Category Archives: Battle of the Crater

1864: Homer Shunk Thompson to Lydia Thompson

Dan Troiani’s painting “Remembering the Battle of the Crater”

This letter was written by Homer Shunk Thompson (1842-1909) who enlisted as a private on 2 September 1861 in Co. E, 45th Pennsylvania Infantry and rose in rank to Sergeant Major in the regiment before he was mustered out of the service on 17 July 1865 as a veteran.

Homer was the son of sheriff John Thompson (1798-1876) and Lydia Blake (1799-1871) of Centre county, Pennsylvania. After the war, Homer entered the mercantile business at Stormstown. He married Francina Walton (1845-1901) and later a woman named Harriet. He relocated to Kansas a few years to try farming but returned to Pennsylvania and resumed the mercantile business at Reed’s Gap, then Shade Valley, and finally Pine Grove Mills. He eventually returned to Stormstown.

Homer’s letter contains an incredible account of the Battle of the Crater fought on July 30, 1864. In his letter, Homer informs his sister of his injuries, his treatment, and recalls some of the details of the fighting that he witnessed before being taken from the field with a head wound. See also: “Refusing Capture: Capt. Theodore Gregg, Co. F, 45th Pennsylvania” by Tim Talbott.

[Note: This letter is from the personal collection of Richard Weiner and is published on Spared & Shared by express consent.]


Addressed to Miss Lydia Thompson, Half Moon, Centre county, Pennsylvania

2nd Division, 9th Army Corps Hospital
City Point, Virginia
August 4th 1864

Sister Lydia,

I am feeling in pretty good order today and so I will write to you. My head is pretty sore and troubles me a good deal. Was it any other place, I would not mind it but the head is rather a tender place and does not take much to put it out of trim. My shoulder is doing very well and in a few days will be all right again. It was nothing more than a bad [ ] and they soon get well. I came here on the 2nd from the field hospital. I am getting along finely. Could not be doing better. We have god tents and good comfortable beds to sleep. Everything is kept clean and in the best of order. I had no idea that the hospital of this place was kept in as good order as it is. The only thing that can be complained of is they do not feed us any better than they might do. In fact, not as well as I would like to be fed. They seem to think that a man with a sore head ought not to eat anything and I think just the opposite. It seems to me that I can eat as much and as strong diet as ever I could.

This is a general hospital for the entire army and from here some are shipped north and others are kept here and returned to their regiments when fit for duty. They took off a boat load yesterday evening and among others were 4 of the 45th. Among them was John Holahan—“(My John).” He was wounded just below the left thigh with a piece of shell. A pretty sore wound but not a dangerous one by any means. He had only 20 days to serve when he was wounded. I would not care if I could count my time as easily as he can. There are some four of the regiment in the same tent that I am in but they are persons that you do not know. I wish I had been among the number that left here yesterday. I would have thought there might have been a chance to get to Pennsylvania a while.  I may possibly get off in the next boat but it is not very likely for they mostly send the worst ones away. It is not very likely that I will be sent away from here at all—till I am sent to the regiment.

The fight on Saturday proved to be a grand failure—nothing short of a perfect butchery. T’was not much better than Fort Pillow. My opinion is that Gen. Grant is to be blamed entirely for the failure, and had he done his part, the city would have been ours. As it is now, we mourn the loss of about 4,000 men and nothing gained by it.

There was a strong rebel fort in front of Burnsides lines and he had been engaged for some time in digging a mine to blow it up. On the night of the 29th he had finished it and everything was ready for the match which was applied the morning of the 30th and at daylight the fort was blown up. The Old 9th charged across the intervening space and succeeded in capturing the fort and one line beyond before the Rebels recovered from their surprise. By this time they commenced to pour a deadly fire into us on both flanks as well as in our front. We looked in vain for Butler on our right or Meade on our left to advance and cover our flanks but we looked in vain. Not a man moved and we were left to suffer alone.

The Rebels—finding that we were not going to advance any other part of the line—massed almost their entire force on us and advanced to drive us back. The outer line was held as long as it was possible to hold it and then fell back to the second line. There the fighting went on hand-to-hand. After our men were driven from the front line, I was wounded and so I did not see any more of the fight. The fort was still held by our men till sometime in the afternoon when Gen. Bartlett hoisted the flag and surrendered himself and what few men were with him.

“I never saw such fighting in my life as there was done that forenoon. It was the first time that I ever saw bayonets used, but there both parties used them. Bayonets, guns, swords, pistols, and everything could be thought of was used.”

Homer S. Thompson, Co. E, 45th Pennsylvania Vols., 4 August 1864

I never saw such fighting in my life as there was done that forenoon. It was the first time that I ever saw bayonets used, but there both parties used them. Bayonets, guns, swords, pistols, and everything could be thought of was used. Prisoners were taken and retaken by both parties without ever getting out of the same breastworks. Some of our prisoners were shot down on the spot after they had surrendered. Surely the 9th Corps can hereafter take for their battle cry, “Remember Petersburg!

Lt. Waldo C. Van Valin taken prisoner at the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864

Our darkey troops were engaged for the first time and fought well—full as well as the whites did. They lost very heavily as the Rebs did not have much mercy on them. There was only a portion of our regiment in the fight. Almost one half the men were on picket at the time and so escaped. We went into action with 90 men and out of that number, 68 were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners—by far the heaviest loss according to the number of men that we ever had. Our company only lost 4—one killed, one wounded, and two missing. We were more fortunate this time than usual. We had several officers taken prisoner who I fear will meet with hard usage. Among them was Lt. Van Valin of Unionville or vicinity. He was a very fine man and one of my particular friends. I would give anything to know how he is at the present time—whether living or not. I should not wonder if they killed the officers taken there. They are devils enough to do such things. 1

Some 5 days ago I received a letter from you but do not know the date on it. Sam Brook(?) was sent to Philadelphia sick, so that it was our Sam that you saw in the papers. As for hair I cannot send you any because I have none to send. When I was wounded, they cut my hair off so that it would not be in the way of hunting the ball. You may direct your letters to the regiment and if I stay here they can be sent down and if not they can be forwarded from there just as well.

My compliments to all the friends. Good Bye. Your brother, – Homer S. Thompson

1 Lt. Waldo Carrollon Van Valin (1840-1907) of Unionville served in Co. A, 45th Pennsylvania Infantry. He was taken prisoner in the Battle of the Crater on 30 July 1864 and was confined at Macon, Georgia, until he was paroled.

1861-64: James Cornell Biddle to Gertrude (Meredith) Biddle

These letters were written by James Cornell Biddle (1835-1898), the son of James Cornell Biddle (1795-1838) and Sarah Caldwell Keppele (1798-1877). Biddle wrote the letters to his cousin—and fiancee, then wife, Gertrude Gouverneur Meredith (1839-1905), the daughter of William Morris Meredith (1799-1873) and Catherine Keppele (1801-1853). William M. Meredith was a distinguished leader of the bar in Philadelphia and served as the Secretary of Treasury (1849-50) during the Zachary Taylor administration.

Col. James Cornell Biddle

James began his military service as a private in Co. A, 17th Pennsylvania Volunteers. He enlisted on 25 April 1861 and mustered out after three months on 2 August 1861. It was while serving in the 17th Pennsylvania that he wrote the following letter.

On November 1, 1861 he was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant in Co. C, 27th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. Promoted to Captain and commander of Co. H on November 1, 1862. He was soon tabbed to served on the staff of Major General George Gordon Meade, performing that duty from May 1863 through the July 1863 Gettysburg Campaign, and through the end of the war. On November 5, 1863 he was discharged from the 27th Pennsylvania, and was promoted to Major and Aide-De-Camp, US Volunteers. He was brevetted Lieutenant Colonel, US Volunteers on August 1, 1864, for “faithful and meritorious services in the field” and Colonel, US Volunteers on April 9, 1865 for “gallant and meritorious services during the recent operations resulting the fall of Richmond and the surrender of the insurgent army under General R.E. Lee”. 

More of James C. Biddle’s letters may be found in the archives of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. The bulk of the collection was purchased in 1963 with funds from the Gratz Fund.

See also—1862: James Cornell Biddle to Gertrude Gouverneur Meredith transcribed & published on Spared & Shared 3 in August 2013.

Letter 1

Addressed to Miss Gertrude G. Meredith, Hon. W. M. Meredith, Philadelphia

Poolesville [Maryland]
June 19th 1861

My Dearest Gertrude,

I have just received yours & Colby’s letters of the 14th inst. I was very anxious to hear from you as I had not heard anything since the 13th and felt quite relieved at the contents, hearing that you were so well. I think Colby’s idea with regard to our movements may be correct as we have fixed our tents & have everything arranged as if it was a permanent thing, but as I have told you, there is no telling from one minute to another where we may be.

Three of our companies have gone to the Potomac as a guard to two pieces of artillery & I should like very much to go myself. This is a horrid place for an encampment. We have but one tree on our ground & an army of pigs must have been here before us as the ground is all rooted up. If it should rain, it will be a regular mud puddle. A detachment of three [men] from each company have been detailed to pick off the secessionists from the other side of the river. I was told this morning they had driven a party away from a cannon & prevented them from taking it away.

I was again on guard last night at a spring preventing any person [from] poisoning it. It has generally been the rule that after being on guard all night, we had the privilege of going where we pleased, but this morning the Colonel had us all drawn up & told us we were the guard of the camp and none of us would be allowed to leave our muskets so that we are now all huddled round this one tree.

We received the Baltimore Sun of Monday which mentions the evacuation of Harper’s Ferry. They say a good many of them have gone to Edwards Ferry 5 miles from here and that now they have a force there of some 7 or 8,000, but it is not likely they will attempt to cross the river. Neither will we do so if such is the case. This is a horribly dull place & the sooner we get out of it, the better I shall like it.

I was very sorry to hear Cassie is still so miserable. I think a little change of air will be of service to her. My darling Diddy, this is the 19th & it is less than one month till my time is up. I shall be too much rejoiced for anything to be with you once more. I think this war is not going to last a very great while as I do not see how the secessionists can hold out against such odds.

Tell Colby [that] Col. [C. P.] Stone is in command of this division. 1 He is quite a young man—not over 35. General Scott thinks a great deal of him and I like him so far as I have seen him. Colby mentions he is going to see our Flags. I wish we had them with us. Col. Patterson told me he would just as soon not receive them till our return as they would get soiled but if we are to gain any honor, I would rather have it under the new colors. The band have been playing almost all the morning. It is a great addition to our camp.

I intend taking a nap, dear Gertrude, as soon as I finish these few lines to you. You know I always was a sleepy head and last night I only had three hours sleep. What would you think of my taking one of Aunt Latimer’s blankets and sleeping all night in the lawn in front of the house, wrapped up in it? I can assure you, that would be a luxury in comparison with this as there the grass is nice & soft, and here is is full of holes and very little grass. I can imagine Aunt Latimer’s consternation at such a thing & yet I was never better in my life.

I am sorry to hear Miss Margaret Price is a secessionist. I think Baltimore is as bad if not worse than any city in the Union. They all profess to be Unionists here, but I think it is principally owing to our presence. They say all kinds & sorts of stories were originated with regard to us before our arrival, but they have found out they were all untrue since we have been here.

I should like very much to meet Tom’s and your Uncle Sullie’s regiments. I was in hopes of seeing them but now I do not know how it will be. I hear the President is going to recommend the calling out of 500,000 troops in addition to those already enlisted.

I have just taken a peep at your photographs. I can read your feelings exactly. I know, dear Gertrude, you are very much attached to me and likewise that I am to you & I am sure we will lead a happy life together. I have always had the feeling we were fated for each other. The day of my return will be the happiest day of my life. I often think I have so much more to look forward to on my return than most of those who are away. There were a very few letters in the mail this morning & I have had dear knows how many inquiries as to how my letters were directed. I believe there is another mail expected into camp this afternoon. Do you know my own dear Gertrude, there has not been a mail that has yet arrived without bringing me a letter from the one I care most for, of all & everything in this world.

I have been afraid they would put in the papers all kinds and sorts of rumors with regard to our movements as I do not believe they know anything more of us than we know of what is taking place in the world. It is a joke of Abbie Bache’s the advertisements we have seen in the papers for recruits. “Able bodied, unmarried men wanted for the Army, fine chance for study, &c.” John Hewson & all are well. Osy [Oswald] Jackson inquired after you all & particularly Cassie. He requested me to send his regards to you all & referred to the pleasant breakfasts he had had with the gals previous to our departure.

The New Hampshire men have gone to the Potomac & report shooting some 5 or 6 secessionists on the other side of the river. I could see them quite plainly the day I was there. It is said there is a large force of Federal troops within one hour’s distance from here, but where they are I do not know. The New York 9th & the Washington Volunteers are three-quarter of a mile below us.

I heard some rumor of George Cadwalader’s 2 being suspended on account of some negligence, but I do not credit it. You see so many false reports in the papers at such times as these.

It is now only 10 o’clock and the day seems very long. We now get up between 3 and 4 and someone remarked in Philadelphia he could not sleep in the afternoon but here he could sleep all the time. It makes a great difference being in the open air all the time.

This last week has flown by very fast to me as we have had considerable to keep up the excitement. I now have finished all I have to say. Tell Ma she must not expect me to write as your letters will answer. I always let you know all the news. Give her my love as well as Katy, Grandma, your father, Cassie, Effie, and all with a great deal of love to yourself.

I am yours devotedly, forever, — J. C. B.

1 The 17th Pennsylvania Infantry was ordered to Rockville, Montgomery County, Maryland, on 10 June, 1861, and was assigned to the Seventh Brigade, Third Division, Army of Pennsylvania, under the command of Colonel Charles Pomeroy Stone, 14th United States Infantry, by Special Orders No.96, Paragraph I, Headquarters, Department of Pennsylvania, Martinsburg, Berkeley County, Virginia, on 10 July, 1861. Col. Stone was reportedly the first volunteer to enter the Union Army, and during the war he served as a general officer, noted for his involvement at the Battle of Ball’s Bluff in October 1861. Held responsible for the Union defeat, Stone was arrested and imprisoned for almost six months, mostly for political reasons. He never received a trial, and after his release he would not hold a significant command during the war again.

2 Gen. George Cadwalader was in command of Fort McHenry. See Lincoln and Taney’s great writ showdown.

Letter 2

Knoxville [Maryland]
July 5th 1861

My Dearest Gertrude,

John Williams and myself walked to this place a few minutes ago for the purpose of mailing the letters & in hopes of being able to telegraph but find there is no telegraph office nearer than the Point of Rocks. I have written a dispatch & given it to the postmaster to give to the conductor to leave us off at that place.

Everything is quiet here—not a shot was fired last night. The people in this neighborhood are all strong Union. They are delighted at seeing us here and say we are the very men they want.

I sent you a sample of the money they are circulating in Virginia. They have it as low as 10 cents but I was not able to get one for you. I saw one that one of our men had.

This is going to be a very warm day & I should like to remain where I am for the rest of the day but our movements are so uncertain we may go at any moment & after writing his, I must hurry back to camp. I do not know how many regiments are here. I was awake a little while last night. It was but a short time I can assure you as I was very tired & heard the tramp of wagons & was told this morning they were arriving all through the night.

I do not think the fight—if any—will last long as we will be too many for them. There are 2 Mississippi Regiments in Harpers Ferry. I was very sorry indeed to hear of the loss of the New York 9th & feel it worse as it was caused by the drunken folly of one of Co. D of our regiment. They are all Irish. We have some very low characters in our regiment.

Dearest Gertrude, you must keep up your spirits. I do not think our regiment will advance much beyond Harpers Ferry in two weeks. I expect to be on board a train from this place bound to Philadelphia. How happy I shall be to be with you again. The men who live here are telling the condition of things here. They say they are ruined. All their factories are stopped & they think will never come up again. We see the effects of secession wherever we go. They have been doing, it seems to me, all the damage possible, destroying bridges, grain and everything without any reason.

Oswald Jackson has just passed on Hewson’s horse. John says his [Oswald’s] aunt lives a short distance from here. I suppose he is going to pay her a visit. I am very glad to hear Cassie is improving. I hope the change of air will be of service to her. One man says the secessionists have been blowing [bragging] that one of their men was equal to 5 Northern men, but they think it will take 4 men of our regiment to catch them & 1 to shoot them, yhey will run away so fast.

There is a mail here daily. You will receive this tomorrow. Yesterday was a glorious day to us. The people all were rejoiced to see us & I saw what would convince me if anything would of the gloriousness of our cause.

With all the love I have, I am your own devoted Jim for ever.

Give my love to Ma, Katy, your Father, Grandma and all.

Letter 3

Headquarters 5th Corps
April 4th 1863

My own darling Gertrude,

The candles are flickering so with the wind it is almost impossible to write, but I intend making out as well as I can as I would not for anything miss sending you a daily letter. I have been resting myself all day.

There was to have been a review of all the cavalry but it was postponed till tomorrow on account of the President who I hear is coming down tonight to spend Sunday. I do not think it is right to have anything of the kind on Sunday and I feel very sorry to hear it is to take place. I think nothing should be done in that day that can be avoided. I do not think we can be truly successful unless we place our trust in God as a nation, and I feel that any disregard of that day has a very bad effect on the army. I am sure the life is demoralizing enough and everything should be done to counteract the bad effects. I like to remain quiet and feel it is Sunday. It always to me is the pleasantest day of the whole week. I think it is terrible to see how little regard is paid to religion. I am sorry that I am not myself better. I know how far I am from being what I should be, & I wish I was a great deal better. I know what true happiness religion brings with it and it seems to me so strange it should be so generally disregarded. Things pertaining to this world seem to be the uppermost thoughts of mankind, ambitious to occupy a high place here on earth with no regard to the future. Why do not the same feelings operate to make humanity better?

I received your nice letter this afternoon. They come now regularly to me every day and I can assure you I look forward to their arrival with a great deal of pleasure.

I am very sorry to hear gold has gone up again. I do not think we can expect much now from either Grant or Banks in the quarter in which they are operating. I wish they would send the whole force into Tennessee and North Carolina. It seems to me we can accomplish more in that way than any other. I do not like dividing our forces so much. We must trust for the best and we cannot expect to have anything as we should like. We have a tremendous rebellion to contend against. We have to fight them now in their strong positions and it must take time to produce any telling results.

Everyone now is looking to this army. I presume before long its movements will be made known. The roads are now in a passable condition & before many weeks I presume it will be on the move.

I have not as yet read McClellan’s report. Gen. [Andrew A.] Humphreys does not like his throwing the blame upon him, or rather attributing his failure to advance to Humphreys division not being on the ground till late the day after. He says he arrived early in the morning and was in position in the rear of Porter by 8 o’clock a.m. the day after the battle with 6,000 men.

I am very well, my own darling wife. Take good care of yourself for my sake. You are ever present in my mind and I know there is a happy future in store for us. Capt, Mason has just come in my tent to tell me my map and all the books r. Garland sent me have ben burnt up. They accidentally caught fire when no one was present. Thank Mr. G for me for sending. Give my love to all & with heaps to you. Believe me forever your devoted husband.

Letter 4

Headquarters, 5th Corps
April 5th 1863

My own darling wife,

The roads had just become passable and yesterday John was remarking he did not see why the army did not move. But today the ground is covered with snow. It will take at least a week before they are in as good condition again. I am of the opinion we will not do anything till after the middle of the month. The move, when it is made is to be a rapid one and would be entirely frustrated if we should encounter such a storm as this. I think we shall go down the [Rappahannock] river, make a rapid march, and try and get to Richmond in advance of the army of Lee. I hope this time we shall be successful. By the middle of May, this army will be diminished considerably by the expiration of the enlistment of the two years men, also the nine months conscripts. Whatever is to be done must take place before that time. Our Corps will lose just one half of its number.

Today is Sunday. I have been reading my prayer book and amusing myself talking to different members of the staff. They are mostly McClellanites and in consequence I never mention his name. It is not worth while getting into disputes.

The President passed by this morning on a special train. He has gone to Gen. Hooker’s Headquarters. The review will not come off and I am very glad of it as I must confess I did not approve of it.

I am writing on my bed with your desk on my lap. I have no rest for my arm and consequently it is not possible for me to write nicely.

I am expecting a letter shortly from you. The 1 o’clock train left before the arrival of the boat. It is now just 4 o’clock—the time the train is due. We dine at 5 o’clock. I generally take a lunch at about 12. I hear the whistle of the engine now. I wonder if any of my letters were on the train that broke down between Washington & Philadelphia the other day. I hope is any should have been they were not destroyed.

John is very well and seems in much better spirits although I think he still would like very much to resign. I must confess I would like very much myself to be quietly living in the peaceful paths of life, but as this is impossible, I make myself contented.

[Our new Corps commander,] Gen. Meade I think a very good officer. Everyone speaks highly of him and he certainly is a gentleman which I am sorry to say a great many of our officers are not. A portion of Gen. Hooker’s staff were here last evening and it almost made me sick. They were half tight and a more rowdy looking set I never met. “Birds of a feather flock together.” I will not say more.

Let me know my own dear little wife all about yourself. I wish you were more regular. I think it is so important for one’s health. When you write, tell me all about yourself & I want you to be as bright as possible. When do you intend to get your spring clothes? I have one month’s pay now due me and by the end of this month hope to be able to send some more money to you. My expenses will not be at all heavy and I can save at least one half. I do not want you. to economize but get whatever you may want.

There is no news. I am very well & you need not be at all uneasy about me. Give my love to all, and with a heart overflowing with love for yourself, I am forever your devoted husband.

Letter 5

Headquarters 5th Corps
April 12th 1863

My own dear little wife,

I received your letter of the 9th yesterday. I am very glad to hear such good accounts of all at home. It is a great consolation when one is away as I am to have no cause of anxiety. I am perfectly contented and never in my life felt better in every respect. I would like very much to get a peep at you in your spring things but I hardly expect to be so fortunate. I want you to get whatever you may want. I have $80 in my purse and Capt. Mason will bring me down $160 more, leaving me a sufficient sum after paying for my horse. If I find one, I conclude to buy. It is very strange if you want to buy a horse, it is a difficult thing to get one you like, and if you want to sell, you find the same difficulty in finding anyone who wants to buy. I always calculate upon leaving one half in every horse I purchase and why I should be so unfortunate, I cannot tell. I am certain my black horse will never bring $200, the price I paid for him. Some horse jockey could buy him for about $100 & then sell him for the price I gave. I require a strong, sound horse, and as yet I have not seen any that I at all like.

There is a Swiss General visiting our army and he is coming here at 12 o’clock to ride through the camps to take a look at things in general. I am sorry for it. I am so heartily sick of anything like reviews. Of course the General [Meade] will ride with him.

It is going to be a very warm day, It is now in my tent quite close. I feel very anxious to hear of the result from Charleston. The rebels have been quite jubilant, cheering most vociferously. They called across the river to our pickets that they hoped we were satisfied with the whipping we got at Charleston. I still hope for the best. I know it is a tremendous undertaking but then we have made vast preparations and I trust they may prove successful. It will be a heavy blow morally to the rebels, and I do not believe there is anything that can damage them as much, It will tell with such effect all through the South. They hate Charleston almost as much as we do, and a great many of them would like to see it leveled to the ground.

Nothing is said as yet about moving. I do not understand the cause of the delay. It certainly is very strange, There are various surmises made as to where we will go when we leave here. The rebels are in strong force and position directly opposite to us.

John is well and seems contented in his present position. The only thing he is afraid of is being ordered to some strange general but I do not think they will do so. He has not had a great deal to do and is acting more in the capacity of Aide.

I hear nothing of the sword presentation to General Meade. Ma wrote to me it was to take place at the camp of the reserves near Alexandria. Gen. Meade himself knows nothing definite. I believe none of the new Major Generals have been allowed the Aides given them by law. Gen. Meade spoke to the President about it when he was down here. The President was very noncommittal. He said if the law gave them to them, he thought they should have them and promised to see about it on his return to Washington. I have no news, my dear little wife, only I know how much I love you and that I am always looking forward to my return to a long & endless life of happiness with as much certainty as anyone may possess. I am sure of our love for each other and I know I care for nothing without you. I must close this. Give my love to all & with a great deal to yourself.

I am forever your own devoted husband.

Letter 6

Headquarters 5th Corps
April 16th 1863

My own dear little wife,

James Cornell Biddle

We had a very heavy rain last night which will put us back a day or so in the contemplated movement, I am very glad we did not have the storm after we had taken down our tents. It is now about the change of the moon, and I am in strong hopes this has been the clear up rain for in all conscience, we have certainly had enough to last for some time.

I hear some 20,000 men left Washington the night before last to reinforce Gen. Peck [at Suffolk]. They say the rebels are concentrating troops in that direction to strike against him. I do not understand their movements but would not be at all surprised if they intend to fall back upon Richmond. From here, it certainly looks so, when we hear of such large forces on the other side of that place. We have not heard anything from our cavalry. We have to await the arrival of the Chronicle to know of anything even in our own army. We have heard distant firing but do not know what was the cause of it. There is a report that they have captured a Battery. I am in great expectations the rebel cavalry force has been very much diminished in consequence of the inability of their getting forage. It now numbers, so report goes, only 4,000 men. We sent out from here 12,000 & I presume General Stahl has left Washington with 4,000 more. They certainly ought to accomplish something. Infantry cannot follow them and they ought to have everything their own way.

