Editor’s Note: This letter to the Sunday Mercury appears here due to Bill Styple’s fantastic book Writing and Fighting the Civil War, which is where I first learned about these amazing soldier letters. You can purchase a copy of Writing and Fighting the Civil War at Belle Grove Publishing.
One Hundred and Forty-sixth Regiment, N. Y. V.
[Special Correspondence of the N. Y. Sunday Mercury.]
IN FRONT OF PETERSBURG, VA., July 10.
Severe Losses—A Hot Place—Breaking of the Rebel Lines—Recapture of our Troops—On the Reserve—Hot Weather—No Rain—The Sanitary Commission.
The One Hundred and Forty-sixth N. Y. Vols. (Garrard Tigers) have been getting along all sorts of ways since leaving Warrenton Junction, Va. Our ranks have been thinned pretty badly. In the first day’s fight (May 5 ), in the Wilderness, there were swept off about four hundred men, with our Colonel, Major, Adjutant, and about twelve of our line-officers. We have felt the loss of our colonel, though he was not extremely well liked by rank and file, yet he was a man to depend on if in a tight place. He is reported killed, but it is not a certainty. Our next exchange of compliments with “Johnny Reb” was at Laurel Hill [on May 8, 1864 during the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House]; we had to go in, after marching all night and no sleep, though just before 8 o’clock A. M., we halted, time enough for the men to get water; had to advance under a heavy fire of shot and shell across a plowed field, and as it had to be done on the double-quick, the usual number of knapsacks strewed the road, leaving a good trail for any one to follow.
One part of the battalion went one way, another part another way; some swore they would not go into a fight with such officers as we had. In fact, a good many went to the rear. At last, one of the aides to Brigadier-General Ayers [sic, Ayres] (like a good angel) came to the rescue; could see what was the matter. He turned to the men, and asked: “Will you follow me—just for old friendship’s sake?” “Yes!” was the answer. He did not look behind to see if we were coming. (But the Tigers were there.) He found a position for us, and we stayed there and held it, threw up breastworks, and that place got to be a pretty hot hole before it was left. Our next passage-at-arms with the Rebs was on the other side of the North Anna River, the Johnnys advancing on us in three lines of battle. We paid our compliments to the first line—the artillery tended to the third line, the first line breaking. The second could not help themselves, and all skedaddled in confusion, leaving us masters of the field. We lost about sixteen in the regiment in this engagement. Our Color-Sergeant, George F. Williams, who was reported dead and buried, has turned up again in the hospital at Alexandria. He was wounded through both hips, taken prisoner, and was recaptured by our cavalry. Fifty in all were recaptured with him—all that was left in Locust Grove Hospital.
[SOPO Editor’s Note: The preceeding paragraphs discussed the 146th New York’s actions during the Overland Campaign in Virginia from May-June 1864. The paragraphs below focus on the early stages of the Siege of Petersburg.]
We are now lying in front of Petersburg, but on the reserve—for we have been in the pits since the 18th of June —and now relieved for a little rest, though ready to move to the front, no matter what work is to be done. The Rebs treat us nightly to a few bombshells, and of course we return the compliment. Now and then a rally, and then a volley of musketry resounds through the air, reminding us that Bobby Lee is still in our front.
The glorious Fourth [of July 1864] passed over very quietly, though it was expected to open very warm with shot and shell, and so we were agreeably disappointed. The weather here is very hot, every one is wishing for rain; we have not had any since the 2d of June, and water here is pretty scarce.
The Sanitary Commission still pursues its labors, relieving one and then another of our sick and wounded, but, I am sorry to say, that eatables issued to this regiment by the Sanitary Commission, the majority of the articles are appropriated by the shoulder-straps, of course it creates a great amount of grumbling, among the men. Such things when issued should pass through the regimental Commissary’s hands and be issued to all companies according to the number of men, but I suppose enlisted men have no friends, and have to put up with what is dealt out to them.
In hopes that my next will contain the capture of Petersburg, Va., I am, POOR JOE MUGGINS.1
Soldier Letters from the New York Sunday Mercury:
- NP: July 10, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): 12th NY Folded Into 5th NY Veteran
- NP: July 10, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): 12th U. S. Infantry at the Siege of Petersburg, Early July 1864
- NP: July 10, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): 25th NY Cavalry at the Siege of Petersburg, Early July 1864
- NP: July 10, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): 48th NY Guards the 18th Corps Trains, June 1864
- NP: July 10, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): USS Hydrangea and the Action at Howlett’s Bluff, June 21, 1864
- NP: July 17, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): 95th NY at the Second Battle of Petersburg, June 18, 1864
- NP: July 24, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): 16th NYHA at Fort Magruder
- NP: July 24, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): 170th NY from Spotsylvania to Jersualem Plank Road
- NP: July 24, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): 5th NY Veteran Remains Separated at the Siege of Petersburg
- NP: July 31, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): 57th NY Receives a Boost In Strength, July 1864
- NP: August 7, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): The 146th New York, Black Troops, Back Pay, and 500,000 More at Petersburg, August 1864
- NP: August 7, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): The 170th New York at First Deep Bottom, July 1864
- NP: August 7, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): The 3rd New York, Secesh, and Sutlers at Petersburg, June-July 1864
- NP: August 7, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): An “Old Soldier” Visits the 5th NY July-August 1864
- NP: August 14, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): The 48th NY at the Battle of the Crater, July 30, 1864
- NP: August 14, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): The Fearful Explosion at City Point, August 9, 1864
- NP: August 21, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): The 95th NY Witnesses the Battle of the Crater, July 30, 1864
- NP: August 21, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): The Fearful Explosion at City Point, August 9, 1864
- NP: August 28, 1864 Sunday Mercury (New York): The 6th New York Cavalry at First Deep Bottom, July 27-29, 1864
- “One Hundred and Forty-sixth Regiment, N. Y. V.” Sunday Mercury (New York, New York). July 17, 1864, p. 7 col. 3 ↩