This letter was written by Cpl. Joseph Reed (1841-1927) of Battery B (Cooper’s Batter), 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery (a.k.a. 43rd Pennsylvania Volunteers). Reed enlisted on 28 June 1861 and was promoted to corporal on 2 August 1861. He was later promoted to sergeant in April 1864 and mustered out with his regiment on 9 June 1864 after 3 years service.
Joseph Reed was the son of William B. Reed (1807-1871) and Jane Johnston (1811-1891) of North Beavem Lawrence county, Pennsylvania. After leaving the service, Joseph Reed married (April 1865) to Harriet J. Hannah (1839-1918).
In this letter, Cpl. Reed tells his friend of the cannonading near the Great Falls on the Potomac River twenty miles west of Washington D. C. while attached to General Reynold’s First Brigade.
On the first day of the Battle of Gettysburg, Battery B was posted on Seminary Ridge but could not hold their position and were driven back into the town. Cpl. Reed was wounded by a shot from a Rebel 20-pounder gun that struck the ground immediately in front of his gun and exploded beneath it. The explosion killed two privates on his gun crew — Jesse Temple and Daniel W. Taylor.
See also — 1861: George Bender to Jackson Bender
Big Falls [Great Falls, Maryland]
September 15th 1861
I take the present opportunity of writing you a few lines. It is so long since I received your kind letter that I am ashamed to say I am answering it although it is a good while since I have heard from you. Yet you may rest assured that you are not forgotten by your old friend.
We are now encamped twenty miles from Washington near the Big Falls on the Potomac River. We expect to go back to Tenleytown [Tenallytown] tomorrow. Tenleytown is six miles from Washington. The “Secesh” shot at us about a week ago & missed us clean & clear by jingo. They never touched us. They shot at us about an hour & a half with six cannons — two of which were twelve-pounders & the other four were six-pounders. The shells whistled over & around us but never touched a hair of our heads. When they commenced shooting at us our boys were at their posts in less than ten seconds but the old colonel would not let us shoot. He said he thought they wanted to find out the strength of our force on this side of the river & he was determined they should not. We retreated about a mile back into the woods & there we have remained undisturbed ever since.
Last week we moved our pieces down in the river bank & shot fifty-five rounds at them, We shot into every house & barn we saw but we received no reply & everything has been quiet since.
Friend Jackson, I have not got much more to write to you at present. When you write to me, I want you to tell me what you are doing — whether you are going to school or teaching. I would have written to you sooner but I have not time. We have a good deal to do since we got our guns & horses. And another thing — we have such a poor way of writing. I am writing this on my knee & I am sitting on a log out here in the woods.
Jackson, I want you to write soon. Excuse all mistakes for they are numerous. I will puzzle you to read this writing for I believe it is the worst I have made for some time. This leaves me in good health & I hope it may find you in the same fix. Shorty is well. No more at present but I remain your friend till death.
— Jo Reed
To Jackson Bender