The news from Charleston is not encouraging but it is as much as I expected. I had not much hope of the iron clads being able to accomplish anything against strongly casemates land batteries.

Gen. Meade said this morning he knew nothing of the intended movements. We are all wondering what the eight days supplies are for. I do not think we can carry that much. The men are very improvident and I know from experience it is difficult to get them to carry 3 days rations.

I received your letter yesterday of the 13th. They come regularly to me every day and I look forward to them arrival with a great deal of pleasure.

With regard to my views, they all know I am not an admirer of McClellan and there is very little ever said of him. I do not think it worth while to stir up controversies with those who have been associated with him. Webb was on his staff. I believe he has a good opinion of him but I have heard him say but little. Locke has been very civil to me. I recollect hearing something of the testimony he gave on the Porter & McDowell court martials but I never read them myself.

I am very well, my dear wife. I never felt better in my life. The sedentary life on the board was not compatible with my disposition. I never could stand sitting over a table all day writing and consequently gave me those unpleasant feelings after my meals. But since I have been here, I have not been troubled with them. I wonder when the board or the present officers will be relieved. I should think they must be getting tired of it.

I must now draw this to a close, my dear little wife, or else I will be too late for the mail. I feel like you, I never like to stop my letters but wish I only could write a great deal more and make them more interesting. Give my love to all & with a great deal to yourself, believe me for ever your devoted husband.

Letter 7

Headquarters 5th Corps
April 17, 1863

My own dear little wife,

We are still uncertain of our movements. The rain has disturbed all the plans for the present. It is still threatening and before a great while, I think it is going to pour. I am very sorry for it as I am afraid the tail of our cavalry may be impeded in consequence. I have not the least idea where the cavalry have gone to but the Rappahannock has risen by the recent rains and it may have prevented their crossing, as I presume they intended to do at some point. I heard of them at Rappahannock Station. There is a very good ford there but I have not heard of their crossing. It is the largest force of cavalry we have ever had together and they ought to accomplish what they design to do.

General Peck is threatened at Suffolk. I hope with the force we sent from Washington we may have good news from him.

I received yesterday the pamphlets sent to me by Mr. Garland. Thank him and tell him I have already distributed a number. I do not think the first were intentionally burnt as the fire was in John Mason’s tent and no one would have done anything of the kind intentionally. It came very near burning up the tent and the wonder was it did not do it. The legs of the table were burnt ad everything that was on it, books, gloves, &c.

I was over at Gen. Hooker’s Headquarters yesterday. Charley Cadwalader was in Washington. Jim Starr told me he was going on his Uncle George’s staff as Major. If so, George must be going to have a Corps, and if so, where is the vacancy? Starr was very anxious to get a staff appointment. He would not though do so unless he could get another commission as he did not think it right for so many officers to be taken away from Rush. Starr spoke very well of Rush although he does not fancy him, yet he says Rush has acted in everything as he thought best for the good of his regiment. He said John was too hasty in resigning insinuating that he was disgusted without any reason and as we know John has been out of sorts in every position he has occupied, he was disgusted with the law also. This is entirely for yourself and I now am sorry I have written it. I do hate to say abusive things of persons. It is a very bad habit to get into but I only mean by the above remarks to say John’s disposition is a hard one to please. We know very well the moody ways he sometimes would get into. He sees though better satisfied now for he has made up his mind it will not do for him to resign, but I think he will do so after the next fight.

The Chronicle arrives everyday by one o’clock. There has been no news for a long time and I now think we must wait till after this army gets in motion & then I think there will be startling doings. There is only one thing I regret, the time of so many men is so near expiring. I am afraid they will not fight so well as they otherwise might. I wish the draft would get in operation. We need more men. The rebels have an equal number & occupy their chosen positions, which are now strongly fortified. We ought to make up for these disadvantages by numbers.

I am in hopes Foster will get out of his scrape [in North Carolina]. I am inclined to think he is all right as the rebels have not said anything. The pickets notwithstanding talking across the river is prohibited, always taunt each other when there is any news good to either side. I hear the rebel pickets called over to ours, “So you’re trying a raid, are you?” They know everything we do. They are much better informed of what is going on than we are.

I received your letter yesterday of the 14th. It is so comforting to get such cheerful letters. I am very well and manage to pass my time very pleasantly. I have you constantly on my mind & would give a good deal to see you if for only a short time. I often think of how happy I was in Washington. I always looked forward with so much pleasure when my duties were over to my return to my darling little wife. But for the present, we must make up our minds to be separated and trust in God for the future. Have you heard or seen anything of Markoe Bache? I expect he is visiting on my head his failure to get his appointment. I see Hewson every now and then. He is looking very well and seems to like the life as much as one can be supposed to. He always seems cheerful and contented. I must now say goodbye. I like to write you nice long letters, my dear life wife, and I feel I cannot put half I want to express on paper. You know how much I love you & I can tell you my affection will never grow less. Give my love to all & with a great deal to yourself.

I am forever your devoted husband.

Gen. Meade was told by Gen. Hooker he could not let him leave the army now to go to to the sword presentation.

Letter 8

Headquarters 5th Corps
April 18th 1863

My own dear little wife,

The mail arrived yesterday but brought no letter for me. After dinner I received the second one you wrote to me on the 30th of March. I had gone over to Gen. Hooker’s Headquarters & they kept it there all this time. It partly made up for my disappointment at not hearing in the morning. My own dear little wife, I know it was not your fault but entirely owing to the mail. I will. today receive two in compensation.

I write to Gen. Ricketts yesterday. I wonder when the present Board will be dissolved and what command your Uncle Sully will have. I see every now and then new lists published in the Chronicle but they are gradually getting smaller, This is a lovely spring day and I am in hopes it may last for some time. I heard yesterday Gen. Stoneman had sent word back he was stopped owing to the impossibility of getting his artillery forward. I do trust they may accomplish some good, but what they are after I have no idea of. I hope they may destroy some of the bridges between here and Richmond. They have been delayed so much I am afraid the rebels are cognizant of their plans.

I presume now in a day or so we shall be off. I can see nothing to delay us any longer. The sooner we go, the better as the time of enlistment of some of the troops is nearly up. I have great faith in this army and if we are successful, it will pretty nigh break down the Confederacy. I read Davis’s address to his soldiers. There is no doubt they are badly off for supplies & another year—if the war lasts so long—must starve them into obedience. But I hope the triumph of our armies will sooner bring them to their senses.

There is no news of any kind. I presume we shall hear something from Suffolk or Williamsburg. Foster, I think, is safe. If they had him in a box we would have heard of it through rebel sources. I am glad Grantees troops are moving up the Mississippi. I do not believe in attempting Vicksburg again. The best thing to do is to send two or three son clads to blockade the river and take away the land force & send them into Tennessee.

How is your father? I hope he is frisking up. Also that Cassie has gotten over her indisposition—the two invalids.

Take good care of yourself, my own dear little wife. You are my every thought. I want you to get whatever you want. I now have nearly two months pay due me & $80 in my pocket so you see I am flush.

Frank Wistar was here the day before yesterday. I think Gen. Meade has applied for him as commissary of musters. We all get along together on the staff very nicely. It is a great thing to be associated with gentlemen. I am very well contented with my position. Gen. Meade has just told Gen. Griffin he intended reviewing Syke’s Division at 2 o’clock today. Alas for reviews. I though they were over. It seems to me everyone is review mad. I am sick of them having had so much of them since I’ve been here.

I must say goodbye my dear wife. Know how much I love you, my dear girl. You are my all and I look forward to a happy future. Give my love to all & with a great deal to yourself I am forever your devoted husband.

Letter 9

Headquarters 5th Corps
Stoneman’s Station, Virginia
May 22, 1863

My own dear little wife,

I received your letter of the 19th yesterday. I am very much afraid I have created expectations in your mind which I did not intend to give. I have no idea of being able to leave here now. General Meade will only give leaves of absence upon urgent grounds and then only for five days. I have the satisfaction though of knowing if there is any reason for my leaving, I can get off without any difficulty. There is no telling what may happen. Gen. Meade may be ordered to pay the President a visit & if he takes me with him, I will telegraph for you. I would give anything to be with you, my own darling little wife, and I have been thinking and envying John ever since he took his departure. I do not believe there is anyone in the army who has more reason to wish for home than myself and I trust this war may soon be ended but as long as it lasts, I feel it a duty to bear a part of the hardships, and when it is over, I will be as happy as the day is long with my own sweet Gertrude.

Jay, Mason & Dr. Russell are in my tent. They wonder how I am able to write so much. They say I must write the same letter every day. Well, my dear Gertrude, in that they are pretty nigh correct, but I know what a pleasure my letters are to you and that no apologies are necessary.

Yesterday morning I took a swim in Potomac Creek and in the afternoon went to the presentation of a horse, saddle & bridle, spurs, gloves, sword and overcoat too Gen. Barnes. I met there some 5 or 6 members of the Washington Grays who now are with the Corn Exchange Regiment. Gen. Meade has one of his nephews staying here—Mr. Meade of the Navy. He leaves this morning. He had a very narrow escape yesterday, He got one of Gen. Meade’s horses and sailor-like, depended upon the reins instead of upon his legs to hold himself in the saddle, the consequence of which was the horse reared and fell over backwards upon him. I was a good deal startled and felt afraid he was severely hurt, but he fortunately got off with only a few bruises.

I am going over to see George Ingham sometime today. Gen. Sykes has been quite sick and I believe has applied for a leave of absence in which case I presume George will get off too. Both our Division Commanders are sick. Griffin is in Washington and has just had his sick leave extended fifteen days.

Of course you have seen John and have received from him a full account of me as to how well I am. I make up my mind to be satisfied although I do miss you dreadfully. The rebels seem to be getting very tired of the war. They told our officers left at Chancellorsville they wished they could see an honorable way out of it for them and they would be satisfied.

There is no news of any kind and no sign of a move. It is impossible for us to do anything here till we are reinforced. I am in hopes though that this base will be abandoned. I see by Southern papers we are fortifying West Point [Va.]. What can be the meaning of this? I do think it a great mistake the way we are scattering our forces and have never as yet been able to have a combined movement. I believe though with all the blunders that have been committed, we are gaining every day and the rebellion is sinking. There is no doubt of the end. It has gone so far there can be no compromise and we must conquer them or they us. And of the result, I have no doubt whatever.

I we have Vicksburg, we hold the Mississippi and you recollect John Cadwalader predicted that this would be the work of ten years. It is hard for us to brook reverses. But in the end, all will be right and I trust we may be a purer, better people that ever before.

My darling Liddy, I must now close this in time for the mail. Your letter arrive regularly every day about 1 o’clock and I am always wishing for that hour to het my letter. Give my love to a, Kate, Elizabeth, your father and all & wish a great deal of love to yourself.

I am ever your devoted husband.

Col. [Charles Mallet] Prevost of the 118th said to me he had heard of me through Philadelphia. His wife wrote to him Major Biddle had expressed some opinion with regard to Hooker. He said it was nothing bad but he could not recollect what it was. How could she have heard this? Dear Gertrude, do not think I think for a moment you would say anything to anyone. I would mind for I do not. I only not knowing her wondered how she had heard it.

Letter 10

Headquarters 5th Corps
Stoneman’s Station, Virginia
May 23rd, 1863

My own dear little wife,

I am out of paper and as I sent word by John to ask you to send me some, I borrowed this from Jay telling him I would be glad to extend the compliment to him when mine arrived. I have been thinking of John’s visit and envying him the happy time he was having. He will be obliged to leave Philadelphia this evening. I did my best to have his time extended one day, but it was to no avail.

There are no signs of an intended movement and one feels he might as well be home as here. I think of you all the time my own darling little Diddy, and know what a treasure I possess. I would give anything to see you but I think I would at any rate rather wait till I could get more than five days leave and then I do not like to ask any favors.

The Richmond papers of yesterday announce the falling back of Pemberton after a fight of nine hours duration. This coming from the rebels is very good news. It is later than anything we could possibly have received and eases our mind with regard to the retreat of our forces from Jackson, Mississippi. They may have left there & gone in the direction of Vicksburg which probably was the case. It is a very severe blow to the Southern Confederacy and it will tell with wonderful effect upon the end of this rebellion. If we had only been successful here as we should have been, all would have been right, and I think the rebellion would have been ended. It was reported that Lee was reinforced but that has since been proven to be incorrect. Longstreet got as far as Hanover Junction and after our retreat was ordered back by Lee. We ought to have gained a great victory and we failed for the want of a general. This feeling is universal in the army.

Meade stands—in the opinion of those capable of judging—as the head of all the generals in our army. I have a very high opinion of him. He is as superior to Hooker as anything can be, but he has no political influence and therefore stands no chance. He is active, energetic, and a thorough soldier. Birney, Sickles, and men of that class are the men who go up in the scale because they are politicians. Sickles was made the hero of the late fight, and at first I thought he deserved credit for what he had done. But I have since changed my mind. You recollect my writing and at the time thinking we were firing into the rebel train preceding the retreat of the rebels. This was the report and although I thought it singular they should retreat taking their wagons in range of our guns, I was assured it was so and came to the conclusion it was necessity which compelled them. At this time Sickles was ordered out to capture this wagon train and not knowing where he was going, or what he had to encounter, found he was cut off between Lee and Jackson from the rest of our army and was obliged to fight to get back within our lines. This train being Jackson’s ordnance train going around to our right for Jackson’s benefit. Such is war and Sickles is really spoken of as Commander in Chief. Alas! Alas! Cannot we get men of moral character in high places.

There are a great many stories of goings on at Sickles’ Headquarters. Hooker, Sickles, Mrs. Farnham, Mrs. Salm-Salm. 1 Mrs. Farnham is the wife of a Col. Farnham who was the Captain of the slaver Wanderer who you recollect was captured and taken to Savannah.

I am very well, my darling girl, and I am glad to have such a good account of all at home. I am glad Cassie intends paying a visit to Mrs. Cadwalader. I have no doubt she will enjoy herself very much. Give my love to Ma, Kat, Elizabeth, your father & all, & with a great deal of love to yourself, I am forever your loving husband.

1 Mrs. Salm-Salm was the former Agnes Leclerc Joy. She met elix Constantin Alexander Johann Nepomuk, the formerly reigning Prince of Salm-Salm, at a reception given by President Abraham Lincoln in 1861. In August 1862, he and Agnes would enter a morganatic marriage (also known as a left-handed marriage, a marriage between two people of unequal social rank where royal titles and privileges would not be extended to the spouse). Agnes accompanied Felix on the battlefield. He took command of the 8th New York during the winter.

Letter 11

Headquarters Army of the Potomac
July 31st 1863

My own darling little wife,

All is quiet and I do not know what is to be the next move of the Army of the Potomac, but I would like very much of we are to remain idle here, to be able to run on and pay you a visit. I long to see you my own darling wife. You are ever in my mind and it is pretty hard to be separated from you for so long a time. Leaves of absence are not granted except in case of sickness. I was in hopes if we were to remain here any length of time they would be granted again, but then they do not amount to much as they are for so short a time.

Rosegarten was here last night. He tells me Zandy Biddle has received his commission as Lieutenant-Colonel, but that he is very anxious to have his resignation accepted. He is not very strong and then Thomas A wants him at home to assist him in taking care of their business.

Colly Hall’s regiment is in the 3rd Corps commanded by General French. Colly is looking remarkably well.

It is almost impossible for me to write. There are at least a dozen persons talking in and around my tent. It is never empty. It is the first tent and there is almost always some person here.

General Meade said last night in answer to the question as to whether the reported demoralization in the rebel army was true or not, that we now had almost everyday deserters from states from which we never had deserters before. For instance, Mississippians came in and gave themselves up saying they understood their state was overrun by Yankees and that it was no use fighting any longer. I only wish they would all act in the same way as I am sure they must all have the same opinion. Sergeant Meade is still here. He seems to enjoy himself very much. I only wish I could change places with him. It seems strange to me anyone remaining here voluntarily. My watch is very dirty and wants cleaning. You might send it down to me by the first good opportunity.

This is going to be a very warm day but there is a nice breeze. Warrenton is not at all a warm, place to pass the summer. I sent to Washington this morning for my pay account for July. It amounts to $161.36. I told our Express Agent to send you a cheque for $100 and the balance of $61.36 will pay all my expenses up to the 1st of September. I also sent by the same for the amount due me for my horse. I did not send this to you as it will need my endorsement first. I will then send it to your order. I do not intend to send any more money by mail that can be appropriated.

My sword arrived safely yesterday, I am very much obliged to you for it. The one Frank gave me was covered with shark skin and at the time I lost it was pretty nigh worn out. The belt was broken all to pieces and I had it fastened to my saddle.

I see your Uncle Sully has taken Lt. Col. [William H.] Ludlow’s place [as Commissioner for Exchange of Prisoners]. I wonder how he likes his new position. I should not expect to hear of his getting into hot water with Col. [Robert] Ould, rebel commissioner. It amuses me to hear of the rebel government talking of Yankee atrocities. In every instance they have been the perpetrators and they only want the chance for a plea to commit such acts.

Col. Shaw I believe they buried in a trench [at Fort Wagner] and placed four negroes over it. I wish we had negroes entirely at the siege of Charleston. I trust they may have no more of the outrageous scenes that occurred in New York whilst enforcing the draft. And that if any attempt is made to resist, it will be at once put down with severe punishment.

I must now close my dear girl to have this in time for the mail. Goodbye my darling girl. I long to see you. My heart breaks for yours and how happy I shall be when I am at home again, never to be separated from you. I do not like this kind of life at all, and only wish I could bring it to an end, but at the same time I do not worry myself and try to make myself as comfortable as possible. Give my love to all & with heaps of love to yourself, I am forever your own devoted husband.

Letter 12

Meade’s Headquarters was located in the William Douglas Wallach residence outside Culpeper, Virginia, in September/October 1863.

Headquarters Army of the Potomac
Culpeper, [Virginia]
September 26, 1863

My own darling wife,

I feel very anxious to know the true state of affairs in Tennessee. I am in hopes Rosecrans will be able to hold out till reinforcements arrive. I should think Grant ought to be able to send him troops from his army. It is a long and round about way to send them from here, and then again I am afraid we cannot get them there in time. I do not think our accounts are so bad. Bragg from his own dispatches lost very heavily in officers and men and all they have gained so far amounts to but little. If they are defeated, it will have a very depressing effect upon the rebellion. The address of Bragg and his general to the rebel army shows they intend to risk everything for the hope of success.

I wonder what Burnside is about? It seems strange to me his running after Jones at such a time. I do not understand his position at all. Hooker is to have the command of the 11th and 12th Corps. A week’s time will divulge their destination. It may be Charleston or North Carolina & maybe Tennessee. My idea is they are going to North Carolina. I would rather see them go there than any other place. I am sorry Hooker has been placed in command. I was in hopes he would not be given another important command. He is a man of such notoriously bad character and I think after Chancellorsville, it is very strange giving him a separate command.

I trust before very long we may see some signs of peace. If we are only successful in Tennessee, the war will be nearly over. Lee’s army is very much reduced, but he now occupies a very strong position and I think the only reason for our not advancing is the impracticality of gaining anything important on this line. We have still two months for campaigning and I trust by that time the war will be ended. I want so much to have you with me, my own dear wife. You are everything in this world to me and I know how happy we shall always be. I hope Tom may be able to find something to do, I would rather he should get a more permanent position than Paymaster but that is better than doing nothing.

The have stopped the McClellan testimonial. The President, I believe, spoke to General Meade about it when he was in Washington. Gen. Meade told him he had himself received a sword a short time ago and it would not look well for him to issue an order prohibiting the presenting of one to Gen. McClellan. [Said] that he had subscribed to it himself and no one surely could think he had done so for political purposes. But he would speak to the officers who were getting it up, which he did and the thing has been stopped. I am of the opinion it would have been much better not to have noticed it—although I disapproved of it and saw the object of it.

Mosby this morning early made a raid on the bridge at Bull Run and burnt it. It was rebuilt in a few hours. He is well and about again.

I must close this till morning. How happy I shall be when I have my own darling wife with me never to be separated. I drew my pay today for September. It amounted to $159.61. I will keep it to defray the expenses of next months mess. Good night my own dear wife.

September 27th 1863. My own darling wife, this cold spell continues. I do not think it will last a very great while longer. I manage to make out very comfortably with the clothing I now have, and I hope this winter I may be so place I will not need to get anymore. All is quiet. No signs of a movement. I am very anxious to know what we are to do. I do not believe we are to do anything but hold the rebel army in front of us—or maybe we may assist with a cooperating force in drawing Lee south of North Carolina.

I believe Pickett’s Division of Longstreet’s Corps composed of Virginians refused to go to Tennessee and the rebel government were obliged to send troops on the peninsula, Wise’s Brigade & others in their place. They sent the poorest portion of Lee’s army to Tennessee and I do not believe Bragg’s reinforcements from here amounted to more than 10 to 15,000 men. I trust we may soon have a good report from Rosecrans. If he is only successful, I can then think it likely I can soon have you with me. It is now four months since I spent those few days with you & it seems to me to be a century. I shall be too contented for anything when I am once more at home. This is a very hard life to lead—no comforts of any kind. I am very glad on your account Cassie, Lillie, and the children & Effie are at home. This cold weather there is no advantage being in the country.

Jim Starr asked me yesterday if it was true Mollie Meredith was engaged to [ ] Robinson. He said he had heard she was when he was in Philadelphia. He said he hoped not as he thought Robinson such a poor concern.

I must say goodbye my own darling wife. Give my love to Ma, Katy, your father, and all, and with a heart overflowing with love for yourself, I am as ever your devoted husband.

Letter 13

Headquarters Army of the Potomac
Culpeper [Virginia]
October 3rd 1863

My own darling wife,

This morning General Meade had his photograph taken with his staff. I will send you a copy when they are finished. It will be in about a week. Afterwards Gen. Meade, Gen. Humphreys, Gen. French, Gen. Warren, Gen. Sykes, and Gen. Hunt had their taken in a group, and also Gen. Humpreys with his personal staff. It was taken by the same person who took the one I sent you. I have not received any letter today. The mail has not yet arrived owing to the washing away of a portion of the bridge across the Rappahannock. I am looking for a letter every minute. The bridge was to be finished by 5 o’clock this afternoon.

This image shows Gen. Andrew A. Humphreys standing in front of the door facing General George G. Meade, seated. Standing, to Meade’s right is Major J. C. Biddle, A.D.C., on the steps of Wallach’s House, the headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. The Library of Congress dates this image “September 1863” but Biddle’s letter informs us it was taken on the morning of 3 October 1863. It was attributed to Timothy O’Sullivan.
Another image of Meade (hands on belt) with Humpreys and his staff. Biddle stands to the right of Humphreys with sash across his chest.

Willie Sergeant arrived here yesterday. I saw him this morning. He told me you were looking very well. I wish I could be detailed on some home duty. I would not like to ask for anything of the kind, but I would be too happy for anything if I could have you with me. I think before long I shall be able to accomplish it. I am in hopes though that before Christmas something may take place to end this rebellion.

The train has just arrived and in a few minutes I will get my letter which is my greatest comforter. They are always written so cheerfully and they help me to bear this separation. You are on my mind all the time and it seems to me an age since I was at home. I am looking with a great deal of interest to the West. Sherman’s Corp with the 11th & 12th of this army ought to be able to smash Bragg & if they are successful [at Chattanooga], it will be a severe blow to the rebellion—one they cannot recover from. This winter will be a severe one in the South and with the defeat of Bragg, the spring will bring us very little to do. It is impossible for them to recruit their army anymore. They have taken their last man. I should think they must see their cause is hopeless, but Davis and his followers have risked their all and they will hold on till the last.

We are remaining quiet and I thought today that it might be on account of the elections this month, and that after they are over we will fall back and send a portion of the army to some other point. If that should be the case, I will certainly soon see you. It cheers me up having these fancies.

The rebels sent three scouts inside our lines last night. They were seen and fired at but up to this time, they have not been found although there has been a strict search made for them. They have of course much better facilities for gaining information than we have, and they know everything that takes place here. I will postpone this till the morning when I hope we shall have some good news by today’s papers which arrive at the same time with the mail. Goodnight, my darling wife.

October 4th, 1863. I did not receive any letter from you yesterday. The mail arrived but my letter missed. The papers did not come. I do not expect they contained any news. I do not look for anything startling for two weeks. This is Sunday and I would give anything to have my own darling wife with me. It is a beautiful day and I could be too happy for anything if I could go to church with you this morning. It is terribly monotonous in camp. I do not see any signs of our doing anything and I do wish I could get a leave of absence. Winter will soon set in, and then I shall certainly be able to get a leave, if not able to have you with me.

It is breakfast time and I must close. Goodbye my own darling. Give my love to Ma, Kat, your father & all, & with heaps of love to yourself. I am for ever your devoted husband

Letter 14

Headquarters Army of the Potomac
Culpeper, [Virginia]
October 7th 1863

My own darling Wife,

I have been hards at work copying reports all this morning. General Meade has his finished and tomorrow I presume they will be sent to Washington.

