This letter was written by Robert Guyton (1838-1915), the son of John Guyton (1810-1886) and Elizabeth Jane Hazlett (1812-1890) of McCandless, Allegheny county, Pennsylvania. Robert enlisted in Co. F, 139th Pennsylvania Infantry on 1 September 1862. He was promoted from corporal to sergeant in June 1864 and mustered out with the company in June 1865. After the war, Robert returned home, married Nancy A. Robinson (1840-1888), and resumed farming.
This letter was written by Corp. Guyton as the 139th Pennsylvania force-marched to Gettysburg where they arrived on the evening of the 2nd day’s fighting just as the U.S. Regulars were being driven back from the Wheatfield. After the Regulars withdrew through their line, the 139th Pennsylvania counter-charged and halted the Confederate advance on Cemetery Ridge. On July 3rd, the 139th Pennsylvania advanced after Picket’s Charge and cleared the area along the Wheatfield Road where they recovered a cannon and three caissons of the 9th Massachusetts Battery that had been lost the previous day. [See Lt. Col. William H. Moody’s report]
Camp near Fairfax Court House
Monday, June 22d 1863
I received your very welcome letter of June 15th on Saturday. I was very glad to hear that Father’s arm had got well again for I was afraid that it might have been from that old hurt.
We are all right well here — that is, all the boys from our neighborhood that are here. I have not heard from John Wallace ¹ or R[obert C.]. Anderson ² since they went to Washington. Our Captain [William W. Dyer] and 2d Lieutenant [Wilson Stuart] are in the hospital there too but I think likely they will all be up to the regiment again in a few days. We have been lying here since Thursday evening but it is very doubtful how long we may stay here. I thought yesterday that [we] would have had to move as there was heavy cannonading pretty near all day in the direction of the old Bull Run Battlefield [see Battle of Upperville] but I think from the sound of the cannon that the fighting was some distance beyond Bull’s Run. It [think] it is chiefly cavalry fighting yet but it will be very apt to end in a decisive battle without the Rebs fall back. There was several thousand cavalry passed here yesterday on their way to the scene of action but I have not heard any firing this morning yet and that makes me think that our men has driven them back.
You wanted to know whether I was contented out here or not. I came to the conclusion that I might as well be contented as not when I came out here and I believe it is better for the health to be as happy and contented as possible than to be disappointed and homesick half the time. You used to tell me that I could never stay away from home for I would get homesick before a week but I think I have been about as clear of homesickness so far as any person in our company and I believe homesickness is the cause of a great deal of sickness out here. The boys will get to thinking about the good times they used to have at home and they will go on wishing they were at home till they get homesick and then it will end in a fever or some other kind of sickness. I have had very good health since I came out, I think my constitution is much stronger than it was before I came out. I know that I can stand things now without any trouble that would have killed me before I came out. But I must stop for this time.
Camp near Edward’s Ferry, Maryland
June 27th 1863
Dear Mother — I commenced to write this several days ago but I had not time to finish it. We have been marching pretty near all the time. We have done some of the hardest marching the last few days that ever I saw — sometimes marching day and night. I am right well and so are the rest of the boys. We crossed the [Potomac] river today and here we are in Old Maryland. It is supposed by a great many that we are falling back to draw the Rebs as near Washington as possible. Perhaps we may move in the direction of Pennsylvania. It is hard to tell. Write as often as you can for i can get your letters when I can’t send any. Sometimes there is no mail leaves the regiment for several days but I must close as it is getting dark.
Your son, — R. Guyton
¹ Sergeant John Wallace was transferred to the Veteran Reserve Corps in March 1864.
² Corporal Robert C. Anderson was wounded at Spottsylvania Court House in May 1864.