LT: August 11, 1864 Clement E. Warner (36th Wisconsin)

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Elizabeth M. Warner Editor’s Note: The first part of this letter is missing and it is undated; however, Colonel Warner refers to being “mustered five months ago” [March 23, 1864,] therefore placing it very close to the battle at Deep Bottom, VA, where he received his injury on August 14, 1864. It appears to be written to his parents.

SOPO Editor’s Note: The letter is undated, but one clue definitively shows the date of this letter is August 11, 1864, as you will see in my notes below. Ms. Warner was correct in placing it very close to Warner’s severe wounding on August 14, 1864 at Second Deep Bottom.

[August 11, 1864]

Alfred Waud drawing depicting the explosion at City Point on August 9, 1864 during the Siege of Petersburg.

The explosion at City Point on August 9, 1864 caused mass destruction and confusion. It was the result of Confederate sabotage. (Alfred R. Waud drawing, Library of Congress)

. . . .40 to 160 rods apart. Heavy earthworks all the way and forts every 1/9 mile. All along their lines both armies are burrowed. They have little underground cellars like the Norwegians and when the shelling comes all the men take to their holes like so many rabits [sic]. I was along the lines the other day. To prevent the enemy from undermining our forts we have dug wells and chambers 20 to 40 feet long reaching out from them so when they come we will be ready to meet them. They blew up one of their mines the other day [August 5, 1864] but it was 40 yards short and we took several hundred prisoners.1 We had a large quantity of ammunition & arsenal stores blow up at City Point day before yesterday [August 9, 1864].2 It sent home about 50 negroes, any quantity of horses & other government property.3 Brown is well. I wrote a recommendation for him to be appointed Lieut[enant]. in some new Reg[iment]. Dr. [George D.] Winch has been appointed surgeon of the 42nd Wis[consin]. 163 dollars per month. No danger and a first rate chance to live off of Sanitary Stores. Not a bad thing. Dr. Winch has been very faithful in the discharge of his duties since we left Wis. I think perhaps he will call at our house while he is in Wis. The Rg. dislike to have him leave.4 Yesterday I had been mustered 5 months & Uncle Sam owes me over $600. The which I wish he would pay. [Benjamin D.] Atwell, Adj[utan]t. came from home last week and got his pay in Washington and as long as that lasts we are all right.5 I have so far been able to meet all my expenses but am strapped now I am glad that father was able to sell his wheat at so good a figure. If he has enough I hope he will pay every claim against him. Times are coming when it will not be so easy to pay debts. The only way is to get out of debt & keep out while the currency is so inflated.

I shall have to get me a new double breasted coat. I have thought that perhaps I had better send to Kleeber [sp?] to make me one. My pay now is 170 dollars per month. If Herbert were here I could help him to a place. You would like to know ______ how I get along. In the first place I don’t lose any sleep about increased responsibility. [Lieutenant Colonel as of July 15] I don’t have to work very hard. There is considerable to do but I am accommodating and allow others to do it. The position is one I have not sought but being here I propose to avail myself of all the benefits of the place. I have been privately told by several of the officers that they thought I would fail in government but that they with others see their mistake. I think there is the best of feeling toward me on the part of the officers & men. The other evening in prayer meeting a man whom I had punished & talked to, spoke, thanked God that he had a Christian Col. Spoke of my talking to him. Said he could stand the punishment but that my talking so kindly to him broke him down & that he went to his tent crying. I very seldom have reason to punish a soldier or rebuke an officer but whenever I think they need it I find I can put on considerable cheek to do it.6

The officers in this army all seem young. Many of the first officers have gone home or been killed.7 I attended a meeting last Sunday [August 7, 1864] at Division H[ea]d Q[ua]rt[e]rs [John Gibbon’s Second Division, Second Corps, AotP]. There were about 1000 men present. A Chaplain from Pennsylvania preached. Lt. Col Pierce [Lieutenant Colonel Francis E. Pierce (of the 108th NY)]_____ our Brigade is from Rochester. I like him very much. He is pleasant and accommodating. Our old color guard are nearly all killed, wounded or sick. The other night at Dress Parade I called the attention of the R[e]g[iment]. to the fact that our colors were without a guard. Said that I believed that there were willing hearts and ready hands enough in the 36th [Wisconsin] to carry our flag and to guard it too & called for volunteers. More than enough immediately presented themselves. But I see that I have already written too long a letter. I wrote to Isaac last week Capt. [George] Weeks is sick at City Point with Typhoid Fever. Send me some postage stamps. Give my love to cousin Isaac and all enquiring friends. Did you get a letter I sent for the Sabbath School.  _____ _____ _____ is well. My health is first rate.

