The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

Local News

July 2, 2013

Dear Parents: Jamestown man recorded battle in letter

---- — Judging from his letters, Robert Porter was much older than his 23 years.

He was the eldest son in his family and a new teacher when he enlisted in 1862.

Above all he was a very devout young man, and his strong faith appears in just about every letter he wrote from the field. He describes with disapproval the coarse behavior of soldiers and reminds his younger brothers William and Sam to behave and attend to their devotions. Often he would close by assuring his parents he would be kept safe by “he who doeth all things well.”

Yet two years of war and its brutality would take a toll and lead him to question what it all meant.

His letters offer an invaluable look into a soldier’s life with the 140th Pa. Regiment: crudely-made living quarters, the monotony of camp and landscapes far different from his home in Jamestown.

And from time to time they would record history.

One particular letter, written after the Battle of Gettysburg, details the action of his regiment on July 2, the second day of fighting. They moved quickly into line that afternoon to strengthen a staggering Union defense.

That movement, however, was only the end of a much longer march, that account only a passage in a much larger story, for his letter relates not only that day but the entire Gettysburg campaign as he lived it.

It was written during a halt, two days after the guns went silent and danger had passed. When he took up his pen he was tired and worn, angry and no doubt older for what he had experienced. He wrote it to let his parents understand what had happened to him in several harrowing days. It’s likely he was writing for his own understanding as well.

¥ ¥ ¥

Encamped six miles east of Gettysburg on the Baltimore Pike

Monday, July 6, 1863

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