Civil War Roundtable of Australia - NSW Chapter
LETTER WRITTEN BY HENRY GORGE HORE OF CHICHESTER (SUSSEX) ENGLAND FROM THE BATTLE FIEIDS OF THE UNITED STATES DURING THE CIVIL WAR BETWEEN NORTH AND SOUTH, TO HIS COUSIN OLIVIA HORE IN CHICESTER.
Camp near Fredericksburg
Friday May lst 1863.
I received your kind letter the week before last I think, and now take the chance for it is almost one, of answering it. I received both letter and paper and thought it very kind of you. I wrote to my Mother and I said I had received one from you and was much pleased.
In the first place I'm now in the 6th Army Corps, General Sedgewick's Brigade attached to the Staff. I was provost at old Point Comfort but it was tiring work and so I made application to be removed and got on General Sedgewick's staff as Clerk & Ord. rank Second Lieut. as Volunteers in the Service. I believe I could get much higher if I would take the Oath of Allegiance to the United States but I decline to do so in consequence of perhaps a War with England, and of course then it would compel me to leave the Army.
My dear girl there was a tremendous Battle here today. The Army of the Potomac under the command of Genl. Jos Hooker moved at last and we have crossed the Rappahannock. We began a day or two ago, but today had a general engagement with all Genl. Lee's Forces on this side of the river. We are victorious and captured his batteries men and all. By what I can learn we gained a complete victory of course. As it is late at night I cannot tell you much about it as yet for the noise is fearful, cries of the wounded, cannonade, burning of houses, etc. etc. I will attempt to describe the Battle. I suppose it will be named the Battle of Fredericksburg the second.
had orders to be early on horse back and move about with them, the Staff. so took
my man John a black fellow. I have got to get my things and clean my horse, we
would have a hard days work.
I soon was on my way for Head Quarters of our Division, several Regmts. were what was called skirmishing on the front and we lost a great many men as the Rebels are better shots with the rifle than our men and nothing they like so much as bush fighting I call it, for its nothing more; but they soon changed their game, and instead of our attacking them they made furious attack upon us for the purpose of driving us into the Rappahannock in our rear' The men fought like demons for they well knew that Jackson the Rebel General would give them no quarter. General- Sedgewick said: "Bring up the Artillery, say that is my orders". Away I went, the round shot flying in every direction and our men falling thick and fast. I don't know how it is but in the intense excitement of the battle you forget all fear and don't think a single thought of being killed. As I got in the rear an Aide de Camp told me that not only one Corps but the whole Army was in action and that the whole Army of the Potomac was fighting, 120,000 men, and that it was going hard with us on the left wing.
the battery, told Colonel Butler who was in command that he was to help us and,
that it was General Sedgewick's orders, so he limbered up his guns and came double
quick just as the Rebels were coming down on our men. He
waited so long that I thought they would take the guns before we fired.
At last came word "Depress Pieces" and I felt quite sick. They were just about fifty yards or so. My horse was as much excited as myself. When the word fire came, when twenty cannons loaded with grapeshot and pieces of iron, old nails, etc. etc. had discharged right into their leading Regmts. Good God, my dear girl was awful their dead seemed piled heaps upon heaps, the shot went right through them, completely smashing the front of the Columns. Just at this moment when all was confusion the word was given: Clear the way, clear the way and right over the brow of the hill came the 5th Wisconsin 22nd Mass. 77th New York and the 5th Ohios. Hurrah Hurrah, it looked well now for us close up men charge bayonet and right into the mass went the 11 Regmts. General Sedgewick now said: "One more such a repulse as that my boys and we shall have Fredericksburg and turning to me said: "Ride Sir to the rear and bring up any Artillery you can find", giving me an order written on a piece of paper to his Wife. An officer by the name of Hansard, a first rate good hearted fellow, I should have liked you to have seem him Olivia a regular type of a South Carolina man with long hair flowing over his shoulders, a South man by birth but a good man for the Union, I think without exception the best looking man I ever saw, said: We will go together Harry, it will be safer". We rode along as fast as we could to the rear for we did not know how things were going on there, when just as we were thinking all safe, some of Mosby's cavalry that were scouting in our rear saw us and came down with a yell upon us. So thinking discretion the better part of valour, feeling quite confident that we should fall in with some of our Rear Guard in a few seconds I set Hansard the example of running away but he did not have such a good horse as mine and one of the Rebels was soon near enough to poor H. to call upon him to stop. He would not and the Rebel who was better mounted clutched at the bridle and then they had a struggle, their horses kicking, so that I could not get near enough to strike him well or shoot him with my revolver. He got the better of H. on the ground and drove his sword right into Hansard's chest. His horse had gone and he tore off his shoulder straps and shook them at me. I now felt as if he or I must be killed so taking a good aim at him, I had made up my mind I would kill him if I could I made my horse get so near that I was safe not to miss and I fired and dropped him dead, alongside poor H. This did not take 30 seconds, not near so long as it takes me to write. I sighted him along the barrel of my revolver and if I had not killed him the first time would have shot again for H. was a good friend to me.
