Will Fisher to his mother
Warrenton Junction, Virginia
July 27, 1863

Dear Mother,

Do you recognize the handwriting? Or is it so long since you have seen it that you have forgotten it? If you think I have been neglectful, I hope you will excuse my negligence, but I don’t think I have been, for until a person goes through what the noble Army of the Potomac has for the last six weeks he cannot form the slightest idea of what we have been & the condition we are now in & after such a campaign it is impossible to be otherwise, for, more than fifty times since we started we have been drenched to the skin by rain and fording streams & everything about us would get wet. Consequently, we could not have paper, nor anything to write on. But I will go on with my history & then comment.
After we left Stafford C.H. six weeks ago last Saturday night, I think it was near the 10th of June, we marched all night & got to Dumfries the next morning about 1 o’clock. We laid there all day & when we saw the immense wagon trains of the whole army coming in we began to think the army had commenced a grand retrograde movement for then we did not know the Rebs had gone towards Md. Well the next morning we started early and marched to Fairfax C.H., 35 miles in one of the hottest days that ever blossomed. We laid there two days which time I might have written if I had known I would not have another chance & every sergeant in the co. was sick so I had it all to do.
The third morning we started for Dranesville, 14 miles & half way between Fairfax & Leesburg. We stayed all night & the next morning marched to Leesburg. We staid here a few days to see which way the Rebs were going to go. While here there were three men in our div. shot for desertion in the presence of the corps.
This is the strongest secesh hole in Virginia. It is a very pretty place & larger than Cambridge.
The following morning we crossed at Edwards Ferry near “Ball’s Bluff” the fatal battle to the lamented Col. Baker of Philad. We marched along going from 10 to twenty miles a day & passing through Poolesville, Point of Rocks, Petersburg and Jefferson. The 3rd night we were most to Harpers Ferry when the next morning Gen. Meade took command of the army & all the troops proceeded to Frederick City to await his disposition of them. It was Sabbath day when we got there but that place was the noisiest place that night I ever saw.
The next morning we started for Penn. occupying 3 or 4 days on the march. The 3rd day when near Littlestown we heard some banging ahead when we took a double quick for the scene of operations but the cavalry had the business all done before we got up.
When going through the town the people had water & bread & pies to give us. It seemed good after living in a heathen land so long. We staid all night & were now within 10 miles of Gettysburg.
The next day we started & about 10 o’clock we formed a line of battle (our corps only) about 5 miles from the battle field about noon. We began to hear cannonading in front of us in the direction of Gettysburg & soon the couriers brought the intelligence that the 1st Corps had come in contact with the enemy on the heights near Gettysburg. The force of the Rebs not known. An hour later the news came that the 11th Corps had joined the 1st and all was going well, except that General Reynolds of the 1st Corps had been killed.
A little later & came the command for us to go forward at once. Then came the trying time, the time for looking sober. In some cases they are boisterous with cheering, but in our regt. the order at such a time is received silently & every man’s face shows plainly that he would rather the cup would pass from him. But determination is boldly stamped on every countenance.
As we came up to the scene of work the fighting stopped for awhile & we took a good position on the right. When we got all fixed our battery fired a few shells into them, then we expected they would retaliate & the iron missiles of death would be flying among us, but they did not.
By the next day at noon the whole army had got up & took a position & about 4 o’clock the general engagement commenced and – I won’t try to describe it. Our corps had no part in it till just before dark. They were massing on our left so we were moved from breastworks (we built them that day) on the right, over on the left to help them.
We came around with the 2nd Corps & we just made them “skedaddle” you had better believe, but when we came to go back to our works, behold the Rebs were in them. Gen. Geary with the 2nd Div. of the 12th Corps charged on them and drove them out with terrible loss to the Rebs & none of much consequence to himself. & Gen. Slocum ordered Gen. Williams to do the same with us, but he induced him to wait till morning, & as soon as it was light our old man-killer of a battery opened on them with grape & canister which completely tore them to pieces.
But I forgot to say, the night before, it was necessary to establish a picket line, so as usual Co. 4 was taken to advance in line of skirmishers with orders not to fire on them if we see any, but to stop & maintain the ground & see if the Rebs were in the works. So we advanced cautiously to within 3 rods of the works & Lieut. Beadle halted us, & instead of asking one of us to go, went up to see what was in the works. He went up & they deceived him & took him into their lines without any noise & we knew nothing about what had happened to him. So there we waited for an hour, when we began to suspect something, & now I was the highest in command, the capt. was sick. So I must do something. I gave the order to advance, when a Rebel officer gave the order to fire. When bang went about as many guns as I want to hear, right into us, so we fell back on the regt. & some other regt. fired into us. We laid on our arms till morning artillery broke the spell.
By the way, I must tell you what this grape and canister is that our artillery use so much. Solid shot is the old fashioned round ball. Shell is the same size round but long and filled with powder to burst & the grape & canister is a bag full of grape shot as big as hen’s eggs & canister is about the size of musket balls. Fire this into infantry & it is more than they can eat.
Friday was the noisiest day I ever heard, about 500 pieces of artillery playing all day. Well you know how the battle came out. Saturday the fourth of July sitting all day in the rain & mud up to our knees, everything wet as sop.
The next day we started after the “Johnny Reb” again & came back the same road to Frederick City. We then crossed South Mountain into Pleasant Valley & went up the river & came around the Rebs at Williamsport & fortified strongly. But they got away from us so we marched back to Harpers Ferry & stayed long enough to draw some shoes & provisions & started again. Crossed the river, went down the Loudoun Valley & fooled along the Blue Ridge to Warrenton where we now are. I think we will lay here till we get the drafted men in with us. We’ll make ‘em sweat.
Now I tell you mother we are tired. This has been the longest campaign that was ever undertaken. This minute I have got the same shirt on that I had on when I left Stafford & it wasn’t washed in all that time till this morning when I washed in the creek in cold water. Don’t speak of lice, for I’ll bet Gen. Meade himself is lousy (if they are catching).
You must excuse my brevity for I have not written in a good while but it is still longer since receiving a letter. But there are some laying for me somewhere I guess if we ever get a mail. Love to Aunt Sarah & all the rest. I have not written to John. You can send this if you like for I will not write so particular again.

I am Will, or Mother’s boy