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.
Fifty-seventh Regiment, N. Y. V.
[Special Correspondence of the N. Y. Sunday Mercury.]
CAMP NEAR PITTSBURGH [sic, PETERSBURG], VA., July 28. 
A Little Quiet—Some Recruits—Strange Order—Its Effect on Officers.
After a long and trying season of marching, fighting, and skirmishing, we have enjoyed a little quiet. We left the line of works on the left in July , and marched to the rear of the position we held after the charge on the 16th and 17th of June 1, where we were ordered to lay out a camp. In a few days we had fixed up a comfortable camp. We have been in reserve since, going out each alternate day to work upon the trenches.
We have lately received additions to our depleted numbers, in the form of recruits; we received 108, many of whom are old soldiers. Our aggregate strength is now nearly four hundred, including twenty-five commissioned officers.
There is one circumstance in the operation of the Government which is likely to keep a great number of good soldiers in the ranks, thus depriving the service of good material from which excellent officers could be procured. It is the order lately issued, as follows:
“WAR DEPARTMENT, A. G. O., –, 1864.
No musters of officers except for three years from date of last muster, will be recognized at this Department.”
According to this, an officer may have served with credit from the early part of November, 1861, to the present day, but he can get no higher rank than that he now possesses, unless he consents to serve six years to attain it. A number of our officers are thus situated. A non-commissioned officer in this regiment, who has served his three years nearly out, has received a commission, but he cannot take the position because of this order. He has never been absent from his command and has been in every battle, march, and skirmish in which the regiment has been engaged. Is this just? Will it benefit the service in any way, shape, or manner? More anon.
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Second Battle of Petersburg occurred from June 15-18, 1864. ↩
- “Fifty-seventh Regiment, N. Y. V.” Sunday Mercury (New York, New York). July 31, 1864, p. 7 col. 3 ↩