Monthly Archives: February 2014


Sharpsburg, MD ~ September 21st, 1862: Details About the Dead

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This letter expands on Jamie’s previous account of the aftermath of Antietam, describing the way in which several of the soldiers died. He urges Katie once again to write to Mrs. Macarty to tell her that her husband has died, and to specifically mention that he was shot in the head and died instantly.

#12 Sharpsburg, MD - Sep 21st, 1862 Envelope #12 Sharpsburg, MD - Sep 21st, 1862 Page One #12 Sharpsburg, MD - Sep 21st, 1862 Page Two


            Sharpsburg md

Sunday morning Sep 21, 1862


To my Dear Loving wife,

as I have a few moments to write you a few lines I am well hope this to find you the same I received two letters from you last night at 8 oclock was glad to see them and hear from you I gess you can think so any how I do I wish could get another soon I should be so glad it is good to hear from you my dear and all at home. Corporal Harras that the rebels took a prisoner has been paroled and got back to us just now we was glad to see him back Horace money to him that was good thing for Horace when Horace was shot he gave Harris his money for he did not expect to get away alive then it is all right now. we exspect to march to for some place I but dont know where. Some say we are a going to Richmond I dont know as it is true. The 8 & 11 Co Reg are with us Eugene Comstalk in here he is well. Colon Kingsbury. J. H. Kingsberry was shot dead last Wednesday in the fight with us. Capt John Griswold was wounded that day has since died in our Co I. Capt Drake through hart, first Leu Horton through head. Ordley Sgt. Ovil Campbell shot in head & body 1 [Sgt.] Maccarty shot through head. Jason E Twiss in the brest. Steven Himes st in the brest. A Truesdell through brest.

Corporal Evians shot through body. James Grugan through body shot dead on the field. 8 of them, 20 others wounded, 3 taken prisoner one got back Corp Harras. he will take this letter to a postoffice some where on his route home he has been parolled by the rebels so he can go home he is [off] in a few minutes so I have got to hurrie up my caks[?] I should like to see you first rate but I cannot so I must not think about it I shall be glad when can Horace has got one broken leg the other is woundid badley to I gess he will get along in time if he has good care I had to leave him at hospitle yesterday morning I felt bad enough to part with him tell you but it cannot be helpt in war times we have to put up with many things. I mean to do my douty as near as posable god being my helper and strength I hope to see you some day when tell you better than I can write I cannot think of halv what I want to say but never mind I send thousands of good wishes, kisses to you Rosa. must close this nonsense for this time you must write Mrs. Macarty to tell her that he was shot through the head killed instantly he fought bravely died with a good hart I believe it to be true he and Twiss both died Christians I think. good by with lots of love to you my dear wife and all of my friends

kiss dolly for me give my love to all inquiring friends


James W P

Your loving husband write soon the same


Time Table as Remembered by James

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This was presumably written not long after the previous letter detailing the aftermath of Antietam. Some of the place names were near impossible to read, so there was some guess work involved – in particular, “Pensaluary” and “Rafam.” Jamie admits that his spelling is bad, but there are some locations that are easy to recognize, such as New York, Baltimore, Washington, Annapolis, and Rockville.

#11 Timetable Page One #11 Timetable Page Two


            James W Peckham                                    time table

We left Hartford Aug 25th 1862 on board city Hartford down river. stopt Wethersfield. Middletown. Essex. Saybrook. Saybrookbar. 1 hour. Then up sound to New York. Stopt one hour and Breakfast on board Ferryboat to Elizabethport on the cars. East Pensaluary. To Rafam. To Brattalboro, to York, Pen. To Brooklin, Pen to Baltimore. To took dinner. To Raleigh house. To Annapolis junction. Washington City. Stopt one night. To long Bridge. To Fort Scot Vir. To Fairfax Sema. Vir. Lofed two weeks Started. To Washing camp one night. To Leesboro 3 days. To Rockville one night. To Brookville one night. To Lebanon Chourch do. to New Market do. to Frederick City do. to Middletown 4. Hours. To Boonsboto one hour. To Pottsville stoped one night. 17th We marched to Antietam into the Battle at daylight in morning fought all day until dark when we was marched into a corn field to chase on and take a Battery we took it but paid dearly for it we was cut all to pieces by Grape and canister shot them 2 Brigades of Rebels witch drove us back and they posesion of the cornfield where our dead and wounded lay so we could not get to them until next two days so our mounded had to lay on the ground from 5 oclock Wednesday till Friday at noon when we drove them off so we could get them you better believe I was glad to find Horace alive but he was bad off I tell you it was meeting between us tell you he was so glad to see me he shed tears so did I could not help it although I can stand most anything to see him was to mouch for me my feeling gave way we went from there to here that ends my diary for this time so good by I mean to keep a memberrandum of all of any amount if can as poor as it is if you can read it I shall be glad Excuse bad spelling for I am a bad scholar you know

