1862: Adam Yeager to his “Friends”

I could find no image of Adam but here is one of Samuel Rutter of the 53rd Pennsylvania who survived a serious wound received in the Wheatfield at Gettysburg later in the war. (Charles Joyce Collection)

This letter was written by Adam (“Add”) Yeager, Jr. (1839-1862), the son of Adam Yeager, Sr. (1794-1868) and Sarah A. Gordon (1802-1844) of Delaware township, Juniata county, Pennsylvania. He wrote the letter to “friends Israel & wife” who may have been his brother-in-law, Israel Garman (1832-1869) and Sarah A. Yeager (1827-1915).

Add enlisted as a private in Co. I, 53rd Infantry on 10 October 1861. His death as a sergeant in the same company was recorded at the “Regimental Hospital” by M. J. McKinnon, 53rd Pa. Regimental Surgeon, on 8 October 1862. The cause of death was given as “chronic diarrhea & organic disease of the heart.”

The 53rd Pennsylvania saw no action in the fall and winter of 1861-62. They drilled in their winter camp near Alexandria until just before McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign when they were assigned to 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Corps and transported to the reserve forces near Yorktown, Virginia. After the evacuation of Yorktown, the regiment was transported to West Point and then marched to the Chickahominy river where they assisted in building the “grape-vine bridge” just before the Battle of Fair Oaks which took place on 1 June 1862.

The following account of the Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines) was penciled one week after the battle. There may be a bit of braggadocio in Add’s eyewitness account of the action, but it is typical for a soldier’s first glimpse of “the elephant.” Add places the battle casualties at about 3,000 Union, 10,000 Confederate. In official accounts they were later estimated to be about 5,000 Union, and 6,000 Confederate—the battle being more of a draw than the Rebel rout that Add imagined.

See also—Stalemate at Seven Pines by David Norris

Other Spared & Shared letters by members of the 53rd Pennsylvania:
George Scheetz, Co. A, 53rd Pennsylvania (Union/1 Letter)
Lionel Stanley, Co. H, 53rd Pennsylvania (Union/1 Letter)
James W. Burrell, Co. K, 53rd Pennsylvania (Union/1 Letter)

A scene from the Battle of Fair Oaks drawn by Alonzo Chappel


Fair Oaks near Richmond
June 8th, 1862

Friends Israel & wife,

I received your most welcome letter on Saturday last dated June the 1st. We are now near Richmond and expect every day to be in it. Last Sunday a week—June the 1st—we had a battle about 5 1/4 mile from Richmond in the woods. Our regiment was the first in the battle. In the morning, our regiment marched into the woods about three hundred yards and in the woods the command was halt. We halted. The command was rest, [so] the boys sat down and some laid down. We lay there about half an hour. Some had gone to sleep and the Rebels had formed a line of battle in the woods right along side of our regiment, not [more than] three rods of our regiment, and there they lay behind the brush and all at once they fired on our regiment [and] killed some few. The boys jumped up and let drive at them and then dropped on the ground. The Rebels let drive again and shot over us all. Our boys fired on them again. They turned and run like as if the devil was after them and we after them as hard as we could.

The gents and the ladies came down from Richmond to see the Yankees taken prisoner and marched to Richmond but in place of seeing the Yankees march to Richmond, they saw some of the Yankees’ shells fly among them and killed some of their gallant young ladies and gents. I guess they thought the Yankees smelt a good bit like powder and iron and the General said their force was three to our one and we whipped them so bad they didn’t know what to think of it, and they had the best men there they had. There was a great many men killed and wounded. There was only 4 wounded in our company; 95 killed, wounded, and missing in the regiment. The dead and wounded was laying very thick in the woods. Through the fight Saturday and Sunday, there was about three thousand killed, wounded, and missing of our men. The Rebels killed and wounded and prisoners was near double the number.

I am well. Good health and in good spirits. Oh yes, I almost forgot to tell you our Major [Thomas Yeager] was killed and our Colonel’s horse shot from under him but still the boys fought like tigers or heroes. The news just come now that the loss of the Rebels was ten thousand. No more at present, but yours truly, — Add Yeager

Direct your letters to Washington.

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