Editor’s Note: I would like to thank Chris Peck, the great grandson of Elias Peck, for granting me written permission to publish his ancestor’s letter. This letter is owned by Chris Peck and may not be reproduced without his written permission. All rights reserved. Chris is also the transcriber of this article. I added some comments and notes in brackets, but the rest of the transcription is due to Chris’ efforts. Elias Peck was a member of the 10th Connecticut, a regiment in the Tenth Corps, Army of the James which fought primarily on Bermuda Hundred and north of the James River during the Siege of Petersburg.
10 miles from Richmond
May 7th 1864
We had to pack up and get ready to leav 3 oclock in the morning May 4th.1 A man in Co H got accidently shot with a pistol while packing up. We did not get on board of the boat untill night and we lay there untill next morning our boat which had only 3 companis of our regt on & a provo guard from five or other reg’ts on did not start untill almost the last one. We got to Fortress Monroe about 10 oclock and went up the James River. We passed the famous 3 turret iron clad Roanoke at Newport News. We passed several monitors on their way up the river and also the rebel ram Fingal that was captured at Savanah Ga. Our boat was a fast one and we passed as many as 50 vessels of all kinds going up the river loaded with troops & artillery. The James River is a very pretty river about as wide as the Hudson. There are large houses and plantations along its banks which are very high and almost strait up and down in some places. Our gun boats took City Point in the morning and we arrived there about sundown. City Point is where our boats used to come up and exchang prisoners it is at the mouth of that river that runs up to Petersburg.2 Look on the map. We landed about 3 oclock in the morning May 6th just across that river on the other point.3 The advance had marched on we stayed there untill 9 oclock
and then marched. The ground was covered with woolen blankets, boots, shoes and all other kinds of cloths that the men had throw away. The road for miles was completly covered with blankets. The whole 18th army corps was ahead of us under Gen [William F. “Baldy”] Smith. We are under General [Quincy] Gilmore. General [Benjamin F.] Butler is in command of the whole force. Look on the map and you will see that Petersburg is only a little ways from Richmond.4 We encamped in the woods our line stretching from one river to the other the gun boats protecting each flank We threw up brest all last night, along the whole line. The rebels sent troops over to West Point on the York river they expected us to land there, as we sent a brigade up there as a blind: May 8th While I was writeing yesterday we had orders to get ready to march in light marching order which we did. The day was very hot. We marched about two miles when we heard infantry fireing. We was drawn up in line in woods with thick under brush. We was to work all night before so our reg’t was on the reserve a little back of the advance They kept us marching back and forth through the bushes to support the advanc. Our men where falling over evry few moments sun struck and had to be carried off to the rear. It was very hard work to get water and our men was almost
choked. We have not had anything to eat sinc we left Gloucester but hard bread and a little bacon but our reg’t was in good spirits and was bound to go where ever we wher ordered. I did not see a man in it that appeared excited through the whole day and when the orders was given forweard they would move off quick. The country around hear is very hilly such hills as Alva Meads on north Greenwich. The rebels had their brest works in a deep hollow along the railroad between Petersburg and Richmond. The main wagon road between the two places runs along side of it. The telegraph wires runs along that road too. The rebels did not fire much untill our advance got down into the thick woods just in front of their brestwork and then they did pour it in in good earnest. There was awful fire kept up on both sides for as much as 2 hours. We could hear the men cheering evry few minutes. Our men drove the rebels back out of their works and they fell back into others. the rebels had evry advantage. They had men up on the hill that could fire over their mens heads under the hill so kept a double line of fire on our men. There was but very little artillery fireing done on either side. We had several batteries but I dont know why they did not come up and fire more. Our brigade kept moveing back and forth so as to support the troops if the rebels got the best of them. Once in a while some stray bullets and shell would
but none of our reg’t was hit. Our brigade was at one time on the main road & within a few rods of the rail road it company was sent over and tore up the railroad and some of our reg’t cut down the telegraph poles and cut the wires. Then our reg’t was sent in an open field on the hill just opposite the hill the rebels was on. We could see them very plane as they went up and down & they could see us. They brought down a piece of artillery to shell us and they was just unlimbering to fire when one of our batteries sent a shot over which struck righ under their feet. It was a splended shot they weeled around and left as fast as they could go. The fireing began to stop then & our brigade was ordered back to where our knapsacks wher.5 Some of our troops was left there to hold the railroad & wagon road. We must have lost a good many men but how many I cant tell. I saw a good many wounded men carried off but I never heard a groan form one of them they bore it like heros. I hear that the 8th [C]onn[ecticut] charged twice on the rebel batteries and lost a good many men. The newspapers will give you an account of the battle. I cant tell much what other brigades dose 100th NY 11th Maine 24th Mass reg’t are in our brigade under the command of the colonel of the 11th Maine We got back to our knapsacks about sundown and encamped for the night. For my part I stood it first rate. I was able to keep with the reg’t all the time and I think I could have stood it as long as any of them. I feel all right this morning too. It is agoing to be another hot day. I dont know yet what will be the name of that battle. all I know is it was a very hard one. I expect we will do something today. The chaplain passed by hear. He is worth a 100 of the first chaplain. Direct your letters to Fortress Monroe and they will send them to us Write right away when you get this and tell me that you got it & give the date. I have wrote this in a hurry I am well A lot of NYork news papers came yesterday dated May 4th which say our pay is saved to 16 dollars a month.
From Elias S Peck6
Images of Letter Pages
- SOPO Editor’s Note: After having spent the fall and winter in Florida, the 10th Connecticut and other members of the 10th Corps were moved to Gloucester Point, Virginia in late April 1864. In early May 1864, they proceeded up the James River in Benjamin Butler’s newly constituted Army of the James, their destination being Bermuda Hundred. The goal was to try to take Richmond from the south while Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was grappling with Grant in the Wilderness. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: City Point, as many students of the Siege of Petersburg know, would eventually become Grant’s nerve center for the Union forces besieging Richmond and Petersburg. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Peck and his 10th Connecticut landed at Bermuda Hundred. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The two cities, which would play such a large role in the upcoming Siege of Petersburg and Richmond, were a little over 20 miles apart. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Peck is discussing the second day of the Battle of Port Walthall Junction, fought on May 7, 1864. ↩
- Peck, Elias S. “10 miles from Richmond.” Letter to “Sister” 7 May 1864. MS. 10 miles from Richmond. ↩
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