Pvt. Perry Mayo, Co. C, 2nd Michigan Infantry, On the Campaign

13 06 2022

Camp Winfield Scott
Washington, D. C
July 8, 1861

Dear Father and Mother: I again take my pen in hand to send a few lines in haste as this is the last opportunity I shall have of writing from here and maybe the last you will hear from me in some time. Before you hear from me again, we shall have an engagement as we are under orders to march into Virginia immediately. As our orders are sealed, no one knows where we are going, but I presume it is Fairfax Court House. All the troops here are moving forward now with utmost dispatch except just enough for the defense of the Capitol.

There was an attack on the picket guards last night and two were killed. I saw their bodies this morning.

I wrote to you yesterday, but I thought I would let you know we were gone. My health and spirits are first rate and I feel able to do my duty in action any moment, but I guess Dana Bostwick will be sick when the pinch comes.

Nothing more at present. I shall write again just as soon as there is any chance of getting anything through.

P.S. I rec[eive]d a letter from grandmother this afternoon. They are all well. I have also rec[eive]d one from S[teadman] Lincoln in Hancock. He desires me to give his best respects to you and mother. Nothing more at present but my love and best respects to you all for the moment.

I remain yours in haste.

P[erry] Mayo

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Georgetown, [D.C]
July 23, 1861

Dear Father and Mother: I take my pen in hand to let you know that I still live. I have just arrived from that terrible battlefield and am now safe again in the land of freedom. I was in the field during both the engagements and escaped with no other injury than a sprained ankle and two ball holes in my clothes, one in my cap and the other in my blanket which was done up in a roll and passed over my right shoulder. This was done on the first day of the engagement at Bull Run.

We left camp Scott on the 16th and marched to Vienna (the town where the cars were fired into sometime since) where we slept in a marsh, and I caught a very heavy cold. The next day we marched within 4 miles of Centreville, and after our days march I was so overcome that the doctor was called. The next morning I got a ride and kept along with the company until noon when I stopped to rest and got about a mile and a half behind when I heard the cannonading commence and hurried up as fast as I could and got up so as to go into action with the N[ewl Y[ork] 12th which was next to us in the brigade.

We marched down a long hill through a wheat field and attacked them in a piece of woods where they had a masked battery and some 20,000 men hid in the scrub pines like so many “ingins.” At the first fire we rushed in, I supposing the whole time that our boys were in ahead of us which did not prove to be the fact as they had gone farther along out of our sight and laid down. After the first volley we got behind trees and took them at their own game and fired four rounds when we retreated over a knoll under cover of our cannon. In the retreat my ankle was hurt so I could scarcely walk, but when my company came around, [I] got off, with a little help, out of danger. We then went back some two miles and camped to await that terrible Sunday, long to be remembered.

On the morning of the 21st we were called out at sunrise expecting to go into the hottest part of the engagement. The Capt[ain] told me, as I was too lame to make a quick movement, to remain, but, as I did not like the notion of having anyone else fill my place, I formed in and marched on the field where we were held from morning till night in a suspense that cannot be described. We imagined the fight was raging in the most terrible manner on our right, with a volley every few minutes on our left, and a heavy cannonade from four of our batteries within eighty rods of our front. The smoke would frequently settle over the knoll on our lines. We were formed three lines in line of battle but did not get near enough to fire a shot.

Our brigade and Col[onel] Richardson were complimented for saving the whole army, after our forces gave way on the right and were retreating in the utmost confusion. The enemy made an attempt to break our left and cut off our retreat, but the Col[onel] withdrew his brigade and threw it into a field and formed us all behind a large stone wall. The enemy came to the edge of the woods just out of range of our guns and as they did not like the looks of our bayonets sticking over the wall they very prudently retreated. Had they come out, we would have shown them some tall specimens of Michigan marksmanship.

After their retreat we formed in line along a piece of woods where our men slept on their arms until midnight and then the division retreated toward Washington (the rest of the army had a left unbeknown to the Capt[ain] or ourselves). As the exertion of the day was too much for me, I was soon left behind to fall a prisoner in the hands of the enemy. After getting along for about two miles, I fell in with a member of one of the Conn[ecticut] Reg[imen]ts who was wounded in the head, and we made out to find an old horse which carried us both safe through to Arlington Heights. I do not know where the regiment or division is but presume I shall find it in time. There was two or three of Co[mpany] C sick down there, and I do not know what became of them. The rest were together. None of them were hurt. I am able to walk around a little by using my gun for a crutch and will probably not be able to get around much for some time. My health otherwise is better than could be expected. Our loss in the first engagement was about 60 killed and wounded, but I can form no estimation of our loss in the last battle.

