Saturday, 1863 July 4, Westminster, Maryland, and, Saturday, 1863 July 18, Bunker Hill, Berkeley County, Virginia: “Two Roads from Gettysburg: Union and Confederate Soldiers’ Letters”

Letter 1 of 2: Saturday, 1863 July 4, Westminster, Maryland: “Some very hard fighting at Gettysburg . . . our forces have Captured Several thousand Rebels”

Westminster, Maryland July 4th 1863
My wife: I again pen a few lines for Your
Entertainment and perusal. Well here I am Sitting
In the wagon to keep out of the rain which is
falling in torrents, the first heavy rain that
we have had for Some days, and of Course
very acceptable, although it is very bad for the
troops who are Now Wounded, or fighting upon
the Battlefield. there has been Some very hard
fighting at Gettysburg Pa. within the Last few days
and the Loss is heavy on both Sides. Our forces have
Captured Several thousand Rebels that I have Seen
and I have been talking with Some of the Rebs
which talk as Poison as the bite of a Rattler
Snake. they Say they will fight us as long as
they have a man Left. this town is part
Secesh, but Many of the Ladies are Caring
for our wounded that are brought here.
We are not far from the State Line, yet

[page 2]
I am Some 25 Miles from where the fighting
is going on. Our trains [Editor: military supplies] are mostly all parked
here, out of the way of the Enemy, for fear of
Capture as the Rebel Cavalry are all over the Country
and was in this place Last Monday, when they
Sacked all the Stores and destroying what they did
not care to carry off, besides Stealing about 4,000
horses from the farmers, and Robbing Private Houses
and insulting the females, but they are Paying
very dearly for their Crimes just Now. Our
forces are whipping them at all points here
we have traveled Some 300 miles but Now we have
Come to a halt for awhile, and I believe that
before we Leave again for Virginia, that the
Rebel army which is here in Maryland and
Pennsylvania will pretty much all be Killed
Or Captured, as the water in the Potomac is
So high that they cannot Escape. I am having high
times Something better than Last 4th of July.

[page 3]
I am very well, tired or Lazy yet I think
that I am Not alone. While I was in the
place of Middletown [Maryland] I Sent twenty dollars
$20 in a Letter for you, making, 40 dollars
Since I was Paid. I would Like to hear from
H (?). I got a letter from William Rockman
[Editor: Private/Corporal William F. Rockman, 10th New Jersey Infantry]
a few days ago he was well. This is a Beautiful
Country for grass and grain. The wheat Looks
good, but I tell you that the army is doing
Much Mischief to the farmers destroying trees
and Crops but Buy what Hay and grain
[they need?] as victuals they take away. We have
Not had but two Mails in the Last 20 days.
I am Looking for a Letter from you, and
Christian. I would Like to have been home to
spend the 4th with you, yet I am doing well
to what Many poor Souls are.
Please give My love and Compliments to
Christian and family. Likewise to you
and the Children. Good by from your Husband
James T. Odem

[Editor: John T. Odem (private, corporal and sergeant), 5th New Jersey Infantry.]

MSS 7093-M

Letter 2 of 2: Saturday, 1863 July 18, Bunker Hill, Berkeley County, Virginia: “I do not
think that Gen. Lee has abandoned altogether his Pennsylvania Campaign”

Bunker Hill, Berkeley County, Virginia
July 18th, 1863
My Dear Cousin,
Your letter
reached us yesterday, the first I believe we
have had since we left Culpeper. I did not know certainly
whether or not you were still at Belpre. I was fearful lest
the enemy’s Cavalry might have penetrated as far as Culpeper C. H. [Court House].
Early on the march we heard that the Yankee Cavalry
had burnt Culpeper C. H. and Gordonsville—some believe it
but I could not think otherwise than that it was the work of
“Madame Rumor.” You cannot imagine what we have passed thro’
since I saw you last, have marched night and day and fought
one of the most sanguinary battles of the war. After retiring
from Gettysburg we remained in line of battle two or three days near
Hagerstown, [Maryland] but the enemy did not deem it prudent

[Editor: At the top of page 2 is a note:
“Direct to the Company Cabell’s Battalion
McLaws’ Division
Longstreets Corps A N. Va.” (Army of Northern Virginia)]

