Letter by Serg't. Willett to Prof. Jewell:
Fifth Day's Fight at the Battle of Fredericksburg.
To-day I am on my knapsack for a seat, on the brick sidewalk of Main Street, Fredericksburg. The batteries are playing around us, and the musketry occasionally throws in its voice to make the din of war complete.
The boys of Company E crossed the Rappahannock on Saturday at 3 p.m. We were marched directly through the town, along or near the railroad. As we neared the outskirts of the town, a destructive fire poured upon us. We were ordered to lie down, so as to get under cover of a small hill in front of us. I thought, then, that it was more galling to stand the enemy's fire after this fashion than to be actively engaged. We lay in the mud, however, until we were again ordered forward. We advanced in line of battle up quite a steep hill, marching directly to the front of the enemy's fire, which was very severe, volley after volley thundering forth at the briefest possible intervals. Many of the 44th fell wounded, and our Color Sergeant was killed. Our Adjutant and Lieutenant Colonel were wounded in the arms. The command devolved upon Major Knox. The brigade was at the summit of the hill. The order to "lie down" was again given, and as soon countermanded; and we rushed on, to relieve others in front, who were sheltered by a little hill and were without ammunition. The 13th New Hampshire broke under the severe fire, and ran back a few rods to the left of our regiment, crowding our company some, but the regiment kept the line finely. We were out f rom an hour before sunset on Saturday till 10 o'clock p.m. on Sunday; and we were expecting every minute to march into action.
I have to hurry off my letter, or I shall fail to send it, so excuse the tumble-down news that I throw together.
Two only of the Normal School company were hurt: Geo. McBlain, leg, (died of his wounds Feb. 9, '63) and W. W. Munson, missing. Capt. Kimball was hit by two spent balls, but without resulting in serious injury. Of the regiment only one was killed- the Color Sergeant- and about 40 were wounded.*
We are having a terrible battle here, but have high hopes in the Ruler of all things, that we shall ultimately succeed.
I am writing to you on a blank leaf from an old ledger of a rebel merchant. My sheet must remain unfinished, as I am to send this by across the river at once.
I remain as true and firm in battle, as I hope to be in the battle of life.
C. H. WILLETT.
P.S.- In my other letter, which was lost, I mentioned the deaths of Albert Smith and Thompson Barrick. C. H. W.
(From"Journal" of Dec. 20, 1862.)
*[The records show that at this battle the 44th Reg. lost 7 killed and died of wounds, 35 wounded and 1 captured.]