During the Battle of Gettysburg, First Lieutenant Waters Whipple Braman, 23, and his regiment, the 93rd New York Infantry, served as Army of the Potomac commander George G. Meade’s headquarters guard. Two days after battle’s end, Braman, who had sold his lumber business in 1861 to join the army, wrote a letter (copied below) to his uncle in which he provided his intital thoughts about the epic engagement. Braman would serve for the remainder of the war, rising to the rank of captain and experiencing many close calls, including at the Wilderness, where he reportedly was hit by no less than five bullets. After the war, he returned to the lumber business, married, and became active in New York State politics. He died in 1893 at age 53.
Camp of 93rd N.Y.V.
Near Gettysburg P.a.
July 5th 1863
Your kind and welcome letter was received at Westminister M.d. I am glad to learn that your health is so good as to enable you to attend to business as I know you are apt to do when well. With you I trust to return safe from this war and that too the same as I left home, and rest assured should any of your family ever stand in need of a friend, my life will be all to short to repay the debt of gratitude I owe to you, who have ever been a more than Father to me.
We have had an awful fight here, but thank the Lord, our Army has given the Rebels an ever-lasting thrashing. The heaviest fighting was yesterday, and to-day they are in full retreat, and our army entire is after them. This is the first time since the organization of the army of the Potomac that the rebels have met our men in open field, fight, and I dont believe they would this time but that (as the prisoners say) their officers told them they were to fight the militia, but they found to their cost that the old army of the Potomac was around. We must have taken about 8,000 prisoners, the loss in killed and wounded on both sides must be 25,000, and some say the rebels alone have lost that number. Genl Lee tried to come the flag of truce game on Genl Meade, but it failed to work. Genl Meade sent back word that he would bury their dead for them.
We are encamped about 1/2 a mile from Gettysburg, right on the Battlefield which is very large. I have seen but very little of it, as we have been momentarily under orders to be ready to move. We expect to go to Emmettsburg in the morning. About a week ago our 2nd Lt was detailed to take charge of a squad of men to guard a valuable train of Hospital stores (from Washington) just arrived, they were camped near us yesterday but moved this morning, and it is reported that two of his men were killed by a shell, yesterday, but as his train is moved we know nothing for certain whether he is hurt or not. I dont know whether the first battle of Fredricksburg, or this was the most severe, but it does seem as if this beat anything I ever heard before. The citizens are doing all they can for the wounded, every bam, house, and tent is a hospital, and the smell which arises from the battlefield is sickening and intense….
Quite a number of our Hdqrs officers are killed and wounded. One of them Genl Warren was wounded right in camp by the bursting of a shell, a piece of which struck him in the throat. Take it altogether we have had very lively times for a few days.
Enclosed I send a photograph to Lib, will write to her or Aunt Hannah as soon as we get encamped wherever we are going. Dont be at all alarmed about me, as I do not mean to get killed.