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5th Maine Infantry - Captured at Chancellorsville

Item LTR-5546
January 18, 1864 William E. Stevens
Price: $275.00


4 pages, original Civil War soldier's letter written in period ink and war dated.

Headquarters, 3rd Battalion
Camp Parole near Annapolis, MD

January 18th 1864

Dear Colonel,

Notwithstanding, you are my debtor for one letter at least. Not having anything else to do this dismal rainy day, I have seized my pen again to apprise you that “I still Live!”

I was much amused awhile since in reading an account in a Connecticut newspaper of your efforts with a synod of nine from Company H, of the Battle of Rappahannock Station! According to this paper, you captured a whole rebel brigade with this synod of 14 men. I haven’t the paper or I would send it, that you might have a hearty laugh. You see how famous you have become, and that if some papers give the 5th less than its due in that brilliant action, others, like this Connecticut fellow, make up for it. (Altogether I think you may cry “spirits”, north these great fellows of the “4th Estate.”) Who have so much to do with making and marring military reputations, but who, in fact know as little and as much about such matters as they do of the man in the moon!

I perceive quite a number of the officers and men of the Fifth have re-enlisted and gone home to name, among them Major Daggett and Adjutant Bicknell. Well, this speaks well of the 5th and I say “so note it be.” But I am a little surprised that Bick should re-enlist. I am glad he has though, for I think it the best field to spend of his capacities. There is no denying, whatever faults he may have, that Bick is a good soldier and possessive of good metal. The major I know to be ambitious and hence am not surprised at his course. How is Colonel Millett? Has he recovered and dose he re-enlist? And lastly, if not an improper question, how are you effected by the re-enlistment process. I presume the claims of family, as with me, point against it, but I am certain independent of these claims, your wishes and heart are in the service. For there is no looking out of countenance the fact that there is not, and cannot be, any stability to our government until this rebellion is crushed out. And who so well able to do it as the veteran officers and men of the Potomac Army and their coordination of the Western Armies? It is absolutely necessary that the 3 year men should re-enlist or we open the prospect of losing all we have gained. The government is aware of this and hence their liberal bounties. The arguments in favor of re-enlisting are strong; duty and interest, are the claims of patriotism. All the experience of three years of war point to it and I believe had not our nine month men set the bad example of getting home in a body and disbanding to the discuss of the old regiments, we should find but precious few veterans unwilling to re-enlist.

And how is it with myself perhaps you will ask? I don’t know, in the first instance, as I am eligible; for I have yet a year from the 12th of next month to serve. But in my present bodily condition, I fear I can be of very little use as a foot soldier. My left leg is still weak, and I am greatly exercised for fear it will always be so. But if I could get a horseback position, I would not hesitate a moment. For I owe Johnny Reb a return for his kindness in quenching the breath nearly out of me last spring. When I say horseback position, I do not mean “in the field” but “on the staff.” Such as I could fill with credit to myself and my friends. If the post of quartermaster is vacant, and no one has better claims, I would than fully accept it. But I would prefer an active staff appointment. In the meantime, I am silencing my expectation now – agreeably, albeit there a few laurels to win. I do the best I can, and believe render satisfaction level? Root, has got his regiment (94th New York) transferred here from the front. How I wish it was the Fifth instead. Rogers and Nesbitt are with me, and are very useful. Colonel Root says he will show no big soldiering with his regiment but if their dress parades are an example of their drill, the 5th could give them big odds and then win. Mr. Hay and Major Dill were here last week from Maine.

Regards to all.

Very truly yours,

W. E. Stevens