Letters of Stephen R. Wilcox – Company F
Stephen R. Wilcox was a resident of Norwalk, Connecticut. He was a 22 year old carpenter, married to the former Julia Clark, and the father of an infant son. They would be parents of a daughter (born in May 1864 – presumably Stephen Wilcox received a furlough after Gettysburg!). He was mustered in as a corporal in Company F but was reduced to the ranks in November 1862. In the first letter he writes about the circumstances of his wounding on July 2, 1863 (not listed on his service record and his duties in the General Hospital at Gettysburg after the battle. Wilcox was mustered out with the regiment in July 1865, returning to Norwalk. He worked as a carpenter, adding on to his family, before his death on July 2, 1911 (48 years to the day from his wounding at Gettysburg).
These letters, all written to his brother-in-law Walter Clark, were provided and transcribed by Lane Cheney.
General Hospital, Gettysburgh, PA, August 1, 1863
Dear Brother Walt,
I read your kind and ever welcome letter yesterday and I am glad to hear from you that you are all well. I hope that you may be fortunate enough not to get drafted. I expect that they will have some fun in Norwalk when they commence to draft which I suppose has commenced this week. I hope that Rhodes will not have to come. If he does, I would like to have him in my regiment. The 11th Corps is broken up and our division I hear will go in the 2nd Corps under command of General Howard. The 2nd division is going in the 12th Corps. Three division is to be under command of General Carl Schurtz.
It is an independent command. He is to guard the railroad from Manassas to the Rappahannock.
I have had the office of Ward Master in a ward of Rebs but there was so much work to do that I gave it up. I felt sick. I feel rather weak. I don’t have any appetite and don’t feel well myself but my drink-atite is as good as ever. Yesterday I went to town and got all the whiskey and gin cock-your-tails that I wanted and felt better.
I should like to be in New York with you again. I think that your young Steve Wilcox and myself would have a jolly good time.
I think I shall not stay here long. I shall get on the regiment if I don’t find something else that suits me better to do.
You say that you don’t know how I was wounded nor how bad. I was wounded but only slightly. I was on picket. I went out at dark the first day and at daylight the second about three o’clock. I could see the Rebs moving about over in the wheat and grass fields. We commenced to point our rifles at them and send them a message of lead. As soon as the balls began to fall thick around them they would drop down in the grass out of sight and whenever one of them showed himself we fired at him. There was one of them coming across the lot on horseback. I put my rifle to my shoulder and fired and Mr. Reb rolled off like a pumpkin. I don’t know whether I killed him or not but his horse made tracks and got out of the way. Every once in a while you could see four men carry a wounded one off the field on a stretcher. Pretty soon they began to shoot right, I reckon out of the houses and everywhere they could get under cover. They shot one of the 107th Ohio boys right in back of me and then in a few minutes another was wounded close on the other side of me. I sat close by a fence like this [small sketch of fence, not provided] with no protection but one of the posts. They shot the fence all to pieces and the post that I was behind was hit four times. When they hit me I was sitting at the foot of the post loading my last round of cartridge. The Rebs had the range of me from the houses and had me in a crossfire. I was turned a little to one side. The ball went thru my [rubber] blanket and just grazed my back in two places. It struck just below my shoulder and went in and cut four holes in the back of my blouse. It cut my cartridge belt almost in two. If I had been turned a little further around it would have went right straight thru me and that would have been the last of our Steve for it would have cut my gizzard string and started the claret.
There was another Corporal hit by a ball and it went thru this thigh. He was close to me when I was hit. I left and it was not long before they hit him.
I went back where we lay before we lay on picket and the small balls rained around and passed me with a whiz.
I went in the house and got the chance to make me a cup of coffee, the first thing I had eaten in thirty-six hours. After I got the coffee down I felt better. I went into the next room and one of the boys helped me to dress my wound. I never had it dressed but twice, but my back was so lame and stiff for three or four days that I could hardly stir. I was sick before we got here and then they marched us twelve miles in the morning and never gave us but one rest and that was for about twenty minutes. We marched right thru the town and filed thru the lot and unslung some of our knap sacks and put them in a pile. Then Lieut. Col. Fowler asked who would volunteer to go out as skirmishers. Capt Allen marched his men right out and then called for Company A and K. We then went up the road and filed off into a lot and deployed as skirmishers and advanced to a stream and forded it. It was about up to our knees and then we stopped where we was for further orders. In a few minutes we got over the fence and advanced across a wheat field and got almost on the batteries of the Rebs when the Rebs made a charge on our division and our skirmishers were ordered back. We fell back a little ways and I saw the Adjutant coming towards us. He said that the Lieut. Col. was dead and showed us where his brains were spattered on this arm. He said that Capt. Moore was dead, the two best men in the regiment. We could see the Rebs coming out of the woods and they drove our men and then in a minute I saw our men charge on them but they was to much for us and we had to fall back fighting, as we fell back in good order, what little there was left of us. Some of the companies came out with four men and some of them with more.
