Category Archives: Dutch Gap Canal

1865 Diary of Merritt L. Pierce, Co. L, 1st New York Engineers

The 1st New York Engineers at work on Morris Island earlier in the war when they were used extensively for building earthworks. By 1864 and 1865, they spent their time built corduroy roads, dredged the Dutch Gap Canal, and built pontoon bridges.

This 1865 diary was kept by Merritt L. Pierce (1842-1869), the son of Proctor Pierce (1811-1874) and Huldah Ann Reed (1816-1872) of Morrisonville, Schuyler Falls, Clinton county, New York. Merritt was 22 years old when he enlisted on 31 August 1864 at Troy as a private in Co. L, 1st New York Engineers. His decision to join the Engineers was clearly a last minute decision. Just days earlier he intended to enlist in the Navy but found the lines too long to wait in. Less than a year later, he mustered out of the regiment as an artificer on 30 June 1865 at Richmond, Virginia.

Merritt died of consumption (tuberculosis) in 1869 at the age of 28 but not before marrying Mary S. Mead (1845-1922).

[Note: The following diary is from the personal collection of Carolyn Cockrell. Merritt Pierce was her maternal 2nd great-grandfather. The diary images were made available for publication by express consent. The transcription of the diary was done by Chuck Cockrell.]

January 1865

January, Sunday, 1. 1865—Camp near Jones Landing. Clear & cold, wind west. Dutch Gap was blown out today. I remained in camp with the company. Ed[gar Reed] went to Co. E with their mail.

Monday, 2—Clear & cold in morning. Quite pleasant in p.m. I remained in camp for I had a painful boil.

Tuesday, 3—Cold & cloudy in morning. Snowed in p.m. about one inch. I am still obliged to remain in camp.

January, Wednesday, 4. 1865—Cloudy & cold. I am still in camp but am getting better quite fast. Think I shall be able to go on duty tomorrow.

Thursday, 5—Cold but pleasant. Did not feel quite well enough to go on duty.  Will [Beckwith] is at work getting out timber for bridge.

Friday, 6—Cloudy & quite warm.  Looked like rain. Went on detail cutting timber for the bridge. Did not work very hard.

January, Saturday, 7. 1865—Warm & pleasant.  I am on detail cutting railing for bridge.  Will is on the same detail.

Sunday, 8—Cold but pleasant. We are not on detail today, except those that missed roll call during the week.

Monday, 9—It has rained all day quite hard. Did not do any duty.  Received a letter from Safford Taylor.

January, Tuesday, 10. 1865—It is very unpleasant. Rained most of the day.  No work.

Wednesday, 11—Clear & pleasant. Am on detail cutting railing for bridge.

Thursday, 12—Warm, clear & pleasant. Had the day to ourselves. Wrote a letter home & played gentleman the rest of the day.

January, Friday, 13. 1865—Very warm & pleasant. I had a detail of Niggs & teams to get out posts & braces for bridge.

Saturday, 14—Wind south. Looks like rain. Am on the same detail.

Sunday, 15—Very warm & pleasant. We remained in camp all day. In the evening some twenty of us went to meeting. The meeting was held by the Christian Commission about a half a mile from camp.

January, Monday, 16. 1865—Clear & pleasant.  I was detailed to work on the bridge. Did not work much. Will & myself helped to row a small boat across the river three times & back for our day’s work.

Tuesday, 17—Cloudy & cold in the morning but quite pleasant most of the day.  Will & I got a pass & went to City Point. Had a first-rate time. We saw Frank Ketchum 1 & got our pictures taken.

1 Franklin Soules Ketchum, son of Henry Ketchum and Mary Ann Soules (see town register of soldiers), brother of Hiram Henry Ketchum and Sylvia L. Ketchum who married Israel Stickle who was in the 1st New York Volunteer Engineers. He was a Sergeant Major in the 16th New York Volunteer Infantry with his brother who subsequently reenlisted into the 1st New York Volunteer Engineers. Frank Ketchum was discharged due to disability in fall of 1862.

Wednesday, 18—Wind northeast. Cloudy & quite cold. Am on detail rafting timber for bridge. I received this diary from home. I am very much obliged to them.

January, Thursday, 19. 1865—Cold & cloudy, wind north. Am not on duty today. Wrote a letter home & sent them my picture.  [James] Cummings & myself carried dinner to the detail at work on the bridge. We took a boat ride.

Friday, 20—Clear & pleasant, wind east. Am on detail cutting timber for bridge.  Did not work much.  Saw Versal Spalding. It is ration day.  We have a fresh supply of good grub, sure.

Saturday, 21—It has stormed hard all day, wind northeast.  Went to commissary & bought 4 loaves of bread & 5 pounds flour in company with Will.  Cost 55 cents.  The boys in our tent have got their boxes.  We did not get our mail today.  Don’t like it much.

January, Sunday, 22. 1865—Unpleasant, quite foggy, rained some in a.m.  Remained in camp in forenoon. Worked about 2 hours in p.m. getting out stringers.  Had a good sing with Whitney, Thomas & Johnson. Have enjoyed myself pretty well.

Monday, 23—Rainy & unpleasant. Deep mud. Worked on bridge in forenoon. Remained in camp in afternoon. Some picket firing last night.  The boys are raising cane tonight throwing boots & hard tack at each other.

Tuesday, 24—Clear & pleasant, wind west.  We were ordered out of camp at five in the morning with our arms & equipment on.  Went to Jones Landing. Were ordered on board several barges & be ready to sink them. Heavy cannonading all night & part of forenoon.  Were ordered into camp at 3 o’clock p.m.

January, Wednesday, 25. 1865—Clear & rather cold, wind west.  Heavy firing of gunboats all night at Reb ram sunk yesterday. I have been at work cutting spiles. Ed has gone to City Point. Will is not well. Had short cake for supper.

Thursday, 26—Clear & rather cold, wind west. Was on detail cutting spiles in forenoon. Remained in camp in p.m. & did my washing. There is but little firing today from gunboats. Received a letter from home last night.

Friday, 27—Clear & cold, wind west. Worked on bridge all day. Saw a monitor pass up the river. Received a paper from home.

January, Saturday, 28.  1865—Clear & very cold, wing northwest. Were sent to work on bridge but it was too cold & the lieutenant ordered us back to camp. Will & I bought 4 loaves [of] bread, 10 pounds potatoes, 37 ½ cents. Doctor here today.

