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.]
2nd Division, 9th Army Corps Hospital City Point, Virginia August 4th 1864
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. 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!”
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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].
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Near Williamsburg [Virginia] May 8, 1862
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
[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
On the Field May 7th 1864
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
In the field May 15th 1864
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
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
Camp 5 miles South of Pamunky [River] May 29th 1864
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.
P. S. I have had the ginger some time which Dempsey brought. It is very nice. Merritt is well.
Cold Harbor June 2, 1864
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
Near Cold Harbor, Virginia June 10th 1864
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
Near Petersburg, Virginia June 20th 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
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
Before Petersburg August 1st 1864
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.
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]
In the entrenchments before Petersburg, Va. August 21, 1864
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
Before Petersburg, Virginia September 11th 1864
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.
These letters were written by Pvt. Henry Snow (1839-1921), the son of Henry Snow, Jr. (1802-18xx) and Eunice Sears (1801-1875) of East Haddam, Middlesex county, Connecticut. Prior to his enlistment in Co. H, 21st Connecticut Volunteers, Henry was working in a bell shop. Henry entered the service in September 1862 and mustered out in June 1865. He was promoted to a corporal on 1 March 1865.
The regimental history compiled by Wm. Stone Hubbell contains some very interesting statics for Co. H of the 21st Connecticut. It claims that the average age was 27.6 and that 46 of the 100 men were married. There were 19 farmers, 21 mechanics, 13 laborers, 7 clerks, 6 teamsters, 6 sailors, and a smattering of 13 other occupations.
The 21st Connecticut Volunteer Infantry Regiment lost 5 officers and 55 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded and 1 officer and 114 enlisted men to disease during the Civil War.
Henry’s first letter, dated, 23 August, 1864, gives a good description of the Battle of the Crater that took place on 30 July 1864.
Other letters by members of the 21st Connecticut Vols published on Spared & Shared include: Arthur Henry Dutton, F&S, 21st Connecticut (Union/15 Letters) Thomas Latham Bailey, Co. C, 21st Connecticut (Union/38 Letters)
In the rifle pits before Petersburg, Virginia Tuesday morning, August 23rd 1864
I received your kind letter of the 16th on the 20th and was very glad to hear from you. I had not heard from you for a long time. I have always answered all the letters that I have received from you.
We have indeed passed through many and trying scenes since I heard from you. When I write to you last we were at Rodman’s Point near Little Washington, North Carolina. Since then we have been almost all over Virginia. First, we went to Portsmouth and from there to Bermuda Hundred—a little above City Point—and to the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, and from there to White House and from there to the Battle of Cold Harbor and from there back to White House and back to Bermuda Hundred, and from there to Petersburg where we are now and are likely to be for all that I know.
We have been here in sight of the City of Petersburg over two months now. We have been in the pits a good share of the time. We have to be up a good deal nights and sometimes all night, but we have stood it through—some of us. There is many a poor soldier that started with us on this campaign that is now sleeping beneath the sod or lying wounded in hospitals. Oh! how thankful all of us might be that while others are being called from this to another world, that we are still permitted to live and enjoy health and strength.
Our Corps was there when the [fort] blew up [see Battle of the Crater]. It was on the left of us—the line that we held, and they relieved us and sent us down there to relieve the 9th Corps and hold their works while they made the charge. This was on the 30th of July and a very warm day. You undoubtedly have seen an account of it in the paper but we were right there. Just as soon as the fort blew up, we all fired a volley from behind the breastworks and then they charged. But it was just like pulling teeth. They hated to go and I don’t blame them. The papers may cry out that the soldiers are in good spirits and eager for a fight, but I do not believe it. We lay there all that day amid the fighting and they lost everything that they gained in the morning. Towards night, after the fighting had ceased, I went up and looked over the breastworks where the charge was made and such a sight as that I never want to witness again. The bodies were lying one upon another, just as they had fallen, and some of them were wounded and you could see them wave their hands in pain out there in the hot sun between our lines and their lines so that we could not help them any. Anyone that has see a few such places as that will not be very eager for a charge.
It was not the fault of the men. I think that it was their officers—some of them were drunk. I am sorry to say it but we have officers in our own regiment that will get so drunk that they do not know what they are about. We have lost two good Colonels since this campaign commenced—as good ever need be over men and several good captains as there is in the regiment. Our regiment got reduced down pretty small. There is but 10 privates in our company [fit] for duty.
You say that the Sabbath School went out the other day to pick blackberries for the soldiers. I can tell you unless you send them right to them, the private soldier will get very little, if any, of them if some of the officers get hold of them [first]. I have known how these things are worked in this army better than folks at home. Our Doctor once went and drew shirts and drawers and such things for the men from the Sanitary Commission and then gave them out among the officers. I do not know of but one that got anything. So you see how things go on here.
I received the drawers and towel that you sent me and was very thankful for them but did not know who sent them. They were just right for me. I have a great deal more that I could write if time and space would permit me but as my sheet is about full, I shall have to close. I guess that it will bother you some to read some of this but you must excuse all mistakes as I have written in a hurry and excuse that dirt on the bottom of the page for my hand got wet and I got some dirt on it and put it on there before I thought. So I will close with respects to all inquiring friends.
Accept this from your cousin, — Henry
Camp of the 21st Regiment Connecticut Vols. On Chapin’s Farm, Virginia February 14th 1865
I received your kind letter of January 10th a long time ago and do not know but you will think that I have forgotten you entirely. But it is not so. I often think of home and all the friends that are dear to me there and wish that I could see them all once more. But I must wait patiently and I trust that the time is coming when we shall all meet again. If not on this earth, may we all meet in Heaven where there will be no parting there.
The Christian Commission have got a large tent set up where they hold meetings every eve in the week and they have good ones so there is a good attendance. The tent is pretty full every eve. I enjoy going to them when I am not on duty. I should have been on duty today but I was excused from one turn of guard making the best shot the other morning. We have to go down every morning when we come off guard and the one that makes the best shot out of the guard is excused from one turn.
We have to drill every day—a company drill in the forenoon and a battalion drill in the afternoon. We drill an hour and a half each time which makes three hours. Our regiment is so small that it is not much to drill it. We do not have as many out on drill out of the whole regiment as we used to have in one company. When we came out this forenoon, there was three privates and one sergeant for drill. The rest were on guard or fatigue or had just come off guard. But we are large enough I hope that they will not send us any recruits. We have got a few that came to us about one year ago and that is enough. There is every few days someone deserting to the rebels from other regiments and some of them get caught and then have to be shot. It is nothing strange for us to hear that there is a man to be shot on such a day. There was one shot about a weeks ago within a half mile of here. They have never taken us up to witness it but they take those that desert—most, that is—so as to give them warning I suppose. I saw in the paper the other day the Newel Roots execution. He was very foolish to desert and then get shot. The drum has just beat for drill so I will close and finish some other time.
Tuesday evening. I have just come from meeting. There is quite a revival. There is quite a number of hopeful ones and I wish that there were more. I expect that Henry Sellew is on his way back to the Regiment. Hubert is in Washington yet and they talk of putting him into the Invalid Corps but do not know whether they will or not. There is a great deal said about peace now days. I do not know whether there is anything in it or nit but I hope that they will make peace if they can make it on the right terms. But I uphold Old Abe in saying that he does and not flinch at it. But it is getting late and I will close. Please excuse all mistakes and give my respects to all inquiring friends and accept this from your cousin.