Collection of Four 1863 Letters Written by Private John F. Gettys, 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry - Gettysburg Campaign

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Collection of Four 1863 Letters Written by Private John F. Gettys, 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry - Gettysburg Campaign

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Item No. 2460156

A very interesting collection of four letters written by John F. Gettys, a private in the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry. Eleven pages in all. The first letter was written April 13, 1863, from Winchester. The Battle of Chancellorsville had not yet occurred, and as part of the Middle Department, the 13th Pennsylvania was patrolling the lower Shenandoah Valley. The four-page letter to his brother reads, in part:

Our Comp. Started out on a three days Scout. Was out last night on picket and Must Go on to morow Morning… the Rebles left Fort Royall [Front Royal]… Peter [Huntsburger] sent his respect to you. him and I is going on picket in the morning to gether. Tell Mother not to Fret. My Box that you sent Mee it is all Eat up now. some of the Bois help to Eat Some of it…. There is some of thee loots is [Lutz] Bois in Our company John [Lutz] son is From Adams County to. i ges Mother Must know them to. one William and one Henry [Lutz] two cozens…. It is reported thare Fighting in Charles town now. We are still Scouting about. Last Fryday Wee Went to the Shanadore [Shenandoah] river and captuard three 3 Rebles and one horse and seen lots on the other side. We run thare pickets in lik Forty. Tell Brother Ben Gettys to come and Join our Company. There is a chance now to join if he Will come…. Excuse this scriblin Bad pen and Bad paper to. it is ruf. pies is 15 cents here Grits spice apples 10 cts a dozen. Sugar is thirty Five cents a pound… nothing more But remain your Brother John F. Gettys

By the time the second letter was written on July 6, the 13th Pennsylvania Cavalry had already joined the Army of the Potomac, and two days later would officially become part of Colonel John Irvin Gregg’s brigade of the Cavalry Corps. As a native of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, Gettys boasted that he wished he could have been at home to confront the Rebels as they passed near his home. As it was, he wrote that his regiment had marched from Harpers Ferry to Frederick in order to cut off Lee’s retreat from Gettysburg. The two-page letter reads, in part:

We had a very Hard fight at Winchester and had to retreat to harpers ferry. From thare We went [to] Frederick City to cut off the rebbs retreat Back. We expect a Fight hear soon atack But i think we got the Rebbs now surrounded that think it is going to End thee War. We Maid a nary ascape at Winchester. [We] had to cut our Way thrue to harpers ferry… Write Me to Frederick City the 13 Comp. F Penna Cavilry in care of Captain Samuel Speese, John F Gettys. I am out on picket to day. We dident lose many men yet at that Fight. O I Wish I Wod of bin at home when the Rebbs came down thrue thare. I wod of met them. Tell mee Where Benjamin L. Gettys is now and all the rest that Was heard about Nancy Worst he ot of bin shot hairent time nothing more but remain

The third letter, three pages, was written to Gettys’s mother on July 27 from “Bur leeane camp dismount” as Gettys wrote it, though he most likely meant the cavalry remount camp at Pleasant Valley, Maryland. The regiment had moved south, but no new mounts were available for Gettys and several comrades. Gettys lamented the resignation of Captain Samuel Speese, and seemed less than excited about Lieutenant Jacob Graham taking over. The letter reads, in part:

We have left Harpers ferry. Thee regiment is gone across the river tords rich man [Richmond] and my horse is plaid out and 14 teen is sent to Bur leene to the dismount Camp to get Horses and aquiped and We donte know how long We may stay here. Thare is no horses here yet For us. Donte know When we will kech up With our Company. not for a Wile I gess But rite any how to mee. I havent time to Write much hear now…. Samuel Speese has resigned and has gon home i am sory to [say] Mr. Jacob Graham Will Bee captain now i gess…. [They] kech olde Lee in Snickers gap and lick him Bad drive him Back and captard lots of them. O I Wod like to Come home But I cante yet donte think are of it Mother…

The fourth letter of the collection was written to Gettys’s brother-in-law on August 7 from somewhere near Catlett Station, Virginia. The 13th Pennsylvania was now guarding the Army of the Potomac’s supply line along the railroad. He mentioned having to guard against “back bush wackers,” most likely Mosby’s men. He also wrote of an ill bunkmate, Private George Miller. The letter is a fragment, with only the first two pages present. It reads, in part:

…We had Bin out in the Frunt But now we fell Back three miles 3 this Side of Cat lit [Catlett] station. Now in camp along the railroad guarding thee railroad and picketing. We have a Good Deale of wet weather hear now and a good Deale of Back Bush wackers to [watch]. 2 of the third Pennsylvania Was killed on patrole the other night and to night I will Bee on the same road on pattrole and guard is our Bisiness. Now hear the third 3 Pennsylvania cavlary our camps is Closest to gether. It tis about three or 4 Miles apart and We wait to Pattrole to and From camp one to the other at night and day light two…. Poor Jorge Miller he is sick again. He Bunks With Mee and he is not Bad yet But cant Eat much. This is third trye I had to finish this letter and on yester day I was writing I had to Get on my horse and go along as guard over a Wagon traine Back to thee next station For Four 4 Wagons 5 of us to guard it….

Gettys would continue to serve with the 13th through September and into October, but was captured at the Battle of Jeffersonton on October 12, an opening skirmish in the Bristoe Station Campaign. Records indicate Gettys died as a prisoner on March 10, 1864, at Richmond.

The letters are all in good to very good condition and measure around 5” x 8”. Varying levels of foxing and toning, as shown in the photos. The letters are creased where they were originally folded. As mentioned above, the fourth letter is a fragment, with the other half of the stationery sheet lost to history.

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