Sunday, 29—Clear & very cold, heavy northwest wind. Worked on bridge in a.m. & part of p.m. Cut two spiles in afternoon. The roads are very good. Dust flies all day. Drew bread today.

A work party placing mortars at the Crows’s Nest (visible above tree at right center) overlooking the James River opposite Dutch Gap.

Monday, 30—Clear & pleasant, wind northwest. Was detailed to work on bridge but got excused & went to Crows Nest Battery in company with Corporal Whitney. Received a letter from home with one dollar 50 enclosed.

January, Tuesday, 31. 1865—Clear, warm & pleasant.  Worked on the draw of the bridge. There was crossing on the new bridge today & large number troops crossed on it. I have got some cold & sore throat.

February 1865

February, Wednesday, 1–Warm & pleasant, wind north. Worked on bridge today. Received a letter from George [Pierce].  Also, one from Mark. Answered a letter.

Thursday, 2—Pleasant in morning but cloudy & chilly most of the day, wind north. Most of the company worked on the bridge. I did not go on duty. Had sore throat. They are going to put in the draw to the bridge tonight.

February, Friday, 3. 1865—Cloudy & unpleasant. The company worked on bridge. I remained in camp. Feel much better than I did yesterday.  Received a call from John Kelly. Will remained in camp, did not feel well.

Saturday, 4—Warm, clear & pleasant, wind west. Have been on detail grinding axes. The company working on bridge. Heavy firing toward Petersburg. Received a paper from home & one from Will S[cribner]. Very still in out tent tonight.

Sunday, 5—Clear & rather cold, wind northwest. Remained in camp. Went to Jones Landing. Saw eleven hundred of our prisoners from Richmond. They look very bad.

Lt. William Henry Baldwin (Dave Morin Collection)

February, Monday, 6. 1865—Clear & rather cold in forenoon, pleasant in afternoon, wind north. Worked on the bridge. Put on railing. Two recruits for our company. Lieutenant [William H.] Baldwin came back. Three cheers for him.

Tuesday, 7—Cold & heavy storm from northeast.  Remained in camp.  It’s a dreary day to me.

Wednesday, 8—Cloudy & unpleasant, wind west. Worked at the bridge.  Lieutenant Baldwin took command of Co. L. Received a paper from home.

February, Thursday, 9. 1865—Clear & rather cold, wind northwest. Worked at the bridge. Received a letter from home. Went to meeting in evening. Heard a good sermon.

Friday, 10—Clear & pleasant, wind southwest. I was left in camp to drill. Had a good time of it. Wrote a letter home. It is quite still in the barracks tonight. Drew bread & candles today. Received 25 cents in a letter.

Saturday, 11—Clear, warm, still, & pleasant. Worked on bridge in forenoon. Finished the bridge today. Had a game at ball in afternoon & wrote a letter for Almon Emery. We expect [  ] tomorrow. Received clothing.

February, Sunday, 12. 1865—Clear & cold with a heavy northwest wind. Went down to meeting but no preaching so we came back & spent the day as best we could reading & singing. It is the coldest night we have had this year.

Monday, 13—Clear & very cold in forenoon but quite pleasant in afternoon, wind north. The company drilled today. Mr. [John] Hunter, Mr. [Peter F.] Burdick, Will, & myself built a fire in the woods to keep warm.

Tuesday, 14—Clear & quite pleasant. We were on drill (the company) a.m. & p.m. Lieutenant [John] Archer took command of Co. L. I went to meeting in the evening in company with Mr. Hunt.

February, Wednesday, 15. 1865—Raining & unpleasant all day. Inspection ordered but did not appear on inspection on account of rain. Had a good sing with Whitney, Johnson, & company. Went to commissaries. I weighed 160 pounds.

Thursday, 16—Clear & pleasant. No details today. The company on inspection. Have orders to march at 7 tomorrow morning.

Friday, 17—Cloudy & unpleasant, rained some in afternoon. Started for headquarters early in morning. Arrived there about 10 o’clock a.m. Formed our shanty in very bad conditions. Fixed it so we slept comfortably.

February, Saturday, 18. 1865—Clear, still warm & pleasant. Worked all day fixing up our tent. Have things quite comfortable tonight.

Sunday, 19—Clear & pleasant, wind north. No details today. Have enjoyed myself first rate. Had a sing with Whitney, Johnson, & company. Received a paper from home.

Monday, 20—Clear, warm & pleasant. Most of company on detail. Will & I on wood detail. We hung two axes & ground them in a.m. I did my washing. Will & I helped to load 4 loads of wood in p.m. Received a letter from home.

February, Tuesday, 21. 1865—Clear, warm & pleasant, wind north. Chopped wood for camp. Wrote letter home.

Wednesday 22—Clear & pleasant. Worked quite hard chopping wood. Washington’s birthday. Salute of 41 guns fired. Turned over my gun to Frank Regan.

Thursday, 23—Raining & unpleasant all day. Worked loading wood in forenoon. Inspection in afternoon did not amount to much. 

February, Friday, 24. 1865—Clear & pleasant, wind north. Worked all day loading wood. The 2 teams drew 20 loads. Frank R. is sick. Had a sing in evening. Some clouds at night. Looks like rain.

Saturday, 25—Cloudy & unpleasant all day. I did not work in woods. Will & I ground our axes & cut some firewood for ourselves then played gentlemen. Received a paper from home.

Sunday, 26—Clear & very warm. On inspection in forenoon. Dress parade in afternoon. Had a good sing with Whitney, Frank Regan. Does not get any better.

February, Monday. 27. 1865—Clear & pleasant, quite warm. Chopped wood for camp. Mr. Hunter on our detail. Received a letter from home. Folks all well.

Tuesday, 28—Cloudy & unpleasant, rained some in a.m. The regiment mustered for pay in a.m. Inspection in p.m. Uncle Sam owes me 129 dollars. Wrote letter home. Frank very sick.

March 1865

March, Wednesday, 1—Cloudy & unpleasant, wind east. Cut wood in forenoon.  Went for a load of cedar in p.m. with Corporal [William] Claude [Company M]. Frank went to hospital. Wrote a letter home last night. We feel quite lonesome.

March, Thursday, 2. 1865—Rained quite hard all day. No details. 27 recruits for our regiment. Frank Regan no better.

