Manley Stacey Civil War Letters

From the collection of the Historical Society of Oak Park and River Forest, Illinois

September 11, 1862 – Bolivan Heights

Bolivan Heights
near Harpers Ferry
Sep 11th /62

Dear Father

I have written you two letters Since we left our other Camp Ground but can not tell whether you, have received them or not, as I have received no mail from home in over a week. I have felt quite anxious to hear from you, since I heard that it was reported that we, were cut to pieces.

I can not see how, such a report as that got started, unless it was that we were surrounded. Even then they could cause but little harm, as we have some very powerful Batteries, stationed so as to Guard the peace from every point. To be sure they can cut off our supplies for 2000 Men, then I think something will be done. I am but little afraid of being attacked here. We are on a very high hill & on only one side can they get at us.

It was reported last night that Jackson was retreating towards the Ferry. We are expecting every moment today to be called out to go on a Scout,

Day before yesterday two of the men, belonging to this Co. went out for water & have either been taken Prisoner[s] or have deserted & yesterday Billy Waters1, disappeared, very mysteriously. He was out all the night before on Picket with the company & did not come in when the rest did. I think today we shall search for him. I am in hopes he will come back, as I lent him my watch, not thinking but that he would come back. Mr. Francisco has money of his, & if he has deserted, I think I can get it off him. I value it at $25, as I had been offered that for it. I am in hopes we shall hear from him.

I have been sick for the past two or three days, with the Bloody Dysentry, it has brought me down so I am quite weak. The Captain & both Lieutenants have been very kind to me, Liet Moor sent me some [s ] Berries, which tasted very good. Today Crowl is pretty sick, he is troubled with the same thing. Hardly any one in the camp had escaped it, I think it owing to the change of water & Diet. I tell you I miss the good living at home, especially since I have been sick. No Pies Cakes Puddings or any delicacies.

There is some talk of promoting two men out of the Ranks to fill the 21st & 5th Corporals place, that have been reduced & have resigned. If it is done & I am not promoted I shall resign, most certainly, I am sure I shall not serve under them. So the next time I write I may be a Private.

The only thing we have to trouble us now is not getting the mail. The Rebels have planted Batteries between here & the Point of Rocks & at [ ] along the Rail Road so we have no communication with Baltimore, & I hope it will soon be removed.

We are now busy here cutting down the woods in [this] [B ], & throwing up Breast Works, this I think is all nonsense, as I do not believe we will stay here long. I hope not it is such an out of the way place.

Everything is such old style. You should see the Engines on the Rail Road. The Engineers house is right up on top of the Engine, they are the most awkward looking things you have ever seen. I had a talk with one of the Engineers, about his miserable looking Engines, he thought I was Green he said they were the latest Style, I told him he was just 50 years behind the times. I told him that a New York State Engineer would not disgrace themselves enough to run one of them.

And their Teams here are all four hoses. A Darky sits on the left horse of the 2nd team & has one line reaching to the right horse first team Guiding both teams by that one line I don’t know what this [war] business is coming too, they seem to be doing nothing at all.

I have not been homesick at all until since I have been Sick. Then I missed the home diet. What does mother think of going to England, this fall. I suppose you will be at conference before this reaches you, I should like to be there,

Col Winters Division from [ ] Martins] [ ] bring, around here tonight We are now expecting an attack. Sat morn Spent quite a sick night could keep nothing on my stomach. We can hear firing in the distance this morning, can not tell where nor what it is

With Love to all
hoping to hear from you soon

Please mention about my watch to Francisco. Yesterday a search was made for Waters & it is pretty positive that he has gone to Ohio

Why were there outbreaks of Dysentery among the soldiers?

This week in the Civil War:
from Blood, Tears and Glory

1 Waters, William–age,20 Enlisted 6 Aug 1862 at Lyons, to serve three years; mustered in as private, Co. D, 20 Aug 1862; discharged for disability, 28 Feb 1864, at Convalescent Camp, Alexandria, VA.
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Manley Stacey

born October 29, 1842

died December 26, 1863

Written during the battle of Gettysburg, July 1-3, 1863

"When we camped last, we could see the wounded coming in, those that were able to walk, and the cavalry horses coming in riderless. This showed us that something was going on...I think this will be an awful battle very soon and of course we are in for it...It is a sad sight to see the wounded brought in on stretchers, the poor boys all covered with blood & as pale as death.

"Last night at 4 PM we were ordered to march and form in Line of battle on our left. After a great deal of confusion, we got formed and then we were ordered to advance, right in the face of the rebel guns who were firing their grape and canisters into us by wholesale...After a great deal of marching and counter marching, we were ordered to charge on a rebel battery. We were now right in front of our canons, advancing on their guns, the rebel sharpshooters in our rear picking off our officers. This was an awful time the shells taking the men down by ranks. While we were marching, a man was shot, and the Blood was spilling all over my face, it perfectly Blinded me.

"At 1 PM we were shelled by 100 guns, all concentrated on the force supporting the battery. There we laid behind a stone wall, the shells passing over us and killing the men all around me. Three men were killed and thrown across me, covering me with blood. While we were laying here, a shell struck a stone in the wall and killed a man throwing the man across my legs and the stone striking me in the back & doubling me up.

"We have got about 18 men now in the Company fit for duty and 150 in the Regiment. We went in the fight with over 400, and have yet now 150."

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