Saturday, September 18, 2004




"It is not half so bad being in a battle as one would suppose. The most is going in and seeing the dead lying about and the wounded being brought out...." Arthur Wyman--Wilderness Battle--May 13, 1864

Material relating to the service of POW Corporal Arthur B. Wyman of the 59th Massachusetts Infantry. Official records reflect that Corporal Wyman enlisted on March 1, 1864 and mustered into Company "K", 59th Massachusetts Infantry on April 21, 1864. In June 1865, his regiment was consolidated with Company "K", 57th Massachusetts Infantry.

Corporal Wyman’s Regiment was an active Regiment. It was engaged at the Wilderness battle and Corporal Wyman and his Regiment were also heavily engaged at the Battle of the Crater, near Petersburg. Here, on July 30, 1864, Corporal Wyman, along with 22 others from his Regiment, was Wounded in Action and, along with 43 others from his Regiment, he was taken Prisoner.

The Crater was a bloody battle. The Confederate defenses at Petersburg were shattered by a huge explosion of a mine planted by Union engineers. However, Union assault troops failed to exploit the mine attack and were brutally and mercilessly shot while in the crater left by the explosion. Wyman was captured and taken to Danville, North Carolina, where he spent six months in a deplorable environment and as an unwelcome guest of the Confederates. Corporal Wyman, along with other Union men, were confined in seven Danville Tobacco Warehouses, not far from the National cemetery that currently holds the remains of many Union men that died there. Those who died at the Danville prison were primarily privates, corporals and sergeants. Many suffered from pneumonia, chronic dysentery, and scorbutus (similar to scurvy).

Ultimately, over the course of the war, Danville prison would be host to more than 7,000 Union soldiers. Corporal Wyman was finally exchanged on February 22, 1865.

Corporal Wyman and his Regiment, attached to the Ninth Army Corps., were also a part of the Union Forces engaged in the Appomattox Campaign on April 9, 1865.

Nine Manuscript Letters

The first seven letters are written by Corporal Wyman. The last two are written by Corporal Wyman’s mother and cousin. In all, 42 pages of tightly written, quality content, manuscript. Only one letter has a canceled cover.

April 29, 1864—4 pages—Wilderness Battle
One Week Post Wilderness battle--May 13, 1864—4 pages (Partial Letter)
April 17, 1865—10 pages
May 2, 1865—4 pages
May 10, 1865—4 pages
May 24, 1865-4 pages
May 26, 1865—4 pages
June 1, 1865—4 pages
June 22, 1865—4pages


The companies of the 59th Mass. were mustered on various dates between Dec. 5, 1863, and April. 21,1864. On May 6, only ten days after the regiment left Massachusetts, it was engaged in the battle of the Wilderness, in the vicinity of the Plank road, losing 12 killed, 27 wounded, and five missing. Colonel Gould being seriously ill, Lieut. Colonel Hodges now took command of the regiment. At Cold Harbor, near Bethesda Church, June 3, the 59th lost two killed, 15 wounded, and about the same number captured or missing. Crossing the James River, June 15, and advancing to the front on the 17th, on the afternoon of that day the regiment joined in the assault made by the 1st Division, losing 13 killed, 49 wounded, and eight missing. Among the mortally wounded was Capt. Samuel A. Bean.