Friday, 3—Cloudy & unpleasant. Co. L marched to Point of Rocks to take charge of pontoon bridge. Stayed in tool house first night.

Saturday, 4—Heavy southwest wind, rained some in forenoon, rather pleasant in p.m. I stopped in lieutenant’s tent at night. Did not do much at quarters. Had a nail inspection.

March, Sunday, 5. 1865—Clear & cold in morning, pleasant in p.m., wind north. Whitney, Thomas, Reed & myself built a tent together. Was on guard. [Michael] Glennan & [Charles] Berry * under arrest. 

* Charles Berry is also known as Charles Krensser or Creusere (1845-1922) born in Paris; immigrated to Brooklyn in 1854; became a citizen after the war; married Mary Mahoney then Evelyn Burt and died in Detroit.  Ancestry info seems pretty good. There is a photo of him in old age.

Monday, 6—Clear & pleasant, wind north. Worked on tent. Built chimney, etc. Most of our quarters built today. Have got things quite comfortable tonight.

Tuesday, 7—Clear, warm, & pleasant. Did not drill today. Ed went to Bermuda for mail.  I received a  letter from home. Will & I went for a load of wood.

March, Wednesday, 8. 1865—Cloudy & unpleasant, rained some, wind south. Was on drill a short time in morning. It rained some & we stopped work. I wrote a letter home.

Thursday, 9—Cloudy & unpleasant in forenoon, quite pleasant in p.m. The company on drill in p.m. All took a good boat ride. Whitney & Thomas arrested for missing roll call.

Friday, 10—Raining & unpleasant in forepart of the day, cleared off in afternoon. We took boat ride in afternoon. Lieutenant [Charles D.] Otis * takes command of Co. L. Wrote a letter for Almon Emery.

* Lt. Charles Otis (1832-1905) is also know as Charles Cowdrey; born in Plymouth, New Hampshire; married Eleanora Sanburn; died in Queens.

March, Saturday, 11. 1865—Clear & rather cold, wind north in a.m., south in p.m. On drill about 5 hours. Thomas on guard. Whitney on wood detail. Reed went after the mail as usual. Had sing in evening.

Sunday, 12—Clear & pleasant, wind southwest. Inspection in a.m. & p.m. Received a letter from home. Wrote a letter to Julia Moore. Went to meeting in a.m. Walked out with Whitney & Thomas in p.m.

Monday, 13—Clear & very pleasant, wind southwest. We laid a pontoon bridge for first time. Did first rate too. Captain Lion present. Whitney on guard. Thomas wrote to his [  ].

March, Tuesday, 14. 1865—Clear & very warm, wind south. Laid bridge in forenoon. Loaded pontoon wagons in p.m. Worked very hard. Washed some clothes in afternoon.

Wednesday, 15—Wind southwest, cloudy & looks some like rain. Worked on pontoon wagon train in a.m. Took up pontoon bridge in p.m. Received a letter & paper from home.

Thursday, 16—Heavy south wind quite warm. Signed payroll & got my pay, 64 dollars. Went on drill in p.m. Wrote a letter home. Drew 2 loaves of bread. [Alfred] Hewitt paid me 3.50. Ed went for mail in afternoon.

March, Friday, 17. 1865—Clear & rather pleasant, wind west. We built one bridge in forenoon & took it up. Also one in p.m. Wrote a letter for Almon Emery. Went to church in evening.

Saturday, 18—Clear & pleasant, wind west. On detail fixing wagons for inspection in a.m. Laid bridge & took it up in p.m. Ed & C. Tomas went to City Point. No mail today.

Sunday, 19—Clear & very pleasant. Inspection in a.m. & p.m. Went to church in a.m. & evening. Saw Charlie Ford at the hospital. Wrote a letter home. The text in evening was this—the wages of sin is death.

March, Monday, 20. 1865—Clear & very warm. On drill in forenoon & p.m. Went to Sanitary Commission. Got some paper & thread. Fixed up a box to send home. Bought a blanket, gave 2.00.

Tuesday, 21—Cloudy & unpleasant, rained in p.m. I was on drill in a.m. On detail in p.m. laying fence. Ed went to City Point. Took a box of clothing to send home. Wrote a letter to M.

Wednesday, 22—Clear & quite cold in morning, heavy west wind. Took up bridge & loaded it on wagons in a.m. Helped to drive across bridge a drove of mules. Ed on detail. Got marching orders. Went to meeting in evening. Text 39th [  ].

March, Thursday, 23. 1865—Clear with a heavy west wind. Am on detail loading chess & putting boats together. [Patrick] Donnelly & [Charles] Berry got back from furlough. Let Almon have 2 dollars. Went to meeting in evening. Heard good sermon.

Friday, 24—Clear & rather cold, heavy west wind. Got marching orders in morning. Started for somewhere with pontoon train in p.m. Went as far as Deep Bottom & stopped for the night. Very cold night.

Saturday, 25—Cloudy & looks some like rain. Got up at ½ past 2 in morning. Started at daylight. Arrived at Chickahominy River at 2 o’clock p.m. Built a bridge across. Fixed a tent & stopped for the night.

March, Sunday, 26. 1865—Clear & rather cold, wind north. Took up the bridge in morning & started back. Halted just above Deep Bottom. Lost one of our Engineers Officers & one sharpshooter. Stopped at James River for night.

Monday, 27—Clear & very pleasant. Started for Broadway Landing early in morning. Arrived at Broadway in p.m. one o’clock. Worked the rest of p.m. loading boats on barge. Part of Co. L going to North Carolina, the rest to Hatcher’s Run.

Tuesday, 28—Clear & pleasant. Started on. March[ed] twenty-five miles. Arrived at Weldon Railroad at dark. Sheridan’s Cavalry with us. Also, Potomac Army.  Went into camp about 8 o’clock at night.

March, Wednesday, 29. 1865—Clear, warm, & pleasant, wind south. Started in good season. Arrived within one mile of Hatcher’s Run about noon. Stopped there for the night. Looks like rain. Southside Railroad taken.

Thursday, 30—Wind south, rained hard all day. Remained in camp all day. Some fighting in afternoon. Saw a great many wounded men. Also, some Reb prisoners.

Friday, 31—Rainy in morning but quite pleasant most of the day. Went to front to build a bridge across Hatcher’s Run. Fighting all day. Did not get back until one o’clock morning.