It is raining very hard which does not help to enliven things around camp. I received your nice letter written yesterday this morning. I agree with you about Effie’s paying a visit at Mr. Holeman’s. He is a man whom I have a great contempt for. I hope Tom will get his position as Paymaster. Two months will be a long time though to wait for it.

I read Lee’s report of the Battle of Gettysburg. He tries to detract from the doings of our cavalry. They whipped the rebel cavalry whenever they met them but when they drove them back to their infantry, of course they had to fall back. He says nothing of the fight at Falling Waters and tries to make out General Pettigrew was killed by a small body of our cavalry who succeeded in getting through their pickets without being discovered, and that the two guns we captured were stuck in th mud, and owing to the horses being so worn out, could not pull them off.

I do not like the news from Tennessee. The rebel cavalry by destroying the bridge at Murfreesboro will delay the arrival of reinforcements to Rosecrans. I am in hopes Rosecrans can draw supplies from the country as his own are now cut off from him. I wish we could know the true state of affairs. It is very trying being kept in suspense. Yesterday’s papers mentioned fighting going on at McMinnville and today we hear of the destruction of the railroad bridge over Stone river at Murfreesboro. This looks to me as if they had some force in the rear of Rosecrans. I hope for the best and I do not intend to worry myself for in the end we must come out all right.

It is very quiet here. There is no excitement of any kind and my every thought is of you. I think before very long I shall be where I can return to you. You are my dear good girl and I can tell you I appreciate you.

I suppose Tom Hall expect to be Major of is regiment. Chapman intends resigning and then there will be a vacancy, but I doubt the government appointing a new Colonel as the regiment is so small. In fact, I think there is a law against it, or rather an order.

Capt. Coppinger whom you met one evening with Capt. O’Keefe at Mrs. Rickett’s supper for Johnny, Sallie and ourselves was here last night. He told me he had met Tom & Sallie at Uncle Halls in Trenton. O’Keefe is a prisoner at Libby prison. He is a Captain in the regular army and has been in New York with his regiment.

If I should go to Washington, I would not go to Mr. Rickett’s house. I agree with you, I could not have you alone with me as much as I should like. I thought I had promised you this before. If I did not, it was an oversight.

I must now say good night, my darling wife.

October 8th 1863. It is still raining and very dreary. I am very well and this is the only thing of interest I have to tell you. I do wish General Meade would grant leaves of absence. I can see no reason for his not doing so, and it would make us all so much better satisfied. But I hope the day is not far distant when I may be at home with you, never to be separated again. I must say goodbye. Excuse the shortness of this letter but there is not a single shiny new [thing] to tell you. Give my love to Ma, Kat, your father & all, and with a heart full of love for yourself, I am forever your own devoted husband.

Letter 15

Headquarters Army of the Potomac
Culpeper, [Virginia]
October 8, 1863

My own darling wife,

My hands are so cold I can hardly write. It has cleared up quite cold but when I finish these few lines, I shall tuck myself warmly away in bed. I have plenty of covering to myself very comfortable. I received today your nice letter of the 7th. Willie Graham was here this morning. He told me he had received a letter from General Ricketts in which he mentioned Toms staying with him, and said he had secured something to do, which he thought would be a stepping stone to his receiving a Paymastership. He did not know what it was. I am in hopes of hearing from you tomorrow more definitely about it.

Today’s paper mentioned the arrival of General Hooker at Nashville. His troops must have arrived there by this time. I am looking anxiously for good news. The attack on Murfreesboro appears only to have been a cavalry raid, and the rebels from the accounts today have been driven off. If Rosecrans can whip Bragg, it will be a great thing for us and help to bring this war to a speedy end, which is the thing I am looking forward to with so much interest. I long to see you so much Gertrude. This long separation is very hard for us both. But before long I am in hopes our happiness will more than make up for it.

I wonder what Gillmore is doing and whether he can accomplish anything more. I hear nothing said of any intention to do anything with this army and I guess the rumor of the 5th Corps being taken away is one of the many rumors gotten up in camp to help enliven the monotony. The 5th Corps is celebrated for their faculty of inventing rumors—especially the regular division. There are also rumors of a fight in Louisiana where we got the worst of it the first day but on the second, Ord’s Division arrived and we gained a victory. This is the battle we heard of through the rebel papers in which General Weitzel was reported to have been killed, but I trust it will prove to be false.

I am remarkably well and have never been in better health in my life. I do not think though I am any stouter than when you last saw me. I do not want you to write to me in your cold room and especially in the morning before you are dressed. I am afraid of your taking cold.

I gave Major Ludlow the article you sent me mentioning the safety of his brother. He had not seen it and was very much obliged to you for it. He heard he was wounded in the arm, but not seriously, and this confirms his safety. He sent a letter to your Uncle Sully asking him to forward a letter to his brother and also one to a cousin of his in the rebel army. I added a line and asked your Uncle to enquire about Parker. It is strange we have not heard anything of him. I should have supposed he would have written home if he had been in Libby prison. They allow officers to write home by flag of truce. I wonder when they will commence exchanging again. Some of our officers have been a long time in the Libby [Prison] and from all accounts, it is not the most comfortable residence in the world.

Have you seen a book written by an English officer who was with the rebel army at the Battle of Gettysburg? It is in camp but I have not read it.

My darling wife, I want so much to see you. I do wish I could see some prospect of my getting home but we must not despond and try to be as cheerful and bright as possible. I can assure you your letters are my greatest comfort, and they help me to bear this separation. I look forward to their arrival everyday and I always feel disappointed when by any accident the mail misses. They have been very regular lately. I never send a letter to you without wishing to myself, Oh! how happy I should be if I was going with that letter. I must close till moring. Good night my darling wife. The reason my letters are so blotted, the top of my inkstand came off and I have a cork stopper which inks my hand every time I take it out.

October 9th 1863. My own darling Diddy. This is a lovely morning and it would be so pleasant if I only had you to take a little stroll about with me. Everything is quiet here. I gave my cook a pass to go to Stone Mountain yesterday & try to get his wife who is living there. He belongs to this neighborhood, having left with General Pope last year. He has not yet returned and I am getting anxious about him. He is an excellent cook. My own servant is a mulatto. He might at any time pass for a white man. I could at first hardly credit his being a negro. He manages very well and I have been very fortunate thus far.

Everyone speaks favorably of the chances of Curtin [in Pennsylvania] and there is but little doubt of the success of the Republicans in Ohio. This will be a severe blow to the rebels as it will prove to them they have no allies at the North able to assist them now and in two years time I do not fear the result. There will be a wonderful change in the sentiment of the people. It is working very rapidly. Alas, again this sheet is blotted. I do hate it so much but as I told you, it’s owing to the miserable stopper of my inkstand. And then I have to write on my lap which is not very convenient. I must get ready for breakfast. Goodbye my own darling wife. Give my love to Ma, Kat, and all. And with a heart full of love for yourself, I am forever your own devoted husband.

Letter 16

Headquarters, Army of the Potomac
Centreville, [Virginia]
October 18th 1863

My own darling wife,

I would give so much to be with you today my own darling wife. It is Sunday and is as quiet as can be. I hear nothing of new movements of the enemy. I do not believe they will attempt to attack us here and from all I have seen, I see nothing to indicate that they have been in front of us in force. Hill’s Corps or at least a portion of it followed us but I have heard nothing as to the whereabouts of Ewell or any other troops.

General Sickles was here yesterday. I do not know what he was after but he returned again to Washington. He is not in fit condition to be in the field. It was with great difficulty he could move about.

It would be the best thing in the world if Lee would attack us here, but I am afraid there is very little chance of it, and before long I expect we will be after him. I would like very much to be with you for at least one week before going South again, but this is a mere conjecture of mine & may never happen. I am looking with great anxiety to events as they are passing in Tennessee. I should think before very long a great battle will be fought there and one that will tend to bring the rebellion to an end. The elections are as important as a victory in the field and it shows the South they have nothing to hope for in holding out longer—that there is nothing but men staring them in the face the longer they hold out.

Starr has been ordered to rejoin his regiment. I do not think he liked it very much. He wanted to go to Washington to refit at the time they went, but now that winter is so near setting in, he would prefer being at Headquarters. I hope my dear girl the medicine Doctor M. has given you will cure you of your ailments. I wish with all my heart I could see you if it was only for a little while, but we must keep up the spirits. It will soon be impossible for either army to do anything and I then look forward to a long leave of absence. I wish I could be ordered on some duty this winter where I could have you with me. I should be then too happy for anything. Breakfast is ready. Give my love to Ma and all & with a heart full of love for yourself, I am forever your devoted husband.

Letter 17

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac 
Auburn, October 29th, 1863.

My own darling Wife,

I received this afternoon your nice letter of the 27th. I suppose Cassie is much better as you do not mention her in your letter. I am glad  to have such good accounts of yourself and all the rest at home. I am looking forward with a great deal of pleasure to seeing you before very  long. The winter months are fast approaching, and then I certainly will  have a leave of absence. You are on my mind all the time and I will be too happy for anything when I again have you by my side. You are my all and I know what a good wife I have got.

I started to go & see Mrs. Murray this morning, but found she lived a mile outside of the picket line of the 5th Corps, and as the guerrilla parties are hovering so close to us and it was not on official business I was going, I concluded it wisest not to run any risk. I should dislike very much to be gobbled and especially when paying a visit.

There appears to be a great dearth of news. The papers consequently are amusing themselves by pitching into this Army, and trying to find someone to blame for its not being nearer Richmond at the present time. I hope we may have some good news from Tennessee. I do not understand Burnside’s position. It was said he was marching on Lynchburg, but I see nothing to indicate he has any such intention.

The news from Charleston seems to indicate there is something about to be done there, but I am at a loss to know what it is. I would not be at all surprised if they were making preparations to attack Wilmington, N. C. The Rebels have been running the blockade very extensively there, and I should think we would do something to put a stop to it. Charleston is pretty effectually blockaded by our holding Morris Island, and if we only  secure Wilmington, it will be difficult for them to get any assistance from  abroad during the coming winter.

All is quiet here, there is no news of any kind. I have not see Tom or Colly Hall for a long time. Tom is near Bristol Station and Colly is near Catlett’s. I very seldom leave camp unless on duty and then I have not time to pay any visits. Charley Cadwalader got a letter from home today mentioning the marriage of John Camac to some Russian princess worth ten millions. It is almost I should think too much of a good thing.

Major Ludlow is expected back tomorrow. He has heard twice from his brother in Libby Prison. Cavada got a letter from his brother who is  there also, and he says they see no hope of being exchanged this winter. It is pretty hard on our officers who have had the misfortune of being  captured. Capt. Sebad of Gen’l. French’s staff was gobbled up a few days  ago. He rode into their lines at Bealeton Station not knowing that Genl.  Buford had fallen back from there. I believe the Rebels have declared as  exchanged 15,000 prisoners in excess of those we have on our side who  have been taken and paroled. They make a great fuss and talk about  humanity, but those who have been witnesses know how they have  inaugurated the most cruel doings in every way they possibly could.

I hear the different states are making every endeavor to procure volunteers, but the only way is to draft and the sooner it is commenced the better. Conscripts are daily arriving to the Army, but they have not come as fast as the ought to.

It was quite warm today but the nights are chilly. I am as comfortable as I care to be. I must now say Good night, my own precious treasure.

October 30th

We have just received the order to move camp this morning at 10 o’clock. We are going to Col. Murray’s place nearer the railroad. It is to  get a better camp. It is very raw & chilly this morning. Goodbye, my  darling wife. Give my love to Ma & all & with a heart full for yourself.

Forever, — Your devoted Husband

Letter 18

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
November 4, 1863.
Col. Murray’s

My own darling Wife,

I have just received your letter of Nov. 2nd. I hope the money has ere this arrived safely. I saw the Express Agent this morning. He told me he had the letter registered. I directed the envelope for him so I presume it will arrive safely. I think you will be in plenty of time for the bond. They  have some one hundred and sixty millions yet to disposed of, and as a general thing, the sales do not average more than four millions per day. I saw Mrs. Col. Murray this morning but did not feel like going as far as Mrs.  Dr. Murray’s. I should hardly think she would be willing to leave her  husband who is a surgeon in the Rebel Army, and go North. Mrs. Col.  Murray said she wished she would go, that she would like to go herself to  her sisters on West River, but did not like to leave Mrs. Dr. Murray alone.

My cold is still troublesome but I hope by tomorrow it will be better. I usually have a cold at this season of the year. It makes me feel very good  for nothing. I intend soaking my feet tonight and taking some syrup of  squills, etc.

All is quiet, but I do not believe it will last many days longer. I am expecting marching orders every evening. We may have a battle, but I do  not think it is at all certain. More than likely Lee will fall back and refuse us battle.

This is delightful weather for military operations but I do not believe it will last a great while longer. I have been a good deal put out at my  servant. I gave him permission to go to Alexandria for four days to take  his wife and paid him in full to supply him with money. It is now nine days  since he left, and I have been without a servant and see no prospect of getting one. It is a very difficult thing to get a good servant. They are paid $20.00 by government, which I think is an outrage as the officers they are demanding now from $25.00 to $35.00. A poor concern came to me  yesterday and was unwilling to work for less than $25.00 per month. After a little while they will demand our pay and allow us $10.00 a month. I see no need for the Government paying them $20.00 a month. They are all  contrabands, have never received anything at all and are really injured by receiving so much. They are fed & get besides that amount, which is eventually grabbed up by the sutlers, &c. and only assists such men. It is only by the greatest economy I am enabled to save anything from my salary. It is outrageous the way the Army is imposed upon. I would if I had it in my power abolish sutlers and place that department as a branch of the regular Army.

I long to see you so much, my own dear wife. It was very hard going to Washington & returning without seeing you. I might just as well have remained there one day longer as I could have been back by this  time. It was an expensive visit, and I only cared to go in the hope of possibly seeing you. I will finish this tomorrow morning and let you know if there is any further news.

Nov. 5th

There are no orders as yet for a move & I do not understand what to  make of it. I thought we should have been on the move yesterday morning, and there was no reason for hurrying me back from Washington. I might just as well have remained there till this morning, and then I could have seen my own darling wife, but we must keep up our spirits, trusting  to some good luck befalling us before very long. My cold is better this  morning. Breakfast is ready so I must say goodbye, my precious wife. Give my love to Ma & all & with a heart full of love for yourself, believe me forever,  — your devoted husband.

Letter 19

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
Col. Murray’s farm
November 5th, 1863

My own darling Wife,

I was very much disappointed today at not receiving a letter from you. I received one but on opening it found it contained a letter directed to  Mrs. Dr. Murray. Capt. Winson was just starting for Genl. Pleasanton’s  Head Quarters, and he promised to see it safely delivered. I presume it  was from Dr. Morris.

There is nothing new of any kind. My cold is better. I have very little cough. It is now principally in my head. I think by tomorrow it will be nearly well. It looks very much like rain. I did not think this morning when the sun was shining so brightly it could remain so for many days longer. It was about this time last year that I left the Army of the Potomac, and how much I wish I could only have you with me once more. I think of you all the time, and I know how sincerely I love you. It is very hard to be parted from each other for so long a time, and I trust before very long we may be together again. I do not know what we are to do. It may be we shall remain quietly where we are. I did think we were going to move, but  cannot explain our not moving before this, if such was the intention. I  have my own ideas, but I do not like to put them on paper. I do not think  there is any prospect of an engagement taking place immediately.

The guerrilla parties are very troublesome and it seems to me some  means should be invented to break them up. They surrounded Gen.  Merritt returning to his Head Quarters from Genl. Buford’s yesterday, and demanded him to surrender. He put spurs to his horse and escaped  amidst a shower of bullets. We have now very little to do as the telegraph runs to all the Corps Head Quarters, and when we do go out, take a  sufficient escort. They never attack an officer unless he is by himself & unprotected.

I am sorry I told you anything about our moving, as it has only made you unnecessarily anxious, but at the time I felt confident there was  something about happening. Since then events have happened which must alter I think the plans. The Rebels have destroyed the railroad from  Aquia Creek to Fredericksburg so thoroughly that it will take a month to repair it. This they did last Tuesday. Do not say anything about this unless  it is in the papers, but I think it has interfered with the plans we had in  prospect. What will be done now, I am at a loss to guess. But if Gen. Meade does not do anything before Christmas, he will have the papers abusing him up and down, but I do not think he minds that in the least. I know for myself, I look upon their opinions with the greatest disgust. I will add a line in the morning to let you know if there is anything new.

Nov. 6th

My own darling wife. This is a beautiful day. There is no news of any kind. My cold is much better this morning. Excuse the shortness of this letter, but I did not feel in the humor of writing yesterday, and this morning I have not got any time to spare. The mail leaves at nine, and these cold  mornings it is very hard to get up early. Take good care of yourself, my  own darling wife. You are everything in this world to me. You are always  on my mind, and I am looking forward to seeing you before many days. I  expect two nice letters today as a return for not receiving any yesterday.  Goodbye my own darling wife. Give my love to Ma, Katy, your father &  all & with a heart full of love for yourself. Believe me forever, your devoted husband.

Letter 20

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
Near Brandy Station
November 12th, 1863

My own darling Wife,

I was disappointed today at not receiving a letter. The mail misses every now & then. I do not understand why my letters to you should be so irregular. I send them off every morning, and they ought to reach you by  the day after. There must be some detention in Washington.

There is nothing new of any kind. The Rebels are all [on] the other side of the Rapidan, and there has not been a shot fired for two days. The railroad is fast approaching completion, and I suppose when it is finished we shall go to  Culpeper. Our Cavalry are now there.

I was sorry to see by today’s papers that the Rebels had captured four guns & 600 prisoners from Burnside and now hold a portion of East Tennessee. I have all along been very much afraid of their pouncing down upon him. It is so easy for them to concentrate troops against him. I am very anxious to have some good news from Grant. I do hope he may gain some substantial success before winter sets in. I want so much to see some prospect of my being able to be once more with you. It is very hard being separated for so long a time, but we must bear it patiently, looking forward to a happy future. You are  on my mind all the time, and I know what a treasure I possess. I will not  write anymore till the morning. It is so hard writing by candle light.

November 13th, 1863

Engraving of John Minor Botts. A Unionist, Botts was made a political prisoner early in the war and after his release, in January 1863, he moved to Culpeper county where he entertained both Union and Confederate officers at various times.

This is another beautiful day. It is going to be very warm—a regular Indian summer’s day. John Minor Botts was here yesterday. He says Stuart had him arrested and taken to Culpeper on the ground of having  invited Genl. Meade to dine with him. 1 He has written a long article and sent it to the Richmond Examiner to be published. He showed it to us. It is a tirade about his persecutions and principally directed against Stuart, who is not at all popular amongst the people living in this neighborhood. I am in hopes of getting a stove and inkstand today. I bought a  stove when I was in Washington, but they failed to send it to the cars as they had promised. I have sent for it by our Agent, but thus far I have not suffered much from the cold and have managed to make out very well without it.

I saw a copy of the Observer. I do not think from the first number it will set the world on fire, but I would like to subscribe for it to help Meade Bache along. He is the last person in the world whom I should have thought of editing a paper. Craig Biddle wrote the article on rural life No. 1. He intends writing a series for the paper so Markoe tells me.

Major Ludlow will be back today. I do not think it half as good an excuse for his getting a leave of absence as I have got. He got his to see his niece married, and I think mine to see you is a great deal better reason. Gen. Meade has been very obstinate in refusing leaves, but in a very short time the roads will be in such condition that he can have no excuses to make. I only wish that this winter I could be detailed on some duty so
that  I could have you with me. I am hoping for something of the kind.

I am looking forward to receiving two nice letters this afternoon from  you. Your letters are always written so nicely, and are such a contrast to  mine, but it is very hard to write in camp, and the only one thought I have  got is my desire to see you once more. It is going on six months since I was last at home, and it seems to me a much longer time. I do not know what would have become of me if I had known it would have been so long  before I would have had you alongside of me.

I wonder what is taking place at Charleston and whether there is any  prospect of our gaining any advantage there this year. They appear to be  pounding away at Sumter, but without doing a great deal more damage.

We have got a very nice camp. We are in the woods, and well sheltered from the winds. Lee had his Head Quarters only a short distance from here. The Rebels had built huts and made every preparation to make themselves comfortable for the winter. They were also building works at Rappahannock Station which in themselves were very strong. We turned  them by crossing at Kelly’s Ford. They evidently intended wintering on the Rappahannock and it remains to be seen whether they will go into winter quarters on the Rapidan.

Breakfast is nearly ready & I must say goodbye. Give my love to Ma, Katy, Cassie, Effie, your father & all & with a heart full of love for  yourself, believe me forever, your devoted husband

1 Botts had promised he would move away from Richmond to ensure the pardon he received for his earlier arrest as a political prisoner. But he was arrested on 12 October 1863 by order of Confederate General J. E. B. Stuart, for entertaining Union officers (although three of his slaves had absconded for Union lines and he requested their return but was denied), Botts was released later the same day.

Letter 21

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
Near Brandy Station
Dec. 10th, 1863

My own darling Wife,

I received this afternoon your letters of the 8th & 9th, also Parton’s  History of Gen’l. Butler. I think it a very poorly written affair, and does not do justice to General Butler. I only had time to glance over it, but I was very much disappointed in the book as far as I could peruse it. I am very sorry you are so pinched for funds. I now have $29 clear of all my  expenses for this month. I was thinking of sending you $10 but I am in  hopes of getting a leave of absence. Gen’l. Meade today issued an order  allowing Corps Commanders to grant leaves of absence on the same plan  as adopted last year, and I on second thoughts concluded it best not to do so for a few days as I will I hope be with you before your $10 is  consumed, and I guess we can scrape together a sufficient sum to get the  children something for Christmas, and I want to keep sufficient to meet  any contingency for my expenses home. I am in hopes of saving $20 to give you on my arrival.

I have just finished reading the President’s Message which meets with my approval. I see by the Tribune they are circulating a pamphlet amongst the Senators containing charges against Gen’l. Humphreys to prevent his appointment from being confirmed. All I know is Col. Fricke—the author of the charges—was dismissed [from] the service on charges preferred by Gen’l. Humphreys and that a more gallant soldier than Gen’l. Humphreys as proven on the battle field does not exist. He is also a man of great  military ability.

The papers are bound to have Gen’l. Pleasanton as the next commander of this Army. It is very amusing to those who know him. He is the last man fit to command an Army and the mention of his name is absurd. Gen’l. Meade has shown himself an able Commander and I hope for the good of the country, no change will be made. He has a splendid eye for the topography of country and acts always quick and with decision. I know we have no one so capable of filling his place so far as I personally am concerned. His removal might be beneficial as I might then be able to have you with me. But I still trust for some good luck befalling  us. I would be too happy for anything if I only could have you with me this winter.

Charley Cadwalader & Ludlow are in my tent, and they are talking at  such a rate it is impossible for me to write. They advise my getting a thirty days leave of absence and lecturing on Butler. They think I could make a fortune. I have been pointing out the defects in Paton’s History.

All is quiet and in a few days I hope to have you again alongside of me. Give my love to Ma, Kats, your father and all & with a heart full of love for yourself, believe me for ever your devoted, — husband

Letter 22

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
Near Brandy Station,
Dec. 13th 1863

My own darling Wife,

I hope by this time you have received the check I sent you. The Express Agent tells me he had the letter registered in Washington so I presume it will arrive all right. It is very strange what became of the former  check I sent you. I thought it would certainly have turned up by this time.

There is an article in the Army and Navy Register for the last week, which I wish you would get. It gives an account of the late movement which in the main is correct.

I thought this was a sheet of note paper and I have just this minute discovered my mistake. It will answer all purposes. I hope to see you before many days and then how happy I shall be. I am looking forward with so much pleasure to having you by my side once more. You are so  dear to me and I only wish there was some truth in the rumor of Peace  Commissioners as I would then see some hope of soon returning to you  forever.

I read Halleck’s report as far as refers to this Army. He says for Gen’l. Meade no more than is just at Gettysburg, and in the remainder of his report does all he can to break him down. There is no necessity of his making the strictures he did, and he does not give this Army the credit it deserves. The affair at Rappahannock Station was I will say as gallant a thing as has happened during this war. If you read it carefully you must see what he means. Both Stanton and himself dislike this Army, and they snub it in every way. It is too palpable not to be seen.

There is no news of any kind. Ludlow will be back on the 17th and then I will think of getting my leave. I do not want to come away directly after the 27th and although I am so anxious to be with you, I prefer putting it off  for a few days. Excuse the wording of this letter or note. I do not feel in the humor of writing and am about retiring for the night. I went over to the 1st Corps this morning to make an inspection of some entrenching tools. I do not like to be ordered on duty on Sunday if it can be helped, but I presume there was a good reason for so ordering. I sent you a letter by Mitchell which he promised to deliver in person. I received your letter of the 12th. I wish mine reached you so regularly.

Give my love to Ma, Katy, your father & all & with a heart full of love  for yourself. Believe me forever, your devoted Husband

Letter 23

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
Near Brandy Station,
Dec. 14th, 1863

My own darling Wife,

I received today your letter written on Saturday. I do not understand why it is my letters to you arrive so irregularly. I send them from here every morning and they ought to reach you the next morning.

