that it was almost impossible to advance. Wounded men on foot & on stretchers & in ambulances lined the roads & fields. A little further on we met what I supposed to be a general rout & so it proved. Gen. McDowell commanding our left wing gave way & let the devils out."

    "Some said it was through treachery on his part, others said the Rebs concentrated their whole force against him & he could do no better. My opinion is that he is a poor tool & ought to be removed whichever way it was, as his own men have no confidence in him. Not the least. About this time we were ordered to "about face" & returned to Centerville, where the whole Army halted until next night. The Rebels being used too hard to desire to follow us up closely, from Centerville we skedaddled back to Alexandria. The enemy entered Centerville the next morning after we left. Thus ended my first campaign not very pleasantly to me."

    "The Rebs, as you know, immediately made a dash into Maryland crossing somewhere in the vicinity of Point of Rocks & occupying Frederick & the whole country in that vicinity. We marched immediately to intercept them & have accomplished a march of nearly one hundred miles & driven them at every point."

    "But they made their last & big stand in Maryland on the 17th inst. in a strong position on elevated ground, their line of battle extending for miles in length. I cannot tell the no. of miles, but I have been over three miles of the ground myself. Our Division (which is Smith's) was kept as a reserve until the afternoon of the 17th when we were ordered on the field."

    "We came in under a storm of bullets. The 6th Maine & 5th Wisconsin were ordered to support a Battery which they did until the next morning without being relieved. They lay flat upon the ground in front of our Battery & our Regt. had but 2 men wounded. Surgeon Holmes & myself were in a very much exposed position through the hottest of the fight. We were a little ways in the rear & the bullets, shells & cannon balls came in torrents."

    "Dr. Holmes' horse was shot by his side & a little drummer boy of the 49th Penn. who was sitting by my side talking & laughing had bullet pass directly through his body from behind forward. He put his hand into his bosom & took the bullet out himself as it did not pass through the clothes a second time. He lived but a short time."

    "My God, Ham, how the fence rails flew, caused by the explosion of shells just behind us. I did not think much about it until afterwards, when the danger was all past. I was scared."

    "The 18th the Rebs sent in a flag of truce to bury their dead, we having driven them from their position & holding the field. We also buried our dead & many of the Rebs. This was a horrible field to look upon after the battle."

    "A little to our left in the edge of a cornfield by a fence, we had a Battery planted. The Rebs made a charge upon it in the forenoon before it was supported with Infantry & there on a spot not more than 10 rods by 5 or 6, I counted upwards of 50 dead of the enemy. All killed with grape & canister from the Battery they undertook to take."

    "The Battery our Regt. supported fired one shot at a Rebel Battery that was annoying us & that one shot killed every man & every horse belonging to the Battery & dismounted the gun itself. That can't easily be beat Ham."

    "Our loss was very heavy, but the enemy, from what I saw myself, & was over some miles of the field, was much heavier. I should judge 3 Rebs to 2 Union men. Some set the difference much greater, but this is my judgment."

    "But my paper & time is about played out as the soldiers say. I should like to give you more particulars if it was possible, but good bye. Write me. My love & best wishes to your family & all inquiring friends. Yours very truly, W. Buck Address: Wm. Buck, Asst. Surg., 6th Maine Regt., Army of Potomac"

    Letters that provide graphic descriptions of specific events during a battle are especially desirable, and this is one of the finest battle letters we have read. From the Calvin Packard Civil War Battlefield Letter Collection.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2020
    6th Sunday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
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