Six weeks later, July 30, 1864, the 59th was engaged in the "Crater" fight, near Petersburg, losing eight killed, 25 wounded, and 47 prisoners. Here Lieut. Colonel Hodges and 1st Lieut. Dunlap were killed. After this disastrous experience the regiment remained in the trenches until the movement to the Weldon Railroad in August. Here, on the l9th, an action took place in which only a portion of the regiment was engaged, but a serious loss was incurred in the death of Adjutant Warren who was mortally wounded and died of his injuries the same day. A few days after this engagement, Colonel Gould was mortally wounded while in command of a brigade.
The 59th remained in camp near the Weldon Railroad until the last of September when it joined in the movement to Poplar Grove Church. Here, on Sept. 30, the regiment lost one killed, eight wounded, and two missing. Not far from this field the 59th went into winter quarters, but was soon ordered to the right of the Petersburg lines near Forts Haskell and Stedman. In February, Lieut. Colonel Colburn, who had Commanded the regiment since August, resigned, and after that time Major Ezra P. Gould was senior officer of the command. In the battle at Fort Stedman, March 25, 1865, the 59th was engaged near Battery XI on the left of the fort and narrowly escaped capture. From this time until the evacuation of Petersburg the regiment lay between Battery XI and Fort Stedman. On April 3, it entered the city of Petersburg, then did duty for over a fortnight guarding the Southside Railroad. About May 1, the 59th was ordered to Washington, and was stationed first at Alexandria and later at Tenallytown. Here, June 20, 1865, the remnant of the 59th was transferred to the 57th, the transfer to be effective as of June 1, and the officers and men were mustered out as a part of that regiment, July 30, 1865. At Readville, Mass., August 9, 1865, the men were paid off and discharged.


The following are excerpts from all nine of the letters.

Letter Number #1
The following is an excerpt only. There is considerably more content. There is no month referenced on this letter, but there is no question they are on their way to Petersburg—The Battle of the Crater. The letter mentions Lt. Dunlap, who would be killed at Petersburg which puts this letter right at April 29, 1864—a Friday.

"Soldier’s Relief-Alexandria, Virginia Friday April, 29th 1864

My Dear Mother--

I will describe the whole passage, We have marched a great ways today (or it seems so to me), probably not ore than eight or ten miles and I find that I can stand it much better than I thought at first. Our knapsacks are rather heavy and we all have got a good deal of stuff that we shall throw away. Our Lieut. improves every day. He has just told me that he thought he could find room in the officer’s boxes for some of my things. That will be first rate as I have not many things that I wish to throw away. We have also got a first rate 1st Lieut. (Dunlap is 2ND ) I like him and our Captain almost as well as Dunlap, but I am not so well acquainted with the. . [Wyman refers here to Lt. James Dunlap who would be killed in action at the Battle of the Wilderness.] It’s a rather queer way to do business I think, to send a Regiment ahead and no one knowing where we are going, but we shall find out soon enough, I’ll warrant.

We are rushing the troops ahead double quick, veterans, troops and all, and you may be pretty sure that there is work ahead. If I do not write before, you may expect a letter from me, dated Richmond about the 4th of July. I will just give you an outline of our journey, so if you do not receive another letter for a month or two, you may know the states and cities that I have seen with my own eyes…."

Letter Number #2

I have quoted it below in its entirety. It is written exactly one week post Battle of the Wilderness. I assume it is written to his mother.

On or about May 13, 1864

"How little you or I thought when you fixed my things so nicely that they were destined to cloth and comfort the Rebels instead of myself. Probably by this time, some ‘Johnni’ has my shirt and stockings—another my overcoat. One is making a letter with my pen and ink upon my paper. Another is mending my coat with my pretty little needle—uses that $500 would not have bought.

I will tell you how I lost them. On the morning of the ‘Battle of the Wilderness’, a week ago, last Friday. We were marched for some distance in order to give us the pleasure of assisting in the fight. By the time we reached the [Wilderness] Battle field or rather woods, that’s the Rebel’s style—sneaking behind trees, we were rather tired and my knapsack weighed down. Well they marched us ahead until the bullets began to fly a little, then halted. I know that I could not do anything with my knapsack on, so I dropped it. I took out all the little things I wished to have and put them in my overcoat pocket, intending to take it with me. The order came to forward so I had to leave it. Some ‘Johnni’ is rejoicing and I’m mourning. The way the Rebs got it was driving us back about a mile. Pretty story to tell, isn’t it?

