Captain Nagle's Letter, 88th New York


This letter was written by Captain Nagle to his father on December 14, 1862 and published in the Irish American, New York City, on the 27 of December, 1862, briefly describing the Irish Brigades action on Marye's Height, Fredericksburg, Va.


  Dear Father,

     Thank God for his great mercy;  I came out of the most terrible battle-day of the war without a scratch.  My brother Edmund is also unhurt.  I can hardly realize the fact that I am so blessed.  Oh!  It was a terrible day.  The destruction of life has been fearful, and nothing gained.  The battle opened about ten 0'clock yesterday morning with a terrific fire of artillery.  As we were drawn up in line of battle on the front of the city, Gen Meagher addressed us in words of inspiration and eloquence I never heard equaled, after which he ordered every one of the brigade to place a bunch of green boxwood at the side of his cap, showing the example himself.  Every man appeared fired with determined zeal and a firm resolution, which the results prove to have been carried out in a manner scarcely paralleled in the annals of war.  The 88th Regt. this morning numbers ten officers and forty-one men; the 69th, seven officers and fifty-nine men; the 63d, six officers and sixty-four men; the 116th, thirteen officers and fifty-seven men.  The 28th Massachusetts also suffered heavily; but I have not the returns.  Irish blood and Irish bones cover that field today. . .The whole-souled enthusiasm with which General McClellan inspired his army is wanting -- his great scientific engineering skill is missing -- his humane care for the lives of his men is disregarded.  We are slaughtered like sheep, and no result but defeat. . . .

     Lieutenant O'Brien, of my company, is, I believe, mortally wounded.  All I can find of my once fine company of brave men is two Sergeants and three men.  That noble, grave man, Major Horgan, was one of the first to fall, shot through the head.  Every field officer of the brigade in action was killed or wounded, except Colonel Kelly, and he had a very narrow escape.  Lieutenant Granger was struck by a piece of shell, tearing through all his cloths and the flesh over his bowels -- one inch closer and he would have been killed.  A piece of shell struck my haversack, tearing it off me, and throwing me over.  Today has been comparatively quite, from a mutual desire on each side to attend to the wounded and bury the dead; but tomorrow morning it will, no doubt, be renewed and increased force and hotter fire on both sides.

     I do not know what disposition will be made of us now in our shattered condition.  Colonel Kelly is in command of the remnant of the brigade, which does not number half a regiment.  We are under arms since six o'clock this morning; but it is nothing more than the results of exposure and want of regular food, which a couple day's rest will remedy. . . .

     Your affectionate son,

     W. J. Nagle


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