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

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Through the Mercy

"I am well and hearty ~ O how I wish I could say that of all our brave boys..."

Most of us  probably remember studying American History throughout our school years and the Battle of Gettysburg was always a prominent part of it.   I've had the opportunity to visit the battlegrounds in that area of Pennsylvania and the eerie calm that spreads over it is amazing.  It has the feel that time has frozen and if you are still, you most certainly feel the essence of the soldiers who fell there and spilled their blood for the cause.  My great great grandfather was there for this battle and thankfully survived it and wrote about it from his viewpoint:

                                   "On the field near Getteysburgh PA
                                                July 4th 1863

My Dearest Wife

Through the mercy of an allwise God I am permitted to write you again to say I am alive & with the exception of a bad cold I am well & hearty ~ O how I wish I could say that of all our brave boys who 2 or 3 days ago were in the flush of health but now lay mangled & bleeding a sacrifice to their Countrys honor ~
Since I wrote you last we left that place & marched here July 2nd after going 32 or 3 miles in 20 hours in awfull hard march but our army was in a tight place & needed us & we did not complain ~ soon after we arrived here we heard the particulars of the heavy fight here on July 1st of which poor Dear Brother George was a participant [.]"

Always something with George!

"Our men were entrapped and drove back [.] The 76th went in & fought nobly but nearly all destroyed ~ I can't hear nothing positive in regard to George only that I think he is wounded & taken prisoner ~ most of them were wounded & taken ~ he may be perfectly sound & a prisoner but I could not learn anything definite but I trust in God that all will yet be well [.] The only one I could see out of the Regt was Harrison Whitney who said he was but slightly wounded & taken but he could not tell for certain ~...."

I can feel Philip's deep concern for the safety and well-being of his older brother.  He continues his letter with a heartfelt statement:

"I know that this will be a hard blow for mother ~ I dread to write this ~ but if it is no worse than I have written George is safe for he will be paroled immediately and if they can take care of him they will do it well...." Which is a compliment to the Confederate army. "but I am hopefull before I send this to write you definitely in regard to him ~ in the meantime we can only trust & pray..."

Then a great description of the fighting begins. I was on the edge of my seat reading this:

"We that is our Corps had not been here but an hour or so when the Rebs who had got surrounded & undertook to break through our lines at the point where we were stationed but it was in vain although they tried with all the desperation of defeated men ~ I hope never to witness another such a battle ~ our position was a strong one & could not be taken though they were bound to succeed ~ we were the 4th line of Battle and was right on the field expecting to go in every moment but the men who were in front of us drove them & it coming on night we did not get hotly engaged ~ yesterday the 3rd was a day long to be remembered with us [.] The Rebs were utterly routed & defeated & were driven & flanked on our Right and are now massed in force in front of us ~ we hold the Left of the Line ~ I think I never saw such fighting in my life [.]
They were panic stricken & badly whipped as soon as pursuit was checked they planted batteries & poured a murderous fire into us but fortunately did not do any damage [.] one piece of Shell struck between a fellows hip and my knee which had it hit either of us would probably have hurt ~ it struck the ground just 2 inches from my knee as we lay on the ground [.]"

Probably would have hurt?  He's lucky he had his knee intact after that!

Tomorrow I'll finish with the rest of his letter from the 4th of July, 1863!  News of George, deaths of Generals and trading with the enemy...


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