3 Civil War Letters: 151st NY Soldier Sees Hundreds Wounded at Battle of Antietam Brought to McKim's Hospital

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REUBEN W. PIERCE enlisted on October 22, 1862, at Carlton, NY and was mustered into A Co. NY 151st Infantry.  He died of disease on August 10, 1863 at Harper’s Ferry, W.Va. [Research included]

The 151st was sharply engaged at Locust Grove during the Mine Run Campaign and later fought from the Wilderness to Petersburg, engaged at the Wilderness, Spottsylvania, North Anna, Totopotomy and Cold Harbor.  It also fought Sheridan’s campaign at Charlestown, Leetown, Smithfield, Opequan, Fisher’s Hill and Cedar Creek.

Our Private Pierce was on guard duty at McKims Hospital, located in the McKim mansion in Baltimore, where he witnessed the bringing in of hundreds of wounded soldiers from the Battle of Antietam, the Army’s movement toward muskets and away from Enfield Riffles and the arrest of fellow soldiers.

On March 4, 1863, Pierce writes a 7 ¾ x 12 ½, 2 pp letter in pencil to his wife from McKims Hospital, in part, “…Now we have got our cartridge boxes and bayonets yet our captain is under arrest…and I think they will send him home. They have taken our first lieutenant and promoted him to Captain of another company and taken a second lieutenant from another company and promoted him to first lieutenant in our company so you see that the Colonel is doing his best to pitch our company…has also taken the first sergeant of our company and promoted him to the office of sergeant major. The next thing he does will be to arrest the second lieutenant and [clean] him. Then he will have the company right where he wants it. [He will] make us take the musket and that will be the end of the Enfield Riffles…Our company has been detached to do guard duty again at McKims Hospital about one and a half miles from where we camp in tents…I also saw the captain of the company that Frances Brown belongs to and he told me that Frances Brown was in a hospital at Washington…The government owes us four months’ pay, fifty-two dollars but when we shall get paid off I cannot tell.  We were all inspected by the Brigadier General Briggs commanding the brigade…Reuben Pierce.”

Second letter, McKims Hospital, March 17, 1863, 5 x 8, 2 pp, in ink to his wife, in part, “…The rest of the boys are all well. Earl has got better now. He is doing guard duty again. They have been filling up the hospital here again. They have fetched somewhere about two hundred the last week.  The government has broken up some hospitals at a place called Frederick in Maryland. There were about ten hundred sick and wounded there.  Most of them were wounded at the Battle of Antietam. They fetched about eight hundred of them to Baltimore. They continue to discharge men every day. They discharged eight from our regiment last week…We have got our harness to our guns, got the saber bayonet and sharps cartridge boxes to go with them. We make a splendid appearance now with the brass…The Colonel thinks we look better since we got our harnesses.  If we look better, we do not feel any better with them on. He said also that he was glad we had got our rights. We have not got any pay yet but are looking for it every day…Miss Maria Greely is here in Baltimore now. She is going out to Washington…”

Third letter, Lafayette Barracks, April 25, 1863, 5 x 8, 2 pp, in pencil to his wife, in part, “…I heard the sad news today that Ethan Murn is dead. He died with the small pox about two weeks ago. He has been in the hospital most of the time since we came to Baltimore. I hear also that the company, that George Goolet and Delass How…have been in battle and had two men killed and three or four wounded…”

Folds, toning. Phonetic spelling and punctuation corrected in transcription.                                                                                                                      

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