6th Vermont Infantry
Casper Honorus Dean (1841-1936)
Camp in the Woods
Warwick County- Va
Apr 18th 1862
Father, I have received a letter from you and will commence now to answer it thinking that you would like to know how we have got a long for the last 2 or 3 days because we have been placed in a dangerous position. I have written to Cart and directed to Monkton through a mistake. Did not have time to finish it be fore the mail left here but sent it so that you could hear from me a little sooner than you otherwise would. I wrote Cart all of importance up to about 8 o'clock the day before yesterday, at which time Co. A went skirmishing. We went to where the batteries were and then deployed as skirmishers into the woods on the right of an open field, which was between the batteries and the rebels. Skirmished into the woods about 40 rods and then marched by the left flank into the open field right in front of the rebel fortifications and I should think within 100 rods of them.
We went along walking a part of the time and creeping on our hands and knees a part of the time keeping within 5 paces of each other. When the most of us had got out of the woods, the rebels commenced firing at us with rifles and fired once or twice with cannon. We dropped flat on the ground. One cannonball came very near to us. Shortly after, our men let a few shells fly over to the enemy-- there we were between two firings. Some of our own shells flew very near to me. Some of us felt rather ticklish soon went back unharmed. The object of this move was to shelter one of Gen. Smiths' aides from harm while he could take a view of the fortifications. Soon went back to our Regt. at noon. The whole Regt. went back to camp to get our knapsacks. Had not got our knapsacks packed before orders came to fall in. Fell in and marched to where we were in the morning in quick and double quick time. Here we found that some fighting was to be done. A no. of pieces of artillery was in the open field and others going on. Our Regt. went into the woods, before mentioned just at the right of the artillery. Had not barely taken our place before the rebels opened fire upon our batteries with shell and solid ball. Our batteries soon returned the fire with 12 or 15 cannon I should think. There was a continual stream of firing.
You can imagine how much noise was made better than I can tell you. We were where we could see our men load and fire. The rebel batteries were soon silenced. Our men kept up the firing more or less all afternoon. At about 4 o'clock P.M. we heard rapid volleys of musketry on the left side of said open field in the woods. We soon had orders to move. We soon marched across the field in the rear of our batteries in double quick time. Then halted and marched by the flank into the woods on the left of the open field mentioned above. There we rested in battle line a short. The 5th Regt. soon came in after us. Skirmishers were ahead of us firing at the rebel skirmishers. When we were resting, a man from the 3rd Vt. Regt. came up in front of us from the direction of the enemy. He stated that some companies from that Regt. had crossed the stream of water, which I will describe bye and bye, had got all cut up and taken prisoners. Their cartridges had all got wet so that they could not do much. The volley's of musketry mentioned above was between the 3rdRegt. and the enemy: our Regt. had not rested long before we had orders to charge on the rebels. The sun then was about one hour high.
I will stop now and tell what I know about the stream of water. The stream was about 15 rods wide and was very shallow except in the channel where it was 3 feet or more in depth. The opposite side of the stream was about 10 rods from the enemy's fortifications. There were a number of large trees in the stream where we crossed and to the right of us were a lot of trees cut down. Where we were to cross was between the place where 4 Co.s of the 3rd Regt. crossed and where the trees were cut down. When we were ordered to charge across the right of the stream, we went ahead and as soon as Co. A reached the water's edge, the rebels commenced firing on us with musketry in great fury. The firing came mostly from their rifle pits. Could not see much of them but their heads and shoulders.
(some parts are missing from this letter, here)
On we moved into the water toward the rebels firing at them as well as we could while showers of lead came in amongst us like hail stones upon goslings. The water really bubbled.
Though we were exposed to a gulling fire from the rebels and they almost entirely covered from our shots, the first Co.s went up to within 8 or ten rods of the enemy while the Co.s in the rear of us were more exposed than we were. It was so near dark in the woods across the stream that we could not see where all the shots came from but we did our best until we were ordered to retreat. As soon as the rebels opened fire on us the artillery was all that saved us from being entirely put out of existence. When I came to where balls were flying very fast, I sheltered myself behind trees as much as I could.
Did not fire a gun until I got most up to the rebels, at which time I got between a large tree and blazed away 3 or 4 times. Think I dropped one rebel and perhaps more. I saw one up in good sight and took deliberate aim and fired. There were two men beside me when I shot. They said that they saw him fall. They were shooting this way so they happened to be looking the same way when I fired.
6 Companies had entered the stream when we were ordered to retreat. I was one of the last that retreated. Not knowing that we had orders to retreat. I did not retreat the way the rest did because I thought that I could with more safety by going to the right---where the bullets were not flying so fast.
Soon after coming out of the stream, our Co.s were rallied and for a long time after rallying, Co.A could not rally but 21 men. We supposed of course that we had lost a great many men. A. Cox was among the missing. At least all of Co.A were accounted for but A. Cox and I thought he was in the bottom of the water, dead, but it was not so. He made his appearance the next day safe and sound but somewhat fatigued. He was taken prisoner. You must read his letter home in order to find out the particulars in his capture and escape. 6th Vt. Regt. lost 11 killed and 77 wounded, Co.A none killed but 7 wounded. None of the Monkton boys were wounded except O. Sheppard who had his nose slightly clipped. Not enough to do any hurt. Joseph Oakes and Henry Snay were dangerously wounded and perhaps mortally. The 3rd Vt. Regt. lost 25 killed, 7 mortally wounded and 56 wounded.
Apr. 21, I have been writing some today under the first date and have got to go on picket very soon. The day before yesterday, a flag of truce was raised, by the enemy, for the purpose of having two hours time to bury their dead. They buried their and brought 29 of our dead across the stream to our officers. Our men were buried at night in one hole. The Monkton boys sure all well, up to this date, and going on picket today.
Have you saved my letters that I have written home? I hope you will because I shall want them after I get home. Tell Minirva Hayes that Joseph Hayes has not time to write now. He is well, she must write as usual.
Casper H. Dean
To C.S. Dean
Source: Photographs and letters courtesy of Alden Dean, Casper and Martha's great-grandson.