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LT: January 3, 1865 Luther Rice Mills (26th Virginia)

Luther Rice Mills to John Mills

Trenches Near Crater

Petersburg, Va.

Jany. 3rd, 1865.


Yours of the 22nd ultimo was received several days ago. I hope the N[orth]. C[arolina]. Legislature will exempt you, if it does not you will be very sure to have to shoulder your musket.  I am very anxious that you or Brother Robert should be allowed to remain out to attend to Sister Hasseltine and Ma’s affairs. The prospect for bro. Robert’s getting off is very gloomy indeed. Maj. Gen. Kemper thinks that boys will be call out from 16 upwards. If so detailed farmers will be few and far between. I am quite uneasy about you. I am afraid you were hurt in the fight at Wilmington. Those old Gunboat shells are the worst that can be found, except mortar shells. If a man is wounded by them he is almost sure to be badly mangled. Notwithstanding I feel anxious about you. I can not help thinking of the old Irish song

“Paddy O’Whack of Balermyhack

The Ladies cry when me they spy

Och! What a lovely soldier.”

We are still at our old position—Right of the Brigade extending just beyond Rive’s Salient and Left resting near the Blowup1. There is a rumor afloat that we will be relieved sometime this month and sent to the rear to rest &c. Everything seems to indicate that we are fixed up here for the winter. Our Division holds the hottest part of the entire lines. The front of Wilcox’s Division immediately on our right the enemy can not be seen from the main lines. Here our Picket lines are from 50 to 200 yards from the enemy and a man dares not show his head. We have the biggest rows here some days you ever heard of. The batteries in the rear lines and enemy’s batteries get to shelling occasionally and shells fly by as thick as bats in a summer night. After a row last week some men picked up at least 500 pounds of fragments of shells within a hundred yards of my tent. It was an amusing sight to hear our boys taunting and inviting Grant’s army to fight us while they were firing salutes and rejoicing over Sherman’s great victory in Georgia. Our men need a good Victory badly. It would do us a great deal of good for Grant to charge our lines. I believe every man would hail such an attack with joy. We are preparing to put out two more lines of Chevaux de Frise. The spirit of our men is improving slowly. A good many are deserting to the enemy—more than come to us. Two men of my company deserted to the enemy last Christmas night. One was a substitute from Georgetown and the other from near Wheeling. We get pit coal now instead of green pine. I guess we will a little better now. If I could get a good big cat I could do a great deal better. We have rats and mice and something else in abundance. We can say with old Burns.

“Ha! where ye gaun ye crawlie ferties &c”

I saw a man catch a large rat and eat it about week ago. What is it that a dirty soldier won’t do? The Richmond Examiner says “Coming events cast their shadows before them” but I have not seen the shadow of that big New Year’s Dinner yet. Perhaps it is not a coming event. The total list of casualties of my old Company ending December 31st, 1864, killed 16 wounded 25 captured 7 Died of Disease 3 Total 51 Capt. W. J. Younger of this company was shot through the right fore arm 15th Dec. One of the men lamenting his own hard luck and Younger’s good luck said five balls have struck me this campaign and the one that would have given me a furlough “I cotch in a blanket.” I am in good health and doing well.

Yours truly

L[uther]. R[ice]. Mills2,3


  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Mills is referring to the Crater created as a result of the mine explosion on July 30, 1864.  It remains a feature in the landscape at Petersburg to this day.
  2. Mills, Luther R., and George D. Harmon (ed). “Letters of Luther Rice Mills—A Confederate Soldier.” The North Carolina Historical Review (4.3).  (July 1927): 305-7). Print.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: Luther Rice Mills apparently belonged to the sharpshooter battalion of Wise’s Brigade until he was wounded at the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864.  When he returned in November 1864, he took over as the acting captain of his company, Company K, in the 26th Virginia, Wise’s Brigade.  The previous captain, Captain Poindexter, had been killed at the Crater. These letters of Mills to his brother John written during the Siege of Petersburg were originally published in The North Carolina Historical Review, Volume 4, Number 3 (July 1927), pages 301-310.
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