Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 15, 1862 Letter: Peter Beam Recalls Battle of Roanoke Island

On February 15, 1862, Peter B. Beam, of Belvidere, a member of Company H of the 9th NJ Volunteer Infantry Regiment, wrote a letter to William Carhart, of Belvidere.  Beam enlisted in Company H of the Jersey 9th on October 3, 1861 at the age of 21 years. 

Beam wrote, "Dear Sir: It is with a great deal of pleasure to think that I have the opportunity of once more writing to you and letting you know where I am, which you will perceive by the head of this letter is Roanoke Island.  We landed here on the 7th and on the 8th we had a nice little battle and came out victorious, as perhaps you are fully aware.  We took about thirty-six hundred prisoners (so our officers say) and our Brigade took four forts and about 40 cannon.  We had to wade through the mud and water up to our middles, and that is what I call soldiering in earnest; but we were bound to win the day or die, we were Jerseymen (that is the 9th) and we were not going to be behind some of the rest, and then the honor of our State was at stake; if we did not fight well when we had the chance. 

"One of the prisoners told that they would not have had to surrender half so soon if it had not been for the damned Jersey blue-coated sons of bitches, for they shot lower than the rest of the Hessians, and they also call us the 'Bloody 9th;' they said they were more afraid of us than all the rest.  Do not understand me that the other regiments did no fighting for they did, and we all had enough to do.

"I am sorry to say we lost our Captain [Joseph Henry] and Sergeant [Austin] Armstrong, from Hope. We lost about 150 killed and wounded in the Brigade.  Edward Clayton [of Belvidere] was shot close in the corner of the mouth and the ball came out near his ear, but he is getting over it quite fast.  William Aumick [of Belvidere] had a ball put through the fleshy part of his arm. 

"We was on board ship for five weeks, and I would not like to be on water so long again.  We landed on the night of the 7th and laid on our arms all night and was ready to go into action by 7 o'clock on the morning of the 8th, and we did go into it, and you have the result.  Yours &c. Peter Beam."

Copyright 1999-2012: Jay C. Richards 

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