I think I shall apply for a fifteen days leave about the 18th of this month. Ludlow will be back by that time, and I think my application will be  granted. There is some talk of our falling back for winter quarters. I think it is a great mistake not deciding immediately what is to be done with us this winter. The men have all comfortable huts built, and it is a shame to move them unnecessarily. The article in the Times was no doubt the same as that in the Chronicle which I recognize as Gen. Rice’s. The Chronicle says Gen’l. Meade is to be retained in command. It speaks on authority. I  felt certain they could not remove him.

I wrote today to your Uncle Sully asking him to make inquiries about my servant, but I do not suppose he can find out anything about him. I presume he has been sold into bondage, and the Rebels will not be likely in that case to give him any satisfaction. I also answered Julius’s letter. There is no news of any kind. The papers have been principally taken up with the different reports. I was sorry to see the mishap to our fleet at Charleston by the sinking of the Weehawken.

Gen’l. Halleck sent a communication here for Genl. Lee which was sent to him by flag of truce. I feel anxious to know the meaning  of it. It was said they had offered him the command of the Army of the  Potomac, placed on a par with the idea of Genl. Pleasanton’s having the command in absentity. I feel very happy, my darling wife, at the prospect of soon seeing you. I only wish I could have you with me forever. I know how much happiness awaits me in the future, and I naturally am anxious to  see the end of the war. You see my paper is nearly gone. I only have a  few half sheets, but they will last me till I get home. Give my love to Ma,  Katy, Cassie, Effie & your father & all & with a heart overflowing with love for yourself.

Believe me forever, your devoted Husband

Letter 24

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
February 18th, 1864

My own darling Wife,

I was very much disappointed today at not receiving a letter from you. I feel a little worried as in your letter of yesterday, you speak of feeling tired. I hope at any time if you are not well, you will let me know. It is such a comfort to me to feel whilst I am absent, you are well, and I cannot have that feeling unless you always let me know exactly how you are, if there is anything the matter with you. I am in hopes though it is owing to some delay in the mail & that tomorrow I shall receive two letters to make up for the deficiency. I am very well myself & you need have no uneasiness about me. I have never felt better in my life as far as health  goes than during the whole of this last year, and the only thing wanting to make me perfectly happy is the blank in being separated from you. But I trust before long this war will be ended and peace and happiness be again restored to our country.

I drew my mileage today. It only amounts to $8.22.

This has been a bitter cold day. It is still very cold, but there is no wind and consequently is not so disagreeable to your feelings. I have a very good fire, and my tent is as warm as a toast. Charley Cadwalader has a copy of Gen’l. McClellan’s report. He has promised to lend it to me after he has finished it. Arthur McClellan sent it to him.

There is no news of any kind. The Chronicle mentions deserters coming in from Longstreet’s Army at the rate of six a day. I have not heard lately as to whether many are coming into our lines, but I have been in hopes we might have a stampede of them sometime before Spring, they taking advantage of the President’s proclamation.

The Officers who have escaped from the Libby Prison ought to have some interesting news to divulge as to the condition of affairs in rebeldom. I should like very much to hear what they have to say. I know one of the  number—Capt. Hobart of the 4th Wisconsin. He was in Gen’l. Williams’ Brigade. The papers state they had a plan previously arranged by which to escape which was divulged by one of their number. Some Union people living in Richmond were to furnish them with arms, and they were to fight their way out, but now some of the Union people were in jail in Richmond in consequence and would probably be hung for the offense, they having been exposed by this man. It is hardly credible anyone could be so false, and if true, I only hope he may be punished. But I presume he will share his fate with the rebels—not daring to show himself at the North.

I asked your Uncle Sully if he had heard anything in answer to the communication I sent him about my servant. He said he had forwarded it, but it had not been answered up to the time when he left. I have no doubt they have sold him into slavery. This is the institution Bishop Hopkins defends as well as others of his party. I intend writing to Ludlow to ask him to make inquiries for me. He is on Gen. Butler’s staff at Fortress Monroe.

I am anxious to hear how Ma and Elizabeth are but I trust they are both better. Give my love to Ma, Katy, your father & all & with a heart full of love for yourself, believe me forever your devoted husband.

Letter 25

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
Cold Harbor,
June 11th, 1864.

My own darling Wife,

The mail arrived today but to my disappointment there was no letter  from you. I look forward to receiving two tomorrow to make up for it.

There is no news of any kind. There has been only an occasional shot fired today. The pickets fire but very little. It is equally annoying to both parties. It amounts to nothing advantageous to either party & is productive of a useless waste of life.

I see the Baltimore Convention have nominated Lincoln & Johnson for President & Vice President. I would rather someone else had been chosen. I do not think either of them possess the qualifications that the  Chief Magistrates of our country should be possessed with, but still there  is no use of expressing any opinion as I do not see there is any help for it. I want to see a gentleman at the head of our affairs, but it seems such qualifications are a draw back. I am sorry they did not take up Grant, but we must make the best of it.

I am very well, also all whom you know. There is no news from the Cavalry. This is the fifth day since they left here. I should think we must hear of them before long through Rebel sources. Hunter was at Staunton  on the 6th, and I take it for granted he is marching on. Sherman, by this time, must have fought a battle, or else the Rebels must have evacuated Atlanta, in which case he has reached the destined point of his campaign. 

I suppose by this time you are in the country. I would give a great  deal to be with you. I am still in hopes I may be able to accomplish it before the summer is ended. I think of you every moment of the day and picture to myself the happy future in store for me. You are my all and I know how sincere our feelings for each other are. It is hard to bear this separation, but I look forward to the future when this war will be ended and peace & happiness be restored to the country. I trust the time is near at hand. This separation has lasted a long time, and I hope it is nearly over.

I think if I had managed the campaign, we would have been in Richmond now. I always advocated this as a defensive line, and the  proper line of offensive operations as on the South side of the James River. If we had sent 60,000 men to City Point as a base, we would have had Richmond by this time and a great loss of life have been saved  thereby.

I must now say goodbye, my own precious treasure. Give my love to Ma, Katy, your father & all, and with a heart overflowing with love for yourself, believe me forever your devoted husband.

Letter 26

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
Near Petersburg
July 2nd, 1864

My own darling Wife,

I received last evening your letter of the 29th. It is a great comfort to me always having such a good report from you. I only wish I could have you with me. I shall be too happy for anything when I can return to you. You are everything in this world to me, and I know what a treasure I possess. We must take care of ourselves for each other’s sake and trust to the speedy ending of this rebellion. I trust something will occur to cheer us up and put an end to this rebellion. It seems to me this campaign ought to be final. It is useless for the Rebels to hold out longer, if they are obliged to give up Richmond, and Sherman gets to Atlanta.

This has been a very quiet day. I have not heard one particle of news. It has been very warm but I have made myself very comfortable in my tent with the walls up on all sides.

Willie Graham has been here. He left Washington the day before yesterday. He is still on crutches and not fit for active duty in the field. He  is very much disgusted at hearing of the loss of his battery which was with Wilson. Wilson has returned, but I do not know how much of his command were captured.

There was an article in the Herald of the 30th written by [ ] Anderson giving a correct account of the disaster in the 2nd Corps. The Army is very much in need of organization. An enormous proportion of the Brigade & Regimental Commanders have been either killed or wounded, and I think too, this as much as anything else is attributable the disaster.

Willie Graham has gone over to see Genl. Ricketts. He wanted me to go with him, but I declined as it is so very warm and I do not care to go out unless it is on duty.

The boxes have not yet arrived. I have sent for them by numerous parties and someone must I think bring them.

Group Portrait of General Meade & Staff, Cold Harbor, Virginia, June 1864

I wrote a few lines to Ma last evening after I had finished my letter to you. Brady took a photograph of Genl. Meade and all his staff whilst we  were at Cold Harbor, excepting Genl. Williams & Charley Cadwalader. Mason on his return brought a copy with him. The picture is stiff but  tolerably good likenesses. I am in hopes we are going to have a storm. It is clouding over but we have been so often disappointed. I do not feel  there is any certainty of rain. It would be a great thing to have a two days  rain as the springs are getting very low, saying nothing of the dust.

The papers do not take any notice of General Meade and he is completely ignored. There is not a very good feeling between Baldy Smith and himself. I did not know anything of this till yesterday [when] I was told so. Baldy Smith is considered a time serving man, and is very desirous to get General Meade’s place.

It is nearly dinner time and I must say goodbye. I long to see you so much, my dear wife. I love you with my whole heart and you are ever in my thoughts. Give my love to all & with a heart full of yourself, believe me for ever your loving husband.

Letter 27

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
July 8th, 1864

My own darling Wife,

I am constantly asked by persons what I find to write about. George Meade has just asked me the question, and says he ought to write, but he  can think of nothing to say. It is very dull in camp and my every thought is  of the time to come when I can return to you. I trust it is not far distant. I  long to have you by my side, never to leave you again. You are very dear  to me and my every thought is of you.

I received yesterday your letter of the 5th in which you acknowledge the receipt of the bank note which I sent you. I have an abundance of money to last me throughout this month. The expenses of living are every day increasing. I can see the difference now that I am running the mess. I try to be economical, but it is very difficult.

I am very glad that the Alabama has at last been destroyed. I am sorry Semmes got off. It is an intricate question to decide as to whether we can now claim him as a prisoner of war. It seems to me the Kearsarge ought to have taken Semmes and the party with him off the Deerhound  before they were allowed to land. Semmes had surrendered and a neutral  ship has no business to shield him, merely on the ground of humanity to save them from drowning, and it seems to me this makes it more forcible that they should not receive the protection of neutral ground. I understand they have been debating in Washington as to what they shall do. I hope they will come to a right conclusion and then stick to it, backing it up with  force, if necessary.

It has been a very warm day. It is singular we do not have any rain. It has been clouding over & threatening, but it always clears off before  night. You ask me what is thought of Genl. Birney. He is considered to be a very good officer, and I do not think anyone blames him for the disaster  in the 2nd Corps.

All of a sudden a very heavy cannonading has commenced. It is the heaviest firing we have had at this end of the line for some time.

I am very well, my own darling wife and you need give yourself no unnecessary uneasiness about me. We must take good care of ourselves for each other’s sake, and trust to the speedy ending of this rebellion. Excuse the shortness & stupidity of my letter, but I have nothing to tell you  of any kind or sort. I always like to write long letters to you, but it is very difficult to do so.

Give my love to all & with a heart overflowing with love to yourself. Believe me forever your devoted husband.

Letter 28

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
July 12th, 1864

My own darling Wife,

We moved camp a short distance this morning. The line was changed so as to shorten it by throwing back the left flank which left us as we were, located outside of our lines. There is no news of any kind. I have not heard anything as to how affairs are progressing in Maryland. I am in great hopes we shall be able to bag the entire force of Rebels that have had the boldness to come into our lines so far from their base of  operations.

I received last evening your letter of the 9th. I am always glad to have such good reports from you. I would give a good deal to take a peep at you in the country. I long so much for the time to come when I can give up this mode of life and return home forever. I am always hoping for some such luck to befall me and thus thinking, I cheer myself up.

I went to Genl. Birney’s yesterday afternoon. I only remained there for a short time. We had merely a sprinkle of rain last night. It appeared to be raining all around us, but much to our regret, we did not have enough to lay the dust. The roads are terribly dusty and rain is badly needed.

Senators Wilkinson & Sprague were at Birney’s dinner. Genl. Meade did not go. I rather think their presence prevented his going. Wilkinson is the man who made a speech in the Senate recommending Meade’s removal after he had paid a visit to the Army and had met Genl. Meade sundry times in a friendly way and had opportunities to make himself acquainted with the true facts in his charges or assertions, if he had  wished to know them.

It is blowing a gale and I am in hopes we shall have rain this time. I have not seen Genl. Grant for fully two weeks. He remains at City  Point. He is in telegraphic communication with Genl. Meade.

We have sundry rumors going the rounds of the Army. One is that Genl. Meade is to take the 2nd Corps & be placed in command of the troops operating against the Rebels in Maryland and that Baldy Smith is to command here, but I understand Baldy Smith has left for Washington,  and the story is reversed. It is also said Butler has been relieved & is ordered to Fortress Monroe and that the 10th & 18th Corps are consolidated under Baldy Smith. There is no doubt Baldy Smith is a very selfish man and would leave no steps unturned to secure his advancement.

There is nothing going on here with the exception of the usual skirmishing which is at times very brisk, being carried on with almost every kind of projectile from the 13-inch mortar down.

I am very well, my own precious treasure. Take good care of yourself for my sake. Give my love to all & with a heart full for yourself, believe me forever your devoted husband.

Letter 29

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
July 25th, 1864

My own darling Wife,

I received yesterday your letter of the 22nd, and I am looking forward to the arrival of a mail every minute. It is now after its time.

Major Hoffman, formerly with me on Genl. William’s Staff, paid me a visit this morning. He is now on Genl. Franklin’s Staff. He thinks Genl. Franklin will have a command outside of this Army. It is reported that Genl. Butler is to be made Secretary of War. I do not know whether there is any truth in it, but it is said Seward paid his visit to City Point to consult with Genl. Grant as to his views on the subject.

I am very sorry to hear of the death of Genl. McPherson. He is a severe loss to the country. He was only 30 years of age & had a bright future before him. He was engaged to be married to a Miss Hamilton. There is nothing from Sherman today, so I presume the enemy have not evacuated Atlanta.

A citizen went through the lines today. He was from California. It is wondered as to what his mission is about.

There is no news here. I am very well and looking forward to the hope of seeing you before long, my precious treasure. Give my love to all & with heaps to yourself. I am forever your devoted husband.

Letter 30

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
Near Petersburg
August 3rd, 1864

My own darling Wife,

I was disappointed at not hearing from you yesterday, but I am  looking forward to the arrival of two letters today to make up for the loss. I know the cause of my not receiving a letter is owing to there being no Sunday mail from Haverford.

My letters are very stupid, but the fact is I have nothing to write about. The only thing that has been going on since we took up the present position has been the digging of the mine, which I did not mention as I do not like to put on paper anything which will benefit the Rebels in case it falls into their hands.

The Rebels are supposed to be trying their hands at mining and some think they intend attacking us. I only wish they would as it will save us a great deal of trouble. Some of the prisoners we took the day the mine  exploded [see Battle of the Crater] told they were expecting to attack us. We are very strong for  defense, and for my part, I do not believe the Rebels have any idea of  attacking us.

I hear the Rebels have all crossed the Potomac. The raid from all  accounts has not benefitted them any. It was merely productive of a  wanton destruction of property.

Genl. Grant was expecting to hear good news from Sherman  yesterday. He thought he would be in possession of Atlanta. I believe the telegraph from Sherman has been cut, and thus the cause of not hearing  from him, but no news is always good news as the Rebels issue extras when they have any good news on their side. Also their pickets halloa out to our pickets. My pen is atrocious, also the ink.

Genl. Meade is very much put out at Burnside, blaming him in part for the failure of the last assault. Do not mention this to anyone as I do not like to circulate these stories. Burnside was here all day yesterday before the Court Martial of the telegraph operators, but did not go near General  Meade.

My mess bill this month will be about $50.00. I do not know the precise sum as there is one bill I have not yet received.

I do not believe we shall under any circumstances ever abandon the position we now hold. We want more men. After the 1st of November, the Rebels will be unable to make any movement into Pennsylvania, and by that time we can concentrate a sufficient force here to insure our success.

If Sherman only gets Atlanta all will be right. He can then divide his column into two and move upon Macon & Augusta, and thence to the seacoast, living off the country and destroy any railroads so effectually they cannot be repaired. I do not think we should feel blue over the condition  of affairs. Be bright & cheerful my darling wife. You are my all and I long to have you by my side. Give my love to all and with a heart overflowing with love for yourself, believe me forever, your devoted husband.

Letter 31

Head Quarters Army of the Potomac
September 11th, 1864

My own darling Wife,

I have been thinking in what way I could get ordered to Philadelphia this coming winter. I asked Charley Cadwalader to speak to his Uncle George about it to ascertain if he would not like to have me on his staff. I do not suppose Genl. Meade will object to my making an arrangement of that kind. What do you think of it?

I think McClellan’s letter is very noncommittal. He says nothing of the Armistice. Anyone can agree with him. We all want peace on the basis of the Union, but the question is which is the best way to secure it & I do not believe in an Armistice. We tried the same at the commencement of the war & it failed. We must first crush the war power of the South, &  they must be the first to sue for an armistice.

I wish you would call on Mrs. Genl. Humphreys. She is staying at Mrs. Humphreys’ place about half a mile from Taylor’s.

I received last evening your letter written on the morning after I left. Cassie is no doubt enjoying herself at Newport.

This month has gone by very rapidly thus far. I can hardly realize I have been away from the army for 10 days. Everything looks as when I left. The only change is the railroad running in front of our Head Quarters. It is in sight from the Rebel lines, and they amuse themselves by firing Whitworth bolts which fall uncomfortably near our Head Quarters. They all have come in nearly the same direction passing some 800 feet to the left of my tent & falling in the rear of our camp where we have our corral. They fire at every train that passes. It is a long range and they can only annoy.  One shot out of a thousand would hardly hit. We are indebted to our English friends for these distant visitors. They have a very long range.

My cold has gone and I feel perfectly well. I think all the time of my pleasant visit & look forward to seeing you again before very long.

There is no news. Give my love to all & with a heart full of love for  yourself, believe me forever your devoted husband.

The 1864 Diary of Oliver Kidder Abels of 1st Connecticut Light Artillery

Oliver, his diary, and a scene of the battery going into action from the regimental history.

This diary was kept by Pvt. Oliver Kidder Abels (1834-1904), a bookbinder by occupation, who enlisted at East Granby, Connecticut, on 7 November 1861 to serve in the 1st Connecticut Light Artillery. He survived the war, mustering out with the battery on 13 November 1864 after three years service. This diary—kept during the last 11 months of his service—was credited as useful in the writing of the regimental history [see History of the First Light Battery Connecticut Volunteers, by Beecher]. It is now the property of my friend Adam O. Fleischer and has been transcribed and published in Spared & Shared by his express consent.

The 1st Connecticut L. A. Battery marching through New Haven in 1861

The 1st Connecticut Light Artillery was initially commanded by Captain Alfred Perkins Rockwell (1834-1903). In September 2019, I transcribed a large archive of letters written by Rockwell, 38 of which were penned while serving with the battery; 72 more after he accepted the commission of Colonel in the 6th Connecticut Infantry in June 1864. Those letters can be found on Spared & Shared 19 under the title, 1863-65: Alfred Perkins Rockwell Letters. To add context and color to Abels’ diary entries, I have incorporated clips from some of Rockwell’s letters in the transcription that follows.

Capt. Alfred Perkins Rockwell, 1st Connecticut Light Artillery

The following history of the 1st Connecticut Light Artillery Battery comes from Wikipedia and will serve as a useful background as well as a reference point to Abels’ diary—1864 activities highlighted in bold font.

The 1st Connecticut Light Artillery Battery, under the command of Captains Alfred P. Rockwell and James B. Clinton, was organized in October 1861, and recruited from the state of Connecticut. The members joined at Meriden (Hanover village) and were mustered, for three years, into U.S. service on October 26, 1861.

The battery consisting of 156 men, embarked for New York on January 13, 1862, leaving there on the 21st on the Ellwood Walter for Port Royal, South Carolina, and arriving at Beaufort, South Carolina February 6. The battery was drilled in artillery tactics during the next three months and saw its first actual service at Pocotaligo. During General David Hunter’s movement in June against Charleston, the battery took an active part, receiving honorable mention in General Orders for good conduct and for well served guns. The left section of the battery shared in an expedition to Florida in September and October, 1862, and was active at Fort Finnegan.

During the second movement against Charleston in April 1863, the battery was present but not actively engaged and shortly after returned to Beaufort. An expedition, commanded by Lieutenant Clinton, to destroy the railroad bridge above Willstown. This resulted in the loss of two of its guns through the grounding of the steamer, the guns being sunk in the river to prevent their capture. In July, the battery was engaged on James Island and was complimented by General Alfred Terry. Following this the battery was ordered to Folly Island and for nine months it formed part of the reserve under General Quincy Adams Gillmore. In December, 1863, while stationed at Folly Island, forty-six men reenlisted for another three-year term.

On April 18, 1864, the battery embarked for Fort Monroe from where it proceeded to Gloucester Point and on May 4, it joined General Benjamin Butler’s forces at Bermuda Hundred. It was actively engaged at Chester Station on the Richmond and Petersburg turnpike and at Proctor’s Creek, losing two killed and ten wounded among the former being Lieutenant George Metcalfe. They then returned to Bermuda Hundred until June 27, taking an active part in the actions at Grovert’s House and at Ware Bottom Church. Following the affair at Deep Bottom in August it was almost constantly engaged before moving to Petersburg on September 23. It then moved across the James River to a point near Fort Harrison. Following this it was assigned to the light artillery brigade of XXV Corps under General Godfrey Weitzel.

It was active at Chaffin’s Bluff and Johnson’s Farm in October. Following this it was ordered to City Point, where it exchanged its James Rifles for 12-pound Napoleons. The unit was comparatively inactive during the winter of 1864–1865. But on April 3, 1865, the Confederates abandoned their defences and the battery entered Richmond with the XXV Corps, where they received news of Lee’s surrender. The unit continued to serve in the vicinity of Richmond until June 11, when it was mustered out at Manchester, Richmond. It started for home the following day and reached New Haven on June 14. The battery was the first of the veteran troops to return to Connecticut. Having been in service three years and eight months, it participated in about twenty engagements.

Oliver K. Abels’ signature inside front cover of diary


Friday, Jan 1, 1864. Folly Island. Pleasant & cold. Rained considerable during the night. I am on guard today. It has been a pretty dull New Year. [Moses] Phelps, Hen & myself made some hash for dinner & supper.

Saturday, 2. Pleasant and cold. Last night was the coldest night we have had since we have been in South Carolina. The boys are fixing up their things for inspection tomorrow. I am on picket.

Sunday, 3. Cloudy and cool. Came off from picket this morning. It was a cold night. [James] Holly and I turned in together I am on fatigue today. Had a mounted inspection this a.m.

Monday, Jan 4, 1864. Cloudy. I am on fatigue today helping to build a stockade & chimney for the bakery. It is a very dark & foggy evening. Everything is very quiet about here now.

Tuesday, 5. Cloudy and unpleasant. I have been in my tent most of the day. There has been 46 of our boys reenlisted for three years longer. They are going home soon. I am on picket tonight. Our mail arrived this p.m.

Wednesday, 6. Cold and rainy. Our section came off from picket this morning. We took the tarpaulins & made a good covering for ourselves so that we managed to keep pretty comfortable. Boys started for home this morning.

Thursday, January 7, 1864. Cold and rainy. We have not got to go on picket any more at present. I am staying with Holly now (nights). I have been down to Stono Inlet this p.m. as orderly. I am on guard tonight. I got the orderly’s berth.

Friday, 8. Cold and cloudy most of the day. I am acting orderly today. There is but a few of us left in camp. We are pretty busy. Henry is driver now. I am acting as cannoneer. There is only one to a piece aside from the drivers.

Saturday, 9. Pleasant and cold. I have been very busy today taking care of horses and cleaning up things for inspection tomorrow. We received a small mail this a.m. Ed Phelps is acting orderly.

Sunday, January 10, 1864. Pleasant and cool. Had a foot inspection this a.m. And a mounted inspection this p.m. There were only three cannoneers. It took till all the rest for drives. It is stormy this evening.

Monday 11. Pleasant. I am taking care of horses today. Commenced raining this evening. Everything is very quiet now days.

Tuesday, 12. Cloudy. I had to get up at five o’clock this morning & harness a span of horses. Received a mail this a.m. It is raining again tonight.

Wednesday, January 13, 1864. Rainy. I have been taking care of horses today. There has been considerable firing at the front since yesterday noon. The report is that they are firing into Charleston City.

Thursday, 14. Cloudy & unpleasant. I am taking care of horses today. I sent Sarah and Jefferson a paper yesterday. About fifty men from the 55th (Colored) Massachusetts Reg. 1 have come to help us & learn to drill.

1 The 55th Massachusetts (made up mostly of free Blacks) and the 1st North Carolina (former slaves) were brigaded together on Folly Island in 1864 under Gen. Edward A. Wild. They became known as Wild’s “African Brigade.” We learn from Oliver’s diary that at least some members of the 55th Mass. were drilled as artillerists, probably as a temporary detail while a large number of the 1st Conn. L. A. were home on a veteran’s furlough.

Friday, 15. Pleasant & cool. I have been taking care of horses. I am on guard tonight. I am acting as orderly. I do not feel very well tonight.

Saturday, January 16, 1864. Pleasant and cool. I am orderly today. Te boys are fixing up things for inspection tomorrow. We received eight recruits today. I have got the piles the worst kind.

Sunday, 17. Pleasant. Had a mounted and foot inspection this a.m. I have been off from duty today. I have got the piles very bad and can’t hardly stir.

Monday, 18. Cold and rainy. I have stayed in my tent all day. I am feeling a little better. It cleared off about five o’clock p.m. There is nothing new today.

