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    Civil War Archive: Twenty Letters of Sergeant Wilbur Merrill of the 44th New York Volunteer Infantry, 1861-1864. Includes descriptions of the battles of South Mountain, Antietam, Shepherdstown, Fredericksburg, Yorktown, Petersburg, and others. Various sizes, dates, and places. Most letters with original transmittal envelopes, some patriotic covers. Most letters are near fine or better.

    Merrill's letters written to his family back in Dayton, Cattaraugus County, New York, are a treasure trove of information on camp life, campaigning, and battles. As a new soldier, two weeks after the regiment mustered in in late 1861, Merrill writes of good and plentiful food, comfortable quarters, and "the best night's sleep that I have had for in five years". He also writes with the bravado of a young soldier, "we are going to have cannon enough to throw shells & balls to make a thousand shots a minute ... there is a train of siege guns on the road now ... for throwing balls some of which are large enough to crawl into & some of them 12 feet long".

    As the months of campaigning continued, Merrill found the romance of army life faded, "I tell you it ain't no fun to lug a knapsack & 2 days ration." The rations also suffered as the war progressed, "our bread has been buggy & some of our meat has maggots 1/2 inch long". Merrill also learned how brutal war could be, "they [the Confederates] are getting more barbarous than ever, they captured some of our teamsters out near Williamsburg & cut their throats". He also saw the horrors of the battlefield, "before we came up with the main army we passed the battlefield of Sunday [South Mountain] & the ground was strewn with dead Rebs ... they lay along the side of the road where they fell. I tell you it was enough to make one's blood run cold."

    The 44th New York Volunteer Infantry, Ellsworth's Avengers, mustered in October 21, 1862. It led the advance to Centerville. After service at Yorktown, the 44th was engaged at Hanover Court House, with the loss of eighty-six killed, wounded and missing. It participated in the Seven Days' battles with a total loss of fifty-six at Gaines' mill and ninety-nine at Malvern Hill. Returning to Alexandria, the regiment moved by way of Fortress Monroe to Manassas, and in the battle of August 30 lost seventy-one killed, wounded or missing. It was in reserve at Antietam; was active at Shepherdstown, and Fredericksburg and shared in the hardships of Burnside's "Mud March". During the Chancellorsville campaign, the 44th, being in the lead during the general movement of the army, shared in the fighting. At Gettysburg the regiment was posted on the left of the line and joined in the defense of Little Round Top, where it met with its greatest loss-111 killed, wounded and missing. In May, 1864, the regiment served in the memorable Wilderness campaign. On October 11, 1864, the 44th was mustered out at Albany. The total strength of the regiment was 1,585, of whom 188 died during the term of service from wounds received in action, and 147 died from accident, imprisonment or disease. The total loss in killed, wounded and missing was 730.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2009
    25th Thursday
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