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.
On the James River.
HEADQ’RS 1st BRIG., 4TH DIV., 5TH A. C.,
NEAR CHARLES CITY C. H., VA.,
June 20th, 1864.
EDITOR REPUBLIC: DEAR SIR:—I will attempt to give you a sketch of our advance from the James river. Crossing the James on the morning of Thursday last [SOPO Editor’s Note: June 16, 1864], on steamers, the 5th Corps having formed, at 10 o’clock A. M. we marched steadily on the road to Petersburg. Road very dusty, and water scarce; country very pleasant. With few halts, at about 9 o’clock we rested in an open field near Prince George Court House, 6 miles from Petersburg. It was a splendid moonlight, and we were at least 15 miles from the point where we left the James river. There were many stragglers who had fallen out exhausted, heated and weary, but the forced march was evidently necessary, as we heard the booming of artillery in the direction of H., and could see the flash preceding each report. In an hour the men had made coffee and were resting, when the order came to advance, and we went two miles nearer Petersburg, halting for the night. The 1st Brigade headq’rs were taken in a large barn, among plenty of cornstalks, and your correspondent, with the Brigade bugler and head clerk, found a pleasant and yielding couch in a large wagon box well lined with straw. Adjoining the barns remained sufficient evidence of a once comfortable and lovely southern mansion, well shaded. Early on Friday morning [SOPO Editor’s Note: June 17, 1864] the 5th corps were placed in line fronting the enemy, and during the day threw up breastworks, then towards night the lines advanced and took possession of rebel breastworks, which were extremely strong. Nothing but skirmishing that day by infantry. Heavy artillery firing on both sides, shell bursting all about. Some wounded brought in.
On Saturday [SOPO Editor’s Note: June 18, 1864], in the afternoon, our division charged the enemy’s breastworks without much effect, losing some killed and wounded. Lieut. Chilson, formerly Adjutant of the 24th Mich., aid to Gen. Cutler, and a promising young man, [illegible] relatives in Rochester. Capt. D. B. Dailey, lately promoted, Provost Marshal of Division, on Gen. Cutler’s staff, was slightly wounded in the ear, losing a small portion of it. Lieut. Rodgers, of the 6th Wis., acting aid on 1st Brigade staff, was slightly wounded, also one of the orderlies, by a spent ball; two orderlies’ horses in this Brigade were wounded. The 1st Brigade is now commanded by Col. Bragg, of 6th Wis. The loss in the Battalion of N. Y. S. S. (3 companies), is said to be 13 killed and wounded. In the 6th Co., loss as follows: Killed—W. E. Ferrin, Pittsford. Wounded—R. H. Eaton, Henrietta; M. Hennessy, Albion; Wm McNaughton, Caledonia. Geo. N. Goold, of Carlton, missing.
WEDNESDAY, 22d.—Our front is to-day less than two miles from Petersburg. No battle yet. Skirmishing and artillery firing. From a high, heavy fort, once in the enemy’s front line of breastworks, can be seen the whole plain below and about the city, with the church spires of the latter, and some buildings. The country is finely diversified with woods, green and golden fields, and earthworks; also the channel of the Appommattox [sic], which runs by the city. We are in a southerly direction from P[etersburg]., which is 22 miles from Richmond, 10 miles from James river, and is said to be pleasant; is third in size in the State in business and population—latter was about 16,000. Contains several important public buildings, several churches, of which six can be seen, one reduced one-half by a shot; a number of cotton factories, three banks, two ropewalks, woolen factory, iron furnace, with mills; also educational establishments, three newspapers, and a slave pen. The water power is good. The place is in fine range of our guns, which may soon open on the town.
I had the pleasure of witnessing a moderate “artillery duel” this morning, in view of the bursting shell from both sides. It was a rare scene for this campaign; the effect of the shots could be plainly seen. The 7th N. Y. Battery really did the best execution—from its guns shells were thrown sufficiently close to the opposing battery to produce a panic among noncombatants.
I know of nothing extremely important.—Wounded have just been removed by ambulances to City Point, and shipped on steamers to New York. Mail facilities grow better, and we got SOME late papers.
Yours, &c., J. T. F.1
- “On the James River.” Brockport (NY) Republic. July 14, 1864, p. 2 col. 4 ↩