NP: January 20, 1865 The Bedford Inquirer: 138th PA at Ft. Dushane, January 6, 1865

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in January 1865

Army Correspondence.

CAMP 138TH P[ennsylvania].V[olunteers].,
FORT DUSHANE, VA., Jan. 6th, 1865.

Editor INQUIRER:

FortDushanew1200

The 138th Pennsylvania was doing garrison duty at Fort Dushane in January 1865.

The transfer of the Sixth Army Corps from the Shenandoah Valley to the Army of the Potomac is no doubt well-known to most of your readers, [the particulars] are this. The Rebel General [Jubal] Early [commanding the Confederate Army of the Valley] having sent the greater part of his force from our front, and the bad condition of the roads which rendered the movement of either army impossible, made it unnecessary to keep so large a force with Sheridan.1

Accordingly under orders from Gen. Grant we were sent here, and now occupy a position near the extreme left of the line on the Weldon R[ail]. R[oad]. Our [138th Pennsylvania] Regiment is for the present detached from the main line, occupying the front works, and are now doing garrison duty at Fort Dushane, a very strong earthwork surrounded by a wide and deep ditch, and abatis, which it would be almost madness for an enemy to attempt to get over.

It has embrasures for the mounting of eight guns but at present only one battery of four field pieces are in it. It is also provided with a bombproof and magazines in which is stored enough ammunition to stand a regular siege. This is only the continuation of a number of strong forts and earthworks which protect the flank and rear, and prevent the possibility of a flank movement by the enemy.2

Brig. Gen. Truman Seymour of Florida renown, is in command of our Division (3d Div. 6th A.C), having been assigned to it in October [1864] when Gen. Ricketts was wounded. He is making himself generally obnoxious, and from the great number of uncalled-for orders which he issues, the boys have given him the title of “General Orders.”3

Col. B[enjamin]. F. Smith, 126th O[hio]. V[olunteer]. I[nfantry]., commands the Brigade [2/3/VI/AotP] and is cheerfully obeyed and respected by all.

Our gallant little Col. [Matthew R.] McClennan is again with us, commanding the Regiment; he having been absent sick for over a month. He is one of those men who always command the respect and admiration of his men, and will “when this cruel war is over,” receive all the honor due a brave and efficient officer, and a good soldier for the common cause of liberty and right.

Major Lewis A. May, Captain Simon Dickerhoof and Lieutenant Martin S. Bortz are all home on leave of absence and we hope will enjoy the hospitality of home and friends which they are truly worthy of.

We have no news except the failure of the Wilmington expedition, which is very much regretted; and the affair is considered a serious blunder somewhere.4

“All quiet along the lines, except the regular picket firing,” is the daily announcement here.

Truly Yours,

[1st Sergeant] C[HRIST.]. P. CALHOUN.5,6

SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Roy Gustrowsky.

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Source/Notes:

  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Second Corps, Army of Northern Virginia, which made up the bulk of the Valley Army, had been sent to Petersburg in December 1864. The Union responded by moving first the Union Sixth Corps and the 1st Division, Army of West Virginia to the vicinity of Petersburg and Richmond.  The latter became the “Independent Division” of the 24th Corps, Army of the James.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Map: Fort Dushane was just west of the Weldon Railroad and south of Globe Tavern near the White house.  It was the far southwest fort in the Union “parallelogram” of lines south of Petersburg.  See this map and look in the bottom left corner to locate Fort Dushane.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: Seymour was the Union commander at the February 20, 1864 Battle of Olustee in Florida.  He was defeated there, hence the sarcastic comment “of Florida renown.”
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: Letter writer Calhoun is referring to the First Battle of Fort Fisher, which occurred just before Christmas 1864.  Benjamin Butler, the commander of the Army of the James, had taken a significant joint Army-Navy expedition to Wilmington, NC to attempt to capture Fort Fisher.  After a decidedly unaggressive attempt, he was recalled to Fort Monroe.  Grant pounced on this failure to have Butler removed as commander of the Army of the James shortly after the new year and replaced him with Edward Ord.
  5. A quick glance at the roster of the 138th Pennsylvania taken from Bates’ classic reference work led me to Christ. P. Calhoun of Company F.  He would be promoted to 1st Lieutenant just a few weeks after writing this letter.
  6. “Army Correspondence.” The Bedford Inquirer (Bedford, PA), January 20, 1865, p.3, c.2.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lisa Fulton January 25, 2021 at 3:58 pm

Though only touched on in this Bedford Inquirer article, the mention of the “failure of the Wilmington expedition” by Benjamin Butler, caught my attention. Capt. Henry Jeffers, with the 7th SCC near Richmond, wrote a letter to his father in early January 1865, mentioning this battle. Henry struck a tone which was new in his letters. He had always been positive and hopeful, celebrating any good war news and brushing off the bad; but at this point depression finally creeps in. Even the “good” news of Butler’s failure did not cheer Henry:

“So far as I can learn there seems to be a total clog on the energies of the authorities, seemingly an entire inability to move hand or foot to resist the ruthless invader, who, flushed with victory, is about to commence a tour through our State [South Carolina]. I am fearful the helm has slipd from the hand of the man at the wheel, and is revolving so rapidly he cannot again master it. . . . Butlers vessels are again in the “James,” having returned from Wilmington, where he made such a failure. Grant may make some demonstrations, to keep us from sending troops South.”

On the eve of Sherman’s march through SC, Henry Jeffers was wild to return to his home state. His cousin Kate Nichols had been raped by two of Sherman’s troops in Georgia a few months earlier, and he feared for his sisters.

Brett Schulte January 25, 2021 at 9:09 pm

Lisa,

As always, thanks for adding the opposing side’s view of events. I like the juxtaposition.

Brett

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