"A band of brothers" - A moving final letter to the men of the 57th Pennsylvania
I've been spending a lot of time with the 57th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry in recent weeks in anticipation of an upcoming project. I found this letter moving and transcendent. It's written to the men of the 57th Pennsylvania, but similar words could have been written to many of the other Pennsylvania regiments that mustered out in the summer of 1865 after years of bloody conflict.
Private Jonathan Colgrove, Company F, 57th Pennsylvania (LOC)
Harrisburg, Pa., July 6, 1865.
To the Officers and Soldiers of the old 57th Pennsylvania:
Four years ago our thoughts were turned on war to come. To-day our thoughts are on war past and peace to come. The bloody strife is over, and you with many of your fellow soldiers are now to return to your homes. We part joyfully, for the life we have led as soldiers has been a severe one, and we are glad the task is over, and that henceforth we may enjoy the comforts of peaceful life.
Yet the associations we have formed are very hard to sever, and during our whole course of life in the future we will revert with pleasure and pride to the associations and companionships formed during those three or four years in which the regiment fought twenty-seven engagements and marched hundreds of miles. Let us not forget each other.
Parting as a band of brothers, let us cling to the memory of those tattered banners, under which we fought together, and which without dishonor we just now restored to the authorities who placed them in our hands.
Till we grow grey-headed and pass away let us sustain the reputation of the noble old regiment—for none can point to one more glorious! Fortune threw together two organizations—the 84th P. V. and the 57th P. V.—to make up the present command. Both regiments have been in service since the beginning of the strife, and the records of both will demand respect through all coming time.
Very many of those who have been enrolled with us have fallen, and their graves are scattered here and there throughout the south. We will not forget these; and the people of this nation will and must honor their memory—for how can they avoid it when they see little children pointing their fingers at the portrait on the wall and hear them saying: "He died for our country!"
Comrades, God bless you all! Farewell!
George W. Perkins,
Field officers of the late 57th P. V. V.
The 57th Pennsylvania lost 378 men during the Civil War. Countless others were left with physical and emotional scars that lasted a lifetime. The survivors were left with cords of memory that bound them together forever.
This letter can be found in the regimental history of the 57th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry. Pages 162-163
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