Letter written by Rush P. Cady, lieutenant in the 97th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company K, to his parents of Rome, New York, from On Battlefield of Fredericksburgh, Virginia, December 15, 1862

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Letter written by Rush P. Cady, lieutenant in the 97th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Company K, to his parents of Rome, New York, from on the battlefield of Fredericksburg, Virginia, December 15, 1862

PAGE IMAGEAfter the Battle
On Battle-field, of Fredericksburgh (Fredericksburg) (Fredericksburg, Virginia) ,
Dec. 15. 9.30 A.M. -- 1862. Dear Parents,

Having an opportunity to send
a letter, I will write to you.- Last Wednesday
night, I wrote a letter for the Citizen.- I have been
into a battle, where many were shot around me,
& came out without a scratch.- Gustavus (Palmer, Gustavus M. (Captain)) was
wounded in two places,- in the left ankle & in the calf
of his right leg,- both -- flesh wounds & not se-
vere.- No one could have conducted himself
with more coolness & bravery, than he did, thr-
ough out the action. All who saw him, speak of him
in the highest terms.- As before our Brigade
was the first to advance, & “opened the ball”.
The troops were all in position, on the left, from
before noon, on Friday, & a battle was then expected.
Skirmishers were thrown out, & those of the rebels fell
back, there being some firing between them; our lines
were then advanced, & a new disposition of troops
was made. We thus remained till Sat. morning

