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.
Last Thursday afternoon [September 29, 1864] we received orders to be in readiness to move to the north side of the James River, and at about nine o’clock that night we started. We traveled until about two hours before day, and were nearly to Drury’s Bluff when we were ordered back because the Yankees were making a demonstration on our right. That afternoon (Friday) [September 30, 1864] our brigade and Lane’s North Carolina had a considerable fight on the right. We drove them nearly two miles to their breastworks. It was a nice victory for us and our loss was small.1 The Fifteenth [North Carolina?] Regiment2 lost eight killed on the field and had about twenty wounded. I have never before known so large a proportion to be killed. Spencer Caldwell was killed. Colonel [Edwin F.] Bookter of the Twelfth [South Carolina] Regiment and three officers of the Thirteenth [South Carolina] were killed — none that you know. Billie was in it, but was not hurt. His company had one killed and but one wounded. Lang Ruff’s boys were both in it, but were not hurt. I saw them all this morning and everybody was in fine spirits.
Our cavalry had a fight yesterday afternoon [October 1, 1864] on the extreme right, and it is reported that General Dunnovant was killed.3 We are expecting the Yankees to attack us again. Grant is evidently doing his best for Lincoln’s election. He must have been heavily reinforced. I hope to hear good news from Forrest. If Sherman is forced away from Atlanta and we can hold Richmond this winter, I believe we shall have peace.
We need ten or fifteen thousand more men here, and we could easily get them if the able-bodied exempts would come on here, but they seem to have become hardened to their disgrace. If the South is ever overcome, the contemptible shirkers will be responsible for it. They should have seen our poor fellows Thursday night coming in wounded and bleeding and shivering with cold; but these very men who suffer and have often suffered in this way are the last ones to say surrender.
I received your letter on Thursday, but have not been able to answer it until now. The weather is beautiful this afternoon, but it has been wet and was very disagreeable the day we had the fight.4
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Welch is referring to the opening day of combat at the Battle of Peebles Farm. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The 15th South Carolina was in Kershaw’s Brigade of the First Corps, and they were in the Shenandoah Valley. The only 15th regiment in the entire Third Corps was the 15th North Carolina of Cooke’s Brigade, and it did participate in the fighting on September 30, 1864. It is the only regiment which seems to make sense, but more research is needed. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This was the Battle of Vaughan Road, part of the larger Battles of Peebles Farm. Confederate cavalry brigade commander John Dunovant was indeed killed in this fight. ↩
- Welch, Spencer G. “No title.” Letter to “?” 2 Oct. 1864. MS. Near 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. ↩