Letter written by Rush P. Cady, lieutenant in the 97th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company K, to his mother of Rome, New York, from Camp of the 97th Reg. N.Y.V. near White Oak Church, Virginia, May 9, 1863
Camp of the 97th Reg. N.Y.V. (97th Regiment, New York)
near White Oak Church, Va. (Virginia) (White Oak Church, Virginia)
May 9. 1863. Dear Mother (Cady, Daniel (Mrs., Fidelia W. Palmer)) (Cady, Fidelia W. (Mrs. Daniel Cady)) (Palmer, Fidelia W. (Mrs. Daniel Cady)) :
It is a good while since I have had an oppor-
tunity to write to you. My last letter was written and sent on the
1st May, and the same day I sent another. Both were a copy
from my diary, up to that date.
The best way that I can give you an adequate idea of the
occurrences of the past week, as far as my own observation &
experience has extended, is to give it in a journal form.
But a few facts from the present, first.- The battles upon the Rappahannock (Rappahannock River)
are over for the present; and we seem to be no nearer
Richmond (Richmond, Virginia) than before, but important results have been ac-
complished. Gustavus (Palmer, Gustavus M. (Captain)) arrived last night,
from Falmouth (Falmouth, Virginia) , having left Washington (Washington, District of Columbia) on Wednesday. He looks
first rate; has not reported for duty, but expects to remain
with the Reg. unless he should be sent off again to some Hosp.
in which case he would get his discharge, probably.
Today is Saturday. Last Saturday we marched from about
4 miles below Falmouth (Falmouth, Virginia) (where we were when I last wrote you),
13 miles above Falmouth (Falmouth, Virginia) , where we crossed the River on
the Pontoon bridge. That morning our batteries (below F.) En-
gaged, those of the rebels, and for awhile we were under
fire.Upon the march, we passed portions of the 2d (2nd Corps) & 6th Corps (6th Corps),
lying a short distance from the river. We went close
by Fredericksburg (Fredericksburg, Virginia) , which was in possession of the rebels. Our pickets
were upon the river bank this side. The city was not quite
deserted: here and there a few grey-backs paced the narrow
cheerless streets, or, from the tops of houses watched the
movements upon our side of the River.
The fields were green, and the scenery beautiful.
All along upon the heights below, opposite to, and above
Fredericksburg (Fredericksburg, Virginia) , few signs of the concealed enemy were vis-
ible; while upon our side of the River, were camps, as yet
undisturbed, and armed hosts, resting upon their arms,
and upon the march,- presenting an imposing martial
array. We started about 10 o'c. and marched the ensuing
18 miles pretty rapidly; resting only at long intervals, and but
a few minutes at a time, though the weather was extremely
warm, and we could scarcely bear up under the severe exer-
tion, and fatigue, and heavy burdens. We soon became sensible
that we were engaged in a “forced march”, and that a good deal
might depend upon our opportune arrival upon the battle-
field, so that every man felt nerved to do his best.
t was our first march of any length, since we left camp
and entered upon the campaign, so that it was but natural
that our energies and strength should be severely taxed. A few
found it impossible to keep up. I did not lag behind, but
it was with the greatest difficulty that I could keep along
with the Reg. and many others, “old stogers” too, said the
same thing. It was about the severest march I ever expe-
rienced, and, taking into account the 6 miles which was
added to it that evening, much the longest.
As we proceeded upon the march, we approached nearer
and nearer to the booming of the cannon, as a battle
was even then in progress, about six miles from the
River. About a mile this side of when we crossed, we
came upon a large number of ambulances containing
wounded. Having crossed the river, we marched about a
mile, and halted. It was nearly dark; we were tired out, and
very hungry, and only craved a good nights rest; and
next morning early, expected to be marched to the battle-
field, to engage in the deadly conflict, as it was anticipa-
ted that the morrow's fight would be desperate above all
that had yet taken place, and would be decisive.
There were signs of a heavy storm,- black clouds
coming up from the west. We had just got our tents
nicely pitched, our blankets spread, and a few had made
coffee and eaten their supper, when orders came for
us to pack up and be ready to start immediately. Imagine
our disappointment. But the order was obeyed with won-
derful alacrity, considering the circumstances. It had be-
come quite late, and many had eaten no supper.
We had not marched far, when suddenly a
fire of musketry commenced, which soon increased to a
continuous roar, intermingled with the rapid booming
of cannon. For an hour the battle raged with un-
ceasing fury. It was perfectly terrific. Those who
had been at Bull Run (Bull Run, Virginia) & Antietam, Maryland, said, that for its con-
tinuous roar and crash of fire, this was equal to any
they had ever heard.- The clouds had cleared away, and
the moon was shining clear and bright. I was forcibly
reminded of the night after the battle of Cedar Mountain (Cedar Mountain, Culpeper County, Virginia) ,
when the 97th (97th Regiment, New York) was first under the fire of a rebel battery.
I did not ascertain the full extent of this
short, eve'g battle, but was next morning informed
that a large brigade of rebels had charged upon some
of our batteries, but were repulsed with terrible slaughter,- the
canister shot mowing them down by hundreds and thous-
ands, so that scarcely fifty survived.
In the battle of that day (Sat.) the 11th, Corps (11th Corps) had not
stood, but became panic-stricken, broke and fled from
the field; while the 5th (5th Corps) and 12th Corps (12th Corps) bravely bore the
brunt of the battle throughout the day.
For five miles we marched along a road through an un-
broken forest. Provost marshalls, with their guards were
scouring the woods by the roadside, picking up strag-
glers, mostly from the 11th Corps (11th Corps); Some of which were put into
our Reg. They place them in the front of the battle, compelling
those without arms (having thrown them away) to carry the woun-
ded from the field. This was the case with one of the men