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.
June 10, 18641
In the trenches on Gaines Farm, Va
Friday June 10th 1864
You have doubtless heard all this that the old 5th is at the front once more. We left Ft. Lookout two weeks ago today coming by steamer to Port Royal on the Rappahannock thence by a 4 days march to the army guarding a wagon train. We joined the Corps a week ago last Wednesday night. It was thin on the extreme right. that same night we started at 10 o’clock & marched till 9 the next morning reaching this place which is near the centre I should judge. All this way from Port Royal it was very hot and dusty and it being our first march for a long time told pretty severely on us. In the P.M. of the day we get here we moved out and forward line and were to charge the enemys works at 5 o’clock but a heavy shower came up at 4 and
the charge had to be postponed. This was unfortunate for us as the rebels were heavily reinforced that night. The next morning early—[—] 3rd—we formed our line of battle under the crest of a hill—our whole brigade being in the front line—within 1500 yards of the rebels works. We were ordered not to fire a shot but use the bayonet. At 4½ o’clock we moved forward, as soon as we got to the top of the hill and within sight of the rebel works we gave a loud yell and dashed forward on the double quick. The rebs opened on us with muskets and canister but we kept right along yelling like demons all the time and dashed over their works capturing their battery and a trench full of prisoners. It was most gallantly done. I never felt so well in my life as when I jumped in over their entrenchment. But here the good part all ended. The 183rd PA Regt—notorious [—-?]—
broke and ran the first thing and did not go within 200 yds of the rebels. This left our left flank all exposed and the rebs came in on our left firing into our rear, two line of battle also came down on our front—we had no 2nd line to support us and so we had to retreat leaving the battery in their hands again. As soon as we commenced falling back the rebs came back into works and poured into us with musketry and artillery till we got back much [—?] [—?] of the hill again. We went into this fight with about 460 men and lost, killed, wounded & missing 225. Co “K” lost 20 out of 46. Lt Dame is missing. I think was wounded inside of the rebel works and taken prisoner. Many of our wounded had to be left on the field. The next night we moved up into an old road which is cut along the ridge from 2 to 6 ft deep, forming a bit of
natural entrenchment. We are within 400 yads of the enemys works but they are on higher ground than we are. Our pickets and theirs are more than 40 yds apart. The rebs have plenty of sharpshooters and they keep up a constant firing on us. We lose several men every day. We have to lay low in the day time. I had a book knocked out of my hand by one of them the other day. There has been no fighting of consequence since the charge.
We have two batteries directly behind us on the bank and the rebs have two in front of us. They are each other frequently both firing over our levels. This makes plenty of music for us. We have to lay on our arms constantly. I have not even had my shoes off for 5 days and nights. Night before last the rebs sent in a flag of truce. It lasted from 5 P.M. till 8 for the purpose of picking up our wounded a burying their dead, which had begun to smell very bad. The rebs showed themselves then and their works surrounded with men, all firing ceased and it seemed like peace, one of my corporals was found wounded and brought in, he laid there 4 days and nights. He was close to the rebel picket line. He has had a leg cut off. He says a rebel came to him the first night and hearing that he belonged to the 5th N.H., said he would do all he could for him and brought him a water every night. The reb said he had friends at Pt Lookout that had written to him about this regt and that our boys would always be treated kindly. The prisoners at Pt Lookout liked us very much and use to write home to their friends about us. This will be a good thing for any of us that are ever taken prisoners.
I saw Capt Butler Wednesday. His 18th A.C. is now with us. He will remain with us as chief of Ambulances. it is one of the best positions in the army. I heard from Capt Tillin & Geo Shepard yesterday. Capt T is all right—Geo Shepard was slightly wounded but would not go to Hos.
Gilmore Johnson got through safe and is well. It is said that no more charges will be made on fortified positions. It is not of much use generally. We are now where Gen [—?] fought in the summer of 1862. It is said to be only 10 miles from Richmond but it will be a very hard 10 miles to go over. The rebs have a very strong position here.
We are in our old place viz 1st Brig, 1st Div. 2nd Army Corps. The 1st Brig is commanded by Col. Miles. The 1st Div by Gen Barlow and the 2nd Corps by Gen Hancock the best fighting Gen in the service. Col Hapgood is in command
of the regt. I am in command of Company “K”—Capt. Tillin has just been here and spent an hour. He is well and in good spirits. He says Geo Shepard is Capt now. He was lightly wounded in the hip but will be fit for duty in a few days. The 11th Regt is 2 miles from us. My health is excellent.
We are bound to go into Richmond this time tho it will take a long time to do it. Don’t be impatient, we have got to go slow.
I wrote to Mother yesterday. I suppose she is in a constant worry. For her sake I should have been contented to stay at Pt. Lookout but on my own account I’d rather be here. Write to me soon.
I got a letter from you yesterday. It was brought from Pt. Lookout by one of our men.
Direct now to – Co “K” 5th N.H.
1st Brig. 1st Div. 2nd A.C.
Washington – D.C.
Give my love to all
- 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. ↩