Letter written by Lieutenant William L. Wilson, Acting Assistant Adjutant General, 3rd Division 1st Army Corps, to William Dehon. He is writing from the headquarters of the 3rd Division 1st Corps at Centerville, VA. Wilson writes to acknowledge that he received the photograph that Dehon sent of his son, Lieutenant Arthur Dehon, who was killed in action. Wilson describes how he received the photograph while his brigade lay on the bank of the Rappahannock River, receiving fire from Confederate troops. Wilson’s regiment had been recently marching near Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, which prevented him from answering Dehon’s letter sooner. Wilson says the next battle will likely be in Pennsylvania, foreshadowing Gettysburg.
Head Quarters 3rd Div. 1st Corps
Centerville, Va June 15, 1863
Your letter of May 11 (mis-dated I presume) inclosing me a photograph of your late son was rec’d 3 days ago while on the march. I have here to acknowledge also the receipt of another, some weeks ago. I owe an apology for failing to write you upon the receipt of the first. It was handed to me in the P.M. of April 31st, while under fire of the enemy’s batteries. Our brigade was lying on the east bank of the Rap[pahannock] River, directly opposite the spot where your son fell so gallantly. Ten minutes before, Capt. Baird had pointed [to] the spot where Lt. Dehon died, and
the first shell fired at us was from a battery situated on the spot the Capt. pointed out to me, and struck the ground a few feet from me, just as I had broken the seal of your letter. From that time until the 8th May we were marching & busy continuously opposite Fredericksburg, and at Chancellorsville. The press of business consequent to engagements of that nature kept me so busy I really had no time to reply to your letter enclosing me a photograph I prized so highly. I appreciate it, indeed, sir, & while I am pleased at the excellence of the likeness, I cannot but feel sad thinking that one so young, gallant, and patriotic should die so early, & then too in support of a principle so noble yet bitterly warred against by the same enemy we now contend with. A part of the army – the 1st Corps [is here]; others are this evening at Centerville
and Bull Run, where discouraged officers & soldiers assert we are to have our 3rd annual beating. Where we will be tomorrow is unknown to me. Whether we will fight here tomorrow or next day is equally uncertain. However, we think & generally believe that the next battle will be in Penna. It is supposed here the enemy are on their way there now, & will probably leave a force to attack Bull Run simultaneously with that in advance.
Again, thanking you, sir, for the excellent likeness of your son, and for your good wishes, I am,
Very respectfully, Your Obt. Servt.
Lt. & A.A.A.G.
William L. Wilson, was on the staff of Brigadier General Thomas A. Rowley at Gettysburg, and was slightly wounded in that battle (cited by Rowley for good service). He originally served with the 142nd PA Infantry, enrolling Sept. 1, 1862 as adjutant. He was discharged for disability on December 12, 1863.
Arthur Dehon was William Dehon’s son and a 2nd Lieutenant in Webster’s 12 MA Infantry.