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.
HDQ’RS CO. “M” 50TH ENGINEERS.
CAMP NEAR POPLAR GROVE CHURCH.
December 16, 1864.
Again the 5th corps has moved and struck a telling blow, a blow that will be felt more in Richmond and Petersburg than was Early’s defeat in the Valley. The Weldon Railroad, from Stony Creek Station to Bellefield, is one mass of ruins, tier and bridges burned, culverts blown up and the rails bent into all manner of shapes.1 As usual, a part of our regiment, consisting of companies B, C, and G, with a flying train of canvass boats, accompanied the expedition, laying a bridge at the Nottoway River, crossed the troops, and taking up their bridge, followed on. Striking the railroad at Stony Creek, the work of destruction commenced, and for over twenty miles the work was well done. Night and day, regardless of the heavy storm of snow and sleet that was falling, they worked on until they reached Bellefield [sic, Belfield] on the Meherrin River. Here, and at Hicksford, on the opposite side of the river, they found fortifications and having accomplished the object of the raid, and not having rations to go farther, the troops returned.—Some of our men that straggled, were caught by guerrillas and had their throats cut. To pay for this the order was given to burn everything on the march back, and it was carried into effect. One man who had his house burned by the rebels in Chambersburg, took his revenge by firing thirty-five houses.
Saturday [December 10, 1864] the rest of our regiment was ordered to march with four day’s rations and one bridge train of canvass boats. About four o’clock the next morning [December 11, 1864] we arrived at the Nottoway River about twenty-two miles from here. About noon we put down our bridge—the same one, I believe, that Count D—made such good time over at Fredericksburg—near the one laid by Co. C—the 5th corps having arrived at the river, and at seven P. M. the troops had all crossed, and we had taken up the bridge ready to return. In order to have the roads clear, we did not commence the march till half past three the next morning, (Monday) [December 12, 1864], getting home about one, P. M. Sunday night the wind changed to the north and it was so bitter cold the men sat up most of the night by the fires to keep warm. On the march riding horseback was out of the question, and making a virtue of necessity, I dismounted and footed it to camp. We were all nearly used up, but now are all right. The 5th Corps have had orders to put up quarters, and we expect a long rest. Our regiment has been highly complimented by the President by breveting [sic] Lieut. Col. [Ira] Spaulding as Colonel, Major [George W.] Ford Lieut. Colonel, Capts. Folwell, Hine, Van Brocklin and McDonalds as Majors, and First Lieuts. Van Renssalear and Folwell as Captains. Major [Wesley] Brainard has been commissioned Colonel of the 15th [New York] Engineers. We are waiting anxiously to hear officially from Gen. Sherman, and hope he may reach the coast safely, and not far from Savannah.—The campaign of 1864 promises to close very satisfactorily for us. Don’t be anxious about Richmond, it will be ours in due time. It is better for us to hold Lee’s army here at present than occupy the city. Grant means “to fight it out on this line,” and he will, for when Richmond falls the hell-born Confederacy falls with it.
Truly yours. GEORGE T. DUDLEY,
1st Lieut. Com’g Co.2
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Gouverneur Warren’s Stony Creek Raid, also known by a wide variety of other names, was undertaken from December 7-12, 1864. The goal was to wreck the Weldon Railroad from Weldon Railroad from Stony Creek Station south to Belfield and Hicksford, on the Meherrin River. Ultimately, the Confederates would be forced to carry supplies via wagon train over an even longer route. ↩
- Dudley, George T. “Hdq’rs Co. ‘M’ 50th Engineers.” Letter to “Mssrs. Editors.” 16 Dec. 1864. MS. Camp Near Poplar Grove Church. This letter, which looks like it was copied out of a newspaper, appears here courtesy of Dan O’Connell, who has a large collection of letters from Union Engineers during the Civil War. ↩