May 1864 Letter by Private Daniel J. Taft, 82nd Pennsylvania - Overland Campaign - "They have been doing a wholesale business in slaughtering men within the last two weeks"

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May 1864 Letter by Private Daniel J. Taft, 82nd Pennsylvania - Overland Campaign - "They have been doing a wholesale business in slaughtering men within the last two weeks"

200.00

Item No. 2636551

A very interesting May 1864 letter written by Private Daniel J. Taft of the 82nd Pennsylvania Volunteers, a regiment that had wintered guarding prisoners at Johnson’s Island in Ohio and had just arrived back in Virginia during the opening phases of the Overland Campaign. Writing from the supply depot at Belle Plaine, Taft described how his regiment had been guarding the Rebel prisoners that were coming in from the front—”they are hard looking cases.” Along with the Rebel prisoners came a continuous flow of wounded Union soldiers. “They have been doing a wholesale business in slaughtering men within the last two weeks,” he wrote, causing him to consider that had his regiment not been delayed in leaving Ohio, “you can judge where our regt would have been.” The letter reads in full:

Camp Near Belle Plaine Va
May 17th / 64.

Friend Forrie
Your welcome letter was received last evening, but you see by the preceding that we have moved camp from Johnson’s Island. We left the Island on the 9th inst. and arrived here via Washington on the 14th. Our camp is near the Potomac and about 55 miles below Washington. Fredericksburg is nine miles from here.

This is the depot of supplies to the Potomac Army at present and the place to where all the prisoners are brought from the front.

Since we landed we have been kept here to guard the Reb prisoners which now number about 6,000. More coming in and being sent off every day. Yesterday thirteen hundred were sent to Point Lookout. I tell you they are hard looking cases.

They have been doing a wholesale business in slaughtering men within the last two weeks. The roads to Fredericksburg are lined with much of the wounded as can walk and the ambulances and supply trains are all loaded with wounded. Every house in Fredericksburg is said to be filled with the wounded.

The three regts of our brigade which left Sandusky about three weeks before we did are all killed, wounded, or taken prisoner but about 250. But few from these regts were captured except the wounded. Genl. Shaler, commander of the Brigade was wounded and taken prisoner. You can judge where our regt would have been had we been relieved in time. Two went to the front with the others, but it is not too late yet. I expect we will soon be relieved from here and sent on to the front. You have no idea of the amount of troops that are passing through here to the army daily.

I should like very much to have made the folks a visit before I left the Island, but a soldier might as well try to get a discharge as a furlough, and nothing short of a chunk of lead through the head will get a fellow his discharge. Ed Tarbox exhausted all of his strategy in trying to get a furlough, and has come to the conclusion that furloughs are all a “hoax.”

Haven’t anything more to write at present. Give my biggest respects to the gals and boys of Wrightsville. Write soon again, and remember your friend Dan

P.S. Direct to Washington. D. J.

The letter was written on four pages of a stationery sheet measuring 5” x 8”. It is in excellent condition with very light toning and creases where originally folded.

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