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50th New York Engineers - Assistant Surgeon

Item MED-7715
1863-1864 Adam Clark Baum
Price: $2400.00


6 original Civil War letters written in period ink by Assistant Surgeon Adam Clark Baum of the 50th New York Engineers. (29 pages with excellent content). Below are two examples:

Sample Letter #1
Camp of Detachment
50th New York Volunteer Engineers
Near Rappahannock Station, VA

Tuesday, November 10th 1863

My Darling,

Once more upon the line of the Rappahannock. Calmly settled in the old routine of camp like after the excitement horrors and scenes of suffering incident to the battle. Not a great battle like Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg or Gettysburg or Chickamauga, but a short sharp and bloody fight in which perhaps as much skill and quite as much bravery and indomitable courage were shown as at any of the above named great battles. Our men fought splendidly and the enemy with his usual desperation. But to take things as they transpired I must begin back. I wrote you Friday that we were ordered forward to the Rappahannock. Well, Saturday morning our trains no. 1 and 2 with bridge material for two bridges, left camp at 4 a.m. The headquarters wagons with hospital and ambulances and myself did not move until 8 a.m. We found the roads full of troops and trains and our progress was slow. At last about 4 p.m. we came upon our behind and quietly waiting the advance of the line of battle which was drawn up in the woods out of sight of the rebs. As we were engineer officers, they let us through the line and then we saw a large undulating plain spread out before us about 1 ½ miles wide.

On the further side of which the bluff of the river bank loomed up bristling with cannon and bayonets of the rebs and about half way across the plain was the reb pickets and advance line. Also our pickets and advance line and supports all watching and waiting for something to turn up. At last General Sedgwick gave the orders. The bugle sounds and our men advance the 6th Corps upon the right of the railroad and the 5th Corps upon the left. The rebs discharge their pieces and fall back followed by our men. Both sides firing as rapidly as possible. The advance of both sides being in “skirmish line” (in which the men are from 10 feet to 10 rods apart according to the strength of the line). About this time the rebs open their batteries with shell. We soon drive them off a knoll and very soon a heavy boom, a puff of smoke, followed by others in quick succession tell us that a couple of our batteries have gained a position on the knoll and are pouring destruction into the work of the rebs. We ride forward to a knoll near the center of the plain near the railroad, so we can see better. Ahh, that won’t do. No excuse time “Johnnie” I do not care for any of your civilities of that sort. Those “rotten” messengers you are sending us are not required here. We don’t care for any. Please excuse me. Some of the shells burst unpleasantly near us and we “retire in disgust” and at double quick too. I assure you to a more sheltered position. Well our skirmishers slowly advance across that plain. Standing up like men without a particle of cover while the rebs crawled back dodging about from point to point to escape the shots. The rebel batteries soon see they have something more to do than fire at our batteries. Our men are getting too near. Some of their gunners are picked off by our sharpshooters. They then load with grape and shrapnel and fire at our advancing troops. My God, what a gap they make. But it is closed up again as they move forward. The skirmishers gain the foot of the hill about 50 yards from the works and stop and uncap their guns, grasp them at a “charge bayonet” and with a cheer that is heard two miles, rush upon the works. My God what a havoc the grape and canister make among them. No firing on our side now. Our cannons are directed to the work on the other side of the river and our men having taken the caps off their guns by order so they could not stop to fire if they choose to. Our skirmishers jump on the works and gun in hand over they jump. My god. Why are the support so far behind? Will those few brave men be sacrificed before the support reaches them. “Forward G-d d—n you double quick crises an offer. Up they rush just in time for at least half of the skirmish line who first gained the works are either killed or wounded in the hand to hand conflict. Officers after discharging their pistols are obliged to use the sword in defense and offense. Sixteen out of 22 officers of the 6th Maine Regiment were either killed or wounded.

