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NP: August 13, 1864 Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph: 32nd MA, the Crater, and a Feud

Near Petersburg, Va.,
Aug. 8th, 1864

MR. EDITOR:—I hope that your readers will excuse my neglect in not writing a little more regular. But to tell them the truth there has but very little transpired worthy of note, since I last wrote.

On the 30th of last month [July 30, 1864] there was some excitement among the troops and a little powder used to blow up one of the Johnnies’ forts, and to make everything go off lively on the occasion, there was a great many of those presents sent over to our under ground friends, by the name of shell. The colored troops call them Uncle Sam’s condemned iron or rotten shot. Perhaps your readers think that I will attempt to illustrate the proceedings of that day, but I cannot; but I will say so far as the blowing up of the fort was concerned, it was done well, but as regards the rest of the arrangement I cannot say anything, only that the Johnnies still hold the remains of their Fort. No doubt but what it would have been a big thing if carried out in good shape, but it was not so. That is what the matter is. It is just here where the copperheads bring their laugh in so hearty. The question now arises, who was to blame? It is not for the soldiers of the lower grade to answer, but to cut a long story short, I will use the expression of the minister, the time the son of Neptune entered the church with a full cargo of poor whiskey on board, that there was always something to spoil good preaching. Such happens to be the case with Gen. Grant’s last plan that was executed.

Last week we were visited by several members of the 35th [Massachusetts] and 23d [Massachusetts] Reg’ts. They were all looking well and hearty.

Since I last wrote, our regiment has made a move a short distance to the right and rear, to a strong position. They are a little more exposed to the enemy’s fire than before, but we have a remedy for all such times as those; such as holes to crawl into, called bomb-proofs. There is one of our large forts just on the right of our regiment, which mounts 18 guns. It is called Fort Tilton, named after the Col. of the 22d Mass. Regt. It has been the report of late, that our friends over yonder have been to work undermining it, and to ascertain the facts in the case, our little corps commander (Warren) set some of his engineers to work digging down into them. They have ceased digging, and what it has amounted to I cannot say. But if the Johnnies conclude to waste their powder blowing up our forts, they will have enough to do for some time to come. If they should blow up ours and then charge on it, they would find us all ready just in rear of it to receive them, never more to return to their old works only as cripples.

The weather for the past week has been very warm, so much so that it was unfit for man or beast to perform any labor in the daytime.

To-day several of the telescopic rifles arrived by express, for those members of our regiment who are to join the new Battalion of Sharpshooters belonging to the 5th corps.

Private Andrew L. Tarr rejoined the company to-day, his wound having entirely healed up. It shows that he does not intend to have it said that he was a hospital bummer like many others; he has come to the front to face the music for the remainder of his time, only having three months and a bit to serve. He is one of the old stamp of ’76.

But before my letter gets to be too lengthy, I must say a little in regard to “Guard’s” letter, your correspondent in the 23d.1 While I was looking over the columns of the Telegraph of the 3d, I read the above named letter, and came to the conclusion that “Guard” was not satisfied with doing his own duty alone, but thinks, if I understood him right, to have done a little more. Now what he has said in regard to the 32d we will take as a joke, and wish for him and his friends to take me the same in what I am about to say representing the 32d. He very well knows that this, the present season, is one of arguments, and why should we not take a part and knock up a nice little argument with letters in relation to our separate regiments, which are both working for the same country, both bearing the same standard in front of our enemies. It is natural for everybody to think that their own is the best, and perhaps such is the case with my brother in arms, thinking his little regiment (the 23d) is a little, a hair trifling perhaps, better than the 32d. As far as that is concerned, I shall let him enjoy his own opinion, and will begin by asking him the question, are you a Vet.? If so, we are alike. He admits that we have seen hard fighting, and what do you suppose it was that gave him the proof of it? I think I can tell him it was those thinned ranks, and that torn and tattered battle flag, which his regiment cheered so nobly as it marched down Broadway on its way to Boston last winter. Then again, they accompanied the same through Boston to old Faneuil Hall. Again the following day, Co. D, being the color company of the 32d, it was permitted to carry the flag to Gloucester. Co. C, of the 23d, went with us. They must have thought considerable of that old flag; what say you readers? Perhaps it was the first battle flag that many of the citizens ever saw; there was but a small part of the original left to look at. I do not wish the readers of the Telegraph to understand that it was all the work of shot and shell that made it look so hard. It was only that in part; but it is satisfactory enough to them that it was the flag that proves the hard fighting.

Now we will turn the subject and talk a little about the 23d; marching done mostly in railroad cars and U. S. transports, while ours has been done altogether by the main power of man. True it is there were seven months, while we were stationed at Fort Warren, that we had easy times; but no more so than they had all last summer in Newbern. But since that the time we have shared the fortunes of the old 5th corps. It will be no use to go into a detail of our many long marches, for paper is not plenty enough just now. Perhaps our friend has seen some hard marches, but what were they compared with ours? He never carried a Joe Hooker knapsack, with eight days’ rations in it, and then march all day. But his style of marching was in company with the rebel’s terror, (gunboat,) through a fertile country, living on the best, such as sweet potatoes and peanuts. I do not wish to go back any farther than the present campaign, and ask him who has done the most marching. They took transports on the James river for White House Landing, and from there back here again, while we have come the overland route all the way, fighting almost every day until we arrived here.

I do not think that friend “Guard” has seen any of that fancy fighting since he has been in this army, such as he saw down in North Carolina the time the 23d advanced on the enemy with right and left general guides out; they could not have marched over thirty miles that day, sure. I think now, if my friend will only stop and think this whole thing over, he will come to the conclusion that he is wholly wrong, and that when he was soldiering in North Carolina he was only having his regular pleasure excursions into the interior of the State. It is all very true that he was doing his duty and obeying orders, and that is just coming down to the fine thing that the 32d has ever done.

I shall now close, hoping to hear from you again in answer to this, through the columns of the Telegraph.

I remain yours respectfully,        SIEGE.2


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

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: “GUARD” of the 23rd Massachusetts and “SIEGE” of the 32nd Massachusetts would provide a running literary battle through the pages of the Telegraph in the weeks to come. See the other letters written by these two, many of which are linked at the bottom of this page, for further details and back and forth.
  2. “Letter From Co. D, 32d Mass.” Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph. August 13, 1864, p. 2 col. 3-4
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