Q. M. Dept. 26th Ret. N.C. Troops
Culpepper C.H. Va July 31st, 1863
Col. H. K. Burgwyn Raleigh N Ca
My Dear Sir,
I Recd your letter a few days ago & will now reply. I had to remain with the wagon train during the engagement consequently did not see Col Burgwyn in his last moments. This I shall always regret. He has often told me if he was wounded he wished me to take care of him if he were killed to send his body home. It was late in the evening of the 1st when I heard the dreadful news; the team being harnessed up to move in any direction. There we had to remain until near daylight of the 2nd when we were ordered down. Being 5 or 6 miles in the rear & wagons passing all the time it was near sunrise when I arrived in the vicinity of the battle field of the 1st. I immediately went after the corpse. Maj. Jones had a guard placed over it during the night having had it removed about half a mile to the rear. How beautiful he looked even in death. There was none of the usual hideous appearance, generally apparent in those killed while contending in mortal strife, but he looked like one just fallen asleep. How could I doubt, looking on him for a moment that his sprit had flown where sorrow & suffering were no more. I will here make a remark: the Col & myself messed together we were more intimately connected than men can possibly be in civil life & I had an insight of his whole character. I have often been struck with his high sense of honor especially in a spiritual view. He put his trust in a higher power than the puny arm of man could afford & I would say to his afflicted relations, mourn not as those without a hope, but rather look forward to the time when they can meet him in endless happiness. No Surgeon attended him after he fell. One of Co. B. the name I cannot find out cought him & laid him gently on the ground. Sgt. Young of Pettigrew’s staff came up to him soon afterwards & his last words were to him as Maj. Collins has described to you. I visited the spot the next day. A prettier place could not have been selected if sought for being in a dense shade of oak on the green grass. His scabbard had been shot away before; when he received his death wound he was a few steps in advance of the regt. his sword in his right & the flag in his left hand cheering on his men. He had turned to see how they were acting which threw his right side to the enemy. The ball passed through both lungs & he fell or rather was laid in such a position that he bled in ternally. The men passed on & here under the broad canopy of heaven he died as a patriot could only wish. He had some of his best stimulant in his flask. Sgt. Young gave it him to drink, which revived him a little when he sent the message in Mj Collins note. I suppose you saw Sgt. Young who escorted Gen. Pettigrew’s remains to Raleigh. No Surgeon was needed for he was beyond mortal aid. I would give anything if I could have been here with him & heard his dying words. I regret exceedingly I could not perform my promise to him of sending his corpse home but it was impossible. As I stated in my letter of the 4th inst, we buried him about 75 yds from the turnpike leading from Gettysburg to Chambersburg, on the right hand side 2 miles from the latter directly east of a walnut tree & near it Capt. Iredell of the 47th is on his left side & Capt Wilson Co B of the 26th on his right. I was fearful to put his Uniform coat on knowing if the vandal Yankees knew it they would disinter him. I wrapped him closely in his red woolen blanket to preserve the body as much as possible. Mj Jones has sent you a description of the battle so I will not attempt it. The Cols watch, glass, pocket book & two memoranda books were me the night of the 1st. These I will carefully preserve. All trunks had to be sent back from Hamiltons crossing to Richmond by order of Gen Lee none being allowed in the march. I think his papers were in his at least I cannot find any except the books refered to. By enquiries at the No Ca depot of B. W. Young my brother who has charge you will get it. Kinchin & I started from Williamsport Md. the 12th inst, with my Sgt Mr. Lane who was going with wounded to Staunton. I gave him the strongest pass I could with instructions to Lane if he could not get transportation for the horses by rail. to send him by the safest route to Garysburg or Raleigh. I gave Kinchin $95. of the 135 in the pocket book not knowing what might happen to him on the way, believing you would not have the horses suffer if possible. Sgt Lane is somewhere between Staunton & Gordonsville with the wagon he carried off & I have not heard either from him or Kinchin since they left me. I supposed K. had reached home safely but by your letter I see he has not & I am a little uneasy. I hope however by the time you get this he will be safely home. I told him to wrap the Cols sword safely in his bed cloths & carry it through knowing how highly you would prize it. What he could not carry I gave Mr. Lane instructions to take good care of. At the time they left me I did not know but what we would advance again into Pa. hence I did not keep anything except what I could carry with me. His best uniform suit was in the medical wagon.
Source: William HS Burgwyn Papers, North Caroilna State Archives, Raleigh and Digital NC.