1862: Augustus Luke Holbrook to Cyrus Holcomb

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This letter was written by Pvt. Augustus Luke Holbrook (1835-1911) of La Motte County, Vermont, who enlisted as a Musician on 12 September 1861 in Co. C, 5th Vermont Infantry. He received a disability discharge on 9 August 1862. He was a resident of Poughkeepsie, New York, when he later re-enlisted as a private on 5 January 1864 at the age of 29 years. He mustered into the 14th NYHA on 5 January 1864 and mustered out on 26 August 1865 at Washington, D. C.

Augustus married Roxanna Priscilla Hall (1837-1892) in 1854 in Grand Isle County, Vermont. They had 10 children, 4 of whom died at a young age. The family was living in North Bend, Dodge County, Nebraska by 1870.  Roxanna died in Nebraska in 1892 at the age of 55 years. Augustus then married Mary D Kreger, a native of Germany, in 1893 in Papillion, Sarpy County, Nebraska. They lived in Omaha and Lincoln NE.  Augustus died on 17 Jan 1911 (per pension records) at the age of 77 years. He was buried next to his first wife.

Augustus wrote the letter to his brother-in-law, Cyrus Holcomb (1824-1907). Cyrus was married to Almeda Celeste Hall (1832-1883) in 1850.

battle-of-fairoaks
Burying the dead at Fair Oaks

TRANSCRIPTION
Addressed to Mr. Cyrus Holcomb, Chateaugua, New York

Camp Lincoln near Richmond
23rd June 1862

Respected Brother & Sister,

Although a long time has elapsed since I wrote you last, it is by no means indicative of thoughtlessness of my friends. I don’t recollect the last time I wrote you, but you will excuse my neglect when I tell you I have not written to anyone but Roxana for as many as three months and bout four weeks ago one to Pen [?] & G. and have received no answer to it yet. I trust you will answer me soon and I will try and write oftener in future. There has been some pretty hard times, brother, & within my observation since I wrote you last. Will relate some of them.

First, our engagement at Lee’s Mills, next at Williamsburg, and next at Fair Oakes & Seven Pines, the account of which you have doubtless received long before this. But there are some circumstances that I witnessed with my own eyes and ears at the first named place. I helped take care of the wounded all night in the night of the 16th April — a horrible sight it presented — men dead, all covered with their own blood, and many wounded and some dying, and the groans and calling for their dear friends — their minds perfectly bewildered.

But this was not a circumstance compared with the Battle of Williamsburg. There were men piled in places as they fell from the unerring aim of our troop, in piles of from four to ten. The battle was on Monday, I think, but perhaps I am mistaken about the day of the week. At any rate, it was on Thursday of the next week. I went all through the woods and battlefield and counted nearly a hundred dead rebels and did not commence counting until I hd passed I should think as many as I counted. An awful slaughter, it certainly was for I saw the effects of it myself and no newspaper splurges can tell me anything about it.

But when we get to Fair Oaks, a much more effecting scene is presented. Deep ditches filled with dead rebels and covered so lightly that the blood oozed out from them and the ground completely alive with bugs and maggots. I don’t wish to see another so hard a sight but probably will before we get to Richmond.

The rebels have tried everyday since we crossed the Chickahominy to break through our lines on the railroad and some days as many as five times and every time they try, we can hear their fire — which is always musketry — and pretty soon Boom Boom goes our cannon, dealing out death to them by the acre, and then again all is still. Our boys sleep on their arms every night and are formed in line of battle at three o’clock every morning and stand in line of battle until about sunrise. The generals expect an attack every morning for this is the weakest place in our whole lines and if they should undertake to break through here, they would probably meet with the same fate they have on our left. But enough.

How do you like your new home> Tell me all the news. I am in the enjoyment of first rate health. In closing, give the children a kiss for me and tell Almeda to write with you. I would like to see my family but there is no use talking. Write soon to, — A. L. Holbrook

Direct to Washington as before.

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