One sergeant of the 6th Maine jumped over the works in advance of all his comrades. He was alone and was obliged to throw down his gun and surrender. His comrades soon after coming up with a cheer rushed in to the rescue. He caught up his gun and with the butt of it knocked down his guard and went in again. All the officers of his company were killed or wounded and he was left in command of his company. When the rebs were overpowered or rather “over cowed” as our boys call it and threw down their arms and surrendered, he (the Sargent) went up to take their colors. The rebs refused to let him have them saying they would not give them up to a noncommissioned officer. He threw down his gun and with two or three comrades had a regular fist fight with the rebs color guard. They had a regular knock down. Our Maine boys being too much the “johnnies”. The sergeant knocked down the color sergeant caught the colors and with a cheer jumped upon them. About this time the fight was terrible along the whole line of the works. The 6th Corps were having all they could do and the 5th were not idle. What means they came another brigade of the “johnnies” rushing across the bridge to rescue their comrades. Our boys let them come on. What is that? Why don’t they fire upon them? Ah, I see why it is one division of the 5th Corps are coming to the rescue. All marching by the flank and just in time to fix the “johnnies”. Not a word. Not a shot. They come up as coolly as though at dress parade, file along slowly and take position to cover the bridge. The only way the Johnnies can get back. They see it but too late. They make a rush. But no you don’t every man that make the attempt fails. “lay down your arms and surrender”. There is no alternative and they “gracefully” submit. This brigade (North Carolina and Georgia troops) had “double quicked” six miles to reinforce their comrades. They rushed across the bridge just after our men had got possession of their works and in less than 20 minutes everyone was “gobbled up” that was not killed or wounded. Some attempt to swim the river but were drowned or shot down in the attempt. Every man, every gun and everything they had on this side of the river is ours. Seven cannons, 2,234 prisoners, one pontoon bridge, 9 stands of colors, 1 brigadier general, 2 or 3 colonels, lots of captains and lieutenants and etc. our loss in killed and wounded is a little under 300. Almost the entire loss was sustained by the 3 or 4 regiments forming the advance line of skirmishers. During the fore part of the night, the rebs attempted to destroy their pontoon bridge, which they were obliged to leave. But our sharpshooters would not let ‘em. Our men held one end of the bridge and they the other. In the morning our troops were in possession of both sides of the river and the infantry of the 5th and 6th Corps were across.
How it was done I have not heard. But think the “johnnies” evacuated as we heard no firing during the night. In the morning our detachment went down, repaired the reb bridge and laid another ½ mile below the railroad bridge and the artillery, etc. went across. Chasing the rebs beyond Culpepper, they offering no resistance. Yesterday they drove them to the Rapidan and Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac established themselves last night near Brandy station about 6 miles beyond the river. The rebs were building splendid winter quarters at Brandy Station intending to make the line of the Rappahannock their advance. They had fortified here at the station on both sides of the river and below but more particularly on this side took them by surprise and “wasted” them for once on their own ground. I understand there were 2,000 more prisoners taken yesterday at near Rapidan and Sulphur Springs. Did not see them. Those taken at this point were fine look men. Comfortable clothed. Good shoes and many with good boots. Did not look as though they had suffered much for the necessaries of life. I send you a little sketch of the battlefield. It is correct although not very nice. You can get a very good idea of the “position” and “situation”.

The mail has gone for today so this letter will answer for my Wednesday’s letter. Have made up my mind to send you little sketches of any point of interest in our travels. They will be interesting to look at by and by when we have at last succeeded in “crushing” and this “cruel war is over”. The work on the south side of the river was somewhat “knocked into pie” by our large siege guns on the right. Before the rebs evacuated that work they filled up a rifle pit that our men had dug when we were here before and yesterday when our men opened it they found eight dead rebs. They had been buried there by their comrades or rather thrown into the pit and covered up to deceive us in regard to their loss. I have seen 21 of their dead and these eight make 29. How many more I do not know. Our loss in killed and wounded is probably greater than theirs as they were protected by works and we were without cover.

Wednesday your letter of November 5th came to hand last night. Yes, indeed New York has done nobly. We can now day show us a state that has done better than the old “Empire”. Bully for the Empire.

I regret to hear that you are “ailing” and “pining away” to 160 pounds. By George, I would hardly dare go home now if I was discharged for fear you would be inclined to give me a dressing and rather guess you could do it.

You say you have not received a letter from me in a long time. I have written regularly two letters each week. Although no always on the regular days.

Give my love to all friends. Especially our folks. Tell Miss Tracy I am “most out of tobacco and whiskey, entirely out of wine. Have got a few sweet potatoes, 10 or 12 cans of fresh tomatoes, 10 or 12 pounds of butter, some dried apples and peaches, about 1 peck of fresh apples and a few necessaries.

Kiss the little darling.

