The 13th South Carolina Regiment was with the Army of Northern Virginia from April 1862 to the end of the war. It saw combat at the Second Battle of Manassas in late August 1862 and then at Chantilly on September 1. Dr. Spencer Glasgow Welch, a surgeon in the regiment, wrote the following letter to his wife on September 3.
Early Sunday morning [August 31] we started away, and I passed by where Goggans’ body lay. Near him lay the body of Captain Smith of Spartanburg. Both were greatly swollen and had been robbed of their trousers and shoes by our own soldiers, who…did it from necessity. We passed out over the battlefield where the dead and wounded Yankees lay. They had fallen between the lines and had remained there without attention since Friday. We marched all day on the road northward and traveled about twelve miles.
The next morning we continued…towards Fairfax Court House, and had a battle late that afternoon at Ox Hill during a violent thunderstorm. Shell were thrown at us and one struck in the road and burst within three or four feet of me….There were flashes and keen cracks of lightening near by and hard showers of rain fell. The Yankees had a strong position on a hill on the right side of the road, but our men left the road and I could see them hurrying up the hill with skirmishers in advance of the line.
I went into a horse lot and established a field infirmary, and saw an old lady and her daughter fleeing from a cottage….The old lady could not keep up and the daughter kept stopping and urging her mother to hurry. The bullets were striking all about the yard of their house.
Lieutenant Leopard from Lexington was brought back to me with both his legs torn off below the knees by a shell and another man with part of his arm torn off, but…I had nothing with me to give them but morphine. They both died during the night….We filled the carriage house, barn and stable with our wounded, but I could do but little for them.
…[M]y brother, my servant Wilson, and myself went into the orchard and took pine poles from a fence and spread them on the wet ground to sleep on. I discovered a small chicken roosting in a peach tree and caught it, and Wilson skinned it and broiled it, and it was all we three had to eat that day. Wilson got two good blankets off the battlefield with “U.S.” on them and we spread one on the poles and covered the other.
The next morning the Yankees were gone. Their General Kearney, was killed and some of their wounded fell unto our hands….[M]any of our wounded died during the night. I found one helpless man lying under a blanket between two [dead] men.
We drew two days’ rations of crackers and bacon about ten o’clock, and I ate them all and was still hungry. I walked over on a hill and saw a few dead Yankees. They had become stiff, and one was lying on his back with his arm held up. I picked up a good musket and carried it back with me to the house and gave it to the young lady I saw running away the day before. She thanked me for it, and seemed very much pleased to have it as a momento of the battle.
Originally published in the September 2006 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.
Dr. Spencer Glasgow Welch, A Confederate Surgeon’s Letters to His Wife