Joseph A. J. Lightburn commanded Union forces in the Kanawha Valley before being promoted to general and transferred to the Army of the Tennessee, where he participated in the Vicksburg campaign. In this letter to a family friend named George, he recounts some of the action seen by the 4th WV Infantry, his former unit. After the attack of May 22, 1863, five members of the 4th WV Infantry were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Head Quarters 2 Brigade
My Dear George
yours of the 2 Inst. has this moment been recieved to which I hasten a reply, first in relation to a position in the Virginia regimets. I know nothing about any of them except the 4" which is here and in the 4" the position of surgeon is filled I also desire to say that anything I can do that would obtain you a position I will gladly do, first on account of you competency to discharge the duties of surgeon and the efficient Manner in which you discharged those duties while under My Command, and seconly, our social relations have been of that character that I can recommend you as a gentleman, and if your health should continue as good as you say it has been I hope you will succeed in getting that position as I believe it would benefit the service, as to news here I suppose you have probably More particulars than actually exist. we have the city so invested that not even a single individual can escape we have occupied this position for some time our troops are in some place within 75 yards of the enemies works which are said to be as strong as the works around Sebastopol, we have had almost an incessant fire for 25 days. and will take Vicksburg but how would not be prudent for me now to say, My old regiment suffered terribly in the charge made on the enemies works her loss on the first- day was 147. including 11 officers amongst the reported killed was Major Goodspeed. who we have since learned by Rumor was wounded and a prisoner the old 4" had gained rather an enviable reputation for discipline and has fully sustained herself in battle. I am doubly paid for what labor I had bestowed on it as a regiment.
I thank you for your congratulations, and for the interest that you and your people exhibit for My success, and I shall ever make it My duty to so demean Myself that it can never be said I have betrayed the confidence of My people and government. My best respect to your father your lady and family, and particularly to the young J.A. J. of which you speak. you must excuse this hasty scrip as My Brigade is in front and I write under fire. we have been carrying on war on a large scale and the firing at times is terrific so much so that it would try the nerves of an old soldier I will give you particulars when we get into Vicksburg provided you will grant me the favor not to have any of My letters published as I am down on Newspaper puffing.
The Boys in the 4" that are left are all well Capt Lightburn was struck three times one shot struck his watch which saved his life his wound was very slight Luther was shot through the clothing. I recieved two shots on striking My sword and another through My coat, they all send thier Respects
I Must close write frequently
J. A. J. Lightburn
Comg 2 Brigade
2 - Division 15 Army Corps
Army of the Tennessee