Monday, September 20, 2004

Civil War Letter from John Howell re Gettysburg


In addition to his description of the Battle of the Gettysburg and the pivotal battle for the Little Round Top, Howell references the death of his Uncle William Sloan at Spotsylvania Court House.
William Sloan enlisted as Sergeant and mustered into Company "K", 148th PA Infantry on October 2, 1862. The 148th PA was one of the three hundred fighting regiments enumerated in Fox's "Regimental Losses," and participated in the following engagements: Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Po river, Spotsylvania, Totopotomy, Cold Harbor, Prison Guard Salisbury, N. C., first assaults on Petersburg, siege of Petersburg, Jerusalem plank road, Deep Bottom, Reams' station, Hatcher's run, White Oak road and Farmville. For three months after its organization it was engaged in guarding a section of the Northern Central railroad in Maryland, with headquarters at Cockeysville, and joined the Army of the Potomac at Falmouth immediately af-ter the battle of Fredericksburg.

Sgt. Sloan was killed on May 12, 1864 at Spotsylvania Court House. Howell recalls his dear Uncle in his writing.


The letter is quoted in part below. For reading ease, some spelling and grammar has been corrected:

"Mr. John Howell—

Gettysburg, PA is not only the greates battlefield of the Civil War, but is America’s Greatest Battlefield and was the decisive Battle of the war between the North and the South. It fought on the 1 & 2 & 3 days of July 1863, between the Federal Army of the Potomac commanded by General G. Meade and the Confederate Army of the Northern Virginia, commanded by Gen. R.E. Lee….

The key to the battlefield was Little Round Top. There was no road up to the little round top and our men pulled the cannons up by rope tied to the cannon or about 40 men, pulling at the rope and, men at the wheels run one wheel up and hold it there until the other side would push their wheel up and run this cannon up by hand and finally go it up in time to save the Hill. The Rebs were bound to take the Hill and the Hill is nothing but rocks and stones. There was lots of boys lost their lives on that Hill….

May 12, 1864—General Hancock commanding the 2nd Corps. Captured the most of Johnson Division, 20 pieces of artillery and Rebel Johnson and General Stewart and 30 Collars (Colored) and 4000 prisoners and a lot of small armies and ammunition at Spotsylvania…. May 12, 1864…my Uncle, Sergt. W. C. Sloan was killed in this battle…."

General Hunt says he used 81 pieces of artillery at Petersburg and throwed 3833 shells and solid shot and canister in four hours and it was equal 15 tons of metal on the morning of July 30, 1864 at the Battle of the Crater. This fort our men blew up July 20, 1864--had eight tons of powder under this fort and touched off between daylight and sun up and killed 200. Tore a hole 30 feet deep and sixty feet wide and 170 long. I can just see it going up now and that night when our boys were on picket, called over to our boys—‘that was nothing but a damn dirty trick….’"

Here is part of my uncle W. C. Sloan’s letter he wrote home just before he was killed. ‘The mail is just going out. We have had seven days fighting and no telling when it [will] end. We had 5 men killed out of our Co. and 12 wounded yesterday. Our Captain is wounded, Jacob Mast, Ben Thompson and Wansetter and John Balorf and Ben Carl are all killed and the rest are in good hurt and all bound for Richmond, Va.’ Uncle Sloan was killed that day, May 12, 1864 and as nice a boy so ever lived."

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