The Battle of Waynesboro, Va. March 2, 1865: Letter writte...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionThe Battle of Waynesboro, Va. March 2, 1865: Letter written by Sgt. Henry Field, 1st New Hampshire Cavalry under Custer. "We counted 130 wagons that we had captured".
Henry Field was a resident of Peterborough, N.H., and old for being in the Cavalry having enlisted at age 40. The letter is 6 pages, and on the top of the 2nd sheet is imprinted, "United States Sanitary Commission". The letter is headed, "Winchester, March 14th, 1865". Henry is writing his sister, in part:
"My Dear Sister, I sent you a letter two weeks ago last Sunday, the day before we started on Sheridan's Raid and I will give you a little history of it as far as we went. There was three companys of our reg't. detailed for Provost Guard at Brigade Head Quarters and the rest of us were put in with the 22nd New York with our Col. in command. We started at 7 o'clock on Monday morning the 27 of Feb. We traveled to Woodstock that day a distance of 25 miles. The next day we passed through Edinburg, Mt. Jackson and New Market to Lacy's Spring, 32 miles that is the place where the rebs attacked Custer's Division the 21 of Dec. the last time we were up the valley. Before the third day we went within 3 miles of Staunton 32 miles. We had a good hard pike road all the way from Winchester to Staunton."
"We started on the morning of the fourth day and passed through Staunton on to the dirt road and there we had mud enough. From there to Wainsboro is 13 miles and our Brigade had the advance that day and our reg't in the advance of the Brigade. We had passed about one half of the distance when we met the Johnnies Pickets. We did not make any halt but drove them before us to there Breastworks. We went within 3/4 of a mile of them where we were halted and a skirmish line thrown out and then we waited till the Battery was brought up. They were placed in position just as the Johnnies opened fire from their Battery. What there was of our reg't was kept for a support to the Battery and we stood there about half an hour and let them throw shot and shell at us and our Battery did not reply at all. At that time our Battery was drawed (sic) back and we were thrown out on the skirmish line to strengthen that. We did not know what to make of it. We were then within 1/2 of a mile of their works and they all the time throwing shell over our heads at the column coming up behind but we had not a great while to wait before the charge was sounded on the bugle and we started on a chare up he hill for their works and went in. When we gained the top of the hill there was about 70 of them threw down their guns and gave themselves up. They left four pieces of Artillery in position and one they tried to get off. I was sent back with the first lot of prisoners but the rest kept on till they overtook about 13 hundred of them. They followed them some seven or eight miles beyond the town and by the time they got back it was almost night so they left a guard with the Prisoners and the rest of us went on over the mountain some ten miles and camped for the night and it rained all night so we did not get much sleep."
"When we got ready to start in the morning we were ordered to go back with the prisoners. There was about one thousand men under command of our Col. sent back and as we came back across the mountain we counted 130 wagons that we had captured. We started back on Friday and it was so muddy we only got five miles that night. The mud was soft and the Prisoners waded almost to there knees but the most of them appeared to be glad that they were taken when they found that we did not intend to hurt them for a part of them had an idea that they were going to be treated bad."
"After we left Staunton, Rosser collected what he could of his Guerillas and followed us with the hope of liberating the Prisoners. He did not attack us till the second night from Staunton. What there was of our reg't. about 50 men were put on picket on the pike in the rear and the Rebs were round all night but did not try to do anything till about five in the morning when they charges into our reserve, came inside of our picket but we were ready for them and they did not hurt us any other way than to take four Prisoners of our regiment. They followed us all day and that night there was about six hundred of them but they did not disturb us till morning."
"We had to cross the Shenandoah River and just as we commenced crossing they charged us but we drove them back and I do not know as our side lost a man. They charged us three times and we took 27 of them and killed and wounded a good many. Some of them that we took told us that Rosser was killed that morning, they followed us all day, so that made 2 days that we had to fight them coming back but we got back safe ourselves and prisoners, but we were pretty well used up for we had not a great deal of sleep and for 3 days and nights we were wet all the time and could not find a dry place to lie down on and only started with 3 days rations but we got sugar and coffee and flour so we got along very well so far as grub but we were gone ten days and I think the men were full as badly used up as they were when they came off the Wilson Raid although we did not travel only about one half the distance. We traveled this time some 250 miles."
"We are laying about a mile out of Winchester and Col. Thompson is in command. We have not heard from Sheridan since we left him but think he will come out all right and it does seem to me that this war must close soon. I hope and pray that it may. I would like to have you send me four or five stamps in your next letter for we have not been paid off yet and don't know when we will but hope we may soon. I shall not get a furlough now. I should have like to have been at home today, but we had a chance to vote for Member of Congress here. Write soon and receive this with the prayer and best wishes of your Brother. Henry Field"
The letter is in fine condition and comes with over 50 pages of research. At Waynesboro, Confederate General Jubal Early faced his old nemesis Phil Sheridan for the last time. Sheridan's Cavalry leader, George A. Custer, lead the 1st N.H. Cavalry and made short work of the Confederates. From the Calvin Packard Civil War Battlefield Letter Collection
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