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Personal Recollections of the War of 1861

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Personal Recollections of the War of 1861
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Author(s): Charles A. Fuller
Date Published: 2011/09
Page Count: 120
Softcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-678-7
Hardcover ISBN-13: 978-0-85706-677-0

A first rate Civil War memoir of an outstanding Union Army regiment

The author of this book, Charles Fuller, was a young officer of the Union army at war with the Confederacy of Jefferson Davis during the American Civil War. He has written an excellent account of his time serving with ‘the Clinton Guard,’ the 61st New York Volunteer Infantry. Given the numerous infantry regiments of the Union Army it is often difficult for general readers to differentiate between them and decide which first hand accounts are worthy of serious attention. All are essential as source works, but some are more entertainingly written than others—Fuller’s book falls into this category. Firstly because he was a naturally good author with a keen eye, but most importantly because of the exemplary and vigorous service of his regiment. The 61st New York was rarely, if ever, up to strength, yet it repeatedly found itself embroiled in the fiercest of the fighting, casualties were very high in proportion to the men engaged and Fuller himself was seriously wounded eventually, losing both an arm and a leg. The 61st saw action at Fair Oaks, Antietam—where it was involved in a brilliant flanking action on Bloody Lane which is well described here—Fredericksburg and the charge on Marye’s Heights, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, where they went into the wheat-field 93 strong and came out of it with just 31 men, and so on through the conflict, being engaged in at least another fifteen major engagements before joining in the final pursuit of Lee’s army at Appomattox. Fuller, who took part in the campaigns of his regiment in full measure has left us a superb and intimate record of his time as a soldier, the men who fought with him and the actions of a magnificent regiment.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.

In my place as orderly I was directly behind Lieutenant Wm. H. McIntyre, commanding my company. Next to me, on the left, was Corporal Willey, an old friend from my town. As we were working our way to the front he spoke to me, and said, “Charley, am I hurt much?” I looked up and saw the blood running down the side of his face, and that a part of his ear had been shot away. I said, “No, nothing but a part of your ear is gone,” and we pressed forward.<br>
Soon we came upon the 52nd N. Y., I think of French’s Brigade, lying on the ground in line of battle. I suppose they had exhausted their ammunition and were waiting for our appearance. We passed over them, and advanced a few rods, when the order was given to halt. Then strenuous efforts were made by our officers to get the men up in the ranks and to dress the line; while this was going on no firing was had on either side. I did not see a rebel, and did not think one was within musket shot. Lieutenant McIntyre stood in the captain’s place, and I immediately behind him in the place of first sergeant. Suddenly a tremendous volley was fired by the enemy at short range, which was very destructive. McIntyre sank down with a deathly pallor on his countenance. He said, “I’m killed.” I stooped down and said, “Lieutenant, do you think you are mortally wounded?” He replied, “Yes, tell them I’m killed.” He never spoke again.<br>
A corporal in the next company was shot through the head and fell on to McIntyre’s body. I drew up my gun, fired, and then threw myself down behind these two bodies of my friends, loaded my gun, raised up and fired it. This process I repeated until the firing ceased. It was a ghastly barricade, but there was no time for the display of fine feelings. The call was to defeat the enemy with as little loss to ourselves as possible.<br>
I cannot say how long this firing continued, but the time did come when our shots were not replied to, and it was evident we had a clear front. While the firing was in progress I saw a sight that in all of my subsequent experiences was not equalled in shockingness. Sanford Brooks, a stalwart man of my company, and from my town, was shot through the head. The bullet entered at the side and just behind the eyes, and went through in such a manner as to throw the eyes fairly out of their sockets. The wound did not produce instant death, but destroyed his reason. The blow did not fell him to the ground—he stood upright with his gun clinched in one hand, his sightless eyes bulged out of his head, and he staggering about bereft of reason. He lived for a day or two, talking constantly of camp life, and the things that were on his mind before this fatal shot.<br>
After the firing had ceased, orders were given to get together and change position. I did not know that Second Lieutenant Coultis was wounded, and called for him. I was informed that he had been wounded early in the battle and had gone to the rear. This left me in command of the company, and I gathered up the fragments and marched them off.