The sight of his one-armed son after the Battle of Cedar Mountain almost broke Sgt. Horace Wright, a 42-year-old Auburn resident when he mustered into service with Co. H, 10th Maine Infantry Regiment on Oct. 4, 1861.
His 18-year-old son, Lyman H. Wright, mustered into Co. H the next day. But Lyman was actually 16, a year under the legal enlistment age, and somehow his father fudged the boy’s age and brought him along to Maryland and Virginia.
The Wrights signed up for two years, but this was not the first military rodeo for Horace, who had served as a sergeant in Co. H, 1st Maine Infantry Regiment, for three months earlier that year. The 1st Maine boys had mustered out after 90 days’ service, and a chagrined Gov. Israel Washburn Jr. had recalled many into the ranks when the 10th Maine Infantry formed in fall 1861.
After guarding the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and surviving Nathaniel Banks’ hasty retreat from the lower Shenandoah Valley in May 1862, the 10th Maine boys had missed the Peninsula Campaign — and bully for them. Then they marched with their brigade and division from near Front Royal to Culpeper in central Virginia in late July/early August 1862.
On Saturday, August 9, Confederate and Union troops fought the Battle of Cedar Mountain west of Culpeper. Pushing westward into a wheat-shocked field, the 10th Maine boys caught a leaden hell from Confederates advancing east from the thick woods bordering the field.
“We went into action with 461 men, lost 170 killed, wounded and missing,” recalled survivor John Mead Gould.
The strikingly young Lyman Wright caught at least one bullet with his right arm. Unfortunately not with him at that moment, Horace shared the painful facts with his wife in a letter written at Culpeper on Thursday, August 14.
“I will try to compose myself to write you a few lines to let you know how we are[,] but you must prepare yourself for the worst,” Horace penned immediately after “Dearest Wife.”
With the local newspapers publishing stories about the Battle of Cedar Mountain, imagine reading an opening sentence like that written from near the battlefield! Wright quickly set the stage for his wife: “… Friday we was ordered to march at a minute notice” and “we march seven miles out and there we met the enemy in a large force Saturday we had the hardest fought battle that has been fought.”
The battle “lasted about two hours” and “we had twenty three killed and wounded out of our company,” Wright noted.
Among the wounded Co. H lads was Lyman, who “had his right arm shot off and a flesh wound through [his] thigh.” His father “was driving a carriage to bring the wounded of (sic) the field and was off the field with a load of wounded when he was wounded[,] so I missed him.”
Somehow Lyman reached the woods east of the field and survived the night. Confederate infantry searching the battlefield found him Sunday morning; “they were going to carry him off with them and went after a carriage to get him with,” Horace wrote.
Despite his horrible wound, Lyman waited until the Confederates left, then “hobbled off and hollard (sic) and some of our men come to his relief and we brought him in,” Horace noted.
Under a Federal surgeon’s care by August 14, Lyman “is now doing as well as he can under the circumstances,” Horace reported. “It is an awful thing to think of much more to see his courage is first rate[,] but God deliver me from seeing another such a sight as I have seen for the week past[,] but such is the effects of war.”
He assured his wife that “Lyman will be sent to Elexandria (sic) soon[,] where he will have good care taken of him.” Horace had heard “they have women nurses there to take care of the wounded soldiers.
“He had very good care taken of him here[,] and I go in to see him twice a day,” Horace wrote. “It hear about breaks my heart to see my poor boy with one arm and to be a cripple for life[,] but it is so.”
The War Department discharged Lyman Wright for “loss of arm” on Jan. 15, 1863, Commissioned a second lieutenant on Dec. 9, 1862, Horace Wright mustered out on May 8, 1863.
Brian Swartz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He enjoys hearing from Civil War buffs interested in Maine’s involvement in the war.