Editor’s Note: Henry Fitzgerald Charles of the 21st Pennsylvania Cavalry (dismounted) wrote a short memoir based on his diary from the Siege of Petersburg in 1864/65. A transcription of this memoir was placed online in 2001 as a part of the web site The Civil War Diary of Henry Fitzgerald Charles, by the web site’s owner and Henry F. Charles descendant John Neitz. Mr. Neitz made the appearance of this memoir at The Siege of Petersburg Online possible, and I thank him greatly for his cooperation. The transcription on this page is copyrighted by John Neitz as a part of his web site and may not be reproduced without his express written consent. All rights reserved.
The End of the War1
(BTC Editor’s Note: The following text describes the fighting at Petersburg through to the end of the war in the east in very little detail.)
After we got back to camp, we got on the same old routine again for some time. After a while, we started down to Dinwiddie Courthouse. We did a little scouting and fighting there. Then we came back to fight the twenty-third battle of Hatcher Run. We had been real busy for several days and had been riding all night; you might say we were dead o our horses. It had rained the day before and got real cold that night. When we got to the infantry it was just the break of day. It was then I seen that we were not the only ones subjected to the miscomforts of the war. There they laid in the mud and their blankets covered with snow. One longhaired old fellow had his knapsack for his pillow and his hair hung down over the side into the mud and froze while he slept, so they had to chop him loose before he could get up.
We scouted all day and that night they put us out as pickets and I was the last man posted and I was so far from the rest that I was not relieved all night. The Rebs were just across the creek and I knew it was death to fall asleep. Before the night was over I was so tired I pinched myself so hard that I had pain. I fell over once, but I knew if I stayed down I was a done for good. That was the hardest night of my life. That was the second night I stood guard without being relieved, but I was not so played out when I was relieved. The first time I laid down on some rails at a fire and slept so sound that my boots were burned so hard that they broke off my feet in pieces and my foot and leg was scorched. I made it into camp in my stocking feet. There was a fellow gave me a pair of number 9 boots. These I had to tie on so I would not lose them when I walked. Several weeks after that I got boots again that I could wear. I was treated kindly by the officers as they excused me from duty for six weeks.
By [that] time the spring campaign was started and I was sent to City point with some condemned horses. Stayed till after the surrender. Then went to Lynchburg, Virginia till I was discharged, which was the eighth day of July. But they kept us several weeks longer and then sent us to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where I stayed several days before going home.
Bethesda Church, Virginia June 2-9..1864
Front of Petersburg, Virginia June 18-20..1864
Jerusalem Plank Road June 22..1864
Petersburg (explosion of Mine) July 30….1864
Weldon Rail Road, Virginia August 18-21..1864
Poplar Grove Church, Virginia September 30..1864
Boydton Plank Road October 21..1864
Hatcher Run October 28..1864
Stony Creek, Virginia December 1.1864
Raid on Bellefield (Gen. Warren) December 3-11..1864
I was in many minor skirmishes and raids without names. I was not in the evacuation of Petersburg, Salor Creek, or Five Forts, being that I was on detached service. I have credit for same which was the rule when a man was on duty elsewhere and was supposed to be present.
This was wrote February 1920 from memory except dates from my daily diary and some incidents from a book I kept.
The reader must bear with me where sentences are not complete and words are misspelled.
Private Henry F. Charles
Son of Israel F. Charles
Grandson of Thomas FitzCharles and Frederick Miller.