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    Union Officer's Letter by Luther Stephenson of the 32nd Massachusetts, With Battle of Chancellorsville Content. Eight pages, 8" x 9.75"; "Camp 32d Mass. Vols near Falmouth Va May 15th 1863." Writing two weeks after the Battle of Chancellorsville, Stephenson's letter gives a detailed account of the charge and subsequent retreat of General Joseph Hooker's forces. In part: "... We crossed on pontoons the R River at Kelly's Ford and forded the Rapidan at Ely's Ford that river being quite high so that the water was up to the waists of the tall men and the short ones had no chance at all of keeping dry. However the weather was warm and... we had been told we were marching on to victory... The 32d led the column that day and of course would have been the first in the fight if it had come off (but it didn't Gen Griffin not daring to attack under his orders so we turned about and marched back again... Coming back we were detained to help along Waterman's Battery which was stuck in the mud... and the consequence was that the 2d Brigade got cut off from the rest Div by the Rebs at least so it was proclaimed along the lines by two of Gen Griffins Staff who were riding frantically in every direction. Col McQuade who was in command however took matters very cooly; formed the Brigade in line of battle and waited for something to turn up. Nothing turned up near us excepting that some men in Co. H who were acting as flankers. So the Regt fired at some pigs in the thick woods falsely imagining they were rebels. About dark we commenced marching again and Col McQuade being used up Col Sweitzer in command we march round and round all night; you know that Col S can do that kind of marching better than any other officer in the Army. Whether we were cut off or no I never could ascertain and where we went that night I never knew but the morning found us on the left of the Div our Corps hold then left of the line chosen by Gen Hooker and extending nearly to the United States Ford.

    We immediately commenced throwing breastworks and remained there two days when to our disgust we were relieved by the 11th Corps... Our next position was in the centre of our lines the 32d Regt and the 4th Mich in the front supported by the 14th & 62s As soon as we got posted we commenced throwing up rifle pits and Strengthened our position as much as possible. These pits were thrown up along the whole line occupied by the Army not by any order that I know off but by each regiment on its own responsibility as a necessary means of defense during the day the Excelsior Brigade advanced into the woods and after a time came out again like sheep. I forgot to say that there was an open plain in front of us and about 300 yards; and beyond a thick wood. The Rebs drove this Brigade out of the woods and showed themselves in large force everything looked rife for a fight. Gen Griffin came along very much excited and told the 32d Mass Vols that they 'held the key to the position that if we failed them we were defeated.'... The day before we retired our Brigade made an advance into the woods to ascertain whether the enemy were still in there in force. The 4th Mich deployed as skirmishers the 32d and 62d the first line supported by the 14th and 9th. We went into the woods in fine style, received heavy fire both from artillery and infantry all of which when over our heads only one man being hurt in the 32d (Segt
    [illeg.] of Co. B who was struck with a piece of shell in the head inflicting a slight wound) Lieut Steele had his sword scabbard shot off, we supposed we were to attack their works but after getting in sight of them were ordered to 'about face' and retire. We came out of the woods in fine style and the brigade received praises on all sides for its behavior... Well the Army of the Potomac has moved under the command of 'Fighting Joe' who has been puffed and buffed for the last three months until I believe almost every body out of the army believed he was a great man. The army never believed it; never had any confidence in him and despises him today. (now don't show this letter to anybody because this is treason I am writing.) When we had got the position we occupied at Chancellorsville Gen Hooker said that 'God Almighty himself could not drive him from it.' Perhaps he didn't but the rebels did!" Stephenson end his letter with gossip about Colonel in his regiment who has made arrangements for a tent to accommodate female visitors. "I asked him what they were to do for arrangements which were necessary even for females notwithstanding we might blush to think it were obliged to answer the call of nature; he replied that they could do it in the tents and if no one else could be found to clean the arrangements he would do it himself..."

    Condition: The letter is written on two bifolia plus one sheet; all of which have a strip of mounting remnant along one edge on the verso; with some showthrough staining along the left edge on the front. Some creasing and wrinkling; with bold ink and very legible.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2016
    12th Sunday
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