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Sale 38 Lot 289

A CAPTAIN FORESEES HIS DEATH AT GETTYSBURG Chilling war-date soldier's A.L.S., 10pp. 8vo., "Near Ashby's Gap", July 21, 1863 in which Capt. Edgar A. Burpee of Co. I, 19th Maine relates to his sister the regiment's actions at Gettysburg and the realized premonition of death made by his best friend, Capt. George D. Smith at that battle. In part: "...I can imagine just how you all felt when you heard I was wounded...My wounds were very slight indeed especially the one in my wrist, yet had the ball went through I should have lost my hand...The rebs came down in three columns and though our batteries played into them as fast as possible, yet they would close up as if only on parade yelling and firing all the time. When the right of the 3rd corps retreated, the enemy wasn't more than 25 yards from their line...when they saw our line retreating, they thought the day was theirs. One of their color bearers came out to the front of their line and kept dipping his infernal rag at us...it seemed as if our corps must give way. Then our regiment lay on their faces with guns all loaded waiting the order forward - nearly the whole division rose as once and we gave the rebs a few pills that made their heads and stomachs of some of them ache...our batteries opened at the same time and in 15 minutes' time there was hardly a Johnny to be seen...The line of blue like a whiplash swept before the enemy before it. When we charged down the hill, the beggars Skedaddled for dear life...But when we were relieved and had roll call and learned who were killed and wounded, I could hardly keep from crying and then to learn that our much loved Capt. Smith was dying made my anguish much keener...All along our march I am reminded of him, all he has ever said to me keeps coming to my mind...All this spring he has kept telling about going home in Sept on a furlough and what he was going to do when we arrived next to Gettysburg...[to] say he had done something for his country. I have his account book and his blood is on some of its leaves...The rebels we took prisoners...called us the 'Butterfly Corps' for the reason that we fly around so. They didn't expect we were there when we advanced...We are marching now towards Culpepper...Pigs - hens - fruit have to suffer for the men steal all they can get. [The men] laid in with the band to go up to headquarters and play so loud generals shouldn't hear the squeaking and everything. Well the band struck up and the boys took after the pigs and the more the noise the louder the band would play until some 10 or 15 piggies were mustered into our service. Wasn't that cute? Soldiers are funny boys, ain't they?...". Incredibly, in the 19th Maine Regimental, the author relates the following about what Captain Burpee wrote in a letter prior to Gettysburg. Burpee was talking about his friend Capt. Smith: "...You remember Capt. Smith, yourself and myself, lay in a little shelter tent together. Capt. Smith said, 'I think we are on the eve on a terrible battle, and I fear I should be killed or wounded'. I said 'Don't think that way we all feel as if we might get hit'. He replied, 'No; but I have a presentment that something is going to happen to me and I hope I should be prepared to die". Three days later, Smith fell on the battlefield at Gettysburg, mortally wounded on July 2nd, and dying at 1 am on July 3rd. Very good to fine condition, a superb letter.
Estimate $ 2,500-3,500

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