The letters and diaries of Lieutenant Philip R. Woodcock
121st Regiment, New York State Infantry
"Upton's Regulars"
September 4, 1862-November 9, 1865

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Line of Battle at Spottsylvania

On the morning of the 14th, Philip wrote in his diary that he "Arose Early & marched down through the mud & rain to the Left & joined Burnsides Army".

Their brigade was "put out skirmishing [.] Established a Line & held it till 4 oclock then advanced the Line..."

He goes on over the next few daily entries to speak of being driven back by heavy infantry & cavalry forces and sleeping in the rain.  As the days wore on and they slowly advanced in the rain towards the Spottsylvania Court House he finally writes again to Roby on the 16th of May, 1864:

                                         Field near Spottsylvania Court House
                                                    May 16th 1864

My Dear Wife

Once more I have an opportunity to write you & I will improve it to let you know of my safety ~ The morning I wrote you before we changed our position & maneuvered around untill night expecting to draw on an Engagement but did not ~ Early the next morning we moved down & joined Burnside's Army ~ Our Brigade was immediately put on a Skirmish Line & remained untill nearly night when we advanced & ran into an ambush of Infantry & Cavalry ~ Our force was small & we had to give way ~ they pressed us hard I tell you ~ if we ever done tall running it was that night [.] I never made so good use of my Legs ~ I thought I would be taken in spite of myself but as good Luck would have it I took the right directions & kept in the woods & their Cavalry could not gobble me ~ The Left of our Line got most all taken ~ some had to swim a small River to get away[.] Yesterday our Brigade was put on the Skirmish Line again & had to remain untill this morning [.] it was pretty rough & our boys feel it [.] We have been kept to the Front untill out of 1800 men in our Brigade there are scarcely 400 Left while other Troops have not smelt powder yet & have been Laying off doing guard duty [.] It is shamefull & the men are getting demoralized fast..."

At this point, you see quite a change from his earlier letters of 1862 when the excitement of a battle charge was still felt.  Then, the men refuse to return to battle:

"The men will not stand a fight at all & I do not blame them at all [sic] We have it rough enough besides doing all the hard duty ~& being kept on the Skirmish Line of Battle or first Line of Battle [.] The other day they kept us in a fight over 4 hours and that too after we had been in the morning & all cut up & lost heavy in being repulsed ~ my head is worth as much to me as it is to Gen Wright and I am going to be responsible for it..."

He goes on to explain his frustration and the losses they've taken:

"I have always shared with the men all the danger but if they use us like this I shall look out after this [.] We have lost all our officers now nearly & we have been consolidated in to four Companies ~ Co "D" & Co "E" have been put together & now we are not as large as we was in single Companies when we started [.] We have got no mail yet since we started so I just heard that there is an awful [lot of] mail for at Army Hd Qtrs [.] I hope we will get it today ~ we are resting out a little now ~ there has been no fighting today to amount to any thing[.] I guess we are waiting for reinforcements [.] We need them I know [.] Our Army has lost very heavy [.] We cannot tell how things are agoing [.] The enemy are in force in plain sight at the Court House[.] The grand attack is to be made yet but there has already [been] very hard fighting the hardest fighting I ever saw ~ it beats Gettysburgh..."

The Battle of Spottsylvania hadn't even gotten to the main part and he describes it as worse than Gettysburgh?  That is tough fighting.  

Fast forward to 1972 again:

Another article of the return of the Seal of Spotsylvania and a picture of a commemoration medal from the 100th Anniversary of the Battle.

Again, he made no mention of this seal being in his possession in his letters, but marked it for his granddaughter to be specifically left to her.  He had a handwritten note reading: "Superior Court Seal of Spottsylvania Co. Virginia captured May 14, 1864 from Court House and given to writer".

Come back tomorrow for the continuation of the letter and to find out what happened to George!

Hope to see you then!

No comments:

Post a Comment