1864-65: James B. Moyer to his Parents

The following four letters were written by James B. Moyer (1845-1920), the son of George Moyer (1810-1865) and Magdalena Wolf (1812-1883) of Myerstown, Lebanon county, Pennsylvania. At an early age, James entered the carriage painting trade. When he entered the service in 1864, he was described as a brown-eyed, brown-haired recruit who stood feet 4 inches tall. He enlisted at Harrisburg on 26 August 1864 and immediately mustered into Co. F, 200th Pennsylvania Infantry.

These letters were written during the winter of 1864-65 when James was with the regiment before Petersburg. In the spring of 1865, he was detailed to brigade headquarters as a painter. He was honorably discharged in late May 1865.

One of James B. Moyer’s letters describes the “Applejack Raid” or the “Hicksford Expedition” led by the 5th Corps, shown here tearing up and burning the Weldon Railroad.

Letter 1

[Note: The following letter describes the expedition led by Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren’s Fifth Corps composed of 26,000 troops to disrupt the Weldon Railroad. The Union troops were in high spirits during the raid, despite the frigid temperatures, and their exuberance was further fueled by the availability of potent apple brandy – “apple jack” – taken from farms along the expedition’s route.  Officially known as “Hicksford Expedition” or “Weldon Raid,” the foray was dubbed “The Apple Jack Raid” by the Union troops. See The Union “Apple Jack Raid” by Robert Plumb.]

Camp near Petersburg,
December 18th 1864


I will let you know that we left here on Friday evening and marched five miles till at Meades Headquarters. Then it commenced to rain, snowing, and it was so cold that one man of Co. D froze to death. Then the next day there were two men to be hung. The scaffold was ready. They hung them between 12 and 1 o’clock on account of deserting in the Rebel  Army. That was the first time I seen and I hope that is the last time. They were smoking their cigars till on the scaffold. I could tell you a great deal more about it but I have no time.

Saturday night we marched 25 miles through mud and water that came  half way to the knees and it was cold weather. We marched below the Black Water for a reserve [while] the 5th Corps made a raid along there [and] captured a lot of fat cattle sheep, pigs, chickens, and turkeys, apple jack by the barrel and 5 barrel of molasses, and some rebs, colored men, sulkys, burned down houses and barns, tore up 40 miles of railroad,  and good deal more.

I had a canteen full of molasses and we shot down the pigs and skinned them and commenced to eat. Each one helped himself. It was good. We also killed chickens and  sheep. We had a fine time for we had nothing to eat since Wednesday till Sunday. We marched back in the night at our old place 25 miles. It was hard marching. Some of our men were caught by the guerrillas that straggled. Their throats were cut and clothes taken from their bodies.

The regiment left here on Monday morning at 4 o’clock but I was  excused on account of stiff, sore feet [such] that I can hardly walk. It is reported that it went to the place were we were.


Letter 2

Addressed to Mr. George Moyer, Myerstown, Lebanon county, Pennsylvania

Camp near Petersburg [Virginia]
December 23rd 1864


I will let you know that this is the second letter I wrote for the box and no answer and no box. Other boys get boxes. I have to look at them eating. I wrote some time that you shall not send it, but then a few days after I wrote you shall send it as soon as you possibly can. I thought I would get it till Christmas so that I can enjoy my elf with it but no sign. Yesterday two loads of express boxes came but not one for me. It looked hard. I also wrote for several other articles in that letter and if you get it, send me a letter.

I seen Monroe Piffer [Peiffer], 21st Pa. Cavalry some time ago and he is well. We had good times the time he was with me. We have good times now. No Picket duty. Nothing but drilling. I will close my letter by saying I am well. In haste. It is very cold at  present.

Yours truly, — James B Moyer,  Co. F, 200th P. V., Washington

Col. [Charles Worth] Diven, Brigadier General Ninth Corps, First Brigade and third Div.

Letter 3

Camp near Petersburg [Virginia]
24th [December] 1864

Dear Parents,

I will willingly [write] to let you know that I received your letter today and the money, &c., and I hope you send the box off today as you mentioned in your letter. Tomorrow is Christmas. It seems to me it can’t be for I was used to run after the fools in town. But I have to spend my times in Virginia this year. And the 29th this month, I am nineteen years  old and if you want to pull my hair, you must come to me.

This morning eight rebels passed our Camp which deserted in to our line and six yesterday morn. That is the way to close the war—lay down the arms and come in peace. The rebs are deserting fast all along our line.

Further we also drawed new clothes. I was used to get a new suit at home for Christmas and so I got a suit for this time. I have not much to say this time by closing my letter. I will make Robert a ring sometime. I am well, hoping you are the same. I wish you all a merry and happy Christmas & New Year. Yours Truly, — James B. Moyer

Letter 4

Camp in front of Petersburg, Virginia
February 18, 1865


By this I wish to inform you that I received your kind and welcome letter this morning and hastened to answer it while you are anxious to hear about the battle. We did not come in a fight, but we were at the scene—or a little over it. Our line got advanced by the Fifth and Second Corps, and also the Sixth [Corps]. We—our Division 1, the 3rd Division of the  Ninth Corps—six new regiments—had marching orders but we did not know when or were to go but we soon heard the shells burst. We then marched about 2 miles in light marching order. There we were ready for an attack and made breastworks and worked hard for the sake to save ourselves from the bullets.

In the morning about 9 o’clock, our regiments  went out to find out where the Rebs are stationed. By the same time a heavy force laid behind us so whenever there would something happen and we all expected that we will meet the enemy and not come back as we went forth. We went about one mile and a half and seen several breastworks where the rebels were but the next night were back in regular fortifications. But we couldn’t see it. We seen several rebels running and they were formed in line of battle in yon[der] woods. We were then in an open field but we  were a good distance from them. They laid silently on the ground. We went sadly back at our old place and were six days from our camp without shelter and it was very cold and raining and snowing.

I have not much to tell you and I hope to hear from you soon again. The Rebels are deserting very fast. They pass by squad at our camp. They hardly have any clothes. I am well hoping this may reach you the same

Yours truly Son, — James B. Moyer 

Co. F, 200th Regt P. V.,  Washington D. C.

I wrote a Bro. George a letter and I have not received that box which Bro. John sent. The talk is that it is stopped sending boxes.

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