Tuesday, January 19, 1864. Pleasant and cold. Have been stopping in my tent all day. Had our monthly inspection this a.m. by Capt. Burt. The Colored boys have been drilling on the pieces this p.m. The Fulton passed this a.m. from the north.

Wednesday, 20. Pleasant and cool. I have been in my tent most of the day. The battery has been out to a review by Gen. Gordon. The Colored boys went out as cannoneers. Received a mail today.

Thursday, 21. Pleasant & warm. Stayed in my tent most of the day. I am some better. I have been writing a letter to Sarah. The battery had a mounted drill this a.m. I received a letter from Fan.

Friday, January 22, 1864. Pleasant and warm. I have been in my tent most of the day & have been writing to Jeff. I am better. The Colored boys are drilling every day. Had a mounted drill this p.m. It has been a beautiful day.

Saturday, 23. Pleasant & warm. I have been on duty today. The boys are fixing up things for inspection tomorrow. I sent a paper to Mary C. and George Holcomb.

Sunday, 24. Pleasant and warm. Had a mounted and foot inspection this a.m. I have got most well and am on duty again. It has been a very pleasant day.

Monday, January 25, 1864. Pleasant and warm The new recruits are learning to drill. The rimes are very quiet now. I haven’t been doing much today. Took care of the sergeant’s horse. I wrote a letter to Fannie.

Tuesday, 26. Pleasant & warm. The Colored boys are learning the drill very well. I have been shoveling this p.m. we are leveling off & fitting up old holes. We are having nice evenings.

Wednesday, 27. Pleasant and warm. I have been getting ready to go on guard tonight. The boys have been out riding horseback this p.m. We are having nice moonlight nights.

Thursday, January 28, 1864. Pleasant and warm. I am on guard today. Had a mounted drill this p.m. Lieut. [George] Metcalf took command. Our batteries on Morris Island are firing into the City of Charleston.

A sample of Oliver K. Abels’ Handwriting

Friday, 29. Pleasant and warm. Had a mounted drill this p.m. Private [Henry A.] Dodd and myself have been down to [Samuel A.] Cooley’s Photograph establishment & sit for some photographs.

Samuel A. Cooley’s Photographic establishment on Folly Island. Cooley was the official photographer for the Tenth Army Corps. (LOC)

Saturday, 30. Pleasant and warm. I have been on fatigue today drawing rations and water for the cook house. Our mail arrived yesterday p.m. I didn’t get anything & was disappointed.

Sunday, January 31, 1864. Pleasant & warm. Had a foot inspection. [James] Holly and myself went up in the Lookout. They were firing some on both sides.


Pleasant and warm. Commenced building a stable for the horses. Leeds Brown has command of it/ It is to be built of slabs.

Tuesday, 2. Pleasant and warm. Worked on the stable this a.m. This p.m. have stayed in my tent reading. There has been considerable firing today.

Wednesday, February 3, 1864. Pleasant and cold. Went into the woods after wood this a.m. and remained in my tent this p.m. Some firing on both sides.

Thursday, 4. Pleasant and cool. I went down to the sawmill after slabs this a.m. This p.m. have stayed in my tent reading. The boys have been to work on the barn.

Friday, 5. Pleasant and cool. The battery went out to a review at quarter past eight this morning by Gen. Terry. Stayed in my tent reading.

Saturday, February 6, 1864. Pleasant and cool. Went into the woods after wood this a.m. Stayed in tent this p.m. The mail arrived this evening. Didn’t get anything and was disappointed.

Sunday, 7. Pleasant and cool. Had a foot inspection. The Doctor has got promoted and gone North. [Norman A.] Sackett, [William B.] Ives, [John J.] Moy and Abe [B.] Fowler have gone to join the Invalid Corps.

Monday, 8. Pleasant and warm. I am in Kiawah Island today with one section of my battery. Last night we received orders to march with an expedition of about five thousand troops. Encamped in Kiawah Isle.

Tuesday, February 9, 1864. Pleasant and warm. The expedition consisted of about five thousand troops. The third New York Battery and one section of ours. We have got Niggers for cannoneers. Ordered to march at ten last evening. Met the Rebs this morn.

Wednesday, 10. Pleasant and warm. Crossed from Kiawah on to Seabrook at about three o’clock yesterday morning. Met the enemy on Johns Island about daylight and had a fight with them. Killed and wounded about a dozen Rebs.

Thursday, 11. Pleasant and warm. There was some firing yesterday on both sides but none killed as I heard of. This p.m. our forces moved up and met the enemy. Had a very sharp artillery fight. It lasted half an hour.

Friday, February 12, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Left Johns Island about midnight last night and arrived at the dock on Kiawah and embarked onto Folly soon after noon and arrived in camp towards night, pretty well tired out.

Saturday, 13. Pleasant and warm. The boys are feeling very tired. The Third New York Battery lost two horses on Thursday p.m. when we had the fight with the Rebs. Our loss in infantry killed and wounded must have been 8 or 10.

Sunday, 14. Pleasant and warm. Had a mounted inspection this a.m. Also a foot [inspection]. Received a letter from Sarah yesterday. Wrote a letter to her this p.m.

Monday, February 15, 1864. Pleasant and warm. The centre section had a mounted drill this a.m. I was taken sick with the dysentery yesterday and am pretty sick today.

Tuesday, 16. Pleasant and warm. The right section had a mounted drill this a.m. I am sick in hospital.

Wednesday, 17. Pleasant and very cold. The centre section had drill this a.m. Sick in hospital.

Thursday, February 18, 1864. Cold and blustering. Ice froze quite thick last night. Battery drill on their piece. It snowed two hours or more this evening and the ground was quite white with snow.

Friday, 19. Cold and pleasant. Water froze quite thick. Henry is on guard tonight. I am still quite sick.

Saturday, 20. Cold and pleasant. Had our usual monthly inspection by Captain Burt. I am getting a little better.

Sunday, February 21, 1864. Pleasant. Foot inspection this a.m. The weather has moderated considerable. In hospital but getting some better.

Monday, 22. Pleasant and warm. This is Washington’s birthday. The veterans arrived this evening in good spirits. We received our mail this eve. I received a letter from Mag. In the hospital and getting better.

Tuesday, 23. Pleasant and warm. The boys have had a good time since they went home. They are getting settled down once more. Three recruits came with them. In hospital.

Wednesday, February 24, 1864. Pleasant and warm. The boys drilled on pieces in park this a.m. and this p.m. It seems good to have them back once more. I am getting better, I hope. In hospital yet.

Thursday, 25. Pleasant and warm. Drilled on pieces in park this a.m. Mounted drill this p.m. by two sections. We are short for horses now. I am in hospital yet.

Friday, 26. Pleasant and warm. This is the first day I have attempted to write for about three weeks. I didn’t carry my book in the expedition. Drilled in park this a.m. and mounted this p.m. I am in hospital yet.

Saturday, February 27, 1864. Pleasant and cool. I am in the hospital but am getting most well again. The boys are fixing up things for inspection tomorrow. Got new caps today.

Sunday, 28. Pleasant and warm. Mounted and foot inspections a.m. I have got most well. It has been a beautiful day. I have been in Henry’s tent talking with him this p.m.

Monday, 29. Pleasant and warm. The company were mustered in for pay this a.m. Received a mail this p.m. I didn’t get anything and was disappointed. Wrote to Mag this p.m. In hospital.

MARCH 1864

Tuesday, March 1, 1864. Pleasant and cool. I am on duty again. Drilled on piece in park this a.m. and this p.m. had a foot drill. Lieut. [George P.] Bliss drilled us. I am feeling a good deal better once more.

Wednesday, 2. Pleasant and cool. Drill on piece in park this a.m. I have been taking care of horses. Henry is on guard tonight.

Thursday, 3. Pleasant. Windy and cool. Had a mounted drill this a.m. and drilled on piece in park this p.m. I received a letter from Fannie this p.m. Eating, Evarts, Hen and myself.

Friday, March 4, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Mounted drill this a.m. They have been building a new forage barn lately. I am on guard tonight.

Saturday, March 5, 1864. Pleasant and cool. I am on guard today. There has been no drill today. The boys are fixing up things for inspection tomorrow.

Sunday, 6. Pleasant and cool. Had a mounted and foot inspection this a.m. There were some ladies present. I wrote a letter to Fannie. Ten of our boys have gone to the Head [Hilton Head] after horses.

Monday, March 7, 1864. Pleasant and cool. I am on fatigue [duty] today. Have been drawing slat this a.m. and hay this p.m. Foot drill this a.m. and mounted this p.m.

Tuesday, 8. Pleasant and cool. This a.m. mounted drill. This p.m. I have been taking care of horses today. The boys have returned from the Head with 23 horses. Received a letter from George.

Wednesday, 9. Pleasant and warm. Drilled on piece in park this a.m. Set George a letter and paper. Also a paper to Ed Stiles and Sarah. Wrote some in each. Mounted drill this p.m. David Crosley sent us in some pie and cake this evening. Good.

Thursday, March 10, 1864. Cloudy and unpleasant. It has rained very hard all night. Our tent leak ed some and I got quite wet laying in my bunk. Edward [F.] Phelps is quite unwell and I am staying in his tent with him today. No drill.

Friday, 11. It has rained most of the night very hard and also this a.m. Cleared off about noon. Mounted drill this p.m. I went out as driver. Ed. Phelps is quite sick and wanting to [go to] the hospital this a.m.

Saturday, 12. Very pleasant day. The boys have been fixing up things as usual for inspection tomorrow. Henry is on guard tonight. I have been mending up my clothes.

Sunday, March 13, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Mounted and foot inspection this a.m. A gentleman from New York by the name of Saunders preached to the company this a.m. Charles [E.] Jillson and myself rode down to the 117th New York Regiment in p.m.

Monday, 14. Pleasant and warm. Mounted drill this a.m. Drilled on piece in park this p.m. I sent a paper to Eugene and Phelps. I wrote considerable in them.

Tuesday, 15. Pleasant and cool. Mounted drill this a.m. I rode Henry’s horses. Henry is on fatigue [duty]. Foot drill this p.m. I am taking care of horses.

Wednesday, March 16, 1864. Pleasant and cool. Mounted drill this a.m. I rode Savion’s horses. Drilled onpiece in park this p.m. I am on guard tonight.

Thursday, 17. Pleasant and cool. I am acting orderly for the captain today. There is four ladies here today—Mrs. Porter, Mrs. Beecher, and Mrs. Walton and sister. They went up on Morris Island.

Friday, 18. Pleasant and cool. Mounted drill by the whole battery down at Gen. Terry’s quarters. We fired several kinds of ammunition and also blank cartridges. The ladies were present.

Saturday, March 19, 1864. Pleasant, windy and cool. I am on fatigue today. Drawed rations for the company this a.m. This p.m. went into the woods after wood.

Sunday, 20. Cool and cloudy. Mounted inspection in park. Also foot inspection this a.m. I have been reading most of the day. It is a very lovely Sunday.

Monday, 21. Cold and cloudy. Drilled this a.m. mounted and this p.m. on piece in park. Commenced raining about three p.m. We have got new harnesses.

Tuesday, March 22, 1864. Cold and rainy. No drill today. I have been taking care of horses. We are having a very cold storm.

Wednesday, 23. Pleasant and cool. Drilled on piece in park this a.m. I sent Gene and Ell a paper in which I wrote considerable. Cleared off this morning.

Thursday, 24. Pleasant and cool. Help fill the chest with ammunition this a.m. Mounted drill this p.m. Received a mail. I didn’t get anything and was disappointed. Hen is on guard tonight.

Friday, March 25, 1864. Cold and rainy. Commenced raining sometime during the night and has rained very hard this a.m. Cleared off this p.m. No drills today. The recruits have to drill.

Saturday, 26. Pleasant and cool. The boys are fixing up things today as usual for tomorrow’s inspections. We have got new harnesses and they look well.

Sunday, 27. Pleasant and warm. Mounted and foot inspections as usual. Stayed in my tent most of the day reading. Have taken care of Hen’s horses. Hen now on fatigue.

Monday, March 28, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Om fatigue all day. Moved the commissary building. We are fixing ground for a new camp. Started to go a fishing but couldn’t get a boat.

Tuesday, 29. Rainy and was pleasant. Commenced raining fore part of the night and cleared off about noon. I have been looking over my old letters today. The ground is fixed for the new camp.

Wednesday, 30. Pleasant and cool. No drill today excepting the new recruits on the piece. Most of the boys are on fatigue fixing the new camp ground. Received a letter from Maggie. Acting orderly tonight.

Thursday, March 31, 1864. Pleasant and cold. I am acting orderly for the captain today. The boys have moved camp today. I have written a letter to Ell and Maggie. Cold tonight.

APRIL 1864

Friday, April 1. Showery and unpleasant. Received a box from Sarah. Everything was very nice. No drill today. Cleared off this p.m. Received a letter from Eugene and Sarah this evening. The boys are fixing their tents.

Saturday, 2. Pleasant and cool. I am on fatigue. I have been drawing water about from barrels for the cook house. Sent a letter to Eugene and Sarah. I a living high now. Sent Sarah a ring as a present from [ ].

Sunday, April 3, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Mounted and foot inspections this a.m. Our batteries on Morris [Island] are firing at Sumter again. Arago went north this p.m. Charles Gesner, [Ralph] Blodgett & Titus Hall.

Monday, 4. Cloudy and unpleasant. I watched with Hector McLean after twelve last night. He is very sick with Typhoid fever. Cleared off this evening. We are having very high tides now days.

Tuesday, 5. Pleasant and cool. Taking care of [Samuel C.] Bosworth’s horses. He is standing on a barrel for leaving the nose bags on. On fatigue this p.m. fixing slabs for officers’ mess tent. Hen on guard.

Wednesday, April 6, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Most of the boys are on fatigue fixing about camp and building a mess house for the officers. I am feeling unwell today. Day before yesterday Charles Evarts jumped on me and hurt me quite bad.

Thursday, 7. Cloudy and cool. I am not very well today and am excused from duty. The boys are to work on the officers’ mess tent and leveling off about camp. Mounted drill this p.m.

Friday, 8. Cloudy and windy. I am some better today. Mounted drill this p.m. I haven’t done any duty. Things are very quiet about here now. Firing onto Sumter some of late.

Saturday, April 9, 1864. Rainy. Rained most of the night. I sit up with Hector McLean the fore part of the night. He is getting better. Received a letter from George and Gene. Answered George.

Sunday, 10. Pleasant and cool. Mounted inspection this forenoon. Went down to the 103rd Regiment New York for meeting. It is very lonesome this evening.

Monday, 11. Warm and pleasant. No drill. The captain has gone north. I have been taking care of horses. Went a fishing this p.m. Caught about eight good ones. Had some for supper.

Tuesday, April 12, 1864. Pleasant and cool. No drill tonight. Received the orderly’s berth. Received a letter from Fannie. It is very windy tonight. Lieut. Metcalf is in command of the company now.

Wednesday, 13. Pleasant and warm. No drill. Acting orderly. The captain was ordered back and arrived back this a.m. The report is we are going away soon. [George R.] Ingam’s and my segars arrived today.

Thursday, 14. Cloudy. No drill. The boys went out a fishing and had good success. We are fixing up things ready for to leave. Commenced raining this p.m. The 100th New York left today.

Friday, April 15, 1864. Cloudy and rain. The company drilled on pieces in park. p.m. I am on fatigue expecting to leave soon.

Saturday, 16. Warm and pleasant. Received pay today. I have been taking care of Rates [Horatio] Evarts’ horses and cleaning up his harnesses. Today I have been very busy. Are expected to leave tomorrow.

Sunday, 17. Pleasant and warm. No inspection. Received marching orders and commenced loading aboard of the Propeller Gen. Meigs. I am very tired tonight. Got two sections loaded.

Monday, April 18, 1864. Rainy. Worked hard all day loading. Got most everything aboard. We go in two boats—the Gen. Meigs and the Ella Knight. I am wet through and tired tonight. Negro troops commenced coming.

Tuesday, 19. Pleasant. Finished loading this noon. The left and central section go on the Meigs. Got started about two o’clock. Our boat is not a very fast one. Hen couldn’t eat any supper.

“All day Sunday I had men hard at work building stalls for the horses and loading guns, &c. onto the General Meigs—one of our transports–and on Monday morning the Ellie Knight came to the wharf to be fitted up and loaded. By Tuesday afternoon everything was ready and we moved away from the wharf at Pawnee Landing and said a last goodbye to Folly Island and [our] home for the past nine months…” — Capt. Alfred P. Rockwell letter dated 21 April 1864.

Wednesday, 20. Cold and pleasant. I slept on some barrels down in the hole but didn’t get but little rest. The boat rolls very bad. I caught cold. Got up at two o’clock. The old boat has made good time.

Thursday, April 21, 1864. Pleasant and cool. Came in sight of land this morning off Hatteras Inlet. Saw Ocracock Light House. We are off Hatteras tonight. On guard. Slept on deck.

Friday, 22. Pleasant and warm. Came in sight of Cape Henry Light House this morning. Saw many wrecks on the shore. Arrived at Fortress Monroe at half past one. Left about five. Went a few miles and anchored.

Saturday, 23. Pleasant and cool Anchored at the mouth of York River last night. Hoisted anchor and went up the river about five a.m. Arrived off Yorktown about [ ]. Got unloaded about night.

Sunday, April 24, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Landed at Gloucester Point. The right section arrived on the Ella Knight yesterday a.m. Camped near the landing lat night. Moved camp about one mile. Have been carrying up things all day. Large number of troops arrived today.

“All day yesterday the battery was being landed and last night bivouacked on the shore. This morning I moved up upon the bluff and back about a mile from the river and established camp. We are directly across the river from Yorktown—so famous in history. The banks on both sides the river are some 30 to 50 feet above the water rising precipitously to a plain nearly level or gently undulating, occasionally cut by ravines which lead to the river…We are ordered today to prepare to turn in all our tents and take to shelter tents, which are about as effective as two handkerchiefs to keep off the rain. All trunks to be sent home and officers’ baggage reduced to a small valise and blankets…” Capt. Alfred P. Rockwell Letter, dated 24 April 1864.

Monday, 25. Pleasant and warm. Our boys have been fixing up things today. Troops are coming very fast The 7th, 10th, and 6th Conn. regiments are here. I sent a letter to George. Henry and I sent some things in a valise to his brother Lew in Washington.

Tuesday, 26. Pleasant and warm. Mounted drill this a.m. and mounted inspection this p.m. Sent Eugene a letter. Also sent George two hundred dollars. Three of our boys went into the Navy. Received seven new recruits today.

Wednesday, April 27, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Mounted drill this a.m. Drilled in piece in park this p.m. Had an inspection of clothes this a.m. Lieut. [James B.] Clinton and Sergt. [Elijah C.] Tuttle arrived this morning. Sent a letter to Ellen.

Thursday, 28. Cool and pleasant. No drill today. Packed our extra blankets and saskets. They are going to be sent to Norfolk for storage. Dr. Hart called to see us. Wrote a letter to Sarah.

Friday, 29. Pleasant and cool. No drill. Turned in our A tents and pitched our shelter ones. On guard last night and today. Hamilton Battery arrived today.

Saturday, April 30, 1864. Pleasant and cool. Mustered and inspected this a.m. This p.m. were reviewed by Gen. Butler, Foster, and Ames. there were about 20 regiments and 5 light batteries present. Got into camp about dark.

“Of course reviews are old stories and dreadful bores for all who are doomed to take any active part in them, but today it was more agreeable for me, for being the Senior Battery Commander of all the artillery. Imagine five Light Batteries (30 guns) drawn up in line one third of a mile in length. They were five Batteries and certainly did appear very well. There were probably not more than 18,000 to 20,000 men, if as man, but even these make quite a show and to a Folly Islander seem quite an army. We were on the ground at noon and were there till dark, marching and countermarching till all are thoroughly tired, horse & man… The whole Corps went through the review first as a rehearsal and then took our positions and waited the arrival of Major General Butler. In time, the guns at Yorktown announced his landing there to review the troops on that side. Then another salute announced crossing to this side. Then I had a man stationed who could see him coming, and reported the fact so that as he rode upon the field, one of the Batteries fired our 13 guns. This review was ordered for tomorrow but was hurried up today because we may move at a moments notice. Everything indicates that our stay at Gloucester Point will be cut short all of a sudden and within a very few days. We are already to march now.” — Capt. Alfred P. Rockwell Letter, 30 April 1864.

MAY 1864

Sunday, May 1. Cool and rainy. On fatigue. Went down to the landing after bread which was coming from Yorktown. No inspections today. Cleared off this p.m.

Monday, 2. Pleasant and cool. Mounted drill this a.m. and on piece in park this p.m. Lew Thurston and Charles Thompson and Henesey called on e yesterday. Had oysters for dinner.

Tuesday, May 3, 1864. Pleasant. Very hard shower last evening. Got up at six o’clock this morning. Struck tents about noon and left camp. Loaded on to barge and anchored in stream.

The following entries were made by Abels in the “Memoranda” portion of his pocket journal where he was unconstrained by the daily diary entry space limitations.

May 4th 1864. Pleasant. Left our camp at Gloucester Point about noon. Loaded our pieces on board the barge Durant. The 5th New Jersey Battery pieces were with us. Our horses went on board the steamer Convoy. Got loaded about night and anchored off in the stream. The troops and batteries are loading very fast. Left Gloucester Point about midnight and arrived at Fortress Monroe at daylight.

May 5th 1864. On board the barge Durant. the 10th Army Corps, 1st Division, arrived at Fortress Monroe this morning and left immediately for Newport News and anchored a few moments and then moved up the James River. On the way up we saw the monitor Roanoke three turrets. After sailing up quite a distance, saw a one turreted monitor. It is a beautiful day and we are having a nice sail. the river is lined with transports of all kinds. It is a very crooked river and very muddy. The country looks very pleasant and trees are in blossom. There is some beautiful places on this river but they look rather desolate. Gen. Terry and Gillmore are with us. I saw them in a fine steamer as it passed us. I have today seen some of the nicest steamers I ever saw. They are all crowded with troops, &c. The flags are flying from them in every direction and it is a beautiful sight. We arrived at City Point about dark and anchored a short distance above.

May 6th. Lay at anchor all night and this morning unloaded and commenced our march towards Petersburg and Richmond Railroad. Marched only a few miles and encamped for the night.

May 7th. Got up at half past two, hitched up three times during the day. Moved over to the right about dark.

May 8th. Very warm. Kept hitched up until about noon. Put up our polans and lay down and rested. Hitched up and moved back about a mile this p.m. Fixed a new camp and lay down. I am pretty tired tonight.

May 9th Got up about three o’clock and started on the march about four. Went out to the Petersburg & Richmond Railroad. Met but few of the enemy. Tore up the track for 6 or 8 miles. Encamped for a short time on the old battleground of last Saturday. Went in a bathing a brook nearby.

Wednesday, 4. Cool and pleasant. We have laid on board the barge out in the stream all day. On guard last night and today. Between 40 and 50 steamers loaded with troops at this place. Left for Fortress Monroe at eleven o’clock this evening.

“Yesterday noon I received orders to embark and at once moved from camp & put my guns &c.—all but the horses—upon one of the large North River Barges that you have seen often no doubt. Owing to the usual delays, the steamer for the horses was not ready till this morning and we spent the night by camp fires…Today has been my first day of rest and I have been making up lost sleep. Troops have been embarking all day and probably before morning all will move. It is a beautiful sight—the river full of steamers & barges loaded with men, flags flying, bands playing, steam tugs moving swiftly about in the fleet carrying orders to the different steamers, some getting underway. Altogether it is an exciting scene and appears like a busy harbor.” — Capt. Alfred P. Rockwell Letter, 4 May 1864

Thursday, 5. Pleasant and warm. Arrived at Fortress Monroe at daybreak and anchored for one half hour. Hoisted anchor and went up to Newport News and anchored for a few moments. Hoisted anchor and went up to City Point. Arrived about dark.

Friday, May 6, 1864. Very warm and pleasant. We laid at anchor a little above City Point all night. Unloaded this morning and commenced our march towards Richmond. The road was lined with clothing. Marched 6 or 8 miles and encamped.

Saturday, 7. Very warm and pleasant. Quiet during last night. Got up this morning at half past two. Hitched up three times during the day. Had a fight on our left and the report is that they destroyed the railroad bridge. Loss is said to be about 200.

“I do not know just where we are—only that we are ‘en bivouac’ in an open field surrounded by woods, troops on all sides of us and the enemy supposed to be in front. Beyond this, I know nothing—only that everything has gone right with this column thus far…Yesterday morning at sunrise, I disembarked at a place named ‘Bermuda Hundreds’ where most of our troops landed. It is on the north bank of the Appomattox river at its junction with the James. Some of the force was landed at ‘City Point’ on the opposite bank of the Appomattox. We heard firing last evening in the direction of Petersburg. What it meant, I don’t know. Never look to army officers for army news. We know only what passes under our eyes….We marched yesterday some six or eight miles, as nearly as I could judge, through a wooded country slightly undulating, farms at long intervals—that is, very few houses and those all deserted—quite a number of fields of grain. No inhabitants were visible as I passed. Any, if there must, have run away or been captured by the advanced guard. Roads more dry & in fine order but dusty. The sun was very warm and the infantry seemed to suffer much as we moved at first rapidly forward. We halted at noon for nearly an hour and came to our present camp at 4 P.M. To guard against surprise, the whole command was ordered under arms at 3½ this morning and fortified with a cup of coffee, we prepared to receive the enemy if he attacked.” — Capt. Alfred P. Rockwell Letter, 7 May 1864.

