These letters were written by Pvt. Henry Snow (1839-1921), the son of Henry Snow, Jr. (1802-18xx) and Eunice Sears (1801-1875) of East Haddam, Middlesex county, Connecticut. Prior to his enlistment in Co. H, 21st Connecticut Volunteers, Henry was working in a bell shop. Henry entered the service in September 1862 and mustered out in June 1865. He was promoted to a corporal on 1 March 1865.
The regimental history compiled by Wm. Stone Hubbell contains some very interesting statics for Co. H of the 21st Connecticut. It claims that the average age was 27.6 and that 46 of the 100 men were married. There were 19 farmers, 21 mechanics, 13 laborers, 7 clerks, 6 teamsters, 6 sailors, and a smattering of 13 other occupations.
The 21st Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment lost 5 officers and 55 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded and 1 officer and 114 enlisted men to disease during the Civil War.
Henry’s first letter, dated, 23 August, 1864, gives a good description of the Battle of the Crater that took place on 30 July 1864.
Other letters by members of the 21st Connecticut Vols published on Spared & Shared include:
Arthur Henry Dutton, F&S, 21st Connecticut (Union/15 Letters)
Thomas Latham Bailey, Co. C, 21st Connecticut (Union/38 Letters)
In the rifle pits before Petersburg, Virginia
Tuesday morning, August 23rd 1864
I received your kind letter of the 16th on the 20th and was very glad to hear from you. I had not heard from you for a long time. I have always answered all the letters that I have received from you.
We have indeed passed through many and trying scenes since I heard from you. When I write to you last we were at Rodman’s Point near Little Washington, North Carolina. Since then we have been almost all over Virginia. First, we went to Portsmouth and from there to Bermuda Hundred—a little above City Point—and to the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, and from there to White House and from there to the Battle of Cold Harbor and from there back to White House and back to Bermuda Hundred, and from there to Petersburg where we are now and are likely to be for all that I know.
We have been here in sight of the City of Petersburg over two months now. We have been in the pits a good share of the time. We have to be up a good deal nights and sometimes all night, but we have stood it through—some of us. There is many a poor soldier that started with us on this campaign that is now sleeping beneath the sod or lying wounded in hospitals. Oh! how thankful all of us might be that while others are being called from this to another world, that we are still permitted to live and enjoy health and strength.
Our Corps was there when the [fort] blew up [see Battle of the Crater]. It was on the left of us—the line that we held, and they relieved us and sent us down there to relieve the 9th Corps and hold their works while they made the charge. This was on the 30th of July and a very warm day. You undoubtedly have seen an account of it in the paper but we were right there. Just as soon as the fort blew up, we all fired a volley from behind the breastworks and then they charged. But it was just like pulling teeth. They hated to go and I don’t blame them. The papers may cry out that the soldiers are in good spirits and eager for a fight, but I do not believe it. We lay there all that day amid the fighting and they lost everything that they gained in the morning. Towards night, after the fighting had ceased, I went up and looked over the breastworks where the charge was made and such a sight as that I never want to witness again. The bodies were lying one upon another, just as they had fallen, and some of them were wounded and you could see them wave their hands in pain out there in the hot sun between our lines and their lines so that we could not help them any. Anyone that has see a few such places as that will not be very eager for a charge.
It was not the fault of the men. I think that it was their officers—some of them were drunk. I am sorry to say it but we have officers in our own regiment that will get so drunk that they do not know what they are about. We have lost two good Colonels since this campaign commenced—as good ever need be over men and several good captains as there is in the regiment. Our regiment got reduced down pretty small. There is but 10 privates in our company [fit] for duty.
You say that the Sabbath School went out the other day to pick blackberries for the soldiers. I can tell you unless you send them right to them, the private soldier will get very little, if any, of them if some of the officers get hold of them [first]. I have known how these things are worked in this army better than folks at home. Our Doctor once went and drew shirts and drawers and such things for the men from the Sanitary Commission and then gave them out among the officers. I do not know of but one that got anything. So you see how things go on here.
I received the drawers and towel that you sent me and was very thankful for them but did not know who sent them. They were just right for me. I have a great deal more that I could write if time and space would permit me but as my sheet is about full, I shall have to close. I guess that it will bother you some to read some of this but you must excuse all mistakes as I have written in a hurry and excuse that dirt on the bottom of the page for my hand got wet and I got some dirt on it and put it on there before I thought. So I will close with respects to all inquiring friends.
Accept this from your cousin, — Henry
Camp of the 21st Regiment Connecticut Vols.
On Chapin’s Farm, Virginia
February 14th 1865
I received your kind letter of January 10th a long time ago and do not know but you will think that I have forgotten you entirely. But it is not so. I often think of home and all the friends that are dear to me there and wish that I could see them all once more. But I must wait patiently and I trust that the time is coming when we shall all meet again. If not on this earth, may we all meet in Heaven where there will be no parting there.
The Christian Commission have got a large tent set up where they hold meetings every eve in the week and they have good ones so there is a good attendance. The tent is pretty full every eve. I enjoy going to them when I am not on duty. I should have been on duty today but I was excused from one turn of guard making the best shot the other morning. We have to go down every morning when we come off guard and the one that makes the best shot out of the guard is excused from one turn.
We have to drill every day—a company drill in the forenoon and a battalion drill in the afternoon. We drill an hour and a half each time which makes three hours. Our regiment is so small that it is not much to drill it. We do not have as many out on drill out of the whole regiment as we used to have in one company. When we came out this forenoon, there was three privates and one sergeant for drill. The rest were on guard or fatigue or had just come off guard. But we are large enough I hope that they will not send us any recruits. We have got a few that came to us about one year ago and that is enough. There is every few days someone deserting to the rebels from other regiments and some of them get caught and then have to be shot. It is nothing strange for us to hear that there is a man to be shot on such a day. There was one shot about a weeks ago within a half mile of here. They have never taken us up to witness it but they take those that desert—most, that is—so as to give them warning I suppose. I saw in the paper the other day the Newel Roots execution. He was very foolish to desert and then get shot. The drum has just beat for drill so I will close and finish some other time.
Tuesday evening. I have just come from meeting. There is quite a revival. There is quite a number of hopeful ones and I wish that there were more. I expect that Henry Sellew is on his way back to the Regiment. Hubert is in Washington yet and they talk of putting him into the Invalid Corps but do not know whether they will or not. There is a great deal said about peace now days. I do not know whether there is anything in it or nit but I hope that they will make peace if they can make it on the right terms. But I uphold Old Abe in saying that he does and not flinch at it. But it is getting late and I will close. Please excuse all mistakes and give my respects to all inquiring friends and accept this from your cousin.
— Henry Snow