3 Gettysburg Campaign Letters written by Edward E. Belcher, Co. I, 12th Mass. Infantry – All 3 Actually Written IN GETTYSBURG, Acting as a Nurse – “Those little bullets of death were flying thick and fast” – “I was taken prisoner of war when at the table where they amputated”
Edward E. Belcher was a resident of Sharon, Mass. He enlisted on June 26th, 1861 into Company I of the 12th Massachusetts Infantry, known as the “Webster Regiment”. The 12th Mass. was a very hard fought regiment. On the 17th of September 1862 it fought in the Bloody Cornfield at the battle of Antietam, having 224 casualties. It was here that our writer Edward Belcher was wounded. At Gettysburg the 12th was again hard hit, fighting in Reynold’s 1st Corps.

All 3 letters are in fine condition. 2 of them have their original envelopes. All are written to Annett Belcher, his sister.

The first letter is headed, “Gettysburg, Penn. Aug. 7th /63”. Here are the highlights:

• “I rec'd your letter of No. 9 which you directed to the Regt. It was forwarded to me by the Capt. as he knows where I was for it was by his means that I am where I now am.”

• “In your last you ask a few questions in the first part of the letter & I will answer them to the best of my ability, but will have to commence at the beginning which is of the first of July (so here it is). We went into the fight by Brigade at the first & after a while we were relieved & marched to the rear & stacked arms.”

• “Well, we of course had some wounded & those of our Co. were pretty well looked out for, but Sergt. Wm. Carr had a broken leg & was left on the field & the Capt. wanted two of us to go back & get him & as there seemed none of the larger ones to volunteer, I told the Capt. that I would go for one & the Orderly Sergt. L. B. Holmes went with me.”

• “Well, we went back & found him though it was a tough place for those little bullets of death were flying thick & fast. When we found him G. H. Whitney was with him so between the three of us we managed to get him to the rear & to where the Regt. stacked arms…”

• “…but they had gone & we kept on towards the town where we expected to find our Hospt. & just before we entered the town & as Whitney was relieved (from carrying the Sergt.) by Lieut. Sampson, he was shot (Whitney) in the back by the Rebs for they had flanked us & our forces were falling back.”

• “Still I did not know it then. Well, I went to the Hospt. with the Sergt. & had him put on the table right off & he did not want me to leave him anyway, so I stayed by him & see his leg amputated & then I took care of him…”

• “…when the Rebs ordered those at the Hospt. to fall in to march for Richmond, I did not have to go as I was considered at the time, as detailed for an attendant at the Hospital. (I was taken prisoner of war when at the table where they amputated) although at the time I was not regularly detailed.”

• “Then on the 3rd day the Rebel Genl. asked for a list of the names of all those who were detailed here & the Surgeon took them & gave them to him. There were two lists, one he kept, the other he returned to the Surgeon in charge. When Mr. Johnny left here & our forces occupied the town, we began to make preparations for a little more comfort, so a room in a private house was taken for Lieut. French of Co. H., 12th Regt. M. V. He had his arm off above the elbow & he insisted on having the Sergt. there with him.”

• “The Surgeon of the 11th P. V. wanted to have Lieut. Liedtke here so he was put in here then. Joe Thayer of Co. H., one of French's Co., was brought here so we had 4 in a room & I was one to help take care of them and had to do all the dressing of the wounds. The other fellow was a mere help on the night watch.”

• “On the morning of the 13th of July, as I was dressing the Sergt.'s leg, it commenced to bleed so I called the Doct. & he said do it up without a bandage, but it did not stop long for at 3 o'clock I was called into the room to try & stop it from bleeding again, so for the Doct. I went & he seemed to think that it would not bleed long as he thought that it was nothing but one of the little subterfuge arteries.”

• “On the 14th the three Docts. all came in to see how it was getting along & to dress it, so I held it up for them to poke over to see where the bleeding came from & from what I heard, I knew it was a hard cure for him (it was a poor amputation at first) & thought then that if he lived till noon he would do well.”

• “Still the Docts. thought that he would get along finely, but he died at about 3 1/2 o'clock p.m. His death was very sudden & easy. Those in the room knew nothing about it until about 5 minutes before his death. His lips were turned purple before noon & I thought that rather a poor sign for life long.”

• “Joe Thayer was sent to New York & the Lieut. of my Regt. started for home the next day 28th July, Lieut. French & I was left all alone with the Lieut. of the 11th Regt. P. V. He is wounded through the bowels & at first it was thought he would not live, but now talks of going to Harrisburg, Pa. His wife is here with him now so I expect to go out to the U. S. General Hospt. before long. It is 2 miles from here.”

• “I saw the Surgeon who has charge out there today & he told me to report out there after I got through here. I shall go to work at my trade if I go out there, so there will be no prospect of my joining the Regt. for a while. I have written so much this time that I have not time to say what I want to & it is getting late so I will close this with love & best wishes to all. I remain Your Brother, Edward”

The second letter is headed, “Gettysburg, Pa. Sat. Aug. 8th /63”. Here are the highlights:

• “This is what I did not expect to have time to write & send in this letter, but as I did not send it in the mail this morning, I thought that I would write a few more lines. I thought that Mrs. Harding was at home. She went out west, did she not & then return from there. Do you know whether the boys that are drafted will have a chance to choose which Regt. to go into? Tell Jim M. to get out here with me, if he is obliged to come, but I think he will get exempt…”

• “…I hope the most of them will for my part, for I know what they have got to go through & how to go through it again if required but I think they will not have a chance to serve 3 years & I have no doubts but what I shall & that too with coming home unless I get my discharge & there is no signs of that yet a while, but I'll bet a farm that Uncle Sam don't get a chance to discharge me but once & that will be in about 10 months & 20 days.”

• “We have some tall weather here & very warm, too hot to move around much, but I have to keep on the move first for this & then that. Now I have got to go to the U. S. Christian Commission & must stop for a while.”

• “Well, I have got done running for a while & now it is half past six & almost dark in this room, so I shall not write much more. I am better than when I last wrote but was down on the bed 2 days & quite feverish. Now I have to take a good dose of brandy & water once a day.”

• “The people are very kind here & do most everything for the wounded. Some of them do too much, I think, for they bring food for them to eat that is not good for them, such as potatoes & meat & it will not do for those that are confined to the bed. I must close this with love from Ed.”

The third letter is headed, “Gettysburg, Penn. Aug. 11th /63”. Here are the highlights:

• “I merely write this for the purpose of sending those pictures back as I am about to go from here for a day or so & perhaps forever & I shall be obliged to leave my things here & if I return, why all right. If not, why they will be gone up the spirit.”

• “I have been ordered to the Regt. by the Capt. & to report as soon as possible, or he shall have to report me as a deserter, but I can get around him on that for I shall be as long as possible in getting there & then when I have a Surgeon's Certificate to show for my absence, he can't do anything.”

• “But I have not seen the Surgeon yet & do not know how it will work with him about my going. If he gives me a Certificate to stop, then I shall send it to the Capt. & get my Descriptive list & he & the whole Regt. may go to H (the fight) for all me.”


Great content for a soldier who acted as a nurse at the battle of Gettysburg… and wasn’t that line great about ordering a Bachelder map!

#G188 - Price for all 3 Letters $2,250