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Last to Leave the Field

The Life and Letters of First Sergeant Ambrose Henry Hayward, 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry

Edited by Timothy J. Orr

Publication Year: 2010

Revealing the mind-set of a soldier seared by the horrors of combat even as he kept faith in his cause, Last to Leave the Field showcases the private letters of Ambrose Henry Hayward, a Massachusetts native who served in the 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Hayward’s service, which began with his enlistment in the summer of 1861 and ended three years later following his mortal wounding at the Battle of Pine Knob in Georgia, took him through a variety of campaigns in both the Eastern and Western theaters of the war. He saw action in five states, participating in the battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg as well as in the Chattanooga and Atlanta campaigns. Through his letters to his parents and siblings, we observe the early idealism of the young recruit, and then, as one friend after another died beside him, we witness how the war gradually hardened him. Yet, despite the increasing brutality of what would become America’s costliest conflict, Hayward continually reaffirmed his faith in the Union cause, reenlisting for service late in 1863. Hayward’s correspondence takes us through many of the war’s most significant developments, including the collapse of slavery and the enforcement of Union policy toward Southern civilians. Also revealed are Hayward’s feelings about Confederates, his assessments of Union political and military leadership, and his attitudes toward desertion, conscription, forced marches, drilling, fighting, bravery, cowardice, and comradeship. Ultimately, Hayward’s letters reveal the emotions—occasionally guarded but more often expressed with striking candor—of a soldier who at every battle resolved to be, as one comrade described him, “the first to spring forward and the last to leave the field.”

Published by: The University of Tennessee Press

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pp. xi-xiii

On September 23, 1863, Ambrose Henry Hayward and his comrades in the 28th Pennsylvania Infantry left their camps along the Rapidan River before dawn, filing onto trains for destination unknown. As the cars neared Washington D.C., they learned that they were departing Virginia for good. “Our hearts gladened with the hope that we were to leave the detested soil of Virginia,” Hayward wrote...


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pp. xv-xvi

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pp. xvii-xxii

I present to the reader the collected, edited, and annotated letters of First Sergeant Ambrose Henry Hayward, 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. This collection of original letters—kept at Gettysburg College’s special collections archive—documents the military career of a twentyone- year-old needle-maker-turned-soldier who served for three years in the Union army, only to fall mortally wounded...

Editorial Method

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pp. xxiii

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Chapter 1: “Independence Still Lives”

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pp. 3-17

Ambrose Henry Hayward was born on May 21, 1840, in North Bridgewater, Massachusetts. His father, Ambrose Hayward—a thirty-year-old dry goods merchant—had lived in North Bridgewater most of his life. The Hayward family descended from one of the first residents of Old Bridgewater...

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Chapter 2: “We Are Not Without Our Sport”

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pp. 19-61

Immediately after the 28th Pennsylvania arrived at Sandy Hook, the regiment’s new division commander, General Banks, put the men to work. Banks expected them to guard the shores of the Potomac River between Maryland Heights and South Mountain. One soldier wrote, “A constant lookout is kept upon the commanding points in the vicinity...

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Chapter 3: “We All Supposed the Time for Chewing Cartridges Had Come”

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pp. 63-85

On February 24, as part of General Banks’s 37,000-man Army of the Shenandoah, the 28th Pennsylvania led the advance into enemy territory. Amid cold, blustery weather, the regiment used small boats to cross the Potomac River at Harpers Ferry. Unfortunately, two accidents marred this operation. Six men from Company P drowned suddenly when...

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Chapter 4: “Baltimore Is a Slumbering Volcano”

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pp. 87-91

On May 21, in reaction to a fear that Confederate forces in the Shenandoah Valley might seize Washington, New York Governor Edwin D. Morgan called up twelve regiments of New York National Guard. Among the units called up was the 7th New York State Militia. Hayward’s older brother, Melville, once again returned to the front...

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Chapter 5: “I Have Seen Death in Every Shape” [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 93-115

The Maryland Campaign began strangely for Henry Hayward. On September 1 he received a special assignment. One day before being relieved of command, Major General Banks ordered a reconnaissance to ascertain the movements of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Banks directed a member of his staff, Colonel John S. Clark, to select thirteen men from the 28th Pennsylvania to scout behind enemy lines...

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Chapter 6: “These Are America’s Dark Days”

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pp. 125-135

On December 30 the 28th Pennsylvania established winter quarters at Dumfries, Virginia, and it remained there for sixteen weeks. During that period, a number of major military and political changes occurred. On January 1 President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation—announced on September 22—went into effect, freeing all slaves...

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Chapter 7: “Last to Leave the Field”

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pp. 137-145

The 28th Pennsylvania, along with the rest of Geary’s division, reached Germanna Ford on the Rapidan River at 4:00 p.m., April 29. When the White Stars arrived, they saw the 1st Division, 12th Corps, crossing one hundred yards below the ford. Fearful of the deep water and swift current, Geary ordered his men to fall out and construct...

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Chapter 8: “I Have Done My Duty in the Last Great Contest”

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pp. 149-174

The 28th Pennsylvania encamped at Aquia Creek, Virginia, until mid-June, when news of the Army of Northern Virginia’s invasion spurred the Army of the Potomac to action. During the intervening time, the regiment encountered a number of changes. First, certain soldiers had to be promoted to fill vacancies produced by the Battle of Chancellorsville. Command of the 28th Pennsylvania now fell to Arkansas...

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Chapter 9: “If a Battle, Let it Begin with the Riseing of the Sun”

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pp. 175-202

Hayward and his fellow soldiers traveled aboard railroad cars for ten days, arriving at Duck River Bridge, Tennessee, on October 4, after covering a distance of 1,120 miles. The journey was a harrowing one, taking them through West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky. Along the route, they encountered multitudes of friendly citizens, especially...

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Chapter 10: “The White Starr Shines in Philadelphia”

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pp. 203-218

Hayward journeyed to North Bridgewater in late January. Unfortunately, little information is known about his journey. Hayward returned to Philadelphia on February 14 and he took temporary lodging with his friend William Murry Hall, a veteran from the 71st Pennsylvania. During this time, Hayward attempted to obtain an officer’s commission, but in so doing he suffered disappointment. He had been serving...

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Chapter 11: “Carrieing the War into Africa”

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pp. 219-235

Campaigning began in earnest. On May 3 Geary’s White Star Division left Bridgeport and marched forty-four miles over the next two days. On May 8 it reached the foot of Chattoogata Mountain (also known as Rocky Face Ridge), a massive summit defended by Confederates under Major General Joseph Johnston. General Sherman hoped to dislodge Johnston’s defenders and gain access to Mill Creek Gap...

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Epilogue: "At His Country’s Call”

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pp. 237-240

Sometime during the last week of June 1864 a detachment of Union soldiers buried First Sergeant Ambrose Henry Hayward’s remains inside the newly established Soldiers’ National Cemetery in Chattanooga. An Ohio soldier who likely oversaw Hayward’s burial described the earnest and dedicated work of the mass interment: “Every pain and especial care is taken in the burial of the poor fallen...


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pp. 241-301


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pp. 303-306


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pp. 307-320

E-ISBN-13: 9781572337930
E-ISBN-10: 1572337931
Print-ISBN-13: 9781572337299
Print-ISBN-10: 157233729X

Page Count: 344
Illustrations: 16 halftones, 6 maps
Publication Year: 2010