≡ Menu

LT: September 14, 1864 John A. Mayers (99th Pennsylvania)

John Adam Mayers, 99th Pennsylvania Co. K

John Adam Mayers, 99th Pennsylvania Co. K. He wears a K pin on his collar. (image courtest Rachael Parker, all rights reserved)


Camp in the trenches
Before Petersburg Va
September 14th/ [18]64

Dear Sister

Your kind and ever welcome letter of the 10th inst[ant] [September 10, 1864] I received yesterday [September 13, 1864] and was very happy to hear that you were all well. As for myself I am very well a present – on the night of the 10th inst[ant] [September 10, 1864] our [99th Pennsylvania] Regiment made a charge on the Rebels Picket line, and were drove back again, we lost nearly a hundred men killed wounded & taken prisoner. Our Captain was taken prisoner and three men of our Company. Our first Lieutenant will take charge of our Company now.1 I heard today that the first and second division of sixth Corps [VI/AotP] was down here, I shall be able to see Jacob then.2 I received another letter from Peter Thompson3 the other day, he is down at Mobile Bay yet, he sends his best respects to you all. I hope you and Julia will try and learn right well and get to be good scholars, study grammar right well and it will improve you[r] speech a good deal and learn to write well. I wish you would let me know what Georgie is doing wether he is going to school or not. I suppose we will soon get paid as I hear that the paymaster is coming down – we need the money well enough for it is near seven months since we were last paid. I wish you would send me a couple skeins of thread more, for I used all you sent me in altering my pants and Blouse. If father could sent a telegraph dispatch out here to me, and say that someone is dying at home, I might get a ten day furlough on it, that is about the only way I can get to go home this winter. I guess the army will go into winter quarters around here this winter for it looks very much like it the way they are fixing things – they have got a railroad built right up to our Division headquarters about half a quarter of a mile from our front line of works – the railroad comes up every day with rations, the Johnnies shells come over to the railroad once in a while.4


A sketch of “the chimneys,” all that remained of the Gregory House in no man’s land between Forts Hell and Damnation. Confederate Fort Damnation is shown in the distance on the far left of the image. (Charles Wellington Reed Collection, LoC)

Tell father that I miss him a great deal down here for I cannot go see him and get my dinner of Potatoes and Knoepfler 5, we get fresh bread every two days now, and herring and cod fish, which we make cod fish cakes of. I have nothing more more [sic] to write at present. Give my love to father and mother and Georgie and Julia.6

From your affectionate brother

J[ohn]. A[dam]. M[ayers].7,8


P.S. Give my best respects to Dan Graber and all the inquiring friends. Write as soon as convenient.



This map depicts the area in which young John Mayers and his comrades ran into trouble near the Chimneys on September 10, 1864. Note the approximate location of his unit, the 99th Pennsylvania.


Images of the Letter

JohnAMayers18640914LetterPage1 JohnAMayers18640914LetterPage2 JohnAMayers18640914LetterPage3 JohnAMayers18640914LetterPage4


  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: John’s 99th Pennsylvania took part in a small skirmish called The Assault on the Chimneys on September 10, 1864. The Union Fort Sedgwick and Confederate Fort Mahone faced each other along the Jerusalem Plank Road south of Petersburg.  The Union wanted the high ground near the Chimneys for their own picket line, so they launched a night attack and succeeded.  As you can read here, John’s 99th Pennsylvania did not fare nearly as well as the Union regiments south of Jerusalem Plank Road.  Even a successful skirmish can be rough on individual units.  See my 150th anniversary post on the Assault on the Chimneys for much, much more detail and a map!
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: The Union 6th Corps had briefly been present at the Siege of Petersburg in June-July 1864 before moving to Washington, D. C. and then the Shenandoah Valley.  After defeating Early in the 1864 Shenandoah Valley Campaign, they moved back to the Petersburg lines in early December 1864, a few months after this letter was written. John’s brother Jacob was in the 82nd Pennsylvania, and had been in the 23rd Pennsylvania until that regiment was mustered out in the summer of 1864. As you will see in the next letter, John did eventually get to see Jacob in 1864 while both were present at Petersburg.
  3. Rachael noted: “Navy friend, stationed on the U.S.S Manhattan”
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: The United States Military Railroad ran this line from City Point along the rear of the Union lines facing Petersburg.  It allowed for consistent supplies and reinforcements even in adverse weather conditions.  By the time John wrote this letter, the Union engineers had been working on this line for months.  For other posts on the US Military Railroad, or USMRR for short, see the “u. s. military railroad” tag.
  5. Rachael noted: “Knoephla: a German dumpling”
  6. SOPO EDitor’s Note: Georgie and Julia were John’s little brother and sister.  As Rachael writes in her introduction on John’s main letters page: “While living in America they had three more children: Juliana “Julia” in 1857, George “Georgie” in 1859, and Lillie in 1868.” Sadly, John would not live to see Lillie.  He died at Sailor’s Creek on April 6, 1865, just three days before Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House.
  7. Mayers, John A. “Camp in the trenches.” Received by Dear Sister (Rose Mayer), “Camp in the trenches”, 14 Sept. 1864, Petersburg, VA.
  8. From the collection of Rachael Parker. Do not replicate without express written consent. Inquire at 15parkerr@gmail.com
{ 0 comments… add one }

Leave a Reply