1862: Pvt. William Remington Carr, 12th Mass Infantry, to Sarah E. Carr

Daguerreotype of a Massachusetts Bootmaker

I found this interesting letter being offered for sale on the internet in March 2011. It was written by Private William Remington Carr of Company I, 12th Massachusetts Infantry (the “Webster Regiment”). He was later promoted to a Sergeant and died from wounds received at the Battle of Gettysburg the following year. The 12th Massachusetts had not seen any serious action up until this time of the war.

The author, William Remington Carr was born 17 December 1839 in Limerick, York County, Maine. He was a son of John Carr (1801-1877), a hatter, and Mary Bean Smith (1810-1896). William had several siblings but it is conjectured that this letter was written to his sister Sarah E. Carr who, at age 18, was 21 years old at the time of this letter and working in a factory in Limerick. At the time of the 1860 census, William Carr was employed as a boot maker in Groveland, Essex County, Massachusetts, residing in the household of Henry Wiggins.

Muster records show that 22 year-old William R. Carr enlisted on 26 June 1861. He died 14 July 1863 from wounds received at Gettysburg. According to Carr family history records, William was buried in the National Cemetery on the battlefield but I cannot find him listed there in the on-line VA Records.

Wiliam R. Carr Letter


29 March 1862
Camp Near Bull Run

Dear Sister,

We are on the march. We are encamped on the ground where the Bull Run Battle commenced and where the Rebels have been quartered all winter. The people that live here say that there were sixty thousand troops here three weeks ago. Part of our Brigade are quartered for tonight in the huts built by them. But our Company would not sleep in them. We thought that they were lousy. And therefore we went into an adjoining field and pitched our tents (although it was snowing quite fast at the time and the ground was very wet and damp). We got a lot of boards and put in our tents and it is quite comfortable!

Abandoned Confederate Earthworks & Fortifications at Centerville, March 1862

We passed through Centerville about noon today. I never saw a place so strongly fortified. Some of the entrenchments are a mile long. And there are rifle pits and earth works as far as the eye extends, and I assure you a person can see a long way for the country about here is very level. When we arrived near the fortifications the Brigade was halted and we stacked arms to give the Regiment a chance to look around and see the Works. While looking around among the entrenchments, I discovered two logs painted [to look like cannon]…

“Quaker guns” in abandoned Confederate fortifications at Centerville, Virginia, March 1862

I have been all over the ground where the battle was fought [here at Bull Run]. It is not more than a quarter of a mile from where we are camped. I do not wonder that we lost the battle, to see the posision that the Rebels held and the advantage they had over us…The Bull Run Stream is about fifty feet wide and at the present time is quite deep. The banks of the River on the side that the Rebels were on is nothing but a line of rifle pitts, our troops had to cross a small wooden bridge in order to drive them from their posision, which could not have been done without great loss of life. Another advantage that the enemy had they were covered by the woods, while our troops had to file through a gully and cross the bridge, not more than four abreast. It is a desolate looking place. The bridge is burnt, the trees are all cut down, and there are graves all over the ground some of the bodies are not covered up. I saw a pair of pants with the bones of some poor fellow in them. I should think that I saw a hundred horses laying around…”

From your brother William

Soldier’s graves near the Bull Run Battlefield, March 1862

3 responses to “1862: Pvt. William Remington Carr, 12th Mass Infantry, to Sarah E. Carr

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