9 July 1863: “It is said to have been certainly the most terrific fight of the war.”

Item description: Letter, 9 July 1863, from Benjamin Franklin Little, a Confederate officer from Richmond County, NC, to his wife Mary Reid “Flax” Little. Little relates the amputation of his arm, the conditions of the hospital, and worries over the well-being of his men and lieutenants. Little occasionally repeats words and mentions in a later letter that he was “foggy from the use of chloroform and morphine.” Little would later go on to be a state legislator and serve as delegate to the Democratic National Convention in St. Louis, MO in 1876.

[Item transcription available below images.] 

18630709_01 18630709_02 18630709_03

18630709_04 18630709_05 18630709_06

Item citation: From Folder 6 of the Benjamin Franklin Little Papers, #3954, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Item transcription:

Near Gettysburg PA. July the 9th, 1863

My dear Flax: I write simply a line to inform you of my condition. In an engagement friday afternoon near Gettysburg, about 3 P.M. I received a wound in my left arm. It was broken by a musket ball above the elbow. W. F. Landford of my company was near me when I was wounded he having been taken prisoner after the battle was about over assisted me from the field I lay out that night but was furnished with blankets and otherwise very kindly treated by the enemy. I reached this place (a Federal Hospital about 2 miles from town) Saturday the 4th, and my arm was ampu. that afternoon by surgeons with whom I had all confidence. It was taken off at the middle third and of course does not leave much – save for 6 inches. I had no knowledge of the going on of the operation – as I was under the influence of chloroform, but it was pretty painful afterwards – but is I think getting on very well. The place is running nicely and I begin to have a good appetite. Dr. Oakley (to whom let me introduce to you all as a gentleman whom I think eminently qualified for the position he fills) has just brought to my bed a nice lemon in a whiskey toddy – which I suppose will not hurt, though I seldom take any thing further than tea or coffee. The attention given me is as good as I could desire and you know that I always mean what I say. I am in a room with 3 other wounded, one a Lt. from the 13th  Mis. and we are very comfortable. I was in the fight on the 1st but not hurt – Capts Mcleain and Blackburne were both killed that day – 7 of my men wounded. I can not state with certainty who of my men  were actually killed the day I was wounded, but several were shot down – no doubt several were killed. It is said that Col – Marshall and and Maj. Richardson were both killed. Lt. Col. Parks fell near me shot through the thigh, bone not broken. Mr. Maner I found as I was being carried to the rear and I had him carried out with me but was separated from him – He was badly wounded but no bones broken. I handed Mr. Sanderford my ring, which I would have kept if I had known he was to be separated from me – He has the ball which broke my arm and lodged in my clothing. But I see I should not have communicated details – I  hope you will get more correct news of the fight than I can give you. I feel truly thankful that it is no worse with me. It is said to have been certainly the most terrific fight of the war. Let us trust that our Heavenly Father will allow us to meet on earth, if not, may we be able to say “His will” not others be done. I can not now say when or whether I may be allowed to leave. But I hope that as I am certainly disabled for service the north that I may be allowed to go home. Let us look to Him who doeth all things, well for those who love him A brighter day will surely dawn my own true one and I trust that all may be home together My love to Ma and John and family and many kisses to the dear children. Your own devoted husband – B. F.  Little.

I will write again soon if I have any assi. getting a letter through.

I can sit up, and do, a little occasionally, but the the Dr thought the time required to write my letter would tax my “stump” too much. I do not know what became of my lieuts. Lt. B was in charge of the ambulance corps exposed I heard that Dr McDonald was taken prisoner after I was wounded, but can not vouch for its accuracy. I saw several of my men who were captured and not hurt. I could not hear a word from Lt Austin. I hope he was spared – though it seemed that nothing save a merciful Providence could shield one of us in our position. But I must stop – this this. The authorities have to read it and I hear they will get tired and throw it it in the fire.


Do not write more than one page of letter or foolscap paper next time.

Examining Officer

Fort Monroe VA. 

This entry was posted in Southern Historical Collection and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.