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Robert H. Caldwell Papers: Transcripts - MS 623
Battlefield near Murfreesboro, Tenn Jan 3rd, 1863
I seize the first opportunity to let you know that I am still in the land of the living, but still a little the worse for wear. I went into battle Dec 31st at 7 a.m., the 21st was on piquet and had the honor of opening the ball. Shortly after, we were relieved by the 78th Pa. and went to cooking breakfast. Just after I had finished my breakfast, we were ordered to fall in, and Negleys entire Div. began to move. By this time the engagement had become general on both sides. It was truly sublime, the fierce roar of the Artillery and sharp rattle of musketry made an almost indescribable din. Our position was in the centre and it was that ground occupied by the right and centre that was the most fiercely contested. I had the pleasure of firing about 10 rounds, and I flatter myself that I never pulled trigger without first getting good sight. The 21st was opposing a battery and we were opposed to a large force of the enemy that was posted about 40 rods in our front. The battery fired grape and canister and did fearful execution. A prisoner taken says that their loss in that very spot amounted to hundreds and that the first discharge of the 21st killed 16 in his own company. As for myself, I took a regular squirrel sight on them before firing. Our Regt was finally overwhelmed by numbers and forced to retreat from a most destructive fire of shot, shell, and musketry. Our company did not escape scot free, there was three wounded that I know of, James Reynolds, Eli Sams, and now don't be alarmed when I tell you that I have at last bled for my country. After having fought about four or five hours, I was obliged to retreat from the field in consequence of a wound received in my left shoulder. The missle was a round musket ball and entered the front of my shoulder (not the back recollect) and ranging through lodged directly under my shoulder blade. It was taken out by a surgeon and I have preserved the ball. It is but a slight wound and in all probability I shall be roving again in a few weeks at farthest. Fghting is still going on with varied success. Capt. Vantine and Lieut. Wood are safe. I am in a large brick building with a good bed and fire. I expect to go to Nashville in a few days as all those slightly wounded are being sent there.
I will write again soon and tell you where to direct mail. Don't let my condition cause you any uneasiness, as I am doing well.
I expect to send [illegible]
please give my love to all my friends and tell them I am about as anxious to go at the enemy again as ever.
Nashville Tenn Jan 7th/63
My dear Parents
Doubtless you are very anxious to know something concerning my welfare. I wrote to you on the 4th inst and informed you that I had recd a slight wound in my left shoulder, but I dont know as you will get it as I sent it by one of our boys and he may have failed to take it to the office I know what your anxiety must be, and I would have written oftener but I was told that the mail communications were broken with the north. but now I believe the mail commences making regular trips. I came to Nashville night before last and was brought to this hospital where I receive the best kind of treatment and I am progressing finely When I wrote to you before I told you that I thought I would be able to go round in a short time, I can walk already with ease. I believe I could walk off five miles if occasion demanded it. but this morning the doctor told me that it would be full nine months before I could have the entire use of my arm, it looks like a long time to me, but I will bear it if I die trying, as the saying is. perhaps I may obtain a furlough and visit home. I am some in hopes that I can I have a good nice bed to lie on, and a plenty of good food with kind attendants and all that goes to make up the paraphrenalia of a first class hospital.
I dont know how many were killed and wounded of my company, but I know of three in my mess that are wounded, namely Eli Sams James Reynolds and myself
I have been told that Mack Reynolds was killed but I dont give it to you as being certain, therefore you had better not mention it to any of his friends. they will learn the truth soon enough.
Lieut Wiley of Company (C) was mortally wounded and has since died. Capt Vantine Lieuts Wood & Bumpus are all right I believe.
Now Mother I dont want you to worry at all about me as I am doing well, and not at all dangerous. You know I am strong and healthy and will weather almost anything except losing my head.
Direct University Hospital No 2 (Two)
Give my love to all
Father you need not send me any money unless I should write for it, as I have sufficient to supply my present wants
Your affectionate son
Hospital No 2 Nashville Ten
My dear Sister
Does the heading of this letter shock your nerves? doubtless it does, as heretofore nothing in this world was so abhorrent to my mind as the thoughts of one day becoming an inmate of one of the institutions but dear Sister, since coming to this most admirably governed hospital and becoming accustomed to its scenes, my mind has underwent a great change as regards hospitals in general, and I now look upon them as humane institutions, founded for the benefit of the afflicted, and not as great pest houses as we were most of us led to believe they were.
The hospital that I am now in was built for a College building and is large and commodious, well ventilated and heated, it stands upon a high eminence overlooking a great part of the city, and taking it all in all I think that I have cause to be thankful that my lot fell in this place.
Well, how did you spend christmas and new year's You can easily imagine how mine was spent. I thought my Christmas was dull enough but when it came to my New year, no dullness then. but a Sharp pain instead, not much of an improvement on the christmas you would say. well as the southerners say, I reckon you'r right thar
I suppose you would like to know when I am coming home, well my answer must be somewhat indefinite as it is hard telling about it. I have heard it said that some of the Surgeons said that as fast as the wounded were able to bear the trip, they were to be sent home, but I dont place much confidence in the report. Perhaps you would like to know how I am getting along at present. I am gaining every day, and am getting so that I can almost enjoy myself, if such a thing were possible in a hospital
I will be so that I can go round town in a few days, and then I shall be the same lively fellow as before. for you know that it takes a good blow to (spin?) my whistle, and I am bound to be merry, come what may
I see by the papers that Sherman has fought a great battle near Vicksburg and suffered a defead I have some fears for William as doubtless the 72nd participated in the engagement. Oh that old granny of a Sherman, it takes our Rosy to do the business for them. He is the only General that we have got left, it appears
hurrah for Rosy
Love to all, and never fret about
Hospital No 2
I forgot to say that our company wagon was burned and as all of our Knapsacks were on the wagon I lost all of my things, but worst of all, I lost all of my pictures, wasn't that too bad
Hospital No 2 Nashville Jan 14/63
I am still improving I no longer have any great amount of pain and my wound is healing nicely
Perhaps you may think that I am homesick, I answer, not at all. Still, I would like to be with the dear ones at home, and I think it quite likely that at no very distant day, I shall have the pleasure of clasping you all by the hand once more[.] I believe there is something being done towards sending the wounded to their homes. Wound'nt I more than enjoy myself at home this winter, Juliet and I could go sleigh riding almost every day and the bracing atmosphere together with the invigorating sport would soon bring me round once more, but if I am doomed to lie in the hospital I will bear it like a true soldier should, but then I cant help thinking that they might send us home for a short time at least
I am getting somewhat anxious to receive a letter from home, as I wish to know how you are progressing in that latitude.
I have not heard a word from home, since our army moved on Murfreesboro, and that was Dec 26th
I spent my New years rather lonely I can assure you as I was lying in a field hospital at the time but now I am (as I said before) doing well, I can go round the room without assistance and will soon be able to go round town, Day before yesterday quite a number of wounded men were sent by Steamboat to Louisville I came very near going myself but the Surgeon thought I had better wait a few days
I have to pay 60 cts per pound for butter but am glad to get it even at that price, as it is quite a luxury, The 21st is still at Murfreesboro, I dont know how soon the army may move on, Phillip Jackson is here in this hospital he is sick, not wounded[.] He recd a letter from Capt Vantine, Capt is well[.] Lieut Bumpus is wounded in the leg, but doing well I believe.
Direct, Hospital No 2
Give my love to all
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