“It is a beautiful morning & it finds me well healthy hale hearty & strong:” A Gettysburg Casualty Writes Home on August 14, 1863

158 years ago today, Daniel Shapley lay in bed at the Market Street Hospital in Newark, New Jersey and wrote a letter home. A member of the 157th New York Infantry since his enlistment in August 1862, he had been wounded at the battle of Gettysburg. Deployed to a dangerous position in the open on July 1, the regiment suffered heavily.

Serving with Colonel George von Amsberg’s brigade in the Third Division, Eleventh Corps, Army of the Potomac, the 157th was thrown into the open fields between Oak Ridge and Barlow’s Knoll near the Hagy Farm. As the Union lines buckled under immense pressure, the cluster of 409 men was sent unsupported to strike a Confederate assault, only to be nearly surrounded. Around 75% of the regiment became casualties and among them was Private Daniel Shapley, who was wounded in the hand. Shapley stabilized enough to be removed from the Gettysburg area, and a little more than a month later he penned this letter to his sister back home, detailing his health and his hopes for a furlough to see his friends.

Below is the letter from my personal collection in its entirety:

Market Street Hospital

Newark New Jersey

August 14th/63

Dear Sister

I have forgotten whether I had answered your kind & welcome letter of the 8th or not but if I have it all the same. I will now answer it so as to be sure & let you know that I am still on my [laps?]. It is a beautiful morning & it finds me well healthy hale hearty & strong & my wound is almost well but we had a general inspection here yesterday for the purpose of seeing who was fit to send back to the field and who was not but they did not even look at me so there is not much danger of my going back to the regt in a good while & I shall try & get a furlough for a few days & come home to see you all but I don’t know how I will make out trying but if I shouldn’t get a furlough to come home I shall send my likeness to you before I go back to the Regt so you wait patiently & see what the results will be. I received a letter from Dick Brown last night that Jane and Leroy were a going to get married this month & if that is so you tell Jane to wait & see if I can come home for I should like first rate to be there to the wedding. There was an excursion boat left here this morning for the picnic ground up north river & I should like to have went but I could not get a pass & so I thought I would stay here & write letters to my friends that are so from me not knowing whether I should ever have the pleasure of seeing them. But I live in hopes of seeing all my friends once more. The wounded here are all doing pretty well & I hope they so continue doing well until their wounds are all healed[.] Well I do not think of any more of importance to write this time so I shall close hoping this will find you all well. this from your loving brother.

D.N. Shapley

To A A Shapley

Yours Truly

D.N.S.

P. S give my love & best wishes to all & write soon & often

Shapley did recover from his wound and return to his regiment, though I do not know if he was able to send his sister Alvira an image or get leave to witness the wedding he mentioned in the letter. He served the rest of the war with the 157th and was promoted to Corporal in January 1865 before mustering out with the rest of his unit in Charleston, SC in July 1865.

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4 Responses to “It is a beautiful morning & it finds me well healthy hale hearty & strong:” A Gettysburg Casualty Writes Home on August 14, 1863

  1. Bob Lapolls says:

    What additional battles did mr Shapley fight in?

  2. Bob Lapolls says:

    Where in New York was Shapley from?

  3. Bob Lapolla says:

    https://museum.dmna.ny.gov/unit-history/infantry-2/157th-infantry-regiment Gives info on shapley’s regiment. It was raised in upstate New York in Cortland county near Syracuse in finger lakes region. It appears not to have fought in the overland campaign or Shearman’s March to the sea, but was posted to Charleston South Carolina . It did suffer significant further casualties although I am not familiar with those battles.

    • Jon Tracey says:

      Correct. I came across the regiment and this letter while working on the 76th NY, another regiment from the Cortland area. The 157th had their worst day at Gettysburg, but had plenty of combat experience in the lesser known portions of the war.

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