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.
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.