Byrns, William – September 28, 1862

Michigan Civil War Collection Letters

Click here for this soldier’s biography:

Regiment: 1st Michigan Infantry

Battles Mentioned: Antietam, Maryland; Bull Run, Virginia

Historical Figures: George B. McClellan, Irvin McDowell, John Pope, Joseph K. F. Mansfield

Camp at Blackford’s Ford, Md.
September 28th, 1862
Tis the “quiet Sabbath now” but one can hardly realize that it’s the Sabbath, We are busy very busy in arranging the affairs of our comrades which disease and death have put in a good deal of confusion and today we learn of the death of another or our little band of Officers – Lieut. Wilkins Bloodgood died of his wounds Monday – he was wounded at my side on the bloody field of Bull Run August 30th. His right arm was shattered by a musket ball. The arm was amputated and he seemed doing well, but he suddenly sank away. It seems we are doomed to lose many of our brightest Officers. Did I tell you Lt. Arnold – whose photo was in your album, was killed. He fell so near me that his feet struck mine, shot through the forehead. Did I ever speak of General Mansfield? While our regiment was encamped at Newport News he was our Commanding Officer. He was an old acquaintance of Captain Whittlesey and I was introduced to him and became better acquainted with him than as usual for subordinate officers to become with those of so-high rank.
The day we arrived on the field of Antietam, we passed his head quarters. He stood beside the road, waiting the coming of one of his favorite regiments – the Michigan 1st. I was the first one he recognized. Taking me by the hand he asked, “Is that all of the 1st Michigan?” He gave us a few words of encouragement and we hasten to join our column. Within 24 hours from that time his spirit has passed from earth, another offering, a noble one in defense of liberty and of rights. His memory will be cherished to all who knew him. When we arrived in Washington in May 1861 he was then our Commander, tis said – not being a Scott man was never given a prominent command till lately.
Have the people of the west changed their opinion of McClellan as a General? Who but he in all our country could have taken the warn, beaten, discomforted, yea routed armies of Pope and MacDowell and performed the prodigies of battle he did at Antietam. I saw there the same troops that were beaten, without firing their pieces at Bull Run standup until their thinned ranks told a sad tale of the killed and wounded. They did not faultier, nor give back to the enemy – why because they had confidence in their leader that he knew victory would be ours. The people cry, “God Bless General McClellan” while we do the same for the powers that have placed McClellan again in Command. But, I fear you will be tired of so much “war talk” – but am I to blame for so writing?
We know nothing of military movements outside of our own Corps. Unless a movement is made soon, the weather will render a contrivance of the Campaign anything but pleasant. I dread the approaching winter as a rheumatic should – but trust that our Corps will be allowed a place of rest so soon as present movements are completed. How do you pass “life’s many hours?” It seems an age since I last saw you in Illinois and yet tis only a short year. I do not wish for such another. One can form correct estimates of the “changing world” in the army. Of the 30 line Officers who were with our regiment a year since, but for our present. Many have resigned, have gone home to homes that have not received them well and have entered the service again – some in subordinate positions to the ones they held with us. Many would now quit but dare not. For my own part I know I should not be counted out of the service so long as there is need for me. I shall hail the day that sends us home in peace but till then let me “stand with the Army of the Union.” I have no doubt but that during the winter there will be leaves of absence granted to those who have been with this command through the campaign – I shall most certainly try very hard for one & have no doubt of the result. There are strong efforts being made by our friends to have us sent back to Vick to be recruited – I do not favor the project but would gladly go.
We have still 250 as good & brave men as are in our army – I shall write often. I am so glad when your letters come, but our mails are very irregular. My health is quite good indeed I think I have a strong constitution & in future cannot play the part of the “languid young man” to any advantage.
Where are you? I shall still address you at Galva knowing that Sarah will forward your letters – I had a long letter from my sister. Mrs. P telling that the Dr. had a new easy chair & that she has sent me some under clothing – I think you would like her.
Tell me all of yourself & may kind providence smile on you ever & may we soon be able to do away with writing & meet “face to face” is the prayer of your
Wm Byrns
I need not tell you how anxious I am to see you & can only say in answer to your question, “When will you come” that so soon as tis possible I will be with you – I count the time by week now – you must was except to find your “boy Wilke” of 2 years ago, but a rough, resemblance of his former self – & our who needs much “smoothing & polishing” – Write me often.
Ever yours truly, W.B.