If you have been following my latest series of posts, you know that I’ve been talking about the 93rd New York photographs from August 1863 and the casualties suffered during the Overland Campaign. Well, here is yet another. This tale is told by a poet.
After the two-day Battle of the Wilderness, the 93rd New York counted up its losses. The regiment had suffered 260 casualties: four officers killed, forty-one enlisted men killed, two enlisted men missing, and 213 officers and enlisted men wounded, twenty-five of whom later died. With barely a pause, the regiment followed the Army of the Potomac into its next fight, the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House. The regiment fought every day for the next ten days, but it engaged most heavily during the charge against the Mule Shoe salient on May 12. By the end of the week, another forty-five officers and men had been killed or wounded.
One of the casualties from this week of bloodshed was Corporal Samuel M. Peters of Company G, age 34, of Waterford, New York, who fell wounded during the assault against the salient. As he told his story to a friend, “I was standing on the rebel breastwork near Col. [John] Crocker and Lieut. [Simon] Newcomb, when a bullet struck me in the right groin and immediately another struck me in the left hip and knocked me down as quick as if I had ‘been shot’.” Knocked back by these two successive musket balls, Corporal Peters fell into a pile of mud and began swearing loudly. Eventually, two men from his regiment carried him to the rear.
While in the hospital, Peters completed a short poem, an epitaph to the men from his regiment who had been killed. He had started this poem on May 6 amid a lull in the Battle of the Wilderness. Now, he found an opportunity to put in the final lines. Eventually, veterans from the regiment published a version of his poem in the regimental history. However, what appears below is his first draft, the one that Peters mailed home on May 19, 1864:
To the mustered-out Battalion of the 93d New York Veteran Volunteers:
Ye are mustered out, ye glorious men,
And the ringing peal of your battle shout
Is heard no more in the woodland glen
Where your earth lives poured so freely out;
Perhaps your spirits linger now
Amid the lurid smoke and flame,
Where every dying hero’s brow
Was wreathed in never-dying fame.
Ye are mustered out, ye glorious men,
And I love to think as the hot tears gush
How ye thundered through that woodland glen,
With a wild hurrah and a headlong rush
Cheering, rallying, onward still!
The ranks grew thin, but the line swept on,
And the glorious flag flew from hill to hill
Till the field was ours, and the victory won.
Like most soldiers from the 93rd New York, Peters was shocked by his first battles. He told his friends, “The battle of Spotsylvania Court House was a touch above any general training I ever attended and the list of killed and wounded will be likely to prove it. We fought the gray backs from the 5th to the 12th, they under cover, we the attacking party, and my acquaintance with the boasted chivalry of the South has not exalted them much in my estimation.”
Interestingly, Peters mentioned a curious detail about one of the dead lieutenants in his regiment: “Dr. Gray’s son, Liston, was killed on the 5th. I hid his body and can find it again if not taken away.”
Peters recovered from his wound and returned to duty, becoming the regiment’s principal musician. He was killed in action on October 27, 1864, at the Battle of Burgess Mill. He was buried on the field and today his gravesite is unknown.
Here is Company G, 93rd New York. Somewhere in this image, I don't know where, is the poet-soldier, Samuel Peters.
|Here is a close up of Lt. Gray, the officer that Peters buried.|
|Just because I prefer to overdo things, here is another close-up of Lt. Gray, this one taken from the staff photograph.|