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LT: September 15, 1864 Thomas J. Owen (50th NY Engineers)

Editor’s Note: This item is part of a collection of letters from New York engineers written while their units were at the Siege of Petersburg.  Researcher and Engineer enthusiast Dan O’Connell generously donated all of the items in this collection for use at The Siege of Petersburg Online.  These transcriptions are copyrighted by Brett Schulte and may not be used without my express written consent.  I do not have images of these letters so some errors could be from transcription or in the original.

September 15, 1864.


Yours of the 5th and 6th, came to hand the 12th. I am indeed happy to hear that our beautiful town is free from the “draft,” I am much pleased to see the new troops coming in, this looks as though the people of the North were still alive and anxious to close this terrible war; it is now understood here that the army of the Potomac is as strong as when it crossed the Rapidan, this is encouraging to us. The only thing to hinder a speedy peace, is the difference of opinion at the North; I believe the army is all right in reference to the coming election, and feel confident that Mr. Lincoln will receive the support of the soldiers now in the field, all of whom well know the only true road to peace.

Yesterday I went up to the Headquarters of the 5th A[rmy]. C[orps]. on the Weldon R. R. Capt. Falwell is still engaged in that vicinity fortifying, and I think if General Lee could see these works, he would bid good-bye to any hopes, if he has any, of ever taking this line, not only is the fortifying going on briskly, but extended preparations are being made for the bad weather that will ere long set in. Miles of road are being crossed with corduroy. A Railroad has been constructed branching from City Point and Pittsburg road, to the Weldon Road at the 5th Corps Headquarters, so that now the cars run from City Point clear through to the left of the army, passing right through the army, it will be very convenient by and by when the roads become muddy, so supplies will only have to be hauled a few miles at the farthest.1

But I am in hopes we will not lay here this winter, every day now tells on the rebellion, and brings us reinforcements. General Lee will, without doubt, try to do something before long, but the monster, (rebellion), is doomed, a few more struggles and he will lay prostrate before the loyal of the land. So let us cheer up and stand firm a short time longer, and we will gain the rich rewards for the many noble men of our land that have given their lives that the Nation might be preserved. When I think of all this, I cannot see how some men at the North think of having peace without first silencing this rebel gang. Talk about compromising, indeed, and at this time of day to. If a compromise was needed, why not have made it at first, and saved the many noble hearts that have oozed out their life’s blood on Southern soil? Saved us from national debts, and everything accompanying such a terrible war? But the people of the United States said no, these rebels had risen up against the Government, and must be vanquished; accordingly we set about it, and now when we have them nearly subdued, there are black hearted traitors in the Northern States encouraging the enemy by talking about “peace-at-any-price” compromise and the defeat of the Administration, all of which go in the balance on the side of the enemy, and I believe that this war would have been ended ere this, had it not been for this class of men, no that’s to good a name, what shall I call them, traitors? No they are not as honorable as an outright traitor. Ah, I have it, Copperheads, that’s it, and if you want to see any of their poisonous venom, look at the Chicago pill they fixed up for General McClellan, but it turned his stomach and he couldn’t swallow it. Think they had better sugar coat it a little.2

Now I am not particularly against General McClellan, but I am against the party that has nominated him. I am against anyone who is not for the administration and the prosecution of the war, until we can have peace and a Union with it, one that will stand; wherein there will be no slavery to again overthrow a peaceful and happy people; and I believe that is not far distant, I will now close. I think you know my mind on the war question now. Expecting to hear from you, I remain, very respectfully, your obedient son,

50th N. Y. V. E.3


  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Owen is describing the U. S. Military Railroad built from City Point to “stations” behind the Union fortifications.  Even in bad weather, the Union soldiers were still being fed and supplied very well.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: George McClellan was nominated to be the Democratic representative competing against Abraham Lincoln to be President in the election of 1864.  The convention was held in Chicago, and the Democrats created a platform which included planks indicating they were content to let the Confederacy go in peace.  Most soldiers who had lost friends and family in the fighting to this point, were understandably disgusted by this platform and repudiated it overwhelmingly with their voting.
  3.  Floyd, Dale E., ed., “My Dear Friends at Home” – The Letters and Diary of Thomas J. Owens, 50th New York Engineers during the Civil War. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1985.: This letter, which originally was published in the aforementioned book, appears here courtesy of Dan O’Connell, who has a large collection of letters from Union Engineers during the Civil War.
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