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3482Last Letter of Confederate Officer, MW/KIA at Sunken Road (Long)

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  • G E Mayers
    Jun 10, 2007

      Thanks to Teej Smith who kindly transcribed a copy of a letter
      written by Captain William T. Marsh, Company H, Fourth Regiment
      Infantry, North Carolina State Troops, I would like to present
      Marsh's letter for the group to read and discuss.

      A copy of the original letter is on file in the library of the
      Antietam National Battlefield Park; the library is now located in
      the ranchette to one's right as one enters the driveway to the
      Pry House Museum (Mac's HQ during the battle and now a satellite
      site of the National Museum of Civil War Medicine in nearby

      We do not know to whom Marsh was writing, except the addressee
      was female and considerably younger than himself. According to
      some information Teej has, it appears our Captain Marsh was about
      30 years of age, making him middle aged for the time.

      Captain Marsh, apparently the senior captain by rank in the
      regiment, took over command of the regiment after its commander,
      Col. Bryan Grimes, had to be sent to the rear following the
      fighting at Fox's Gap...suffering from exhaustion and pain in a
      leg from his horse kicking him while he and the regiment crossed
      the Potomac into Maryland as part of G. B. Anderson's North
      Carolina brigade.

      Sadly, this letter below is the last letter Marsh would
      write.....in a characteristic display of bravado, during the
      heavy fighting at the Sunken Road during the Battle of
      Sharpsburg, he mounted the northern embankment of the lane to
      show his contempt for the attacking Federals and was mortally
      wounded in the head, expiring probably instantly.

      I offer it here as it not only talks about the regiment and its
      marches as part of D. H. Hill's division but also gives a quaint
      insight into Marsh himself and his own character. He even
      mentions something about Pennsylvania, so maybe it was not a
      "hidden" secret of the ultimate destination of Lee's Army??
      (Perhaps some food for thought, IMHO.)

      (Letter below my signature for easier snipping for discussion;
      your thoughts and comments welcomed.)

      Yr. Obt. Svt.
      G E "Gerry" Mayers

      To Be A Virginian, either by birth, marriage, adoption, or even
      on one's mother's side, is an introduction to any state in the
      Union, a passport to any foreign country, and a benediction from
      the Almighty God. --Anonymous



      Camp 4th N C S Troops

      Near Potomac River Leesburg

      Sept 4th 1862

      My Dear Cousin,

      Your welcome letter of the 21st reached me a few days since
      whilst we were on a forced march to join the erratic Stonewall
      Jackson, having been forwarded from Richmond. I was glad to hear
      from you as I always am.

      Since I last wrote I have experienced some of the hardest
      marching of the war &c in Summer dust—hard roads—long toilsome
      days marches & scarcity of water and thirst. We have now been
      marching tend days—eight of which without rest except a few hours
      at night. Within the ten days we have march an estimated distance
      of 187 miles. Within the eight successive days of march without a
      day of rest we marched 168 miles—an average of 21 miles per day
      many days upon only one meal per day and some without any. This
      force march was made to unite our forces with those of Jackson
      who was driving the enemy before him from the Rapidan towards
      Warrenton and thence towards Fairfax & Washington. We were unable
      to overtake Jackson & Longstreet before the battles of last
      Saturday and Sunday on Bull Run. We were one day behind and as we
      passed over the fields of strife extending from Gainesville to
      Bull Run for mile we were compelled to witness the awful
      disgusting and revolting spectacle of a battle field the day
      after battle. The bodies of the dead and wounded lay strewn and
      in heaps around us on all sides. So far as I could judge from
      appearances the carnage was greater than in any of the battles
      around Richmond especially of the enemy. I should think there was
      at least twenty dead bodies of the enemy to one of ours. It is
      estimated that their dead and wounded amounted to not less than
      eight thousand. The Second day’s battle was upon the old battle
      ground of the 21st of July 1861. They there again met with a most
      signal rout—we followed them to the fortifications near
      Washington between Alexandria and Arlington Heights. Our Division
      and some others were then dispatched to this point we arrived
      here last night late in the night and are allowed a portion of us
      (Andersons Brigade) to rest and prepare rations to day—to morrow
      we expect to follow into Maryland. A portion of Hills Division
      left us this morning to cross over at Balls Bluff or Edwards
      Ferry. We expect to leave early in the morning—our present course
      for the opposite shore. Perhaps when we get into Maryland we may
      not have facilities of writing or sending letters to our friends
      at home. I therefore embrace this the earliest as well as latest
      opportunity to reply to our letter. From late letters received by
      members of my Company the Yankees have been committing more
      depredations upon the citizens of Beaufort County than
      heretofore. I hear they have taken possession of one of our farms
      and are cultivating the (unclear in copy of copy) with a number
      of runaway negroes and have a lot of troops there to protect
      them. I suppose they will destroy my stock fencing &c If we could
      only get into Pennsylvania I should take pleasure in retaliating.

      You have been misinformed in reference to my reported prospect of
      marriage with Miss Palmer. I have no such intention nor have I
      ever had. Miss Palmer’s whole family was very kind to me when I
      was sick there last fall and again this spring. I am under many
      obligations to them and shall ever entertain a grateful
      remembrance of their many acts of kindness—beyond this I have no
      aspirations. In this disclaimer I am candid and sincere and hope
      you will not doubt me. I am too old to joke upon such a subject
      and care too little for what the public may say to attempt
      concealment. Perhaps I may never marry. I shall certainly never
      marry any one I would be ashamed of even beforehand. So that
      whenever I become engaged if you have curiosity enough to enquire
      I will not deny you the information unless otherwise requested
      and of that—would be candid. Will you make a bargain with me to
      tell me your love secrets in return for my own or would I be an
      unfair one. You are so young and I so far advanced in years. You
      just in the bloom of loves springtime, I in the autumn.

      As I have said we are about to enter Maryland and what opposition
      we may meet I cannot say. If we go to Washington of course we
      shall have much fighting to do. So far a kind protecting
      providence has held me in his hand and shielded me from all
      danger. It may still be my good fortune to be preserved. May be
      the Angel of Death may mark me as a victim. Many of my best
      friends in the army—among them the noblest and most
      patriotic—have fallen. Every part of our land has to mourn the
      loss of some of these—every instance of which tending more and
      more to alienate the two sections of country and render the
      separation more sure and permanent.

      I see by the papers that my friend Maj. Gedtis [not sure of the
      spelling here] of Hertford Co. has been appointed solicitor. I
      suppose he will resign his place in the army. The Maj is so
      [unsure of wording here] a gentleman the 31st Regt will be the
      looser thereby.

      I shall expect to hear from you soon and often as you are my only
      female correspondent except A[rest unclear]. It is cheering and
      refreshing to get a letter from you.

      Give my kind regards to your sisters. Yours sincerely

      W.T. Marsh
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