The 61st OVI arrived at Bridgeport, Alabama, with the XII Corps, on October 1, 1863. On October 27 the regiment began moving toward Chattanooga, Tennessee to assist in opening communications for the city by way of the Tennessee River. On the night of October 28th, the regiment was engaged in a fierce fight at Wauhatchie Valley, defeating and driving Confederate forces across Lookout Creek. Captain William McGroarty of Company C was killed during this engagement, along with two other 61st OVI men. Captain McGroarty was the brother of the 61st OVI commander, Colonel Stephen McGroarty.
Robert Patterson was deeply effected by the loss of Captain McGroarty. On November 8, 1863, Robert wrote his mother a letter while the 61st OCI was camped in Lookout Valley about four miles from Chattanooga. In the letter he describes the regiment’s movements, where they are located, and includes a map of their location. Of particular note is his detailed description of the engagement where Captain McGroarty was killed. Robert closed his description with “He [Capt. McGroarty] was one of the most intimate acquaintances I had in the Regt. and a splendid fellow. His death has left a gloom over us which it will [be] hard to remove, and we each look around on the few now left and wonder ‘who next.’ ”
Robert’s letter also describes his first meeting with his brother, William – “The first time I saw Will we sat down and had a long talk about home as unconcernedly as if we were seated in the long room with a good fire: while the Rebs were shelling us continually. Persons get accustomed to almost anything.”
The letter ends abruptly, either due to being lost or censored. (Transcript of Robert Patterson Letter, November 8, 1863)