Manley Stacey Civil War Letters

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

About Manley Stacey

Manley Stacey was born October 29, 1842, which would make him nineteen years old at the time of the first letter. A Corporal in the Union Army, he served in the 111th New York Volunteer Infantry, Company D. Stacey was a mechanic by trade and lived in Lyons New York.

Manley Stacey was typical of most soldiers fighting the Civil war – on both sides. He was not a storybook hero, or a high ranking officer. He fought at Gettysburg but did not die in that battle or in any famous battles of the War, and would have certainly been completely forgotten, like most other soldiers of past wars, if his family had not preserved these letters and a diary which he wrote simultaneously (and which has found its way into the Pearce Civil War collection at Navarro College in Texas). Stacey didn’t seem to have deep awareness of what the whole War was about. He joined because, like young men in that and other wars, he may have thought it would be an adventure.

There are no great revelations in these letters. There is no great prose, and are no profound insights. Likely nothing will be gleaned here that will be news to historians about an event in American history that has been more exhaustively researched than any other.

However, what these letters do offer, because they are, in effect, an almost daily diary, is a glimpse into the day-to-day life of a soldier in the Civil War. Not valuable for any individual letter, the collection, taken as a whole, has its value in being able to offer us a perspective and a window into the daily life of an individual in his time and place. These letters tell an “every man” story.  What is presented here is simply history unvarnished.

According to records extracted from the Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year 1903 ,  Stacey was accidentally shot and killed on December 26, 1863.

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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."

The Letters

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