PAGE IMAGE at 9 o'c. when our Brigade formed a new line
a short distance ahead of the old one, & prepared
to advance towards a piece of woods, extending
some distance north & south (parallel with our
line) about half a mile distant, where the rebels
had a strong position. Our skirmishers were
sent ahead, & Gen. Taylor (Taylor, Nelson (General)) gave the command
“Battalion forward, guide centre, march”. It was
an important time; we expected hot work; many
of us might never retrace our steps over that field,
& many would return mangled & bleeding.
Firing commenced between the skirmishers,
just ahead of us, & the bullets began to whisk by our
ears.- Steadily we advanced, over the heavy soil, which
stuck to our boots, & clogged our progress. Soon a
tremendous fire opened from the rebel batter-
ies, & a shower of shot & shell, grape & cannister
came pouring over the field. The roar & the crash
was terrific. We halted & lay down. One man
was already killed & five wounded, including
Lieut. Rockwell (Rockwell (Lieutenant)) , of the 4th Co. (4th Company) commanded by Gus- tavus (Palmer, Gustavus M. (Captain)) , & composed of the remnants of Co.s E.G. & K. (Company E.) (Company G.) (Company K.)
PAGE IMAGE He was wounded but slightly in the foot, by a grapeshot.
For an hour, we lay under the fire. Part of the time, I was
writing in my Diary, from which I will transcribe a little.
For the want of paper, I must write close.- “Sat. Dec. 13 … A cold night
last night. Bivouacked on the ground, in rear of our Line of
Battle, which was the most advanced. Our pickets were but
a few rods in front of us. It was very foggy, for some time, in the
morning. The rebel skirmishers were but a short distance
from ours. About 9 o'c. this morning, the line was formed, troops moved
out, farther to our left; skirmishers & battalions advanced
together. In a few moments batteries opened, & the fire was terrific.
Our Reg. was slightly sheltered, but the grape, cannister, shot & shell flew close
over our heads for an hour, bursting & striking but a few
rods beyond us. Five already wounded near the centre of
the Reg. (two of the Color Guard) & one was shot in the forehead,
& must have died in a few moments. The boys have thus
far been very cool, through it all. The different noises of
shot & shell & bullets are very peculiar. Boys though lying
pretty low on the ground, were talking, & even joking together (strange to
say) while the shells flew thickest. Skirmishing is still going on
in front of us, & bullets fly close every minute. It is now
about 12 ½ o'c. A short time ago, the cannonading almost en-
tirely ceased, but it has commenced again sharply, on our
right & left, but the rebels do not reply. The crash & the
war of the explosions in the woods is tremendous. Skirmishing
becoming sharper, bullets flying thicker,- hot work ahead.
Must put away my book -- in danger of being hit.”
At this time, the order was given -- “fall in” & “forward.”
Skirmishers advanced, but fell in the rear, as soon
as the rebel skirmishers had retreated into the woods.
We soon halted & opened fire into the woods, & thus
kept to work, for some time. After awhile another Brigade
came up, as we supposed, to relieve us, & we fell back
a short distance, then marched by the right flank, & took
up a new position, here we remained awhile, pouring our
fire into the woods, & again advanced. Finally, after
fighting an hour & a half, & losing 33 men & 2 offi-
cers wounded & 2 men killed, 10 missing = 47 we marched off the
field in good order, with about 100 men left
PAGE IMAGE Having gone in with 165 rifles (& some without
arms, who carried off the wounded) & our ammu-
nition (60 rounds apiece) being entirely exhausted.
Ours was the last Reg. to leave the field, though another
Brigade came in after ours. Just as we were about to
fall back, Gustavus (Palmer, Gustavus M. (Captain)) was hit in the ankle, & Lieut. Parsons (Parsons (Lieutenant))
& I locked arms with him, on each side,
to help him off the field. Not being able to move
very rapidly, we could not keep up with the Reg.
but were left some distance in the rear, with
no one between us & rebel bullets, which, (as
we were a conspicuous mark, with our swords
& other paraphernalia), flew thickly around us
& we had not proceeded far when Gustavus (Palmer, Gustavus M. (Captain)) was
shot in the other leg, but still he could walk, with
our help.- A rebel battery poured its destructive
charges after the retreating troops. One shot
struck close at our feet, throwing the dirt in my
face & eyes, almost blinding me. Another knocked
a stone against my leg, which at first made
me think it was perforated.- Gustavus (Palmer, Gustavus M. (Captain)) went
to a hospital a short distance away, in company
with another wounded man, to have his wounds
dressed.- Being the only officer left, in charge of
the 4th Co. (4th Company) I could not leave, but saw our Sur-
geon (Surgeon) that night, who said he dressed the wounds which
were not severe.- The Brigade stacked tents
where we had been the night before, the lines be-
ing much shorter than before the fight. All the
Regt -- in any Division suffered severely. The 26th was again badly
cut up.- Gen. Gibbons (Gibbon, John (General)) (our Div. Gen.) was wounded
in the writs (wrist); Capt. Hart (Hart (Captain)) (aid to Gen. Taylor (Taylor, Nelson (General)) ) was shot
in the breast, after having one horse shot under
him. Many other officers were wounded, & killed.
You will soon get the reports in the papers.- Our men
fought with great bravery, & the officers (with two
exceptions) behaved heroically; brandishing their
swords, & cheering on the men, regardless of per-
sonal exposure. It was a gallant sight.
It seemed hard to retreat, without follow-
PAGE IMAGE ing up the advantage we had gained, as most of
the Brigade had entered the woods & were fighting
there, but we were left without supports, & only
fell back when exhausted & out of ammunition.
The woods might have been swept through at
that time, had there been fresh troops, to do as much
as we had done; but looking back over that
immense field -- half a mile across -- no lines
of troops advancing to our relief appeared in sight,
to revive our fainting hopes, & to secure & im-
prove the advantage we had gained at such a
cost. Having fallen back to our former position
across the Fredericksburg (Fredericksburg, Virginia) turnpike, we saw im-
mense reinforcements, coming up, their long blue
lines & dense [calmness] extending a great ways,
but they were too late to render no the needed as-
sistance. Our attempt to take possession through the
woods in our front, had been unsuccessful. We
had inflicted considerable loss upon the rebels,
& took upwards of 500 prisoners, which par-
tially made up for the failure to clear the woods.
A good many of the rebels came running towards
us, holding up their hands, & some even swinging
their hats, appearing most heartily glad to escape
to our side.- Our troops again formed their lines
of battle in the field over which we had fought where
they still remain. Our skirmishers are now in the
edge of the woods, I believe. There was a good deal
of sharp skirmishing all day yesterday --(Sunday), & much
heavy cannonading, but no heavy
fighting took place between infantry.- A flag of truce prevailed
yesterday, long enough to bury the dead, Union (The Union) soldiers
& rebels mingling & conversing freely together, [the] while
& in a friendly manner. A good joke of one of
the rebels was that the privates should resign, & let
the officers fight it out. They said they were heartily
sick of the war, & hoped it would soon be ended.

