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NP: August 13, 1864 Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph: 23rd MA and Confederate Countermines

In front of Petersburg, Va.,
Aug 6, 1864.

MR. EDITOR:—Having a few more items that may be of interest to your readers, I will pen them for you.

On Wednesday night [August 3, 1864] we left camp to go into the pits,—that is, our brigade [First Brigade, Second Division, XVIII Corps, Army of the James]. The 9th New Jersey went into the skirmish line first; the 10th New York Heavy Artillery the second night, with the 25th [Massachusetts] and 27th Mass[achusetts]. taking the front lines. The front line is the line next in the rear of the skirmish line.

There was no little excitement created last night by the rebs. It seems the Johnnies had been undermining that part of the line which is called the saps. But it proved a failure on their part, as they had not gone far enough to be under the saps. They sprang the mines about five o’clock yesterday afternoon [August 5, 1864], but did no damage to our lines at all, for it exploded outside, between them and the rebel works, throwing trees and dirt quite a distance in the air; some of the trees fell into their own works, but whether they did any damage or not I cannot say.1

At the same time of springing the mine, the rebs opened a heavy fire with artillery and musketry, the shells bursting uncomfortably near sometimes. A piece of shell came very near Sergeant Wonson as he was sitting and loading his musket. However, they did no great damage with their artillery. It was thought they would make a charge on our skirmish line, but they did not, owing doubtless to the failure of the explosion. It is thought that the whole of the mine did not explode. Some of the officers think they have mined a long distance, and that they are still at work underneath; but of that of course it is impossible to tell with any degree of certainty. But their mine proved a failure, as I wish everything of that sort will that they undertake to do. They may give it to us yet. We had a very few hurt.

A member of Co. A was killed instantly yesterday, while taking with one of his comrades. He had just put his musket through the hole and had turned round and asked one of the men to look through another hole and see what kind of a shot he would make; and while in the act of asking, a rebel bullet passed through the hole where his musket was, and pierced his head, killing him instantly.

Col. [Griffin A.] Stedman [commander of the Second Brigade, Second Division, Eighteenth Corps, Army of the James] was mortally wounded, and a private of the 10th New York [Heavy Artillery?] was killed.—There were three of our regiment wounded, but nothing very serious however, they being all concussions. Capt. [John W.] Raymond of Co. G, was struck by a piece of dirt, hurting him considerable, so that he had to go to camp this morning. Capt. [Addison] Center and the rest of the officers that were out here with us, came out right side up.2

We have had some rain lately, which has proved a great blessing, and has proved very beneficial to the sick. There is considerable sickness in the regiment now, caused no doubt by the malaria contracted while we were in North Carolina.

We are now having very pleasant weather, and everything is quiet this morning. Now and then a picket shot is fired, or a solid shot or shell from the enemy’s guns passes along, but not often.

Yours,                   GUARD.3


Other Massachusetts’ Soldier Letters in the Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph

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18640813CALGTP2C4to5 23dMALetter


  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: I really enjoy letters which describe some of the lesser known actions at the Siege of Petersburg.  This is one such letter.  “GUARD” is describing a failed Confederate counter mining attempt on August 5, 1864, right in front of what would become the rather famous Fort Stedman.  The Confederates tried to pay back the Crater with their own mine explosion.  Unfortunately for them, they fell 40 odd yards short of their intended target.  Colonel Griffin A. Stedman of the 11th Connecticuty, commanding the second brigade of the division the 23rd Massachusetts was in, was mortally wounded in the lines here.  As so often happened, the fort there was named in his honor and became the name of one of the last battles at the Siege of Petersburg in March 1865.  For more on this failed Confederate counter mining operation, read my own post about the topic from my Siege of Petersburg Sesquicentennial series.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: The way “GUARD” wrote this sentence implies Captain Addison Center was in command on August 5, 1864.  This is in line with the Official Records, which shows him in command on July 31, just a few days earlier. I am assuming Center was indeed in command on August 5.
  3. “Letter from the 23d Mass. Reg’t.” Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph. August 13, 1864, p. 2 col. 4-5
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