John H. Gagle of the Third Maryland

by Mike Shine

A Maryland relic has come into the possession of the regiment. It is a letter written in March 1863 by Private John H. Gagle of Company B of the Third Maryland Regiment. At the time, the regiment was wintering at Aquia Creek near Fredericksburg, VA. The letter is an ordinary soldier's letter written to a friend in Leitersburg, MD. These are the original thoughts of a soldier from the Glorious Old Third. The text of the letter is reprinted below. I have preserved most of the original spelling and grammar used by Private Gagle.

Camp at Aquia Landing, Marc 22nd/63

Friend James

I received your kind and affectionat letter on the 20th and was glad to here from and was glad to here that you wer all well. I have wrote a letter home on the 24 of Feb and havent received any anseer yet when you anseer let me kno whether he received the letter or not. James you say you think that the war will be over soon I wish you wer right but I think the war will last my time out for the rebbles they fight us like hell. This thing fighting for the negros is vary nice thing. I dont mind fighting union but I am getting most d--n tired of this war I vary sorrow I aint their to have some of them times over for have lernt to steel since I have been in the army I think I would close some of their eyes. is bill Ltday about their. I suppose hes a rebble aint he. we have received marching orders to day but we dont know when or to. Jamse talk about time when it took us 6-days [to] march 6 miles and it raining nearly every [day] and night. The [mules] would get stuck some times all you could see of them was their ears and we hadent a tent any thing to keep dry of a night and we keep a fire for the rain and half the times we wouldent have anything to eat for the wagons couldent get up but some one would be minous of a haversack when we would encamp. I supose Leithersburg most d--n any I suppose set bobs this summer you recolect the fishing times we had. I mus bring my letter to close.

direct this the as the other

Your Affectionat Friend

John H. Gagle

John Gagle has beautiful handwriting, but unfortunately he couldn't spell or form a sentence! Following is a short military history of Pvt. John H. Gagle, as compiled from official records reposing in the archives of the United States of America.

John H. Gagle was born in Leitersburg, Washington County, Maryland in 1840 (Leitersburg is in the Hagerstown area). Gagle was a coachmaker by trade. He enlisted for three years as a private in Company B, First Regiment, Virginia Union Volunteers on 23 July 1861, in Williamsport, Washington County, Maryland. He served with that organization until it was absorbed by the Third Maryland Regiment in February 1862. While he is listed as present for duty during the battle of Cedar Mountain, Second Manassas and Antietam, no special mention is made of Pvt. Gagle until October 1862, when it is noted that he was absent from duty due to "confinement at the Provost Guard for 20 days." While the nature of his offense is not recorded, however, John Gagle was promoted to Corporal in November or December 1862, which seems unusual considering his recent confinement.

Private Gagle's experience with higher rank was to be short-lived as he was "Reduced to ranks February 15, 1863." Again the nature of his offense is not recorded (perhaps the official government records have been purged), but from his letter of 22 March, we may deduce that the offense involved the theft of another's property.

During April 1863 Pvt. Gagle was on detached service guarding an ordinance train during the Chancellorsville campaign. He is listed as present during the Gettysburg campaign and subsequent movement of the entire XII Corps to the relief of Chattanooga, Tennessee in November 1863. Private Gagle was discharged from the Third at Henderson, Tennessee on 19 November 1863. By virtue of his reenlistment for three years as a private in Company B of the Third Regiment Maryland Veteran Volunteers under authority of War Department General Order 191, Gagle was paid a $50.00 reenlistment bounty and granted a veteran furlough. After his furlough, when back with the Third, the record shows that in March 1864 Gagle was docked $2.86 for the loss of one knapsack, one haversack and one canteen.

On 6 May 1864, while fighting with the Third during the battle of the Wilderness, Pvt. Gagle was wounded in action. While the nature of his wound is not recorded, he was absent from duty with the regiment and assigned to an unnamed military hospital in Washington, where he remained through August 1864. Pvt. Gagle is back with the regiment in September 1864 and is shown as assigned to the "Daily Duty Brig" as a Pioneer. Apparently, John was up to some of his old tricks at that time and was assigned to hard labor details as punishment.

In December 1864, Gagle was docked $1.10 in pay for the loss of a cartridge box, belt and plate, one extra cone and one wiper. In March 1865, his pay was docked an additional $8.95 for the loss of another knapsack and haversack as well as a shelter tent. In May/June 1865 he is listed as "Present - in arrest" (old John just couldn't stay out of trouble), and was sentenced to forfeit an additional $10.00 in pay. On 31 July 1865, after four years of and eight days of arduous (and sometimes rocky) service, Private John H. Gagle was mustered out of Federal Service, as were all surviving members of the Third Maryland Regiment Veteran Volunteers.