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TitleLetter to Brother and Sister
DescriptionLetter written by Louis A. Myers who was a member of the 3rd West Virginia Infantry and the 6th West Virginia Calvary. Very descriptive of the horror and glory of war.
DateNovember 23, 1862
Item TypeArchival Material
CollectionMyers Family Papers, 1854-1864 (SC15-4)
See finding aid: http://localhistory.kclibrary.org/u?/Local,36944
LocationSC15-4, Box 1, Folder 9
Local SubjectCivil War
Myers Family
Digital FormatJPEG
TranscriptionBuckhannan, West Va. Sunday, Nov. 23rd, 1862 My Dear Brother and Sister: It seems almost incredable that a long eventful year has elapsed since I last wrote to you - but I believe it is nevertheless true. I need not say how often I have resolved to write, nor need I state the circumstances which have caused me to break those resolves. I have neglected you so far as my correspondence is concerned – but in that alone. The (?) of camp, the fatigue and exposure of hard marching, and the dangers of the Battle field, have been made less burdensome by a continual and kindly remembrance of you. Often at Midnight when the bivouac fires burned low, and the Army slept, I have made bright the weary hours by thoughts of the "loved ones far away", and oh, how I have longed to be with you! And when war's fiery billows swept over and around me, and the Stern King Death held high Carnival, if the hissing balls, and bursting shells and clashing steel, awakened in my heart a sense of fear or a dread of death – it was because I have fixed my heart upon some day having a peaceful quiet home near you – and that anticipated pleasure causes me to cling to life with a tenacity which amounts almost to cowardice. Well really I am at a loss to know what to write about. It is impossible to give, in the cramped space of these pages, an intelligable account of the different campaigns in which I have participated; for it would be a long, long story to tell of all my wanderings since I last wrote to you. In that time I have "seen the Elephant" in all his aspects, and my curiosity has been amply gratified if my zeal has not been abated. At McDowell, Cros Keys, Slaughter Mt., Freeman's Ford, Waterloo Bridge, along the Rappahannock River and at Bull Run, I saw enough to satisfy me that War is a terrible calamity; and that Military glory must be purchased at the fearful price of all the finer feelings of our nature. In the Army one finds much to degrade and much to exalt. So far as mere physical enjoyment is concerned, however, I am not quite sure but that pleasure preponderates. Indeed there is a peculiar charm about the Romantic, free and easy manner of a Soldier's life, not found outside the Army. Even the monotony of Camp has its pleasant variations. Debating clubs, social games and gymnastics being prominent features. Picketing along the outer lines of a large Army – foraging and skirmishing in an Enemy's Country; all have their bright features, and furnish food for all manner of thought and feeling. Down in poor old East Va. I found it alike pleasant & interesting to study the characters of the men, who cowered sullenly at the sight of "Yankee invaders"; of the women who relying upon their weakness for protection, defiantly spat in the "Yankee invaders" faces; & of the poor starving children, who, eagerly thrust their hands into the "Yankee Invaders" haversacks searching for bread. – And last tho not least, one may find in the clang of conflict a fearful pleasure, yea even a fierce delight, that enables one to laugh at its horrors and defy its dangers. - First came the Martial array with all its "pomp and pride and circumstance". Further than the eye can reach the Countless thousands are formed in battle order. A thousand banners flutter proudly in the air; and music breaks upon the ear, nerving the heart and strengthening the arm to deeds of valor. Then comes the advance, and soon the scene changes. And what a change! The Music is drowned in the thunder of Artillery, flags, and all the proud array are lost in the dense smoke, which like a thick veil of Egyptian darkness hangs over the Earth and spreads along the sky, until at last nothing is seen save the livid flashes of Artillery & Musketry. All this you have seen described in the papers, and I need not dwell upon it. But there are other features which I have not seen described. The men around you inebriate with rage, blackened with powder, and perhaps red with blood – with lolling tongue & frothing Mouth, look like incarnate fiends: The darkness and all the wild uproar. - The crashing, earthquake thunders of five hundred cannon; The incepant rattling of three hundred thousand Muskets; the terrible Noise of the various projectiles that fill the air, and hiss and howl & burst around you; The wild shouts of the Combatants & the piercing shrieks and