Private Loren Goodrich was at a camp in Western Maryland when he wrote home to family and friends. He and his comrades in the 14th Connecticut Volunteer Infantry had just been in a major battle in the small Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg. That battle was fought 150 years ago, from July 1-3, 1863. The 14th was one of five infantry regiments from Connecticut to take part. Of the 1300 Nutmeggers at Gettysburg, sixty-nine were killed and 291 were wounded, captured or missing.
In his letter of July 17, 1863, Goodrich provides a harrowing and personal description of his experiences on July 3. After taking and burning a house and barn used by Confederate sharpshooters, he and the other men in his regiment took their positions behind a stone wall on Cemetery Ridge. All was quiet until 2:00 when “the enemy opened 75 pieces of cannon onto us. It was one of the hardest artillery fights that we have ever had. It kept up for 2 hours when the enemy, having smashed one of four battries [sic] all to pieces made an advance on us with 3 lines a mile long they came up in a beautiful style with their beautiful battle flags flying open to the breeze it was a splendid sight to see but alas how many there were of those brave men that were launched into eternity during that terrible struggle onward they came cheering till within 200 yards when we opened a terrible fire upon them which staggered them for a moment they then rallied and tried to flank us but were again repulsed.”
Goodrich was on the receiving end of Pickett’s Charge, an assault ordered by Confederate General Robert E. Lee and led by General George Pickett. This futile but gallant effort would come to be considered as the high water mark of the Confederacy, an enduring symbol of the Lost Cause. The Union victory at Gettysburg—and the victory at Vicksburg on the very same day—would be a major turning point in the Civil War, though the conflict would drag on for almost two more bloody years.
Private Goodrich’s letter is only one among many letters and diaries at the Connecticut Historical Society written by Connecticut men who fought in the Civil War. Reading their words helps to bring the war and its human costs vividly to life. Detailed descriptions of some of the collections related to the Civil War can be found at http://www.chs.org/finding_aides/kcwmp/ctreg.htm.