This extensive and unique collection, consisting of over 180 letters and hundreds of drawings, covers Reed's period of service (1862-65) and provides the modern reader a wealth of information on the role of the Union army in the eastern theater, the events in the life of the Civil War soldier, and the war in general. A native of Boston, Reed served as bugler of the Ninth Massachusetts Battery, whose desperate holding action at Gettysburg ranks as one the most heroic actions of the war. During this battle Reed performed a deed of selfless bravery by saving his wounded captain from between the lines, an act for which he was later awarded the Medal of Honor. In addition to Gettysburg, Reed saw action in nearly all of the battles in the East from 1862 to 1865, including Bristoe Station, Mine Run, the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, North Ana, Bethesda Church, Cold Harbor, and the siege of Petersburg. Reed's letters chronicle events, from the most common to the extraordinary, with simple yet thoughtful eloquence. His drawings capture a wide variety of events to which he was not only an eyewitness but also a participant.
His talent was considered equal to that of leading newspaper artists of his day, and his drawings were used to illustrate a best-selling Civil War book, Hardtack and Coffee (1887). We are fortunate that Reed's writings and drawings have been preserved, and can be presented here in a single volume.