groans of wounded and dying men, all these, taken in connection with other unutterable horrors, at first strike terror into The soul, and make one shudder as if in the presence chamber of Satan himself. But this state of feeling soon wears away, and one enters into the spirit, which fearful and terrible as it is, soon becomes all-pervading – and thus; wild, reckless and desperate, one awaits with a proud fearlessness which amounts almost to impatience, for the ball or shell which he feels sure sooner or later will strike him down. - But "When the hurly-burly's done, and the day is lost or won"; when the excitement dies away and the blood cools, there comes a revulsion of feeling – an awakening of the functions of the heart and mind, that overwhelms one with a sense of guilt and remorse, which Is terrible beyond anything I have every felt. I can not forget the fright following the first days fighting at Bull Run (and that is the fight that I have attempted to describe.) We had fought all day from day light until dark, without any decisive result, and both Armies laid down upon their arms to sleep, upon the very ground occupied when darkness put an end to the fight. The intermediate space had been fought over time and again, and no less than fifteen thousand dead & wounded soldiers lay scattered over it, making the night hideous with their shrieks and groans. I could not sleep, but lit my pipe, and smoked and watched and wept through all the long hours, with a heart so full of anguish that I really envied the Mangled forms that lay around me, stiff and stark and cold in death. – I felt relieved when at last Morning dawned and the Batteries began once more to belch forth their thunders. God grant that I may never pass such another night of horror! From what I have written you will infer that I have no desire to make soldering my profession. I cannot with complacency contemplate the future of my military career. I would rather consider it as something connected with the past. For instance it would be pleasant at some future time to sit under my own vine and fig tree, and whisper in the ear of my "first born" an old soldier's "tales of the war". Now don't you think me quite an ambitious youth to indulge such fancies? But don't tell me they shall not be realized. Let me dream on while I may; for doubtless I shall find out full soon that indeed "all is vanity and vexation of Spirit" If I feel claimed to be a true soldier, I should feel ashamed of having permitted myself to be betrayed into this little weakness: but as it is, I am proud that I retain so much of human nature. I am just that much less than a Soldier, and so much more than a brute – that's the only difference. Everything is tolerably quiet now in this part of the state, though during the past Summer and Fall we have been troubled a great deal with Bands of Guerrillas & horse thieves. The country is really reduced to a deplorable condition. No loyal part of the Country, save perhaps East Tennessee, has suffered like West Va. It is emphatically the La Vendee of America. Our only hope is in getting Congress to recognize and admit us as a New State - which I think will be done this winter. I was at home about six weeks ago, for a few days. I left them all well, and getting along very well. While there I wrote to Mr. Beland and Amanda, and also to Ireneus – but have heard nothing from them since. Why don't you all write to me oftener - only a word, if you can't write more. If there is anything to keep up the spirits and cheer the heart of a soldier, it is to hear encouraging words from home and friends. Father writes to me often, or I don't know how I could get along. None of the rest of them ever write to me from home, and I scarcely ever hear from any of you, only through Father's letters. You don't know how difficult it is for me to write. During the greater part of the past year I have been the only commissioned officer with my Company, and have really not often had time to write a letter that would not have been (as this no doubt will be) more of an aggravation than a pleasure to you. Do please write often. Enclosed I send you my photograph. It was taken in Washington City, just after the Battle of Bull Run, when I was much reduced in flesh by the hard Campaign. In other respects it is said to be a good picture. I have one for Amanda and one for Ireneus, which I will send in a few days. - Give my love to all. How are the children? I would so love to see them all. Pardon this hastily written epistle. I have been surrounded by a noisy crowd while writing. Your Affectionate Brother Louis A. Myers Luther & Anna M.
BarcodeMyerLetter1, MyerLetter2, MyerLetter3, MyerLetter4, Myerspage5, Myerspage6
RepositoryMissouri Valley Special Collections, Kansas City Public Library, Kansas City, Missouri
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