There were a great many wounded and taken prisoners. We fought well and bravely but the 11th Corps never gets any credit for what it does. The 11th and 1st Corps done the most of the fighting and lost almost all of their men but the 11th Corps is no more and I wish I could say that by the fighting.
I am glad to hear that Frank Gilbertson is safe and well. I have a very bad headache today and do not fell very well but I think I shall feel better in a day or two.
I got a letter from Rhodes and Mary. She says that they had some fun there.
I should like to be there to see the fun.
Well, Walt, I think I have scribbled enough to keep you busy reading for some time. Write soon as you hear from me again, and believe me ever yours.
Brother S.R. Wilcox
[From the margins of the letter]
From your humble servant, Steve Wilcox
Folly Island, SC, October 26, 1863
2nd Brigade Gordon’s Division
Dear Brother Walt,
I haven’t heard from home yet but are expecting to hear soon. I am as well as usual. We buried Srgt. Ed Smith today he had been sick for a long time with the shits and a kind of a fever. Our regt. is about as healthy, in fact healthier that any in the brigade. We have lost but two and the other regt. are burying men every day. They have been shelling a place called Seceshville today.
I think there will be a skirmish there by tomorrow morning. I am now a private, but the Capt. says he will put me back in my old place again as soon as there is a chance and give me the same chance for promotion that I had before. Do not say anything about it. I think it will come out all right yet. Bob sends his kind regard to you and all the folks. He is well and pretty busy. He is [fort] master & [mounted] orderly. Walt give my kind regard to John & Billy and all enquiring friends.
With much love, I remain ever yours.
Good Night Walt
[Same piece of paper, seemingly different note]
Walt, our regt. numbers about 200 men. There is but 6 companies. They talk of putting the men back into ten companies Oct. 29. They are popping away at Seceshville. If they can drive them out we will be nearer to Charleston. I hope that we whip them out soon. It is warm and pleasant. I will bid you good morning and go and mail this letter.
Write soon and believe me ever yours,
Jackson Ville, Florida, March 31st, 1864
Dear Brother Walt,
I take this opportunity of answering your short note. I am in good health and have all that I can do. I am on duty continually either on camp or headquarters guard or fatigue and picket. I suppose I shall have to go on picket tomorrow. We are drilling principally on skirmishing. It is a very pretty drill. We have to drill one hour before breakfast and two hours in the forenoon and two hours in the afternoon.
Walt I should like to be with you this afternoon where I could get some lager. It is a dry place here. I have not seen a drop of whiskey since I left Folly Island. They have a little [pop] beer to sell down town and that is all. How is Johnny & Billy? Are they too busy to write to a fellow or don’t they want to write to such a country-man as my humble self. I should like to hear from them once in a while. Walt, do you ever go to Norwalk? You ought to go over once in a while to see the girls. They are very fine girls and would make a smart man a wife. They are pretty well educated and good company. You must go up and see Jule [Jule is Stephen's wife, Walter's sister] when you can and look after her. She is a dear good sister to you and thinks a good deal of you, and I entrust her in your’s and Pop’s care until I return which I hope will be before long. I have but  months more to stay and I hope it will [play] off quickly and pleasantly without anything happening to me. I have made my mind to come back again and shall try to weather it through. I hope to live a long and good life of [wonderfulness]. Walt you know how things are at home. I hope every thing will [play] off well, and I should like to be there if I could but I think it will be impossible. I know that you will do all that you can for her and pop (his father-in-law, who lived with them until his death) too. He is a good father. I don’t know what Jule would do without him. I think a great deal of the old gentleman and will always give him a home as long as he will be content to stay with me.
Walt I would like some paper & envelopes and a pair of suspenders, if you will oblige me by sending them, I will try and pay you if in no other way but by sending for some more when I get out. I am in hopes that I will be payed off before long so that I can send Jule some. I don’t know how I am going to get along if they don’t raise the soldiers pay. I’m hoping that I may be home where I can earn a good living. I will close by sending kind regards to all enquiring friends.
I remain yours Bro
Stephen R. Wilcox