The Battle of Gettysburg - A Union Account: Letter written...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionThe Battle of Gettysburg - A Union Account: Letter written by George Esterbrook, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry, "Iron Brigade" WIA.
This 3 ¼ page letter in ink was written from "First Division Hospital Gettysburg Adams Co. Pa., July 10th, 1863". The writer George H. Esterbrook was a resident of Onalaska, WI. At Gettysburg the regiment led the marching column and was THE FIRST TO MEET THE ENEMY, (Heth's division), advancing upon it and receiving a volley that cut down over 30 percent of the rank and file.
THE 2ND "SUSTAINED THE GREATEST PERCENTAGE OF LOSS OF ANY IN THE ENTIRE UNION ARMY." AT GETTYSBURG, THE REGIMENT SUSTAINED A CASUALTY RATE OF 77 PERCENT.
George, recovering from his wound in the hospital, is writing his uncle, Abiel E. Brooks, giving him the news of his wounding in the battle. He writes:
"I am pained because I have no better news to send you. It would not be so bad if it was not for the lives of so many of our brave boys, it is bad on that account but we whipped the rebels and we whipped them bad and I hope they will get it still worse before they get back across the Potomac. I wish I was able to give you a description of the battle field but I am not, for I was wounded in the commencement of the battle and had to go to the rear."
"Our brigade was the first to open the battle and we drove from their position and took a number of prisoners but we were not destined to be winner that day for the enemy threw a force forward that checked us and held us in check till our whole corps was pretty badly cut up."
"The eleventh corps came to our support but they broke and run and at that time the enemy came down on us thirty thousand strong, compelled us to fall back nearly a mile where we made a stand and where the eleventh corps redeemed itself for we repulsed the enemy and drove them back that night."
"The remainder of our army came up and formed in line of battle and awaited the attack of the enemy. I don't know what time the battle opened on the second or third day but the enemy was repulsed at every charge and the night of the third day they withdrew out of range of our guns."
"When we went in the fight we had two hundred and forty-seven non-commissioned officers and privates in the second regiment and when the fight was over we had but forty."
"We had twenty-seven muskets in our company and after the fight we had three and one Lieutenant."
"My Capt., first Lieutenant, and a number of Privates were taken prisoners but the Lieutenant escaped after a few days."
"Oscar Bradford was killed by a musket ball and Rosalian had his arm taken off with a shell. The last I heard from him he was doing well."
"There has been several deaths here in this hospital and there is a number of very bad cases yet."
"Colonel Fairchild lost his left arm. Lieutenant Colonel Stevens was wounded in the bowels and died the fourth day. Major Mansfield received a flesh wound through the thigh and is doing well."
"I am wounded through the shin bone but not so bad as to cause amputation. I can sit up the most of the time now."
"The Surgeon says my soldiering is done for this term of enlistment, but I hope not for I want to pay them for my wound."
"I haven't heard anything definite from the army for several days the last I heard they expected a fight at south mountain. As there is no more news I will close by signing myself. Yours with respect, s/ G. H. Easterbrook."
The letter is in fine condition with some staining and minor paper loss. It is extremely rare to find any letters from the 2nd Wisconsin, the regiment that had the greatest proportional losses of any regiment or brigade in the Federal Arm, let alone an example from one of its wounded members at Gettysburg. From the Calvin Packard Civil War Battlefield Letter Collection
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