The 59th did not break first, but a Regiment of Regulars. The other Regiments fell in one by one—making a retreat very much like Bull Run of old. It did no harm, however, as we recovered all our lost ground and more, too! Our Company was complimented highly in the last fight (last Thursday). Our Captain told us, he was proud of us. He said that he had been in ‘crack’ Regiments, but never saw one stand up to the mark like the old 59th! He said we beat the Veterans all out! I tell you that there is not much run in the Union Army. They make no more of bullets than as if they were rotten apples.

There is a very good prospect that they may look at it for us to get Richmond in a short time and if we do get it, then the war is played out. There has been a report that it has been taken, but it is not generally credited. However, Old Butler is pretty near it and they say that there is an army man, Hooker between the Rebs in front of us and Richmond. If so, they have to look sharp.

There is another report about camp today viz., that we are to back to Fredricksburg tomorrow to rest and get ready for another start. I don’t believe it honored. I think they will shove us right ahead. I don’t care if we don’t get hit when we go. It is not half so bad being in a battle, as one would suppose. The most is going in and seeing the dead lying about and the wounded being brought out. After we are in, ‘Everything is Lovely’. I actually caught myself laughing once or twice to see our men perform. I suppose we are all old veterans now.

I shall be perfectly satisfied to rest a while now after seeing two good fights, but if I am not mistaken, we shall see two more before long. A little while ago, I should have thought is hard to march 3 ½ miles and back. After being in a fight, through the rain and mud, after dark for my supper… Some twenty of us did not get any [supper], so we went to bed without any. Yesterday, we went about four miles and brought in some hardtack. My knapsack (I have bought another) was stuffed full. We have fresh beef and coffee, so the danger of starving is over.

I hope that you have received my letters. I have written five to Woburn, four home and one not home. I have not received any since we left Readville and do not expect to until this campaign is over as it is difficult—almost impossible to get letters to a Regiment when they are on the move everyday or two. However, by and by, I shall get them all in a heap. I know of no way to send this letter, but I thought I would write it and wait my opportunity of sending it sometime. I rather anxious about you receiving the other letters as one of them contained thirty dollars. Try and read this letter somehow, it is written very badly. Give my love to all and have no fears about me as I shall come out all right.
Yours affectionately…Arthur Wyman"

Letter Number #3
"Parole Camp—Annapolis—April 17, 1865

Dear Mother--

…We arrived in New York about six and crossed over to Jersey City, where we took the half-past seven train for Philadelphia. At New York, we first heard the report of the Assassination of President Lincoln. Terrible, ain’t it? It almost spoils all the good news we’ve had. However, I don’t think that the condition of the Rebels will be improved by the event as they will have a harder man to deal with on Vice President Johnson than ever they had before….

We arrived at Baltimore about six o’clock. Here we heard that the trains between Washington and principle cities had been stopped on account of the assassination—that it would be impossible for us to go further than Annapolis. The ticket master, however, said that we could go right through to Parole Camp—so we started.

There are very few [soldiers] here now and it is very lonesome. I shall be homesick if I remain here long. They are sending them off every week for the front and I shall try to go with the next lot. All the soldiers here are anxious to go to the front now that the fight is over and see that they have started recruiting and hear that they are going to discharge everything excepting what is absolutely necessary so it looks as if the war is nearly over…."

Letter Number #4

"Camp Near Georgetown—May 2nd 1865

My Dear Sister--
…When I wrote you the other day, I was detailed at the brigade commissary. I was to be a permanent officer and was a very easy place. Yesterday, however, Sergt. C. wanted clerk and so with the permission of the Lieutenant in charge of the Co., he detailed another man in my place and at present I am company clerk….Charles Richardson wrote me that I was down on the rolls as a Private and sure enough, when we came to be mustered in on Sunday, it was so. But they changed it, and it is alright now….

I have not seen Battery 11 since I have been here. I guess that it is not in the region…. We have plenty of music here. There is scarcely a moment during the day but what some band is playing. I like to hear it, however…"

Letter Number #5

"Division 9th Army Corps--May 9, 1865

My Dear Mother--
…We are having the same kind of weather that we had a year ago at Spotsylvania, only we are in a little different situation. We had a hard time of it last Summer, but it is pleasant to look back upon now. I would not sell my experience for anything!

