Letter – Richard Coulter, 28 March 1863


Hi-resolution scans of the full document can be made available for a fee. Please see our Image Request page for details.

Letter written by Colonel Richard Coulter of the 11th PA Volunteer Infantry, to William Dehon, from a camp near Fletcher’s Chapel, Virginia. Coulter is writing to Dehon to thank him for the photograph of Dehon’s son, Lieutenant Arthur Dehon, as well as for the photograph of Colonel Webster. Coulter speaks fondly of Arthur, and praises his assistance during the engagement at Antietam, Maryland. He concludes by expressing his sincerest sympathies for Dehon’s loss.

-Page 1-

Hd. Qrs. 11 Regt. P.V.

                           Camp near Fletcher’s Chapel, Va.

                              March 28 1863

Wm. Dehon, Esq.


    Dear Sir

      Your note of Feby 19th was not rec’d until yesterday in my return to the regt., of having been absent since [the] engagement at Fredericksburg, where I had the misfortune to be wounded.

     You will please find enclosed the letter referred to in your note for Lt. Dehon to Mr. Butler.

     You will accept my thanks for the photograph of your son, enclosed with

-Page 2-

your letter and also one of Col. Webster, rec’d from friends of Capt. Williams of the 12th Mass.

     Your son was indeed a warm personable friend, & had attached himself very closely to me and was of great assistance to me during & after the engagement at Antietam, Md.

     This intimacy continued so far as circumstances (his being detached from us) would permit, until the day of his death. I saw him in the fire part of that day & can fully endorse the opinion of all who saw him as

-Page 3-

to his gallant conduct & deportment.

     I tender my sincere sympathies in this, your great bereavement.

     Accept my kindest regards & remember me to your youngest son, whom I met with you at Sharpsburg.

                   I remain,

                        Yours respectfully,

                           R. Coulter

Richard Coulter was born in Greensburg, PA on Oct.1, 1827. At age 33 he enrolled as a captain in Co. A of the 11th PA Infantry on April 24, 1861. He was mustered out as a captain on July 31, 1861, and immediately commissioned lieutenant colonel. His promotion to colonel was effective November 27, 1861, and he became a brigadier general by brevet on August 1, 1864, then brevet major general on April 1, 1865. He was wounded December 13, 1862 at Fredericksburg; July 1, 1863 at Gettysburg; and May 10, 1864 at Spotsylvania. Col. Coulter mustered out of the service July 1, 1865, and died in Greensburg, PA on October 14, 1908.

Arthur Dehon was William Dehon’s son and a 2nd Lieutenant in Webster’s 12 MA Infantry. He was killed in action at Fredericksburg.

Letter – Fletcher Webster, 30 August 1862


Hi-resolution scans of the full document can be made available for a fee. Please see our Image Request page for details.

The last letter of Col. Fletcher Webster, written just a few hours before his death at the Battle of Second Bull Run to his wife, Caroline. It describes the action at Thoroughfare Gap, VA on August 28th of 1862. Webster ominously speculates that this may be his last letter, as he “will not spare” himself if a large battle is fought. This is a copy of the original letter, made by William Dehon after the original was destroyed in fire at the Webster home in Marshfield, Massachusetts on February 14th, 1878.

Hd. Qrts. 12th Light

                             Bull Run, Aug. 30th, 62

Dear Wife

     Since I wrote you last we marched to Thoroughfare Gap, where the enemy was expected to try and pop through. We got there after a hard march, Wednesday about 3 P.M. Our brigade in advance. On getting near the gap, our brigade was sent forward skirmishing, and as support to Matthew’s battery. The coast was reported clear.

     On each side the gap, which is just wide enough for a carriage road, rise high, steep, thickly wooded hills. Just at the mouth of the gap on the eastern side there is a small space for [a] building, and there are some stone houses and a large stone mill. We approached the gap from the East, so these buildings were on our right. [Col. Richard] Coulter, with the 11th Pa., supported by the N.Y. 9th ,

-Page 2-

had the right. The 12th and 13th [MA Infantries] the left of the advance. No sooner had we got within a short distance than the enemy, concealed in the woods and stone buildings, opened. On the right, Coulter had a sharp fight; the buildings were too strong for him. He fought like a hero, but was obliged to fall back, and with the 9th, retired up the road to the rear. He lost 2 officers and 60 men. We sent our skirmishers into the woods in front of us, and for a short time cleared them. But shortly they were reinforced.

     I drew up “ours” well under cover and listened to the balls as they whizzed over our heads. We saw the other regts. retiring. The battery on our side retired, and I felt uncomfortable. At last an order came for us to retire, which we did across a plain, and when the enemy saw us crossing, they opened pretty well. It was nasty business, but the 12th marched as if on parade. Capt. [Richard H.] Kimball [acted] as if all the girls in Boston were looking

-Page 3-

at him. [1st Lt. Thomas P.] Haviland, the brave, rode smoking a cigarette; the major was glorious; Arthur [Dehon] a young hero. I thought he was hit; a ball passed between us, and I saw him throw up his hand, but it was nothing. Officers and men were all good. [Lt. Col. Timothy M.] Bryan was sick and not in the action at all.

   We got here last night. Today a great and decisive battle is expected. Forrester Devereux [Arthur F., col. 19th Mass. Inf.] has just called and here sits by me on the grass under a tree, while I write. He was again in action the day before yesterday, and has lost nearly all his company. He is unhurt

     If a fight comes off, it will be today or tomorrow, and will be a most dreadful and decisive one. Both sides are  preparing; some three hundred thousand men are on the eve of a conflict, and Washington depends on the issue. This may be my last letter, dear love; for I shall not spare myself. God bless and protect you and the dear darling children.

-Page 4-

We are all under his protection.

     Love to Don and Charlie. I have not means to write more. You must show this letter to the girls, with my love. Good bye dear wife, darling Carrie.

     Love to Bertie and dear Rose. I hope to have many a good gallop with them on nice horses.    

Bye, bye, dearest.        

Yrs. Fletcher           

Fletcher Webster was the only surviving child of the famous Massachusetts Senator and orator, Daniel Webster. He organized the “Webster Regiment,” the 12th MA Infantry in 1861 at the age of 47. He was killed in action on the afternoon of August 30, 1862 at the Battle of 2nd Bull Run. Lt. Arthur Dehon, obtained a special pass from the C.S. authorities to recover the body of his dead colonel.

Webster’s knapsack, containing his last letter, was captured by members of the 11th VA Infantry, but was subsequently recaptured at Leesburg, VA about September 2nd. A quote from the letter was read at Webster’s state funeral in Boston on September 9th.

This letter is a copy, made by William Dehon ca. 1862, from the original in the possession of Caroline White Webster, Fletcher’s widow. Because the Marshfield home  of Mrs. Webster was destroyed by fire on Feb. 14, 1878 with the loss of her valuable papers, Dehon’s copy is believed to be the only surviving document.

For more information, see Blue & Gray Magazine, Vol. XIII No. 1, Fall 1995, pp. 20-27, for “Col. Fletcher’s Last Letter,” by Wiley Sword.