Zann’s Place: Private Wm. Stowe’s letters: Part IV

Pickets trading between the lines. Sketch by Edwin Forbes. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

Last week Pvt. Stowe was confronted with the horrors of war particularly the events during the Battle of Chancellorsville 1863 and wrote the following;

“The air was full of arms and pieces of men blown to pieces by the murderous fire of our artillery.  I never want to see the like again; the ground was covered with the enemys killed & wounded.”

Stowe was promoted to Corporal and in June 1863 was posted to picket duty along the Rappahannock River.

June 10th, 1863

Along the Rappahannock River

Wednesday the 10th finds me on the banks of the Rappahanac doing picket dutey the same as I have bin doing for the last two days. 

At the time of my writing the boys are getting ready to cross over and get the papers from Richmond Va. The rebils are on the other bank waiting with the papers in their hand. 

This is contrary to orders and has to be done on the sly.  If our oficers knew of it, it would be a hard job for them that went over to the rebils. 

One of the boys that crost the river wisent a very good swimer so the rebils go and gits a plank for him to come back on. They are having a good time with each other talking of the difarent battles they have been in during their soldiers life. 

It may seem rather strange to you that the boys on both sides are so freindley to each other, some would say that this was fals if it was in the papers but this is fact.  Since I have sat on my knapsack and watched them with one eye and tended to my writing with the other.

They all want this war to be settled for the best. They say they have got sick of the war and want to go home but dont want to settle the war on the tearms that we propose to them.  please write soon.

this from William 

It is interesting that Stowe does not address this letter to any specific family member and signs it in a different manner than has been his habit.  We can only speculate on the why. Young William Stowe had been away from home and embroiled in the realities and horrors of war that he had not anticipated for two long years with no end in sight. Was he weary, homesick or simply thinking the recipients of his letter would surely know it was from him?

By June 1863, soldiers from both sides had one major wish: a longing for the war to be concluded so they could return home.

Until next week, be well

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