Jamie says that the wounded had to lay on the ground where they fell from Wednesday evening until noon on Friday. That is a long time to be injured and stranded without food or water. Horace and the other wounded were left to fend for themselves in a cornfield while the other Union soldiers were driven back by the Confederate soldiers. Thankfully, Jamie and Horace were reunited after the battle, and although my grandmother told me according to family stories Horace really wasn’t the nicest of people, he was happy enough to see Jamie that he cried. Both of them did. Horace was actually one of the lucky ones, since he at least got away with his life. Jamie and Horace’s other tent mates were not so lucky.


Battle of Sharpsburg Valley ~ September 18th, 1862: List of Missing, Wounded, and Dead

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The Battle of Sharpsburg, otherwise known as the Battle of Antietam, was a huge turning point in Jamie’s life. As far as I can tell, it was the first time he ever saw real combat. Before this point his days had been filled with constant marching and drilling, and the closest he came to fighting was only hearing the sound of it off in the distance and seeing the remnants of previous battles near his campsites. His handwriting changes after the battle, becoming even more jumbled and difficult to read due to the spelling errors and frantically written notes in the margins.

I’ll let you read the letter.

#10 Battle of Sharpsburg Page One #10 Battle of Sharpsburg Page Two


on the field

Battle of Sharpsburg Valley

Friday mor Sep 19, 1862

My dear wife,

I am well unhurt but am sorrie to say Horace is a missing dont know where he is the last I saw of him he was in the corn field with the rest of us we are going to day to see if we can find him the battle was day before yesterday Just at night the Rebels held the feild yester to day we have drove them away so we can get Cap Drake Luten Horton, the Ordly(?) Sa Macaty. Twiss, Horace are missing dont know weher I am in ahure to finish this so it will get to you dont worry. afor Horace [may] be safe­­

Thursday afternoon Dear wife

we got on to the battle field this fornoon keep up good cheer I found Horace there in corn field where we fought night before last wounded in both legs in the nee just above the right nee and a slite woun in the top of his head he was in good spirits & not much pain was so glad to see me and I so glad to see him you don know how we felt when we met. he I took a blanket two rails made a strecher carried him to a barn used hospitle to have his wounds drest, his left leg is broken just above nee the other woun is flesh one I think he will get along well in time he will come home you must write to Charlott tell her all I cant have not got time now dont know where the rebels have got into Virgen we have got to Chase them I have got to leave Hor here he has not much pain I am well so dont feel bad about me we exspect to fight before long do not know when nor where you must take good care of yourself I shall do my fiting and Horaces to blast thir picturs I am shure I shot two of the rebels I am shure I dont love to brag of it but I hate them more now then ever. Lewis Halley is wounded in hospitel I must close soon for they are a waiting

good bye Katie all

for this time

write soon as posable

from James your hus

Please write to  Mrs. Macarty

Tell her he was shot in the head killed instantly

Horace gave his money to Corpol Harras and he was took prisoner soon after so horace lost it­

list of killed Co I

Cap Drake found                                     Dead on the field

first Lt. Leutin Horton found               Dead

Ordly Sir Campbell (?)                           Dead

Sir Marcarty (?)                                       Dead

J. E. Twiss two of my [tent mates]     Dead

Stiphen Himes                                         Dead

8 others found                                          Dead

in Co I. I dont know ther names

some taken prisoners

15 or 20 wounded some where we got our Dead and  buried them all to gether under one then drove stakes down wrote ther names on the stakes I have not time to write  half what I wanted to

our men was woundid with shot and shell grape shot canisters I moust draw this to a close so this will got to night so good by my dear wife and friends at home

Write soon. I have not heard from home since I left Hartford

I want to hear from you dreadfully we have not had any mail for a long time


Almost everyone whom Jamie set out to look for turned up dead. Many people whom he wrote about in previous letters died during Antietam, save for Uncle Horace who managed to escape with two leg wounds and a superficial head wound. This was one of the letters that always got to me the most because Jamie gives Katie this long list of the deceased and tasks her with writing to Mrs. Macarty to tell her that her husband is dead – shot in the head and killed instantly, at least. That is not a piece of news easily given to someone.