Write often and remember me as in all probability

Your Son Clement [E. Warner]8

The book from which this letter was taken, The Letters of Colonel Clement Edson Warner, while serving in the Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War, 1864-1865, has been generously shared and allowed to appear on this site in full by copyright holders David Warner and his siblings, whose aunt wrote the book. Click here to read it in full! Click here to see a short biography of Colonel Warner as well as the home page for his letters during the Siege of Petersburg.

 

Letters from and to Clement Warner During the Siege of Petersburg

(Note: Individual letters will appear below as they are posted at The Siege of Petersburg Online.)

 

 

 

Source/Notes:

  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Warner is here referring to a fascinating but almost completely forgotten incident on August 5, 1864, which ironically led to the naming of one of the most famous battles of the entire Siege. In the generally accepted “short, short” version of the Battle of the Crater, the focus is entirely on Col. Henry Pleasants and the miners in his 48th Pennsylvania.  What is almost never discussed are the Confederate countermines and offensive mining operations of their own.  On August 5, 1864, the Confederates blew up their own mine in front of the Hare House, north of the Crater sector.  Accounts differ, but either the Confederates miscalculated the distance and fell short or they were intentionally trying to destroy any Union mining efforts in this area to prevent another Crater disaster.  The explosion touched off some skirmishing during which Colonel Griffin A. Stedman of the 11th Connecticut was mortally wounded.  As a result, a nearby fort was named Fort Stedman in his honor.  And in March 1865, Fort Stedman would become a household name.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: One of the unexpected outcomes of running a site on the Siege of Petersburg has been my growing interesting in these small affairs.  In fact, I’ve grown so interested I’ve begun tracking them on one page.  I was VERY excited to read Lieutenant Colonel Warner’s mention of the City Point explosion happening “day before yesterday.”  I know for a fact this explosion occurred on August 9, 1864.  This means “today,” or the day Colonel Warner was writing this letter, was definitively August 11, 1864.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: Recently freed slaves were working on the ordnance barge which was completely obliterated along with anything else in its vicinity.  Confederate saboteurs had managed to sneak an early version of a time bomb on board with deadly and devastating effect.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: A quick perusal of the 42nd Wisconsin’s roster at the Wisconsin Historical Society site shows Warner was writing about Dr. George D. Winch. The 42nd Wisconsin spent their time in the service guarding Cairo, IL and other points in that state, well out of harm’s way.
  5. SOPO Editor’s Note: Going back to the Wisconsin Historical Society site, this time for the 36th Wisconsin’s roster, shows Adjutant Benjamin D. Atwell was wounded at Cold Harbor in the horrific June 3, 1864 attack, and he seemingly returned in mid-August per this letter.  Unfortunately for Atwell, he would be captured at Second Ream’s Station on August 25, 1864, just two weeks after this letter was written.
  6. SOPO Editor’s Note: I read this paragraph on Warner’s views of leading a regiment with great interest. I am surprised by how candid he is, though I realize this is a private letter to his parents.  Warner was a religious man, as the latter half of this paragraph clearly shows.
  7. SOPO Editor’s Note: The Overland Campaign which had just preceeded Petersburg had been absolutely devastating in general, but even more so in Warner’s Second Corps, Army of the Potomac.  A quick glance at the Order of Battle even for the latter half of June 1864 shows massive and constant change. Most brigades were led by Colonels or men of lesser rank, and many of the multi-year veterans of the Second Corps were dead, had mustered out, or had resigned.
  8. Warner, C. E. & Warner, E. M. (2004). The Letters of Colonel Clement Edson Warner, while serving in the Thirty-Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War, 1864-1865 (1328584824 974986850 E. M. Warner, Ed.). Milwaukee, WI: Elizabeth M. Warner, pp. 24-25

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