Sunday, 8. Very warm. Moved camp last night about dark. We are on the right of the division and in battery. Lay on the ground by our pieces all night. Quiet. Moved a little to the rear this p.m. The 10th, 7th, and 6th Conn. regiments near us.

Monday, May 9, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Got up about three o’clock a.m. and started on the march about four. Went out to the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad. Met but few of the enemy. Tore up the railroad tracks for 6 or 8 miles. Encamped for a few moments on the battleground of Saturday.

Tuesday, 10. Pleasant and warm. Four of our pieces were stationed on the railroad where it crosses the pike. Quite a battle was fought on the left of us down near Petersburg. This morning went up the pike and had a sharp fight and drove the enemy [Battle of Chester Station].

he Action at Chester Station was a relatively minor battle of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign and ended indecisively. It started as a Union expedition against the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad. The object was to destroy the railroad in order to cut the line of communication. It was met by a reconnaissance-in-force of two Confederate brigades led by Major General Robert Ransom, who attacked south from Drewry’s Bluff near the Winfree House. Both sides fought gallantly and fiercely including hand-to-hand.

“We have had a hard fight today and have been so far successful that we repulsed the enemy greatly outnumbering us, if we may believe the prisoners taken, and with heavy loss to them. Our own loss has been considerable. My loss is four men wounded and two horses killed. At one time I feared my battery would be taken and I, if alive, would write you next from Richmond. But the good conduct of our troops, under Providence, saved us.” — Capt. Alfred P. Rockwell Letter, dated 10 May 1864.

Wednesday, 11. Pleasant and warm. Returned to camp last night pretty tired. In yesterday’s fight, [Ebenezer] Wakely, Hall and [Edwin O.] Blatchley were wounded. Also had two horses killed. Today we have been laying off in camp. Quiet so far.

Thursday, May 12, 1864. Rainy. Started on a march about six o’clock. Went out to the Pike Road, continued up the road about one mile and encamped for the night. There was considerable skirmishing this p.m. and our folks drove them. Very rainy and bad laying out.

Friday, 13. Rainy and unpleasant. I slept on the ground and am wet through this morning. Got up several times during the night on account of picket firing. Tonight we are in battery within ten miles of Richmond on the Pike. There is 16 pieces of us. Received a letter from Sarah.

Saturday, 14. Rainy this a.m. and pleasant in p.m. We are about in the centre of our line of Battery. Kept hitched up all night. The Rebs fired at us severely yesterday p.m. Our troops gained their earthworks on the left yesterday p.m.

Sunday, May 15, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Moved to the front about noon yesterday. We gained their first line of works on the Pike yesterday. Had a severe fight yesterday p.m. [See fight at Proctor’s Creek] Lost one man killed and 6 wounded. Also had ten horses killed, 5 or 6 wounded. Moved to the rear half mile last night. Lieut. [George] Metcalf killed.

“Yesterday I was with my battery under a severe fire during which time some four hours I lost my 1st Lieut. (Metcalf) mortally wounded (since dead), one man killed, and some half dozen wounded. About 10 horses killed. It is seldom we have so severe a time of it and I have no fancy to repeat it. I escaped without a scratch…This morning I have had another artillery duel with the enemy and had but one man wounded. The same shell knocked the wheel of the gun in pieces…My men are nearly worn out by this hard work…We seem to have come to a standstill before the enemy’s entrenchments and heavy artillery is said to be coming up. My battery is losing nothing in reputation yet. Most of my men behave admirably. I am at this instant ordered to withdraw my pieces from action…” — Capt. Alfred P. Rockwell Letter, dated 15 May 1864

Monday, 16. Pleasant. The Rebs received reinforcements last night. This morning opened on us very heavy with artillery and musketry. Our section had a sharp fight with them this a.m. Went back to camp this p.m. It was very foggy this morning when they came down on us.

Tuesday, 17. Pleasant and warm. Remained in camp. A number of the Connecticut boys called on us. Wrote a letter to George and Sarah. Lieut. Metcalf died Sunday afternoon. One section is in fort.

Wednesday, May 18, 1864. Showery and warm. Took all our guns into the fort which is a short distance from camp. Our forces have fell back to the rifle pits which are about one mile from the fort. Considerable firing by gunboats and skirmishers.

Thursday, 19. Showery and warm. Lay by our guns in the breastworks last night. The enemy opened on us this morning with artillery but we didn’t reply. Considerable skirmishing. Our troops are strengthening the earthworks all along the line.

Friday, 20. Pleasant and warm. Lay by our guns in fort all night. Had to get up three times during the night for the Rebs came down on our pickets. During most of the day there has been heavy firing on both sides, Our troops drove them back and captured Brig. Gen. [William Stephen] Walker. [See From a Former Prisoner to Another: Brig. Gen. William Stephen Walker on Emerging Civil War]

Saturday, May 21, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Brig. Gen. Walker was badly wounded and captured by our troops yesterday p.m. Quiet during the night and today by our guns. It has been very quiet today. Our artillery has fired at them some. Wrote to Eugene.

Sunday, 22. Pleasant and warm. The enemy opened fire on us about ten o’clock last night and our batteries and pickets replied to them in good earnest. Our artillery blew up a caisson for them. Very quiet today. I went back to camp and put on clean clothes.

Monday 23. Pleasant and warm. Very quiet during the night. This is the sixth day we have been in this fort. I sent a letter to Fannie and Jeff. Received an old mail from Sarah, Ella, and Jeff. Went to camp and stayed a short time. Quiet this p.m.

Tuesday, May 24, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Goy up twice last night on account of picket firing but did not open any artillery on them. The rebel sharpshooter shot through my tent and into my haversack and broke the handle of my fork. It came very near my head. I wrote to Ed.

Wednesday, May 25. Pleasant and warm. Very quiet last night. This is the eighth day our guns have been in the fort. Large numbers are to work on the fortifications and they are making them very strong. Very quiet during the day.

Thursday, 26. Rained some during the night. The firing of the pickets disturbed us once during the night. I didn’t get up. Several showers during the day but has been quiet. This the 9th day we’ve been in fort.

“The view from the banks of the James [River] near my camp is very beautiful—river banks thickly wooded—precipitous, about 150 feet high—river winding. On opposite shore the ground stretches away in an undulating surface, varied and beautiful to the eye—all so quiet and peaceful till the crack of a rifle or bursting of a shell reminds us that we are not on a picnic…” — Capt. Alfred P. Rockwood Letter, dated 26 May 1864.

Friday, May 27, 1864. Pleasant. Received a letter from George & Mr. Holcomb last evening. Also good news from Grant’s army. Quiet last night. Wrote a letter to Mr. Holcomb. The men are to work on the fort as usual.

Saturday, 28. Pleasant. Quiet during the night. This is the 11th day we’ve been in this fort. The pickets haven’t fired much for several days past. I wrote a letter to George. The 18th Army Corps have gone away. Rainy this evening.

Chaplain Henry Clay Trumbull, 10th Conn. Infantry

Sunday, 29. Pleasant and cool. Very quiet during the night. Went down to camp this noon and from there went down to the James River and had a good wash. It has been very quiet today. Mr. [Henry] Clay Trumbull, the chaplain of the 10th preached in camp this p.m. His remarks were very good.

Monday, May 30, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Very quiet during the night and today until about half past five p.m. when the Rebs yelled and opened on us with artillery. It lasted about an hour. A few were wounded and killed. There has been heavy firing toward Richmond.

Tuesday, 31. Pleasant and warm. Quiet on our lines during the night. This morning there is heavy firing towards Richmond & towards Petersburg. Also some pickets at our front. The enemy opened on us with artillery about half past one p.m. Our battery replied. The firing lasted about one hour.

JUNE 1864

Wednesday, June 1. Pleasant and warm. The enemy opened on us very sharp with artillery about two o’clock this morning. It lasted about one hour. Our guns on the left and centre replied to them. I am on guard tonight. Te enemy opened again with artillery about ten o’clock this evening.

Thursday, June 2, 1864. Pleasant until about six pm. when it commenced raining. On guard. The enemy charged on our pickets about six this a.m. The report is that they drove them out of a part of the first line. They made several charges. The firing lasted about two hours. They opened on us with artillery about one p.m.

Friday, 3. Cloudy this morning. The enemy have not fired a gun since we replied to them yesterday p.m. I went down to camp a few moments this p.m. Hen is not very well. I wrote a letter to Sarah and sent two dollars for the Episcopal festival.

Saturday, 4. Cloudy and rainy. The enemy have been very quiet all night and day. Our folks are building another fortification in front of this battery. I received a letter from Fannie this a.m. We have been obliged to stay in our tents today.

Sunday, June 5, 1864. Cloudy and rainy. Cleared off this p.m. Very quiet all night. Gen. [Quincy Adams] Gillmore opened a few guns on the enemy about five o’clock p.m. The enemy replied with only three shots. I went down to camp about six o’clock and the enemy opened on us. Had to come right back.

Monday, 6. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the night and day. Ed Phelps and I went down to camp this morning. I brought my knapsack up to the fort. I have been mending my clothes and cleaning myself up today.

Tuesday, 7. Cool and pleasant. Quiet during the night and day. The enemy fired three shots at us but we did not reply. Fixed a new platform for our gun. Sent a letter to Fannie.

Wednesday, June 8, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the night. Drilled on piece this a.m. The enemy fired a few shots at us today but we didn’t reply. We are having quite easy times nowadays.

Thursday, 9. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the night. Drilled on piece this a.m. A number of regiment have gone across the Appomattox. We have heard heavy firing that way all day. Our battalion on the left had a sharp engagement today.

Friday, 10. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the night and day. It is reported that the expedition that crossed the Appomattox destroyed 6 or 8 miles of railroad and also the iron bridge. Sent a letter to George.

Saturday, June 11, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Everything has been quiet of late in front of our line. Heard heavy firing last evening in the direction of Richmond. There has been some firing over on the Appomattox.

Sunday, 12. Pleasant. All quiet about here except occasional firing over on the Appomattox. We can hear firing towards Richmond. We are still laying in the fort. A number of regiments of the 100 days’ men have arrived.

Monday, 13. Pleasant. Everything is quiet except occasional firing on the left. [William] McNary and myself went up to No. 3 Battery this a.m. We could see the Rebs very plain and also their earthworks.

Tuesday, June 14, 1864. Pleasant. All quiet during the night and day. Our officers thought the enemy were coming down on us and made us get up about eleven o’clock and remain up all night. Sent Eugene a letter.

Wednesday, 15. Pleasant. All quiet last night and today in our front. The report is that the 18th Corps has returned and today are moving on Petersburg. We can hear heavy firing in that direction.

Thursday, 16. Pleasant. On guard during the night and today. The enemy left their fortifications this morning and our forces took them and drove the enemy back about a mile. I saw about 60 prisoners which we took. The right and left section went out and shelled them. Tonight the enemy charged on our troops.

“It was found out very early this morning that there was no force of the enemy in our immediate front and we of course moved out to our works to see what had become of them, cautiously and slowly, capturing a few pickets as we advanced. Finding no large force, orders came to push on and cut the railroad again, and this has been done and the day’s work has consequently been satisfactory….The only fighting was done by our division and this principally skirmishing. We held the enemy in check while Generals [John Wesley] Turner & [Adelbert] Ames pushed out on our left and did the tearing up. I do not yet understand why the enemy allowed all this for our force was not large. Prisoners last taken state that we were fighting the advance guard of Lee’s army and that toward evening, Lee himself was just in front. So it seems we were stirring up the lion himself. About sunset we withdrew within our entrenchments closely followed by the enemy. Our loss has been slight so far as I can learn…Four of my guns were out & from from another battery. I had the pleasure of riding with the General [Alfred Howe Terry] who had a strong desire to see how far to the front he could go and not be hit. Fortunately we all escaped the balls that occasionally whistled by.” — Capt. Alfred P. Rockwell Letter, dated 16 June 1864.

Friday, June 17, 1864. Pleasant. Our troops fell back to their old line of picket post. The enemy made several charges on them but we repulsed. Quiet during the night in our front. The gunboats fired all night. There has been a good deal of firing today.

Saturday, 18. Pleasant. There has been a good deal of skirmish firing today. The enemy opened on us with artillery about three p.m. Only batteries on the left of us opened fire on them and fired a few times and they stopped. It is reported that our forces have taken three lines of the enemy’s around Petersburg and captured several guns.

Sunday, 19. Pleasant. Some picket firing along our lines during the night but today it has been very quiet. A part of the 6th Corps is in rear of our battery. I received a letter from Sarah yesterday and answered it today. Some firing Petersburg at the front. I don’t know the success.

Monday, June 20, 1864. Pleasant. The most of Grant’s army is here and down around Petersburg. They left the Chickahominy during last week and arrived at Bermuda Hundred and City Point Wednesday or Thursday. Very quiet during the day and night. Some of the troops have started tonight somewhere.

Tuesday, 21. Pleasant. Centre section left the fort this morning about four o’clock and started for Jones Neck. Arrived about eight. We crossed over the James on a pontoon bridge about noon and went into some breastworks near the bank of the river.

Wednesday, 22. Pleasant. Quiet during the night. Slept on the ground near the gun. Some picket firing today and tonight. The gunboats are firing at the enemy at a distance. Some of the infantry found 5 or 6 hundred dollars in gold and silver.

Thursday, June 23, 1864. Pleasant and warm. The gunboats have fired occasionally all night. There is three regiments of the hundred days’ men here to work on the breastworks day and night. There is also six other regiments here. President Lincoln passed here is a steamer yesterday,

Friday, 24. Pleasant and warm. Some firing by the pickets and gunboats during the night. It has been quiet during the day. The hundred days’ men have gone back to camp. it is quite lively here. Boats pass up and down the river quite often.

Saturday 25. Pleasant and warm. Very little firing by gunboats and pickets today. Our caissons stop on the other side of the river. On guard tonight. Very warm.

Sunday, June 26, 1864. Very warm. Our piece went up into the front redoubt this a.m. We fired three shots and the gunboats fired several. Some picket firing tonight when the relief went on. There is plenty of wheat and oats about here.

Monday, 27. It has been very warm and there has been showers all around us. Very little firing by the gunboats and pickets. The sect of Jersey Battery was relieved by the left section of ours yesterday p.m One deserter came in today.

Tuesday, 28. Pleasant and cool. Had a shower last night. Quiet last night and today with the exception of some picket firing. The left gun of our section came up this a.m. Left section guns are in the rear.

Wednesday, June 29, 1864. Pleasant. On guard last night. Some picket firing and also gunboats during the night. This a.m. the enemy opened on the gunboat Hunchback with artillery. The boat returned the fire. A monitor came down and fired.

Thursday, 30. Pleasant. Quiet during the night. The gunboats have fired some today but the enemy didn’t reply. About sundown the enemy opened several pieces away down the river across the [ ] creek. Our gunboats silenced them.

JULY 1864

Friday, July 1. Pleasant and very warm. Quiet during the night and today. The infantry are hard to work building breastwork fortifications. I wrote a letter to George yesterday, I picked some blackberries.

Saturday, July 2, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the night an today excepting a few shots from the gunboats. Went in a bathing tonight in the James. Our battery wagon and forge have come down and are on the opposite side.

Sunday, 3. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the day. The infantry are hard to work building breastworks. Quiet during the night. The weather is very warm and everything is drying up.

Monday, 4. Pleasant and warm. This is the third 4th [of July] I’ve spent in the army and its been a very quiet day. I’ve been to work filling bags with sand to make an embrasure for our gun.

Tuesday. July 5, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Got up about two o’clock this morning. We expected the enemy were coming down on us but they didn’t come. Been filling bags again today. Some firing by the enemy and our gunboats.

Wednesday, 6. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the night and today. I have been to work on the embrasure today. One or two deserters come in most every day. Some firing by the boats.

Thursday, 7. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the night and day. The infantry are hard to work on the breastworks and we are getting strongly fortified. Slight shower this p.m.

Friday, July 8, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Washed my clothes this morning about sunrise. Been to work on the embrasure again this p.m. Quiet during the day and night. On guard during the night.

Saturday, 9. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the day and night. We get a fine breeze up here when there is any. the army os somewhat quiet now days. I think they are getting ready for another move.

Sunday, 10. Pleasant and warm. Very quiet today. Lieut. Clinton inspected us this morning. I have been reading the papers today. The bands are playing nicely tonight.

Monday, July 11, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Quiet as usual today. On guard tonight. A party of one hundred men went up to Aiken’s Landing, captured thirteen privates and one Lieut. and burnt several buildings.

Tuesday, 12. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the night and day. Had a heavy shower this evening, it being the first one we have had for a long time. Received news of the destruction of the pirate Alabama and of the Rebel invasion North.

Wednesday, 13. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the day and night. Went a blackberrying and got a few which were very good. We are having very good and easy times now days here.

Thursday, July 14, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the day and night with the exception of the gunboats firing at a Rebel battery down near Malvern Hill. Went a berrying again today. Exciting news from the North.

Friday, 15. Pleasant and warm. Quiet during the day and night. I was surprised this one o’clock p.m. by the arrival of Eugene from City Point, it being the first time I had seen him in four years.

Saturday, 16. Pleasant. Eugene is still with me. A rebel battery opened on our gunboats laying below the pontoon bridge this a.m. and the report is that one was killed and seven wounded. Quiet during the night.

Sunday, July 17, 1864. Pleasant and warm. I saw Gen. Grant yesterday for the first time. He and Butler were over here and went out with a Flag of Truce. Eugene started for City Point about four o’clock p.m. Quiet this day and night. On guard.

I can find no record of Grant and Butler participating together in a Flag of Truce as suggested by Abels’ diary. In fact, Grant sent Butler a telegram from his headquarters on 18 July 1864 asking Butler “what was the result of the flag of truce yesterday?” Butler’s response was that the flag of truce boat had taken men up to Richmond and was not expected back for a couple of days.

Monday, 18. Pleasant and warm. Received a letter from Edward Stiles including his photograph. I was very glad to hear from him once more. Went a berrying today. Got a few. All quiet.

Tuesday, 19. Rainy all day. This is the first rainy day we have had for a long time. Wrote a letter to Edward. Sent my state check to New Haven to get it cashed. Firing toward Petersburg today. Cleared off during the night. All quiet.

Wednesday, July 20, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Some firing by gunboats and on the picket line. Went a berrying and had good success. On guard last night. There is but little news now days. A short shower this eve.

Thursday, 21. Pleasant and cool. William and I went a berrying this a.m. and had good luck. The 11th Maine Regiment went on a scout over on the other side of the four mile creek and captured a Lieut. and nine privates. Some firing along the lines.

Friday, 22. Pleasant and cool. The gunboats and one monitor have been firing all day into the woods on the opposite side of four mile creek. There has also been some picket firing. Had the toothache during the night and had it.

Saturday, July 23, 1864. Pleasant and cool. The monitor has been firing occasionally all day. Five regiments belonging to the 19th Corps from New Orleans arrived today and are on the opposite side of the river.

Sunday, 24. Cloudy and has commenced raining about dark Our section had to pull up stakes and cross over the Four Mile Creek. They laid another pontoon bridge across the river last night. The right section took our place.

Monday, 25. Pleasant. Rained very hard last night. Our bower & tent fell down onto us about two o’clock and we got wet through. My face has pained me very bad ever since I had the tooth pulled out this morning.

Tuesday, July 26, 1864. Pleasant and warm. My face is swollen very bad and is very painful. Five regiments of the 19th Army Corps is here with us. The enemy drove in our pickets during last night. One section of the 4th US Regular Battery came here this morning.

Wednesday, 27. Pleasant and warm. We shelled the enemy pretty lively yesterday. Had considerable skirmishing and some fifty or more killed and wounded. The 2nd Corps and Sheridan’s Cavalry came today. Troops have been coming all day.

Thursday, 28. Pleasant. Our section came over into the first redoubt last evening. The 2nd Corps captured four 20 lb. Parrott guns yesterday morning. Had a sharp fight. My face was very bad yesterday but it is better today.

Friday, July 29, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Our section moved up into the front battery this p.m. after fixing up another good shade. Our section and the right moved out to the front half a mile. The right section fired forty or fifty shots. Have been fixing up another tent. Some fighting on the other side of the creek.

Saturday, 30. Pleasant. The 2nd Corps and cavalry went back last night and today there is only a small squad of infantry of the other side of Four Mile Creek. The troops finished crossing this morning and they took up the pontoon bridge. Some pickets firing in our front today.

Sunday, 31. Pleasant and warm. Had inspection this morning. The Indiana Regiment which has been here of late received orders to move this p.m. They said they were [going to] to Washington. I wrote a letter to Ed. Quiet in our front today and during the night.


Monday, August 1, 1864. Pleasant. Quiet during the night. Received a letter from Fannie & answered it his p.m. Henry is sick and has gone over the river to our hospital tent. He has been complaining for some time. Quiet today.

Tuesday, 2. Pleasant and quiet today. I have been reading most of the day. The 4th Regulars which has been here a few days has gone away. It is showery tonight. There is some firing along the lines.

Wednesday, 3. Pleasant. Quiet during the day and night with the exception of some picket firing. We are having quite easy times now-a-days. We are in the front redoubt with the right section.

Thursday, August 4, 1864. Pleasant and everything is pretty quiet here just now. Our forces had rather bad luck last Saturday (the 30th)in front of Petersburg. They gained the first line of works but had to give them up. [See Battle of the Crater]

Friday, 5. Pleasant and warm. On guard last night. Drawed water for the cook today. Very heavy firing in the direction of Petersburg this evening and there has only been some firing along the river.

Saturday, 6. Pleasant & very warm. Some firing down the river. There has been a man here this p.m. taking a photograph of our camp and battery. Very quiet in our front.

The centre section (foreground) and part of the right section in background at front redoubt at Deep Bottom in August 1864. (Possibly Abels standing at far right.)

Sunday, August 7, 1864. Pleasant and warm. Very quiet. Had our usual inspection this a.m. I have been writing to George & Sarah today. Some firing down the river.

Monday, 8. Pleasant & warm this p.m. There was a private in the 24th Massachusetts shot for desertion. He deserted from the Rebs a few days since and came in his own company by mistake. quiet about here.

Tuesday, 9. Pleasant and warm. I am not feeling very well today. The whole brigade turned out yesterday to see the man [deserter] shot. Heard a terrible explosion about 1 p.m. in the direction of Petersburg. [See City Point Wharf Explosion]

Wednesday, August 10, 1864. Pleasant and warm. We have heard that the explosion yesterday was an ordnance schooner at City Point. A large number of the one hundred days’ men were killed. Quiet.

Thursday, 11. Pleasant and warm. Henry is in the hospital over the river. He has been there over a week. I hear he is getting better. Deserters are coming into our lines everyday. All quiet. Codfish for dinner.

Friday, 12. Pleasant and warm. Wilbur Scranton has ben sick for two or three days. Had a good dinner this noon of fresh meat, potatoes, onions. Very quiet about here of late.

Saturday, August 13, 1864. Pleasant and warm. There has been a good deal of artillery firing today. The enemy opened on our working party at Dutch Gap. Our monitors and gunboats replied. They also opened on up in our front.

Sunday, 14. Pleasant and very warm. Got up this morning at four o’clock. The whole of the 10th Corps came here last night. The Second Corps is also on the other side of Four Mile Creek. We advanced and drove the enemy. Had a sharp engagement.

Monday, 15. Pleasant & warm. Last night about one o’clock, we came into our old redoubt. All the troops retired & crossed over Four Mile Creek where they have been fighting today. The 10th Corps captured 6 guns yesterday.

Tuesday, August 16, 1864. Pleasant and warm. The 10th & 2nd Corps & also some troops from S. C. are on the east side of Four Mile Creek and are having hard fighting at Deep Run. There were two Rebel generals killed. In last Sunday’s fight, the 10th Corps lost nearly two hundred killed and wounded. None of our company hurt.

During the night of August 13-14, the Union II Corps, X Corps, and Gregg’s cavalry division, all under command of  Maj. Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, crossed James River at Deep Bottom to threaten Richmond, coordinating with a movement against the Weldon Railroad at Petersburg. On August 14, the X Corps closed on New Market Heights while the II Corps extended the Federal line to the right along Bailey’s Creek. During the night, the X Corps was moved to the far right flank of the Union line near Fussell’s Mill. On August 16, Union assaults near Fussell’s Mill were initially successful, but Confederate counterattacks drove the Federals out of a line of captured works. Heavy fighting continued throughout the remainder of the day.  Confederate general John Chambliss was killed during cavalry fighting on Charles City Road. After continual skirmishing, the Federals returned to the south side of the James on the 20th, maintaining their bridgehead at Deep Bottom. [American Battlefield Trust]

Map of Second Deep Bottom, August 16, 1864

Wednesday, 17. Pleasant this a.m. but a hard shower just at night. The 10th and 2nd Corps are still advancing toward Richmond. We hear they captured two thousand prisoners yesterday. Got the enemy’s rifle pits but had to give them up. A good many killed and wounded on both sides.

