Civil War Correspondence Between Sweethearts: “Scattered, Knew Not Where To Go”

Coming to auction November 17, 2016: Printed & Manuscript Americana

Charles L. Taylor married his sweetheart Harriet Tuttle in August, 1862 and days later went to join the 16th Connecticut Infantry. Four weeks after that, the unprepared regiment entered the Battle of Antietam, some with only a few days of training. A quarter of the regiment was killed or wounded. After suffering further losses at Fredericksburg and elsewhere, most of the survivors were captured and taken to the infamous Andersonville Prison. Though their numbers dwindled, Taylor was taken to the division headquarters near Falmouth, Virginia to serve as a clerk. In April 1864, on his way to rejoin the 16th Connecticut, he watched from a transport steamer as the fort his regiment was defending was besieged and taken by Confederate forces.

Lot 117: Correspondence and diary of Sergeant Charles L. Taylor of the 16th Connecticut Infantry, 1862-65. Estimate $8,000 to $12,000.

Throughout this experience, Taylor wrote to his family and his new bride Harriet back in Connecticut. To his parents, he writes of Antietam in vague terms: “We were exposed to shells and shots very much of the day, and to musketry in a cornfield the latter part of the day. The latter was very destructive, about as warm as it is experienced I expect.”

Letter from Taylor to Hattie, describing the Battle of Antietam.

Describing the same event to his wife, he wrote, “We suffered more severely on account of our large guns getting out of the proper ammunition. I expect that we were most of us exposed to as hot fire for a time as is often experienced. . . . I could see the bullets strike around me. . . . I stayed as long as I could see our company, and when they were all leaving I left. . . . I fired one shot before leaving the corn field and but one, as we had no order, and the rebels came into the cornfield with our colors, thus deceiving our officers.”

In his own journal, written in 1865, he wrote: “In the cornfield the rebs confronted us with Union colors &c, were ordered not to fire on our men, but got unmercifully fired on. . . . Were scattered, knew not where to go. Helped one wounded man, a stranger, to the hospital.”

From Hattie to Taylor.

His journal, as well as the responses of his wife and family, have been preserved, providing a multi-dimensional view of key battles of the Civil War from one of the few members of the 16th Connecticut to make it home. More transcripts of the letters can be found in the catalogue entry.

Most of the envelopes are preserved with the correspondence.
One of the first letters from Taylor to Hattie, describing his joy at calling her his wife.

In addition to both sides of correspondence, included in the lot are family photographs, Taylor’s diary, a wooden box of about 255 letters between Taylor, his wife and others (separate from the war letters), the family bible and an oil painting of Taylor’s daughter.