|Four unidentified soldiers of the 1st Texas Infantry near|
Dumfries, Va. in the winter of 1861-62.
(Library of Congress)
October 21, 1863
1st Texas Regiment,
Near Culpeper, Va., Aug. 3d, 1863.
Friend Sallie—E'er this you know we have invaded the enemy's country, and fought a desperate battle on his own soil. When we first entered Penn. we found every one in the greatest state of excitement. They were very much frightened about their private property, and gave our men everything they asked for. It seems they were informed by the authorities of the State that if we ever came in their country we would destroy everything that we could lay our hands on. But they were soon happily disappointed, for Gen. Lee, so soon as he entered the enemy's country, issued a very stringent order prohibiting the use or destruction of private property, and enjoined upon both officers and men the necessity of its rigid enforcement. The consequence was our men conducted themselves with the same propriety as if they had been in their own country, with the exception of stragglers and a few black sheep, who took everything that was eatable within their reach, thereby faring sumptuously. Such men, when detected, were dealt with and punished according to the nature of the offence committed. I did not hear of a house being wantonly burned by our troops while in Pennsylvania or Maryland—there were some destroyed and burned in battle.
Chambersburg was the first city of any importance that we passed through in Pennsylvania. I noticed the citizens all wore an acid look—a gloom seemed to o'erspread the city, the doors and blinds were all closed to us as we marched through the principal streets.
Many of the females wore small Federal flags, others red, white and blue ribbons upon their breast in defiance to us, and emblems of their true Yankee fanatic idea of patriotism and devotion to their country, while the men stood on the side walks gazing on in mute amazement, with heavy hearts and heads bent and drooping in humble submission as we passed along.
The scene was an uninviting and unpleasant one to them. Of course we did not anticipate a reception such as we were want [sic] to receive in our Old Dominion State. There were no bright smiling faces or delicate white handkerchiefs waving us on in triumph, there. In place of these were forced upon our ears words of contempt, hatred and a wish for our defeat. But our boys were overflowing in spirit, victory and success seemed to be imprinted on every brow. Their flaunting words fell upon their undaunted spirits like oil upon the waters, only reducing their laughter and merriment into complacency and thought. Thus marched through the first city in the enemy's country "an army that had never been beaten, and opposed to an army that had never been victorious." On the morning of the 2d inst. about 8 o'clock a.m., our division halted on an eminence overlooking the city of Gettysburg, Penn. There was heavy cannonading and skirmishing going on at 12 m. We were ordered to the front and right, moving by the right flank along the edge and through the woods about four miles, until we crossed a creek into an open field, where we suffered severely from shells, not so much in our regiment as in other regiments belonging to the brigade. The 3d Arkansas had twenty killed and wounded, (mostly wounded,) the second shell I thought passed about five feet from my head. I was on horseback at the time, (the troops had halted and laid down.) Being rather higher in the world than was healthy at the time, I immediately dismounted. As soon as the shelling subsided we continued to move by the right a short distance, when we moved by the left flank into line of battle at 3 o'clock p.m. We were ordered to charge forward over a rugged open country,--down a slope and up the other side. On top of this the Yankees had a battery, supported by infantry, who lay behind immense rocks. We captured the battery, drove the enemy back and occupied the position on the brow of the hill which the enemy had just left. They fell back to the side of the mountain, where they were strongly entrenched—their position was invincible. Here we fought until night closed her dark mantle over us, which was a befitting mourning over the appalling scene which lay before us. The loss of the enemy was more severe than ours. The usual duties after battle having been performed, (viz., collecting arms, hauling the captured artillery to the rear, etc.) I laid down on a small piece of an old tent, which I picked up on the field, to sleep among the living and the dead, as they lay mingled together on the field. After a hard day's fight one can lay down in line of battle and sleep as soundly and sweetly upon the bare ground as he could at home on a nice clean bed.
The painful duty devolved upon me of recording the death of our mutual friend, J. W. Southwick. Poor Joe, he was brave to a fault; he was upon the brow of the hill before mentioned, with his head and shoulders exposed above the rock. Some of his comrades told him to squat down and load. Joe remarked, laughingly, that they could not hit him; just then he was pierced through the head by a minnie ball, a little over or behind the left temple—he fell dead. Thus has been added to the register of brave ones who filled an honorable and useful place in society. To the hearts torn by this sad event, we can offer no earthly consolation. Any enumeration of his virtues will but embitter the agony of his loss. But when a Higher Power shall have assuaged their sorrow, it will be a source of melancholy consolation that he fell fighting to give liberty and freedom to his adopted land, and that his friends and countrymen will treasure his memory and deplore his death.
