Editor’s Note: George Gove of the 5th New Hampshire wrote a series of letters from the Siege of Petersburg in 1864 to his sister. These letters were placed online in 2012 as: “Parsons Family Papers, Milne Special collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire, N.H.” Gove’s descendant Doug Parsons worked diligently to make these letters available for The Siege of Petersburg Online and we thank him greatly for his effort. The transcriptions of the letters collected on this page are copyrighted by the Milne Special collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire and may not be reproduced without the express written consent of the University of New Hampshire. All rights reserved.
August 2, 18641
Camp Near Petersburg, VA
I recd a letter, three papers & Harpers for Aug last Saturday all from you and Doctor. I can’t express to you the pleasure they give me. I can only thank you & be deserving of such kind remembrance.
We have been having some hard [—?] this past week. A week ago to day we packed up for a march. Started at 4½ PM. Marched down nearly to City Point Union to Point of Rack when we crossed the Appomattox on a pontoon bridge. Then to the James River at Jones Neck which we also crossed on pontoons. We got through at 3 o’clock this morning. The night was very warm & sultry. This march was one of our hardest.
A small force under Gen Foster had been on this side of the James for some time. The day before the rebs came down [–?] [—-?] with a large force & drove him back nearly into the river. they were intending to finish the work the day we got there.
We formed line [—?] after day light. Our regt, the 183 Pa & 28 Mass were sent forward in action. My Co & one other of the 5th & part of the 28 Mass were deployed as skirmishers. We had to advance ¼ mile across a field. the rebs were [—-?] in
the edge of woods just back of a ridge, had breastworks & a battery of 6 pieces. they opened on us with the battery but did no damage beyond making a noise. We advanced our skirmishers close up to the top of the ridge & commenced firing. this developed the fact that they had a heavy line of battle then but that its left was exposed.. So we skirmishers made big demonstrations in front as tho we were going to charge directly on them & drew all their fire on us. while the line on our right swung around their left & took them in rear. This caused them to skeedadle leaving 4.2 pches & 2 caisons in our possession. We also got several prisoners. It was one of the best managed affairs I ever saw & 3 small regiments did it all. The 5th N.H. 185 Pa & 28 Mass. all of Miles Brigade. We had 1 killed and 12 wounded in our regt. After some delay our skirmish line was advanced thru the woods to an opening where we found the rebs in a striking position with breastworks batteries &c. pushed our skirmishers close up to theirs & remained till night when we were relieved. went back a short distance to this [–?] & camped for the night & then the next day. One of our lookouts kept up a constant fire on the enemy from a 100 pds. which troubled them exceedingly. That night we moved back to the works we took from the enemy [—-?] them [–?] to fire the other way & connected them with Fablin[?] on the left. worked all night & part of the next day. During the day the 19th Corps lately from New Orleans came in. The 14th was with them. I saw Henry Pitt
Page. he is Lieut. now. he wished to be remembered to you. the 14th never been on enemy’s [—?] till they got there, Friday night at dark we packed up a [—?] back in Petersburg again got here at daylight just as the attack was made by the 9th Corps. Our batteries opened all along our line. Now we drew up in reserve and were ordered to be ready to go in at any moment. but were not called upon. in the P.M. were ordered to take 5 days rations for another night march but just as we were starting the order was countermanded & came back into our old camp for the great joy of all, for we were all tired out. for 3 days & 2 nights I had had only one hours sleep.
The attack in the 9th Corps last Saturday morning was made by Griffin’s Brig on the 6th, 9th & 11th Regt & part of a Negro division. A rebel fort which we had been mined was blown up & they immediately charged forward to gain & hold this position but they went too far. the Negroes went in on their right, the rebels made a charge on them and the Negroes gave way & came rushing back on Griffins Brig. pell[?] mill throwing them into confusion & giving the rebs chance to get right in to them. they had one of the most obstinate fights on record. bayonets, swords & the butts of muskets were freely used & in many instances fought each other with fists. But our men had to give way & not much over half got back.
Our men all say that had it not been for the Negroes they
could have held their ground they are very mad & say they never will go into a fight with Negroes again. Burnside is trying to get them out of his corps.
The 11th Regt has only 60 or 70 men left. Capt. Tillin got a flesh wound in right arm, Orin Cram[?] taken prisoner and Lawrence Stevens killed.
The rebs would not allow a flag of truce to bury the dead & get the wounded till yesterday morning.
I think many of our men were Killed that would not have been had they not been in company with Negroes.
It seems the rebels are making another raid into Md.& Pa. I’m afraid we wasted [—-?] [—-?]. I think we should go some where soon.
Grant needs more men. He ought to have them now. A reserve of at least 50,000 men should have been raised, organized & drilled.last winter & spring beside filling up the old regts. If Grant could have had that number all in one [—?], to have put in [—?] the 20th of [—?] Richmond would have been ours now. No country should carry on in war without a strong reserve army which it can throw into the field at critical moments.
Were it not necessary to keep Lee from reinforcing the army in Georgia it would be better for us to lay off till fall & the army is filled up. but we must or should keep every man away from Georgia. else [—-?] he will all he has gained. I think there is to be some change in this program but where I do not know but it will take another year to end this war. if it does I’m in for it.
I had a commission come Sunday as 1st Lieut. shall have to be mustered in again for 3 years more. according to a late orders all officers will be kept 3 years from the date of their last muster if the exigencies of the service require it.
I wrote to James last Sunday.
Please write often. I shall be sure to get all papers you send me. Love to all. Johnson is well.
George S. Gove
- Parsons Family Papers, Milne Special collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire, N.H. The transcription of the letter on this page is copyrighted by the Milne Special collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire and may not be reproduced without the express written consent of the University of New Hampshire. All rights reserved. ↩