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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

150 Years Ago (1864 6/25)


On the left flank of the army of the Potomac.

June 25, 1864.

Dear wife,

My last letter was dated near the railroad; while I was writing there were some skirmishers thrown out on the road, and the pioneers were tearing up the rails. Among them were companies F, L, K, and one other of the 11th Vt. and the 4th Vt. 4 Companies of the 11th and a part of the 4th were taken prisoners. There are a few left from each company. I saw what is left of Company F, Willard Morse, Elbridge Varnum, Charlie Brooks have gone to Richmond. I found but two left that I knew, David Morse and Henry Dawson. Saw Charles Dolloff. He was drawing rations at the time; they were taken pretty slick. We were but a little ways from them. Them that got away talk about firing several vollies, but they did not make much noise. I do not believe they fired a shot. I heard a few scattering shots, but no more than I had been hearing all the time. Our regiment threw up a breast work, but no rebels came in sight. Was in hopes they would make their appearance, but they probably knew that we were ready for them. The line where we were bent to the front so far that, as they were on our flank and the minies came in on our left pretty freely, but we had traversies that protected the men. Albe Warren is on the left of the Regiment. He says that if it had not been for the traversies some must have been hit, but where I was, the ground was lower, and we only heard the balls sing. The rebels had a whole corps there, A. P. Hills, somebody must be to blame for the gobble, for there were plenty of men that saw the rebels come down, and as our forces there were only skirmishers, and had a perfect right to run, why they did not do it I know not, neither does anyone else. If they ran the rebels would have come against us and they would have heard a noise.

I have not seen Zopher. The 10th regt. Was the 2d one on our right on the line. I went up there, saw Harry Cheny, Foster, and Nat Piper. Zopher and John Griffin were out on picket. After dark we left and came over on the very left flank of the army. It is a little south of east of Petersburgh and I should think some five miles from there (I judge by the firing). We know nothing of what is going on there. There is almost constant firing there, sometimes very heavy. Yesterday morning heard that the pickets of the 16th had been captured. Found the Regiment saw Nat Piper. He said that they were all right. The pickets were relieved last night, but it happens that I am on myself, so I cannot see Zopher. Am very pleasantly situated, under a fine shrubytree and could write very well, if it was not for keeping on my equipments.

The water we find here is very good and the rations are good. Drew sugar, coffee, beans, hard bread, dried apples, potatoes, pickled cabbage, which is very good, salt pork and once a day fresh beef. My health is very good. Have slept but a part of one night since I came into the regiment. Have been marching most of the time nights and am now on picket, and shall probably remain 24 or 36 hours, if so good. There is and probably shall remain, no man in the regiment, old or new, that can march longer or easier than I, and I probably carry as heavy a load as anyone. Let me tell you a little about how we do. Night before last came on the the left flank of the army. Got there a little after 12 midnight, laid down on the ground with my tent under me and rubber blanket over me. Got up in the morning. Had a chance to wash, the first I have had since I came into the Regiment. After I had washed up, skirmished for lice. Went to work building greast works, got them done. The Regiment was ordered to relieve the 3rd on picket, started off in the dark, found the lines about 10 o'clock, too late to relieve, so we stacked our arms, laid down in the rear of the stacks without taking anything from our knapsacks but the rubbers. Some put them under them, some over them. I put mine over to keep off the dew, and slept good. The bed was dry and hard enough to make me sleep good. A little after day light, started to relieve the pickets. It happened that I am on the reserve picket, so I have not much to do today, unless the rebels try to gobble us up. There is a cavalry picket beyond us on the left flank, so I guess we shall be all right. The loss of the 4th Regiment was 125 or 130 men, day before yesterday and the 11th, 300 or 350 men. That makes a pretty good hole into the Brigade. I hear that our army have taken a lot of prisoners on the right, but you will probably hear of that before I do. This is a large army, and it is a long way from the right to the left flank, and the news will travel from Headquarters to Charleston quicker than from one flank to the other, unless there is a change of troops. You may ask how I like this kind of life. There is no life I like where you are not.

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 #

This is the incident he's referring to

"One of the worst tragedies to befall Vermont troops during the Civil War began to unfold on the morning of June 23, 1864. With Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army largely confined to fortifications that stretched from Richmond twenty-three miles south to Petersburg, the Union army continued its efforts to encircle the rebels and cut off vital supply lines, especially railroads. On June 23, Vermont troops were detailed to reconnoiter the Weldon Railroad, which ran north to south. This advance was part of a tentative and ill-managed effort by Sixth Corps commander Horatio G. Wright to fulfill the orders of General George G. Meade for a general advance. The result was the capture of 412 Vermonters."

- Vermont Humanities - Civil War Book of Days

http://civilwarbookofdays.org/

 
 #

One of the things that

One of the things that strikes me about all of this was how social everything seems… lots of messages to and from people, running into old friends and acquaintances, and knowing what's going on with a fair degree of precision.

"I saw Harry, didn't see Zopher…" etc. Kinda like summer camp, with explosives going off and people trying to kill you.

His spirits seem pretty high, too, considering what he's going through. Maybe he is just able to put on a good face for those at home… : )

 

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