Editor’s Note: This article was provided by David Welch (100th Pennsylvania Roundheads) and transcribed by Jackie Martin. I do not normally add articles if they do not have an accompanying image to go along with it, but in this case David is well known to me as someone who is a serious researcher of the 100th Pennsylvania, and so I include this transcription without a copy of the article image. David leads into the article as follows: ” LETTER BY PVT. ETHAN S. MOREHEAD, CO. K TO HIS BROTHER CAPT. JOSEPH MOREHEAD, WHILE CAPT. MOREHEAD WAS LOCATED IN VICKSBURG, MSLETTER IS TRANSCRIBED BY THE WEBAUTHOR, DAVID L. WELCH FROM A COPY OF THE AUGUST 16, 1864 “DAILY HERALD” OF VICKSBURG, MISSISSIPPI PROVIDED COURTESY OF GORDON COTTON, CURATOR OF THE OLD COURTHOUSE MUSEUM IN VICKSBURG, MS”
From Before Petersburg, Va
A LETTER FROM A SOLDIER.
HE DESCRIBES THE EXPLOSION.
A REBEL LEIUTENANT THROWS UP.
HIS EXPERIENCE IN THE AIR.
CASUALTIES IN THE 100TH PA.
A STREAM OF WATER TURNED
INTO A REBEL MINE
Capt. Joseph Morehead in this city has favored us with the following letter from his brother, who was in the engagement he describes, being in the 100th Pa. (Roundhead) vet. Vol. Infantry, 1st division 9th corps.
In front of Petersburg, Va.,
August 4th 1864
DEAR BROTHER: I have done but one day’s duty since I wrote last to you , and that was on the 30th day of July. I never will forget that day, nor will any of the regiment, as long as any of us live. At two o’clock on the morning of that day our division was waked up out of a quiet slumber and ordered to pack up and move immediately. We went down on the left of the corps and awaited orders. At 4 a.m. we were ordered to form in line of battle, and then all knew what had to be done. The 48th Pa. had undermined one of the largest of the enemy’s forts, and at daybreak the fort was to be blown up, and our corps was to make a charge. At ten minutes before 5 o’clock, three guns were fired, and at that instant the rebel fort was blown into the air something like 200 feet. We were about 500 yards from it when the mine exploded. The ground for half a mile around shook as though moved by an earthquake. There were two regiments in the fort and hardly a man escaped. A rebel general went into the fort about 5 minutes before the explosion, but did not go out again alive. I heard a rebel lieutenant say that he was on the ground that night, but all at once he took the wings of the morning, and the next moment he was flying away towards heaven, but the d____d Yankees clipped his wings and he had to come back. It was a mean trick, he said, to stop a fellow when he was going so fast towards the good place.
Five minutes after the explosion the division made a charge under a most terrific fire from both flanks of the enemy, but we carried the works without much loss of life; but after we got into them, a battery on our left opened on us a severe fire with shrapnel. We held our position until the negro troops came up, passed us, and made a second charge, but the enemy proved too strong for them and they broke and run. However, we checked and rallied them, and held the position until three o’clock in the evening, all the time under a murderous fire from the battery last spoken of. Then the enemy made two different charges, but we held him at bay until he made the third when they proved too much for us, and we had to give way. They took a good many prisoners. They got about eighty-seven of our regiment.
My first Lieut. Richard Craven was blown all to pieces! Poor fellow, he never knew what hurt him. Adjt. Geo. Leasure, Major Hamilton and Lieutenant Johnson, of “D” company are prisoners. The two former wounded. Brig. Gen. Bartlett, was wounded twice, but he had a cork leg and it was struck both times.
The enemy now held the same ground they did before the assault. We captured ten stand of colors from the enemy but lost our dear old State flag, which had inscribed on it the name of every battle the regiment had ever been in. But I think the enemy did not get it, for I know I saw a part of the staff shot away and the color-bearer was slightly wounded. I think some other division carried our flag off. We have only one hundred and eighty men for duty in the regiment.
There were about two hours that day when I would have given very little for my chance of life, but as God would have it, I came off safe.
We took 1000 prisoners.
The enemy had been undermining a fort of ours for a week past, but our fellows found it out, night before last. Everything was moved out of the fort and a shaft sunk, when the discovery was made that the rebs had things nearly fixed for blowing it up. Our boys just dug a small trench from a brook near by and spoiled all their calculations. They need not try, we think, to get ahead of the “Yanks”.
Your Affectionate brother,
[Transcriber David Welch’s Note: E.S. Morehead was Pvt. Ethan S. Morehead, Co. K. Pvt. Morehead died February 16, 1865 of wounds received February 14, 1865 in front of Petersburg, Va.]
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- “From Before Petersburg, Va.” Vicksburg Daily Herald. August 16, 1864, p. ? col. ? ↩