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Lucius E. Bidwell
Co. B, 14th Connecticut Infantry
KIA at the Wilderness May 5 1864

"Our Heavenly Father has again saved your son Lucius safely through another battle ..." Lucius Bidwell to his mother 7 Feb 1864


In camp on North side of Rapidan, Feb. 7, 1864

My Dear Mother—

Our Heavenly Father has again saved your son Lucius safely through another battle and one of the worst kinds of a battle too. It was a night fight. Yesterday morning about 5 o’clock we were routed out of our beds with the orders to pack up and fall in. We took up our line of march for the River Rapidan at about nine o’clock in the morning and reached the river about an hour after. We crossed the Rapidan by fording it about noon. We had to ford it, it was up to our breasts and it was a very rapid stream, so much so that if we had accidentally slipped, we would have been carried down stream, and stood a very good chance of finding our graves at the bottom thereof. But as far as I know there was no accident of the kind happened, only now and then one would slip as he was crawling up the opposite bank, which was very steep, but no serious harm was done to my knowledge, but givng them a good dunking, and wetting their cartridges.

The water was very cold--it makes a fellow’s feet and legs ache, I tell you! But go it, we must follow our leader through fire and water. The regiment known as the Garbaldi’s Guards, a New York Regiment composed of Dutch, Irish, and Italians refused to wade because they said it was too deep. But General Hays, knowing of it, jumped from his horse without saying a word, and left his horse this side of the river and waded across to the other side, picking out good footing, and then waded back after his horse. They saw that he got over safe, so they finally plunged in, and arrived safely on the other side. I tell you what he is - a regular tiger! I suppose you have heard of him before. He is in command of our Division, and goes by the name of 'Fighting Ellick'. He rides along the line of skirmishers with his hat in his hand, cheering the men on, crying, 'Give them hell boys give them hell.’ He is an old tiger, he is most always a little tight when there is fighting going on and then he is in his glory.

He thinks the Old 14th is about right he is always pressing us up. He was with us in the thickest of the fight crying out 'give ‘em hell, 14th--Bully for you! Bully for you, go in, boys, go in 14th!’ and so on--the balls flying around his head like hailstones without flinching in the least. He is a regular dare devil!

We marched to a hollow facing the rebels breast works, and remained there until about 5 o’clock within rifle shot of their rifle-pits. They sent a few shells over to us, but most of them passed over harmless. But two or three took effect, killing three or four and wounding several. They had only fired several shots when it was ascertained that the Rebs had ...a solid line of battle advancing on us. We were ordered to advance. The bully 14th taking the load, and charged at the double quick time. They met us half way and poured an everlasting fire into us which caused us to waiver for a moment, and with a deafening yell we made a rush, pouring a volley of blue pills into them which they won't soon forget and put them to flight, and drove them to their rifle pits.

By this time it was dark as pitch, we could not see our foes until we met them face to face, some shot at one another and knocked each others brains out with the butt of the musket. We were fighting in squads most of the night, each man for himself.

Company B and G were on the left and met a stronger party of Reb skirmishers but we charged on them with our little rifles and with deafening yells, we loaded and fired and drove them back to their rifle pits. We then sculked under the cover of darkness to within a few rods of their rifle pits and then popped away at them until we were sent for to go and support our boys on the right, for the Rebs were trying to flank us.

We went it on the double quick over fences and ditches, we charged on a cluster of two or three houses which were full of Rebels. They swarmed in great numbers around the building, firing from the windows and around the corners and out houses, but we made a rush on them, driving them like sheep dragging their wounded along with them. The houses were full of them. We, and some of the others smashed in the doors, which were closed and fastened, and rushed in and some of the rebels grappled with us. We soon overpowered, but strange to say we took only one prisoner. They made their escape out the windows before we were aware of it. They then retired behind their breastworks, and we stretched out a long line of pickets, and remained so until we were relieved about one o’clock in the morning by the 1st Division and recrossed the Rapidan on a sort of bridge which was built. The rest of the troops recrossed the river again soon after.

The Rebs never molested them after we left. It was a daring undertaking in leading this dividsion over there into such a nest. I don’t know why we were not all captured, for we numbered only three thousand men. It must be the Rebs did not know how strong we were after dark or they would have come down on us in a strong body and showed us into the river and cut us all to pieces, but we got off very well after all.

I think the Rebs felt the weight of our bullets before we parted with them. We had no artillery to support us on that side of the river. We, all alone, with only our rifles. I don’t know the exact number of killed and wounded yet. They say we might have lost over one hundred. Our Color Sergeant Cody, was brought into camp and buried by the Regt. with the band. He was a noble fellow and fell doing his duty. One of my tent mates, a fine young man, was shot through the breast. He is a sailor and a native of Germany. I thought a great deal of him. His name is Harrison.

James Ingles was hit on the leg, and a man named Winks in our camp, and another German, was shot through the head (named Stinall) and another tent-mate of mine was hurt in the ankle. Our Major was slightly wounded in the leg. Capt. John Broaht, I hear, had his finger shot off, but I have not seen him yet. I hear he is detailed to go after the recruits but I don’t know how true it is. I must stop for room. Lieut. Russell is all right; he was very brave during the fight. I will write more soon.

So I will bid you good bye for the present and subscribe myself your affectionate son—Lucias Bidwell.

P.S. Since I began this , we have returned to our old camp. After being on picket 24 hours. After we arrived from the fight. McCluskey is unhurt and very well and sends his respects to you and all. Tell Mrs. Rogers that I guess she will have the pleasure of beholding us again after all. Give all the neighbors our love….

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Submitter: Sherri Cawley Notes:

The letter was written by Lucius E. Bidwell, Co. 'B', 14th Connecticut Infantry. He mustered into Company ‘B’ on August 20, 1862. Bidwell was WIA at Fredericksburg December 13, 1862 and was Killed in Action three months after this letter was written at the Wilderness on May 5, 1864. Interestingly, Bidwell writes in his letter of his beloved General Alexander Hays who died on the same day as Bidwell, May 5, 1864, three months after the Battle of Morgan’s Ford.

Brian Brown, author of In the Footsteps of the Blue and Gray: A Civil War Research Handbook which can be purchased from ABE Books kindly sends the following information:

In 1860, Bidwell is listed on the census of Middlesex Co, Connecticut, town of Milford, p, 245, as follows:
Bidwell, Mary 52 born Ct.
Lucius 24 printer born Ct.
Augustus 17 born Ct.
Lucius enlisted July 31, 1862 and was mustered in on 8/30/62. He was wounded in action on Dec. 13, 1862 and killed in action on May 5, 1864.

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