April 1865

April, Saturday, 1. 1865—Clear, heavy west wind. Remained in camp. Fixed up quarters. Heavy firing all day. Our lines are advanced. A good many Johnnies taken prisoners. Received a letter from home. Wrote home.

Sunday, 2—Clear, warm & pleasant. Two inspections in a.m. Struck tents at noon & marched to signal station. Heavy cannonading all night. Petersburg captured this morning. Stopped near signal station for the night.

Monday, 3—Warm & pleasant. Richmond captured. We are on the road to Lynchburg. Saw Grant & Meade. Stopped for night. Some 2 miles on Southside Road. Looks as if the Rebs left here in a great hurry.

April, Tuesday, 4. 1865—Cloudy & quite cold in morning, pleasant most of the day. Started forward at 9 o’clock morning. Came 22 miles on Southside Road. Boys caught some sheep, hens, etc. I am on guard.

Wednesday, 5—Some cloudy in morning but warm & pleasant through the day. Started in good season. Marched all day. Arrived at Nottaway Station in evening. Stopped 2 hours. Then marched until morning.

Thursday, 6—Cloudy & some raining in morning, pleasant the rest of the day. Stopped a short time to rest & eat, then went on. Arrived at Burkeville at noon. Stopped there overnight. We hear good news all the time.

April, Friday, 7. 1865—Lousy & unpleasant most of the day. Cleared off just at night. Start off in good season. Marched all day & laid a bridge across the Appomattox at Farmville. Got through 12 o’clock [at] night.

Saturday, 8—Clear, warm & pleasant. Took up bridge & started on after the army. Stopped for the night some 12 miles from Farmville. It is reported we have captured 40,000 prisoners. I feel very tired tonight.

Sunday, 9—Clear, warm & pleasant. On our way toward Lynchburg in good season. Went into park at 3 o’clock. Lee has surrendered his army to Grant but many doubt it. But however it is so, we are living high.

April, Monday, 10. 1865—Rainy & unpleasant most of the day. Started out in afternoon & marched [un]til night toward Appomattox Court House. Passed a battlefield on our way. Saw several citizens today, all well.

Tuesday, 11—Unpleasant, foggy all day, quite muddy. Started off quite early on our way back to Petersburg. Marched until 4 o’clock p.m. & stopped at Davis Hill [?]. Several Reb parole cavalry passed us at night. Ed & I on picket.

Wednesday, 12—Cloudy & still in forenoon, heavy southwest wind in p.m. Started on our way in good season. Arrived at Prospect Station at 12 o’clock. [ ] teams. Ate dinner. Went on. Did not go far. Bad roads. Stopped for night, 12 miles from Farmville.

April, Thursday, 13. 1865—Clear & pleasant, wind west. Broke camp & travelled nearly to Farmville & camped for the teams are most played out. I had a good supper at a farmhouse. Did not get back until 10.

Friday, 14—Very clear, warm & pleasant. Broke camp at 9 o’clock. Arrived at Farmville at noon. Stopped for the night three miles beyond Farmville. Built a bridge across Bush River. The roads are very poor.

Saturday, 15—Unpleasant, it has rained most of the day. We have come 6 miles today. Very bad roads. Went into camp quite early. I killed a beef & we are faring first rate. The country does not look very fine here abouts.

April, Sunday, 16. 1865—Clear & pleasant, wind west. Broke camp at 7 o’clock. Arrived at Burkeville at tow o’clock pm. & went into park. Ate dinner, then unloaded train. Camped for the night. Reported Lincoln, Seward shot.

Monday, 17—Clear, warm & pleasant. Remained in camp [un]til night when we took the cars but did not make more than 10 rods for the reason that the cars ran off the track. There is a great many Johnnies waiting for transportation.

Tuesday, 18—Clear, warm & pleasant, wind southwest. Started for Peterburg at 8 a.m. Arrived at Peterburg at 5 p.m. It is quite a large town. Had warm bread & cheese for supper. Ed & myself are on guard.

April, Wednesday, 19. 1865—Clear, warm, pleasant. Took cars for Richmond at 9 o’clock. Arrived there at 12 o’clock. Went to where the rest of our company was & stopped for the night. Received a letter from George & one from home.

Thursday, 20—Warm & pleasant, some cloudy & rained a little in afternoon. Wrote a letter home in a.m. Moved camp to south side river in p.m. Ed & I fixed up a tent together. Camp is pleasant.

Friday, 21—Clear, warm & pleasant, wind south. Remained in camp in forenoon. Cleaned my gun. Wrote a letter for Almon. Fixed my tent. Worked on bridge in p.m. Ed is quite sick. Received a letter from home.

April, Saturday, 22. 1865—Cloudy, wind southwest.  Worked on bridge all day & finished it.

Sunday, 23—Cloudy & quite cool, wind blows quite hard from the west. Inspection in forenoon. Wrote a letter home, also to Julia. Wrote a letter for Almon Emery. Some of the boys are quite blue tonight.

Monday, 24—Clear & pleasant. I remained in camp in forenoon. Was on detail to unload a boat of lumber boards. Ed is sick. 30 recruits for Co. L. Abner Baker one of them.

April, Tuesday, 25. 1865—Clear, very warm & pleasant. On drill in forenoon. Remained in camp in p.m. Received a letter from home. Ed is some better. A squad of men away on detail.

Wednesday, 26—Clear, warm & pleasant, wind south. I am on guard. Ed is better, is doing duty in office. I wrote a letter for Almon.

Thursday, 27—Clear & pleasant. I remained in camp in a.m. Went all through Richmond in company with Mr. [John H.] Hatton. It is a beautiful city. Visited Castle Thunder, Libby Prison, the Capitol, Jeff’s house & many curiosities.

April, Friday, 28. 1865—Clear & pleasant most of the day, a slight squall in p.m. Worked on bridge all day & quite hard too. Reported surrender of Johnson. Booth shot dead.

Saturday, 29—Cloudy, wind south, rained some just at night. Worked on bridge below here. Took part of it down & put it on barge & took it to Richmond. Worked pretty hard.

Sunday, 30—Clear & pleasant but looks like [rain] tonight. Inspection at 8 morning. Mustered in afternoon. Wrote a letter home, also one for Emery.

May 1865

May, Monday, 1, 1865—Cloudy & quite cold. Remained in camp all day. Wrote a letter to Miss Mary [S. Mead]. Borrowed 19 dollars of Abner Baker. Ed at work in office.

