Editor’s Note: This item is part of a collection of letters and diary entries from soldiers of the 8th New York Heavy Artillery written while the unit was at the Siege of Petersburg. Researcher and author Kathryn Lerch generously donated all of the items in this collection for use at The Siege of Petersburg Online.
Private James J. Sherman, Company G, 8th N. Y. Heavy Artillery writes the following in a letter home on June 24, 18641
June 24, 1864
Camp Near Petersburg Va
Since I wrote you last the regt has been in another of those terrible charges. We did not lose many men but we lost one of the bravest that ever drew a sword & that was Lieut. Col. Bates. He fell while leading the men within four rods of the enemies breastworks shot through the bowels. The charge was made about five o’clock in the afternoon of the 22nd. As soon as the Col. fell the regiment halted & lay down Just on the edge of a piece of woods. As soon as it became dark the brigade commenced to fall back & our regiment with it, all but one company. There was no officer left to command our company the Capt being in command of the second Batallion & all the sergeants being absent or wounded. I told the company to lie still until I found an officer to receive orders from. I failed to find any officer & so returned to the company & ordered them to rise up & fall back & I brought the company off in good order, halted & right turned them & told them to lie down. Just as they had done this Major Spaulding & Capt Sherwin came up & I turned over the command of the company to them. I never saw men so cool under fire as they were while the company lay there. I went up towards the rebel breastworks to reconnoiter supposing that there was a line of skirmishers between me & the rebel line. It was dark & I went up to within about three rods of the rebel line. I stood behind a tree untill I was satisfied that there was no skirmish line between me & the rebels & then I commenced the retreat. . .
- Part of collection of letters for Kathryn W. Lerch’s manuscript history of Eighth New York Heavy Artillery, with permission from the Genesee County History Department, Batavia, New York ↩