36th Illinois soldier writes of Battle of Stone’s River


Freeman S. Dunklee 
of the 36th Illinois Infantry, Co. A,  pens three letters recounting the Battle of Murfreesboro, where he was wounded and taken prisoner, and where his regiment lost nearly 100 in killed and wounded.
2 January 1863, Dunklee letter reads in part, “…you will have heard of the battle of Murfreesboro and undoubtedly suffering under a terrible suspense…But I will rehearse my experience in the battle. The 30th of Dec. we met the pickets of the enemy & skirmished in the P.M. – 2 of our Co. were killed & Hilton wounded, not badly. We slept in line of battle that night & our Co. were sent out as skirmishers the next morning and exchanged bullets with the enemies skirmishers for 1/2 an hour, when the enemy appeared in solid rank, we fell back to the regt, who opened a deadly fire which was answered by the enemy. The 24th Wis. on our right fled like cowards leaving our regt. to be flanked, yet the 36th stood & fought like tigers. I fired 5 or 6 times & had the satisfaction of seeing at least 2 of the enemy fall before my gun when a ball struck my left leg half way above my knee & I left the show, seeking the hospital. While I was retiring the bullets played a perfect tune & one went into the blanket on my back. Soon after I reached the hospital the enemy had possession of it, and I with many others was taken prisoner. I walked (by the help of a Confederate soldier) to town a distance of 3 miles. We are quartered in a deserted store, a very comfortable building. They have issued rations to us, & our surgeons who are prisoners with the help of some of the Confederate doctors have dressed all our wounds. I had the ball cut out of my leg yesterday morning & it is getting along finely. We have all taken the oath of parole & shall be sent to Vicksburg as soon as we are able. Now Mother…I feel well & contented & as happy as a cupid in the rose…I know nothing of our Co. except that some were wounded, others killed & others taken prisoner among whom is our 1st Lt…I still remain your son, F.S.D.”
A few days later, Dunklee continues in a letter inscribed “Dear Parents!…The rebels left this town Saturday night & our forces came in this morning & I will send this at the first opportunity. We have been paroled & left here to await the arrival of our forces…My wound is getting along finely. I can walk a little. I have not seen any of our co. but have seen a Sergt. of the reg’t. He says the reg’t draws rations for 271 men while before the battle the number was 650. Our co. numbers 28 before it was some 75…”
Dunklee gives details on men of his company in a letter on 8 January to his brother, “…I enclose a copy of the ‘Constitution of the Confederate States’. After you have read it, please let Uncle Daniel & Father see it. I found it in a desk in the old store in which we were quartered. There has been about 150 wounded soldiers in this building, but they are removing them & I hope the 36th boys will be removed today…My wound is getting along finely. I can walk by the help of a cane. I expect to be sent to Nashville soon…out of 60 men that went into the battle 27 came out unhurt; some 5 killed but none you know. Ed. Nute is unharmed; Milton wounded but not severe…F.S. Dunklee”.
Source: March eBay listing

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