Letter from the 55th Regiment P[ennsylvania]. V[olunteers].
From a letter addressed to a friend in this place under the date of Vicinity of Petersburg, Virginia, July 8th, 1864, we make the following extracts for the benefit of those who have friends in that regiment:
“It is so very warm here now that a man can hardly breathe. I am now, and have been for the last week, in the rear making out Pay Rolls and Descriptive Lists. We expect to be paid off in about two weeks. The cars run from City Point to this place; once in a while they run up to the trestlework about twenty yards from the front.1 You would have laughed this morning had you seen the engine hitched to an old mortar gun weighing nine tons; she throws a hundred pound ball.2 The conductor of the train said we might look for 50,000 more troops inside of two days. “Old Grant” has the “bag,” if he can only get the rebels into it; if he does, he’ll pull the string mighty tight on them.
It is a very nice thing to see two armies entrenched, and having a small duel every day. We can go up to [Eighteenth Corps commander] Gen. [William F. “Baldy”] Smith’s headquarters and get a fine view of both armies. We can look right into Petersburg, and with a glass see people walking the streets. Our battery that commands Petersburg throws shells right into it. We set it on fire two nights ago and after some exertions on the part of the “rebs,” they put it out. We could hear the alarm bells very distinctly.3
Our regiment has lost very heavy during the campaign. The boys are all worn out, but they have the hope that this will be the final blow to Rebellion. Everything looks favorable so far. I suppose that you have heard by this time that Adam Carn’s Company [Co. A, 184th Pennsylvania] was taken prisoners-all except Adam and a couple of his men. I saw Will. Filler of the 138th [Pennsylvania], their regiment lay on the extreme left of our line. He says that their line advances some every night. Our regiment went out into the rifle pits last night-they are relieved every forty-eight hours. A person dare not “poke” his head above the pits in the daytime, if he does, he can look for a dozen of bullets to come at him. The rebels have the advantage of our right wing. They have an enfilading battery across the Appomattox, which they open now and then upon our pits., but when they commence, our fellows stop them. The battery at Gen. Smith’s headquarters throws right into her, so that they have to leave.
We have one good institution in the army and that is the United States Sanitary Commission; if they did not furnish the boys with paper, they could not write. They give it out every day. The Eighteenth Corps received a very fine lot of vegetables from the North, such as onions, cabbage, pickles, potatoes, and a great many other articles.
I suppose you folks in Bedford had a nice time on 4th of July. [A very quiet time, indeed!. Editor] We in the field had a poor 4th, nevertheless, are willing to sacrifice all holidays for the Country.
SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Roy Gustrowsky.
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Union army created a “United States Military Railroad”, or USMRR for short, which ran from Grant’s main supply depot at City Point, almost to the front lines. This railroad would continue to be expanded throughout the Siege as the Union moved further southwestward, trying to cut all of the Confederate supply lines. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: I believe this mortar is the famous Dictator, but I do not know for sure. According to some sources, the Dictator first went into action on July 9, 1864, a day after this letter was written. At the same time, I know of no other 9 ton mortar on a railway flatcar. In addition, Vol. XL, Pt. 3, page 84 of the Official Records distinctly mentions the Dictator being sent to General Smith’s Corps on July 7, 1864. If anyone can confirm or deny this is the Dictator, please Contact us. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: If I am reading this paragraph correctly, the Union artillery firing would have set fire to Petersburg the night of July 6-7, 1864. I looked at the July 7, 1864 Petersburg Daily Express, but found no mention of fires in the city. I could also find no mention of a fire in Petersburg around this time frame in the Official Records. More research is needed. ↩
- 55th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers, Company K Muster Roll, www.pa-roots.com/pacw/infantry/55th/55thcok.html: This source lists this soldier as a musician on the muster roll. ↩
- “Letter from the 55th Regiment P. V.” The Bedford Inquirer, July 22, 1864, p. 3, col. 2 ↩