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2nd & 16th Maine Infantry - Captured at Gettysburg and Escaped from Libby Prison

Item LTR-6239
April 24, 1862 Charles William Tilden


Original Civil War soldier's letter. 4 pages written in period ink. Tilden was captured on the first day of Gettysburg and held as a prisoner at Libby Prison for approximately 7 months before he participated in the "Great Tunnel Escape." He was captured a second time during the Weldon Railroad Campaign of 1864 and escaped a second time to return to his regiment.

Near Yorktown
April 24, 1862

My Dear Juliet

After a somewhat tedious journey of ten days, I find myself in camp with book and paper on my knee, penning my thoughts to the better half assure. I wrote you a few lines at Alexandria. Giving you a description of my journey up to that point and then stated to you that it was uncertain how long we should be detained there. We, however, were ordered onboard transport the same afternoon for shipping point. We went onboard at five o’clock p.m. Hauled off into the stream, anchored and left the following morning at sunrise.

There were between three hundred and four hundred troops onboard, representing eight-four different regiments. You can form some idea of our situation when I tell you we were crowded up onboard the steamer for three days and nights. No berths or state rooms and we being obliged to lie down wherever we could find a chance, living on salt beef and bread.

We arrived at shipping point this p.m. at four o’clock and marched some four miles through the mud and rain before coming to our regiment. Found them out on picket or nearly all of them. A few of each company being left behind to take care of camp. All seemed as glad to see me as I was to see them. Found the company in pretty good health. Undoubtedly, you were hoping that the expected battle at Yorktown could take place before my arrival here. But my dear, it is still in possession of the rebels. But I think will not be a great while.

This much we may rest assured that General McClellan will not move until everything is made to suit him. From what I can learn, there are some 150 thousand troops within an area of some six miles and upwards of four hundred pieces of light artillery. Besides some one hundred pieces of siege guns, which looks as though the battle would be fought principally by artillery, supported by infantry. We are within a very short distance of the enemy. Can hear their bands playing very distinctly and see them with their fortifications by going a short distance from camp. The report of musketry and cannon is a common occurrence with the troops and it is often the case that a shot and shell makes its appearance in camp. The boys say that they are so frequent that they do not present to take any notice of them. I shall look around tomorrow and in my next can give you a more full account of our situation.

I have been well since I left home and find myself in good health up to the present time. Although, I have passed through enough to make a person with a weak constitution sick. I assure you, my dear, I have reason to be thankful for the protection that has been over me since leaving home. And I trust and pray that the same kind providence will continue his watchful care over us all.

I must now close this hasty written epistle. As this is the only sheet of paper in camp. My love to all the family and friends. And kiss the children for their father.

Your affectionate husband,
C. W. Tilden

Company B, 2nd Maine Regiment
Porter’s Division
Washington, DC