Letter from
Lieutenant Nicholas De Graff
Company D, 115th New York Infantry

Image provided by Lance Ingmire
Used with permission.

February 20, 1864

"First Lieut. Nicholas De Graff was born in the town of Amsterdam, Montgomery Co., N.Y., June 9th, 1842. His father's name was Emanuel De Graff, and his mother's maiden name Maria Mynderse. Both were Americans by birth, and their ancestors were natives of Holland. The lieutenant's father died March 25th, 1865, and his mother is yet living. He entered the service July 23d, 1862, as a private in Co. D, was promoted to 1st sergeant, Aug. 21st, 1862, to 2d Lieut., June 12th, 1863, and to 1st Lieut., Feb. 8th, 1865. He enjoyed good health while in the service, engaged in nineteen battles and skirmishes with the regiment, and for a long time was acting adjutant. He was a brave young officer, and escaped remarkably well considering the large number of battles in which he engaged. At Chesterfield Heights, Va., May 7th, 1864, he was slightly wounded in the hand, and on other occasions had narrow escapes. He was mustered out of the U.S. service at Raleigh, N.C., July 17th, 18644, and received final discharge at Albany, N.Y., July 31st."

- from The Iron Hearted Regiment: Being An Account of the Battles, Marches and Gallant Deeds Performed by the 115th Regiment N.Y. Vols. - written by 1st Lt. James H. Clark, Company H, in 1865.

DeGraff's reminiscence of the battle, which is in the collection of the United States Army Military History Institute at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, is reproduced below. Minor grammatical changes have been made to the original entries.

Feb. 20.

Marched at 7 am. passing Sanderson Station again at 12 M(eridian). eating from our haversacks, no coffee to be had. At 2 P.M. cavalry began skirmishing with the Rebel force. At 3:30 P.M. the Battle of Olustee was begun. Our Brigade's (Bartons') were at once formed in line of Battle and advanced at Double Quick, charging the Rebel lines. They (we afterwards were entrenched) were in edge of woods ambushed in crescent shaped line, we in the open. We were immediately under a gaulling (sic) fire, which we returned in kind.

We were unable to drive them or advance further, but we held the field for 1 1/2 hours at 6 P.M. we were forced by superior numbers (we had 6000 the(y) 15000) to begin march. We retreated) leaving our killed and seriously wounded, who fell into the Rebels hands. The loss of my Regiment was 280 in officers and men. My Co. D. lost 4 men killed Sergeant Levi Lungrufelter(?), cousin of our Capt., Peter A. Fobush (?), Roderick F. Barlow, and Edward Smith, all shot in head and instantly killed. 22 men wounded. Regiment lost 9 officers and 270 men killed and wounded, and did not fall back until our ammunition was exhausted.

I had been ill for a week with fever and ague. Was calling on the surgeon when the skirmishing began. He Dr. C. McFarlan, dismounting, put me on his horse he walking we reached the front just as my Regiment was beginning the line of battle. Joining my comrades I was at once in the midst of the conflict, from which it was my good fortune to escape without injury ... (we) fought 2 1/2 hours, loosing (sic) half of our command. Again, without rest, we in (the) ranks broken and demoralize (sic), began retreat to avoid capture, not halting until we reached Barbers Station, which we reached at 2:30 AM the 21, having made 32 miles with(out) rest and living from our haversacks. I found myself sick and very tired.

(The) bodies of Lieutenants William Tomkins & Levi Shaffer we left on the field, together (with) about 85 killed & wounded of enlisted men. It was with regret that we left our severely wounded to fall in the Rebels hands. Among them was Corporal Daniel Grant, whose discharge from service was awaiting him, having been granted because of the death at his home of his two brothers from disease, leaving his widowed mother alone on the homestead farm near Amsterdam N.Y. He with others was thrown into the Rebel prison hellhole at Andersonville, and after surviving its miseries for ten months was finally exchanged, reaching his home a living skeleton. Dr. Charles Devendorf of Amsterdam, surgeon of the 48th N.Y., who remained on the battlefield to care for our wounded, was declared by the Rebel vandels (sic) also a prisoner, and sent south to prison, but afterwards liberated. He said our command gave the Rebels such a smashing fight that they were in panic and never showed up on our battle line until morning of the 21.

We would have given them more if our ammunition had held out longer. The 115th was complemented for heroic and brave service, Colonel Simeon Sammons for unusual bravery, he remaining on his horse after twice wounded seriously in instep of foot. When the commanding Genl. of our Brigade saw the day was lost to save capture ordered (the Brigade) to fall back with face to the enemy. Col Sammons, to avoid a stampede, was riding along his line explaining the reason for the order to fall back. Lieut Frank Barnum of 115th on brigade staff afterwards told that the delay of our regiment to fall back as ordered aroused the General who sent Lieut Barnum three times to repeat to Col S. the order. This exasperated Col S and he shouted with the roar of battle around him "Give my compliments to Genl Barton and tell him to go to Hell. I will fall back with my Regiment when I am ready to do so."

Feb 23 and 24. We remained for recuperation at Barbers Station, the Rebels having lost so heavily in the battle that they made not (sic) attempt to follow us. We found our knapsacks had been scatered (sic) about by soldiers looking for their own. We the survivors, after claiming our own, before leaving burned what was left to keep them from the contamination of Rebel hands, who are murderers and bandit outlaws. It is to be regretted that we have to allow them the favors of honorable warfare... It is now seen that the Secretary of War at Washington misunderstood the situation and made the mistake of sending to(o) small a force, and under command of an incompetent comdr Genl Seymour. Another unnecessary slaughter and nothing gained for our cause.

While dreading the onslaught, the excitement of the battle so engaged my attention that I did not realize my peril and now it all seems like a hideous dream, rather than authorized warfare.

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