A letter from Lewis Reed 12 Mass. Inf.

This is the first let­ter I will post, for no spe­cific rea­son.  Car­man used let­ters like this to fine-tune his man­u­script, although he was mostly inter­ested in the loca­tions of reg­i­ments more than the per­sonal expe­ri­ences of the sol­diers.  There are hun­dreds, thou­sands, of let­ters like this one,  some good, some less use­ful, in the files.  This one struck me due to the per­sonal account of the writer.  Car­man ignored it, but I find it compelling. 

Lewis Reed

Rock­land Mass.
April 13, 1894

Dear Sir,

Yours April 12 at hand. In answer to your let­ter I shall not attempt to write the his­tory of the 12th Regt. for oth­ers have done that already and as you write that you have heard from George Kim­ball I feel more like not writ­ing at all. I think Kim­ball is bet­ter posted on mat­ters per­tain­ing to the part of 12th Regt. took in the bat­tle of Anti­etam than any man in the Regt. I do not remem­ber that exact posi­tion of Co. “A” in line, Kimball’s Co, Com­pany “G” my Co, was on the left of Color Co. “I”.
An account of the Regt. form­ing on the evening of Sept. 16, 1862 near Pof­fen­burger house and advanc­ing to posi­tion near the east end of what is called the East wood. I pre­sume you are famil­iar with all the par­tic­u­lars so I will not write about it in detail. Only say that at dark we were there and at the time. I was a Cor­po­ral, act­ing Sergeant. I was present and on duty with my com­pany. We lay on our arms dur­ing the night skir­mish­ing going on directly in front. We advanced very early on the 17th not later than 6 a.m. I think in a south west­erly direc­tion through a corn field the enemy was directly in our front. We fol­lowed our skir­mishes, two Co from our Regt, for a short dis­tance. When our skir­mishes rejoined the Regt I think Thompson’s Bat­tery fol­lowed close in our rear. We were under heavy fire from the start. We advanced a short dis­tance and come to a low wall with an old fence on top. I do not know just how far from our line of bat­tle at the start. I hope to find the line of that old wall some time. We were los­ing men about this time from a rebel Bat­tery on our right. We advanced beyond the wall to open field, corn cut down at that time, in plain sight of a high fence and a rebel line of bat­tle in the act of advanc­ing beyond the fences toward us. We were under very heavy fire mus­kets and can­non ball, and men falling very fast. Being in the posi­tion of a Serg. I did not fire but once. The rebels did not get beyond the fence. My com­rades were falling. I saw Capt E P. Reed as he was wounded in the hand. My friend and tent mate, Benj Cur­tis, fell never to rise again. I saw the Roulett build­ing [sic: Mumma]burning also the dunker church on my right front. I also noticed heavy fight­ing on my right 10th Maine, 2nd Mass and thou­sands of oth­ers Our Lt. Cush­ing, while going to take com­mand of a Co on our left was killed.

 It prob­a­bly was not many min­utes after my com­rade Cur­tis fell before I found myself on the ground with a strange feel­ing cov­er­ing my whole body. I did not seem to be suf­fer­ing much and I remem­ber some­one attempted to help me up and then left me after­wards I learned it was Nat Phillips of our Co. I do not know how long I laid in that con­di­tion. I was wounded on the right side of my neck just above my col­lar bone. My right arm was use­less. With my left hand I found my shirt and blouse filled with blood and I sup­posed it was my last day on earth. I had the usual feel­ings of home and friends and thou­sands of thoughts ran through my mind at once. After a while the thoughts came to me to try and get up and away from the sad scenes about me. With my left hand I loosed my car­tridge out and knap­sack and all that would bur­den me and with other things I left a can­teen full of water and it hap­pened I did not suf­fer much for the want of water but I have thought since that under like cir­cum­stances I would not leave my can­teen again. I hope it helped some poor fel­low out of suf­fer­ing. After many attempts I got on my knees and tried to get on my feet but not yet. I was obliged to wait a while. I have no idea of time, all I know is after many tri­als I got back to the wall and got through a pair of bars into the woods. How many time I fell get­ting this I do not know but I fainted many times. Once into the woods I got help, I hope you or some­one may some­time show me about where this pair of bars was in the wall. Later Capt Hast­ings George Hay­den and Edwin Lewis of Co “H,” 12th Regt. Rear guard, took charge of me and car­ried me to a straw stack and a sur­geon dressed my wound. At the time I was so weak that I could not stand.

After my wound was slightly dressed the Rebel shells were com­ing so thick and fast all the wounded with me were car­ried to the rear in ambu­lance. I do not know who owned the farm barn that I was first car­ried too later towards night I was car­ried to the White House so called. From the White House after two or three days all the wounded belong­ing to the 12th Regt. were car­ried to Mid­dlekoff farm and we filled the house and barn my place in the barn cel­lar on straw. I remained there about ten days and then sent to Alexan­dria Va. Most all in my Co. were either killed or wounded. I will give you the address for some and their expe­ri­ences I sup­pose will be dif­fer­ent from mine and when you get them together I should like to read theirs.
Maj. E.P Reed North Abing­ton, Mass
Capt. Moses N. Arnold No “ “
Justin Meserve “ “
John Hut­ter “ “
Henry Daw­son Rock­land “
Nat Phillips “ “
Fran­cis N. Poole “ “
Chas. N. Hast­ings So. Wey­mouth “
Benj. F. Cook Glouces­ter “
I am very much inter­ested in the Anti­etam Bat­tle­field. I have vis­ited the field three times since the 17th Sept 1862 and intend to go once more some­time per­haps when the state marks the Regt. lines for mon­u­ments. I find East Woods has been cut in such a man­ner that I think it would be hard to make the place look right with­out all Regt’l. have rep­re­sen­ta­tives and all meet together on that spot. Please inform me what Regt you were in and how you are so much inter­ested in the Bat­tle­field of Antietam.