It was a wonder that Col. Wheelock (Wheelock, Charles (Colonel)) was not
even wounded on Saturday. He did not ride his
horse, but was constantly going up & down the

PAGE IMAGE line, cheering & encouraging the men, & whenever
the line moved & broke, or there was any
faltering, rallying them again. When he came
out, there were four bullet holes in his pants
& three or four in his overcoat, & the bullet
proof vest that he wore, exhibited the dent of
a bullet, which might have proved fatal, but
for that.- Lt. Col. Spofford (Spofford (Lieutenant Colonel)) also displayed the
most exalted courage & fearlessness, being constantly
exposed, as if courting danger, & yet, incredible as
it seemed, he escaped without a scratch.
Alexander (Alexander, George (Lieutenant)) acted like the brave old veteran that
he is, showing apparently not the slightest con-
cern, an acc't of the danger, when the fighting
was hottest.- He has a bullet hole in his low-crowned cap, to show. You have heard it said that the
almost invariable experience of those who go
into a battle, is that they at first have a feeling of almost
mortal fear, which is soon over, & gives place
to utter recklessness & disregard of danger. But,
my feelings were not much different from
what they are now, except that I was
somewhat excited, as was natural.
A battle-field, & a fight, like that of Sat. pre-
sents a most wonderful & imposing sight, to
one who may never have witnessed such a one
before. The swaying lines of men, advancing
upon a double quick, the killed & wounded
dropping along the way, dotting the field all
over, in the rear; the waving standards
the advancing battalions constantly melting
away; the roar of the cannon, the
rattle of the musketry, the cheering of the
officers,- all conspired to render the
occasion & most novel, exciting & imposing.
Little fighting to day (Monday), through some
skirmishing & cannonading. More
PAGE IMAGE Terrible fighting must soon take
place.- The rebels have a strongly
fortified position, which can
only be carried by heavy sac-
rifices on our side. It is said
that Sigel has gone down, on
the other side of the river, with
40000 men, & is to cross & out
flank the rebels.- A rebel
Sergt told one of the officers
of our Reg. today, that Gen. Jackson (Jackson, Stonewall (General))
was wounded in
the fight of Sat. in he breast,
& he though (thought) must be dead
by this time.- Our Brigade
moved some distance further
to the left, yesterday moving
before daylight, where we
still remain, supporting a
Battery.- Rec'd a welcome
mail this afternoon, inclu-
ding a letter from Father,
containing 8/10 & letter from
Ella (Cady, Ella) & Grandmother, also
one from Eliza (Cady, Eliza) , dated 9th.
PAGE IMAGE also papers. Letters brought much
encouragement & good cheer. Sent a couple
of papers to Gustavus (Palmer, Gustavus M. (Captain)) , who is at a Hospi-
tal across the river, & tonight or tomor-
row will send the letters.- I think
Gustavus (Palmer, Gustavus M. (Captain)) is exceedingly fortunate. If
I escape with no worse wounds, I shall
consider myself very lucky;- I should be
glad to take his chances now.- Dr. Lit- tle (Little (Dr.)) is on my side … & says that
the bullet did not go through his boot,
but made a bad bruise,
& caused it to bleed some. The other went through
the calf of his right leg, the place where
it came out, being about three inches
from where it entered.- He is doing first
rate & in firm spirits.- will soon be sent
to Washington, with the rest of the wounded,
& will have another chance to visit
home. Dr. Little (Little (Dr.)) says it will be at
least 6 days rest before his wound will heal
so that he has probably escaped the risk
of further battles for the taking of Richmond (Richmond, Virginia) .
I must close. I am quite well & in
good spirits.- Take the enclosed let-
ter to Mr. Sandford (Sandford (Mr.)) , for publication.
As to the battle, I will prepare another
letter in a day or two, for the citizen. The
acc't I have written to you, is not care-
fully prepared. Love to all -- write often
& I will Embrace every opportunity to do
the same.

Affectionately your son Rush P. Cady (Cady, Rush Palmer (Lieutenant)) .
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