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Civil War Diary: Stoughton's Alfred Edward Waldo at the Battle of Antietam

Alfred Edward Waldo (1844-1864) was a Stoughton Civil War veteran. Through his diary and letters Stoughton can learn about his story which began nearly one hundred and fifty years ago on the march from Stoughton to Washington to fight in the war.

On August 11, 1862 an 18-year-old Stoughton born resident named enlisted in the Union Army in Co. E. 35th Massachusetts Infantry Volunteers.

He left his comfortable home at what is now 310 Lincoln Street in Stoughton where his parents William P. and Mary (Talbot) Waldo would anxiously await his correspondence every week until the day it no longer came. 

Waldo was one of the many casualties during the from Stoughton, dying at the age of 20.

Below are his diary entries and a letter sent home to his parents from late August 1862. Only minor edits were made, to preserve Waldo's voice. To learn more about Waldo's past, click or visit

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In this series of diary entries and letter home to his parents Waldo recounts the period of time before and after the Battle of Antietam.

The Battle of Antietam (near Sharpsburg, Maryland), fought on September 17, 1862, was the first major Civil War battle to take place during the Maryland Campaign and the first major battle in the North. 

During this battle more than 23,000 soldiers lost their lives. This battle saw the most casualties then any one day in the Civil War.

The armies of the Confederacy were under the command of Gen. Robert E. Lee, and the Union forces under Gen. George B. McClellan.

While neither side “won,” Lee and his troops had to withdraw back to Virginia, which was a significant enough turn of events to give President Abraham Lincoln the opportunity to make the famous Emancipation Proclamation. 

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Letter and Diary Entries

Diary - Sept. 14, 1862 (Sunday)

Since Sept. 8th we have been on the march. Friday we were within 4 miles of the enemy at New Market since then we have been following them and last night we marched through the City of Frederick Md. and camped for the night on the Blue Ridge.

This morning there was some cannonading in the direction of Harper's Ferry.

Tonight we went into Battle for the first time, we charged through some woods took some prisoners and came out into an open field, the rebels came and fired into from the woods and wounded some of us we then went into the woods, we were under fire about 2.5 hours, there was a great many of the Rebels killed, they lay in heaps 16 & 17 in a pile we slept on the battle field that night amongst the dead and wounded, the Rebels retreated some time in the night.

Letter to his mother

Top of the Blue Ridge Mountains - Sept. 14, 1862

Mother,                   

Since I last wrote to you we have travelled a great many miles. Last Friday we marched the farthest that we had any day. We went about 20 miles since then.

We have been with in a few miles of Jackson's men driving them towards the Potomac. Thursday night our corps drove the enemy from the city of Frederick and that night we entered the city and the next day we took up our march towards the Blue Ridge the rebel army retreating before us.

They have the advantage of us in one respect, they being on the mountain and firing down upon the federal army but we have drove them over the mountain towards Harpers Ferry and if we have got an army on the other side of them I think that we have got him but I can not tell.

Burnside commands this corps. Before we left Virginia we all threw our knapsacks away and the other day I threw my woolen blanket away. Now all I have to carry is my rubber blanket and over coat. I can manage as well as any of them now. We have no tents but have to lay on the ground. We have not had but a few rainy days. It rained but one night since we started from Virginia .

I want you to send me 2 oil silk bags to carry my Sugar & Coffee in when you send that flannel. I want them to hold about a pint a piece and fixed some way so I can tie them strong and send me 3 or 4 postage stamps.

I do not want more than 4 because they will get all sweaty and stick together I can not get them here. Tell Lucy that I will answer her letter as soon as I [have] time. I must stop now for we have orders to march. The Artillery are fighting now, so good bye.

I am as smart as can be and like first rate.

Edward

Diary - Monday, Sept. 15

We marched about 6 miles following the enemy up we have not had any thing to eat since Saturday.

Diary - Tuesday, Sept. 16

I have not had but two hard tacks since Saturday morning.

Diary - Wednesday, Sept. 17

We went into battle again this morning, the 13th was the first one to charge across the Antietam Bridge, the rebels ran and we charged up a hill after them, we had to get over 2 very high fences and we were all tired out when we got to the top.

The rebels had 6 cannon pointing at us and they got to sacking us down pretty fast and we were ordered to fall back under the brow of the hill. We left that hill and went over to the left of the bridge where we had the fight our batterys got out of ammunition and left us at the mercy of the rebel Artillery.

We fired all the amunition we had then we fell back and stoped till Thursday night and then we went back across the bridge and drew rations, the first since the Saturday before the So. Mountain fight. In the last two fights we had about 30 killed and wounded. 

Diary - Sunday, Sept. 22

Not very well

Diary - Monday, Sept. 23

Not well.  

Diary - Wednesday, Sept. 24

Not well.    

Diary - Thursday, Sept. 25

We drilled from 10 o'clock till noon when we were called into line to march, we [remained] till 5 o'clock and then recieved orders to go into camp for the night, we have nothing to eat but hard bread and coffee.

Diary - Friday and Saturday, Sept. 26 & 27

We are in camp on the bank of the Antietam river I have not been well since the battle.

Diary - Sunday, Sept. 28

Today we received the news of the death of Capt. Niles, he died last night. Lieut. Palmer is not expected to live but a short time. Dr. Allen of Randolph arrived here last night.

Dwight Mac Kerron September 26, 2011 at 12:30 PM
I suppose one can throw one's knapsack and woolen blanket away when soldiering in September in Maryland, but both are going to be needed soon. Waldo is "smart as can be" before the battle, but "not well" for days afterward. The sights and sounds of thousands of men dying all around you can do that to you.

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