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 20, 18641
In the trenches In front of Petersburg Va
Monday June 20. 1864
You will see that we have made another great change of base, and instead of being in front of Richmond and within 8 miles of it; are 20 miles away and paying our attentions to another city. We left the trenches on Gaines Farm a week ago last night, moving out very quietly at 9 in the evening without exciting suspicion, marched till near day light when our regt was left alone at Bollins[?] Bridge for 3 hours then moved on after the [—?] crossed the [——?] at noon on pontoons & arrived at night in the James River a few miles below Harrisons[?] Landing. We were 22 hours on the road very hot & dusty the march was one of the hardest; that night had to throw up rifle pits as [—?]. the next day laid still and
got some rest; at dark were ordered to pack up and be in readiness to move at a moments notice. waited till 2 o’clock in the morning not daring to unroll our blankets & lay down. then started for the landing waited then till day light. Got aboard steamers crossed the river landed and rested till 1½ o’clock and commenced the march.
Our march was quite rapid & was kept up till midnight – even then we were not permitted to rest but kept changing position till after sunrise. we found ourselves in front of Petersburg and within sight of the city; there had been fighting here that day – the 16th – by the 18 corps. Gen Hinks Div of negroes were engaged and fought like tigers. 9 pieces of artillery and 500 prisoners were taken, on the 17th after we got into position we laid quiet till 5 P.M. then moved to the right and formed for the charge. we were in the 2nd line the first line moved forward, and were immediately under heavy fire we were
ordered forward to support, had to cross a deep ravine filled with ditches & bushes the air was filled with bursting shell when we got thro. The 1st line had disappeared in front of this ravine was high open ground. we were ordered to take and hold the crest of this after a sharp contest which lasted till 9 o’clock we succeeded in doing so, with a loss of Col. Hupgrove wounded & one Lieut killed & about 30 men, threw up a strong rifle pit during the night.
the next day – 18th – laid still in the pit with the usual shelling & sharpshooting the rebs had a string line of breastworks in our front; in the P.M. a Div. of the 9th Corps charged this but broke in confusion.
At sunset another Div charged and carried them in gallant style. we could see this while our boys were anxious to go in, and we soon got the order, then sprang over our works a[nd] went in on the run, formed on the crest of a little ridge. the rebs were behind rifle pits, it was now dark. they
opened on us, and we returned, we [—?] there 3 hours, each man loading and fireing as fast as possible. We fired over 100 rounds to a man; the rebs, as usual with troops behind breastworks – fired a little to high and our loss was not very heavy, about 50 killed & wounded. I lost my first Sergt & 1 man killed and one wounded. After we had exhausted our ammunition 3 times and our rifles got to hot to be used we were relieved and fell back to the rear. the rebs were finally driven entirely from their works and fell back to a new position, the next morning we moved forward till we came upon them again. I was sent out with some men to strengthen our pickets. – in the P.M. we circled to [—-?] over a ridge to the R.R. in this valley beyond this was done in good style. for 900 yds were exposed to a [—?] fire from 3 directions. I never had bullets fly any closer about me. get one thru my coat-sleeve gracing my arm and one thro my blanket. we lost 12 men getting over, the pickets were themselves out cautiously up the hill as near as possible and each dug a little pit for himself. Were relieved at 2 o’clock the next morning. yesterday and so for today – 11 o’clock there has been no fighting except shelling & sharpshooting, we are lying in the edge of a [—?] of woods behind breastworks. The rebs have a very strong position in front of us. I don’t think it can be taken by assault, they act entirely on the defensive. The 6th, 9th & 11th are only 100 yds to our left. I saw Capt Tilton yesterday, he is well.
Our regt has not over 150 men for duty now, left Pt Lookout with 500, have had very hard work since we joined the army. I wrote to Mother this A.M. we landed on this side of the river.
I write to her as often as possible.
Gilman Johnson is well, we are ordered to get ready for a move and I must close.
Write me. we got our first mail yesterday
- 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. ↩