December 1861 Letter by Private Lewis M. Prall, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves - Action at Dranesville - Ambushed by Civilians - "They shot poison balls at our men"

letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves1.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves2.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves3.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves5.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves4.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves1.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves2.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves3.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves5.jpg
letter-lewis-prall-1st-penn-reserves4.jpg
sold out

December 1861 Letter by Private Lewis M. Prall, 1st Pennsylvania Reserves - Action at Dranesville - Ambushed by Civilians - "They shot poison balls at our men"

395.00

Item No.

An interesting December 1861 letter written on patriotic stationery by Private Lewis M. Prall of the 1st Pennsylvania Reserve Infantry Regiment. Prall described the November 26 action in which the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry made an expedition toward Leesburg, in which they skirmished with Rebels near Dranesville. “They were fired into by 300 Secessionists concealed in the woods and bushes,” he wrote. This ambush by “300 Secessionists” is a well-documented event. The Nov. 26-27 expedition of the 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, without firing a shot, napped a handful of civilians belonging to the Dranesville Home Guard, including the Dr. Day mentioned in the letter. They were believed responsible for the September ambush of a detachment of the 34th New York in which one New Yorker was killed and two others taken prisoner. On the Pennsylvanians’ return to Camp Pierpont, they were fired upon by a group of four rebels. This last action must be the ambush Prall wrote about in his letter.

Prall was particularly angered by the story he had heard that the rebels had been shooting poisoned ammunition at the Pennsylvanians, citing two of the wounded cavalrymen that had later died. “They brought the wounded Secesh and one of our wounded men in the ambulance together, both shot in the head” he wrote. “Our man wanted the men to give him a pistol to shoot the Secesh with, but they would not do it.” In these early days of the war in Northern Virginia, there was quite a bit of murder, ambush, and other treachery, leading to wild accusations such as poisoned bullets. It’s another one of those stories in which the truth has likely been stretched a bit. (Another wild story was that Dr. Day and another civilian had decapitated a dead Union soldier on the Bull Run battlefield, placing it on a pike, and displaying it in the other man’s yard for weeks—likely untrue.)

The letter reads, in full:

Camp Pierpont Dec 1st 1861

Dear
I received your ever welcome letter dated 25th. That was when you wrote it. Jake Herrington says to tell you to write your letters before you put them in the office. That is the way we do here. I was glad to hear that the money went safe and was glad to hear that you were all well. I was glad to hear that the money went safe and was glad to hear that you were all well. I received Lib’s letter and answered it soon after. I have had a cold for 3 or 4 days, but it is getting better now since I got some medicine from the doctor. Jake H. is well. He is laying beside me. Him and my old buck, a chap that tents with us. They are both gabbing away like two young robins. I can hardly write for them. On last Tuesday evening the first Cavalry Regiment wen out towards Leesburg where the rebels have a large force laying and when they got about 5 miles from here, they were fired into by 300 Secessionists concealed in the woods and bushes. The fight resulted in 4 Rebels killed and wounded, which they brought with them to the hospital here, but he afterwards died. They also brought 13 other prisoners with them by here and took them on to Washington. I seen them. There was a Captain and a Lieutenant amongst the prisoners. They took Dr. Day out of bed and brought him along. He is one of the rankest Secesh in Virginia. There was none of our men taken prisoners, but the Doctor of the Cavalry wounded. He afterwards died and another man shot in the Regiment, he also died. They shot poison balls at our men. If it had been me that had of taken them prisoners, I would not of brought them to camp. I would of shot the cowardly dogs. They brought the wounded Secesh and one of our wounded men in an ambulance together, both shot in the head. Our man wanted the men to give him a pistol to shoot the Secesh with but they would not do it. If it had of been me, I would very soon gave it to him, for any person that puts poison in their balls ought to be killed. I believe our fellows intend to go out some time soon to surround a Rebel camp not far from here. I heard the other day that there had 40,000 troops came across the long bridge to go in advance of us. If that is the case, we will never see a fight against the south. Get done fighting 40,000 of our men, I think she will be sick of it and give it up for a bad job, which I think is best. I have bought myself a pair of good and thick-soled boots. I paid $5.00 for them. You wanted to know if I shave. I shaved a large crop of mustache and whiskers off today. The reason I have not sent my likeness to you is I went up to the 12th Reg. and it was also so full I could not get it taken. So I came back to camp, but the first change I get I will get it taken and send it to you. Jack Divin was here today. He is well. I got a letter from Annie Prall the other day. They are all well. She says she is going to send me a Christmas present. Also a cap to sleep in. Well it is now nearly 8 oclock Sunday evening and I must quite for it is nearly roll call. Tell Mallie to be a good girl and when I come home I will kiss her and we won’t fight anymore. Ask her what she does for some person to fight with. Give my love to all and reserve a large portion for your own self. Please write soon. I still remain your ever true son till death. How is Papa and Philip getting along?
Lew

[On front sheet, written upside down] If there is any person comes to Washington that I know, tell them to get a pass and come over and see me. We only are 10 miles from Washington. Tell Lib as soon as I can get a little money I will send her $5.00 for fun money.

Have you heard from Charlie lately?

On a small 4 1/2” x 2 1/4” sheet, included with the letter:

Lewis M. Prall
Langley Va.
1st Reg. P. R. C.
Company A. Brandywine Rifles
Gen. McCall’s Division

The letter was written on four pages of 5” x 8” stationery, which are on two separate sheets. Very good condition, as shown. The first sheet bears a lovely patriotic scene of an eagle clutching the U.S. flag. Light toning. Creased where originally folded.

Add To Cart