Letter From Bvt. Brig. Gen. James H. Kidd of the 6th Michigan Cavalry
Provided by Eric J. Wittenberg
 Kidd's letter to his parents on the Gettysburg Campaign is something
like 16 pages long, rich with detail.  It was written on July 9, 1863,
from the picket lines around Boonesboro, MD.  A lot of it covers the
East Cavalry Field fight, but there is also quite a bit on Monterey Pass
and Hagerstown, among other things. E. W.
Boonsboro, Maryland
July 9, 1863

Dear Father and Mother

 Yesterday I attempted to write you a letter but was obliged to stop just as I
had made a commencement.  It is almost impossible to write or do anything as
they do in civilized life.  I have no conveniences for writing but a roll of paper etc.
in my saddle bags.  Have no clothes but what are on my back.  No tent and no
blankets.  Nights I have a poncho blanket under me, my overcoat over me, rainy
or dry weather sometimes with water, sometimes with some rails laid on the
ground to keep me up out of the water.  Oftentimes we are not even permitted to
have this imperfect rest but are kept on the march all night.

 You may know of our doings by the account of Gen Kilpatrick’s command
which you will see in the paper.

 In my last you left me just entering upon my first fight.  We skirmished with
Stewart’s cavalry that day and drove them the next day west of Abbotsburg and
Berlin at which later place we arrived an hour too late to intercept Stewart’s
cavalry.  The next day we went to the vicinity of Gettysburg where the great
battle had commenced between Meade and Lee.  At dark that night we arrived at
Hunterstown where we encountered a force of Stewart’s cavalry with a battery.
We silenced the battery and drove out the cavalry but not without loss.  Lt.
Shipman, Co. D, Capt Thompson, Co. A, were wounded. Sgt. Cox Co. C killed
besides others that I cannot enumerate.  The 6th was ordered to support our
battery and while in rear of it was exposed to a galling fire of shell from the rebel
battery.  Leaving we marched all night, and next morning arrived upon the field of
Gettysburg, the third and decisive day of the fight.  Early in the morning our
cavalry division were posted to support the right wing of our army.  Skirmishing
soon commenced between the cavalry on the rebel left, and us.  The 6th
supported the battery.  Our position was about a mile and a half from the point
where the issue of the day was decided.  When after an hour of silence that
unexampled cannonading which broke the rebel army commenced again.  Our
cavalry skirmishing culminated in a hard fight.  The Michigan 7th led by Gen
Custer made the 1st charge and were, after fighting bravely, repulsed and driven
beyond their former ground.  On came the rebel cavalry, yelling like demons,
right toward the battery we were supporting apparently sweeping everything
before them.

 Before they reached the wood to which our men had retreated a column of
cavalry advanced to meet them moving straight toward them.  They halted and
formed in line of battle.  For an instant the rebels halted forming.  An instant they
stood facing each other when charge was sounded and they met hand to hand.
For one instant the brave rebels stood then broke and fled in confusion.  The
Michigan 1st Cavalry had whipped more than their number in a hand to hand
fight, and as the rebels retreated across the open field our battery made dreadful
havoc in their ranks.

 Two charges were made by each side and skirmishing was kept up all
day.  After dark when fighting had ceased and the enemy had entirely
disappeared we were ordered to retire to our former position, arriving there at
midnight, when we learned the result of the battle at the center and on the left.
Lee was most completely discomfited, whipped.  The next day, the 4th of July,
Gen Kilpatrick announced that we were to go to the “Enemy’s right and rear” to
be separated from the army for some time, to execute which we immediately set
out with rations for three days.

 At dark that night we reached a gap in the mountains defended by a
battery and a force of cavalry.  The battery was captured and we drove the
cavalry which was guarding a wagon train, burned the train and took, during the
night, 1860 prisoners.  The fighting had been done in the night.  We were
deployed as skirmishers through a thick wood, so dark that we could see nothing,
seeing the Rebs only by the flash of their guns.  This was a night never to be
forgotten.  Imagine a mountain with a turnpike road running down with
considerable descent.  Our cavalry on the summit, a long train of wagons
reaching for miles.  A shell from our battery sent roaring down, would go crashing
through breaking wagons, killing horses.  At last a regiment of our cavalry the 1st
Virginia, formed in column of fours on the top of the mountain.  The order “draw
sabres” was given.  “Use sabres alone, I will cut down the first man who fires a
shot,” said the colonel.  “Charge”.  Away they went.  Yelling, striving only to go
fast and faster.  For several miles they charged and then returned.  They had
overtaken the head of the train and it was captured. Then imagine it so dark
that you can only hear, not see, and a heavy rain falling, and you have a pretty
accurate idea of the night fight in the mountains of Pennsylvania.  We arrived at
Smithsburg at daylight, burned the train, and sent off our prisoners.

 We had now reached the “enemy’s rear” and that afternoon had a skirmish
with the advance guard of Lee’s advancing army.  As one division of cavalry
could not resist the whole army, we were contented to worry the advance, and
then returned to Boonsboro, traveling nearly all night again.  Resting till noon we
advanced to Funkstown where we had a fight with a force of Stewart’s cavalry,
capturing Col Davis, the identical Virginian who hung John Brown, and who led
the charge against us at Gettysburg on the 3rd.  Still further at Hagerstown we
had another skirmish driving the rebels.  Thence we went to Williamsport where
the rebels had a large train of ammunition and baggage wagons.

 This is the only point where they could cross, and to this point he was then
advancing as we knew.  Unexpectedly, as I believe we encountered resistance
from a whole corps of the rebels being supported by heavy batteries.  After
skirmishing with them for half an hour with considerable loss, we were attacked
in the rear by the advance of Lee’s army coming up.  It was now dark, and under
cover of the night we got out of it by a circuitous route to Boonsboro.  Our loss in
killed and wounded were heavy.  Aaron C. Jewett, of Ann Arbor, acting adjutant
of the regiment was killed by a shell.  My company was exposed to a galling fire
from the batteries for some minutes before getting into position to fight but,
strange to say, not a man was injured.  Yesterday after writing to you, I was into
a fight in less than ten minutes.  We fought all the afternoon and drove the rebels
3 miles when darkness cut off the pursuit.  Last night Meade’s infantry came up
and we are back with our army again and shall not probably so incessantly
engaged.  Our cavalry is doing noble work.  In fact of late we have done the most
of the fighting.  I can’t say that I like it, but under the present state of things and
our present cavalry commander can’t say we’ll avoid it.  I have had several
narrow escapes but have not been hurt and have not had a man of my company

 I forgot to say that Major Ferry of Grand Haven was killed at Gettysburg.
The Rebel army is used up, demoralized.  I have talked with rebel prisoners and
they are almost unanimous in saying that they are heartily tired of this “useless”
war.  The Col Davis whom I spoke of before said so.  “Don’t you like to see the
Stars and Stripes sometimes,” said one officer.  “It revives old memories” said he
“but the thing is not ‘flags’ but to end up this useless war as soon as possible,”
and this from a Virginian and the “man who hung John Brown”.  Hundreds of men
come out of the woods and give themselves up voluntarily saying that they are
heartily tired of it.  Rebellion is about “played out”.

 Love to all as ever.

Yr affectionate son

J H Kidd