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NP: August 14, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): The 48th NY at the Battle of the Crater, July 30, 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.

Forty-eighth Regiment, N. Y. V.

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

HUNDREDS, VA., August 9. [1864]

A Charge—Relief—Losses—Good Institution—Picket-Notes—News Expected.

Since my last I have been on a visit to Portsmouth [Virginia], and during my absence our regiment [the 48th New York] was in the charge on the Rebel works before Petersburg on the 30th ult. [July 30, 1864], when the Rebel fort was blown up.1  If I had been there I would have written before.

Our regiment suffered pretty severely in the fight, and the next day [July 31, 1864] we were relieved and marched to this place; the day was sweltering hot, and numerous cases of sunstroke took place, some of them dying; some twelve or fifteen died from the effects of the sun, others were disabled for a time, and are now returning to their companies.

In the fight of the 30th, we lost Major S[amuel]. M. Swartwout, and Lieutenant J. O’Brien, and eight men killed, and thirty wounded; those that were killed were all shot outside of our works, and died while bravely doing their duty. Our Division (Turner’s) [2/X/AotJ] lost as many as the Eighteenth Corps.

I wish to say a word in regard to an institution kept by the Sanitary Commission at Portsmouth, called the Soldier’s Lodge; here any soldier, on pass or otherwise, can always find a ready welcome at the hands of Mr. J. Alcooke (the superintendent), and during his stay he is made comfortable as he can ask for: there is a [?]ing and smoking-room attached to the building. I would wish through you, to thank Mr. Alcooke for his kind treatment of me, and would recommend all soldiers who may be in Portsmouth, to call on him.

There is nothing going on here. The pickets are within 150 yards of each other, and occasionally notes are sent across to each other, one of which I will give you, as near as possible:

“TO MY FRIEND ON THE PICKET-LINE:—Do not vote Old Abe: for if you do, it will keep the war up for four years longer, as our leaders will never give in while he is President. I kicked Old Abe once, and if he is elected again, I will go to Washington and kill him. I am your friend on the picket-line, but your foe in battle.


The answer was sent in the following style:

“’SUGAR’:—All right. I am your friend everywher[e] but in battle.


I have no more words to write at present, but will shortly have some news to write, as something in the way o[f] digging is going on which will be a hard blow to the Johnnies, if successful.


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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: This was the July 30, 1864 Battle of the Crater.
  2. “Forty-eighth Regiment, N. Y. V..” Sunday Mercury (New York, New York). August 14, 1864, p. 7 col. 3
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