1863: William M. Hill to Parents

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In this cdv, William Knickerbocker wears the uniform of the 123rd New York Volunteers

These letters were written by Private William M. Hill (1842-1878) who enlisted at the age of 20 on 8 August 1862 at Granville to serve three years in Co. K, 123rd New York Infantry.  He mustered out with the company near Washington D. C. on 8 June 1865.

The 123rd New York Regiment started on the Atlanta campaign with Sherman’s army early in May and was active during the battles of Resaca, Cassville and Dallas, where it lost 23 killed and wounded, among the mortally wounded being Col. McDougall. Its losses at Kennesaw mountain aggregated 63 killed, wounded and missing, and at Peachtree Creek, 53. The following description of the fight at Peach Tree Creek comes from Seth C. Carey who served as adjutant of the 123rd New York Vols:

“In the afternoon of July 17 we left camp, crossed the Chattahoochie near Vinning’s Station, and at noon of the 20th lay just beyond Peach Tree creek. Between four and five o’clock we were startled by rapid firing in front; our pickets came hurrying in, saying that the enemy were close upon them. Our line was almost instantly formed, but none too soon, for we were hotly engaged before it was completed. Five or six times the enemy charged our lines with desperate valor, but every time they were disastrously repulsed. It was a hand-to-hand fight, without works or defenses of any kind. The loss of the 123d was about fifty killed and wounded, including Capt. Henry O. Wiley, of Co. K, killed, First Lieut. John H. Daley, of Co. E, mortally wounded, and Adjt. Seth C. Carey, severely wounded. The loss in our corps (the 20th) was nineteen hundred.”

William was the son of George W. Hill (1816-18xx) and Jane Foster (1827-1911) of Granville, Washington county, New York. According to his muster in records, William stood 5 foot 5 inches tall, had grey eyes, dark hair, and the dark complexion of a farmer.

[Note: The 21 July 1864 letter is from the private collection of Jim Doncaster and is published by express consent. The header image is a watercolor by Adolph Metzner depicting the Battle of Peach Tree Creek.]

Letter 1

Camp 123rd [New York] Regt.
July 21, 1863 [should be 1864]

Dear Father and Mother,

I take my pen to write you a few lines to let you know that I am yet alive & well but had the hardest battle that we have had this summer. But we whipped them. They [are] cut [up] very bad. Captain [Henry O.] Wiley ¹ was killed & Henry Welch ²  Gilford, Thomas Donohue ³ but [ ]. They will live if they have good care. We have got breastworks now.

Write as soon as you get this. I will write when I can get time. My love to all.

From your son, — William M. Hill


¹ Capt. Henry O. Wiley of Co. K was killed in action on 20 July 1864 at Peach Tree Creek in the fighting near Atlanta, Georgia.

² Corporal Henry Welch of Co. K was wounded in action at Peach Tree Creek on 20 July 1864. He did not return to the regiment.

³ Private Thomas Donohue of Co. K was wounded in action at Peach Tree Creek on 20 July 1864. He did not return to the regiment.


Letter 2

Camp of the 123rd Regiment
August 20, 1864

Dear Mother,

I received your letter the 20th and was very glad to hear from you & to hear you are all well. Your letter found me well.

We was in that battle that you spoke about and it was a hard fight too. The Rebs cut our railroad so we have not had any mail for some time but it is all right once more. The money came through all right & the hats also but I have not heard from Almira or Eunice. The Rebs might [have] got the letter first. If they did, I hope it will so them some good to read it for they ain’t something to do them good.

Well mother, I must stop & get supper. That will be coffee, hard tack and pork. Also the same for breakfast but we are glad to get that. I wish father would send that tobacco for it is very hard to get down here.

I am sorry to hear that Charley is sick. I hope he will get well for he was a fine boy. I would like to see him & the rest of the boys up there.

It rained all night & is very cool this morning. It looks so it might rain more. Tell Uncle Matt’s folks I am well and send my respects to them all.

Tell Mr. Granger if he was down here he could get some nice hoop poles. Tell John to write as soon as he can. I would like to hear from him & you must write oftener for you don’t know how much [good] it does us to hear from home. I must stop for this time. My love to you all.

From your son, — William M. Hill

Tell Ella to write as soon as she can get time. Goodbye.

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