I saw Con Nickerson the day before the last fight but have not heard from the regiment since. I understand they are badly cut up and their Col[onel] killed. I rec[eive]d your letter of July 5th just before starting.

The manner of disposing of my money that you spoke of suits me well enough as I suppose it safe there and hereafter. In regard to any of my business there, act to the best of your judgement and you may depend on its gro[w]ing satisfaction on my part.

I would write more but do not feel able so I must close for the present by sending my love and best wishes to you all while I remain your son.

Perry Mayo

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Washington City, D. C.
August 2, 1861

Dear Father and Mother: I rec[eive]d your very welcome letter of July 26th yesterday and was very glad to hear from you as I had begun to think you were all dead or had forgotten to write.

I wrote home the next day after the retreat from the field of Bull Run. In a few moments after writing to you I found one of our baggage wagons and was carried to our camp where I have been lying for the past ten days in the hospital receiving treatment for my ankle which had by that time become very much swol[l]en and somewhat painful. I am hap[p]y to inform you that I am now much better and was discharged from the hospital yesterday. I can get around now very well with a cane but cannot do duty yet. When I arrived in camp I found the company bad counted me among the prisoners and that Capt[tain] Byington had sent a company back 15 miles in hopes of finding me, but as they went on a different road from the one I came, they did not arrive in camp until sometime after I did.

The reg[imen]t retreated to Alexandria, some ten miles from our camp at the Chain Bridge, and afterwards moved to Arlington Heights where our camp now is.

We are all in first rate health and spirits once again, and the boys have some lively games of ball in which I hope to be able to take a part.

I am very glad to hear that you have the wheat in safe, but I am sorry to hear of the damage done by Gordon’s stock, and as to damages, I know him so well that I never expect the first cent in that line. I send you, however, by this letter full power of attorney and you must do the best you can in the premises.

In regard to the expenses of harvesting my wheat, I expect you to take a sufficient amount from any money belonging to me which may come into your hands to indemnify you against all loss. I sent home $25 of my wages by express which you will get of A. Noble of B[attle] Creek. This is my U[nited] S[tates] pay from the 25th of May to the 25th of June, together with my mileage. There is now over a month’s pay due me beside my state money. I can send it all home as soon as I get it.

You wish me to state a few of the particulars of the fight but you have no doubt seen more correct and elaborate accounts than I can possibly give you. You seem to doubt the reports of their loss being equal to or greater than ours. Of this you need have no doubt, as from a hill just in front of our lines, we could see the whole battle. At one time, about 1 P.M., the enemy sent a very strong force of infantry up a long lane to attack our center, and Major Hunt’s Battery of Flying Artillery was sent from our side to intercept them. The Battery kept concealed behind a small hill in the road until the rebel columns had advanced nearly within pistol shot, when the guns were moved up as quick as lightning to the top of the hill. And before the enemy could form in line, they rec[eive]d such a shower of grape and canister that it seemed as though their whole column was struck to the ground as by one stroke from the hand of the Almighty.

This Battery (Hunt’s) consists of six pieces of brass cannon, 12 pounders, and in this engagement they were assisted by two 32 pounders from another battery. Whet few was left after the first two rounds from the battery made good their escape to the woods, but their number was few.

There was partial successes on both aides during the day but our men had the field fairly gained and had driven the enemy in nearly every point, but owing to some bungle and an affright amongst our teamsters, caused
by a charge from their cavalry, we were obliged to stand and see the whole lost without firing a gun. Our loss was perhaps 1,000 killed and wounded and their loss must have been greater. They were too much crippled to make an attempt to follow up the retreat.

I do not think of anything more of interest just now.

I am in receipt of a letter from grandmother, also one from Aunt Charlotte and S[teadman] Lincoln of Hancock, [New York]. He desires me to send his respects to you and mother. They are all well.

Write as often as you can, and next time write me a good long letter if you can find time.

Nothing more at present from your son.

Perry Mayo

Contributed by Jon-Erik Gilot with the following annotation: I found a file of these letters… in the archives at Wheeling University… These transcripts were apparently sent to a former historian at Wheeling College, Rev. Cliff Lewis, for his review prior to publication. The letters are held in the archives at Michigan State University, and were published by Michigan State in 1967.

Transcription images

2nd Michigan Infantry, Co. C roster

Perry Mayo at Fold3

Perry Mayo at FindAGrave