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.
3rd Division, 25th Corps
I presume you have learned from the papers before this, that we have a new department commander, Gen. Butler left the day I wrote you last. Everybody is well pleased for old Ben was not liked first rate. Gen. Ovel (?)[probably Ord or some phonetic variation Bates heard, I don’t have the original letter to know for sure.]1 is in command now, he is a good corps commander but I don’t know whether he is capable of running an army. We are hoping that Sheridan will be assigned to this department. If he is, I don’t think his time will be spent in digging Dutch Gap canals, and come to think I guess I have never mentioned the fact that New Year’s day the end was blown out of Butler’s canal. It made but little noise and the dirt all fell back so it is of no consequence. We did not hear of it until a week after and the Rebs are so disgusted with the closing performance that they have not fired a shot since in that direction.2 Not a word has been heard from the last expedition yet. Some think it went to Savannah to garrison the city so that Sherman could take all his forces when he makes his next move but I think Wilmington has heard from them on this.3
Deserters are coming in now and then, I saw twelve pass this place during the past week. Stout hearty looking fellows and wore good clothes. Some were from Georgia. “Gen. Lee can’t make us fight for Virginia when he allows the Yanks to run all over Georgia” one of them remarked. They said that preparations were being made in Richmond to move the machinery that was used for making arms back into the interior near Danville. I received a letter last night from Alexander Bates. His regiment is near Bermuda Hundreds (?). Came down from the Shenandoah Valley on New Year’s. He is the only one I have heard from of that number that enlisted while I was home. He doesn’t like the business very well.
How does the last call for three hundred thousand affect the North! Are you raising such large bounties as before or will you wait and let the draft fetch out the quota? The army is in perfect rapture over the call and think old Abe is really in earnest now. Have Warren and Jeff returned yet? If they have, they will be just in time.
I have been about sick for a few days. Neuralgia in my face. One side was swollen so that I could not see from the eye on that side. It is getting better, however, today and by next Sunday shall doubtless be as well as ever.
This is the first time I have been off duty a day since my return. If you can’t get a good mortgage for that money I sent last week, you can buy 7 x 30 or 10 x 40 bonds. I guess there is no doubt but they will be redeemed in time. If you can use it to good advantage, I think I can send 400 or 500 more by the first of April.
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Edward O. C. Ord took over the Army of the James from Butler a week earlier after Butler was sacked, ostensibly for his Chistmas day failure at the First Battle of Fort Fisher near Wilmington, N. C. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: See my post on the New Year’s Day explosion at Dutch Gap Canal for more details. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Bates is referring to the second expedition against Fort Fisher, though Grant kept it so secret that soldiers didn’t know where the men were going until after Fort Fisher had fallen. ↩
- Bates, Delevan. “3rd Division, 25th Corps.” Letter to “Father” 15 Jan. 1865. MS. Headquarters Detachment, 3rd Division, 25th Corps, Virginia. 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. ↩