Editor’s Note: This article was provided by John Hennessy and transcribed by Jackie Martin.
—It will be seen by the date, that the following interesting letter was written before the “quiet” was broken before Petersburg. Our soldier friend wields the quill handsomely, and we hope he may be spared in the shock of battle to write for our readers many more letters:
FROM THE ELEVENTH REGIMENT.
Camp of 11th C. V., near Petersburg,
July 25th, 1864.
MR. EDITOR:—“IT IS ALL QUIET AT THE FRONT.” Now, is not that NEWS, too, well worthy a conspicuous place in your most interesting paper? But, seriously, I sometimes think that our friends at home must have got so tired of that stereotyped phrase, as, almost, to prefer not hearing from us at all, than to hear only that. But there is a heap of mischief concealed under that SEEMINGLY dull and harmless expression, of which very few probably, at home have any just conception. For instance, while I write this letter in our camp, back from the front lines about a half mile, I can see the shells thrown from both our own and the enemy’s mortars, as they burst, some of them high in air, and distinctly hear the broken fragments, as they whiz through the air on their mission of death and destruction. These VERY AGREEABLE sights and sounds are, at this hour, occurring, as near as I can calculate, at the rate of about 30 a minute, or one every other second, and then these are accompanied by a constant and more rapid musketry, the bullets from which I can, all the time, hear whistling harmlessly over my head—yet these, sometimes, descend plump into the camp of one Brigade, which is situated in a ravine, and thus out of sight of the rebs, so that such shots are, of course, thrown in by chance, but they kill and wound just as well for all that when they hit, and this has been done several times of late. What would some of your readers say to the enjoyment of such “QUIET” as this?
This morning while the regiment was in the trenches, Mr. Joseph Morris, of Co. F., having just finished reading a letter from home, was standing folding it up to put in his pocket, when a bullet from some rebel sharp shooter struck him in the head fracturing the skull, and inflicting a bad though I hope not fatal wound. This young man’s father was a member of the same company and was killed at the battle of Cold Arbor. They are from Pomfret, Ct., and were both good soldiers.
Yesterday, while the Chaplain of the 12th N. H. Regt. which is in our brigade, was out to the front to visit the men in the trenches, he was hit in the thigh with a minnie ball, which passed directly through his leg, not injuring the bone as we hope, for the wound was too near the body to allow of amputation, in case that should become desirable.
On the 12th of the present month, while we were laying in the trenches, a member of company “A,” (of which I at present have command, there not being commissioned officers enough in the Regt., well and fit for duty, to give each company one,) was standing up cleaning his gun, while the bullets were whistling pretty closely around—some one said to him, “if you don’t look sharp, they will be pecking your hat.” “Well,” said he, “I wont mind the hat if they will only let alone the head.” He had just finished speaking, when a minnie ball struck him in the left temple, passing through the head and coming out above the right eye, and killing him almost instantly. His name was Homer B. Barnum from the Western part of the State, Danbury I think. He has a son in the company, connected with the Commissary Department of the Regiment, who has gone to Ct. with the body.
On the 4th of July a member of the same company had dug a little pit to lay in to protect himself from the shells, which were bursting around quite often. Lieut. Walker of Brooklyn, Ct., who at that time commanded this company, was passing along the track by where he lay. He looked up smiling to the Lieut. and asked him if he thought he was safe from the shells there. The Lieut. thought he was and passed on. But in less than two minutes after, a mortar shell exploded just above him and a piece of it striking him in the right side, passed clean through the body, probably in its course approaching very near his heart, and killing him at once. He was taken on a stre[t]cher from this trench, in the rear of the next line, and there, for some purpose unknown to me, they set down the stretcher for a few moments and left the dead body on it. Those who had carried the body, and a few others who had gathered around to see who it was and how hit, had hardly left the body alone a minute when another shell exploded just at its head, blowing it completely to pieces and away, so that a small part of the lower portion of the face was all that was left to show there ever had been a head on that lifeless trunk. Such are a few of the incidents which are daily and hourly occurring here, at this time when “IT IS ALL QUIET AT THE FRONT.” I might go on reciting such scenes all day, which have come under my observation, or are well attested scenes, any one of which would, if occurring there, throw any one of our quiet New England villages into a state of excitement, confusion and gloom, but yet, “IT IS ALL QUIET AT THE FRONT,” or at least so say the papers, and I acknowledge that even this present state of things, so full of sad[d]ening sights, and of constant alarms, is, indeed, quiet in comparison to the day, and field of battle, but I would have your readers remember that even the QUIET of war is but TERROR and DANGER, mingled with frequent alarms and confusion of preparation to give or receive those blows which may, at any moment, be expected. This may be quiet, but God grant that I may live to see a different quiet from this, in the future. Yours truly, H. A. S.
Co. F, 11th Regt. C. V.1
- “From the Eleventh Regiment.” Windham County Transcript (Danielsonville, CT). August 4, 1864, p. ? col. ? ↩