Joseph Rutherford to [Hannah Rutherford]
I promised myself to write to you a history of our march, and the Battle of "Lows
Grove". I shall now attempt to fulfill that promise. We left Brandy Station the
27th Nov (thanksgiving day) about 11 oclock A.M. It was a cold raw day, the wind
was purring in the extreme. We did not halt for any length of time till about 3
P.M. Here we had our thanksgiving dinner. Our thoughts
all day had been of home and home comforts, of boards loaded with every luxury
of the season till they fairly ground with with their bad. We thought of our
friends sitting down to partake of these luxuries and wondered if a passing
thought would flit across their memory of friends and relatives who were there
going forth to do battle for their country their homes and firesides. While
having those reflections we felt that many of us would never see another setting
sun, or rather but one more setting sun as it was well understood that we were
enemy in less than 24 hours. We thought to how sad would be many a home and heart, that were now happy in the plenty of Gods providence if they could see us as we were. The reflection is a sad one. While you were satisfying the cravings of the inner man with roast turkey plumb puddings minus pies, and all the luxuries that go to make up a N.E. thanksgiving dinner, we were squated on the cold ground around a smokey fire, the cold wind cutting us to the very vitals, boiling [ ] of salt pork on the end of a stick, with the tears running down our cheeks from the smoke, with a "hard tack" in the other hand, and when the meat has been smoked and scorched sufficiently take it in our finger to eat and green our hard tack with, all of which had to be eaten hastily as we were on a forced march. How much think you would those at home enjoyed their scrumptous dinner had they known these fact. This was our thanksgiving dinner. But let it be known that as we [ ]as this fan was, a thanksgiving dinner never was eaten with more true thanks fullness to the given of all good gifts than was our. We were happy and content with what we had,
not a rumor was heard. All were happy, and many a good joke was passed round, that reasoned our fan with the richest of spies.
No grumbling tax payer at home [ ] his feast as experienced half the thanksfulness that most [ ] in our army felt. This rotten hearts were filled with hatred and [ ], there was no room for joy nor nor gratitude. They hate the war worn soldiers and they have no true love for their country. But mark it there is a terrible day of retribution coming.
Well after eating our meal we took our time of march, and come in sight of the
farmound [ ] a little after sun set. By the
time our corps got across it was dark. We continued our march 2 miles back from
the river, and camped for the night. We are now in a dense forest that is
familliarly known as the Wilderness. It is well known
that the woods are perfectly alive with the enemy, yet we lay down to sleep with
an indifferance that is unaccountable to even the soldier himself. We were
allowed to sleep till near break of day on the 27th. I would state here that we
had marched 14 miles on the 26th. We hastily eat some pork
and hard tack and had a disk of coffee, when we took up our line of march farther into the woods. But we did not go more than 1 1/2 miles before I progress was checked. We found the Rebs entrenched. Here we formed a line of battle, and commenced [ ]. But no fighting took place except by the Skirmishes till about 3 P.M. when the genl engagement took place. Our Brigade took the lead and opened the fight. Now comes my experience. There was but two surgeons for our Brig. As soon as the firing command we fixed a place about 6 rods in the read of the 10th Vt as that reg. was in the centre. The Brigade was on the crest of a known not so high as our heads as we stood in the hollow. Here we waited for work. I have told you my first feelings. We did not wait long for something to do. In about half an hour the shot come amongst us like hail storm. I did not mind it a fact that is [ ] to me, but I found myself experiencing feelings that I never felt before. The whole atmosphere seemed to be puffed from a [ ] furman. This was not from a feeling of fear, for I had lost
my whole being in my duties. The feeling is best explained by the sensation felt after the pain is gone when stung by a bee. So think was the shot that it did not seem possible for a man to hold up his hand without its being hit. You can judge when I tell you that 30,000 muskets were being fired at us as fast as they could be loaded. I think the fighting must have lasted for nearly an hour when there seemed to be a lull. This was but momentary. But my great surprise and danger the shot came from another direction and they came in a perfect shower. This is this time I have told you aobut where I had such a narrow escape. You will better understand how this was by a diagram, which I will make of our Brigade.
Remember we are in a dense wood.
At the time I speak of the 2 Div broke and never[ ] leaving a wide gap which the Rebs took ad-vantage of, and undertook to turn our night flank, which was prevented by the 151st N.Y. falling back to the doted line in their rear.
I stood where the circle is beside a litte stream
of water, which you see would bring me directly in their line of fire and the ground is nearly level between me and the combattants, and not the length of a regiment from there. I had wounded men laying on the ground and [ ]. As strange as I may seen I thought of the safety of these poor fellow men than I did of myself. I was not long in morning my quarters to a more safe and distant point. How we were [ ] for over an hour. It was begining to be dark in the woods, and let me say here that I never offered up a prayer with greater ferver that darkness night speadily cover the farm of the earth, and put a stop to this terrible carnage. The first [ ] of danger here was the busting of a shell over our heads and followed in rapid succession by other shells. At this time we had exhausted all our dressings, and it gitting too dark to operate properly, it was thought best to leave the woods and go to the rear about half a mile where there was a clearing and a small log house which you see by looking on the map I sent you. "Gov [ ]". Here we established our Hospital again, and I never worked harder
in my life. The last wounded man was brought in after 2 A.M. next morning. One little incident occurred here. There were but 2 rooms in the house Gen French occupied one while the wounded the other. About 10 oclock P.M. we sent an orderly to me with his compliments to borow a candle I sent my compliments back to him saying that had no more candles than was necessary to work with. One of the surgeons present said we had better let the Gen have one. I told him no, he nore any other Gen can have a candle when we have not enough for ourselves. The fun of the thing is that he should be there with all his train without a single candle. But to return to the battle ground. The firing ceased a little after dark, and our poor exhausted men lay down among the dead and dying, to shack a little rest and sleep, and [ ] sleep was sweeter than was ever experienced on downy pillows. Victory had punched upon their arms, the enemy was driven from the field. Before light next morning we started for "[ ]
I have given you a very imperfect history of the experience of the long to be
remembered 27th Nov
I did intend to give the history of the next day but I have written till my poor old [ ] like the tooth ache. I will continue this history as opportunity offers. The description of our feeling in a battle are such that language is inadequate to express them, they must be felt to know them. The 10th Vt did heavily in this action Let me say here that Capt Steele did honor to himself and his town, as well as all his men. Jos Daggeto showed himself a brave and noble soldier, did not get a [ ]. Young Spafford did well, in fact not a man in his Company failed to do their duty. John Piper sent 4 horses riderless back into the enemies cover He fired over 30 rounds and did not wast a shot. So Col Jewett said who stood near him all the time.
As I wrote to you yesterday I have nothing to write.
Remember me to the Children
Your HusbandJ.C. Rutherford