Ever your own,

Sample Letter #2
Headquarters, 2nd Battalion
50th New York Volunteer Engineers
Cold Harbor, Va

June 11th 1864

My Darling,

Having a little time to myself this forenoon, I thought I would anticipate my usual Sunday letter. For in my opinion, we shall not be where we can write much tomorrow. We are still lying here gazing at the rebs and the rebs gazing at us. Our lines of battle being up in many places to within 100 yards (300 feet) of the rebel works. And in some places, our pickets are within a less distance than that even. In one place, our pickets got up so close that they could hear the men talk in an ordinary tone and could understand them. The officers were giving instructions to the men providing our men made an attack during the night. You may think that it is very strange that men could live in such a place. It is strange but never the less true. I’ll tell you how it is brought about. When our Army finds a “mares nest” and they want to advance their lines, they take the shovel and go to work throwing up a “rifle pit”, which consists of a bank of earth with a ditch (from which the earth is thrown) behind the bank ramping in direction and length as the case may require. This rifle pit is many times strengthened by “reveting” it which is to lay up logs like the side of a log house and pack the dirt against that wall. The wall of course being on our side of the work. The bank of earth is from 4 to 10 feet thick from 3 to 6 ½ feet high. The lines are not straight but usually run in an irregular zig-zag course. Taking advantage of the ground. When the line is formed and troops in the work, the “skirmishers” or “picket” are thrown out in advance during the night, each man with his gun and spade. He digs a pit for himself. The following night the pickets are thrown out still further and they dig pits each for himself a little in advance and the troops connect the pits of the previous night, making a line of it and so they advance slowly. Until the lines are so close that if a man shows his head on either side it is certain death. And officer has just told me that a portion of our lines in place was within 30 yards (90 feet) of the rebels works and our pickets in advance of that even. I can hardly believe it yet it must be so. As he is a reliable man. We have now here 12 or 14 lines of works that have been made in that way. Some of the front ones were built by the rebs and “our fellows” after driving them out faced the works the other and are using them. Today our men are at work on breastworks in rear of our camp, which with other infallible signs indicate another “flank movement” probably to the James River and to the south of Richmond. Movements of our troops and trains indicate that and more too. If I was certain no eyes but yours and friends at home were to see this, I could tell you what. But I guess I won’t for if I am not mistaken, you will hear of it before this reaches you. There are about 5000 men at work on the rear line of works today and I presume before I am able to send this letter, we shall be started on another flank movement. Strange things occur in this war. Many things you hear nothing of. For instance, the day before yesterday, the rebs and our men got tired shooting and stopped without any arrangement between them. After the shooting had been stopped for a little time, one of our men exposed his hat on a ram rod above the work. The rebs did not shoot, by and by he exposed his head a little. Then a reb showed his, no shooting. Then one exposed a little more, then the other a little more and so on till both stood up in full view of the other and then others tried it without any trouble. Then they began to talk backwards and forwards and ten on both sides began to get up on the work and then to walk out towards the others works and so on until they were having a nice friendly chat. Men all left their guns in the pits and met as friends (some say shaking hands and drinking together but that I don’t know about). And were laying down on the top of the works until by and by the field officer of the day of the 6th Corps (Colonel Johns of the 7th Massachusetts, came along and put a stop to it. He told them that he rode down to the front line of the works on horseback, a thing he would not have done for his life under other circumstances. For it would have been certain death. And dismounting et outside our works and told the rebs and our men to get back behind their works or he would order the 2nd line of works to fire on then all. So the rebs went back to their work and our men to theirs and after they had gotten back, they hollered to each other “get back under cover for we are going to shoot.” “Watch out Yanks, I’m going to shoot,” “Take care there Johnnie, your head in the way of my bullet,” and such interchanges of cordiality until by and by they got busily to work again “shooting to kill.” This is a true statement. Colonel Johns, the field officer of the day of the 6th Corps, told me this himself, and he is a straight forward reliable old soldier. You may know this from the fact that he has been field officer of the day for 10 days past and in such a time as this it is an important position. Shall write you again in a few days. Probably from the James River when I will ‘answer” your letters about little Josie’s Erysipelas. I would not do anything for her except to keep her bowels regular and perhaps a little Sulphur and molasses.

In regard to the winter, I think you may safely rent the rooms for if I get out this fall, I shall want to spend the winter in New York.

Much love to all. Be a good girl and keep your skirts clean and you nose tied up.

In regard to females visiting the hospitals of Washington, the story you write sound swell and if it is even true, should awake your sympathies. Allow one who has “seen service” to advise you to do what you can for the sanitary commission at home and let these special visits with baskets, etc. be made by others. It is no place for a woman who does not make that her business. They do more harm than good in such hospitals as Washington affords. They might do goo in our field hospital or depots like Fredericksburg or Belle Plain or White House. But in regularly organized hospitals where everything is arranged in a systematic manner, “outside” women are worse than useless.

Ever your own,