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NP: August 7, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): The 3rd New York, Secesh, and Sutlers at Petersburg, June-July 1864

Editor’s Note: This letter to the Sunday Mercury appears here due to Bill Styple’s fantastic book Writing and Fighting the Civil War, which is where I first learned about these amazing soldier letters.  You can purchase a copy of Writing and Fighting the Civil War at Belle Grove Publishing.

Third Regiment New York Volunteers.

[Special Correspondence of the N. Y. Sunday Mercury.]

CAMP NEAR PETERSBURG, VA., July 30. [1864]

Work Done—Promotion—Missing Vegetables—Gotham Firemen—Sharp Sutlers—Political Feelings of Soldiers.

Since I last wrote you, our regiment has passed through most of the struggles of the campaign.  It bore an honorable part at Procter’s Creek, Cold Harbor, Drury’s Bluff, and on the Heights of Petersburg [aka the Second Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864]. At this last place, our line charged and carried one of the enemy’s strongest earthworks, capturing the guns and the battle flag of Wise’s “Rebel” Brigade, for which one of the privates of Company G was promoted on the spot to a lieutenancy in the regular Army. Since leaving Bermuda Hundred, over a month ago, we have been constantly under fire. This is called “the inactivity of the Army of the Potomac”. If those correspondents who write these articles would but see the boys dodge the shot and shell of the “Secesh”, they would think it anything but a life of “inactivity”. I see several accounts in the papers that the Sanitary Commission were actively engaged in sending vegetables to the troops here; but I think they must have met with some very serious obstacle, as the only place where we have seen vegetables were those served for the officers’ mess.  With one exception, then, our regiment was furnished with a variety sent, as we were told, by “the noble firemen of Gotham”. The sutlers here, or as the boys style them, “Army Sharks”, have become very cautious in their dealings.  They will not accommodate any of the men with credit, unless their company commander will be security for them, as they (the men) are liable, at any moment, to “shuffle off this mortal coil”, and close their accounts.  This makes it very inconvenient for the privates, as pay day has been a long time coming. Most of our officers have been very obliging. All the companies, with but two exceptions, have been enabled to obtain their tobacco and other necessaries. The commanders of these two companies refuse their signatures on the same grounds that the sutlers refuse to credit without them.  The boys are looking eagerly for the Paymaster, when they intend to raise a sufficient fund, and place it at the disposal of their two officers to secure them against loss.  All these things are only secondary to the political excitement. Through our camps our regiment seem to be all of one mind in regard to the coming election, nine-tenths of them being good Union-loving men, who are in favor of “free speech”, “free press”, and the “Monroe Doctrine”. The man that advocates these principles will secure the numerous votes of the New York Volunteers.

Yours respectfully,                     HIGH HAT.1

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  1. “Third Regiment New York Volunteers.” Sunday Mercury (New York, New York). August 7, 1864, p. 7 col. 3
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