“Camp on the Battle field July 4th. 63 Near Getteysburg Penn: 4 July 1863. Envelope or Cover. This small archive contains four letters. Three were written by Spafford to his family between January and May of 1863 from camps in northern Virginia where the 2nd Vermont Brigade (13th, 14th, and 16th Infantry Regiments) served as part of the Union system protecting Washington DC from Southern attack. All of the letters are in nice shape.
Spafford has included a full-page, hand-drawn map of his regiment’s camp near Fairfax, Virginia in one of the letters, noting that it was bordered on one side by “Mud Mud Mud all Mud.”
Another of the Virginia letters, which is frayed along its top and bottom edges, is enclosed in its mailing envelope.
The fourth letter was written by Spafford to his sister, Abbie, while he remained on the Gettysburg battlefield immediately following the Confederates’ crushing defeat. Transcripts will be provided. The Gettysburg battlefield letter reads in part:
“I am alive & well. We have fought the hardest battle of the War [and] been in the engagement for two days our loss is heavey Henry White & Bart. White have lost a leg each Wesley Walker was hit in the head with a piece of shell also William rogers in the arm Wm Geryell killed A. S Thompson wounded in leg with a ball. . .. There is no fighting this morning as yet I think Lee is on the retreat he has got all he wants. Our Regiment captured three stands of Colors from the rebs & a good many prisoners. . .. I must close now & help take care of the wounded you never saw such sights in your life men without legs & arms . . . Gen Stannard is wounded in leg but slight – he did not leave the field.”. Very good. Item #009750
The untested 2nd Vermont Brigade was ordered to deploy from the Capitol to join the pursuit of General Robert E. Lee as his Confederate army advanced into Pennsylvania.
Spafford was a medical orderly in the Brigade’s 16th Vermont Infantry Regiment that watched from its recently occupied position on the Union left as General George Pickett led 10,500 Confederate soldiers with glistening bayonets and fluttering battle-flags towards Cemetery Ridge.
As the Confederates reached the copse of trees at the center of the Union line, General George Stannard, commander of the Vermont Brigade, wheeled the 16th and its sister regiment, the 13th, to ravage a brigade of five Virginia regiments commanded by General James Kemper on the Confederate’s exposed right flank.
Immediately upon crushing Kemper’s Brigade, Stannard realized that a brigade of five Alabama regiments commanded by General Cadmus Wilcox was rapidly advancing in a follow-on attack. Once more, Stannard ordered the 16th and its other sister regiment, the 14th, to wheel round. The Vermonters maneuver caught the Alabama regiments by surprise and all but annihilated Wilcox’s Brigade. In an incredibly short period of time a small force of no more than 1,500 Vermonters had destroyed ten regiments of Confederate infantry.
After the remaining Confederates straggled back to their original positions, both sides warily eyed each other overnight until General Lee ordered a retreat the following day on July 4th. At that time, Spafford took a short break to write this letter to his sister.
Very rare. This is likely the only extant letter written by a member of the Vermont Brigade from their “Camp on the Battle field” shortly after sealing the Union victory at Gettysburg. At the time of listing, there is nothing similar for sale in the trade. No other similar letters have been sold at auction per the Rare Book Hub nor are any similar letters held by institutions per OCLC.