Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More on the death of Lt. "Hilly" Carter, 3rd VA Cavalry

I was delighted to receive an envelope in the mail yesterday from Frank Carpenter containing copies of the letters of condolence from Fitzhugh Lee and Robert E. Lee to their cousin, Hill Carter, on the death of his son. After the battle of Chancellorsville, his body was brought home to Shirley by his brother Charles. Fitzhugh Lee’s letter, dated May 15th, follows. The bold-faced words were underlined in the letter.

“My dear Cousin Hill,

“May I be permitted at the risk of encroaching upon the sanctity of domestic grief to mingle my humble sympathy & express my deep grief at the irreparable loss you have sustained. I have been poor Hills comdg officer for a long time & through the many trying scenes of the campaign in his native state, whilst my affection for him & pride in him overleaping ties of blood, cause me to claim the privilege & even make it a mournful pleasure to tell you, his Father, how your glorious boy died.

“On Friday, May 1st Col Owens with a portion of his Regt (3rd VA) was ordered to report to Gen. Mahone Comdg: the advance of Andersons division upon the old turnpike road leading from Fredericksburg to Chancellorsville. Gen. Mahone asked Col. Owens to ‘send me one of your most reliable Lieutenants & ten men to go ahead of my infantry skirmishers & find the enemy.’ It was a delicate & hazardous position – Mounted men preceding in a wooded country Infantry skirmishers, to find & report the enemy’s position. I need not pause to tell you how he executed it, or with what cheerful alacrity he obeyed the summons. ‘One of your most reliable Lieuts,’ meant with Col. Owens & was understood by the whole regiment to be Hill Carter & of course he was at once detailed. Proceeding but a short distance he soon met with a large body of the enemy’s Infantry skirmishers & the fire became very hot. Not receiving any orders from General Mahone, his own horse killed, one of his gallant little band wounded, several others having their clothes shot through, he very properly ordered them to fall back in the rear of our advancing line of skirmishers. He, however, seized a carbine, rushed forward again with the advance & fought most enthusiasticlly and with an ardor & bravery that has no parallel in my experience; until struck with three balls, one of which proved mortal. This was about one P.M. & he expired the next day at eleven A.M. He died gloriously, was perfectly resigned & expressed a sincere Christian faith. It is superfluous for me to mention his numerous brave deeds, whilst under my command. “Boonesboro” & “Kellysford” alone would make him immortal. Could you have seen him Sir, fighting with the enthusiasm of his nature & his glorious death for his beloved country, affliction would be esier to bear. In the language of his Colonel in reporting his death to me, ‘it is no disparagement to my other officers to say, his loss is irreparable.’ “

“With the highest respect & affection,
“I am yours most truly
“Fitz Lee”

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