“It has been stirring times with us lately” – The Letters of Samuel Hodgman, 7th Michigan Infantry, part 3

    Following Gettysburg, the 7th Michigan was sent to New York City to assist in ending the draft riots that enveloped portions of the city. Private Frederick Oesterle of Company E wrote home that “when the mob saw these troops right from the front, many of the boys yet a little lame and some with bandaged heads from wounds received at Gettysburg… the mob became respectful and it was not long before they dispersed.” The appearence of troops was enough to turn some of the more riotous away but it may have also been the hardened appearance of these well armed veterans fresh from the killing fields of Gettysburg that influenced gang leaders to back off from further street fighting.
    Lieutenant Hodgman’s impressions of the regiment’s journey to New York have evidently not survived but in a letter written to his mother on November 22, he reassured her that he would not be as reckless as he had apparently been during the past year: “Just as soon as I can get mustered as Captain I shall apply for a position in the Invalid Corps which will be better than knocking around in the field. If I get out alive I will be thankful. At Gettysburg I would have given a leg to have my life warranted without a moment(‘)s hesitation. I don’t feel so now, but am willing to trust in Providence for the result. ”
    Two days later he wrote a detailed letter to his father describing the difficulties of campaigning in Virginia where “the soil here is mostly clay and very little rain makes horrible going. You can have but little idea of the magnitude of our trains or the effect they have on the roads. Take the 2nd Corps for instance, probably the smallest in the

An ammunition train for the 3rd Division, Cavalry Corps. Library of Congress

army. Our regiment has three wagons and it is one of the smallest in the Corps. An average would be about four and a half to the regiment making 220 regimental wagons alone. Add to this 20 brigade wagons and the supply and ammunition wagons and it makes about 500 six mule wagons weighing about 2400 lbs. each and loaded with 2200 lbs. freight, allowing three rods to a team or four is nearer right- and it makes a train over 6 miles long. More travel on a road in the space of a couple of hours than would pass over the Climax roads in a month. Again add the artillery- eight or ten batteries each with their fourteen six horse teams and it sums up to quite an amount of travel for going over a road once.”
    In describing the aftermath of the Battle of Bristoe Station, fought on October 14, 1863, Hodgman described the disturbing callousness his fellow soldiers had developed toward death. “You cannot imagine how utterly indifferent soldiers become to the presence of

The pasture in front of the Second Corps works where the 7th Michigan and other details buried over 600 Confederates killed in Pickett's Charge. The Codori farm and Emmitsburg Road are in the distance. NPS

dead bodies,” he wrote. “They will joke and laugh while burying the dead as though they were the bodies of sheep or hogs instead of men. After the battle of Gettysburg while our men were burying the dead(,) they had dug a long pit and had put in regular order a rebel Captain, two lieutenants and the requisite number of non-commissioned officers with some forty or fifty privates when they found that the orderly sergeant was lacking. They soon found one and threw him in, giving him a kick as he went and said, ‘There! Damn you! Go and call roll for them!’”  Contemplating this Hodgman pondered, “I don’t know if the men are any worse at home, but there is not that constraint upon their actions which female society always gives.”
    From the Seven Days battles, to Antietam, the fearful river crossing at Fredericksburg; Chancellorsville, through Gettysburg and the fall campaigns in northern Virginia, Samuel Hodgman saw the war close up. In a letter to his brother on December 12, 1863 Hodgman described the toll the war had taken on him. “I am pretty well worn in the service,” he wrote, “all tell me I look ten years older than I did when I joined the regiment.” His wound at Antietam, the “Chickahominy sickness,” and the hard life of a combat soldier shortened Hodgman’s service. On March 4, 1864 he resigned his commisson and was honorably discharged from the army on a surgeon’s certificate. Sam Hodgman’s war was over.

Lt. Samuel C. Hodgman, 7th Michigan Infantry. Michgian State Archives via Seeking Michigan.com

John Heiser, Historian


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