Tuesday, 2—Some cloudy, quite cool, wind northwest. On detail to get a stick of timber from shipyard in a.m. Remained in camp in p.m.

Wednesday, 3—Clear & pleasant, wind northwest. On detail loading timber. Moved into a tent with Whitney.

May, Thursday, 4, 1865—Clear, warm & pleasant, wind west. I am on guard. Received a letter from Elder [C. C.] Hart. 5th Corps came here today. Mr. Goodridge came to our camp at night.

Friday, 5—Clear & very warm. Remained in camp in forenoon. Eddy Stickles came here to camp. Went to 91st Regiment in p.m. Saw Mr. [Cyrus W.] Gavin, Charles Pascal, [Gilbert] Jesse.’

Saturday, 6—Clear & very warm, wind southwest. 3rd Corps passes through Richmond on their way to Washington. I am on detail all day. Worked on the bridge 1 in a.m. Unloaded barge in p.m.

1 This is the first entry Merritt makes in his diary of working on “the bridge.” He is referring to Mayo’s Bridge over the James River at Richmond which was destroyed by fire except for the stone piers. The Richmond Whig announced on 4 May 1865 that the bridge was going to be rebuilt. The Engineers worked quickly. By 13 June 1865, the Richmond Whig announced that the bridge would be completed by the end of the week. A week later they announced it was open to foot traffic and that it would soon be ready for vehicles. By the end of June 1865, the bridge was completed and the two pontoon bridges were taken up.

Ruins of Mayo’s Bridge over James River at Richmond, 1865

May, Sunday, 7, 1865—Clear & pleasant. Inspection of quarters in a.m. Went to church in company with Abner Baker. Heard a good [  ] sermon. Wrote a letter for A. Emery.

Monday, 8—Clear, heavy south wind. Worked on bridge. Received two papers from home. Did not do much. Will on guard. Ed still remains in camp.

Tuesday, 9—Cloudy & rained some in course of day. Worked on bridge. Got one stringer across the canal. Received a letter from how. Lost my pocketbook & found it. [Ransome C.] Alford is looking on.

May, Wednesday, 10, 1865—Clear, pleasant, wind south. Worked on bridge. Sherman’s troops crossing river today. Sent box [of] clothes home. Wrote letter home. Ed is getting quite smart. Two men under arrest.

Thursday, 11—Clear & warm, wind south, looks like rain at night. Sherman’s troops passing all day. Worked on bridge. Had whiskey for supper. Whitney is a little unwell.

Friday, 12—Cloudy & cold in morning but pleasant most of the day, had a severe thunderstorm last night. Am on guard today. Wrote a letter for A. Emery. Took a boat ride at night.

May, Saturday, 13, 1865—Clear & very warm. Smith & I went to 118th.  Saw [William] Bidwell & Ed[ward K.] Stickle. It is reported the 24th Corps is to leave next Tuesday. We took a sail in the evening.

Sunday, 14—Clear & pleasant, slight wind from south. Went to Baptist church in forenoon.  Received a letter from home & answered it. Whitney & Will are sick.

Monday, 15—Clear & pleasant. At work unloading timber at the bridge. Took a boat ride at night. Hewitt left camp to work in sawmill. Will is some better, also Whitney. Ed not on detail.

May, Tuesday, 16, 1865—Clear, warm & pleasant, wind southeast. I am not on detail. Half of company is off detail now every day. Received a letter from Miss M. & answered it. Took a boat ride.

Wednesday, 17—Clear, warm & pleasant, wind south. Worked on bridge. Worked quite hard for me. Drew on pair of pants, one pair of shoes, one blouse. Will on sick list. Whitney, too.

Thursday, 18—Very warm, wind southwest & some cloudy. Took a boat ride in forenoon. Went to Richmond in p.m. with [Christopher] Soulia. Had a glass [of] beer. Will & Co___ still in camp. Co. H and M are here to camp.

May, Friday, 19, 1865—Clear & pleasant, wind south, clouded up & rained some at night. Worked on bridge. Boys got back last night from Fredericksburg.

Saturday, 20—Cloudy & showers, wind southeast. Remained in camp all day. Took a boat ride in afternoon. Received a letter from home.

Sunday, 21—Clear & pleasant most of the day. Rained some, just at night. Went to Episcopal church in forenoon. Remained in camp in p.m. & wrote a letter home. Will is sick.

May, Monday, 22. 1865—Clear most of the day & very warm. Remained in camp in a.m. Worked on bridge in p.m. Tom Clary came here today.

Tuesday, 23—Clear, cool & pleasant, wind west. Remained in camp in forenoon. Worked on bridge in p.m. Tom Clary here. Will B. is sick, also Smith, Thomas. Whitney on detail for first time in a week.

Wednesday, 24—Clear, pleasant, slight wind from west. Worked on bridge in forenoon. Remained in camp in afternoon. Tom Clary here, gave me a cutlass. Will is still on sick list. Thomas has news, we expect to leave soon.

May, Thursday, 25, 1865—Clear & pleasant. Worked on bridge. Wrote letter to Saff[ord Taylor]. Received a letter from Julia. I am not very well. Thomas is sick. 4 of Co. E boys fell from bridge, were badly hurt.

Friday, 26—Rained all day, heavy northeast wind. Remained in camp all day. Wrote a letter to Julia Moore. [Smith] Thomas promoted to Sergeant, also [Henry S.] Reed & [James] Douglas.

Saturday, 27—Cloudy & rained most of the day. Detail went out in forenoon. I did not go out. Very lonesome day. Did not receive any mail.

May, Sunday 28, 1865—Clear & pleasant. Inspection in morning. Went to Baptist church in Manchester in company with Whitney & Burdick. Heard good sermon. Webber starts for New York.

Monday, 29—Clear most of the day, quite pleasant. Am on trusses detail. Worked a short time in morning. Remained in camp all day. Ed received a letter from home.  Kirby Smith, same.

Tuesday, 30—Clear, warm & pleasant. Remained in camp in forenoon. Worked on bridge in p.m. Received a letter from home.

May, Wednesday, 31, 1865—Clear & very warm. Remained in camp in forenoon. Wrote a letter home. Worked on bridge in p.m. I helped to put in three braces. Ed & I went in swimming.

June 1865

June, Thursday, 1—Very warm & pleasant, wind west. No details today (fast day). Went to first Baptist Church in morning. Whitney got singing book (Carmen). We had a good sing.