Joe Love and Col. Powell were severely wounded and left in the hands of the enemy.
Alas! our sleep was short. At 2 o'clock A.M. (it being 11 o'clock when we lay down) we were ordered to change our position to the right. We arrived at the place designated a little before dawn. We immediately went to work piling up rocks for breastworks on our line. At 11 o'clock A.M. on the 3d inst., we were moved still further to the right, (and detached from the brigade) we now being on the right flank of the army, to prevent the enemy's cavalry from flanking us in that direction. We occupied an extended line along a road, having a stone fence in our front, on our right in front an open field, on the left a skirt of timber. Our regiment was extended along the fence in a single rank, and the men four or five feet apart covering a front of ¾ of a mile. We connected on the left with an Alabama regiment; upon our right there was a space of three hundred yards, which was protected by artillery. At about 6 o'clock P.M. the enemy's cavalry charged through the lines of the Alabama regiment on the left, at the same time charging our left, but our boys repulsed them. After firing our guns, not having time to load, our boys threw rocks at them and knocked some off their horses, the balance going through the gap made in the Alabama regiment.—After getting through they divided, some going to the right, others to the left; the last named filed along a fence running perpendicular to our rear on the left, when they made a dash on Rieley's battery, which was half a mile in our rear. Finding it rather hot and themselves in danger of being cut off (our battery pouring grape and canister into them) by our infantry, which was moving towards them in rear of our battery, and thinking we were merely a line of skirmishers, they about face and came dashing across the field in our rear. We about face to receive the charge, which brought our stone fence in our rear, and having a rail fence which was on the opposite side of the road in front. We had taken the necessary precaution, before the enemy charged, to throw a rail fence across the road at either end of our regiment, thus completely barricading the road, forming an entire fence round our regiment, which served a very good purpose. (I forgot to say they previously charged down the road on our left and finding it blockaded, went back through the gap into our rear.) They could only charge to the fence which rendered their sabers useless but our boys did not wait—many of them jumped over the fence into the field and shot them from their saddles at 3 and 400 yards distance. They were the bravest set of men I ever saw. After their line was broken and all was disorder and confusion and many of their men shot, they would advance singly, brandishing their swords.—We called out for them to throw down their sabres and get off their horses, but they still kept on until shot. I will relate one case in particular; it was that of a Yankee captain. Capt. Massey, Co. K, of my regiment, called to him to surrender; he paid no attention, but continued coming forward. Captain Massey ordered one of his men to shoot him; he did so, shooting him through the mouth. He was taken prisoner, there being no chance for a wounded man to escape, (scarcely any for a well one.) Captain Massey asked him why he did not surrender; his reply was that a brave soldier never surrenders.—Many of his followers met with the same fate, some even worse.
There was only one outlet; that led through a gate which was about 300 yards to the right of our regiment. Our boys ran up the wood to try and head them off, but were not swift enough for their fleet horses. Only eight, however, made their escape out of 75 or 100. In the cavalry fight we only lost one killed, three wounded and eighteen prisoners.—This being the first cavalry fight that our boys had ever been engaged in, they acquitted themselves with credit. For our loss in the battle of Gettysburg, I refer you to a list of casualties published in the Galveston News.
In the late battles suffice it to say that the "Old First" bore herself and flag through nobly, and has won fresh laurels and lasting honors for herself, capturing five guns, of which three were taken safely off the field. We drove the enemy back in our front, and held the ground until we were ordered to the right of the army, where we whipped the cavalry, almost annihilating them. The Yankees had the advantage of position over us. We had them badly whipped. They commenced retreating before we did. Our artillery ammunition was almost exhausted and we were forced to fall back towards the Potomac. We offered them battle for three days at Hagerstown, Md. On the 10th we moved six miles to the right of Hagerstown, where we threw up breast works and remained four days offering the enemy battle and awaiting the construction of a bridge across to [sic] Potomac, the river being too high, from recent rains, to ford. We recrossed the Potomac on the morning of the 14th inst., and marched from day to day until we reached this our old camp on the afternoon of the 24th inst. . . .