Jamie’s comments about the rebels in previous letters seem practically lighthearted compared to what’s written here. After having to bury his friends, he seems less like a sports fan declaring that his team will be victorious and more like a soldier bent on revenge. Needless to say, this letter is an artifact from one of the darkest moments in his life, not to mention in the entire Civil War, and physically handling it gives me the chills.


Unknown Date and Location

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#9 Rosa - No date or place - Page One #9 Rosa - No date or place - Page Two


Well Rosa,

I had to throw away my clothes and get new ones two new shirts one pair of draws paire Stockings the two shirts $4.75 Draws .75 ct woolen stockings .50 ct my pants and blows they let me keep, but had them off brushed [aired] one day night gave them back to me I told I had no money wanted to go with Charley Parker he was luckey a mr. Smith from Avon his old minister the town sent him down to look after the Avon boys he brought box to C.P. let him have $20 in money, Charley got new Leant(?) all though, he lent me $5.00 to get my shirts with. I would not have him leave me for any thing so now I have got to send for more money to pay him with you will have to go to Hartford and draw $10, dollar and send it to me soon as you can get it ready to send when I get to a stoping place. 5 D at a time it is to bad I do not see as I can help it, now, when I get paid off can send it to replase it if we ever get paid.

Excuse all mistakes, if you can read this letter you can do a good more than some

this is wrote on a book in my hand could not hold it still   Good bye with lots of love to you Rosa

and all inquiring friends

from your ever loving

Husband James W Peckham

When I get to a stoping plase I will give you the Directions


“If you can read this letter you can do a good more than some” – I can’t help but feel this is somehow addressed to me as well after spending all this time trying to decipher his handwriting. I wish I could send him a clipboard and some decent pens and paper through time, though his writing tools are about to be the least of his problems.

Two shirts for $4.75, good god.


Frederick City ~ September 14th, 1862: Burnside and Rebel Prisoners

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See how he scrawls in the margins? It’s so hard to read, but I’ve done my best and referred to my grandmother’s old transcription.

#8 Frederick City - Sep 14th, 1862 Envelope

#8 Frederick City - Sep 14th, 1862 Page One #8 Frederick City - Sep 14th, 1862 Page Two



            Frederick City, md

Sunday [afternoon] 4 ½ Oclock

Sept. 14th, 1862


My Dear Wife,

I now sit down to pen you a few lines let you know how we get along we are well ex the rheumatism I have it in my right leg so has Horace in his r leg it hurts us to march but we hoble along and keep up Twiss & Macaty as well.

we camped at new market last night started from there this morning at 7 Oclock got here at 12 OC Dis of 8 miles without any Breakfast not a mouth full here I got one loaf of bread about as large as your fist for 15 cent the rebels eat up every thing could get in Frederick while they was here, 500 rebels prisoner here in a brick building I have been down to see them. They look tough I tell you they are fiting 8 miles from here we can hear as plain as day a constant fire of cannon the sick wounded are coming in to this city all the time lots of them. but you need not worrie about me fore we shant have a chance to fight for Burnside drives them faster than we can go Burnside will kill all of rebels and kill us trying to get up with him he is on one side of the river Macll on the other Jackson in a tite place. we are on the ground where they fought Thursday now and then a spot of blood on the ground in the next lot to us. I went [off] after some water just now into the city I stoped to a house and got some dinner the woman was strong union I got two cups of tea some ham tomatoes bread Butter she would not take any pay I took her husband’s name Lewis V. Schole. She took my name told if I ever came this way again to stop her husband is with Burnside fiting the rebels good.

I have just been at roll call now I must close this so it will go to night if possible. we have good news Burnside has just brought 250 Rebels prisoners in to the city by our camp I saw them they looked bad enough they are not two that are dresst alike, dirty & [ragged] barefooted at that

we get along first rate for soldiers so don’t worrie about us I have wrote all about us you wanted me to

They are fiting like tigers I tell you we shall load our guns to night for the rebs.

So good night

we all send love to all

Horace said he did not feel able to write this time you can tell Charlotte

Please excuse this writing for is is in hurri wrote on a plate good by from your loving husband James


You may send me stamps if you please they are hard to get

Direct as before C I 16th W.D.C.


A couple of brief notes: Ambrose Burnside was a general and I’m pretty sure the “Macll” Jamie refers to is George B. McClellan, who was a major general. Both of them played very important roles in the Battle of Antietam, during which they spent a great deal of the time bickering about tactics via couriers. As you may know, that battle ended up being a huge bloody mess with over 22,000 dead, wounded, or missing. But we’ll get to Antietam later.