Thursday, 18. Pleasant and warm. The 29th Connecticut and 8th North Carolina Colored Regiment have been stopping here for a few days past. They were relieved last night and went over to join the 10th and 2nd Corps. Very heavy firing during last night.

Friday, August 19, 1864. Cloudy and rainy most of the day. On guard last night. Heard very heavy firing toward Petersburg. The 10th and 2nd Corps had a terrible fight between 5 and 7 o’clock last night. We hear that the enemy made several charges on them and were repulsed with heavy loss.

No fighting occurred on August 17 and a truce was called to allow the two sides to retrieve their dead and wounded. Lee planned a counterattack against the Union right for 11 a.m. on August 18, a cavalry attack on the Charles City Road accompanied by an infantry attack at Fussell’s Mill. The effort was poorly coordinated and the cavalry was not ready to move until 5 p.m. Neither the cavalry nor the infantry made any significant gains before dark. That night Hancock sent a II Corps division back to Petersburg to man a part of the trench line while other units were sent from there to the Battle of Globe Tavern at the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad south of the city. [Wikipedia]

Saturday, 20. Cloudy and rainy. One division of the 2nd Corps and some cavalry went over to Petersburg last night to help the 5th Corps who it is reported have taken the Weldon Railroad running south of Petersburg. No fighting at Deep Bottom today.

Sunday, 21. Cloudy this a.m., cleared off this pm. The remainder of our troops evacuated Deep Run during the night. Foster’s Brigade came back this morning. The Brigade of the 10th Corps which has been here for 2 or 3 days pulled up stakes and has gone up to Bermuda Hundred.

Monday, August 22, 1864. Pleasant and cool. Wrote a letter to Eugene yesterday. Called on David Holmes last evening. Said he received a letter from his mother saying that Eugene had been sick and was up there with George. Quiet in front. Firing at Dutch Gap by gunboats.

Tuesday, 23. Pleasant and warm. Quiet in our front but some firing by artillery up at Dutch Gap. Good news from Petersburg of the taking of the Weldon Railroad by the 5th Corps.

Wednesday, 24. Pleasant and warm. Expected an attack last night and had to get up at three o’clock this morning. Wib and I went in bathing in the James this a.m. All quiet. We can see a good many johnnies about.

Thursday, August 25, 1864. Pleasant & warm. Received orders to march this a.m. Got everything ready & left Jones Neck about one p.m. for Point of Rocks on Petersburg side. Arrived about dark. Very hard shower this evening.

Friday, 26. Pleasant and warm. We are in Redoubt Converse. Have fixed up our tents & got settled again. Tonight have received orders to march again and arrived in front of Petersburg about midnight. Hard shower.

Saturday, 27. Pleasant. We are encamped within about two miles of Petersburg. There is a good deal of firing on both sides. Foster’s old brigade is here [consisting of the 24th Mass, 11th Maine, and 4 companies of the 10th Conn]. Col. [Harris Merrill] Plaisted is in command. Tonight our guns are [ ].

Sunday, August 28, 1864. Pleasant. This morning finds us at the front within two hundred yards of the enemy’s works. We came into the fort about midnight. A great deal of mortar firing last evening. We are in a hot place and the bullets come fast.

Monday, 29. Pleasant and warm. We are on the place formerly owned by Mr. O. P. Hare. The Battery we are in is called the O. Hare Battery. There is two mortars in it and also two in the rear of us. Lively firing this eve by artillery and mortars.

The 1st Connecticut Light Artillery manned the battery at Mr. O. P. Hare’s house on the extreme right, just south of where Fort Stedman was built. The breastworks at this locations were only about four hundred yards from the rebel lines. By the time the 1st Conn. L. A. arrived at the location, the Hare house (in background), only the chimney was left standing.

Oliver Abels recalls an incident of flower picking under difficulties in front of Petersburg. He says: “When we went in front of Petersburg, my section, the centre, went into a redoubt at the Hare House and remained there all the time we were in front of Petersburg. It was a very exposed position and every night we used to have an artillery duel, causing us to have a pretty lively time. The Hare House had in its day been a very fine place, but there was nothing left but the old chimney. There was a ditch dug through the garden and some nice flowers were growing near it. On one occasion I told the boys that I was going to get into this ditch and gather some flowers. No sooner had I commenced than the Johnnies began firing, and every time I raised my hand to pick a flower the bullets would whiz by. I know I thought, at the time, that it was picking- flowers under great difficulty. [History of the First Light Battery Connecticut Volunteers, pp. 566, 569].

Tuesday, 30. Pleasant. It has been very quiet for this place although the sharpshooters have fired considerable. Henry is sick and has gone back to camp. I have been washing today. We fired our gun about thirty times about night.

Wednesday, August 31, 1864. Pleasant. It has been pretty quiet today. We can see the churches & houses in Petersburg quite plain from here. Considerable picket firing last night. One of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery was wounded yesterday.

A sample of Oliver K. Abels’ Handwriting


Thursday, September 1. Pleasant. Considerable picket firing last night. There has been a good deal of artillery firing today. We fired out all our ammunition. The enemy’s shot and shell dropped about our quarters thick and fast.

Friday, 2. Pleasant. Quiet during last night and but little firing today. I received a letter from George & Sarah & Ellen this morning. We exchanged papers with the johnnies last night & this morning.

Saturday, 3. Pleasant. Some picket firing during the night. Was on guard until eleven. Some considerable artillery and mortar firing today and this evening. I wrote a letter to George. Received news of the capture of Atlanta last night. The johnnies quiet.

Sunday, 4. Pleasant. It has been very quiet today and also during the night. This afternoon had considerable mortar firing. I have written Sarah and Ell a letter. Received official news of the surrender of Fort Morgan [at Mobile].

Monday, 5. Pleasant. Last night we received official news of the capture of Atlanta and had to get up at half past eleven and fire a salute of thirty-six guns. The battery and mortars opened all along the line. The johnnies fired some. Pretty quiet today.

Tuesday, September 6, 1864. Cloudy today. Rained some last night. Received a letter from Eugene yesterday. Sent him a note in Sarah & Ellen’s letter. Considerable artillery & mortar firing last evening. A large piece of a mortar shell struck very near William and myself. It is very dark and rainy tonight.

Wednesday, 7. Rainy during the night. Cleared off this morning. Quiet during the night. Considerable artillery this a.m. It has been a very pleasant day. Very quiet this evening. Some artillery during the night but didn’t get up.

Thursday, 8. Pleasant during the day but it is cloudy and rainy this evening. Considerable artillery firing today. Some of the shells and balls come quite near. No one hurt as far as I hear of. On guard from eleven to two.

Friday, September 9, 1864. Pleasant. Cleared off this morning. There has been a good deal of artillery & mortar firing this p.m. A good many balls & shells came near us but no one was hurt. Loud cheering for something this evening and some firing near our bomb proof.

Saturday, 10. Pleasant. Some firing by artillery & musketry last night. Also considerable artillery firing today. No one hurt nearby us. Received a letter from Eugene and Margaret. An old horse was killed by the johnnies today.

Sunday, 11. Pleasant. Quiet last night. It has also been very quiet today. William Scranton is now sergeant and has gone over to the left section. Had a shower about five p.m. On guard tonight. Pleasant moon tonight.

Monday, September 12, 1864. Cool and pleasant. On guard today. Very quiet last night & today. There is a large fatigue party to work making breastworks & bomb proofs. Sent a letter to Margaret.

Tuesday, 13. Pleasant and cool. Some considerable picket firing & little artillery. I have been washing my clothes today. Co. D, 1st [Conn.] Heavy Artillery has gone to Bermuda [Hundred]. Co. K taken their place.

Wednesday, 14. Pleasant. Received a letter from George this morning. Considerable musketry firing during the night and day. Opened on the city about eleven o’clock a.m. and fired one hour all along the line. Don’t know what for.

Thursday, September 15, 1864. Pleasant. On guard last night & today. Wrote a letter to Eugene. Very pleasant weather & beautiful nights. Large fatigue parties to work on the breastworks night and day. Pretty quiet today.

Friday, 16. Pleasant. I went out and exchanged papers with a Johnnie this a.m. Saw the dead bodies, some 8 or 10 laying on top of the ground in the cornfield between the lines. Some artillery. Wrote a letter to George. Pickets quiet in front.

Saturday, 17. Pleasant. Very quiet last night & today for this place. A Negro belonging to a working party was shot dead a short distance from our bomb proof. This noon built a ew platform for our gun.

Sunday, September 18, 1864. Somewhat cloudy. On guard last night & today. Received a long letter from Sarah this morning. Capt. Clinton inspected us this a.m. Some firing as usual.

Monday, 19. Pleasant. I don’t feel very well today. Considerable artillery and mortar firing today and our usual picket firing. I went out to exchange a paper this p.m. but it was an old one and didn’t exchange.

Tuesday, 20. Pleasant. I am feeling better than I did yesterday. Considerable artillery & Mortar firing today. Pretty quiet last night. Monthly inspection this a.m. by Lieut. Smith. Good news from Sheridan this evening.

Wednesday, September 21, 1864. Pleasant. On guard last night and today. The johnnies have fired occasionally all night. Fired a salute all along our lines at six this morning. We fired ten shots from each of our pieces. This salute was for Sheridan’s victory [at Cedar Creek].

Thursday, 22. Rainy and unpleasant today. The johnnies kept up their artillery and mortar fire occasionally all night. Considerable artillery firing today. Wrote a letter to Mr. Holcomb and to Maria & Sarah. The infantry are hard to work on the breastworks.

Friday, 23. Cloudy and a little rainy. Some firing today. Pretty quiet last night as it is raining. On guard tonight. Several Negroes were hit by sharpshooters yesterday and today. Quiet this evening.

Saturday, September 24, 1864. Cloudy and rainy. Received news of another victory by Sheridan up in the Valley. On guard. Fired a salute 6 a.m. of 12 guns in honor of Sheridan’s victory. Orders to move tonight.

Sunday, 25. Pleasant and cool. We moved from the front this morning about two o’clock. Today are in camp laying off waiting for orders. Very quiet in front but heavy firing on the right.

Monday, 26. Pleasant. Had a mounted drill this morning. An axle to one of the guns broke. Moved camp this p.m. Tonight we are encamped close to the railroad about half a mile from the old camp.

Tuesday, September 27, 1864. Pleasant. There is eight or nine batteries encamped near us. Busy fixing up things about here. Most every train of cars comes loaded with soldiers. The whole of the 10th Corps is encamped near us.

Wednesday, 28. Pleasant. Very busy fixing up our tents. I’m on fatigue [duty] this p.m. We are expecting to move again soon. We are receiving good news from Sheridan. Struck tents this a.m. and packed up everything. Left camp about noon.

Thursday, 29. Pleasant. There was nine different batteries came with us yesterday. This morning finds us near Jone’s Landing. We got here about ten o’clock last night. The 10th and part of the 18th Corps came over during the night. Crossed the river and drove the enemy back.

Looking down the James River toward Jones’ Landing

Friday, September 30, 1864. Pleasant. On guard during the night & today. Troops drove the enemy yesterday & captured a good many prisoners and about thirty guns. The enemy charged twice on our forces with loss. Good news from the front this eve.

October 1864

Saturday, October 1. Rainy and unpleasant. We are now encamped a few rods from Jones’ Landing. There is not much fighting today. The ambulances are carrying in this a.m. filled with wounded johnnies.

Sunday, 2. Cloudy this a.m. Cleared off this p.m. Received orders to move about dark. We crossed over the [James] River and encamped on the left of our old redoubt. It’s very windy. The army has come to a standstill about four and a half miles from Richmond.

Monday, October 3, 1864. Cloudy and rainy. Pitched tents & got boards for floor. The troops have gained some very strong works within a few miles of Richmond. They captured 22 cannon. received a letter from George.

Tuesday, 4. Cloudy and unpleasant. Nothing new from the front today. Our forces are entrenching and making their position strong. Considerable firing about today and also this evening in the direction of Petersburg.

Wednesday, 5. Pleasant. Received orders to move this a.m. Started soon afternoon & marched up to the front about five miles of Richmond. Pretty tired tonight. Got settled down in the works at the front about eight in the evening.

Thursday, October 6, 1864. Pleasant. Very quiet along the lines. I went out this a.m. & exchanged papers with the johnnies. The two line of works are about 1500 yards apart and the pickets about 400. Both sides are busy to work.

Friday, 7. Pleasant. This has been an exciting day. The enemy opened on our left about nine this a.m. and soon after made a charge about one mile to our right on the New Market Road and were repulsed with heavy loss.

On October 7, 1864, two Confederate divisions, commanded by Major General Charles Field and Major General Robert Hoke, advanced down Darbytown Road. Supported by cavalry, Field’s infantry turned the Union right flank and attacked 1,700 cavalrymen, commanded by Major General August Kautz, from the rear. Caught by surprise, the federal troopers quickly retreated, leaving the Rebels in possession of the road and of eight Union cannons. Following up on his initial success, Field turned south to attack Major General Alfred Terry’s infantry division along New Market Road. Armed with Spencer repeating rifles, Terry’s well-entrenched soldiers presented a formidable obstacle. When Hoke failed to support Field’s assault, the Yankees easily repulsed the out-manned Rebels. The battle ended before noon when the Confederates withdrew to the Richmond defenses. [American History Central]

The Battle of Darbytown Road, October 7, 1864 (Harper’s Weekly)

Saturday, 8. Pleasant & cool. Quiet last night & today. Been shoveling today on our works. Wrote a letter to George. On guard tonight. John Chapman and I went up to Fort Harrison.

Sunday, October 9, 1864. Cold and pleasant. Quiet during the night and today. The enemy are busy strengthening their works as well as we are. Hen has been unwell for several days. It’s cold and the fire feels good tonight.

Monday, 10. Cool ad pleasant. Quiet during the night and today with the exception of some firing on the river by the monitors and gunboats. Chapman and I went up to Fort Harrison. Saw Gen. Butler, Grant, Barnard & others.

Tuesday. 11. Pleasant & cool. Quiet along the lines during the night and today. Some firing along the river. Hen isn’t any better & has gone back to camp. We are with the 18th Corps now. Deserters come in very fast.

Wednesday, October 12, 1864. Cool and pleasant. Last evening we received orders to move & struck our tents. About ten o’clock orders came that we shouldn’t be relieved so we put up our tents and retired. Had an alarm at three this morning & had to turn out.

Thursday, 13. Cool and pleasant. Left the front yesterday about eleven a.m. and went back to the caisson camp and stayed till about two when we all moved. Went a mile or two and stopped till about dark. Then turned around and went back to headquarters camp for the night.

Friday, 14. Pleasant & cool. Yesterday morning found us pretty well wet through as it rained very hard the fore part of the night. We got up yesterday morning at four. Started about five and went to the extreme right. Had a fight and got repulsed [by Field’s Confederate Division]. Returned to headquarters about dark. Received a letter from Eugene & Sarah yesterday Answered Eugene yesterday.

Saturday, October 15, 1864. Pleasant and cool during the nights but warm daytimes. Our side must have lost between 3 and 4 hundred killed & wounded. Our battery covered the retreat & fired about one hundred shots into the woods in front of us. We are stopping near the headquarters. Quiet.

In combination with movements against the Boydton Plank Road at Petersburg, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler attacked the Richmond defenses along Darbytown Road with the X Corps. The XVIII Corps marched north to Fair Oaks where it was soundly repulsed on 27 October 1864 by Maj. Gen. Charles W. Field’s Confederate division. Confederate forces counterattacked, taking some 600 prisoners. The Richmond defenses remained intact.

1st Connecticut Battery Capt. Clinton. Our skirmish firing at the rebels in the woods. The Gerhadt House. Inscribed on verso: View of the action on Thursday 27th from the Johnson House looking across the Darby town road on the 10th corps front. Gen. Butler Staff & Body Guard riding to the House. raining hard. 

Sunday, 16. Pleasant. We are encamped near Gen. Terry’s & also artillery headquarters. No inspection. Wrote a letter to Sarah. Sizer of Tariff was killed in the fight of Thursday. He belonged to the 7th Connecticut Battery. All quiet.

Monday, 17. Pleasant. Acting orderly for the Captain today. Capt Warner of the5th New Jersey Battery is being court martialed here. All quiet about here. We have been in the 10th Corps since we left the front. Prior to that we were in the 18th Corps.

Tuesday, October 18, 1864. Pleasant. Had a mounted inspection; also a foot inspection this a.m. Nothing doing this p.m. We are having pretty hard living now days and the boys growl considerable. Cold and chilly nights of late.

Wednesday, 19. Pleasant. On fatigue [duty] today. Mounted drill this a.m. Very quiet about here. They are learning the recruits now days.

Thursday, 20. Pleasant. Mounted drill this a.m. I have been down to the 6th Regiment Conn. this p.m. with Jeff Davis. Cloudy this evening. Heard from Hen this a.m. by Wib. Was about the same as when he left.

Friday, October 21, 1864. Pleasant. Received pay about nine o’clock last night. Today have been busy settling up accounts. Mounted drill this a.m. This has been a busy day with the boys. Received good news from Sheridan.

Saturday, 22. Cloudy. Rained some during the night & today. Wrote a letter to Henry. Had a slight snow this p.m. Some firing towards Dutch Gap.

Sunday, 23. Pleasant. Had a mounted and also a foot inspection this a.m. Settled with Richardson by gobbling five dollars from him whilst he was playing bluff. Jim McKinney came up to see me this p.m.

Monday, October 24, 1864. Pleasant. On fatigue today and have been very busy. The guns of the right section have gone into the works at the front. All quiet about here. We are having cool nights.

Tuesday, 25. Pleasant. Mounted drill this a.m. The recruits have to drill on the pieces twice a day. Received a letter from George saying that Mary was sick with typhoid fever.

Wednesday, 26. Pleasant. I have been helping build a log house today for the officers. Fourteen of the boys time expired today. They got their discharges and left this p.m. for home. Wrote to George.

Thursday. October 27, 1864. Pleasant this a.m. but rainy p.m. Started this morning for the Darbytown Road for another reconnoissance with the 10th Corps. Drove the enemy into their works. Fired about 200 shots. The 18th Corps went still farther to the right and had a sharp fight.

Friday, 28. Very rainy during the night but cleared off this morning. We have been in battery all night near the Darbytown Road. It was an awful night for us & no sleep. Considerable picket firing today. Fell back this .m. in good order.

Saturday, 29. Pleasant. Returned to camp about dark last night. The 10th & 18th Corps did not accomplish much. Loss between 4 and 5 hundred killed and wounded. Our battery covered the retreat yesterday. Tonight finds our battery at Bermuda Hundred to exchange guns.

Sunday, October 30, 1864. Pleasant. We have had a good time and plenty to eat since we arrived here at Bermuda [Hundred]. Henry came down this morning & took the boat for hime with a 15 days furlough in his pocket. We got our new light twelve-pounder guns today and got back to camp soon after dark.

Monday, 31. Pleasant. Jim McKinney called on me this p.m. and said he had a letter from his wife saying that brother George’s wife Mary was dead. This was sad news. I wrote a letter to Sarah and Henry this eve.


Tuesday, November 4. Pleasant and cool. Wells and I have been down to Mr. Libby’s house getting brick today for the officers’ log houses. Feel pretty tired tonight. There has been several non-commissioned officers made. [Morrison] Bacon is corporal.

Wednesday, November 2, 1864. Cloudy this a.m. and rainy this p.m. There were 16 more of our boys discharged this p.m. and left for hime, full of glee. It is very quiet about here now. I stood two hours guard tonight and then had to go to work packing ammunition.

Thursday, 3. Rainy and very unpleasant. We were up all night fixing and packing ammunition. Left camp with four pieces about two o’clock this morning. Tonight our section is in a fort near New Market Road.

Friday, 4. Very rainy last night but cleared up this morning. It is very muddy and awful getting about. Considerable many troops have gone away somewhere. Also several batteries. Cold this eve. Got our tents up and a good place to sleep.

Saturday, November 5, 1864. Pleasant and cool. Commenced building a magazine and have been cutting and bringing poles. Colonel Jackson was here and set the Darkies at it. Received a letter from Eugene.

Sunday, 6. Pleasant and quiet. We are having pretty easy times here. It was a very cold night and froze quite hard. There is a good many encamped about here. Face is very sore.

Monday, 7. Rainy & very unpleasant. On guard last night. My face is much better today. Jack opened it yesterday p.m. and it has been getting better since. It is very muddy here now. I had [trouble] getting about.

Tuesday, November 8, 1864. Cloudy and rainy. On fatigue. Also helping Morris and Penharlow build a log house. Have got along with it nicely & are going to sleep in it tonight. Two companies of the 29th Connecticut are still here.

Wednesday, 9. Pleasant. Received a letter from George this morning. Have been helping the boys build a chimney and fix their log house. They have got a good one.

Thursday, 10. Rainy this a.m. Cleared off this p.m. On guard last night and today. They are finishing up the magazine. We are having pretty cold nights.

Friday, November 11, 1864. Pleasant. In camp. The boys are b=very busy fixing up things for winter. I am still in the fort with our section of guns. Lieut. Dickerson in command.

Saturday, 12. Pleasant. I have been mending my clothes today. Went down to Deep Bottom after Lieut. Dickerson. Waited about three hours and then returned without him.

Sunday, 13. Pleasant excepting a snow squall. My three years will be out today if I live and I sincerely hope I shall live to see this day. [This sentence in bold seems to have been written sometime prior to the actual date] I am alive and well and have got my discharge this p.m. and am in Bermuda Hundred tonight with ten other boys.

Monday, November 14, 1864. Pleasant & cool. Ten of us started about five o’clock yesterday and got down to Bermuda Hundred about seven. Stayed in old house overnight. Took the steamer Thomas Collier and arrived at Fortress Monroe about three. Tonight are stopping at Hampton.

1862-64: Heyward Glover Emmell to his Parents

Private Heyward Glover Emmell of Co. K, 7th Regiment New Jersey Volunteers (Madison Historical Society, Morristown, N. J.)

These Civil War letters were written by Heyward Glover Emmell (1841-1917) who served in Co. K., 7th New Jersey Infantry. Heyward’s given name is spelled variously in military and civil records but I have used the name that appears on the family headstone in Morristown, New Jersey, and the way it is spelled in the 1909 Morristown City Directory where Heyward was enumerated among the city’s booksellers & stationers. Heyward was the son of Silas Brookfield Emmell (1800-1883)—a Morristown merchant—and Elmina Campbell (1808-1869).

In 2011, Jim Malcolm discovered Emmell’s Journal in the archives of the Madison (Morris County, New Jersey) Historical Society and published it under the title, “The Civil War Journal of Private Heyward Emmell, Ambulance & Infantry Corps, A Very Disagreeable War.” In the preface of the book, Malcolm remarks that the journal contained daily entries of surprisingly good penmanship with few words that were not readable. Not so with Heyward’s letters and as a consequence, though I have not personally examined the original journal, my hunch is that it was a post-war production written partially from memory and based principally on either letters sent home or pocket notes kept by Emmell in the field. I don’t say this to diminish the value of Malcolm’s book—only to reconcile the differences between the neatness of the journal and the sloppiness of Emmell’s handwritten and penciled letters. Besides, Emmell states in the letter sent home to his parents following the Battle of Williamsburg that he lost his knapsack containing everything he carried with him except for what was in his pockets. Surely if he had been keeping a journal from the date of his enlistment up to that point of time, he would have mentioned such a loss.

There are fifteen letters in this collection, most of them brief and what I would call, “Thank God I’m still alive!” letters that were written after each of the major engagements of the 7th New Jersey.

A book review published on-line by William R. Feeney makes the following observations about Emmell:

Jim Malcolm’s Book, published in 2011 & avaiiable on Amazon

Emmell’s service is distinctive not only because he fought in almost every major battle of the war but also because of his transfer to the Union army’s Ambulance Corps in September 1863. Having served as a stretcher-bearer for fourteen months, Private Emmell provides historians with a unique view of the difficulties in dealing with wounded soldiers.

The information in Emmell’s journal is most helpful to the academic when viewed in its entirety rather than in smaller segments. The pages are littered with interesting anecdotes that raise numerous questions from the reader but are rarely insightful in themselves. However, when these stories are woven together, they compose a rich tapestry of material for the historian to analyze. At first glance, for instance, Emmell’s writing appears to comment on race as if he were a third-party reporter. Interactions with “contraband” or “darkys” occur around him, but he never directly takes part. However, Emmell’s feelings on race are evident when snippets of information are strung together. His terse observations on the rebel “darky sharpshooter,” the use of a large black bear to “chase down and squeeze” contraband because the bear was “down on darkys,” and the nightly minstrel shows in camp reveal Emmell’s prevailing views of African Americans, despite his reticence in giving a personal opinion (19, 27, 106).

Emmell’s insight into camp life is equally rich when contextualized broadly. His remarks on arsenic cake, soldier suicide, wedding ceremonies, barrel punishments, burning “sculls” to brew coffee, masquerade balls where men dressed as women, and even one instance of two Union soldiers dressed as rebels who snuck into Petersburg during the siege to attend a dance tell us much about how soldiers coped with the stress and boredom of camp (3, 42, 55, 88, 109, 106, 119). When viewed as a whole, Emmell’s diary is useful for a wide range of Civil War topics, such as race, fraternization, camp life, battles, military organization, medical services, and injury.

