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NP: August 20, 1864 Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph: 23rd MA and the City Point Explosion


In front of Petersburg, Va.,
Aug 12, 1864.

MR. EDITOR :—Everything seems to be quiet just now in our front, except now and then a little shelling, which generally occurs just before dark, ending soon after dark, with an occasional shot through the night. This morning there was some sharp artillery. practice of about three hours duration, but was finally put an end to, by our artillery silencing that of the enemy, which is usually the case.

There was quite an explosion at City Point a few days since [on August 9, 1864], caused by the carelessness of one of the men who was at work unloading one of the barges that was loaded with ammunition. It seems that he was carrying a box of percussion shells, when he let the box fall, blowing up that barge and three others that were laying alongside; also blowing up the wharf and some store houses, and doing a large amount of damage to the property in that vicinity. A large number of lives were lost; it is stated that between three and four hundred were killed and wounded. When will men learn to handle ammunition as it should be handled. Powder and shell are things not to be played with; thus you see, through the carelessness of one man, a large number are killed or maimed for life.1

We are having some very hot weather here, and not much rain, though we have a shower once in a while.

Lieut. Dolliver, of the pontoon train, made a short call on us a day or two since. He looks well and hearty, as though that sort of life agreed with him. Also Serg’t Sadler of the 5th Mass. Cavalry.

We have twelve men reported for duty in our company, the rest being sick; and there are quite a number on duty that are not fit. They do not go to the doctor, as quite a number have been put on duty by him, that are not fit; but what he says is law, and we have to abide by his decision.

Our brigade [First Brigade, Second Division, XVIII Corps, Army of the James] does not get much rest—in fact I might say our corps; for they are on some kind of duty all the time, while other corps can go to the rear and lay back for a time and get recruited up a little. I don’t know how it is, but I suppose the commanding officers know all about it.

I have no more at this time.

Yours,                     GUARD.2


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

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18640820CALGTP1C4 23dMALetter


  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Interestingly, this explosion was caused by Confederate agents, and was an act of espionage.  Of note is Ulysses S. Grant’s reaction.  He was one of the few men to walk TOWARDS the explosion in the immediate aftermath, rather than running away in fear.  For more, see this post on the 150th anniversary of the explosion.
  2. “Letter from the 23d Mass. Reg’t.” Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph. August 20, 1864, p. 1 col. 4
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