Editor’s Note: The Soldier Studies web site (http://www.soldierstudies.org) collects and publishes 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.
DEAR PARENTS, — Soon after my last letter was sent off, I heard of the proper officer to apply to, and I lost no time in visiting his head-quarters. On presenting myself to this gentleman, and stating my case and handing him my papers, which he spent some little time in examining he said in rather an abrupt manner, “Why did you not go home with your regiment ?” To which I replied, “Sir, they would not let me;” then he said, “They had no right to detain you.” So, after some further examination, my papers, giving me an honorable discharge from the army, were made out and presented to me. I hastened back to the guard and informed Captain Davis of the result, and received his approval of the same. In the mean time the boys had begun to gather round me, and on learning my good luck they looked rather blue, but I felt quite happy. From among my effects I selected such things as would readily stow away in my haversack — keeping of course my few letters, photographs of the dear ones at home, that I had toted so many weary miles, and that had been such a source of comfort in solitary hoofs, and but one relic of the battle-fields — a flattened rifle-ball that struck near my head and fell at my feet ; this I recollect picking up and putting in my knapsack many months since, but it would have been thrown out with other relics long ago had it not been overlooked. All my other things I gave to the boys, except my overcoat and thick blanket. They laughed at me for bringing them away : but it was not many hours before I needed both. Immediately after dinner I parted with the boys, and bade farewell to “The Army of the Potomac” forever, and laid my course in the direction of City Point. Being in light marching order, — and with a still lighter heart, — I went over the ground at a quick step, and made the eight miles with very few halts. I should have mentioned before that I had a comrade by the name of Jones; he had his discharge and was ready to leave when I did.
On our arrival at City Point we found the peaches so cheap that we bought a half peck, and had a regular feast off this delicious fruit ; then looked round for the steamer Mount, thinking it possible Eugene might be here, but was disappointed in not finding her ; then looked for the transport that was to take us to Washington. On finding her and attempting to get on board, we were told the ship would not leave till the next day ; we requested permission to remain on the boat till she did leave, as there was no lodging-house or any place of shelter on the Point for us, but this small favor was refused. Such churlish treatment did not disturb us much, and I only allude to it as showing the nature of the animal. The earth had been our bed for three years, and we well knew it would serve us for one night more. We went into a field, near by and lay down under an apple-tree. Then it was I could appreciate the value of my overcoat and blanket, for the night was cold and damp ; but we slept sound till the dawn of another day. Soon after rising went to the river and had a wash, then breakfasted on hard tack and peaches.
You will not expect me to say much about City Point, — the great depot for stores, ammunition, etc., for Grant’s army, — as Eugene is here so much, and he enjoys the descriptive, while I like to come right down to plain matters of fact. After laying in a stock of peaches, we, at about ten o’clock A. M., went on board the transport steamer, Thomas Morgan, and were soon gliding down the James, on the way to Washington.
I have penciled these lines to put in the post-office just as soon as I reach Washington, as they may relieve your anxiety somewhat in regard to me ; but I cannot fix the day on which you may expect to see me. I may be detained in Washington, and I might possibly run across Eugene ; in that case I should have to spend a week with him. But I will keep you informed of my whereabouts, you may rest assured of that.
With much love to father, mother, Susie, and Georgy ; and a remembrance to all the neighbors,
Your affectionate son, WARREN.1