SOPO Editor’s Note: Captain Henry F. Young of the 7th Wisconsin wrote twenty letters while at the Siege of Petersburg from June to December 1864. Researcher Roy Gustrowsky transcribed this letter from the original at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison, Wisconsin. He is currently in the process of writing a regimental history of the 7th Wisconsin. “Delia” was Henry F. Young’s wife, and “Father” was his Father-in-Law Jared Warner, a prominent businessman of Grant County, Wisconsin. Gustrowsky has magnanimously made these transcriptions available to the Siege of Petersburg Online for publication, and we thank him for his generosity.
UPDATE: I recently learned that a new book has been published by the University of Wisconsin Press, entitled Dear Delia: The Civil War Letters of Captain Henry F. Young, Seventh Wisconsin Infantry, and edited by Micheal Larson and John David Smith. If you want to read all of Henry’s letters throughout the war, purchase the book!
Near Petersburg VA July 2d 1864
I have neglected you for Some days but I have been So busy that I could not find the time to write. Our teams came up and we had to Make out Muster and pay Rolls and Monthly returns and reports of every description.1
My health is good but I am worn out. I weigh less than for ten years, and it is So hot and dusty here it is almost impossible to breathe. We lay in the trenches 72 hours and then we are relieved for the same length of time. So you See we have Some time to our Selves. Our breast works and those of the Enemy are not more than 300 to 500 yds apart So that it is heads down when we are in the breast works. They are issuing plenty of good rations now and we can get our clothes washed So that we are feeling better. Our Men ammuse themselves Mightily by either throwing Morter Shells inside of the Reb breast works or by Shelling the city; I dont think it is much Amusement for the Rebs, but it keeps them from going to Sleep. This Seiging is Slow work but they will eventually have to Succumb for they cant drive us away from here.
We have had No causalities Since my last. Sergt Eustice was not Seriously wounded he was bruised and stuned by a Shell that exploded Within 2 ft of him. I feel almost certain that C G Parker was Killed and Martin Calvert. We buried Corpl Runion & Wm B Pauly but the other two must have been carried off and buried by Some other Regt while we were in line under the Enemy’s breast works. Wm Ray & Webster Cook returned to the Co yesterday they look fine. I Suppose Sloat is home as he wrote to me from Washington. There is considerable excitement here amongst the officers of the Veteran Regts, they are all used up till they dont amt to more than one or two good companys and the rumour is that one half of the organizations will be broken up and the Surplus officers Mustered out2; well the thing causes quite a flutter particularly with officers that want to get out. Many others that want to remain are fretting over it, for my part I am easy about the Matter if the Govt want My Services and will give Me a command that Suits Me I will Stay, if not I will go home, but this is Speculating for their is No knowing what will turn up between now and the 1st of Sept . Lieut Kidd is quite lame with his old wound he says it is so painful at night he can’t Sleep the Marching at the Start used him up.
I hope you will have had rain before you get this for a Short crop will make hard times in Wis with everything at Such high prices it is very dry here it has not rained for over thirty days and in this warm dry Sandy Soil it is terrible the dust is Settled on the leaves of the trees So as to completely discoulour them, and good water is getting Scarce.
We are expecting the 19th Army Corps here within a few days it will yet turn out as I told you long ago the last fighting will be done in Va. Both Sides will concentrate all their available force here for a desperate Struggle Our Cavalry is playing the Mischief with their RR and communications, I can’t see how they are to Stand it long here without they have made provision for Standing a Seige before hand which I dont think they have, but they are putting forth Mighty efforts and will continue to do so till after the Presidential Election.3
I suppose you have seen some of the boys of my Co before this as there are a number of them home on furlough. Give My love to Susan tell her I will write to her the First opportunity but the fact is I am Stealing the time to write this when I ought to be in bed. There has so much writing and business accumulated for the last two months I dont know when I will get through with it. Give my good wishes to John Collier and Aunt Hannah ask old John what he thinks of that pet of his John C Fremont. Give my love to Jared Laura May & Janie and acept the same for yourself and by Wishing you all a pleasant fourth of July I will bid you a very good night.
Letters of Henry W. Young:
- LT: June 20, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: June 27, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: July 2, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: July 15, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: July 26, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: July 29, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: August 4, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: August 6, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: August 23, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: September 2, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: September 5, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: September 15, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: September 19, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: September 27, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: October 6, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: October 13, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: October 21, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: October 22, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: October 30, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: November 5, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: November 7, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: November 10, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: November 13, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: November 20, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- LT: November 23, 1864 Henry F. Young (7th Wisconsin)
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The monthly reports occurred on the last day of the month, so Young would have prepared these reports on June 30, 1864. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: By this point in the war, the veteran regiments of the Army of the Potomac were often down to around 100 men per regiment. Although not always true, this often caused a surplus of officers. The plan Young is referring to would have consolidated various regiments together to build up their strength, while paring down superfluous officers. What tended to happen in reality was that units were only consolidated when a unit had a bunch of veterans whose enlistments had expired, leaving less than a full regiment left of men who had more time to serve. These men would often be assigned to a sister regiment from the same state. I have numerous examples of this on my Unit pages, one for every regiment, battery, and battalion which participated in the Siege of Petersburg. In addition, recruiting drives brought many veteran regiments up to strength in the fall and winter of 1864, so that they were much larger by the final spring campaign of 1865. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Young turned out to be incorrect in thinking all of the armies would be brought to Petersburg. Quite the opposite happened. Early’s Second Corps became the Valley Army and threatened Washington, D.C. Grant sent the Sixth Corps and much of the Nineteenth Corps after him, although a large set of regiments from Nineteenth Corps were present on Bermuda Hundred and at Deep Bottom in late July 1864. ↩
- Young, Henry F. “Near Petersburg VA July 2d 1864.” Received by Dear Delia, Near Petersburg VA, 2 July 1864, Petersburg, VA. ↩