SMITH – Civil War Letter From Gettysburg

Thomas W Smith_Standing With SaberThomas W. Smith was the grandfather of Virginia Louise Buek (and father-in-law of Tycho Buek, Jr.).  He married Mary A. Knox on November 9, 1878.  He was a sergeant in the Pennsylvania 6th Cavalry, famously known as Rushes Lancers.

The following letter is taken from the book “We Have it Damn Hard out Here” the Civil War Letters of Sergeant Thomas W. Smith, 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, Edited by Eric J. Wittenberg, copywrite 1999, pages 99-100.

Head Quarters Armey of the Potomac, Md.
July 11th 1863

Dear Sister,

Since I last wrote home the Armey of the Potomac has had some very hard fighting but I suppose you folks at home know more about it than I doo.  I have only seen two News Boys in the last two weeks and they had nothing but the Baltimore Clipper and it had nothing of any account in it.

At the Battle of Gettysburg Gen Meade had his Head Quarters at a white frame house about 50 yds in the rear of the left center.  The staff officers and orderlies were all in the garden around the house ( a space about 30 yds square).  At this point our Lines took a turn to the right so that head quarters were under terrible crossfire from the Rebble artillery.  There were 21 horses killed outright in the garden at head quarters.  We lost 11 horses out of our squadron, Capt Carpenter  of Comp E lost two horses.

Nearly every horse at head quarters was wounded or scratched by pieces of flying shell, some of them so bad that they had to be killed afterwards.  There were several officers and men killed, and some badly wounded at head quarters, but strange to say  Comp I (Thomas Smith’s company) had not one man disabled, though several of them were struck by pieces of shell.

We gained a great victory and took thousands of prisoners.  In fact the prisoners came in such droves that at one time they created a slight pianick in our reserve who thought that the Rebs had forsed our line of battle.  We are expecting another battle now every hour (8 o’clock a.m.).  We are all saddled up and expect the General to go to the front every moment.

I received father’s letter of the 3rd Inst.  Tell mother that I  received the 5 dollars that she sent me at Fairfax Station Virginia.

I seen Bobs regt at Middletown the day before yesterday.  I inquired for him but he was in the rear with the wagon train so I did not get to see him.

My helth was never better than it is now.  I have felt so well and hardy for the last month that I begin to think that I was never in good helth before.

No more at present, write soon, Hoping you are well at home.

I remain,

Your affectionate brother


P.S. I could tell you many interesting incidents of the late battle but I have not the time to write them.  Besides if I was to write all I should like to tell you it would fill  a good sized mail bag.