Sgt. William L. Fleming, Co. G (1st), 13th New York Infantry*, On the Battle

19 05 2020

From Lieut.** Wm. L. Fleming.

Washington, D. C. July 24.

Dear Father – You are doubtless, ere this, advised of the great battle on Thursday last, and of course feel anxious to know if I am still among the living. I hope this will speedily reach you, and relive you of your fears and anxieties concerning me.

It is impossible for me at present to give you the details of that terrible battle, in which I participated, but I will give you a glimpse of the most important parts.

When our regiment came up to the scene of action, the rebels were out in the field, on and even footing with our troops, but they did not stand their ground long, as our fire mowed them down like grass, and they fled to their covers. The next move we made was to support our (Sherman’s) battery, where we lay some time, the shot and shell whistling around us thick and fast. We next made a charge at a house, close to their masked batteries, where they were shielded by bushes and trees. Here we stood some ten or fifteen minutes under a galling fire, our poor fellows dropping around us like falling leaves. We were told to stop firing, as those in the house were our troops. The infamous rebels displayed the American flag there to deceive us, which infamy they perpetrated several times during the day, to deceive and get the advantage of us. Such was the confusion thus induced, that our own troops commenced firing into us, supposing we were the enemy, killing several. This, together with a galling fire from the enemy’s masked batteries and muskets, compelled us to retreat, under a heavy cavalry charge. I was thrown down and trampled on, which induced an hemorrhage of the nose and mouth, but I shall, I trust, be all right again in a few days. Our boys did nobly throughout the fight. The Fire Zouaves, the 69th and 79th did bravely. The Zouaves made charge after charge till very many of them were killed and all much exhausted. It is impossible for me to tell at present how many of our regiment were killed, but our loss must have been heavy, 200 or more, I judge. It is a perfect marvel to me how I escaped being shot. I had made up my mind that I should unquestionably fall; but I resolved to do my duty, live or die. As I think of it now, it seems a miracle that so many balls, coming like a shower of hail around me, could all miss me. My garments were untouched with them, though like a hail storm they whistled the requiem of many a noble fellow by my side. This for the present must suffice. I am stopping for a few days here in Washington with brother Walter, who is doing finely now.

In haste, yours faithfully,
William.

Rochester (NY) Evening Express, 7/27/1861

Clipping Image

Contributed by John Hennessy

* This company transferred to the 3rd NY Cavalry after the battle.

** Records indicate William L. Fleming was First Sergeant of Co. G. His brother Walter M. Fleming enlisted as an Ensign and was commissioned 2nd Lt. 7/4/1861.

13th New York Infantry Roster 

William L. Fleming at Ancestry.com 

William L. Fleming at Fold3 


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