Sunday, October 23, 2011

Letters from the Front - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

Wednesday, October 23, 1861
First Lieutenant Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. of Company A wrote a letter to his mother from the Twentieth Regiment Hospital at Camp Benton. He began by reassuring her that he was recovering from his injuries, and then followed with an account of his wounding:

Here I am flat on my back after our first engagement – wounded but pretty comfortable … I was out in front of our men encouraging ‘em on when a spent shot knocked the wind out of me & I fell – then I crawled to the rear a few paces … so up I got and rushed to the front and asked if none would follow me when down I went again by the Colonel’s side – The first shot (the spent ball) struck me on the belly below where the ribs separate & bruised & knocked the wind out of me – The second time I hope only one ball struck me entering the left & coming out behind the right breast in wh. case I shall probably recover and this view is seconded by finding a ball in my clothes by the right hand wound – I may be hit twice in which case the chance is not so good – But I am now so well that I have good hopes … And now seem to think that I have a fair chance and all my friends whatever happens I am very happy in the conviction I did my duty handsomely…

He continued his letter by detailing the severity of the casualties in the regiment and ended with a touch of humor, “I can’t send a good looking note lying on my back …”1

1 Mark De Wolfe Howe, editor, Touched With Fire: Civil War Letters and Diary of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. (New York, New York: Fordham University Press, 2000), 13, 18-19.

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