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NP: July 23, 1864 Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph: Co. D, 32nd MA Fourth of July

Editor’s Note: This article was provided by John Hennessy and transcribed by Jackie Martin.



Near Petersburg, Va., July 11, 1864.

MR. EDITOR:—I thought that it was about time for me to write your readers another letter giving them a kind of simple detail of what has happened since I last wrote to your paper. Beginning with the Fourth [of July 1864], which was more like a Sabbath day than a day of sport or mirth, the same feeling seemed to exist with both armies as far as fighting was concerned.  The great bombardment did not take place as was expected on the above named day.  Each party used the day as a day of rest, and perhaps the Johnnys thought a little about the time when the Fourth of July ’76 was first declared the birth-day of a Nation’s Independence.  Do you suppose, reader, they could do otherwise than think of it and then take the second thought of the course they have been steering for more than three years?  Perhaps if I should say to you they must change their course soon or else run ashore, you would laugh at me and say such sayings were played out, and that it had been said too many times about their turning, and yet they survive.  But just as sure as you and I now live there has got to be an end to this so called war, or fighting arrangement as the colored troops call it, in a right smart short time, or else there will not be anybody left on either side to fight.  But the best thing that all of us can do is to let old Time settle the question as regards the end of it.

On the 6th [of July 1864], one division of the sixth corps [Ricketts’ 3rd Division, Sixth Corps] left their front, which was on the left of our line, and moved toward the rear.  It has been reported that they were ordered to Harper’s Ferry to assist in driving the rebel invaders back across the Potomac.

On the 7th [of July 1864] we were visited by Col. [Andrew] Elwell and Capt. [Edward A.] Story of the 23d [Massachusetts].  They were looking very well after enjoying what might be called a rough campaign in the Army of the Potomac.

The same day there were two details from our regiment to work on a new fort [Prescott] which has been commenced a short distance from our camp.1  I should say, judging from the looks of it now, it would be quite a strong work after being finished.  It is very near twenty feet thick on the bottom.  It is reported that there are to be several heavy guns placed in it, for the purpose of protecting our flank and sending a cook stove occasionally by express over to the Johnnys.

It still holds very warm and as yet there are no signs of rain.

The 8th [of July 1864], everything remained quiet until about four in the afternoon, when the stillness was broken by the thundering of artillery from both sides, being used mostly by the 9th and 18th corps on our side.  It did not last long, but was quite brisk while it did last.  We did not learn what caused it.  On the 9th [of July 1864] all was quiet along the lines.

Yesterday the 10th [of July 1864], the remainder of the 6th corps [Russell’s 1st Division and Getty’s 2nd Division], moved to the rear for the purpose of joining the other division that went to Maryland.  We were visited by several more of the veterans of Co. C, 23d, namely, Morey, Tupper, Davis and Clark.  We passed a couple of very pleasant hours of social conversation together, talking over what had transpired during the last two months in both companies, mentioning the names of many who are now no more among us; and then we would talk again of the hidden future and the next great movement of this army.  It is true we did not know anything about it, and again we were not all Major Generals talking such matters over, but we were of the next class of men who are talked about in the army.  They say that there are two sides to everything, and I guess that we privates must be the under side to this thing, and the Generals the upper, as they are, so much above us as they carry the stars on their shoulders to do the planning, and we do the talking and fighting.

To-day [July 11, 1864] everything is still; no fighting.  The Regt. are still hard at it, as they have been for the last few days, working both night and day, on the new fort [Prescott].

Having used up all my little stock of items I will now close, promising to try and keep you posted in the future as regards the 32d [Massachusetts].

Respectfully, yours,                                       SIEGE.2


Other Massachusetts’ Soldier Letters in the Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph

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  1. SOPO Editor’s Note: The 32nd Massachusetts worked on Fort Prescott, near the Jerusalem Plank Road.  See The Story of the Thirty-Second Regiment, Massachusetts Infantry: Whence It Came, Where It Went, What It Saw, and What It Did,  pp. 223-224.
  2. “Letter From Co. D, 32d Mass.” Cape Ann Light and Gloucester Telegraph. July 23, 1864, p. 1 col. 4
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