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NP: December 23, 1864 The Bedford Inquirer: 55th PA, Thanksgiving at Fort Burnham, November, 1864


Thanksgiving-Winter Quarters-Dutch Gap Canal.

November 26, 1864.


I hope a few lines from the Army of the James will not come amiss to you and your readers, although we [55th Pennsylvania] have no news of any importance to give you.

I must let you know how Thanksgiving day [Thursday, November 24, 1864]1 went off in the army. We had a very nice dinner of turkey, chicken and cranberries, furnished, I believe, by the States of New York and Pennsylvania. Everybody seemed glad and joyful that their friends at home still remembered them, and that they had not forgotten those who are out battling for our good government. The boys ate their dinner with a relish, for it is not often that they get any of the kind. This morning the apples came around and they, too, were soon devoured. The day passed off in a pleasant manner among the soldiers of the Army of the James.

Four deserters came in last night [November 25, 1864]. They say that the rebs are prepared for us, and that a great deal of dissatisfaction is raging through the ranks. I guess that by the time “old Sherman” gets through with them in Georgia that a great deal more dissatisfaction will exist in their ranks, and at home.2

We received orders this morning [November 26, 1864] to put up winter quarters. The nights are pretty cold now, and the boys need something else besides their shelter tents to keep them from the cold and rain.

The canal at Dutch Gap will be completed in a short time.3 The rebel gunboats shelled it pretty hard yesterday afternoon [November 25, 1864].4 They are about ten feet below the surface of the water at present.

The Bedford County boys are all well I believe. Lieut. J.D. Horn and Lieut. H. Hammer are getting along fine, and liked by all the men under their command.

Everything is quiet along the lines as usual. But I must close. With the hope of rebellion being crushed soon I remain

Yours very respectfully,


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

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: Thanksgiving was on the last Thursday of November in 1864, or November 24.  See this article, one of many on some aspect of Thanksgiving Day 1864.
  2. SOPO Editor’s Note: Sherman had begun his March to the Sea by this point, having just captured the Georiga capital of Milledgeville a few days before this letter was written.
  3. SOPO Editor’s Note: The canal at Dutch Gap was barely over a month from being blown open on January 1, 1865, though it would prove a failure during the war.  Much like Grant’s Canal at Vicksburg, though, it permanently changed the course of the James in the postwar years.
  4. SOPO Editor’s Note: I can find no evidence of a Confederate naval attack on November 25, 1864.  Much more likely is that the Confederate land battery at Howlett’s Bluff shelled Dutch Gap Canal on that day. More research is needed. Please CONTACT US if you have any more information on this small affair.
  5. SOPO Editor’s Note: I do not know the identity of letter writer TYPO.  If you know who this man was, please CONTACT US.
  6. “From the James.” The Bedford Inquirer (Bedford, PA), November 26, 1864, p.1, c.6.
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