Letter by James W. Vanderhoef, May 17, 1863
Transcription of letter written by James W. Vanderhoef, from Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, who fought in the Union Army from 1861 through 1865. Please note spelling variations and errors are his.
"Molly enclosed please find 50 ct. You will get Guillan to buy some postage stamps for you to send me in your next
Camp near Stafford CH
May 17th 1863
Dear Sister and Family
Being alone to night and its being Sunday Evening, the manner in which I will spend it will be in riting you a few lines, that you can see I have not forgotten those far off friends, of which one has so few. Molly although you do not often receive letters from me, perhaps not as often as you might, if your humble servant could set his mind oftener to the job. You must not think you or the family is out of my mind. I often wish myself with you and them, and of course long for the time to come when the 45th Regt can start for home, as many of our comrads in arms is doing now. Dear Sister a few days agoe Henry received a letter from home, and it was answered immediately they said you was waiting for a letter from me to let you know if the pictures came safe. When they arrived I rote to you the same evening for I was so glad they came. The Officers was so anxious for to get one apiece that I have sent for two dozen more. I don't think them nice the coat is to much rincled it looks a mile too large for the wearer, but nice or not I had to send for more or have no rest. Of course you have heard through Caroline of the loss our Regt had in the Seven days fight over the Rapperhanock River (althought the paper reporters does not give the Eleventh Corps much prase) to which your humble servant has the Honour to belong. But for what the papers says we the 11th Corps do not care a snuff. we strove to do our duty as Good Soldiers and have lost meny a good and brave comrad. And those who brand their name and memory as Cowards had better lay aside the pen and take Rifle and help swell the strenght of the Eleventh Corp that they can better stand the shock of Forty Thousand the next time (but of course they can't see it) I will admit that our Division was the Advance, and that our Bregade, consisting of our Regt., the 41st NY the 153 Regt. Pensylvania & the 54 Regt. NY makeing in all about 2,000 men was the first attacked and the first to fall back back. And I should like to see any force of the same number withstand the attack of the Enemy Forty Thousand strong, and out flanked as we where, it was reported by our Skirmishers, two hours before the Enemy advanced on us that they could see the Enemy massing his troops on our Right, but no notice was taken of it, we had with us two pieces of artillery, which fired one shot and then left us to our fate. The Enemy was within fifty paces of us before one of them could be seen the woods was so thick and grown with brush. And at the same time they appeared in our front, they also appeared on our flank and rear. the noble brest works some of the lieing reporters alledges we had to defend was trees that we had ourselves felled some two hours before the attack with the tops toward the point the enemy was supposed to be preparing to make his advance. behind those our men was put to be slaughtered when the enemy did advance from the rear, or Right flank which he did completely rolling our Regt. and the 153 Regt. Pa. up by the companies. Whoever says this statement is not correct is a liar and mean coward. it is my humble opinion that if we had of had the position our bregade was in the day before. And which meny officers is of the opinion General Howard thought we had, that we could have kept the Enemy in check until we could have had help sent to us. we then would have had an open field of some thousand paces before us, the very place on which the Enemy massed his troops on Saturday May 2nd. But I will not tire you with any more of the details but Guillan will see that if we didn't stand as long as some in New York think we could, that we didn't fall back without sufficient cause. our loss in Officers is three Captains namely Captain Buskey Co. "C", and Bregade Ordnance Officer, Capt. Depauer Co. "B" and Aide to General Howard, Capt. Leonhard Co. "F", those three are dead. Now comes Capt. Michaelis Co. "I" taken prisoner and wounded. 1st Lieut. Basson Co. "C" lost arm. And 2nd Lieut. Ahlert wounded and prisoner, beside some Eighty or Eighty five men wounded and some fifteen or twenty prisoners. And thirty missing. that looks as if we seen none of it, don't you think so Molly.
Well let them who thinks so go to Havede grass. [Havre de Grace] I must now dry up or make you tired. So hoping Dear Sister this will find you with the family in good health, which it leaves Corporal Chickley and myself I will bid you all good night. My love or respects to all enquiring friends as the case may be. Has Isabella heard from John lately how is he let me know, love to her hope she is well, Henry's respects to all.
I am Dear Sister as Ever
Your Affectionate Brother
James W. Vanderhoef
1st Lieut Co "D" 45 Regt N.Y. Vol
P.S. our Regt is transferred from the 1st Bregade 1st Division, to 1st Bregade, 3rd Division, but address as before, and please rite soon.
Henry was promoted Corpl for his good conduct in the field for going with the colors when all others in his company refused. Bully for him. Jim"
Newspaper articles in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle discussed "Life in Richmond, The Adventures of a Union Prisioner in the hands of the rebels" (June 22, 1863) and "11th Corp. Redeems Good Name" (November 5, 1863).
Other suggested Web sites:
45th Infantry Regiment, Civil War: Fifth German Regiment or Rifles; Howe's Rifles (http://www.dmna.state.ny.us/historic/reghist/civil/infantry/45thInf/45thInfMain.htm)
Citation - Document 50
Letters of Captain James W. Vanderhoef
May 17, 1863
Brooklyn Public Library – Brooklyn Collection