Friday, 2—Warm, clear & pleasant. Worked on bridge. Went to Richmond with Smith. Got a bottle of ink. Received a letter from home.

June, Saturday, 3,  1865—Clear & very warm, slight wind from west. Wrote part of a letter home. Will & I went to a farmhouse & got all the cherries we wanted. Worked on bridge in afternoon.

Sunday, 4—Clear & very warm. Inspection in forenoon. General Hall inspected us. I wrote a letter home in p.m. Received a letter from Miss Mead. Am not very well.

Monday, 5—Clear & very warm in forenoon. Cloudy in p.m. & had quite a hard shower. Ed is ordered to the regiment with some 30 others from Co. L.  I went with them. Received a letter from George [Pierce], all well.

June, Tuesday, 6,  1865—Cloudy & quite cool, wind north. I am on guard. Ed is in the adjutant’s office at work. Colonel Hall says we are going home & no humbug. I stayed in guardhouse at night.

Wednesday, 7—Some cloudy in morning but clear & pleasant most of the day. Went down to Co. L in forenoon. Got a gun. Review of a part of the 24th Corps in p.m. Wrote a letter to M.

Thursday, 8—Clear & very warm. Went to Co. B to stop for a while. Am on detail in p.m. Ed also. I feel quite unwell today. Received a letter from Saff Taylor.

June, Friday, 9, 1865—Clear & pleasant, wind south. Went to doctor in morning a.m. On light duty. Did not do any. Ed & I lay under a shade tree most of the day. Went to camp Co. L in p.m. Received a letter from home.

Saturday, 10—Cloudy, wind west. Went to doctor. Am on light duty. Remained in camp all day. Ed went to Co. L in p.m. I feel much better today.

Sunday, 11—Some cloudy, wind west, very pleasant. Started for camp Co. L early in morning to remain there. Moved in with Whitney. Went to church in a.m. Heard good sermon. Wrote letter home. Walked out with Will.

June, Monday, 12, 1865—Some cloudy, very pleasant. Went to Richmond with Will B. in a.m. Worked on bridge in afternoon. Began to plank the bridge today. Muster roll here.

Tuesday, 13—Clear & warm in a.m., showery in p.m. Am on guard today. Went fishing in a.m. & swimming in p.m. Did not do much on bridge for want of timber. Ed received letter.

Wednesday, 14—Very warm, some cloudy in p.m. Went blackberrying. Did not get many. Wrote letter for Emery. [Joseph Schliter] & [Charles] Berry have been fighting today.

June, Thursday, 15, 1865—Cloudy & lowery part of the day. Will, Ed & myself sent home a box I carried to Richmond. Whitney & I on bridge but work under Captain King. Had a good supper.

Friday, 16—Cloudy, warm & muggy. Whitney, Will & I worked on bridge, finished fixing braces on north side bridge. Whitney & myself went to Richmond in p.m. Had some ripe apples.

Saturday, 17—Clear in a.m., showers in p.m. Remained in camp in a.m. George Farnsworth came to camp. I got pass & went to City Point with him.

June, Sunday, 18, 1865—Clear & pleasant. Started for Manchester 8 a.m. Arrived at Petersburg 9 a.m., at Manchester, 11 a.m. Versal Spalding came with us. Received paper from home, George letter.

Monday, 19—Clear in forenoon, rained in p.m. Am on guard today. Went to Richmond with Will in a.m. Thomas on bridge detail. Ed is working on muster rolls.

Tuesday, 20—Clear in a.m., cloudy in p.m., heavy shower at night. Am off duty today. Went to Richmond to carry box for Ed. George Farnsworth came to camp. Will went to City Point. Received a letter from home.

June, Wednesday, 21. 1865—Cloudy in a.m., very warm in p.m. Remained in camp & wrote a letter home in a.m. Worked on bridge in afternoon. The boys had an Irish wake at night.

Thursday, 22—Clear & very warm, rained some at night. Remained in camp in forenoon. Worked on bridge in p.m. Worked pretty hard. Received a letter from home. All well.

Friday, 23—Clear & very warm. Went to Richmond in forenoon after gun. Did not get any. Worked on bridge in p.m. & I worked very hard. Ed found me a gun.

June, Saturday, 24, 1865—Clear & very hot.  Remained in camp in forenoon. Worked on bridge in p.m. I worked very hard. General Hall says we will be mustered out Wednesday.

Sunday, 25—Some cloudy & very warm. Inspection in forenoon. Officers very particular. George Farnsworth came to camp. Will & I went to Manchester with him.

Monday, 26—Clear & very warm. Went to Richmond in forenoon with Ed. Had a good dinner. Worked on bridge in pm. Teams passed on the bridge today. Major King crossed first.

June, Tuesday, 27, 1865—Clear & pleasant. All the company on detail in a.m. We finished Mayo Bridge in forenoon. Abner Baker & myself went to Richmond. Got some papers & a book.

Wednesday, 28—Clear, warm & pleasant, wind south. Drilled a short time in forenoon with guns. Remained in camp in p.m. Captain [Richard W.] Coe came to Co. L. Expect to be mustered out tomorrow.

Thursday, 29—Clear & warm, wind southwest. Went to headquarters & was mustered out of U.S. service in forenoon. Remained in camp in p.m.  Expect to leave for home Saturday.

June, Friday, 30, 1865—Clear most of the day & very warm, wind southwest. Remained in camp all day. Struck tents in forenoon. Slept in cars overnight. Expect to leave in morning.

July 1865

July, Saturday, 1—Clear & very warm in a.m., heavy showers in p.m. The regiment takes transportation for Baltimore. Started from Richmond ½ past 9 o’clock a.m. On guard today.

Sunday, 2—Cloudy & cool most of the day. Sailed all day. Arrived in Baltimore at 5 pm. Went to soldiers home. Took supper (poor one too).  Took cars at 8 in eve for Philadelphia.  [  ] all night.  

July, Monday, 3. 1865—Clear & pleasant. Arrived in Philadelphia 6 a.m.  Went to Volunteer’s Restaurant & took breakfast (good one too). Took cars for Amboy, 9 o’clock a.m. Arrived in Amboy ½ 3 p.m. Took boat arrived in New York at 5.

Tuesday, 4—Clear & pleasant, wind west. We have the day to ourselves. Whitney & myself took walk in morning. Great fire works in evening. Will & myself went to City Hall. Got back a little past 9.

