Accounts of War

Robert Dunn Sees

“Robert D. Sees was a member of Co. B, 131st Reg’t., P. V. I., the same regiment to which his second cousin, Jeremiah E. Baker (of Co. H), belonged, but the young soldiers had then no knowledge of their kinship, and were in fact not at all acquainted. They were together in the same wearisome marches, in the heat and in cold, in rain and in mud, stood in the same line of battle and fought the same enemy, and saw the same thrilling and sickening sights, all unconscious of each other’s existence. It is needless to repeat, therefore, what has already been said of Antietam, Sharpsburg, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, in the account of Comrade Baker’s service. Robert D. S. was very fortunate to serve his full term of enlistment without being wounded—was once, however, sick and laid up in the hospital for two weeks, shortly after the battle of Fredericksburg—and was mustered out with his company at Harrisburg on the 24th day of May, 1863.

“In response to a request to give the compiler an account of his army life, Robert wrote: ‘It has been such a long time, I cannot remember much.’ Old soldiers are much inclined to make such remarks, but when the movements and conflicts in which they shared are the subjects of conversation they are very apt to liven up and chime in by saying, ‘that reminds me,’ and then give an interesting narration of some scene or incident of which they are thus reminded. If the writer could have had a personal interview with Robert, as was had with his brother, John B., the member of Co. B of the 131st would no doubt have been ‘reminded’ of some things worthy of being recorded in this Family History. He briefly mentioned that on the night after the disastrous repulse from the height at Fredericksburg he was detailed with six others of his company to gather up the wounded, and they were thus humanely engaged until midnight, a perilous duty in which they made a number of very narrow escapes, as the rebel batteries kept right on shelling the field, being no doubt apprehensive of a night assault. ‘Our dead some places lay three deep,’ said he, and ‘we saw some horrible sights.’ Never can any one forget the melancholy impression that such a direful scene is sure to make. May the American Union never forget the sacrifices made by the brave men who fought on such bloody fields for its preservation.

“And indeed the great sacrifice and noble service will never be forgotten. A beautiful and well-kept National Cemetery now occupies the height up which our kinsmen, Sees and Baker, and the gallant 131st in battle array charged, with the division under General Humphrey, which headed the column of assault and met with such a fearful loss and repulse. Most of the men who died in the vain attempt to take it by storm now occupy it in peaceful repose in the grateful Nation’s fair necropolis; and many of the loyal and brave who gave their lives in the battles of the wilderness, Spottsylvania and Chancellorsville, are there at rest with them. The total number of these honored Union martyrs in the cemetery is 15,257. Of these 2,487 are known, but the startling number of 12,770 are among the lamented ‘unknown.’ The graces made after the carnage had as far as possible been carefully marked, but when the enemy a few days later reoccupied the city all the headboards were ruthlessly destroyed. The names of the dead, however, are preserved in the rosters of their regiments; the records show how they fell in the best cause that was ever subject to the arbitrament of war; and their families—and the soldiers who were disabled in the struggle—have from year to year been reminded, though far from compensated, by a beholden and thankful government that none are forgotten and are really ‘unknown’ ” (from Heinrich Gernhardt and His Descendants, pp. 275-276).

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