Luther Rice Mills to John Mills
Trenches Near Crater
December 5th, 1864.
Yours of the 28th was received last night. I was really glad to get a letter once more. It has been three weeks since I left home and I have received only two letters. I am very glad to hear that you made so much corn. I expect that you made more than Brother Robert did.
We are doing very well just at the present. The weather has been remarkably fine for the last ten days. We have been expecting an attack or some movement from Grant. Everything however has been quiet since I have been down here. Hancock’s big Dutchmen are not in our front. It is thought that Warren’s Corps relieved Hancock’s. Fewer deserters come in now than usual. We are still to the left of the Crater. I am still within fifty yards of where I was wounded. I said above that all was quiet. I meant that all was as quiet as usual. Picket firing and shelling rarely ceases here. Three shells passed over whilst I was writing the preceding sentence of seven words. The Halifax conscripts have been faring rather badly. Mat Watkins (son of Alex) was killed and Mat Pate wounded a few days ago. Anthony Barksdale deserted a few days ago and was taken near Burksville and brought back under guard. I fear it will go very hard with him. Priv. Henry Clay Chism of our Co. was killed the 30th of Nov. by a fragment of a rifle shell. Brig. Gen. Gracie of Johnson’s Division was killed several days ago. He was an Alabamian and the most promising Brigadier in our Division. Our Division occupies from the Appomattox to the Weldon Railroad. I think we have all the sharpshooting and mortar shelling along the whole line. The Yankees seem to hate the old Crater as much as they do old Fort Sumter. The spirit of the men is improving slowly. They have been whipped more by the actions of many of our leading men than by the enemy. I think it is the desire of the army at large to fight it out to the bitter end if we can remain united as we have been, if not let us give it up at once. If Beauregard has half a chance Sherman will certainly be captured. It is almost certain that Maj. Gen. Hampton with a good portion of his Division has gone to Georgia. I fear Gen. Lee has sent to much of his Cavalry away. Grant’s late reconnoisance near Stoney Creek revealed the fact to him that Lee was bare of Cavalry and I look for some large raid or movement in our rear similar to Sherman’s in rear of Hood.1 I fear that rear movement more than any other, as many of our Artillery horses are in N. C. and it would be impossible to move our Artillery. I would be very uneasy about our situation if Gen Lee was not in Command. Gen. Wise is making an effort to get back to his Brigade. I hope he will succeed and get us out of Johnson’s Division. The Yankees shoot more strange projectiles over here. They shoot some rifle shells which sound almost exactly like and old Turkey gobbler flying over. The boys call it “the old Gobbler.” It never goes straight but wabbles about in all directions. One lit near my tent the other day and two or three of the boys went out to get it but it had “hopped up and gone again before they got there.” A great many of the men employ themselves in excavating Grant’s shells. They get four cents a pound for them. The whole field in rear is covered with men with spades &c. after a shelling. It is said that men can be heard saying when they see a shell coming “that is my shell if she don’t bust.” I have not seen Baldy yet. I will send in application for leave of absence for twenty four hours tomorrow, and go to see him. I am doing well & needing nothing.
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Mills was downright prescient with this letter. Just two days later, Warren’s Fifth Corps and Gregg’s cavalry set out on the Stony Creek Raid, looking to wreck the Weldon Railroad as far south as Hicksford. ↩
- Mills, Luther R., and George D. Harmon (ed). “Letters of Luther Rice Mills—A Confederate Soldier.” The North Carolina Historical Review (4.3). (July 1927): 304-5). Print. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Luther Rice Mills apparently belonged to the sharpshooter battalion of Wise’s Brigade until he was wounded at the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864. When he returned in November 1864, he took over as the acting captain of his company, Company K, in the 26th Virginia, Wise’s Brigade. The previous captain, Captain Poindexter, had been killed at the Crater. These letters of Mills to his brother John written during the Siege of Petersburg were originally published in The North Carolina Historical Review, Volume 4, Number 3 (July 1927), pages 301-310. ↩
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