Camp by Stafford Courthouse, May 11, 1863
I have received your dear
letter of April 28th yesterday, the tenth, and was very pleased that you
are all still well and that you are still able to adjust to your lonely
situation, and I wish most longingly that I could be with you again, but
unfortunately it merely remains wishful thinking, and I believe we will
still have to overcome many hard blows before fate will reunite us again.
Then nothing shall separate me from you (pl.) again but death. My dear
Emilie, lately serious changes have happened in our regiment; morale is
now very depressed on the whole, although in our company it is still the
best. Almost everyone here has lost relatives or friends in the last battle;
almost two hundred of the regiment are gone. However, not all are dead,
perhaps half of them may come back, those who are just wounded or take
prisoner. August Toltzmann though could hardly be alive anymore. The man
ahead of him has seen him fall; right at the start of the first fight he
had received a bullet on the forehead and fallen immediately without moving.
Should he be dead his death was an easy one, but if the bullet had come
a long distance he could possibly be just stunned and then it would not
be a dangerous would. I am very sorry about him, he was always such a cheerful
guy, he had always taken all the hardships well. He had just the moment
before fired his gun against the enemy.
My dear Emilie, war is a horrible evil which gives me no pleasure, but we are in it and only through powerful action can we extricate ourselves. This time we have fought a battle where we were confident of good success, but the carelessness with which the right wing was set up, without the artillery that belonged there, just on the place where our regiment stood. And the cleverness of the Southern leaders who knew how to take advantage of this weak point had pushed us back. Our regiment held up as well as possible, but the enemy unfolded enormous superior strength, and for our regiment to remain would have been madness; it would have surely been wounded or captured. Therefore there was a wild flight. I will think of the second of May for the rest of my life, even though I did not take part in the fight, as I had been detailed to cook earlier. My helper with the cooking returned to the regiment and remained there. I stayed to receive the meat when it was being distributed. Unfortunately, this never happened, because, while the animals were being skinned, we were surprised by the Southerners and had to leave them behind. We received orders to retreat, and not long after that the regiments had to follow us. It was a terrible confusion, I almost think that over two thirds of our people were shot through their clothing, but when the rebles came close to our cannons they were thrown back and it is said that their loss of lives is much more significant than ours was. It was a hard fight but still not a decisive one. Although the victory is ours, it could not be pursued properly because of the enormously bad weather which set in; also perhaps they had other reasons, perhaps the enemy could have cut us off from our provisions. In short, we retreated again across the Rappahannok and we were quite uneasy, believing that the enemy was bothering us again. Luckily we made it over here, it seems to me though as if each one was afraid of the other.
We are now again at our old place, for how long we do not know of course. I don’t think we will have peace for very long until after Richmond is taken. The first night that I spent here at our old place was one of the most unpleasant of my life: wet to the skin and tired from the fatiguing march, and cold besides; it was horrible rainy weather, but it has been overcome and I feel fairly healthy. Quite a few are finding out here how much a human being is able to bear.
Many officers of our regiment are left, our company did not lose any, but a few were transferred from our company, ….Doerflinger is said to have conducted himself very bravely, his father is a soldier with a different regiment; and Prankte, who also leaves behind a wife and four children. Our company has been reduced from seventy to sixty-four. So far we haven’t heard of Bernhard Meyer, otherwise there is no other acquaintance of ours. The Meyers’ farmhand, Ewald, has been slightly injured. I am very sorry for a young man called Juderjahn, he leaves behind a wife and four children. If I were unmarried I would perhaps care very little about my bit of life; but I cannot stand the thought of leaving you, my loved ones, without seeing you once more. I would not even be happy in Heaven, if I could hope for that; but I would hope to see you (pl.) here again.
My Dear, as I was just about to end this letter, I had an opportunity to buy a paper of today’s date. According to it things look significantly better for us than we had though. Our people’s cavalry has been up to two miles from Richmond and done enormous damage to the enemy. The Panner and the Seabote will probably try to describe our situation as very bad, but all in all it is now better for us than ever before and my hope has new life again, I believe we will yet emerge from the fight as victors.
My dear Emilie, I want t give you a small example of how comfortable it is to live during such marches: after we had marched for two days and almost two nights we had a little quiet time. I had laid myself down in the open with my comrades, but…soldiers….., when we awoke we had on our ….so much rainwater had gathered that we could wash with it, and ….is not practical. My dear Emilie, I had the misfortune….to break your (pl.) picture; still I carry it around with me, it would probably be the last thing I would part with, before I could have a new one of you (pl.). Therefore, you would do me a very large favor if you would send me another, but possibly smaller one, the kind of tin which is easier to keep; it is always a good feeling for me when I can look at you (pl.) here. I have done that even close to the greatest din of battle
My Dear, we just learned that several people who were considered dead are listed as still living, among them Bernard Meyer, but I have not yet heard of August Toltzmann. Morale has also improved somewhat since yesterday when I started this letter but was unable to finish it; General Sigel is supposed to have received command over us again. We feel safer under him than under our current general, because he has more caution and foresight than the latter and this misfortune probably would not have happened to us, had he commanded us. We will hope for the best, perhaps this tiresome war will be ended sooner than it was though.
My Precious, around the twenty-eighth of April I sent you a letter with ten dollars in it. I do hope that you have received it. Always answer me as soon as possible. My Dear, regarding your inquiry whether I already sent the letter to Germany, I must report to you that I have not been able to do it yet because I have had too many iterruptions, but when I do send it I will have the answer addressed to you.
Now I must close, and I am very happy, my precious Emilie, that you can manage so well with the farming business and that you can at least amuse yourself with our dear children, if you have no other friends. I wish I could be playing with them again, it would certainly be more pleasant for me than the business of war.
Farewell, my precious love unto death. In my thoughts I greet and kiss you and our dear children.