Aaron W. Lee was a Ridgefield resident who enlisted a month prior to his 32nd birthday. He was mustered in at the rank of Corporal in August 1862. This letter was written to his father Edwin Lee following his wounding on the the first day’s fighting at Gettysburg. The letter contains a great deal more battle content than many letters we’ve seen here.
Thanks to Eric Johnson of the Ridgefield Historical Society for providing this letter.
West Philadelphia Hospital July 15, 1863
As I am caged up in the Hospital at last and nothing to do but eat my meals and read the papers and think over matters and things I will occupy a part of the afternoon in writing to you as I know you will be glad to hear how I am getting along. I got hit with a rifle ball in my left thigh going clean through and making an ugly sort of a hole, but did not go deep enough to hit the bone. It is getting fine. We have first rate care here and good Doctors and plenty to eat – no reasons why a man should not be contented. I always had a dread of going to the Hospital. I always took them to be a sort of States Prison starved out butcher shop but I have come to the conclusion in the few days I have been here, it is a very comfortable place for the wounded soldiers. We get the best of care and everything for our comfort. There has been some hard fighting since the first.
We left Emmitsburg [Md.] on the 1st about 8 O’clock. We did not expect to get into a fight before the next day but when we got within 3 or 4 miles of Gettysburg hearing the bull Dogs barking and the order to Double quick, we knew then we were going right in. Just as we entered the town the Rebs sent a shell over our heads just to wake us up a little. We made quick time through the city and came to a halt just long enough to get our skirmishers out, then we started for the field of action on Double quick. In order to get to our position in line we had to cross the range of two Rebel batteries throwing solid shot and shell and some of the Boys said they threw Rail Road Iron. Well there was some tall time made and some pretty low brows until we got out of range of those batteries. However we got through without losing a man. There was a little rise of ground between us and their guns – the solid shot would strike the ground and throw a spray of dirt over us. We got our position on the point of a piece of woods. We had not been there but a few minutes when they opened on us again with shell and cut us up right and left. We got the order to change position which was done in good order. About this time the infantry came in sight. We got the order to charge. We started with a good will expecting to have a hand to hand fight with the ‘Johnny Rebs.’ Just as we got to the point of woods and about 5 rods from them the 153 Pennsylvania on our left broke and ran between us and the Rebs and mixing up with our regiment causing some little confusion for a minute but the boys went to work loading and firing as fast as they could. The first Corps was on our left. The Rebs began to turn their left and at the same time flank us on our right – some had to fall back – they had three men to our one engaged at that time, but was all done in good order. Things had got to be considerable interesting by this time. There were two lines of men drawn up from 8 to 10 yards apart. We had fallen back almost to the edge of the town. At this place some Major had rallied a few men around him and tried to have the whole line stop. I stopped at this place not noticing whether the regiment stopped or not and fired about 2 rounds before I missed our boys. By this time the Rebs were about three rods from us, we commenced to fall back again. I had just drawn a good sight on a strapping big Reb and fired and got hit myself at the same time. I looked around and seeing a barn close by I took my rifle for a crutch and drew myself for it. Here I saw Col. Harris of the 75th.§ He said they had taken the Alms house for a Hospital and I stopped there and in a few minutes the Rebs came in and took us prisoners. Edwin D. Pickett must have been wounded about the same time as I was. I did not think he would die that night. I lay down within six feet of him. The next morning I woke up and spoke to him but got no answer. I went to him and found him dead. The Rebs used us well while we were in their hands but our men took possession of the town before I was paroled. Our captain¶ was paroled but he was not in the same Hospital with me. I suppose he is home now. He will go to Ridgefield before he comes back. We had rather a rough time getting from Gettysburg here. We left about dusk – was on the cars all night – got into Baltimore about nine o’clock the next day. The Citizens of Baltimore came near killing us with kindness. We left about noon – got into Wilmington about sunset. Here men, women and children came flocking around the cars with baskets full of all kinds of provisions, tobacco and Ale, Beer, lemonade etc. We fetched up in Philadelphia about 10 oclock the next day, the 9th. We came here and how long we shall be shut up here I don’t know. I was in hopes I could have got a furlow to come home but there is a poor sight for it at present. I have not heard anything from the Regiment since I left Gettysburg.
I see by the paper the 11th Corps is at Funkstown [Md.]. Gen. Mead [sic] is getting Lee in rather a tight spot. I hope he may never get out. I wish I could be with the Boys now. If I could have gone through these battles to the last day and then got hit I would not cared so much. As it is I have lost all the fun this time but we have to take things as they come. Perhaps it was best I got hit the first day but I would liked to see the Rebs cross the river. If they get across they will probably have a fight tomorrow and I don’t doubt that Mead [sic] will give them a good sound thrashing and learn them better than to trespass on free soil again. There were quite a lot of Rebs brought to this Hospital today. This Hospital covers about 12 acres of ground and a very handsome place. I believe I have taxed your patience long enough so I will close.