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1862 Manuscript Civil War Soldier's Letter W/ Fantastic Battle Content New Bern For Sale
Rare and simply FANTASTIC, original, 1862 ten page, manuscript Civil War Soldier's Letter with more than six pages of the content detailing the actions of the 5th Rhode Island Infantry during the Battle of New Bern, March 14, 1862. It was written by Private Benjamin F. Drown of Company C., 5th Regiment Rhode Island Infantry.
The 5th Rhode Island Infantry was organized at Providence, Rhode Island as a battalion of five companies and mustered in December 16, 1861. An additional five companies were raised afterward and mustered in December 27, 1862. After being mustered in on December 16, 1861, Benjamin F. Drown was aboard the large transport Kitty Simpson with his Regiment, the 5th Rhode Island Volunteers by the middle of January, 1862. The transport made its' way through Chesapeake Bay to Hatteras Inlet. The Burnside Expedition included the Battle of New Bern which is detailed in this Letter. It was likely the second action seen by Private Drown and the 5th Rhode Island (after the Battle of Roanoke Island) and it was a frightening Battle to say the least.
After the Battle of Roanoke Island, Burnside next turned his attention to New Bern. Burnside landed his men twelve miles downriver on March 13 and began marching toward New Bern. By then, Confederate General Lawrence O'Brian Branch had redeployed his force closer to the city, and the Confederate forces braced for the attack, which began the next morning. Although the Confederates held off the Federals for several hours, eventually the center of the defense collapsed, and Branch’s men retreated. Some crossed the Trent River into New Bern and burned the bridge behind them, but Union gunboats shelled them. Realizing his position was untenable, General Branch withdrew his men by rail to Kinston. Burnside’s force occupied New Bern the next day, and the city remained in Federal hands until the end of the war.
This fantastic, Battle Content Civil War letter was written from Camp Pearce, Department of North Carolina and dated March 18, 1862 (four days after the Battle). It was written by Private Benjamin F. Drown of Company C., 5th Regiment Rhode Island Infantry to his Parents. It is written on two and one half, 4 page folded letter sheets. Each page measures approx. 7 1/2" x 10" and the manuscript covers the entire surface of all ten pages.
Rather than attempting to summarize the content of this Letter, we will reproduce the contents of the first six pages in their entirety and let the tale of the battle of New Bern be told in Private Drown's own words.
The Body of the Letter Reads as Follows:
" My Dear Parents,
nbsp;I received your kind letter yesterday and was very glad to hear from you for we have not got entirely rested after our toilsome march and hard battle. I can not give you particulars of the battle for after our Regiment got through fighting we took the railroad track and started for New Bern, as we thought, but when we got within half a mile of it we found that the bridges were on fire, and some of the city, so we marched to the place we now occupy. I suppose by the time that this reaches you particulars will be in the papers, and they could give you better account than I could, for the papers that you sent me with the particulars of the fight at Roanoke was exactly as they were & also the Illustrated papers the pictures were very natural, all that I have seen, but they can not begin to get the swamps and mud holes as they are here, no one can imagine what places they are here until they come and go through it, papers nor letters can begin to tell how bad it is.
We landed on Thursday, March 13th and commenced our march about noon. We kept up our march for some time before we came to any house. Finally came to one with a number of contrabands within, frightened most to death but we give them encouraging words, and passed on. The next was an old gentleman. He was old and aged. Most of us as we passed said how do uncle? He replied very politely good afternoon massa; we was all _____ with him, both old and young, we kept marching until it began to grow dark. The weather was cloudy and rainy and the roads was awful, most of the way. It was clayey mud, up to the top of our boots, and as night drew on our poor soldiers began to grow tired out and Regiments began to get hurried up and companys got out of __________. The road was strewed all through with worn out soldiers that had stopped to rest. I kept along very well until about 7 o’clock in the evening when I began to lose sight of the Captain and the right of the company, and then I kept along with Lieut. Snow until we came to a meeting house by the roadside, and there we stopped a few minutes to rest, and after we come up I lost sight of Lieut. Snow and Josh and myself with a few of the company kept along.
