To: Greenfield, OhioFreshwater, South Carolina 1863
My dear family—Anna, Bobby, Mother and Father—,
I am writing to you as a last resort. Our squadron has been wandering through these morbid South Carolina wetlands for days and I am not sure we will ever get to the front lines of action. I have sent this letter via horse messenger, so you might get word of my death before this. I am hopeful of survival, but at the moment, our chances are grim.
Yesterday, Gene Canterbury succumbed to what lies beyond this life. He had been injured last week at Staunton. A shell dropped near him and mutilated the whole of his right side. Our company has been towing him behind us in a gurney. Since our medic himself has been shot, we have no relief from wounds and minor aches. His intern—a young, brown haired boy who could barely chop a log, let alone amputate a leg—however, had very little field experience with open wounds and refused to care for Gene. He did give us help—from a distance—in determining if Gene's leg had become gangrenous, which it had. When he started to become feverish and delusional, we stopped in a small town—somewhere in northern South Carolina, I believe—and strapped him down to wait for him to sweat it out. I was by his side, dripping water onto his parched lips and wiping the sweat from his forehead until he took his last painful breath. The medic's intern was nowhere to be found. We suspected he left us to live in the new town, the Confederate town. We managed without him.
I am aching and sweating a fever, it seems, like most of my comrades. Our feet are bloody and blistered for lack of proper footwear. Every night, when the sun is barely giving light over the mountains to our west, we stop and make camp. Sometimes we stumble upon a hospitable town and spend the night peacefully in a barn or tavern. Other towns—Rebel towns—drive us out with fire and weapons. We usually find a small empty clearing and set up watch in that case.
I hope with all my life-force that I will see you, my much missed and loved family. If I do not return to you, I will see you when you all return to me in that castle in the sky.
With much love and perpetual longing to be with you,
Your son and brother,