This letter was written by Edward Riggs (1831-1865), a private in the 95th Pennsylvania Regiment. Sadly, though he served bravely and gave his life for his country, Edward’s name does not even appear on the roster of the 95th Pennsylvania. He may have been a member of Company K as he mentioned another soldier from that company in this letter. In this letter, Edward informs his mother that his unit has just passed through the Battle of Chancellorsville where many of his comrades were killed or wounded. Riggs did not return home, however. He died of chronic diarrhea at Camp Jackson Hospital near Wilmington, North Carolina, at the age of 34.
Edward was the son of William Henry Conant Riggs (1795-1861) and Julia Ann Grummon (1800-18xx) of Dock Ward, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Edward’s father was a merchant (watches and marine chronometers) and took his sons into the business his him; Daniel & Robert Riggs, watchmakers, are listed in the 1866 City Directory with their business at 244 S. Front Street.
Addressed to Mrs. J. A. Riggs, 244 South Front St., Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
North Bank of Rappahannock
May 5th 1863
I take this opportunity to let you know that I am safe & sound. We crossed the river and carried everything before us but had to retreat last evening as they had us all penn’d in but you will see a full account in the papers. We had a hot time of it. Our regiment lost some 250 in killed, wounded & missing — our Colonel [Gustavus Washington Town], Lieut. Col. [Elisha Hall], & Adjutant [Eugene D. Dunton] being killed [at Salem Heights on 3 May] & Major being wounded so that we have no staff officers left — our senior Capt. [Theodore H. McCalla] having command of the regiment. It was bloody work, I can tell you, for 3 or 4 thousand men in line of battle to face almost certain death, but, you have to run your chance.
The loss is estimated — that is at present 15,000 men — more or less, but I think more as it is almost impossible to tell at present. Wash I. is safe and sound. I wish you would tell [sister] Eveline to send to Mr. Edward R. Jones, 407 Borden St., and let them know that their son is safe and sound but like all the rest, pretty nearly tired out having laid under fire for five days on our arms with nothing to eat but crackers and water.
If you write, direct as before. Send papers with account of battle &c. So goodbye for the present. Give my love to all. I will write every opportunity that I have.
Yours affectionately, — Edw. Riggs