The next was a house where some of the boys stopped again and had built a fire there. I stopped again and had not been there long before Co. B of our Regiment came along and they stopped there until 2 o’clock Friday morning. I went into the house after I had been there about 2 hours and took two old rocking chairs and an old box that was there and made a bed, taking my blanket that I had rolled up for a pillow, but I did not get much sleep for my overcoat was wet through and after I had laid down I was quite cold and I could not sleep much. At 2 o’clock it was fall in Co. B 5th Rhode Island and I told Josh we had better go along with them the rest of the way. The road that we struck onto this time was worse than any we had to wade through. Wind and water up to our knees, you can not imagine how bad it was there. It was two o’clock in the morning and we were traveling on for the glorious cause to defend our noble country, and the banner, although most worn out. I kept up good courage and kept trudging along, the next thing we met was some of the marines with one of their howitzers, with a yoke of oxen and one company of Pennsylvania boys trying to pull it through the awful track of mud. The poor oxen and soldiers. They had come some six miles then. It was hard work for very often the wheels would go into the mud up to the hubs, and they worked like men. Time after time were the poor fellows crying for fresh men to take hold but they were all tired almost to death, some of them ready to fall down most anywhere to give up but they all managed to keep along. Finally Josh and myself took hold and heaved them along as much as we could, we pulled on it for nearly a mile when at last we reached the place where the fifth was encamped, did not know where our company was, but Josh and myself started to find a place to set down and rest. We finally dropped to the side of a tree and I took my blanket which rolled up for a cushion and put my cape over my head & went to sleep with my rifle grasped firmly in my hand. It was four o’clock and I slept finely until morning, raining all the time and curious it was in such a place and in the rain too.
I dreamt I was at home and thought the troubles was all over but when I awoke I found myself in the old place backed up against the tree. As soon as it was daylight we formed into line and I found our company again, proceeded on our march. It was not long before the booming of cannon and the cracking of musketry commenced and then cry after cry from our brave soldiers commenced, give it boys, give them fits, give them cleaning up. The poor fellows seemed to forget their weapons and they kept on. Finally, our regiment with the 8th Connecticut struck off into the woods, the balls wizzing past at rapid rate, we kept on moving along through water, climbing over trees that they had fallen to hide their batteries. Our Regiment kept off to the right of the Fort and came up to attack them in the rear, but as we came off the ____ and was crossing past some houses where they had a brick yard, the scamps who hid in those buildings and behind their brickworks that they had thrown up, and as we were crossing through the field the balls came in among us like hail stones. I could not get over that piece of ground fast enough, so I pulled my blanket, haversack, canteen and left them there. Then I started for dear life in the dead run for the faster our boys got over that place the better for them, one of the boys not more than a foot from me was running along when a ball struck his canteen that was hung on his back, went completely through it but did not hurt him, several got clothes and haversacks. I got them near as I wanted, they wizzed past my nose so that I felt the ____ of it, and they went past me in great style. A good many passed over our backs for we all run in a stooped position, we finally got through this place and was drawn into line of battle up on a hill some thirty yards from where they were. Here we had a fine chance, for most of their balls went over our heads cutting down the limbs of trees as they passed. The first that fell was our noble Lieut. B___ from Woonsocket. We had some 12 killed and wounded, the wounded are getting along as well as could be expected. How many I killed I can’t tell but I am satisfied that I killed my proportion. They said that the first round that our Regiment 300 of us fired, killed 16 of them. There was some two or three thousand that we were exposed to while passing through that field. We were on this hill about half an hour when someone shouted they are running boys, and they did run, I tell you, and went over to New Bern and set the bridges on fire after them. This is the last we saw of them but we have got full possession of the city and all around. I can’t write as many letters as I had intended for we have just had marching orders”.
At this point in his lengthy letter, Drown comments on letters that he has received and those that he intended to write, and apologizes that he won’t be able to given that he now has marching orders. He also comments upon the weather and the inferior quality of “secess” paper, which he says this letter is written on.
Drown then says: “ I want to be in the Smoke of Battle where I can do some good. We had a good many of our men fall out, said they were sick, but I noticed they were not until they heard the balls commence…”.
Drown continues: “went over to the Fort, it was an awful sight. They were burying the horses…some of them was still harnessed to the cannons, dropped in their harness. When they found our men could not get at the men as soon as they wanted to they had orders to shoot horses, so they did. One of the Rebel prisoners said that their officers had to stand behind their men all the time they were fighting to get them to work the guns".
Benjamin concludes his letter saying "Thank God that he has spared us through such a battle and I hope we shall be able to return soon in good health for I don't see how we can stand it much longer. From your affectionate son Benjamin F. Drown “.
This very rare, original Civil War Soldier's Letter is in very good condition. The sheets are generally clean and the handwriting although a bit light is neat and legible. The Sheets exhibit some light edge wear and have one horizontal and two vertical creases (as sent) with some associated wear at the creases and very small holes at the fold junctions. We have only remnants of the original envelope as can be seen in the scans below. The Letter came to us from a Rhode Island estate with a small archive of Civil War letters and it is newly discovered and has never been offered for sale before.
A VERY rare and fascinating, original, 1862 Ten Page, Manuscript Civil War Soldier's Letter with excellent battle content and a fantastic addition to any collection!!!
Click here to read more about the Battle of New Bern.
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1862 Manuscript Civil War Soldier's Letter W/ Fantastic Battle Content New Bern: $349