Letter written by Colonel William R. “Pecos Bill” Shafter of the 17th U.S. Colored Troops to his sister Ann Shafter Aldrich, from Nashville, Tennessee. Shafter is writing to his sister after the death of her husband, Captain Job Aldrich, at the Battle of Nashville. Shafter found his body on the field the next morning and will send Job’s belongings home. He also mentions that Captain Gideon Ayers was killed, along with 110 others.
Dec 19th 1864
My Dear Sis,
For the first time since the fight of the 15th inst. I have had time and opportunity to write you[.] It is useless to attempt by words to soothe your sorrow, and though you are the sorest afflicted, believe me when I say that you have shed no bitterer tears than I when I found poor Job. He was as dear to me as either of my own brothers. It was an awful battle, Sis, and we are of the many who are called to mourn. Job seemed to have a presentment that he should die, and the night before the fight wrote you a letter, the most affecting I ever read. He left it with Hattie [Col. Shafter’s wife, who was visiting Nashville] to send you if anything happened. Hattie will bring it to you in a day or two with the rest of his things. I hope his boys will remember the last words of their father. Job never knew what hurt him. He did not suffer an instant. May my last
end be like his! He died for his country, than which there can be nothing more glorious. He left all his money and valuables in camp. Hattie has them. The circumstances were these. We were ordered to drive the enemy out of a piece of woods and take the battery on the other side. We drove them from the woods, but there was just in front of the battery a deep cut (r.r.) at least twenty feet deep. We went to that and had to stop. Job was killed there. We had to leave him. I was on the right side of the regt., and did not know he was killed till we had fallen back, or I should have seen him off. We got the ground in the morning and I was the first to find him. He lay on his face. The Rebs had taken all his clothes, everything. I had him taken up and sent to town. I had to go on myself for another fight. We have been in [the field] two days since, and last night the regt. left Franklin for Murfreesboro. We go from there to Tuscumbia, Ala. I came back after ammunition and leave at daylight tomorrow. I hope I shall get through safe. Jim is sick and can’t go. Hattie will be home in a day or two.
I will get Job’s things all fixed up without a bit of trouble to you. Be of good heart, Sis. I feel for you from the bottom of my heart. I will write soon again.
Love to all,
Your aff. Brother,
Col. Wm. R. Shafter, 17th U.S.C.T. letter Dec. 19, 1864 – 2
Capt. Gid[eon] Ayers was killed at the time Job was. He was left on the field, did not die for an hour or two. The Rebs stripped him while yet alive, and begging them not to hurt him so. One of the wounded men lay right beside him. Our wounded that were left were not hurt, but all the dead ones were stripped. 110 of my men & several officers were killed and wounded.
-Written crosswise on Page 1-
The good die first, while those whose hearts are dry as summer dust burn to the socket.
Colonel William Rufus Shafter, enrolled as a 1st lieutenant in the 7th Michigan Infantry on Aug. 22, 1861 and mustered out Aug. 22, 1862. He was appointed major of the 19th MI Infantry on Sept. 5, 1862, and promoted to lieutenant colonel on June 5, 1863. He was captured at Thompson’s Station, TN in March of 1863. Shafter became colonel of the 17th USCT on April 19, 1864, and received a brevet to brigadier general, March 13, 1865 for war service. He mustered out November 2, 1866, but was appointed lt. col. of the 41st US Infantry, July 28, 1866, colonel of 1st US Infantry, March 4, 1879, brig. gen. May 3, 1897, and maj. gen. of volunteers, May 4, 1898. He as dubbed “Pecos Bill” while commanding the V Corps during the Spanish American War. He was awarded the MEDAL OF HONOR June 12, 1895 for his actions at Fair Oaks, VA on May 31, 1862. After a long and distinguished service Shafter was retired as a major general of volunteers July 1, 1901.
Job Aldrich, the owner of a hardware store at Galesburg, MI, enrolled as a 1st lieutenant and adjutant in his brother-in-law’s regiment, the 17th USCT, on Dec. 21st 1863 at the age of 35. In October 1864, Job was appointed to a vacancy in Co. G as captain. He was killed instantly by gunfire on Dec. 15, 1865 at the Battle of Nashville. He and his wife, Ann Eliza Shafter Aldrich, (married to Job November 5, 1856, remarried to William Decker, July 1867) had three children: James H. (Dec. 3, 1858); Hugh S. (May 30, 1861); and Willard S. (June 27, 1863).