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NP: August 19, 1864 The Bedford Inquirer: 21st PA Cav and the Crater, Part 2

Soldier’s Letter

The following is an extract from a letter written by John H. Allison, of Co. I, 21st Reg[imen]t. P[ennsylvani]a. Cavalry, to his Sister.

August 4th, 1864.


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The Lieutenant [1st Lt. Martin P. Doyle of Co. I, 21st Pa Cav.]1 got back safe. He has written a letter to the INQUIRER giving an account of the “blowing up” of a Rebel fort.2 It was opposite to us about sixty perches. It was a grand scene. I would not have missed seeing it for anything. It rose up like a volcano, then spread out and fell like the drooping branches of a weeping willow. Men, cannons, knapsacks, guns, haversacks, logs, tents and ground were seen flying in the air about three hundred feet high. Then about one hundred and fifty cannons opened upon the enemy’s lines, which made the earth shake, the air soon became so thick with smoke that you could not see one hundred yards; but it soon rose and we could see the enemy’s lines. The Rebs did not reply at first but after their fright was over they came back and opened on us, which again made the earth shake beneath our feet, the roar of cannon, musketry, and the yelling of charging columns were deafening. We captured one line from “John Henrys,” but they charged on us and drove us back to our former place. I am now writing in my “cave” under the ground about six feet. It is called a bombproof; it is dug into the ground, and logs laid over, and then dirt on to prevent the shells from hitting us. I shot about one hundred shots, I don’t know whether they done any good or not but hope they did.3 The Rebs and we are about three hundred yards apart. If God spares my life to go home I’ll give you a description of things in general.

Your Loving Brother,


SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Roy Gustrowsky.

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note:  I identified Doyle as the author of a letter which appeared in the same August 19, 1864 issue of the Bedford Inquirer as this letter.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: This fort was Pegram’s Salient, under which Union soldiers who were coal miners tunneled under and blew up at the July 30, 1864 Battle of the Crater.
  3. “John” is of course describing the Battle of the Crater from his vantagepoint south of the Crater, to the left of Ninth Corps.
  4. “Soldier’s Letter.” The Bedford Inquirer, August 19, 1864, p. 3, col. 2
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