My dear Cousin this is not much of a letter to write to you, full of fighting and since we have crossed the Rappahannock there has been not much else. Most likely your papers will have the American News in so you can see how we get on. I have got very good lodgings for the night, the inhabitants of most of the houses are fled and have left all, so part of our Staff live here and part in a stable a little way up the road. We have got part of the Rebel battery and a 1000 prisoners. I cannot find any more black ink so must write with blue. I'm getting tired now and so must leave it for the present and hope to finish my letter another tine when I get a few seconds. It is now 12 o'clock at night and the Sergt. of the Guard says that the left wing of our Army lost 3000 men. Good night Cousin.
Sunday night, May 4th. Genl. Lee and Stonewall Jackson are doing everything in their power to destroy our Army. Our Cavalry under Conl. Stoneman are in the Rebels and are burning and killing all they can. They have not gained (the Rebels I mean) a single yard of ground and we don't mean they shall. Our loss very heavy again today, even now as I'm writing 1 o'clock in the morning the guns have not ceased firing, Boom Boom, all along the line.
It is a beautiful moonlight night with not a breath of air. In the day time it is very hot, far more than in England. I shall not be able to write much tonight, have had the forage orders to make out for the staff and it has taken some time. Had a letter from mother this morning and was much pleased with it also a paper, I believe from Jerusha. I think it was her direction. I have not missed a letter yet, for by sending them to Fortress Monroe, as we have a large Army holding the roads all along, there is no danger of getting them. I sent Mother a paper yesterday and will write again soon to her.
This evening went out with a friend of mine to get the body of poor Hansard, so took a spade with us, made our way to the rear and found him after a time. The Rebel had killed him dead. They were lying together just as I had shot him. We dug a hole about a foot deep and buried poor H. but left the other above ground. our dead are lying all around no one had time yet to bury them.
I am afraid we have not got on well today by what men say, that have cone in our line, for we are so far away from the other part of this large Army that beyond what our Corps are doing we know nothing. I hope to God Hooker will hold out or at least try and help us out of this.
Deserters say that the Richmond people are sending up reinforcements to them every hour, that Jackson is dead. I hope he may be with all my heart. My dear Cousin you must think me quite a savage but the carnage of this frightful war and the horrid sights I see every day have made me indifferent to human life. At one time I should have never thought of killing anyone, but now can shoot a man without a shake of my hand. I think I am writing to you more as if you were a hard hearted man than a very pretty little girl.
Oh if only James O'Brian Lomax could see this he would think Blank Cartridge was poor work. How his Irish blood would boil. The Rebels look very much like the Bognor Volunteers. They have a brown and grey uniform and that made me think of the O'Brian.
Can't write any more, have got to put out the lights as they say it may draw the fire of the guns. Good night to you.
Monday night. This has been a most disastrous day for us dear cousin, I have been hard at work ever since ten o'clock carrying orders to different Regts. And we have evacuated all that we won, and drove back on the Rappahannock.
I am writing this from an old barn of a place with the rain and wind coming through the chinks with an old bottle for a candlestick. One of the Staff is dead, Captain Ringmer, and in the corner Lies Lieut. Bowen, wounded in the shoulder which I an putting water to, every now and then. He wants to know who I am writing to, so I said it was to my Cousin in England. He has just said: Don't tell them we are beaten Harry, the papers will soon let them know that.
The fight has been very heavy all along today and, we have lost a great many, men that understand it say that we are in a much stronger position than yesterday. But there seem to be no plan. What can be expected - none of them had experience. I believe from my heart that the men are as brave as any on the face of the earth but they must have good Commanders. One thing in our favour is we have the road to go back and no danger behind us and can get letters and papers from the rear. I think our Division, the 6th Army Corps and General Hooker's Division, have done well as any Corps. We must have re-inforcements.
If we could only get 30,000 more men up by tomorrow night wm might yet get on. I believe my Corps have been fighting today, not much firing tonight, we are all pretty nearly tired out.
Saturday morning - May 9th. On board the ship Louisiana my dear Cousin the whole of the Army has been driven across the Rappahannock. Your papers in England will be sure to have something of it in them. Some of us have got separated in the confusion and are now in Hampton Roads - outside Fortress Monroe. Don't know what has become of the 6th Corps as the Rebels got between us and General Hooker.
You will see by this we had to come within a few miles of Richmond and have got down here regularly fatigued. We are quite safe here and after a little rest shall be all well again. We frightened the people and now must take a lot of Stoneman's Cavalry, cut off with us and when we were coming down here, burnt and destroyed everything we could lay our hands on because it was the Rebels country we were coming through. When we reached Gloucester Point, the place of embarkation to Fortress Monroe the people thought we had been beaten and asked us what had become of the rest. That was more than I could tell them I said. One of the citizens said he saw by the papers that we had lost a great many men.
Wanted to know what all the news was. Everybody thinks that you can tell them about every Regmt. that is engaged, when the truth is that beyond knowing what your Division is about you know nothing till it is over, because you may be victorious in one part of the Field and be routed in another. My dear Cousin I must now say good-bye for I'm worn out very nearly for today. Give my love to your Mama, Papa. George and dear Annie. You must excuse this because I have had it in my saddle bags for a week and it is not a very clean letter to send so my dear Olivia pray excuse it.
[Note: The letter ends as shown and without signature at the bottom of the fifth of large blue sheets on which the letter is written. It could be that a sith page, now missing, may have been used, carrying the writer's signature]
Re-discovered by Roy Adams of Sydney, Australia during the 1960s. Henry Hore was the father of Roy's wife Katherine Hore.
Image of original letter (PDF)
Return to Home Page