Shiloh, Bloody Shiloh! A letter by A.F. Gore, Co. C, 2nd I...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionShiloh, Bloody Shiloh! A letter by A.F. Gore, Co. C, 2nd Iowa Infantry - "Your turn next sir, your turn next....and in less than five minutes a leg or arm is off, and thrown in to the center of the tent or just outside".
A 6 page legal size letter in ink written by Private Abigah F. Gore. He is writing to his sister at their home in St. Louis, Missouri. A fine stamped patriotic envelope "Onward to Victory" is included. The letter is headed, "Pittsburgh Landing, April 13th, 1862". The battle of Shiloh was also called Pittsburg Landing. Reads in part:
"You were writing on last Sunday night (April 6th) and you say your thoughts were upon me all day. If you had only known in what a terrible place I was all that blessed day, you would have felt badly enough. Yes, all that day I was in the hottest place I ever was in my life."
"From 9 o'clock a.m. to 7 o'clock p.m. the shells, balls, grape-shot, canister and bullets were flying around me thicker than hail, and at the time you were writing to me, I was laying upon the ground with my musket in my hands, and the rain was pouring down in torrents, and we were expecting an attack every minute."
"Every fifteen minutes we were startled from a doze by the report of one of the 64 lb. guns of our Gunboats and about ten seconds after the report, of the bursting shell as it fell in the Rebels Camp, would be brought to our ears with startling distinctness."
"All that dreadful night, I lay in the rain and mud and I wished myself well out of this region and at home, at least a thousand times. I thought of my Dear Mother and Sisters and I thought that I would never see them again. Oh, Katie, that dreadful night will never be forgotten by me, if I live for a hundred years. I had rather head a charge against the Enemy's strongest fortification if I knew they lay there five to one than to go through that night again."
"And while you were wishing me sweet slumbers and pleasant dreams, I was wishing that I could be in your cozy little room by a pleasant fire. Cold, wet, hungry, & tired, I sat beside a tree waiting for morning. At length it came and with it came the deadly strife again..."
"...but Buell was here and nobly did he redeem the reverses of the day before, and now I return thanks to God; for preserving me through all, and permitting me to hold converse with my dear friends, even though it is only through the medium of pen and ink."
"Katie, I do not think I am less brave than I was, but one thing I am sure of, I am tired of this war and of battles, and I heartily wish I was out of it, or that the war would be brought to a speedy close. While the fight is raging, all is well, all is excitement and no one stops to consider the danger that he braves on all hands. It is after the battle is over that we are struck with the horrors of war. Soldiers, even you own bed fellow, lays upon the ground with an arm or leg torn completely from his body..."
"...others that are badly wounded are carried to the Hospital where surgeons are busy amputating a leg or arm of some poor fellow. And when a new case is brought in, the pleasing intelligence is communicated to him by some rough old surgeon, "Your turn next Sir, your turn next," and in less than five minutes a leg or arm is off, and thrown into the center of the tent or just outside."
"The stumps are then bound up and he, poor fellow, is hurried to a Hospital Boat where he receives as much attention as is possible to show him, under the circumstances. But then the sight is so revolting that although my nerves are tolerable strong, it was more than I could stand and I was compelled to leave. Death of itself is nothing for me to look upon, I can walk amongst hundreds of corpses and look calmly on, but to see a "human" suffering will touch a tender spot & I feel like getting away. That I presume is the case with nine out of ten and that is the cause why, after a bloody Battle, that the soldiers are loath to go into another, but this feeling soon dies out, when the wounded are removed and in a few days or weeks at most, the scenes are forgotten and the men are even anxious for the fray again."
"And I presume that when it devolves upon me to take my stand with the Iowa 2nd, I shall be ready & willing and we may soon have another opportunity to try ourselves once more. For reports say that Beauregard has received heavy reinforcements and is on his way to clean us out, but he will have to look sharp, else we will turn the tables on him, for we are fighting for our country & they are fighting because they have to, and they know that they are fighting on the wrong side and that we, being right, must prevail in Battle."
"They fight with desperation, first, because they are playing a desperate game, and the stake is life. Second, because they are filled by their leaders with bad whiskey & gun powder which makes them as crazy as bed bugs..."
"...they might as well try to charge through a stone wall ten feet thick as to get through our lines, when we have a General (U. S. Grant) that understands himself, and will support his column. The boys wait till they get up within about fifty yards and then they open on them and they mow then down by scores. Again & again they rally & charge but it is no use, so they fall back and try to flank. All the advantage they gained on Sunday was done by flanking which their superior force permitted while one of our Brigades were holding all that they could fetch against it at bay."
"They would send two or three Brigades on either wing, and then it was compelled to fall back or all be taken prisoners. On Monday they tried that again but it failed, and as their whiskey was about out, they were driven back with great slaughter, and finally fled in the wildest confusion "so they say.'"
"Well, it is over, and a dearly bought battle has been gained and Seceshdom is tottering at its base, and no one is more delighted than I. We had divine service held in the quarters of every Regiment on this side of the Rebels Pickets. All of the Regiments (I believe) (ours was) were drawn up with arms & equipment on and we formed a hollow square & the Chaplain of our Regt. proceeded to give thanks to the Good God for the victories that have been gained by our forces, both here & at Island No. 10."
"After which we sang My Native Land and the Band played the Star Spangled Banner Yankee Doodle etc. and everything passed off pleasantly. This evening we had a prayer meeting in the camp and it was well attended."
"I understand that large tales are in circulation respecting the loss of the Iowa 2nd on these two days. Let me tell you the truth of the matter. We lost nine killed and seventy-two wounded, leaving about three hundred & fifty for duty. Some person got the Iowa 8th confounded with the Iowa 2nd Regt. The 8th was either all taken prisoners or killed except about 150 men. The boys that was left they were carrying off their wounded at the time the Regiment was surrounded. One of the boys say that most all of those left are either sick or wounded."
"Write soon, dear Katie and oblige your affectionate Brother, Fisk"
"Direct to Pittsburgh Landing (or Cairo, as you please) & to follow the Regt."
Quite an extraordinary long letter from the Civil War's bloodiest battle fields, and in fine condition. From the Calvin Packard Collection
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