What the Private Saw - The Civil War Letters and Diaries of Oney Foster Sweet

The generals did
not see what the privates saw.

Civil War Veteran’s Letters & Diaries
Published — 150 Years Later

What the Private Saw
The Civil War Letters & Diaries
of Oney Foster Sweet

SAN DIEGO, CA — William Ketchum never expected to see the letters and diaries of his great-grandfather, Civil War veteran Oney F. Sweet, made available to the public. It just hadn’t occurred to him that anyone would be interested.

When others urged him to share his ancestor’s personal experience of the War Between the States, he realized what a powerful statement could be made not only about that war, but about warfare in general.

“My great-grandfather’s previously unpublished letters and diaries offer a unique glimpse of the American Civil War,” Ketchum says. “He wrote a retrospective of the Battle of Gettysburg and said, The generals did not see what the privates saw, and that is so true.”

The book, What the Private Saw: The Civil War Letters & Diaries of Oney Foster Sweet, will be released on April 9, 2015, the 150th anniversary of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.

Sweet also wrote:

[T]he historian has brought but dull statistics and hackneyed description. Of the hot-blooded young fellows who fell at my side in private uniforms, the [historians] know [them] as a number killed, while I see again their tanned faces grow blanch and hear their dying cry of farewell to friends about. Of the more famous few, whom school books have pictured and orators have lauded, the [historians] may know as heroes, but not as men.

Through his words, during and after the war, the reader gets to know Oney F. Sweet and his comrades as men. He unveils the life of a private simply trying to survive a deadly war in which one in five combatants perished.

“Even though he served in an artillery unit, at Gettysburg he ended up fighting for his life as his comrades fell around him when Rebels overran their battery,” Ketchum says. “They picked up anything they could use as a weapon to defend themselves — rammers, fence rails, stones.”

William Ketchum, a former rocket scientist for General Dynamics and a veteran himself, lives in San Diego, CA, and is available for interviews.

“This first-hand, personal account offers a distinct addition to the existing volumes on the United States of America’s War of the Rebellion, as it was known at the time,” says Larry Edwards, the book’s editor. “I congratulate Bill, his sister Joan Reamer and his cousin James Grant for their willingness to share their great-grandfather’s poignant story with the rest of us.”

Book highlights:

  • Sweet participated in almost every major battle—and the bloodiest—fought in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland: Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Appomattox. He suffered a leg wound and lost his hearing in one ear at Gettysburg.
  • Sweet served on a field artillery gun crew, making him a prime target for sharpshooters and infantry charges. The Rebels nearly killed him or took him prisoner on multiple occasions.
  • Sweet served with the famed Ricketts’ Battery F, 1st Pennsylvania Light Artillery, 43rd Volunteers, that helped turn the tide of battle on Gettysburg’s East Cemetery Hill.
  • Sweet endured the infamous Mud March in the winter of 1863.
  • Sweet reenlisted when he could have gone home to a safe haven in Gibson, Pennsylvania.
  • Sweet served for a time as an orderly/courier for the renowned General W. S. Hancock, with whom he developed a friendship. Following the battle for the Bloody Angle at Spotsylvania, he showed the general what the privates saw—bodies piled four and five deep.
       Sweet wrote about that moment, saying:

    As we rode over the battlefield to view the terrible results wrought by his own shot and shell, his face wore an expression of pity and anguish. The sight after Gettysburg and Antietam had not been more grewsome.

  • Following the war, Sweet wrote articles about his experience, at least two of which were published in The National Tribune. The articles are reprinted in the book.

Oney F. Sweet hailed from Gibson Hollow in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, near Binghamton, NY. After the war, he moved to Hampton, IA, where he lived until 1912, when he moved to Long Beach, CA. His war wound finally caught up with him, and he had a leg amputated below the knee. He died in Long Beach in 1932 at 91 years of age. Many of his descendants now live in California and Arizona.

Editor: Larry M. Edwards, award-winning author, editor and
   investigative journalist
Publisher: Wigeon Publishing, San Diego, CA
Formats: trade paperback, e-book, audio book
ISBN: 978-0-9896913-4-5 (print edition)
Pages: 290
Illustrations: 28
Release date: April 9, 2015
Website: What the Private Saw.com
Email: info@WhatthePrivateSaw.com

For a review copy of the book or an interview with Oney Sweet's great-grandson William Ketchum, please contact:
Larry Edwards

About Wigeon Publishing
Wigeon Publishing produces hand-crafted books with unique subject matter. What the Private Saw is Wigeon’s fifth book. Based in San Diego, Wigeon is a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association. Learn more at: www.wigeonpublishing.com. Contact: info@wigeonpublishing.com.


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    Copyright © 2014-, Larry M. Edwards