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A Letter From Albert Byrne To His Mum

Updated on August 4, 2014
The Tree
The Tree | Source

The Last Letter

Sargent Major Albert Bryne

September 18, 1862
Sharpsburg, MD
69th New York
Company B

Dear Mother,

I hastily write to you with the littlest amount of strength that is left in my arms. I was hit yesterday morning and fear that there is not much time left for me on this earth. I have not slept even a minute since then, for fear of not waking up. I am haunted with this compulsion to put ink to paper hoping there is nothing left unsaid. If my last moments are going to be in this crowded makeshift hospital tent, it will be on my own terms.

I want to share with you a few impressions of what has filled my mind as of late. This last summer of 1862, has brought about many battles in the cursed South, especially in Virginia. Yesterday, our boys of the 69th New York were fighting those Johnny Reb’s in Maryland.

It was a hard fought battle, and almost took the whole day. I was wounded a little after our regiment started, and very proud of how well my 69th New York boys did that day. The Doc said that there is not much he could do, and the mini ball is in too deep. I can tell you that the pain is immense, and the bleeding just slowed a little for the time being. I was wounded just east of the Hagerstown Turn Pike, just yards from the sunken road, which was where the Rebels where hiding. I believe the Reb's who were positioned along that road were a concoction of ragamuffins from Alabama and North Carolina. Regiment of disheveled and devilishly looking soldiers positioned along a road during a fine Wednesday afternoon in September will haunt my dream, and never will be effaced from my memory. The sounds were a strange mix of cannonade, yelling, and mini balls whizzing past your ear. It had seemed so loud and chaotic, that even the most fearless soldier, could become deaf for the rest of his days. The true test for a man is when they can stand upright and face death head on. Manhood is not determined by just surviving, it’s never backing down at that moment. There are several nurses here taking care of us wounded men, and my friend Joseph is helping me write this here letter. When lying here writing to you Mum, there are no regrets when facing my mortality. My only heart ache is not seeing you for one last time. I long to hear your soft voice whisper in my ear telling me that it will be OK from here on out. I remember the days when you would softly sing while holding me after my nightmare would pass, and the feel of your touch on my forehead in hopes of easing my fear. I want to assuage your pain, by letting you know that it will be alright from here on out. You can never carry any shame or guilt in how you raised me or any love that was never shown. You can take pride in the fact that you and Pa raised me right, showed me how to live my life the right way. I will take with me the love and joy; the both of you have showed me how to express on to others. I now truly understand that, there is nothing which could have been better for me in my short life. I am feeling weaker, and will have to end this letter Mum. I will give Joseph my personal items, which he will make sure gets to you soon. Joseph will also make sure my burial is marked, and you will know where I am in the future. Make sure Pa knows that I love him too, and that he helped make me a stronger man. Goodbye Mum.

Your loving and affectionate Son
Albert Bryne

The Aftermath

My eyes started focusing on the crudely assembled makeshift wooden cross, as the numbness started on the top part of my ears. My mind began to realize not a sound could be heard. My breathing was fast, and the lungs were beginning to freeze with every full rush of cold air. This was the first time in my life were loneliness lingered behind, and there was no care in the world for how long it would stay. As I stood there, my mind instinctively pulled my hands into eye sight, mesmerized on how red and swollen they looked. The feeling was like a tingling sensation, which could be described as though a thousand needles have just embedded into the skin. I just stood there, frozen under the bright moon and the sad withering looking tree.

Darkness had just set in, and the other soldier’s were getting set up for a long night trying to strengthen the tents for the coming storm. It seemed that much of the land was stripped, and so few trees survived this hellish battle. I do know my days will continue to move on, and all forms of life will instinctively grow in strength from within the soul. As for this long cold moment, I had no care in the world about a tent, or even sleeping for that matter. It has taken me several hours to bury my dear friend Albert, and nothing else mattered at this point. Albert and I have had many adventures this past year since we enlisted together in 1861. I can honesty say that Albert was more than just a friend, he is my Brother.

Albert had passed away on his terms just like he always wanted. I am forever grateful that his last wish was fulfilled, and that my ability to bury him has been completed. The Byrne family will be proud of all his accomplishments during a life fulfilling his duty as a; Man, Son, Soldier, and Friend. I have solace in the knowledge that Albert’s soul will be at peace for all eternity. Albert was finally able to rest under the shade of the trees.

My Summarization

I have been an American Civil War buff for as long as my memory can conjure up thoughts during my youth. To this day, I mess with my family by announcing that my soul was reincarnated from a soldier who was truly there during that time. I often like to taunt my children and tell them stories of my days as a soldier. I do mix things up by sharing tales from both perspective sides of the Mason Dixon Line.

I have the utmost respect for all the Men and Women, who have Served our Country!

This letter and short story about Albert, is from my imagination. I often think about the battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg), so my attempts at imaging that day along the (The Sunken Road), Hagerstown Turnpike was interwoven within the story. I also think back with fondness when there is an opportunity in thinking about the 69th New York Irish Regiment. Albert Byrne is actually a concoction of my own family line which traces back in history. My Mum’s family line goes back far with the Burns (Byrne) and McCaffrey Family, which were of Irish heritage. I also have a very small line of the Gurnsey (Garnsey) Family Lineage which dates back all the way to England. Irony had an ace hidden when my family line evolved through history all the way up to my very existence. The only family line to date back to the time period of the American Civil War was the Gurnsey (Guernsey) Family, and that name was spelled in so many different ways.

© 2013 Jeb Stuart Bensing


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