Uberto Burnham on the 76th after Gettysburg

Aug. 13, 1863
VOL 2, NO. 45 Pg 2, COL 5

Letter from the 76th, Camp at Warrenton Junction, July 31, 1863.

Remembered Parents:

We are now camped on a low level plain where the water is very poor. We hope that we shall not stay here long. We shall not probably advance toward Richmond until we are much strengthened.

The effective strength of the Army of the Potomac is not such as to ensure success in an offensive movement. There are regiments in the 1st Corps that do not muster over forty or fifty muskets. I do not think the regiments in Meade's army average three hundred men for duty. The army can accomplish very little until its regiments are filled or it is strongly reinforced from the west.- Therefore, do not be disappointed if you do not hear stirring news from Virginia for some time.

The riots in New York created intense indignation in the army. Not a soldier but would shoot a rioter with as little compunction as he would a rebel. The loyal people of the North may feel assured that every man in the army desires the enforcement of the conscription and is willing and anxious, if need be, to help enforce it. Even the intensely Democratic regiments from New York city, ------ that they are, denounce in the strongest terms the course their friends in New York are taking. They say enforce the draft in New York city at any cost.

I am ever anxious to hear the news from Cortland. The draft is now over there I suppose. Please write, all about it, who are drafted, &c., I would like very much to see the Gazette for last week and this. I get the Republican regularly.

The "boys" are resting now. Poor fellows, they need rest, what there is left of them. A few days rest, clean and new clothes, and plenty of beans hard tack and pork have worked a decided change for the better, in looks, if nothing more.

They have some big stories to tell of Gettysburg. Hardly a man escaped without some mark, either on his person, clothes, or equipments. One man has a hole in his haversack, another in his canteen, another has his cartridge box spoiled, another finds bullets in his knapsack, another has holes in his clothes, and another had his gun broken in his hands by a rebel bullet. All have an honorable record.

Of the original 76th which came from Cortland, there are indeed very few left. Those who are left are true fellows and carry with them the memorials of many bloody battles. I have in my mind's eye now a slender boy of sixteen a member of Co. D, who before the regiment did any fighting, was considered a very poor soldier. He used to go to sleep on his post and seemed indifferent when he expected to be shot for his careless drowsiness. That boy has been through every march and in every fight and has not yet received a scratch. Not once has he failed or halted. Brave Tommy! May he pass through the war unscathed.

Since I commenced this letter I have seen a copy of the Cortland Gazette, of July 16 containing the editor's account of his visit to Gettysburg. This account is one of great interest I suppose to you all at home. If Cole had been a soldier he would have been discreet and not told how he got his pass. If when he was at Westminster he had gone about one-half mile east of town on the Baltimore Pike, he would have found the Quartermaster of the 76th, who would have been glad of the opportunity to provide him with a horse.

The editor gives a good and correct picture of things which he saw. What he said of the generous hospitality of the people of Maryland is all true. We all give Maryland a warm place in our memories. We (those belonging to the train) were not in Pennsylvania twenty-four hours, and therefore did not get much acquainted with the people. I have no doubt some of those living in the southern part of the State think more of their pockets than they do of their country, but never in my life did I hear before of such extortion, such meanness, as Editor Cole tells of. It must be most of our sutlers come from southern Pennsylvania.

Chaplain Seymour has a very interesting letter in the Gazette. It is remarkable for telling one or two very important facts. When he says that the people of the North expect too much and are too impatient, he says only what every soldier feels to be true. Many at the North thought that Meade could and should have destroyed the army of Lee at Hagerstown. Such men may perhaps some day learn that it is no easy task to destroy such an army as Lee's. Lee's army, though defeated and weakened, was still strong in numbers and spirit. It had a strong position and was well fortified. I saw the breastworks; they were nearly five miles long. The rebel position was similar to our's at Gettysburg. Our men were anxious to fight them. They would have charged across the plain as desperately as did the rebels July 3d on us. They would have met a terrible resistance, and more than likely a damaging repulse.

Aug. 1st, Sunday,

We were surprised this morning about 1 o'clock by an order to move at 5 A.M. The 167th Pennsylvania, lately added to the 1st Brigade of our Division, refused to march, alleging their term of service had expired. This is a drafted regiment. The 2d, 6th and 7th Wisconsin were drawn up beside them, and ordered to load and take aim. The order to fire was all but given; it was just on the General's lips when the 167th concluded it had better march than die, and fell in. We marched about four miles and the train halted. the troops went forward. Within the last half hour we have heard sharp artillery firing and at times thought we could distinguish the sound of distant musketry.- We are sure there is a smart fight in progress, but do not know that there is a probability of a general battle. the presence of some spring wagons belonging to the Sanitary Commission hinted at a fight this morning.

Yours truly,
U.A. Burnham

Transcribed by B. Conrad Bush from microfilm found at the Cortland Public Library, Cortland, NY.

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