Frank Wicks, the creator of the Civil War play Soldier, Come Home, based on his ancestors’ letters to each other during the Civil War, has graciously allowed me to reproduce some of those letters here at the Siege of Petersburg Online. Frank’s great-grandparents were Philip W. and Mary Pringle, and their letters to each other while Philip was a soldier in the 102nd Pennsylvania form the basis of his play. Some of Philip’s letters written during 1864 and 1865 were penned while he was present at the Siege of Petersburg, though as a member of the Union 6th Corps he was away for a few months in the Shenandoah Valley. The letters which appear below mostly pertain to the Siege of Petersburg as observed by a 6th Corps Pennsylvania soldier. All of these letters are the property of Frank Wicks and may not be reproduced without his express written consent.
July 3, 18641
I take my pencil today again to drop you a few lines to inform you that I still am alive but sorry to tell you that I am not as well as I might be. I have been sick for one week but am getting well again. I have a good place to stay and have no duty to do but eat and drink. But it is most awful warm but we have a nice and big tent to stay. It is the Division hospital. I got my sickness by too much hard marching and exposure. But I am getting rested perty well and will have to join the Regt. in about another week but I just came to this place today. I was lying in camp and marching all the time before.
We went out on our left on the 30 of June and cut a railroad and destroyed about 6 or 8 miles and then came back. We tore the road up and piped the ties up on piles and then lay the rails on top and then set fire to them and the rails got hot and bent crooked so they will be of no use anymore for the road. The roads are all cut I believe and I think the Rebs will have some hungry bellies before long so I look for some hard fighting before long.
I hear they are going to draft again in the north for one year. I hope this will bring about 200,000 men to us before the fall and then I think there will be some sign of the end of the war. There are men killed daily and hourly along the line for the guns are going all the time. But so long as I can stay at this place I am out of their reach. I wrote to you once every week but I do not have but one from you every 2 weeks and am glad when I get them. And only received but a few letters yet since I am here in the army. I hope to hear from you soon.
Mary, it is very dry in this country and a good rain would cool off the air considerably. I hope this war will not last over this year yet and we get home safe. I will write once a week if possible and I would like to hear from you once a week at least. Sometimes it is impossible for me to write when we are on a move. But I have no stamps any more so you will not think hard of it if I do not send this letter. Give my love to all my friends.
No more but remain
Yours as ever
P. W. Pringle
- Soldier, Come Home – by Frank W. Wicks A play based on family civil war letters. 2010-2012. 2 August 2012 <http://civilwarplay.com/>. These letters are used with the permission of Frank Wicks, and may not be reproduced without the express written consent of the owner. All rights reserved. ↩