In tabulating the losses from his company in the 14th Indiana, Captain David Beem offers more than a register of casualties. He was one of the few soldiers that I included in The War for the Common Soldier who wrote openly about the trauma of combat. The sounds of the fighting reverberated in his head for weeks. The subsequent letters that followed his September 19th missive chart his slow, physical and emotional breakdown.
Near Sharpsburgh, Md. Sept. 19th 1862
My dear Wife
I take this opportunity of writing you a letter. Yesterday I wrote you a very brief note to let you know that I was safe, though you may not get it. I am very anxious that the friends should hear from the boys in my company, knowing that they are all full of anxiety for their fate.
The battle of the 17th was a hard contested one, and the loss on both sides frightful. It lasted from 8 AM till 12 ½ o’clock, with furious carnage, and fighting more or less continuous from sunrise till dark –
Lundy, poor man, was killed by my side he never spoke after he was struck Jess Harrold was struck in four places, but will soon get well Hugh Barnes had his leg broken below the knee – Henry Woodsmall was shot twice through the leg. I have not time to give you a full list of the casualties – the man to take this letter is just starting Noah Johnson was in the fight and came out all right – so did Tom Mull – Mort Law slightly hurt – Lewis Houston mortally , James _____ seriously.
I have written one or two letters already but they may not have gone safe – Shepard Coleman and Ben Howe were not in the Battle – Neither was John Sullivan. Ben Howe and Sullivan were detailed the Ambulance waggons.
I am worn out, but otherwise in good health. I must close
Oh! The rush and roar of the battle! I wonder if the dreadful sounds will ever get out of my ears! Of the thirty seven of my Company present, three were killed instantly, three I fear will die and fifteen others are more or less seriously wounded D