I wrote Ceclia to ask Father to send some money. I don’t want much—two or three dollars will do. I want a little occasionally to buy something of the Commissary. We have a Subtler here, but he charges enormous prices for his things and I had rather not buy much of him….

We still keep hearing reports every day as to where we are going. One day we are going home, the next we are to Texas*** and again we are to remain where we are. I place no confidence in any of their reports, but let it go in one ear and out the other. Nothing would please me better than to go home…."

***Note--Between May 12 and 13, 1864, a month after General Lee had surrendered at Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia, the final major conflict of the Civil War took place at Palmetto Ranch, Texas, also known as Palmetto Hill. Fighting along the Rio Grande River between Union and Confederate forces had halted in March 1865 after a cease-fire agreement had been made. On May 11, 1865, Col. Theodore Barrett decided to break this agreement and sent some 250 men from the 62nd US Colored Regiment and 50 from the 2nd Texas Cavalry to attack the various Confederate outposts and camps. Ironically, the final battle of the Civil War was won by the Confederacy.

Letter Number #6

"May 24, 1865—Waltham

My Dear Arthur--
"I suppose you have been today and yesterday in the midst of the bustle and excitement of the Grand Review in Washington. As I see by the paper, the Fifty-Ninth Regiment is among the others in the big procession.

After having spent a week brushing up and mending your regimentals, scouring your guns and shooting apparatus, till they shown like a new coffee pot, polishing your boots so that you may see your face in them, you cannot look otherwise than perfectly irresistible and a model soldier. I rather expect to see you mentioned in the account of the review as ‘particularly noticeable for noble and soldierly bearing strict conformity to military rule…and never be obliged to hop-skip to get into step and keep up with the company! Also for neatness of dress and accoutrements.’ I am glad to see you as having such a fine day and no mud! (I have heard of the Washington mud)….

Letter Number #7

"Tennallytown May 26, 1865

My Dear Sister--
…There is pretty strong talk of going to Texas, but I hope there is nothing to it. Old Kirby Smith hasn’t surrendered and he may yet make some trouble if he chooses. Allen Barrett and Billy Brown of the 39th were here last evening also Lieut. Conn. [Charles K. Conn was wounded and taken Prisoner at Laurel Hill. He was also wounded on February 6, 1865 at Hatcher’s Run.]

Will finish this letter in the morning, that is if we don’t start for Texas during the night. By the way if they start--as for that place—I think that I shall desert!

Letter Number #8

"Tennallytown--June 1, 1864

My Dear Mother--
…We are to be consolidated with the 57th Regiment in a few days. The order was read on dress parade last evening. So, I suppose that I shall lose my place as Co. Clerk. I suppose that we shall lose two or three officers and possibly some drummers and non-commissioned officers, but most of them will remain and it will not make much difference with us….

The consolidation that I spoke of has taken place this afternoon ad we are now Co. "K", 57th. The old 59th is no more. I do not like the change, but suppose that I must put up with it. We have a good Captain. That is that they all say that he is a first rate man and what I have seen of him, I like him first rate…. Perkins of Co H (perhaps you remember him, he enlisted about the time that I did) has returned from the hospital to the Company for duty. [Uriah Perkins was also a Sharpshooter with Company "G", U.S. Army 2nd]…."

Letter Number #9

"Waltham June 22, 1865--

My Dear Boy--
…I am sorry that the brave fifty-ninth will be known no more except in history, but it has made its mark and gained honor and a reputation in this war. I was in the State House a short time ago, and saw the battle flags which are placed there—relics of so many battlefields and mute witnesses of the terrible struggles they have passed through. Besides the 44th and 45th and 16th Regiments, (the only other ones except yours in which I was particularly interested) I looked for the 59th and found a hard looking flag. It had the appearance of having been badly abused. As you was a color corporal or something of the kind, ought you not to have looked after it a little and not allowed it to get so shabby and soiled!…"

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