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The Seventy-Eighth New York Regiment, The Cameron Highlanders

Letters of the 78th New York


Please NOTE: These letters will be typed up verbatim, with all the spelling and syntax errors left intact.


  • Letter from Sergeant Grenan

    A day or two since, Serg't Grenan of the 78th Regiment, (recruited at Buffalo,) returned home from a Maryland hospital, where he has been since the 17th of September last; when he was wounded at the Battle of Antietam. He has an honorable discharge from the service on account of his wounds. Serg't Grenan is ten years past the age exempting him from service; but patriotically enlisted and went to the field in October, 1861. He was at Harper's Ferry, Charlestown, Rapphannock, Slaughter Mountain, White-Sulphur Springs, South Mountain, and Antietam. The following letter we have received for publication:

    ROCHESTER, Jan. 21, 1863

    I arrived in this city last friday from Smoketown hospital, Maryland, where I have lain since the 17th of Sept, by reason of a fracture of the lower jaw that I received in the battle of Antietam that day. I would attempt to detail some of the particulars of the battle, but you doubtless have had it all from much abler pens than mine; permit me, however, to mention a few particulars, not because you may not have heard then, but I think they can not be too notorious. I saw the intrepid Palmer lead in his regiment (almost in size like a Brigade) and well did his men sustain the order in which their determined leader moved them down to the scene of action. Palmer and his 108th made deadly havock in there enemy's ranks. I may be well excused for naming a few of my own officers and men. Let me mention my Lieut. Col. and Major, I mean Lieut. Col. Austin and Major Blanchard; two truer sons of Mars never were strapped on warriors harness. The coolness with which they gave their orders and demanded a strict compliance, and received the same, speaks but too plain that soldiers' quality so superlatively pre-eminent in the storm of battle. I would say of all out troops at South Mountain and Antietam, that we have lessened the numbers of the foe over thirty thousand, and I am far from stating or wishing to state that the enemy did not fight bravely; we lost eighteen thousand in those two last battles, and we will fight the enemy every day of the week on the same grounds, that is 30 to 18. If they had to hunt us through the North as we do them through the South, and at their own doors and in their own homes, where would they be found? Our company and regiment were small by the time that the battle of Antietam came on, and we had but one commissioned officer to lead our company in that deadly battle, and that was our 2d Lieut., (W.R. Randall) and he done his duty like a New York officer should do it. When my jaw was shot, my part of the game was over.

    THOS. R. GRENAN

    First Serg't Co. H, 78th Reg't, N.Y.V.


  • Letter from Sergeant Grenan

    ROCHESTER, Jan. 21, 1863

    A word to the public in relation to the hospital and some of those persons who administered to the sick and wounded therein; and in where I have been attended from Sept. 17th until 18th inst. Dr. Vanderkift was the surgeon in charge. At most, there were then 800 sick or wounded. Something over 700 were wounded in the battle of Antietam; the rest were sick of various kinds of disease; and a more fortunate circumstance could not have occurred to the wounded than to have Dr. Vanderkift take charge at that time. He is amongst the most able of his profession, and I know of nothing that I could say that would blason his skill as a surgeon, or add lustre to his humane and polished character. Among those who assisted him professionally are, Surgeon Chambers, of the 60th N.Y., and Surgeon Ely, of Rochester, both ornaments to their profession and the position which they fill. The kind and cordial attention of young Ely is a theme of frequent remarks of the wounded soldiers of Smoketown camp. There were others there besides the doctors who ministered to the sick. The accomplished Miss Maria C. Hall, of Washington, D.C., gave her unceasing attention to the sick and wounded soldiers of Smoketown hospital for about four months of my confinement here. Her self-sacrifice is worthy of something more than a newspaper notice. With untiring perseverance she dealt out to the poor, wounded soldier the delicacies that he could relish, and which, by Government regulations, he could not get. With her cheering presence, (which came as often as the day,) luxurious delicacies to eat and drink, and clothing, when necessary. Such noble women as she strips the battle-field of half its terrors. And were there any ladies from Maryland? Yes! There was the gay and youthful Miss Kerfoot, the polished and refined daughter of the President of the college at Hagerstown. She was then taking lessons in that superior humanity of her worthy social sister, Miss Hall. When I went to receive my rations, they were both dealing their delicacies to the sick and wounded with an almost wasteful hand. I know they must have drank deep of love of superlative purity.

    Mrs. Lee, of Philadelphia, a woman of about 40 or 50 years of age, was another of her sex whose good qualities of head and heart make her one of those superior ornaments of her sex. Miss Hall and Mrs. Lee deserve a pension from the Government, not so much to pay them from their time and money spent in nursing and caring for the wounded soldiers, as to show that the government is ready to reward superlative virtue as to punish even an ordinary vice.

    Should the hand that tempers the wind to the shorn lamb preserve Miss Kerfoot in life and health to riper years, she will equal, if not surpass, her worthy, social sisters above named.

    On the 13th of January, 1863, I left Smoketown field hospital, Washington County, Md., and next day at noon arrived at Harrisburg, Pa., by Railroad, where we stayed over night at a place called the "Soldiers Rest", kept and supported by two gentlemen of that city, and from the appearance of the women then in the "Rest", and from conversation with them, I saw they were of the first rank in society. When we came to the table I saw it covered by the delights of the variest epicure, and when I saw the profusion of eatables at each successive meal, I thought it must be State or City matter, but on inquiring of one of the ladies she told me the building was erected by two gentlemen and supported by them at their own expense. They certainly, I think, must be wealthy, not only in money, but in that patriotism for which their State is so noted. This place is right at the Railroad Depot, and is attended by a man. These two gentlemen have to wait on and direct the tired, passing soldier. The ladies at the "Soldiers Rest" have volunteered for two days each, about six at a time. They give their time free and are, I believe, all of wealthy families. If these ladies are a sample of the State of Pennsylvania, I don't wonder that their men are such good soldiers, because such mothers, wives, sisters and daughters as these would make, would not live with any other kind of men. May the days and numbers of the Pennsylvania ladies be equal to their hospitality.

    THOS. R. GRENAN

    1st Serg't Co. H, (78th Reg't) N.Y.V.



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