Editor’s Note: The Soldier Studies web site (http://www.soldierstudies.org) collects and published letters written during the Civil War. Owner/editor Chris Wehner was kind enough to grant me written permission to publish a selection of letters from his site which focus on the Siege of Petersburg. Look for letters to appear here during the 150th anniversary of the Siege of Petersburg and beyond. These letters may not be reused without the express written consent of Chris Wehner. All rights reserved.
My Dear Wife,
Your letter announcing the sad intelligence of Julia’s death was received yesterday, but I was not unprepared for it, from what you had written the day before. I sympathize with you in the great loss of a kind affectionate good and faithful sister. It was hard that you could not be with her in her last moments, on account of your own affliction, but it must be a consolation to you that she was spared to return to her home once more before her death and to have the care and attention of a mother, rather than of stranger nurses, to minister to her wants. Great as is your loss the loss to husband and children is still greater. She was truly devoted to her family. Express my heart felt sympathies to brother Hugh in his bereavement. I regret exceedingly that it has been out of my power to be with you on so trying an occasion, but circumstances have rendered it impossible. It is but 5 or 6 days more that my time will expire, and, if compatible with Mr. Thompson’s business to remain, I would be glad to meet him, but I suffer he left home in such haste that he will be obliged to return. We left on Sunday eve from East of Petersburg to a place 2 to 3 miles south of P. to a position we formerly occupied, but which was abandoned and the breast works turn down to shorten our lines. On Friday, by our stragetic movements previously to north of James River , Gen Warren of 5th Corps was enabled to take possession of Wheldon [sic, Weldon] RR without a battle, but on Sunday [August 21, 1864] he was attacked by the enemy twice and he repulsed them each time. Since then our forces have been moving to left to his support and filling up the lines between. Our troops worked all Sunday night in putting up rifle pits and yesterday in completing them and felling timber in front. We are now ready and on the alert, as an order was issued from Army Head Qtrs yesterday stating that the enemy had left Gen Warren’s front – that his pickets were following, and an advance of his corps was contemplated – and that Division Commanders must be prepared for an attack upon any part of our lines at any time. We are under arms every morning at 3 o’clock watching and waiting and ready. This morning, I thought they were coming certain, because the picket firing was lively in our front at daybreak, but all is now quiet. They may assault us about four or five o’clock PM as that is the time they generally attack. I am comfortably fixed under a fly about 50 yards behind our breastworks, but in case of battle shall withdraw further back to establish hospital. We had a heavy rain last evening and it is cloudy this morning. Love to all. Hope to see you very soon.
I am, with much love your husband.
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Wiley was no ordinary soldier. He was the surgeon of the 6th New Jersey, and served in that post from his August 1861 muster to his muster out, just a few weeks after writing this letter. ↩
- Wiley, John. “2 or 3 Miles South of Petersburg, Va.” Letter to “My Dear Wife” 22 Aug. 1864. MS. 2 or 3 Miles South of Petersburg, Va. This letter appears here due to the express written consent of Chris Wehner, owner of SoldierStudies.org and may not be used without his permission. All rights reserved. ↩