Henry W. Sawyer to John T. Nixon, November 1, 1863

    Source citation
    Reprinted in Isaac T. Nichols, Historic Days in Cumberland County, New Jersey, 1855-1865: Political and War Reminiscences (New Jersey: Isaac T. Nichols, 1907), 145-146.
    Date Certainty
    John Osborne
    Transcription date
    The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
    Libby Prison, Richmond, Va., Nov. 1st, 1863.

    Hon. John T. Nixon,
    Dear Sir:
    I am still about, and hope soon to be released and restored to my family, friends and command. My health is good, my hopes for the future never higher, and my confidence unshaken. It is not worth while for me to speak of my experience as a prisoner, for you are fully posted; but allow me to explain how I was captured, June 9th, at the cavalry action, Brandy Station. In a charge for the possession of an elevated position, and upon a Confederate States battery, leading my squadron to the charge, I fell, with a ball through the back part of my head and one in the fleshy part of my leg. The charge was mutual on both sides, and was hand-to-hand; indeed, so close that my own face was blackened with the powder of my opponent's revolver, and is still remaining, to a considerable extent, in my face. The effect of this charge was dreadful on both sides, for here the gallant Lieutenant Colonel Virgil Broderick and brave Major John H. Shelmire fell dead from their horses, both gentlemen belonging to the First New Jersey Cavalry. There, too, were lying Confederate States officers and men, who one-half hour before were in the bloom of life.
    Notwithstanding this sad sight, I shall always remember that action with pride, for nobly did our regiment push on. Here I fell wounded, senseless, and in this condition remained, cannot say how long. When I came to my senses, I was discovered. Our forces had pushed on, and I was picked up by three Confederate States soldiers, lifted on a horse, and taken to a hospital at Culpepper.
    Of the prize drawn by me, July 6th, I have at this time nothing to say, only that, as yet, I have not been released from the sentence; at least, I have not been notified that I have; yet it has always been my endeavor to show an unflinching front under all circumstances, and even in that extreme case, I was determined to show no other.
    A soldier works not for gain; glory, and the welfare of his country is his aim; and, even in my situation, I found that pride was what upheld me, and that it was sufficient to nerve me for my fate. Still, I fervently hope it is past; for, really, it was an awful situation to be in. I enjoy the same treatment as my unfortunate brother officers here at Libby; but let me assure you that we all hope for a speedy release. Several special exchanges have been made. Have I not as much right to expect this consideration as any one? I leave that question for my friends.
    Can you not do something to effect an exchange? I do not think there is any grand principle in the way; nothing but policy. But, sir, here are twelve thousand men and nine hundred officers. Have they not the right to expect that their own Government will release them from this imprisonment, if they can without detriment to their country? Really, sir, we think it is hard if it don't. We all have great hopes that an exchange will be effected before a great while. We do not think (at least, we drive the thought from us) that we shall remain here all winter.
    I hope you will not think me a fault finder. If you can imagine your situation as prisoner, it will certainly be an excuse for using the above language.
    I hope you and your family are well, and in the enjoyment of a peaceful home with happy surroundings, and with my best wishes, I sincerely remain,
    Your most obedient servant,
    H. W. SAWYER, 
    Capt. First New Jersey Cavalry, U. S. A.
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