1862: Frank Ball to Horatio Ball

The following letter was written by Francis (“Frank”) Ball (1841-Aft1865), the son of Horatio Ball (1796-1873) and Adelia Cornell (1797-1878) of Albion, Orleans county, New York. He wrote the letter to his older brother Horatio Amberelius Ball (1835-1873) whom he referred to throughout the letter as “Raish.”

I could not find an image of Frank but here is one of James Newton who served with Frank in the 105th New York Infantry. Corp. Newton was wounded at Fredericksburg on 13 December 1863 (Robert May Collection)

Frank enlisted in January 1862 to served in Co. F, 105th New York Infantry—a regiment that was organized during the winter of 1861-62, and mustered mustered into the U. S. service in March for three years. It left the state on April 4, was stationed for a month at Washington; then as part of the 1st brigade, 2nd division, 3d corps, Army of Virginia, it participated in its first battle at Cedar mountain, where 8 were wounded. A week later it moved on Gen. Pope’s Virginia campaign, culminating in the second battle of Bull Run, its loss in the campaign being 89 killed, wounded and missing. In the ensuing Maryland campaign under McClellan, it fought in the same brigade and division, but the corps was now called the 1st and Hooker had succeeded McDowell in command. The regiment had slight losses at South Mountain, but suffered severely in Miller’s Cornfield at Antietam, where the 1st corps opened the battle, losing 74 killed, wounded and missing. [See “The 105th New York in Antietam’s Cornfield: The High Price of Achievement”]

The regiment was also prominently engaged at Fredericksburg, where Gen. Reynolds commanded the 1st Corps, the 105th losing 78 killed, wounded and missing. After assailing the Confederate right at the point of bayonet and overrunning the Confederates position, when they were not reinforced, they were counterattacked and grappled in hand-to-hand combat before yielding the hard-earned ground. The “gallant old 105th New York was annihilated,” according to their commander Isaac S. Tichenor. “Captain Abraham Moore [Co. F] tried to rally the surviving members of the regiment. He failed. One soldier explained, “The 105th New York Volunteers was literally killed in action.” [See “The Fredericksburg Campaign: Winter War on the Rappahannock” by Francis A. O’Reilly, page 241] A great number of the surviving members of the 105th New York were taken prisoner, including Feank Ball, as he states in the following letter.

Being much reduced in numbers, in March, 1863 the 105th New York was consolidated into five companies, F, G, H, I and K, and transferred to the 94th N. Y. Infantry. It had lost during service 2 officers and 48 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded; 45 enlisted men who died of disease and other causes, a total of 95. Its gallant Lieut.-Col. Howard Carroll was among the mortally wounded at Antietam.


Addressed to Mr. Horatio Ball, Esq., Albion, Orleans county, New York

December 30th [1862]


I received your letter and was glad to hear from you. We are well down [here in ] Dixie. There is no prospects of any fighting. All quiet along the Rappahannock since the last slaughter. Now and then a thirty-two [pounder] wakes up to let the Confederates know we are still here.

Raish, you spoke in your letter of several things true. This thing is carried on under a cloak. We have many changes here. Sumner and Franklin and Burnside all left us. You wanted to know my Corps and Division at the fight of Antietam and South Mountain. My regiment was in Hooker’s Corps and [James B.] Rickett’s Division, [Abram] Duryée’s Brigade. Like everything else, we’ve been changed. We are in Reynold’s [1st] Corps, Robinson’s [2nd] Division, Root’s [1st] Brigade. We was in Gibbon’s Division, General Franklin’s Grand Left at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va. You can guess it’s hard to keep track.

Raish, we want Little Mac back. He is the only man that can handle this army. See how quick he made the Rebs dust out of Maryland? Between me and you, the Army of the Potomac is on the point of [ ]. Raish, if a [ ] tomorrow.

Capt. [Abraham] Moore starts for Brockport on furlough. We got a small regiment—about 200 men. Many of them is detailed on extra duty. There is some talk of consolidating my regiment with others and making one of three. Raish, this is hard when a regiment has been cut up. Of course the absent commissioned officers will take command and we will have probably strange officers.

My Brigade comprises the following regiments—viz: the 104th New York, 16th Maine, 94th New York, 107th Pennsylvania. This is the Brigade that drove the Rebs at Fredericksburg in Franklin’s left on a bayonet charge. Raish, I held trumps that day but when I went in, I as leave [had] been out. But thank God, I come out all right. But many that was my comrades lies over the river filling soldiers’ graves. Raish, I seen many sights [as] I walked over the dead and dying. I’ve been to Rebeldom. I was there two weeks and exchanged. I was in the same tobacco house that Hank Hewitt was and Alf Raymond. From there to Fortress Monroe. From there to Annapolis, Maryland. I seen the Monitor and the sunken Cumberland and the Congress sunken by the Rebel Merrimack of Newport News.

Raish, a soldier sees many things. I seen enough. Now I want to see York State. I got 8 months pay coming. If I had that, I have some hopes of settlement this summer. The Rebs gets plenty fresh meat and that makes them savage. Raish, you can guess the rest. Give my love to all and a bigger share yourself. Raish, heavy artillery are in front of the enemy. Lizzy’s man is as safe as at home. Rasch, you must write often and I will do the same. Send me the news of Albin and oblige, — Frank Ball

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