Pvt. James A. Coburn, Co. K, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle, Wounding, and Imprisonment

17 01 2018

Letter from a Volunteer, Prisoner at Richmond.

Richmond, Aug. 4th, ’61.

My Dear Wife: — It has been some time now since I have had an opportunity of letting you know where I am. We left camp at Shuter’s Hill July 16th; marched to Fairfax Station; stopped there one night; next, we marched to Centreville, where we stayed two days. On the morning of the 21st we were turned out at one o’clock, but did not march until sunrise, when we were told we were to storm a battery that day. — We took up our line of march, and soon heard the booming of cannon. — Our destination proved to be Bull Run, where we arrived about one o’clock; when we commenced fighting, after a quick march, and also some double quick. I was somewhat fatigued, but went into it as hard as I was able. I was in the hottest of it for about an hour. The bullets flew like hail. Men fell on every side, some within an arm’s length. Suddenly our men began to retreat. When nearly alone I gave them a farewell shot (the Confederates), and turned to run. Had gone about 10 rods when I was struck by a rifle ball in my right hip. I fell, but crawled a few rods to a hole in some bushes. By the help of some of our men, I took off my shirt, and with that and a handkerchief I succeeded in stopping the blood. They there left me, and I lay down again in the hole. I was then between the two fires for about an hour. Our men then retreated out of hearing, and I was told they had gone back to Centreville, leaving us to our fate. The Southerners soon came up, and instead of abusing me, gave me a blanket, water and some buiscet, which I needed very much. I crawled about 20 rods that night and lay down, suffering much pain from the ball, which was still in. The next morning I could walk a little; went about 100 rods and lay down. The sight was horrible – men dead and dying on every side.

I was picked up about four o’clock Monday evening by the Southerners, and taken to Manassas Junction; stayed there two days – here the ball was taken out of my hip – thence by railroad to this place. We have been treated very kindly by the Southern people. I cannot say too much in their praise; especially the Sisters of Charity, who compose a part of our nurses.

My wound is doing very well. I hope in a couple of weeks to be pretty well. I can walk some now, and dress my wound. I hope that we will be exchanged when we are well. I think my fighting is done for the war. Even if I get well, I shall be so crippled as to be unfit for service; therefore I hope to get a discharge.

This letter must answer for you all at present. I don’t know when I can send you another. You cannot write to me. I hope to enjoy home again. I have been spared thus far by the hand of Providence alone, and I trust in Him who ruleth all things for my restoration to you.

From your affectionate husband,


Elizabethtown (NY) Post, 8/29/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

James A. Coburn at Ancestry

James A. Coburn at Fold3

38th NYSV roster