This letter was written by Pvt. Sidney Lewis May (1843-1916) of Wardsboro, Windham county, Vermont, who served in Co. I, 16th Vermont Infantry—a nine-month’s regiment formed in the fall of 1862. The regiment’s term of service was nearly over when they were sent to Gettysburg where Pvt. May was wounded in repulsing Pickett’s charge on 3 July 1863.
Sidney was the son of Amos May (1829-1846) and Lucy Maria Warren (1806-1916). After her first husband died, Lucy married William Estabrook May (1813-1879). From the letter we learn that Sidney is recuperating from his wound in a field hospital near Gettysburg where he is assisted by his half-brother William—a civilian who has temporarily left his business.
After the war, Sidney married Julia Bannes (1850-1937) and resided in Springfield, Massachusetts, where he worked as a clerk in a tin store.
[Note: The identity of this soldier had to be deduced by narrowing down the Vermont regiments to those who fought at Gettysburg, and then looking for soldier’s named Sidney who were wounded in the battle. There were 18 Vermont soldiers named Sidney at Gettysburg but only one was wounded.]
August 13th 1863
My Dear Mother,
I do not remember whether I wrote you before or after the receival of your last very welcome letter but be that as it may, we were rejoiced to learn of the improvement in your health and that you had lain the great burden of your sorrows upon the alter of Divine Grace—the unfeeling source of all heavenly consolation—where all who yield entire submission to the will of heaven can come in every hour of need & that our dear Father is also in the same frame of mind. God grant that your children may all follow your example & put their whole trust in Him who doeth all things well so that they may enjoy the blissful consciousness that whatever happens to them on earth, they will at last—when the trials of life are over—meet an unbroken family in heaven. Oh, if this could only be out happy lot, it would matter but little what happened to us during the fleeting hours of time could we but enjoy together the blissful hours of an unending eternity. We surely could not ask for a more brilliant destiny.
We are still in the same place as when I last wrote you. William still continuing his indefatigable exertions on my behalf—being with me both night and day. Poor fellow—he is almost worn out. It is really too bad but he is not willing to leave me until the physicians consider my removal safe. The weather is so warm now that there would be more risk than to wait until it is cooler. I don’t think that it will be possible for him to accompany me to Vermont as he is so worn out & has been so long absent from his family & business. He would like very much to do so—both on your account and my own—could he do so without serious injury to his health. But keep up good courage, Mother, & when I get able to come some way will be provided never fear. My wounds, to all human appearance, are doing well. My appetite is good & strange to say, my stomach has never obliged me to yield up my food since I sustained my injuries. I am truly thankful that it is as well with me as it is & do earnestly hope that I may continue favored in this respect until the happy moment arrives when we shall meet again face to face & meet never to sever until death shall release us from our thraldom of clay and we are permitted to enter the gates of the New Jerusalem & expatiate through the realms of that blissful abode forever & ever.
Lying down after writing the above & getting into a doze, I dreamed that I was home in Old Vermont. I thought that I was on horseback & had just rode down to see Aunt Sally’s folks & that when I came back, I rode up to Mrs. Tucker’s fence & saw yourself & Sue sitting in the door. Sue asked me to stay to tea & you joined in the request. And finally all the family came out & urged me so hard that I reined my horse up so that I could get off but as he did not stand still, I sang out “Whoa” & as I happened to speak aloud, William stepped up to my bedstead and said, “What’s the matter, brother?” I replied nothing—only I fancied myself in Vermont & here I find myself 500 miles away.
With much love to yourself & Father & to all our friends, hoping that you will write as soon as you feel able to do so.
We remain affectionately your sons, — William & Sidney
P. S. If you can get Mrs. Taft or someone to help you, I think it would be well to make some [?]. Please direct your letter to Wm. & it will be all right.