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117th & 47th New York Infantry - Assistant Surgeon

Item MED-8154
December 11, 1863 Warren E. Day
Price: $245.00


Original Civil War soldier's letter. 4 pages, written in period ink.

Camp, 47th New York Volunteers
Hilton Head, South Carolina

December 11th 1863

Friend Sweet,

I have long promised myself to write you a letter and an evening’s leisure gives me the opportunity. More than six months have passed since I came home and took upon myself the life and duties of a soldier. And in that short period, I have had rough times and passed through scenes the counterpart I never wish to see again. Yet through all of this, there has been hours and days of such pleasure that memory will long linger upon those time. But let me give you a little history of my doings and wanderings since I came into service.

I started for the 117th New York Volunteers, June 16th 1862 and reached the regiment the 21st of the same month. I found them at Norfolk, Virginia. That same day, orders came to prepare to march the whole command in company with about 20 other regiments up towards Richmond. The cry was, “On to Richmond.” On we marched through some of the most beautiful country my eyes ever gazed upon. We went on hour after hour until the men began to show signs of fatigue. But no halt was ordered. Soon the men began to throw away their blankets and overcoats and there commenced trouble, I assure you. I rode for five miles with the ground so covered with cast away goods that my horse could not step without grinding them into the earth. Property to the value of thousands was destroyed.

Soon men began to fall from the ranks completely exhausted by heat and marching for 22 hours with very little rest. Then my labors commenced. I had to stay behind with these men to give them stimulants and try, if possible, to get them up with the regiment. Often this was useless. They would say, “Dr., let me die. I cannot go farther.” I will tell you this was hard but I was often obliged to go on or get taken prisoner. And my orders were to keep in sight of the regiment. I have left men and in fifteen minutes they were gobbled up by the rebs and sent to Richmond.

It was thus we marched for 21 days. I saw the time when $1 for a potato would not have been though dear. Well, we got within 12 miles of Richmond. So near that we could hear the firing on our advance. When orders came to prepare for battle, we done so and were sent up to destroy a rail road leading into the City. When that was done, we were ordered to retreat. No one knew why or could give any reason. But we fell back to Hanover Junction and lay there overnight. I laid on the stoop of a negro hut and was well satisfied with my bed. We started backward the next day and did not stop until we had marched out of all danger. There was a force of 16,000 rebs driving us up. We came off safe but done no injury except to destroy everything as we went along. Every bridge was burned. Crossing while it was burning was a common occurrence.

Well, to cut the story short, we got to Fort Monroe safe. We laid there but a few days when orders came to go to Charleston and here we are, or what is left of us. I have been here through all the siege and seen some pretty tall sights. But Charleston is not taken yet but soon will be. Great preparations are being made for another attack. There is continual firing all the time, 30 shots a minute at Sumter. There is not much left of that structure and I hope to God that the firing will not cease until there is not a stone left. General Gilmore can and will whip the rebs in every place and will wipe out secession in this state, only give him time.

I am now with the 47th New York Volunteers. I was ordered to take charge of the regiment by the Medical Director. I found the affair in bad shape but have got them to rights now. I shall be made Surgeon of this regiment. I expect my commission down next boat. Vau, I earn $122 per month. That is better than doing nothing. I can make more money than you can from a farm of 200 acres and do it easier. You had ought to have studied medicine as I wished you to.

Well, I will stop with the hope you will answer this as soon as received. Give me all the news.

Yours Truly,

W. E. Day
Assistant Surgeon
117th New York Volunteers

In charge, 47th New York Volunteers, Hilton Head, South Carolina

Vaughn Sweet, Esquire
West Schuyler, New York

Give my regards to all your family and the friends generally. What do you know about Freeman. Is he married, and who is about to be. Give all the news.