Ripper Alton, Illinois
Sept. 26th 1865
I approach you with my great sorrow, but hardly indulge the hope that you can do anything for me. My darling boy, my only son, was reported killed in the Battle of the Wilderness, May 6th, 1864.
His body was not found, and the hope was entertained by his Regiment and clutched at by myself, that wounded he had fallen into the hands of the Enemy, a prisoner and not dead.
After various fruitless efforts to obtain information, General Longstreet courteously ordered an examination in the southern prisons, and we obtained a certificate from each that no such name had ever been received.
After all our investigations we are led to the conclusion that he died on the battle field, or mortally wounded, was conveyed to some farm house and may have there been buried.
He was Captain of company D. Fifth Michigan Infantry. His sword, a cavalry sabre, had his name engraved upon it. Wilber Hurlbut, Fifth Michigan Infantry. He was in Hancock’s Corps, Birney’s Division, Hay’s Brigade. He had command of the Regiment at the time he fell. Had charged the enemy through a wood and was in the vicinity of Spottsylvania.
Our men were heavily pressed and fell back. Captain Hurlbut was missing. A man, by the name of Luke Stanton, told an officer that he saw him fall.
We have been unable to find Luke Stanton & have never ascertained to what Regiment he belonged, but learned he was soon after mustered out of the service. Captain Miller, Aid to General Hancock, made such efforts as he could, and other of his comrades did all in their power to learn his fate but we elicit nothing. If he died on the battlefield, I would that I knew it and if he died at a farm house, how much I wish to know it. For his sword I would give a handsome reward. Anything that was his would be most precious to me and nothing to strangers. Some articles of toilet he had with him have his name. Whatever of money found on his person was of course the spoil of war.
My son was twenty-two years old. Wore no moustache or beard. Was about six feet in height. When in College he was rather spare, but the outdoor life of the army had given him a robust appearance. He entered the army as Aid to General Richardson. After that officer’s lamented death, he served in the Michigan Fifth. He had participated in more than twenty battles. Was severely wounded at Gettysburg, but from which he wholly recovered.
The enemy held the battle ground of the Wilderness and should anything ever be revealed in regard to my dear boy, it would probably come from some Rebel source, unless indeed some of our men captured at the time should know something. General Ewell held the field there for sometime.
It may be well to add my son’s name to the many missing ones, and could you by any means give to me any knowledge of the last resting place of my darling one you would confer such a favor as none less desolate than myself can appreciate.
May God bless you in your humane efforts and abundantly reward you.
Mrs. T. B. Hurlbut
Ripper Alton, Illinois.
P. S. I neglected to mention that my son had dark hazel eyes. Hair almost black.
Wilbur T. Hurlbut’s body was never identified. It was likely moved to Fredericksburg National Cemetery with thousands of other unknown Union dead in the years after the Civil War. – Jake Wynn, Director of Interpretation