In line of Battle near Spotsylvania Court House, VA
May 14, 1864
My Dear Folks:
Through the kind providence of the Almighty God I have come out so far safe and sound and am spared once more to gladden your hearts by writing you. I scarcely know what to write you about or where to commence. Pen cannot describe or words relate the many adventures which we have passed through during the past ten days. We have been fighting to-day, makes eleven days and we have repulsed and whipped the Yankees every time they have attacked us. God only knows how much longer the battle will last, but if we are as successful in the future as we thus far have been, Grant may continue the battle for a month so far as I care. In that time I don’t think he will have a single man left. His loss up to the present time is estimated at seventy thousand. Our loss is comparatively small, as we fought them most of the time in our breastworks. Last Sunday is the first time our brigade had any regular engagement with the enemy, though we had charged them several times and run them from their positions without firing a gun.
Last Sunday about 8 o’clock it was ascertained that the Yankees had made a flank movement and were making for Richmond by Spotsylvania Court House. We were almost worn out with fatigue from marching or loss of sleep when we started from this place to front them. I don’t think I ever saw a hotter day in all my life. The men were fainting by the dozens, and very frequently one would drop dead in his tracks from overheat. The distance was a bout eighteen miles. We had gotten in about six miles of the place, when Gen. Ramseur rode down the line with a dispatch from Gen. Longstreet stating that he had repulsed the enemy with heavy loss, and that if the troops could hold out to get there in time to meet the second attack, in case the enemy made one, everything would be right.
He appealed to his brigade to know if they would go. The answer was a shout that we would. Some of the men were so tired and worn out they could hardly halloo. I was among that number, when in about three miles of this place I was forced to drop from overheat, and the brigade left me. I never hated anything so bad in all my life before, so much as to be left behind as then. The brigade had left about an hour when I heard the enemy’s cannon open. It was like an electric shock to me, I bounced up and determined to go or die. I threw away everything I had but my gun and accoutrements, including three days’ rations that I had not tasted since drawing them (without thinking where I was to get any more), and caught up with the brigade in about fifteen minutes before we charged the enemy and fought them until after dark. Our loss this night was small. The night was spent in building our breastworks.
Last Thursday though is the day that will be remembered by both armies as long as one man is left to tell the tale. At daylight they attacked the line a little to our right, drove our men out of both lines of breastworks and the result was hanging in the scales when our brigade was taken from one position and moved around in front of them. The stars and stripes were floating proudly all along our works when the order was given to “forward without firing.” We commenced moving up pretty briskly, when our men commenced falling so fast, that the order was given to “double quick.” No sooner said than done. We rushed forward with a yell and took the first line of works like a flash. We remained there long enough to fire a round or two and clear the way in front of us, when the order came to charge the other. We took that also with a large number of prisoners, then the fight commenced in earnest. It was a continuous charged and a war of musketry from that time, nine o’clock, until three o’clock in the morning, when we evacuated that line for another which had been established and fortified during the night. There is not a man in this brigade who will ever forget the sad requiem, which those minie balls sung over the dead and dying for twenty-two long hours; they put one in mind of some musical instrument; some sounded like wounded men crying; some like humming of bees; some like cats in the depth of the night, while others cut through the air with only a “Zip” like noise. I know it to be the hottest and the hardest fought battle that has ever been on this continent. You would hardly recognize any of us at present. Every one looks as if he had passed through a hard spell of sickness, black and muddy as hogs. There was not one too nice to drop himself behind the breastworks. Brigadiers and Colonels lay as low in the trench and water as the men. It rained all that day and night, and the water was from three to six inches deep all along. If it had been winter the last man would have been frozen. I am too worn out to write anything of interest. I am about half dead yet, as is everyone else from the effects of the cannonading. My love to all, and believe me, your affectionate son.
Source: Laura Elizabeth Lee, Forget-Me-Nots of the Civil War: A Romance Containing Reminiscences and Original Letters of Two Confederate Soldiers (St. Louis, Missouri: A.R. Fleming Printing Co, 1909). See also Joel Craig and Sharlene Baker, eds., As You May Never See Us Again: The Civil War Letters of George and Walter Battle, 4th North Carolina Infantry (Wake Forest, NC: The Scuppernong Press, 2010).