Editor’s Note: This item is part of a collection of letters from New York engineers written while their units were at the Siege of Petersburg. Researcher and Engineer enthusiast Dan O’Connell generously donated all of the items in this collection for use at The Siege of Petersburg Online. These transcriptions are copyrighted by Brett Schulte and may not be used without my express written consent. I do not have images of these letters so some errors could be from transcription or in the original.
The 50th Engineers
HEADQUARTERS 2D DETACHMENT
50th N. Y. S. V. ENGINEERS,
NEAR PETERSBURG, June 25th, 1864
MR. EDITOR: I should have informed the readers of the [Rochester] Union regarding the movements of our regiment during the present campaign, but as I am fully aware that there are few who would be interested owing to the branch of the service we occupy, I shall not attempt to enter into any details whatever. I informed your readers in my last letter that our regiment was to be divided into detachments to be attached to the several army corps’ of the Army of the Potomac. Each of the detachments is composed of three companies under the command of a Major, excepting the detachment which is commanded by Lieut. Col. Ira Spaulding, which has but two companies. The first detachment is attached to the 2d army corps under the command of Major Wesley Brainerd. The second with the 6th army corps, commanded by Major E[dmund]. O. Beers. The third with the 5th army corps, commanded by Major George [W.] Ford. The companies which are commanded by Lieut. Colonel Spaulding are detached at headquarters of the Army of the Potomac. Col. W[illiam]. H. Pettes is at the headquarters of the regiment at Washington. Co. A are also at headquarters employed in the repair shops. The headquarter detachment are provided with thirty canvas pontoon boats and are known as the “Flying Pontoon Detachment.” Each of the other detachments are provided with trains consisting of twenty pontoon boats, entrenching tools, &c.
The regiment has been chiefly occupied in erecting field fortifications. During the battle of Cold Harbor our detachment erected several batteries, one being within 100 yards of the rebel works, also several hundred yards of the advance line of rifle pits, taking the advantage of the night to execute our work.
Our regiment have laid all the pontoon bridges during the campaign except the one recently laid across the James River near Point Powhattan. Here we were assisted by a detachment of the 15th N. Y. V., our regiment at the same time having a bridge laid across the Chickahominy at Cole’s Ferry, being 1,800 feet in length.
The James River Bridge was the longest military bridge ever laid. It consisted of one hundred and one pontoon boats and was 2,010 feet in length.
Our regiment has been very fortunate. We have had none killed, but a few wounded; none, however, reside in the vicinity of Rochester.
Lieut. R[ichard]. H. S[chooley].1
Potential “Lieut. RHS” Candidates:
SCHOOLEY, RICHARD H.—Age, 21 years. Enrolled, January 23, 1864, at Elmira; mustered in as first lieutenant, Co. L, to date February 18, 1864, to serve three years; resigned, September 9, 1864; commissioned first lieutenant, February 9, 1864, with rank from January 23, 1864, original.
- Schooley, Richard H. “The 50th Engineers.” Letter to “Mr. Editor.” 25 Jun. 1864. MS. Near Petersburg, Va. This letter, which looks like it was copied out of a newspaper, appears here courtesy of Dan O’Connell, who has a large collection of letters from Union Engineers during the Civil War. ↩
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