Very Truly Yours,
Lewis Reed

Lewis Reed — Corpl –Res. East Abing­ton; stitcher; 19, enl. April 29, 1861; must. June 26, 1861, wounded Sept 17, 1867 at Anti­etam, disch. for pro­mo­tion. Oct 17, 1863.   com­mis­sioned 2d lieut; July 9,1863; mus­tered in Nov 26,1863; com­mis­sioned 1stlieut Feb 4, 1864; mus­tered March 26,1864; com­mis­sioned. Cap­tain, Jun 19,1865 must. July 17 1865, must.-out Aug 20, 1865 as Cap­tain of Co “K” 54 Mass Inf. 

Lewis Reed started out in com­pany G of the 12th Mass­a­chu­setts infantry as a Corp’l. He fin­ished his mil­i­tary career as a Cap­tain of the 54th Mass­a­chu­setts Infantry Co “K”  in Aug. 20,1865. He was wounded at the bat­tle of Anti­etam and that’s when he was dis­charged for pro­mo­tion to the 54th Mass­a­chu­setts Infantry. After the bat­tle of Anti­etam he was sent to the Fred­er­ick hos­pi­tal, but there was no record of what hap­pened while he was there.  Mass­a­chu­setts Adju­tant Gen­eral Reports.

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  1. Posted March 25, 2010 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Very cool let­ter, thanks Tom. I found a photo of Lewis a while back in: Emilio, Luis F., A Brave Black Reg­i­ment, Boston: Boston Book Com­pany, 1891 — I have a scan on AotW.

  2. Tom
    Posted March 26, 2010 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Cool, thanks Brian. There are so many con­nec­tions with these guys.

  3. Cliff Bryant
    Posted November 19, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Lewis Reed was my great grand­fa­ther, and I have a framed pho­to­graphic por­trait of him hang­ing in my liv­ing room. He passed away in 1925, and is buried in Spring Lake Ceme­tery, Rock­land, Mass. His grave is about 4 or 5 gravesites to the left of my father.
    I know that his sword is out there some­where, a gift from his friends of East Abing­ton on the occa­sion of his com­mis­sion­ing, and that it is in the hands of a pri­vates col­lec­tor. I have made sev­eral inquiries as to it’s loca­tion and con­di­tion, but have received no responses.

    Thank you for post­ing this let­ter, as it is the only known cor­re­spon­dence from “gramps” of which I am aware. If you know of more, please let me know.

  4. Tom
    Posted November 19, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your com­ment, and I am fas­ci­nated about the sword issue, will keep my eyes open for you. There are four Lewis Reed leters in the Gould Papers, although the one posted here is the most detailed about the bat­tle. If you can pro­vide a sur­face mail address I can send copies of what I have. You may send it as a mes­sage to my face­book account if you’d rather not post this info.

  5. Lesa McFadden
    Posted June 28, 2013 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Lewis Reed was my husband’s great-great grand­fa­ther on his mother’s side. My hus­band is Robert Stet­son McFad­den and his mother’s name was Phyl­lis Reed Gow­ell. Her mother was Cora Bryant and her father was Bert Gow­ell. I sus­pect that Cliff Bryant is a cousin to my hus­band. Phyl­lis Reed Gow­ell McFad­den, was born and raised in Mass­a­chu­setts. She met my husband’s father dur­ing WWII when he was sta­tioned on the east coast. When my hus­band was younger, the fam­ily made trips to Mass. to visit his grand­par­ents. On one of our trips to Boston, we actu­ally took some time to go to Rock­land and visit the grave of Lewis Reed. I don’t believe that Cora was buried there. Lewis Reed had a son (wh0, I believe, moved to Ore­gon) and a daugh­ter. His daugh­ter was Cora’s mother.

  6. Glenn F. Swanson
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    In talk­ing with a friend the other day, he noticed the photo of Lewis Reed–he was my great, great grand­fa­ther on my mother’s side–and started to talk about the GAR hall in Hing­ham, where he has a house. The com­ments above are from cousins–my mother knew the fam­ily geneal­ogy and con­nec­tions quite well and did some com­pil­ing of infor­ma­tion. I have a drop-leaf table with sand­wich glass drawer knobs that my mother passed down to me. I would be happy to send pho­tographs of those things to you. As a for­mer his­tory teacher (and author of a recently self-published alter­na­tive his­tory of the USA fol­low­ing the Con­fed­er­ate vic­tory at Get­tys­burg and suc­cess­ful seces­sion; Ind­pen­dence) I am always fond of dab­bling in the past.

  7. Tom
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Glenn. I would indeed be inter­ested in pho­tos. Reed wrote some very inter­est­ing let­ters to the Bat­tle­field Board. Of the 2,800 let­ters, notes, marked maps, etc, his are some of the best.

  8. Tom
    Posted June 11, 2016 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Glenn. I would indeed be inter­ested in pho­tos. Reed wrote some very inter­est­ing let­ters to the Bat­tle­field Board. Of the 2,800 let­ters, notes, marked maps, etc, his are some of the best.

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