John Taylor Cuddy Papers

John Taylor Cuddy Papers
Number of Pages: 
June 1861 - April 1864

John Taylor Cuddy was born on October 17th, 1844 to the Cuddy family of Carlisle, Pennsylvania. At the onset of the American Civil War, Cuddy joined the local unit known as the “Carlisle Fencibles”. The Fencibles became Company A of the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves (PVRC), also known as the 36th Pennsylvania Infantry. (Though the soldiers of the 7th and other PVRC regiments were proud of the “Reserves” title and used it instead of the regular unit designation.)

Cuddy at first a high spirited young soldier, began to show signs of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and severe homesickness after the Peninsula Campaign and the Seven Days Battles. Most particularly the Battle of Gaines Mill, where the 7th Reserves lost 300 of their 500 men engaged, including the commanding officer of Company A and Dickinson graduate Cpt. Robert Henderson, who was wounded.

Cuddy and the 7th continued on to the bloodiest day in American history at the Battle of Antietam. Cuddy does not reflect upon the battle in his letters, though his regiment took severe casualties in the area of the Cornfield. Next was the Battle of Fredericksburg in which the Union Army suffered one of its worst defeats. The Pennsylvania Reserve Division was one of the only units to break the Confederate line in the battle, but without support they were pushed back. Cuddy’s letters state his displeasure and depression over the state of affairs in the war. In particular Cuddy dislikes President Lincoln’s new policy of fighting the war to free the slaves instead of preserving the Union.

In 1863 the 7th PVRC was stationed in Washington D.C. During this time Cuddy wrote several letters begging his parents to request the Governor to grant him leave. He was granted a furlough to go home to Carlisle by Governor Curtin, but The Army of Northern Virginia’s invasion of Pennsylvania and the occupation of Carlisle cancelled the leave.

Cuddy was present with the 7th during their last major campaign. The Army of the Potomac under General Grant moved to take Richmond. This is where Cuddy's letters stop. The two armies met each other on the old Chancellorsville Battlefield in the dense forest known as the Wilderness. Even though the 7th PVRC only had a month left on their enlistments, they were in the thickest of the fighting. At one point, most of the 7th was cut off from the rest of the Federal troops and captured by the 61st Georgia Infantry. Cuddy was sent south to Andersonville Prison. There, in the horrible conditions he grew weaker. When General Sherman’s Federal army began its march from Atlanta to the sea in late 1864, Cuddy and the other prisoners were moved to Florence, South Carolina. It was there, two weeks before his twentieth birthday, that John Taylor Cuddy passed away. His letters paint an amazing portrait of the thoughts and feelings of the young men who made up the Union Army.

Note: Digital copies of most of these letters are available by following this COLLECTION LINK.

Gift of Blake Lee Spahr
MC 2001.9