Thursday, July 7, 2016

Colonel William F. Bartlett to Colonel Francis W. Palfrey, June 19, 1863

Baton Rouge, June 19, 1863.

. . . . You needn't let them know, if you can avoid it, that the wound in my wrist-joint is worse than I knew of at first. If I had been told just how bad the wound was that afternoon on the field, I would have made the surgeon take off the hand without a second thought. The surgeon assured me so positively that I could save the hand, that I didn't think to ask, “At how great a risk, in how long a time?” I want the surgeons to take it off now, and let me get well, instead of running the risk of inflammation, and losing it above the elbow, or worse. The surgeons say, wait. . . . .

As to the assault, Frank, it was a very nasty fight. If Mr. Banks had been, as you and I had, at Howard's Bridge and Yorktown, he would have seen what sort of things rebel fortifications were. He had never seen any of any account (nor Augur either, but he was much opposed to storming the works). I had told myself quietly, long before we had the order to storm, just what sort of a place there would be to pass over after we cleared the woods, and just about what we should catch while we were scrambling over these obstacles. I was sorry to find with how much truth I had told myself that yarn. You know, Frank, just what it was. After you got to the edge of the woods, you could see the breastworks, two or three hundred yards distant. While waiting in the edge of the woods, we were beyond reach of their musketry, but the grape was profuse. The intervening ground was, as you have seen it, covered with trees ingeniously felled and cut up, so that they afforded no shelter, but were great obstacles. It was pretty hard getting through and over it on horseback. The rest you know. It was hard to keep a line where men had to pick their way and scramble over these things. I halted them two or three times for a few seconds, just to get a formation on the colors, which were carried beautifully. . . . . We lost pretty heavily, seventy-five out of two hundred and twenty odd. Eleven officers out of eighteen killed or wounded I am glad to hear Holmes is doing well. Give my love to him. Tell him we “tie on the number of wounds; we shall both have to try it again to see who gets the rubber.” . . . .

SOURCE: Francis Winthrop Palfrey, Memoir of William Francis Bartlett, p. 88-90

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