Harrison’s letter from early 1863 describes his experiences in the Battle of Stones River, Tennessee on December 31, 1862. The role of the 13th Michigan may well have been the most important contribution it made in any single battle in the course of the War. Dewater was in the midst of the critical charge that held the Union’s right flank and led to the defeat of the Confederate forces.
Harrison reports that his Uncle Joseph was wounded and he feared he would be shot at any moment. He recounts the charge that his unit made, while sustaining heavy casualties, to drive off a Confederate attack. He concludes by asking what his family ate on New Year’s Day, which often was the biggest holiday meal for mid-19th century Americans. And he pleads for more letters from home. He seems unaware of how vital the 13th Michigan’s role was to the outcome of the overall battle.
The Nashville Union newspaper described the unit’s significant and dramatic impact. “… [There] is one regiment that deserves more than a passing notice. We refer to the 13th Michigan Infantry. … [The] 13th, which occupied a little cedar grove, was speedily formed and rushed upon the enemy yelling like hyenas, charged them, drove them from their position, re-took the lost pieces of artillery and over one hundred prisoners. In the gallant charge, the regiment lost about one-third of their active members engaged, but drove back a force outnumbering them at least ten to one.”
Hospitol number 14
January 10th 1862 [actually 1863]
Camp near Murfreesboro Tenesee
Dear sister i am very happy for this present opertunity of scribbling you a few lines to let you no that i am alive & well after being under the enemys fire for 9 days and not got a scrach but don’t no how soon my turn will come Unkle Joseph was Wounded in the knee but not dangeours & as i was helping him of[f] from the field he was hit in the hip but having his harveysack [haversack]on it stoped the forse of the ball hitting some things in it expecting soon would be my turn but as luck would have it they missed me I took him back behind our lines & left him behind a large tree & told him to stay thare untill he got help and then went to my post to the Company when the Enemy still coming tourd us when we formed our line of Battle & atemted [attempted] to hold our ground lying down when they commenced pouring their shots in our ranks we soon began changing off with them we played our part as well as we could when we was helped by the 51 Illinois when they soon broke & run we fowled [followed] them as far as it would do then formed our line agane our lost was very heavy 15 or 20 was killed dead and agrate meny mortly wounded our Company went in with 14 men & came out with 8 men how many we have lost in the Regiment i don’t no you will see it in the papers all about it we was in under their fire 2 or 3 times when it did seem that the next would be my turn we was under the fire of the Artilery and lost some it seemed like [a] big storm coming over our heads every day in one of our fight they took 2 pieces of Artilery and we took it back again they was 3 Regiments come on us at that time we have but 8 men in our Company now we have not got only about 120 in our Regiment it looks rather small our Division Genral Wood was wounded in the heel & went to Nashville i tell you it was an offle [awful] sight but we made them run tell Mr Newton that Mr Dolbery was wounded so i heard he is at this place what did you have good to eat NewYear i would like to have bin thare as we have bin after forage to day i hant time to write much tell them all to write hopeing these few lines will find you all the same this from your afectionate Brother Harrison Dewater to His Sister Ann Dewater so good By
Write soon the news
i have not heard from home in some