Letter from Thomas S. Wray, Co. F, from Camp near Richmond, dated June 28, 1862

Thomas S. Wray, Meadville Volunteers, Co. F, 10th PA Reserves,
June 28, 1862 [Beaver Weekly Argus: 7-16-1862]

Camp Near Richmond –

Dear Wife: Since writing my last letter to you we have had a terrible battle. John [Wray] is killed; break the news to mother as easily as you can. I know it will almost kill her too. I am safe as yet, although all of us were under an almost constant and terrible fire from about 4 o’clock on Thursday evening till it must have been 10 o’clock Thursday night [Mechanisville]. It then ceased, but was recommenced as early as 4 o’clock on Friday morning, and continued till dark.

At first, our regiment was parted; Companies A and B were placed in rifle pits in front of and below the batteries; Companies F and G were placed behind a little rising ground to support Captain Easton’s battery and a battery of regulars, two guns. We lay flat on the ground, with our guns beside us, and for three or four hours such a storm of shot and shell as flew over us I hope it may never be my lot to see again. Shells flew over our heads so close that we fancied we could fell the heat from them as they howled along; others burst high in the air above us, scattering the fragments in all directions; others went tearing through the horses attached to the limber wagons and caissons attached to the batteries, where they were stationed, within twenty yards of us: one caisson alone had four horses killed.

And the musket balls! The air appeared black with them, and thousands of muskets kept up the most terrific crashing, while the sound of six brass cannon almost equaled the deepest thunder. Easton, by his almost invincible bravery and the way he handled his cannon, brought down almost all of the enemy’s artillery fire upon us, and how we escaped I know not.

At last some one cried, “Now look out!” The rebels were cheering and forming to take Easton’s battery. Just at that instant the Eighth Regiment came up the hill on our left, as we were springing to our feet, their commander cried out in cheering tones, “lay still boys,” and as his regiment filed past us they halted and lay down on our right.

Mean time the rebels came on, and Easton, hurrying up a caisson, cried out, “Double shot your guns, men; they don’t take this battery while I remain alive.” The guns must have been nearly full to the muzzle, for when they went off it fairly raised us from the ground. It scattered the rebels, and the Eighth regiment, springing up, marched down the hill to the right of us. All this time shell and shot flew over us, and, as the caissons were continually passing at full gallop in front of us, had one of the caissons blown up it would have killed all of us. None of them were struck but one, and that by a glancing shot that tore off the iron sheeting and made a hole in the caisson large enough for a cat to go through.

Just at dark company B came out and fell back from the rifle pits, then, springing to our feet, we went regardless of shot and shell on the double quick down to the pits and renewed the fire that had been slackened when Company B left it.

Of yesterday’s fight [Gaine’s Mill] I have not room, nor do I feel like writing to do it anything like justice. We were ordered, and had to fall back five, or, at least, four miles. We made a stand at last and, although they outnumbered us at least five to one, drove them back. In turn they drove our men back on the main body. At last, when the hospital was filled with dead and dying, the rebels rallied in great force, drove back our men, killed Easton and all his men and took the battery. The other batteries slowly retreated supported by our troops.

I was not an eyewitness to the last part of the battle as I was at the hospital with John. He was shot through and through, the bullet going in one side and coming out the other. He lived near an hour, but only spoke once, saying, “I see Tilly [young niece] with the stars and stripes in her hand.” After that he never spoke. When he died I closed his eyes and straightened him out, placed his hands on his breast, and in twenty minutes afterwards the hospital was in the hands of the enemy, and I, not knowing where the regiment was, and being of no more use to John, made a hasty retreat with bullets and grapeshot flying all around me. The Irish Brigade then came up and drove back the rebels and kept the ground all night. As I was almost done out, I did not go back, but with thousands of others encamped in the woods opposite here.

This morning all our force had to fall back on this side of the river and blow up the bridge, leaving the rebels to bury all the dead.

Another one, Corporal George Bryan, in our company, was killed. Tom Evans is wounded in the wrist, and will lose his arm, or hand at least. The names of the other wounded are Campbell, Roy, Stewart (not Lieut. Stewart), Hays and T.W. Scott. It is feared that Scott and Campbell will die. The Captain is not hurt, tell Mrs. Adams, and gallantly led his company to the last. He shook hands with me this morning when I reported to him, and congratulated me on being safe. He says John was as brave a man as ever lived.

T.S. Wray.