Wednesday, 5—Clear & pleasant. Remained at the Armory. Expect to [get] paid tomorrow. Went to Billina & took my gun. A good share of boys drunk. Went about the city where I chose.

July, Thursday, 6. 1865—Clear & pleasant. I am still in the city & not much signs of getting paid up. The regiment assembled & marched to Mechanics Hall. Heard speach.

Friday, 7—Clear & quite warm. Ed & I called on Billina in forenoon. Mr. Herrick in p.m. Borrowed 10 dollars of Mr. Herrick. Took supper at the 8th Armory. Will, Ed, I went to Erie [Hotel].

Saturday, 8—Clear & pleasant. I feel first rate today. Had a god night’s rest. Went to 8th Armory in morning. Found out that we should be paid off Tuesday next. Will received a letter from home.

July, Sunday, 9. 1865—Clear & pleasant. We are still at the Erie Hotel.  Went to Episcopal church in morning. Remained at the Erie the rest of the day.

Monday, 10—Clear & pleasant. Went up to 8th Armory in morning. The company got paid. We are still waiting patiently for pay. I feel pretty well tonight.

Tuesday, 11—Rainy in forenoon, pleasant in p.m.  Went to 8th Armory in morning.  General Hall said we were to be paid on Thursday. Went up on Broadway in p.m. Ate supper at the Armory.

July, Wednesday, 12. 1865—Cloudy but rather pleasant. Took breakfast at the Continental Hotel. Rambled about the city in a.m. Visited Barnum’s Museum in p.m. Saw sights. Don’t get paid.

Thursday, 13—Some cloudy, wind southwest. Went to Amory at 10 a.m. to get paid but are put off another day. Barnum’s museum took fire & burned up.

Friday, 14—Clear & pleasant. Reported at 8 a.m. Signed payroll & was paid 2 p.m. Bought suit clothes, 40. Took steamer for Troy at 6 p.m.  Am happy to know that I am free man.

July, Saturday, 15. 1865—Some cloudy but pleasant. Arrived in Troy 8 a.m.  Took breakfast at Troy House. Called on Fred Bullis.  Called on E. Beckwith. Went to Albany. Saw Harvey Dodge.

Sunday, 16—Rainy & unpleasant. Went to church in forenoon in company with Mrs. Beckwith. Remained at Mr. Beckwith’s in p.m. Had a good sing. Enjoyed myself well.

Monday, 17—Rainy & unpleasant in forenoon.  Pleasant in p.m. Took cars for Whitehall 7 a.m. Arrived in Whitehall at 10 o’clock. Took boat & arrived in Plattsburgh at 6 p.m. Got home, just dark.

July, Tuesday, 18. 1865—Clear & pleasant, wind west. Went to Grandpa’s in forenoon. Called on Mrs. Beckwith’s people in p.m. Went to Morrison at night.

Wednesday, 19—Cloudy & looks like rain. Went to west lot in forenoon. Killed a woodchuck. Went to mill in p.m. Rains some at night.

Thursday, 20—Cloudy, wind west, quite pleasant. Went to Falls with some rolls[?]. Aunt Mag went with me. Went fishing up Henry Brook. Caught 25 trout.

July, Friday, 21. 1865—Cloudy & looked like rain in a.m., quite pleasant in p.m. Remained at home in forenoon. Went to Morrisonville in p.m.

Saturday, 22—Clear, warm & pleasant. Went to Grandpa’s in a.m. Settled with Ed & Will for boxes.  Went to Plattsburgh in p.m. Got two teeth filled & check cashed.

Sunday, 23—Clear & pleasant. Went to church in a.m. & p.m. Heard two excellent sermons. Took Sib & Mary Mead home. Had a pleasant time.

July, Monday, 24. 1865—Clear & quite warm, wind southeast. Went to west lot & cut a load of hay. William Weaver came her at night. Let him 150 dollars.

Tuesday, 25—Clear in forenoon, rainy in pm. George & I cut a load of hay & got it in. [unreadable] helped mow.

Wednesday, 26—Cloudy, heavy west wind. Finished mowing up to west lot. Came home at night. Had garden peas for dinner.

July, Thursday, 27. 1865—Cloudy in forenoon, pleasant in p.m. George & I finished haying to west lot. Worked until 9 o’clock. Mr. Mead, Mary, & [Charlotte] Lot Dodge called at George’s.

Friday, 28—Clear & very warm. Dred [?] a load of oats & corn to Mr. Howe. There was 1797 lbs oats, 498 lbs corn. Price corn 1.00 70 pounds, oats, 55 cts. 92 lbs.

Saturday, 29—Cloudy, wind west. Went to upper wood lot. Made bargain to sell a part of it. Went to Morrisonville in evening to sing. Did not sing much.

July, Sunday, 30. 1865—Clear & very pleasant. Went to church in forenoon & afternoon. Heard a very good sermon from Elder Brown. His subject was the society in heave. Had very good singing.

Monday, 31—Clear & pleasant, wind south. Went to west lot in forenoon. Drew some rails for fence. Remained at home in pm. Baker is cutting hay for us. Frank went to [George’s?].

August 1865

August, Tuesday, 1—Clear, warm & a fine hay day. Finished cutting grass.[   ] I helped Beach. Sold Mrs. O’Brien 25 acres of wood lot. She let us have a cow & a two-year-old heifer towards it.

August, Wednesday, 2. 1865—Clear & warm. Worked for Beach in forenoon. Finished haying. George & I went to Plattsburgh in p.m. Will B. & I went to Mr. [Silas]Taylor’s. Saw Safford.

Thursday, 3—Clear & very warm. Got some stone for George’s cistern & put them in. George is quite sick today. Will & I went to Morrisonville at night.

Friday, 4—Some cloudy but very warm. Went to [   ] got some plank for George’s [ ] shed floor in a.m. Helped him to lay it in p.m. & cut the grass in lane & got it in barn.

August, Saturday, 5. 1865—Clear & pleasant. Went to see Eddy in forenoon. Went to covenant meeting in p.m. Will Beckwith & myself went to Smith Mead’s in eve.

Sunday, 6—Clear in forenoon, cloudy & looks like rain in p.m. Went to church. Attended a concert at the Methodist house. Took Sib & Mary M. home.