The Civil War Journal of Private Heyward Emmell, Ambulance and Infantry Corps: A Very
Disagreeable War. Ed. Jim Malcolm. Madison: Fairleigh Dickenson University Press, 2011. ISBN 978-1-61147-040-6, 150 pp., cloth, $75.00.

The national flag of the 7th New Jersey bears the battle honors the regiment won during three years of hard campaigning with the Army of the Potomac. (New Jersey State Museum)

Letter 1

Camp near Williamsburg, Virginia
Wednesday, May 7th 1862

My dear Mother,

I expect Mother has read in the Times by this time that the Jersey Brigade were badly cut up, as is the whole of Hooker’s Division. The Jersey Brigade was on the advance after a long march [when] near this place we found ourself near the enemy. We unslung knapsacks and went in action right away and fight five hours. We drove them back twice and then stood our ground when our ammunition give out & they came up and with the Stars & Stripes & said, “Don’t fire on your friends!” and at the same time asking what regiment we were. When told the 7th New Jersey, they said they were [a] Pennsylvania regiment & then fired volley after volley in our ranks so that we had to fall back.

Captain [James M.] Brown 1 & his company was the last to leave. I don’t believe the captain would [have] left until taken prisoner but got shot through the jaw and was carried a ways as we left. It seemed [as] if I was running through a shower of bullets but I was never touched by one. How thankful I do feel.

When we retreated, Sickles Brigade arrived and they and the New Hampshire & Massachusetts & the rest of our division fought until cut to pieces when just then arrived another division which fought & then arrived another division. At 7 o’clock it ceased.

The rebels left. Our troops went in pursuit of them. They were strongly fortified and they had the woods all fixed to suit so as to annoy us. Big trees laid crossways.

The Jersey Boys fought ten times their number after [a] long & tiresome march. The dead in our regiment is about 40, 100 wounded, and about that number missing. Our company [had] 8 or 9 wounded in the fighting & Joe Watkins 2 & Calvin Nix’s 3 [wounds] are the only dangerous ones. Our boys brought Joe off the field yesterday. The rebels took his revolver, watch, and money and called him a damn Yankee. Two other rebels came up to him and fixed a blanket under his head & gave him a drink. After that two others took hold of him & were carrying him across to their lines & were frightened & dropped him & run. None of our company were shot dead and these are the only dangerous ones. The rest are mostly flesh wounds. Three or 4 got balls through coats, hat or haversack without hurting them.

Lieut. Colonel [Ezra A. Carman] shot through the wrist, sword in hand. Major [Francis] Price is in command now. Most all the line officers wounded. Lieut. [Joseph H.] Johnson killed of Company H—he was pierced after dead. Lieut. [Thomas C.] Thompson of Co. A was taken prisoner. All of the division the same way.

I lost my knapsack of course. The rebels got them all & all my things but one handkerchief. Testament and my dear Mother’s picture & a comb & pocket knife. Merritt [Bruen], 4 I just telling that I was writing home, he is well. Of course he did not have to be in the battle. Bob Lambert is not hurt. I believe he was in it but not hurt. I have a blanket I picked up. I do not feel bad losing my knapsack but am thankful not my life. I am well [and] in good spirits. I have to write on anything I can get. I picked this paper dropped by some Con[federate] soldier likely.

I forgot to say that it rained all Monday while we were fighting & we laid flat and fired a good deal of the time. It is horrible to tell of the sights of things around here. 1,000 of dead bodies of ours and the enemy dead around. A good many have been buried. It was horrible to go past a surgeon’s place & see the piles of arms &c. and to see men with legs taken off by shells &c.

I must close. Love to all. Your affectionate son, — Heyward

1 Capt. James M. Brown survived and was later promoted to Major of the 15th New Jersey.

2 Corp. Joseph S. Watkins died at Chesapeake US Army General Hospital at Fortress Monroe, on 31 May 1862 of wounds received in the Battle of Williamsburg.

3 Calvin Nix survived his wounds and lived until 1928.

4 Sgt. Merritt Bruen later served as regimental quartermaster.

Letter 2

Near Williamsburg [Virginia]
May 8, 1862

Dear Father,

I wrote a few lines to Mother yesterday. I thought that as I could get chance to write a few lines today and make sure of one of them reaching Morristown. It was last Sunday morning that we were ordered to go & work in number 1 mortar battery but we had just got there & what was to be seen but the Stars & Stripes floating over Yorktown. The rebels had evacuated from out of their stronghold. If they had only stayed until 2 o’clock Monday morning, McClellan would have commenced the battle. Our course we got orders to go back to our camp but soon got orders to march towards Williamsburg. We marched through Yorktown but had to move very slow for they had torpedoes fixed all over the road with wires. When anyone would step on a wire, it would explode [and] kill everyone near it. As there had been 100 hundred killed by them before, our division was very careful not to step on them. I saw a number of them.

About dark we reached the halfway house & so tired & thirsty we could hardly move. We unslung knapsack, got our canteens filled & slung knapsacks and marched until 11 o’clock at night when we rested until daylight and woke up and found it raining very hard. We started again mud knee deep passing muskets, wagons, &c. left by the enemy. About 8 o’clock, we arrived to where our artillery and the 2nd N. H. & 1st Mass. were engaged. We unslung our knapsacks and marched in line of battle, throwing 4 companies out as skirmishers.

Pretty soon, bang, bang, went the rebel’s sharpshooter rifles when Lieut. Colonel [Ezra A.] Carman give the order to drop & lay down. Then was when I first begin to see the horrors of war. Down fell one after another of the skirmishers of Company A who were a few yards before us. It was too hot. Our skirmishers had to come in. The whole regiment laid flat, firing when they could see anything, but the enemy were all hid behind the brush. Pretty soon the firing became general—we driving them back twice.

Well, it went on so until near 1 o’clock when they came out in sight with Stars & Stripes & saying they were our boys. [But] when they got near us, fell on their knees & fired, cutting our brigade badly, when we were driven back. Capt. [James M.] Brown was the last to leave & I do not believe he would have left until taken prisoner if not had got shot through the jaw. Joe Watkins is pretty bad. [Calvin] Nix & [John] Slingerland is pretty bad. I hope all will get well. We had 7 or 8 wounded was all in our company. In the regiment about 30 killed, and 80 wounded. I do not know how many missing. There must be about 2,000 killed & wounded in the whole fight, I should think.

The boys go to see Joe [Watkins] often & say he is better. He is in a house near here. It was the awfullest sight could be thought of to see the dying and wounded. Some in their struggles had handfuls of dirt in their hands, some were found ramming the balls in their guns. I could get lots of things but I could not take care of them such as secesh rifles & canteens. Some of our boys got the rebels’ pocketbooks but I could not do that. It was bad enough for me to see the dead let alone take the things out of their pants. I see a lot of rebel postage stamps. They were just like ours except Jeff Davis’s picture instead of Washington’s. They were not like those I saw at home.

Fort Magruder is about 200 yards from me, It was a strong, fortified place here & so was Yorktown forts upon forts. Some of our boys have been up to Williamsburg. It is a town like Morristown. The boys have boughten [ ] & went in a eating house & got dinner. Williamsburg is a mile and a half from here. I wrote again this morning so as to make sure of getting one letter home & let the home folks all know that I was well. I lost my knapsack and all my things. My paper envelopes & everything. I found what I am now writing on. I had my letters, testament, Mother’s picture, my knife, pocket book, and in my pocket is all I have left.

Lieut. [Thomas C.] Thompson was left at Williamsburg by the rebels wounded. They could not carry him in their hurry. We are still encamped on the battlefield. I do not think we will be put in action right away for most all the officers are wounded in the division. Heaps of love to Mother, sister & heaps to Father. Your affectionate son, — Heyward

Letter 3

The 7th New Jersey Monument near the Trostle Farm Barn south of Gettysburg

[Note: The writing on this letter is so faint that it is barely legible.]

Battlefield near Gettysburg, Penn.
July 4th 1863

My Dear Father,

Having passed through another battle of which I have a great deal to be thankful I was not killed. The loss is awful in our [ ] company [ ] Capt. [William R.] Hillyer [ ] Lieut. John’s wounded but Lieut. Millen dangerous and of the boys killed and wounded I cannot say—only that we had about 16 in our company. Tom Campbell is at our Corps Hospital wounded. He sent for some of to come and see him. Merritt is going. I could not go or I would. Merritt had seen [ ] First Lieutenant of the Macon Co. & he says Blankie is out west—a signal officer—so Cl___ is not hurt….

Merritt will see Louis. Capt. Logan is killed. The rebels have fallen back a little. Gen. Meade is ….

I must close….I will write first opportunity again…I close, your affectionate son, — Heyward

An 1863 cdv of Heyward Emmell from the family photo album (Charles Joyce Collection)

Letter 4

On the Field
May 7th 1864

Dear Father,

I write you a few lines to let you all at home know that I have come out safe so far, hoping everything will turn up right. We have had hard fighting now for 3 days. No more boys injured in our company. I have been helping get off our wounded.

Please give bushels of love to Mother & Sisters & I close & remain your ever affectionate son, — Heyward

Merritt wishes to be remembered to all at home

Letter 5

In the field
May 15th 1864

Dear Mother,

I have written once & Merritt [Bruen] wrote once for me to let all at home know that I am not hurt & well, but I do not know as they have reached home. Neither do I know that this will, but there are doctors going to Fredericksburg with wounded every few days and I shall try to send this by of them.

We have been fighting since May 5th. The loss of life has been dreadful. It is estimated killed & wounded at 50,000 in the Army of the Potomac. Our Corps (the 2nd) made a charge a few days ago [and] took 8,000 prisoners and a great many cannon. The battlefield where the charge was made is just heaped with the dead of both parties. The dead bodies are just riddled like a paper box with shots. We stretcher carriers are busy all the time & I cannot write as I would if I were in the regiment.

Yesterday where our Corps were was quite still and we had to get those wounded rebs out that there was some possibility of living. We put them under shelter from the heavy showers [that] have fallen every hour or two for the past 5 days. This morning we left them & changed our front. The rebs followed us up pretty sharp & for a little while we thought we would likely go to Richmond as the roads were blockaded but after a little we got the wagons a moving & am now safe again behind our troops.

I have never witnessed such a scene in my life as in this battle [see The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House]. Gen. Sedgwick, 6th Corps, was killed. 1 There are some killed in Co. K but none from Morristown. Tell Carrie the Major [Frederick Cooper] of the 7th got wounded in two places. I helped carry him off.

I must now close for we are going to leave. Another shower will get this wet. Please do not worry. I am not exposed—nothing to what I would be in the regiment. I feel thankful that I got out safe so far & hope for the best & send bushels of love to Mother, Father, and Sisters. I close & remain your ever affectionate son, — Heyward

1 See The Killing of Uncle John by Fred L. Ray, November 2019 on HistoryNet.

Letter 6

In the field
May 19th 1864

Dear Mother,

I head this “in the field” for I know not nor can I find out any name for this place. We moved from the extreme right of our line last night where our division was forming a strong picket line, to here which is on our left—that is the Johnnie’s right. I see some of the boys writing home so I thought I would do so to let all at home know that I am well.

Everything is very quiet today along the line. Merritt is well. Em’s just returned from Fredericksburg where he took a train loaded with wounded.

This battle is being very skillfully carried on. Gen. Lee & Gen. Grant are just like two persons playing chess & are a good match for each other. I hope & think we will be victorious in the end. I hope Gen. Butler will be able to take Richmond while Grant holds all Lee’s forces here and fights him. I hope for the best & will [ ] to close this short letter hoping it will get home and also the two I sent before & also one Merritt sent. The last letter I had from home was dated the 3rd of May.

Please accept overflowing measure of love from Heyward and give the same to Father, Sister Kate, & Carrie, and I close & remain your ever affectionate son, — Heyward G. Emmell

Letter 7

Camp 5 miles South of Pamunky [River]
May 29th 1864

Dear Mother,

It has been most two weeks since I have had a chance to write home & now I have not much prospects of this getting off as there is no communication. This will let Mother know I am well. Needn’t be worried if I do not write in some time for I hardly have time to eat & lose my sleep most every night.

I now close. Accept bushels of love from your ever affectionate son, Heyward, and give the same to Father, Kate & Carrie.

I close.

P. S. I have had the ginger some time which Dempsey brought. It is very nice. Merritt is well.

Letter 8

Cold Harbor
June 2, 1864

Dear Sister,

I seat myself on my rubber blanket, my only protection from the storm cold, &c. as it is all I carry except my haversack of hardtack which is not always got rations in it, I am sorry to say.

We are now again on the Peninsula about 11 or 12 miles of the long-looked for Rebel capitol. Part of Gen. Butler’s force are here. As I write this, I can hear the skirmishing & cannonading which has not been still for a month nearly now. We have just been in 3 hours from a tiresome march of 14 or 15 [miles] from the extreme right to the very left. I have had my coffee and feel a little refreshed & as it was most two weeks until I wrote on the 29th & I am afraid that letter did not reach home, do Iborrowed paper and made up my mind to write again & send it by the next chance to let all at home know that I am well.

We stretcher carriers are to the front and my knapsack is with the wagon so I had to borrow paper of course. I have a quantity in the knapsack in the ambulance.

No Morristown boys in Co. K killed. In the 15th Regt., Sergeant Vanhouten was killed and in the 8th Regt. Sergeant Evans—a son of a man that used to plow Auntie’s garden when I was very small.

Gen. Grant works on Gen. McClellan’s plan—fortifies every inch as he takes it. The base of supplies I believe is now the White House [Landing]. I received a letter of May 20th. Please give our dear mother bushels of love from Heyward and give the same to Father and Carrie & accept the same for yourself. Please excuse my dirty paper. It dropped in the creek & my hands being dirty helped to soil it.

I now close and remain your affectionate brother, — Heyward G. Emmell

Letter 9

Near Cold Harbor, Virginia
June 10th 1864

Dear Mother,

I have received a letter from home every few days & hope mine go too through. We lay where we did when I wrote on the 7th. Our brigade is just in front of a mill pond with a fine breastwork in front. The John[nie]s shell us a little every day but do not do much injury. Our pickets are out front. The breastworks a couple hundred yards & in front of them lay the South Carolina sharpshooters who go to the same stream for water to fill their canteens & talk together, trade, &c.

One of our boys in the brigade got a Richmond paper of the same day as it was printed. They do not fore a shot at each other in our front until one or the other side advances, but one didn’t keep his word and killed an orderly to the Colonel of the 11th [New] Jersey tonight.

They is talk of us changing base to the James River & that we will move tonight so if we do, I will not have chance to write in a week or more likely. I received a letter from Father tonight. I would have written Father this but I had bit one envelope with me that is on my person & that was directed to Mother. It is my turn to write Father but I thought it made no difference as long as I write where it was directed.

Please excuse all mistakes & heaps of love to all at home including a large share to my dear Mother & I close & remain your affectionate son, — Heyward

Letter 10

Near Petersburg, Virginia
June 20th 1864

Dear Father,

Michael Mullery (1842-1864) was originally in Co. K until promoted to Captain of Co. I. He was killed at Petersburg on 16 June 1864.

I will take a few moments to write Father and let all at home know that I am alive. It has been a very hot place since we come here across the James River. The men have been killed by hundreds. In our Co. K, there is 3 killed and about 10 wounded. [Jabez] Beers is killed. Allen [H.] Pierson mortally wounded. Capt. [Michael] Mullery [of Co. I] killed. [Francis E.] Kane is wounded, [Corp. Andrew C.] Halsey has his arm broke with a ball & will have to be amputated. I have no chance to hear about the boys after they go to the hospital so there is no use of wring me to find out for there is no time to do so now.

The first letter for Beers we received & he told me they thought him dead. The next one come I sent to Jim [ ] Beers being dead. I hear. I did not see him. There is no use in having letters directed in my care for they come no better.

[Hugh] Roden is well & says it is very queer that his Father gets no letter from him.

I must now close. Please give bushels of love to my dear Mother & Sisters. I fel very thankful that I have got through safely so far. Merritt is well. I must close & remain your affectionate son, — Heyward

Letter 11

Before Petersburg, Va.
July 29, 1864

My Dear Mother,

I received sister Carrie’s letter of the 22nd a few days ago with much pleasure & was very glad to hear that all at home were well.

On the 26th, about 5 o’clock, our Corps started on a tramp, We marched all night and went over 20 miles. I was the nearest played out that I ever have been I think. The route we took was to Point of Rocks where we crossed the Appomattox and then after marching about ten miles further we reached the James River & crossed it the same way on pontoons. Here we found our monitors and gunboats and with the aid of them, we drove the John[nie]’s back who had been firing in transports that bring our provisions to us and captured 4 guns of them.

We crossed the James at Turkey Bend which is a few miles I believe from Malvern Hill. Last night after dark ew started for Petersburg & we are now [ ] along with the 18th Corps after a hard march all night.

I received the handkerchief the afternoon we left for the march & also the stamps, They must have been delayed somewhere.

Mother, I must now [ ] sleepy. Please excuse the shortness. I feel thankful that I have been preserved so far & hope for the best. Please give bushels of love to Father, Sisters Kate & Carrie, & accept overflowing [ ] for my dear Mother & I close & remain your affectionate son, — Heyward

Letter 12

Before Petersburg
August 1st 1864

Dear Kate,

Your kind epistle arrived safely this morning & a package of papers. The letter was dated the 25th & I was very glad to hear that all at home were well. I saw Mr. Mills—the one we boys use to call Monkey Mills that use to be in Mr. Johnson’s store and was in our church choir. He is well. He wished to be remembered to Father…I received the handkerchiefs & stamps a few days ago.

About 5 p.m. July 26th we started on a march & marched to the Appomattox River and crossed it on pontoons at Point of Rocks & then marched to Turkey Bend—or some call it Deep Bottom—on the James River & crossed it also. Here we found the gunboats & all the monitors and a small force of the 19th Corps. on bank and it was now morning and we had marched about 22 miles, having marched all night long. Our force consisted of the 2nd Corps under Gen. Hancock and Sheridan’s Cavalry. Our line was formed & a charge was made into the Rebel works (he meantime our monitors hurled in shells from the river) and we captured four Parrott cannon. There was then a new line formed & there was nothing but sharpshooters firing. We lay all the next day also until night when we started back & marched until morning, reaching the right of Petersburg where our division halted until dark when it relieved the 18th Army Corps which were in rifle pits for 24 hours. It was a warm place. If you stuck your cap—whiz–whiz—would come over a ball at what they would think was your head.

The day we was there, all the batteries opened & it was a splendid sight to see from a good place and shells of ours explode in & around Petersburg. Most of our shells were thrown at Fort [ ]. A few struck in the city & it soon became full of smoke so that you could hardly see the spires of the churches. A few of the houses burnt up.

At the same time, in front of Burnside’s Corps, the niggers made a charge & were successful first but afterward were driven back & a great many of them were captured which the rebels are making build up the forts which we blew up or if they refuse, kill them. That is the report here. They use mortar for dropping shell in the trenches here now which are not very pleasant. They sound just like a locomotive coming & in the night you can see them come.

I wrote Mother on the 29th. Please give bushels of love to Mother & Father & Sisters Carrie & accept the same yourself from Heyward.

I must now go for my 4 months pay as the regiment is getting paid which I will enclose in this.

P. S. The chaplain has no checks but will have them in 3 days. I give him 50 dollars and will send the check next letter for 50. I received 58 today.

Letter 13

Near Deep Bottom on James
August 17th 1864

My Dear Mother,

I will try and find a way to send this if possible. On the 12th we left Petersburg & marched to City Point & imboarded the sick of the 24th Corps. The troops marched there too but the ambulances went back after unloading to Point of Ricks & crossed the Appomattox River & parked 2 miles from here on the other side of the James. We stretcher carriers were ordered to leave the ambulances & go back to City Point which made it a tiresome march for us. We got on transports & sailed to Deep Bottom, just across the river from where we left the ambulance train.

There has been some hard fighting. Our regiment has not been engaged. I helped get some of the 8th New Jersey Volunteers out yesterday who were wounded. Gen. Birney with the 10th Corps & [ ] of our corps are on the [ ] & it is reported are near Malvern Hill. They brought a rebel General dead in yesterday. His name was Chamberlin [John Randolph Chambliss, Jr.], I believe, a cavalry general. 1

Our gunboats help very much where we are.

It has been some time since I have got a letter from home. The last was dated July 29th. I send bushels of love to Father & Sisters Kate & Carrie & overflowing measures to my dear Mother & hope for the best. And I will now close & remain your ever affectionate, — Heyward

P. S. I put in this one of my friend’s photographs for sister to keep for me. I sent a check on July [ ] for $50.

1 “Promoted to brigadier general, [John R.] Chambliss continued in command of the brigade, through the cavalry fighting from the Rapidan River to the James, gaining fresh laurels in the defeat of the Federals at Stony Creek. Finally, in a cavalry battle on the Charles City Road, on the north side of the James River, Chambliss was killed while leading his men. His body was buried with honor by the Federals, and soon afterward, On Wednesday the 17th of August 1864, a detachment of confederate soldiers came across the union lines under a flag of truce to retrieve Chambliss’s body. Thereafter, he was exhumed and delivered to his friends. It was buried in the family graveyard in Emporia, Virginia. Robert E. Lee wrote that “the loss sustained by the cavalry in the fall of General Chambliss will be felt throughout the army, in which, by his courage, energy and skill, he had won for himself an honorable name.” [Wikipedia]

Letter 14

In the entrenchments before Petersburg, Va.
August 21, 1864

Dear Carrie,

Sister Kate’s letter of August 15th arrived on the 18th & I was very glad to hear from home once more & that the directions was right, for I will now receive them regularly. We left Deep Bottom—that is, the 3rd Division—on the night of the 18th and marched all night through the rain and got to Petersburg by noon the next day where our division relieved a division of niggers belonging to the 9th Corps in the entrenchments. Every morning about 3 o’clock the rebel batteries opened on us and we lay low in deep holes which we dig with piles of large logs front of us to screen ourselves from the flying missiles. We will be relieved from this position tomorrow. It is very filthy here. The ground is all littered with old meat &c.

I wrote at Deep Bottom to Mother. We went in a flag-of-truce when we were there with the rebel general Chamberlin’s [Chambliss’s] body & at the same time some of the stretcher carriers went in between the lines after some of the 8th New Jersey dead. They were mortified & it was very disagreeable even to have them carried near you. It was very disagreeable on board the transports. We expected to go to Washington but I was glad to get off so soon for we had hardly room to stand.

At dusk the whole 2nd Corps moved down the James river, bands a playing, to White House Point & laid at anchor & at 10 o’clock a tug boat come up with orders for the fleet to move to Deep Bottom. The going on transports & going down the river was of course just a blind for we could have marched it in half of the time it took to embark. I will not undertake to tell what we accomplished while there for you can read it in the papers before this, & all that I know would just be what took place just around our brigade.

The 5th Corps took 1100 prisoners yesterday and a train belonging to the Johnnies. I can now hear very heavy fighting on the left of us. We have had rain every day for the past 5 or 6 days.

I must now close. Please give bushels of love to my dear Mother & Father, Sister Kate, & accept heaps for yourself & I close & remain your ever affectionate brother, — Heyward G. Emmell

Letter 15

Before Petersburg, Virginia
September 11th 1864

Dear Father,

I received sister Kate’s note of the 5th this morning with great pleasure but am sorry to hear that Carrie has so bad a cold. The 5th, 6th, and 8th Regiments have gone home. Next goes the 7th [New Jersey] who are to go between this and October 1st. The clerks are busy making out muster rolls.

We stretcher bearers have something to do again as we advanced a part of the line of pickets who were too close to our fort & it has occasioned picket firing again. Just think a few days ago their pickets & ours would play cards together & some of theirs & our officers were drinking & playing together & now shooting [at] each other—but so it is. We use to get Richmond papers every morning.

Stephen Bruen is now Quartermaster and Tim Burroughs is Quartermaster Sergeant. Merritt’s [Merritt Bruen] death was very sudden. He had a great many friends in the army.

I must now bringhis to a close but not before giving heaps of love to my dear Father, Mother, and Sisters & please remember me to the Aunties & I close & remain your ever affectionate son, — Heyward G. Emmell

The following photographs are in an album recently purchased by a friend of mine at the Gettysburg Show (June 2022). It is clear the album once belonged to Heyward G. Emmell.

Emmell Family Photos

1864-65: Henry Snow to Mary E. Sears

I could not find an image of Henry in uniform but here is one of Pvt. George T. Meech of the 21st Conn. Volunteers

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)

Letter 1

Addressed to Miss Mary C. Sears, East Hampton, Connecticut

In the rifle pits before Petersburg, Virginia
Tuesday morning, August 23rd 1864

Dear Cousin,

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

Letter 2

Camp of the 21st Regiment Connecticut Vols.
On Chapin’s Farm, Virginia
February 14th 1865

Dear Cousin,

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.

Henry Snow in later years

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