This letter to the editor has been copied from The National Tribune, Thursday, July 24, 1913.
A photocopy was sent to me by Ed Boots, who had, in turn, obtained it from Ruth Fulton, a Civil War Plymouth Pilgrims DescendantsSociety historian for the 103d Pennsylvania Volunteers

First Time Under Fire.

A Rather Hot Initiation of a New York Boy at Batchelder's Creek.

Editor National Tribune: On February 4, 1864, I did my first duty as a soldier, the detail being a Corporal and three men of the 12th N.Y. Cav. in a swampy pine forest bordering the Trent and Neuse rivers in North Carolina. The duties of the cavalry at that point Batchelder's Creek, about nine miles from Newbern were of the easiest kind. At night we were withdrawn to the east side of the creek, leaving a Corporal and three infantrymen on the west side of the bridge the planks of which were all removed save one to give the alarm should the enemy make an appearance.

The squad consisted of about 30 men of the 132d N.Y. and the detail of cavalry already mentioned. About 3 o'clock in the morning the rebels came in in a hurry, and their ear-splitting yell brought every man to his post 30 men to 10,000, and only a narrow strip of water between!

True, the creek was deep, the banks steep and the night dark. I have always felt surprised that the rebels did not know of some point along the creek that would afford easy passage. However, these few men, strengthened by two or three companies, held these thousands at bay till the sun was many hours high.

Soon after daylight our Captain arrived, and for a time we were kept waiting for orders about half a mile in the rear of the fighting, but the hot work they were engaged in soon exhausted their ammunition, and as the enemy were felling trees to effect a passage it was not deemed wise to drive an ammunition wagon nearer the scene of action, so about a half a dozen of us were detailed to carry supplies to the front. As each box contained about 1,000 cartridges, and the sand was ankle-deep, it was no light task, and my comrades fell behind, some dropping their loads and sitting on them, as if the occasion was not urgent.

I pushed ahead and soon came to a bend in the road about 50 yards from the bridge.As I turned into the bend my load was getting heavy I could see men on my right clinging very close to the ground and facing west, and on my left the branches dropped from a grove of saplings. Strange sounds "zip," "zip" struck my ear, for it was my first time under fire.

As I approached the breastworks Lieut. Zenetti, of the 132d, walked from behind them and came toward me, and when about three yards separated us he was struck in the head, not moving a muscle after he fell. My load was soon in possession of the gallant infantrymen,and, having no further orders, I joined the string of men who were trying to discover the "other fellows" on the opposite side of the creek.

But we were not allowed to stay there long. Fifteen minutes afterwards a rebel yell told us that they had succeeded in felling trees to form a bridge a little north of us, in spite of the fierce resistance, and that it was time for us to be moving. The obstinate defense of the gallant New York boys gave the authorities time to get reinforcements from Morehead City and Beaufort, but the numerous little mounds in a small space opposite the temporary bridge bore mute testimony at what cost it was done. ???????? ??????, Sergeant, Co. ?, 12th N.Y. Cav.,Oak Hill, Kan. [Name and company were undecipherable on the photocopy which I received. This will be remedied at the first opportunity.]

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© copyright Kenneth Jennings Wooster
File created: February 13, 1999.
File modified: December 26, 2002.