In Their Own Words
October 04, 1861
First Civil War Battle Experience Described
A Georgia soldier wrote home to his wife, describing his first battle experience (in what was a relatively minor skirmish in Virginia).
“… This morning about 6 o’clock the enemy commenced firing on our pickets about two miles from camp. The enemy [was] supposed to be between 4000 and 5000 strong. Our grand guard was about 100 strong. They kept the enemy in check for about one hour. They then fell back to our main body. The enemy then commenced firing their cannon into our camp, shooting shell and solid shot by the quantity. But we had cannon, too, and men to man them that knew how to shoot them. Our grand guard killed near 100 of them. The cannonading last three hours. The enemy killed ten or twelve of our men and horses. From the report of Colonel Ramsey, who was stationed in the mountain where he saw the whole fight, we killed at least 250 or 300. They tried to flank us on our left. Colonel Rusk with his Arkansas boys met them, and they then tried the right flank. There, dear, the 12th Georgia Regiment met them and repulsed them without firing a gun at them… . We were ordered not [to] fire a gun until we could see the whites of their eyes. We lay still, awaiting them to get near enough to fire on us. They came up in about 400 years of us and commenced firing onus with their long-range guns, but killed none, wounded two. The balls went ‘zip’ all around us. They found that they could do nothing without coming close up to us, and one of the cannon opened on them with grape shot, and they retreated in quick time. About that time the cannon of the enemy ceased firing, and their whole force retreated in a run. This end the first battle I ever was in, and General Jackson gave the 12th Georgia [Regiment] the credit of repulsing them… .”
Source: Mills Lane (ed.), “Dear Mother: Don’t grieve about me. If I get killed, I’ll only be dead.”: Letters from Georgia Soldiers in the Civil War (Savannah: Beehive Press, 1990), p. 73.