This letter was written by Pvt. William Crawford Foy (1833-1863) who served in Co. E, 11th Pennsylvania Reserves (40th Pennsylvania Infantry). William enlisted on 21 June 1861 and served with the regiment through the Peninsula Campaign and the Maryland Campaign before becoming a casualty at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. In that battle, the Pennsylvania Reserves were commanded by General Meade, attached to Reynolds Corps of Franklin’s Grand Division.
After the artillery duel on the 13th December, the 11th Pennsylvania Reserves were among the men ordered to assault the enemy’s works where William received a serious gunshot wound (“vulnus sclopet”). He died in a hospital in Alexandria, Virginia, on 3 January 1863. His captain, Daniel R. Coder, later wrote of the battle, “Never did I look back for support with more anxiety than on that fatal day; for on seeing but a single line advance I had anticipated the result. We lost color bearer after color bearer, I know not how many. I picked up the colors at three different times myself. The flag staff was shot off and the flag perforated in nineteen different places by rebel bullets. I took thirty-one men into the engagement, only one of whom came out safe. Four were killed, three mortally wounded, twenty-two wounded and one captured. Such was the fatality of company E. in the battle of Fredericksburg.”
William Foy and his brother, George Clinton Foy (1835-1863), both enlisted in the Federal service. George served as a private in Co. A, 78th Pennsylvania Infantry. His enlistment record indicates that he joined the regiment just three days prior to William’s letter. Unlike William, however, George was married before he entered the service. He was married in 1857 to Lavinia Rearick [Rarich] (1833-1904) and resided in Rural Village, Armstrong county, Pennsylvania. But like William, he did not return from the war. He was taken prisoner on 23 September 1863 and died at Libby Prison in Richmond on the 19th November 1863.
George’s pension file indicates that he had “contracted a sudden and severe sickness which disabled him from marching and consequently he was left with other sick at a house in [Lookout] Valley in care of Dr. Hosack until they could be sent to a hospital where they remained until after the Battle of Chickamauga, and after our army fell back to Chattanooga, they were taken prisoners by the enemy on the 23rd of September 1863.”
[Note: The location of the original letter is yet unknown but this photocopy of the letter was kindly provided by Bill Fulton.]
Fairfax Co., Virginia
Camp Pierpont ¹
October 15, 1861
I take the pleasure of penning a few lines to let you know I’m well and I hope you are enjoying the same blessing. John ² was over to see me yesterday. He was well. I did not know he was here till last week. I went over to see Robert C. Stunkard before I seen him. Robert C. Stunkard is now dead. He died of typhoid fever. I heard it since John was over.
We moved last week from camp Tennally to Camp Pierpont in Virginia—a distance of 9 or 10 miles. We are about 4 or 5 miles off the enemy but I think we will not have a fight here for I think they will retreat.
I want you to be ready to go along with me to my sister’s again [when] I go home—but says you, if you get home. But if I do get home, I want to go and see her the first place I go as she is fretting because I’m out here. Now mind, I want you to go along for sure. My brother George is in the army [too].
Mary Jane, I think if I had an old wife to cook for me and so on, I would have stayed with her. What do you think, Jane, as we are middling through now? And [I was] hoping to have the pleasure of talking with you again. You must excuse the shortness of this letter. Please give my best respects to Uncle and Aunt and the rest of my cousins. Tell Uncle & Aunt I think John will make a soldier and that he is hearty. And I want you to have two pretty girls picked out for us to squeeze the first night after we get home.
John thinks I am getting fat & I think so too. And if nothing goes wrong, I can wrestle you when I get home. Jane, I think I must close for this time. Nothing more at present but I remain your cousin and friend, — Wm. C. Foy
Address Wm. C. Foy, Co. E, 11th Regt P. R. C., Care of Col. Gallagher, Washington D. C.
¹ Camp Pierpont was located near Langley, Virginia.
² John Collins Fulton served in Co. H, 12th Pennsylvania Reserves. See: The John Collins Fulton Diaries.