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So it turns out that Whipperwill was not a person, it was the name of the section of town James lived in – it may actually be the name of their house. I was thinking that was kind of an odd name for a person. As a mentioned earlier, Robert, who was also a soldier, was James’s brother. The “Aunt Chas” written about in earlier letters is actually “Aunt Char” as in Charlotte Lay. After her husband died, she had a dream that he came to her and told her to get remarried so that she would have someone to take care of her on earth while he looked after her from beyond. According to my grandmother, some of the family members were a little skeptical about this and thought it may have just been her way of justifying getting remarried. I’m less skeptical – there’s a long list of supernatural occurrences experienced by people in the family, and no generation has escaped it yet. One other interesting fact: Starvation Hill was the actual name of a place, and apparently it was a pretty horrible spot. Maybe they should have named it something more optimistic.


Near Frederick ~ September 11th, 1862: Dear Parents

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I have some notes from my grandmother I plan on posting soon regarding some of the things I had questions about, but in the interest of just keeping this blog going I’ll probably start posting more letters with minimal commentary. One important note though – Robert is James’s brother.

Also, I’m going to try to restrain myself from editing and adding punctuation or fixing spelling errors. Of course I say this now, right after I’ve transcribed one of James’s only legible letters. As you can see, he took special care to write in neat handwriting with passable spelling when writing to his parents. Apparently he was a little more concerned about the impression his letter would leave on them than he was with the impression Katie would get from his insane sprawling handwriting and cramped side-note-ridden margins.

#7 Dear Parents - Sep 11, 1862 Page One

#7 Dear Parents - Sep 11, 1862 Page Two #7 Dear Parents - Sep 11, 1862 Page Three

In Maryland                        September 11, 1862

Not knowing where we are I cannot tell you the name of the place

My dear parents                                                            Thursday night by candle-light

I now take this opportunity to let you know how we get along I am well except some rheumatism in my right leg and shoulders Horace to is well except a blister on his heel, we left our encampment in Leesboro this morning at 7 oclock marched 15 miles to this place got here at half past 4 oclock PM it was a hard march it rained most all the time the road was rough and my leg was a little sore Horace & Mr. Twiss and myself lagged on behind although we kept up with them we are near Frederick where Jackson is but that does not scare me we march again in the morning do not know what direction it matters not. it raines  now but we have got out shelter tents, I went over to a farm house and got some straw to sleep on so we are comfortable Sargent Macarty, Mr. Twiss Horace, Corporal Peckham are in one tent together sergeant is writing to his wife I to you and my wife & friends I left Robert in Virginia I supose he is well I do not stand in need of anything but should like to see you all and Katie for a short time but would not leave my country for I think it is my duty to do what I can. We have Prayer meetings as often as we can thank the Lord. I should have wrote to you before but did not have time we we have to march and drill most all the time but will write as often as I can you must do the same. I have not heard from home since I left Hartford should like to hear first rate expect to every day I cannot write half as much as I should like to must draw this to a close for tonight for it is time for roll call then the light is put out will write more in the morning if I can so good bye once and all for tonight Mr. Twiss sends his respects to my friends Katie knows him Horace sends his love also he will not write this time good night tell father to take care of himself                                                                        with love

September 12                        Lebanon Chourch

Dear Mother, Damaskus, Montgomery Country md

Friday night we moved on 15 miles from where we was last night got to this place at 5 oclock along march and a hard one. I had the rheumatism pretty hard this morning when we left at 7 oclock I walked a little ways then had to fall out they took me into the ambalance carried me about 2 miles then I walked the rest of the way Horace has got very sore feet he could not keep up in the ranks but we hobbled along behind we are very tired. Charles Parker & Perry Woodford and your James has just been over to a house to get some supper we got two cups of tea some fried ham potatoes hoecakes for 25 centers apiece we are 10 miles from Frederick City they have been fighting to day. Burnside and Jackson we can hear every big gun that is fired it sounds ugly. Good news a carrier had just come from Frederick the news is Burnside had whiped Jackson and taken back Frederick city good we will be there tomorrow if nothing happens I must close this for this time I am tired and lame and sore and will write no more it is 8 oclock at night tomorrow we expect to fight or next day

Well good bye

from your ever loving son James

love to all

write soon

Direct as before

Company I 16 Reg CT Vol Washington DC

from James WP

please write to me

by gorris please write to Horace



Jamie was younger than I am now when writing this letter, yet he complains of rheumatism. I guess we’d all be complaining of rheumatism if we had to march 15 miles every damn day.