[page 2]
to attack us. We then retreated south of the Potomac. No one
could have regretted this move than I. My greatest desire was
to see this army subsisted on Pennsylvania, never in my life
have I seen a more abundant wheat crop than that in Maryland and Penn.
Unfortunately some of the troops have an unaccountable
superstition that we cannot be victorious in Pa. as we can
in Va. I heard some say that they never wanted to cross the Potomac
and other remarks of this kind which come very unfavorably from
an invading army with a powerful foe in our front. They fought
well, however, at Gettysburg, the artillery was never served
better, more manfully the long list of casualties will attest
the truth of what I assert; as a company we never did more
fighting in one battle, the piece to which Louis [Editor: Louis A. Wise] and myself
belong fired 300 rounds, more I venture to say than any gun
engaged; at one time; the day was ours. Pickett’s Division had

[Editor: At the top of page 3 is a postscript:
“I forgot about Brother. I know
nothing of him, have not had a word from
him for three or four months. I have been told
that he was in the Mecklenburg County [Virginia], he will
write when he gets ready”]

[page 3]
captured their fortifications with a quantity
of artillery, their support not arriving in
time they had to fall back. we were thus
repulsed and in no condition to renew the
assault, our loss being frightful, suffering heavily
in General and field officers. I do not
think that Gen. Lee has abandoned altogether
his Pennsylvania Campaign, when we fell back
the army was in a bad condition and needed
rest after reaching Pa. It was really amazing
to notice the fright the Dutch had
received. They thought us a band of pillagers
and would consider themselves fortunate if
their houses remained over their heads,
though some were treated badly, shamefully,
they soon found out that we were not the
people they had imagined us to be; they had
been told by their friends of the suffering
we had received and thought of course
that we would retaliate before reaching
Pa. I thought it my christian duty to
take what I wanted to eat, such things
as fowls, vegetables, &c., but after reflecting,

[page 4]
I was at once satisfied that this was not
the proper manner to seek for vengeance that
instead of making the women and children
suffer I would exert myself against those in arms,
and then it could but tend to
demoralize an army, tho’ there was but
little done. It has, I am convinced, a
very bad effect through that section of
Pa. we passed thro’. I was struck with the
appearance of farms and such a miserable
dutchified population, the dwelling
houses were generally large and comfortable
looking brick houses, with costly
splendid barns, gardens tastefully arranged,
indeed every appearance of culture and
elegance, but My goodness! look inside,
coarse dutchy girls, with their dresses
tied up around their waists, as if they
had been bending over a wash tub, without
shoes, with shoes and no stockings.
this is the class I noticed Except in
the towns, there was of course more
refinement. This is the population I

[page 5]
am confident that we have to fight. It is
the greatest country for loaf bread and
apple-butter I ever heard of. They were always
ready to give. They have these large baker
ovens, and generally kept on hand a
supply; this was I think a good policy
as there were hundreds in the army who
would have broken open safes, &c.,
without the least hesitation. Our fare was
about the same as in Va. We took
nothing without paying for it. One
company in our battalion had everything
they wanted notwithstanding Gen.
Lee’s order to the contrary, they had always
on hand mutton, shoat, vegetables, &c.
Like many others throughout the
army they would not hesitate to help
themselves to all the milk in the
cellars. This was done to some extent,
but I heard of only one or two cases
of wanton destruction of property such
as breaking up furniture these if found
out were severely punished. I sincerely
hope if it is better if we can sooner
secure for ourselves peace that we may
get back and be successful. The fall

[page 6]
of Vicksburg and Port Hudson together
with our recent repulse has cast a dark
cloud over all. Many are gloomy, and feel
that it will cause the war to be prolonged
to an indefinite extent, but as for myself
I am in good spirits and feel that in due
time all will yet be well. I am now
entirely cut off from home, though anxiety
about me will be great many others tho’
are in a similar condition. This disturbs
me a great deal. I hope it will not be
the case long. You request me to read
“Les Miserables” or as some lady enquired
at the book store in Richmond “Lee’s Miserables
fainting.” There are one or two copies
in camp, but I have not had an
opportunity to read it. We have been so
constantly marching. We are ready to
move camp and I have no doubt
exhausted your patience so if this will
repay you for your sweet letter which
you chose to term stupid, I will close.
My very best love to all, Miss Nora and
Libbie when you see her. Louis joins me
with his usual quantity says he will
write soon. Goodbye, Dearest Cousin,
[on side of page 1] Yours as ever, John

[Editor: Private John B. Wise, 1st Richmond Howitzers.]

MSS 2919-B

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