Monday, June 17, 2013

Letters provide soldier's account of Battle of Gettysburg

Letters provide soldier's account of Battle of Gettysburg
Jacqueline Baylon
Digital First Media

This is Esek Hoff, 29, in uniform.
He joined the 111th New York Infantry Volunteers.
(Courtesy of Ken Harris)
GETTYSBURG, Pa. - Union Army Sgt. Esek Hoff took cover on Cemetery Ridge under heavy fire as the Pennsylvania farmland filled with smoke.

Historians later would call the Civil War battle at Gettysburg a turning point for the United States, but all Hoff knew on that summer day in 1863 was that he was fighting for his life.

The 29-year-old Hoff and his unit, the 111th New York Infantry Volunteers, were in the middle of the Union's defensive line, trying to hold off advancing troops led by Confederate Gen. George Pickett. Hoff's unit was looking to redeem itself after surrendering to Stonewall Jackson's veterans at Harpers Ferry and getting branded "Harpers Ferry Cowards."

On July 2-3, 1863, they successfully held the center of the Union line, playing a key role in a battle that turned the tide of the Civil War.

On the 150th anniversary of that battle, which totaled about 51,000 casualties, Americans are pausing to remember the terrible fighting and what it means today. As re-enactors prepare to put on uniforms and head to Gettysburg, Hoff's detailed letters offer eyewitness accounts of that fight and others.

"I do not want nor would anyone desire to see such a sight again," Hoff wrote near Gettysburg on July 5, 1863, after the battle had ended. "Well in the charge of the rebels we lost some of our best men."
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