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

Monday, June 9, 2014

Sick of War

Before I begin today's post--a small personal note needs to be added--I will be posting Monday-Friday because I'm not available during the weekends due to work. (This writer is also a church pianist/organist).  OK, personal stuff out-of-the-way, we continue onto September 17th, 1862.  The battle he is writing from is Antietam/Sharpsburg MD.  (Please see my post of June 5th for a link about this battle.) He gives a powerful and very personal account to his wife Roby in the next series of letters:

"This village is about as large as the Centre & West Village together & every house shed & barn ~ Store & Shop almost is used for a hospital or prison house ~ the Rebels & well us union soldiers are occupying them ~ mostly Rebels though that we are taking care of ~"

Yes, they took care of the enemy...

"there is not an hour but what we see dead bodies carried by us to their graves on a little frame called a Stretcher or if not that legs & arms & fingers buried here ~ now I will give you more particulars of the battle here of which we had a small share ~ in order not to alarm you I did not in my former letter write the worst part of it as we expected to be called on to take part In the battle now progressing near Harpers Ferry -- in the first place we were held as a reserve but exposed to a terrible fire of Shell ~ the bullets did not trouble us much because we were under the Hill ~ the 16th & 18th NYS Vol & the N Jersey Boys did the most of the fighting ~it was a terrible battle"

I'm pausing here to prepare you for a somewhat grim account of the battlefield and if you are somewhat squeamish, you might refrain from reading:

"early the next morning we marched on the battle field & encamped there ~ O what sights I see there - I counted 96 dead rebels & a few Federals but I did see them all not near ~ Our men were buried immediately but we had the pleasure of sleeping side of dead Confederates 2 nights & being in their Company 3 days ~ the most of the boys stripped the bodies of Badges Buttons & Stripes of the uniform to send home but I suppose you do not want any very bad so I did not do so myself ~ but to see bodies lying in every possible shape dead & staring at you [,] some shot in the head [,] some in the limbs & bodies but all of them but all of them [repeated twice] looking horrible was a sight that at first made me sick of war"

He finishes with a rather interesting personal observation of the dead:

"I found a great difference in the Expression of faces between our Soldiers & the Confederates with the exception [of] one ~ I found our soldiers died with a peaceful & satisfied expression of continence but the Rebels were all frightened & horrible to look at but enough of this [.] I must go to bed [.] The battle is raging fearfully 3 or 4 miles of us between Jackson & our forces ~ in the morning I will give you more particulars if we hear from there though you get the news about as soon as we do so good night [.]"  

His letter continues with a brief entry on Sept 18th 1862:

"I do not hear much from the battle this morning but we do not hear the firing so it must have stopped ~ it looks very much as if we had whipped them ~ it must have been a tough battle ~ Old Soldiers who are here wounded tell me that they never heard such Cannonading & musketry as we heard in their life ~"

Come back tomorrow for September 19th!

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