I was struck by this image when I ran across it online. It is of 20-year-old William J. Reichard of Allentown, Pennsylvania. Reichard "saw the elephant" at Antietam and survived.
The 128th Pennsylvania was a rookie regiment at Antietam. It was recruited in Berks, Bucks, and Lehigh counties and mustered into service as a nine-months regiment on August 16, 1862. A month later, they found themselves in battle as part of the 12th Corps. Colonel Samuel Croasdale was killed almost immediately as the regiment went into action in the East Woods. Overall, the Pennsylvanians lost 26 killed, 86 wounded, and 6 missing.
Reichard survived Antietam and also Chancellorsville before being mustered out in May. He was a prolific letter writer: he wrote 140 letters home during his service. The letters were later published by the Lehigh Historical Society.
Regarding Antietam, Reichard wrote:
"I cannot describe it to you the way the balls and shells whistled around us, but we drove them back. I never knew that such a continual roar of Musketry and Artillery could be fired off. If one has never been in a battle he can never rightly imagine how it is."
A few days later he wrote:
"Frank Ritter fell, dead in the commencement of the fight. Wilgh. and some others carried him out of the woods. We buried him last evening under a locust tree in the field. If his father wishes to fetch his body I think he better come with Lieut. Miller. We marked his grave with a head board with his name and ref. and residence. I tell you the balls and shell fell thick and fast. Our Col. fell in the beginning of the fight. We were ordered out and did not get together before next morning. The rebels have retreated. I was in one battle and expect to get soon in more but hope by the grace of God Almighty to get through safe again if his will."
Reichard had 10 siblings at home. In a letter to one of his brothers dated October 3, Reichard wrote:
"Allie I can hardly inform you how happy I felt in opening Tillie's letter to find one enclosed from you dear brother. It made me feel that you had not forgotten me 'away down here in Dixy.' I showed your letter to the other boys and they all praised it. ... I am glad to hear that you little boys are still so patriotic ... when you are old enough if necessary you will be fit to 'gird on the armor and be marching along' for our beloved Union. Still as long as you are so young I would advise you to stay at home and not go for drummer boy, for it ain't going to school, but I don't want you to think I complain about the soldiers' life. I only want you to know that that this life would be too hard for either you or Eddie."
@Brian Downey had posted about Reichard on his website here.