CAMP OF THE 138TH P[ENNSYLVANIA]. V[OLUNTEERS]. IN THE FIELD,
15 MILES SOUTHWEST OF PETERSBURG, VA,
April 4, 1865.
I will inform you that there was a great battle fought on Sunday the 2nd inst[ant] [April 2, 1865].1 I know that the news of the fight has reached Bedford ere this, but in order to relieve those that have friends in the army and are anxious to hear how things went, I will give you a brief account of it.
On Saturday evening [April 1, 1865] the orders came to pack up and be ready to move, which was done in a short time. At dark [on April 1, 1865] we were ordered to move in front of the works, and at seven o’clock [P.M.], the artillery opened all along the line, from City Point to the extreme left. The roar of the guns was almost deafening, and the earth appeared to rock beneath our feet. This terrible cannonade was kept up till about twelve or one o’clock [on the morning of April 2, 1865], when it died away all along the lines. The troops were all massed along the front in three lines of battle, and lay in this position till four o’clock [A.M.] when the signal gun was fired to make the attack. At this moment every man sprang to his feet, and the order, “Forward,” sped along the lines as quick as lightning. A yell was given, and the troops dashed forward like tigers, upon the rebel works. The lines were first pierced by our [Third] division [3/VI/AotP], and the Second Division of our Corps [2/VI/AotP], and in less than ten minutes the entire [Sixth] Corps [VI/AotP] was through the rebel lines, and swung around on their flank. By this time it was daylight and the Sixth Corps [VI/AotP] charged sweeping everything before it. The rebel column became panic stricken and a complete stampede ensued.
Our troops are almost wild with enthusiasm and the greatest joy prevails throughout the army. But while we rejoice over our victories we lament the loss of our brave companions who have fallen in battle. Our loss is very slight. I had no men killed, and only two wounded. Sgt. Slack was wounded slightly across the right shoulder and Sgt. Geo. W. Gray was wounded in the right side severely, while he was attempting to pull down the Rebel flag in one of the forts. He deserves great credit for his gallant conduct. The loss in the other Bedford Companies is very slight. Elias Stuckey is wounded in the ankle.
I am yours truly,
SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Roy Gustrowsky.
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- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Third Battle of Petersburg, fought on April 2, 1865, featured numerous battles separated by miles, including the Sixth Corps Breakthrough in the center, the Ninth Corps assaults on Fort Mahone on the right, Second and Twenty-Fourth Corps attacks on the left, and Fort Gregg later in the day. It resulted in a complete Union victory, causing the Confederates to evacuate Petersburg and Richmond that night, and ending the Siege of Petersburg. Lee’s Army would surrender at Appomattox seven days later. The best account of the Breakthrough is found in A. Wilson Greene’s book Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion: The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign. Fort Gregg is ably handled by John J. Fox III in his book The Confederate Alamo: Bloodbath at Petersburg’s Fort Gregg on April 2, 1865. No good book length accounts of the 2nd, 9th, or 24th Corps attacks exist. This account covers the “Breakthrough” south of Petersburg by Union Sixth Corps. ↩
- “Army Correspondence.” The Bedford Inquirer (Bedford, PA), April 14, 1865, p.2, c.3. ↩