Monday, 7—Cloudy with heavy west wind. Took grist to mill. Wet to west lot. Helped George fix cistern. Alfred Parrott came here.

August, Tuesday, 8. 1865—Clear, heavy west wind. Worked to lot cutting rye. Did not do much.

Wednesday, 9—Clear, warm & pleasant. Worked for James Henry. Drew three loads of wheat from Plattsburgh. Received a letter from Whitney.  Miss Fuller & Jule to George’s.

Thursday, 10. —Clear & pleasant, wind south. Took Miss Fuller & Jule home. Went to mill in p.m. to get two pigs of Mr. Henry. It looks like rain.

1864: Levi Hayden to Friend “Bland”

A post war picture of Levi Hayden

This incredible letter was written by Levi Hayden (1813-1888) of Roslindale, Massachusetts who at age 9 was left an orphan and raised himself up as a house and ship joiner. After spending some time building houses in the early 1830s in the fledging village of Chicago, he went to see as a ship’s carpenter and sailed the Pacific Ocean. He returned to the east coast in the late 1840s after years of long sea voyages and set himself up in maritime businesses until just before the Civil War when he organized the New York Submarine Engineering Company—a company often hired to clear obstructions, usually wrecks, from navigable waters.

As one can imagine, the skills of Hayden’s firm were in great demand during the Civil War, and he and Professor B. Maillefort—his partner—were frequently hired to accompany Union expeditions. Their first experience was with General Burnside on the Expedition to North Carolina and the capture of Roanoke Island and also Newbern where they demolished the channel barricades in the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers.

When this letter was written in October 1864, Hayden and Maillefort had been equipping tugboats and ironclads with boom torpedoes, and also placing torpedoes and sunken vessels in the channel of the James river opposite Farrer’s Island.

Aside from contributions made by Hayden in supporting the U. S. Navy during the Civil War, the letter is particularly significant in that it confirms the use of Rebel prisoners, at least for a time, in the construction of the Dutch Gap Canal by order of General Butler. When Rebel authorities complained that Butler was misusing prisoners of war, he sent word to them that they too had misused Black soldiers taken prisoners when they put them to work building Rebel fortifications.

I had seen this image of the Dutch Gap Canal previously but did not realize that the gentleman standing at right was Professor B. Mallifort, Hayden’s partner. The firm must have been hired to blow up the bulkheads.


U. S. S. Delaware
James River, Virginia
October 16, 1864

My Dear Bland,

I wrote you on the 11th from this place and I have heard nothing from home or the professor [Maillefert] since I parted with him at Norfolk on the 6th. I am all right so far. Our river improving project is being examined at Washington and no action since I wrote you. The canal, by the way, in now going on rapidly and Capt. Smith told me yesterday that he had the best possible guarantee that it would be completed and ready to pass by the first of November. The work is generally accelerated by one of General Butler’s plans of using a few of the F. F. V.’s [First Family’s of Virginia] to forward this state improvement so we have now 100 Johnny Rebs digging for dear life in the Sacred Soil. Day before yesterday as I came in from the front 18th Corps Headquarters, I came upon those fellows just caught and well guarded by our Ebony Boys. The officers in charge halted them just long enough to tell them the direct way to Dutch Gap.

As I write this, the professor [Maillefort] comes alongside and of course disturbs my writing. He is all right. Had to lose a day at Baltimore by failing to connect with the steamer to the Fortress. He complains that his visit is too short but poor fellow, it can’t be remedied. The money matters in settlement, he says, are all right. I will examine the papers at leisure.

Well, [back to] the Dutch Gap & reb story. The captives of whom I spoke were marched directly into the Gap and put to work and I understand that word was sent to the Rebel commander that as they had failed to accord to our Colored soldiers the usages of Prisoners of war, and [instead] set them at work on their fortifications, he (Butler) claimed the privilege of getting a little service out of their captives in our hands.

Yesterday I visited the Gap under a very disagreeable smashing of Rebel shells and found these fellows fully as efficient as our Black Boys with the spade & pick. They make a ludicrous appearance among our Union Darks—Dig, Dig, Dig—and bang goes the shell overhead and under foot. While there, one poor Darkey got his left leg smashed off with a fragment of shell. Pity it had not hit a F. F. V. Well let me tell you that these fellows are awful mad to be shot at by their friends, being aware that General Butler had notified the Confeds of their situation. They swear a big oath that with this rude treatment, they have determined to be Reb no more. They are camped right in range of the Rebel guns & mortars so they eat, drink, sleep & work under fire. One pleasant gent told me they like our beef & coffee and yet get whiskey rations besides just the same as our Lordly Negroes. The Nigs enjoy it hugely.

Butler has one more interesting coon under his hand of discipline. I say coon for one of our sentries found a well-dressed intelligent Reb in a tree a few nights since near the Gap, evidently having crossed the river and getting information as to our progress and observing the range of the Rebel shells. Well, his story was not good. Said he had just come from New York to get the dead body of a friend. Old Ben could not swallow this [and] thought it strange he should be found in a tree at 2 o’clock a.m. after a dead man, so he too has a central place in this famous Gap with chain and ball on his legs. Well he don’t like it any better than his brethren.

Our military men are daily gaining evidence of the fitness and efficiency of the Black men for soldiers. One veteran officer, Col. Cole of the 2nd U. S. Cavalry, told me that he had seen much service and engaged all through this war. His regiment—all Black; these men, he says, are docile as lambs in camp but fight like fiends when engaged. Many the Reb officer and private, he says, after laying down their arms, have barely been rescued by the interference of White officers sharing the trench mercies of Fort Pillow.

I expect to return in a day or so to Norfolk to look after the work there until further orders. Capt. Smith, commanding the fleet, told me yesterday that Admiral Porter, having charge of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron, now had sent to the Navy Department that he wished to have one of us permanently with the Navy up the river so I think in a few days we shall be in line—one perhaps Navy and the other Army. I shall try and see General Butler before returning down the river.

I think a final dash will come off about the first of November. The Gap is then to be done and a powerful force will be placed before Wilmington, naval ad military.

I close this 3 o’clock this p.m. Sunday. Have been to church this a.m. on board the flag ship Onondaga. My regards to friend Miller & Iverson.

Yours truly, — Levi Hayden

The Military and Naval friends of Little Mac are several. Send us a detective to search out.

Will you please send me a few cloth bank checks in a letter. I think I have a book of them in my desk. L. H.