Editor’s Note: This article was found by Brett Schulte at the free newspaper site Historical Newspapers of the Rochester, New York Region and transcribed by Jackie Martin.
From the Army.
HEADQ’RS 2D CORPS, IN THE FIELD,
June 27th, 1864.
EDITOR REPUBLIC:—The day is very much like two years ago to-day as to the heat, but not as to other circumstances, for then I was in the midst of the White House excitement, where we were preparing for its evacuation.—When as now we heard the booming of cannon, and knew that our brave boys were fighting for dear life against overwhelming odds, and were retreating before the enemy, now we are holding our own, and only an occasional artillery duel. The heat is severe in the extreme, and the army is lying as quiet as possible, for it needs all the rest that can be given it. The men are worn down by long and continued labors of night and day, and are truly grateful for a little relaxation, yet are ready to spring to arms at a moment’s notice and do good service again.
Our present front is on the east and southeast of Petersburg in a semicircle, our right resting on the Appomattox, while across that river extending from Bermuda Hundreds to Fort Darling are Butler’s forces. Army Headquarters are near us. Our position is twelve miles from City Point. Between us and City Point are the railroads of Petersburg and City Point, and Petersburg and Norfolk, and close by at our left is the Petersburg and Roanoke railroad. Our gunboats are doing a good deal of work on the James river to prevent the rebs from fortifying Malvern Hill on the other side, from which they could annoy us considerably.
Since May 25th we have passed through a long stretch of country, moving from Milford. I came with the army trains due southeast down the Mattapony river, till we crossed it near a small village called Elliots, which was formerly burned by Kilpatrick in one of his raids, the place being one of the depots for the collection of Confederate stores. We then moved south-west and crossed the Pamunky at Hanovertown, and then south till we were ten miles west from White House, where we remained a week. I visited White House while lying here, but found little that reminded me of former days, as the railroads were gone, and every house and building had been burned, and the business was light in comparison to that of two years ago.
Our next movements were toward White House till we came to Tunstall’s Station, then south to the Chickahominy. Through that region we passed through an immense wilderness of pine woods, and once we passed twelve miles without finding an open field or a house. We were delayed one day at the crossing of the Chickahominy for the want of boats, being obliged to build a long log-work on each side of the river in order to meet the boats laid in the middle of the stream. After the bridge was completed, and the trains began to move, there was a constant line, which was as close as possible, and on a fast walk, crossing this bridge for 36 hours, which will be something of the idea of the immensity of army trains on the move, and yet all the trains did not cross here, for a good part of the supplies of each Corps went to the right and crossed at Jones’ Bridge, eight miles above. One incident transpired in this crossing. A six mule team took fright and jumped off the bridge in the middle of the river, dragging the wagon after them, which was loaded with officers’ baggage, and the water being very deep, the mules were drowned and the wagon beyond recovery. It did not make a five minutes delay. Our line was then for Charles City Court House, and we crossed the James River at the Wilcox farm, where the army had been crossing for two days, and from there we moved north toward City Point on the west side of the James. I have since joined my Signal Party, and am with them on the front.
It is estimated by Gen. Meade that the transportation of this army would form one line of sixty-two miles. When moving, the trains of each corps take the lead in succession, the one in lead to-day going in the rear to-morrow.—The leading train will commence moving at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning, and it will be near night before the last trains are on the road. Where it is possible trains move side by side on parallel roads, and must move with the army so as to be covered by it. The delay of crossing the Chickahominy left us exposed for one day. Since leaving the vicinity of the Wilderness the Signal Corps has been highly commended by the commanding General for bravery and efficiency, and several times it has been able to direct the movements of the army, and has been the means of saving disaster, by detecting some heavy flank movements of the enemy when intending surprise.
During our campaign on the peninsula, a Signal Station was opened at the house of Dr. Sheldon, 3 miles from Hanover Court House, and was taken charge of by Lieuts. Holland and Neel of our 2d Corps party. Our line of battle was close in front, and we had two or three batteries in position. We had full view, and the enemy, seeing our signal flag, tried to drive them off by opening on them with several batteries. Fifty-nine shells struck the house, and scores more exploded, over and around it. The signal officers, Lieuts. Holland and Neel, were both struck by splinters, the former on the head, the latter on the hand.—Yet both they and their men remained at their post, keeping up communications till the battle was over. This party received the compliments of Gen. Hancock in person for their bravery. The names of the men are Janson and Farrell, who were signal men with McClellan near the same ground two years before.—While there several signal towers were built, which attracted the rebels, and who showed their spite by throwing shell, and setting sharpshooters at them.
Here we have built several towers, some over 100 feet high. They are generally put up around as high a pine as can be found, and with a piece of tent to keep off the sun, it forms a much cooler place than on the ground, and glasses give a fine view of all before us. By means of our signals the fire of batteries is often directed, where the cannoniers could see nothing nor get any range. From the front we hold communication with a tower at City Point, and have at one place eight miles between flags. We also hold communication with Gen. Butler.
Our greatest trouble here is the scarcity of water, which can be had only by digging, and then only a very inferior quality.
I have but just received your number of June 16th. The political war at home is not agitating us much here in the field, as we deem it advisable to keep as cool as possible in this hot weather, and the poor fellows in the rifle pits and entrenchments think so too. We had hoped to be in Richmond by the 4th of July, but we shall not, though there is a great deal of money bet on that issue, by officers in the army.
I can say nothing of general movements, for we have no idea of what will be done next. The sound of artillery and musketry has become so familiar that we can hardly sleep at night unless there is heavy picket firing or firing by volley, as we may hear at any time of night. Through the day we have artillery, and musketry by night, and though you may hear the report of cannon for amusement on the 4th of July, we shall have it here in actual battle.
Of the casualties of our Corps, was Serg’t. Carrigan killed by sharpshooter, and private Janson bruised on the leg by a piece of shell.
E. W. H.1
- “From the Army.” Brockport (NY) Republic. July 7, 1864, p. 2 col. 4-5 ↩