Byrns, William – September 23, 1862

Michigan Civil War Collection Letters

Click here for this soldier’s biography:

Regiment: 1st Michigan Infantry

Battles Mentioned:

Historical Figures: Ambrose E. Burnside, George B. McClellan

Camp Morells Division
Bank of Potomac
Sept. 23rd, 1862

Dear Florence,

We occupy the same ground that we did when I wrote you a day or two since. I will stop ad tell you of the great battles in this vicinity. Our Corps did not get the order to leave Washington until after the greater part of our army had arrived near Frederick. We had a forced march but our men had become so incurred to hardship that they stood it well. We reached the main army on Tuesday evening. Had we arrived a few hours earlier we would have been assigned a different position. As it was we went into position near the center for the right. Early the next day we took position supporting battery “D” 5th U.S. Art. and a battery of the 1st N.Y. Art. – the better 20 lb. parrot guns –  at first the engagement began on the right. We lay in a ravine, but several of the officers could not be content and were allowed to stand on the hill where the batteries were posted. There with a good glass I saw the most of the greatest battle ever fought in this country. We saw the whole. I will not particulate. The operations of that day were successful in every respect.

The next a.m. we moved to the left crossing the bridge which was the scene of such desperate fighting by Burnside the day before – here we took position to hold the ground secured the day before. We were busy shooting and being shot at all day and all night. The next a.m. we advanced as skirmishers. Our right seating on the road to Sharpsburg. We went beyond S. (Sharpsburg) taking a few prisoners. Then returned to our Brigade. Our Div. advanced to Blackman’s Ford about a mile and below Shepherds Town – We were shelled a little but got the 3rd R.I. – Griffins – and the battery of 32 lb. Howitzers in position & soon just an end to their firing, killing three horses and driving off the gunners. That night a party of the 4th Mich. went over and dismounted the pieces. The next a.m. the guns were secured. Our Brigade crossed about 10. Before we were well across, the enemy came down in force and we were ordered to recross. The 118th Pennsylvania suffered a good deal having new troops and not easily managed. Our guns open on the advancing lines of the enemy, making sad havoc in their works. I had no correct idea of the efficiency of our artillery until I passed over the field and through the village of Sharpsburg. Yesterday we lay on picket in the canal on this side of the river. Flags of truce were waving most of the day and the usual firing of pickets was postponed. Some five hundred of the enemy – paroled prisoners – crossed at the Ford. The attempt to “liberate” Md. has proved a signal failure and the enemy has been beaten worse than we ever were. In one of your letters you say that the people had lost confidence in McClellan. He has always been our idol and until now has had no opportunity to show his qualities as a General in the field with men and means as he wished. Could you but listen to the cheers with which he is greeted as he passed along our lines you would not think our confidence passed. I send you a cut of the field. The pencil marks show the position of our brigade. “A” our position on the night of the 16th, “B” the 17th, “C” the 18th. For once Porters Reserve Corps was used as a Reserve. We are satisfied with our part. Our batteries of 20 pounders made great gaps in the enemies ranks, but they did not attempt to carry them. We will probably rest a few days at this point.

In haste yours,

Will Byrns