1862: Peter Hardy to Arba Lafayette Hardy

Pvt. Albert H. Davis of 6th New Hampshire

Pvt. Albert H. Davis of 6th New Hampshire

This account of the battles of South Mountain and Antietam was written by 49 year-old Pvt. Peter Hardy (1813-1898) of Company C,  6th New Hampshire. It was the 6th New Hampshire and the 2nd Maryland that made the crossing at Burnside’s Bridge with The 51st New York and the 51st Pennsylvania after several failed attempts on the morning of 17 September 1862. They, with other regiments, successfully drove the Rebels back to Sharpsburg until the arrival of reinforcements from A. P. Hill’s Division stalled the attack. Hardy wrote the letter from the Antietam Iron Works on the Potomac River where his regiment rested a few days after the battle before moving over Maryland Heights to Pleasant Valley where it remained several weeks.

Pvt. Hardy was the son of David Hardy (1776-1849) and Hannah Hardy  (1776-1833). [David and Hannah were cousins.]  Peter was married first to Lydia P. Hunt (1808-1860) in 1834. He married second to Abigail S. Pevere (1816-1902) in September 1861, just as he enlisted in the 6th New Hampshire. He was mustered out of the service in April 1863 at Providence, Rhode Island.

Peter wrote the letter to his younger brother, Arba Lafayette Hardy (1821-1901). Arba married Eliza Jane Wingate (1830-1907) in 1848 in Scott County, Indiana. About 1867, Arba and Eliza moved to a farm seven miles southeast of Kingston, Missouri. Oral history in the family says that Arba and his brother Ephraim were eccentric.

The envelope was postmarked Washington D.C. and the chaplain of the 6th New Hampshire, John Alexander Hamilton (1829-1922), has written the words “Soldier’s Letter, J. A. Hamilton, Chaplain 6th N.H.” on the corner. This suggest to me that Pvt. Hardy gave the letter to the chaplain to hand-carry to Washington D.C. to be mailed from there.

1862 Letter

1862 Letter

Addressed to Arba L. Hardy, Esqr., Lexington, Scott County, Indiana
Soldier Letter, J.A. Hamilton, Chaplain 6th N.H.
Postmarked Washington D.C.

Antietam Iron Works, September [1862]

We are on the East bank of the Potomac over about seven miles above Harper’s Ferry near the battlefield _____ to rest.

Antietam Iron Works

Antietam Iron Works

Dear brother,

Received a letter from you last night and one the other day & think you will excuse me for not writing sooner when you learn what I have been through for the last six weeks since I wrote to you. The next day after I wrote we had orders to march. We marched to Culpepper and to Cedar Hollow and then to Kelly’s Ford on Rappahannock River and it was there I was taken sick and [took the] cars on to Washington to the Hospital. Staid there two weeks and left before I had ought to. I was anxious to be with the regiment. While there the regiment got cut up like hell at Bull Run. I started Tuesday morning after the regiment with [paper creased]… I did not overtake them until Saturday noon. I had only two hours ro rest before the regiment started and marched until ten at night. Sunday morning started again and marched until four in the afternoon and with our battalion went in to the Battle of South Mountain and piled up the damn rebels in winrows. In front of our regiment, they laid in all directions. I counted twenty in one pile behind a stone wall. In one small field five hundred laid dead. So much for their fooling [with] the Union. Rebels lay in all directions — some across stone walls, others in the road, some with their heads in holes, and always poor, dirty, ragged sons of bitches without shoes or anything else to make them look decent. Poor deluded devils; I could but pity them.

Drawing by Edwin Forbes of Union Troops Crossing Burnside Bridge

Drawing by Edwin Forbes of Union Troops Crossing Burnside Bridge

We started about noon on Monday. Went to Boonesborough and buttoned for the night. Tuesday the batteries began to play. Killed two of our men and two mules near us. Wednesday morning the battle opened in earnest. The account of the Battle [of Antietam] you have seen so I will not attempt to give you an account of [it] but will tell you a little that I saw myself. We were on the left wing and could not see the center or right. The New Hampshire 6 and Maryland 2 were ordered to charge across the Antietam Bridge and made the charge, went over and up the hill and took on the enemy ground for three hours but many of our proven soldiers breathed their last and many more were wounded at the charge. It seemed as though the ground trembled under us and I think it did. And why should it not? A continual drone of musketry and forty cannon all belching forth their terrible thunder. I could but think after the battle was over that I was saved for some service yet unknown to me. I escaped with a whole skin but my clothes were somewhat riddled and the shell bursted all round me.

When I was on picket after we crossed the bridge that night, we stood on the battlefield ready if the damn rebels had not got enuff to give them some more but they took the wisest course and run and we had not the means to stop them. If we had a few thousand troops on the other side of the river, the damn devils would not have bothered us anymore this fall. But we done pretty well as it was. We took more than thirty thousand of their troops and thirty-five thousand stands of arms, thirty-five stand of collars and more than twenty cannon besides baggage and other stores. Two purty good days work for us.

My health is not good. I have got the liver complaint and have the diarrhea all the time and tiring is damn poor and we have laid outdoors mighty all the time until we got here since we left the Potomac Bridge and often in the rain and early dews nights.

Do not fear that your are writing to the devil when you write to me. If I am killed you will see it in the papers. I can not write to you when I am on the march for I get so tired that I can not. You must write to me once a week. If I do not write, I will write as often as I can. I have been wanting to write Ephraim for a long time but my health has not been good and the duty that I have to do tires me out most every day so I do not feel like writing and he can hear from me when I write to you. I [paper creased] to be with and tell you about the battle and take a little whiskey. I shall write often if we stop here. Direct your letters [to] Washington. I have no ink so you must find this out if you can.

From your brother, — P. Hardy



About Griff

My passion is studying American history leading up to & including the Civil War. I particularly enjoy reading, transcribing & researching primary sources such as letters and diaries. View all posts by Griff

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