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Member of 28th Pennsylvania described visit to Hanover during the Gettysburg Campaign

Orr front cover

Dr. Timothy J. Orr has edited a fascinating book based upon the Civil War letters of Sgt. Ambrose Henry Hayward of the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. The 119 letters are housed in the special collections archive of Gettysburg College, and they reflect young Hayward’s transformation from a needle maker to a fledgling soldier to a battle-toughened veteran. They end prior to his mortal wounding in 1864 at the Battle of Pine Knob and his subsequent death in a military hospital in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Born in North Bridgewater, Massachusetts, in 1840, Hayward lived in Philadelphia at the time of his enlistment in Company D of the 28th on his 21st birthday in May 1861. His accounts are often detailed, candid, and interesting, and they provide a solid look at the life of an average soldier in some of the great campaigns of the Civil War. Hayward fought in the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, the battle of Antietam, Chancellorsville, the Gettysburg Campaign, and then the fighting at Chattanooga and the 1864 drive into Georgia after his regiment was transferred with their corps to the Western Theater.

During the Gettysburg Campaign, Hayward and the 28th tramped toward Hanover in southwestern York County en route to the battlefield at Gettysburg. He wrote a brief letter from the Hanover vicinity to his father.


Hayward composed his letter on June 30 after the regiment encamped for the night just outside of Hanover.  In it he describes the fertile, verdant area as “the best farming Country in the world,” and expressed surprise that the Rebels had not previously invaded the region.

“Dear father,

we have just arrived and it is nearly dark, but I will write a few lines that you may know my whereabouts. we crossed the Pa line at 1/2 past 12 am to day, and such lusty cheering I never heard before. all of our marches, which we have made since we crossed the Potomac, although quite lengthy, have been pleasure excursions to us compared to our travels in Old Virginia. the smiles of the ladies, the many flags which we see on our advance, the cool spring water handed to us by the lovely ladies send us a peculiar healthy feeling through the whole system well calculated to lighten the Knapsack. I wish I could describe the Country which we are now in. it is the best farming Country in the world. I only wonder that the Rebels have not tryed to get here before. I think they will be slow to leave for they never knew before what good liveing was. most of the farmers will not take anything for what we get, but work hard to supply us with everything that is in their power to do.

our Cavalry had a skirmish where we are now. we shall push on in the morning. I cannot describe the feeling of the army but they are very patriotic, never were more so. we will whip them this time or fall by thousands. we here that Hooker has been removed and that McClellan takes command. I am sattisfied. I will cheer him the first time he passes our lines. anything to keep the people united. I hope it will sattisfie the Copperheads, and that the north will submit cheerfully to Conscription. I shall hand this to some fair lady when we pass through Hanover tomorrow to mail for me. I hear we shall get a mail to night. excuse this for it is night while I am writing.

love to all,


Sergeant Hayward added a postscript in the morning before his regiment marched to Gettysburg, where they would engage the famed Stonewall Brigade on Culp’s Hill.

“Wed. Morn, July 1st

it is a lovely morning. we take 20 extra rounds of Cartridges and move at 8 ock am. I had pork & crackers and onions for breakfast.


Hayward’s next letter was written July 6 from Littlestown, and he noted “…I have done my duty in the last great Contest and have not received a scratch. it has been a great victory thus far.” Out of the 26 enlisted men in Company D of the 28th Pennsylvania, two were killed in the battle and six wounded. He was fine, but he complained that now his legs trembled. He wrote the letter on a piece of paper one of his comrades had taken from a dead Rebel sergeant whose body had lain in front of the regiment’s entrenchments.

He maintained frequent correspondence with this father, sister, and other relatives throughout his service. Timothy Orr has neatly brought these fascinating letters to the modern reader with his annotation, commentary, and historical setting, as well as his research into the Hayward family. This book offers excellent insight into the movements, battles, and everyday camp life of a Pennsylvania regiment during the war years.

Last to Leave the Field: The Life and Letters of First Sergeant Ambrose Henry Hayward, 28th Pennsylvania Volunteers, edited by Timothy J. Orr

Knoxville, University of Tennessee Press, 2011

ISBN 9781572337930