Editor’s Note: Bryce Suderow originally brought this source to my attention via 115th New York researcher and author Mark Silo. John Reardon, a member of the 115th New York, composed this memoir on his deathbed from wartime pocket diaries he kept. He died prior to finishing, but his daughter completed the work and it was published in 1908 editions of the St. Johnsville NY News. This and the other articles in this series listed at the end of this article are the existing segments covering the Siege of Petersburg, from June-December 1864. Transcribed by Brett Schulte.
MEMORIES OF THE CIVIL WAR.
From the Facile Pen of a Veteran of the “Iron Hearted” Regiment.
July 18th —Night passed off as usual. We remain until midnight and are relieved. Must stand to arms until daylight expecting an attack. Received a pound of tobacco from home.
July 19th—Relieved by the 76th Pennsylvania. It is raining since morning. Rain is very much needed, having had but little in forty-seven days.
July 20th—The morning is cloudy, clears off and is pleasant. At dark we relieve the 76th Pennsylvania.
July 21st—Do not have much sleep. In the trenches, one half the men remain awake continually, and all remain awake some nights. Brother Edmond and J. Lasber came to see us. Eight p. m., we are relieved by the 76th Pennsylvania.
July 22nd—The night has been very cool. I took a walk through the country visiting the Second [New York] Heavy artillery. Did not see my brother Edmond but met J. Decker, an old acquaintance.
July 23rd—Everything quiet. Some of the Second [New York] Heavy artillery pay us a visit. We relieve the 76th Pennsylvania at dark.
July 24th—Night has been rainy and cold. We are compelled to take it without protection as we cannot have tents up. Water is four inches deep in the trenches where we are lying on the ground. In this situation we find ourselves one a. m., soaked, wet and cold. We move around to warm up for fear of colds. Eight a. m., clears off pleasant. Usual firing along the line is kept up.
July 25th—The night has been very pleasant. I think the enemy’s shells injured one of our men. I heard a man scream as if in pain after the explosion of one of their shells about three a. m. At dark the 76th Pennsylvania takes our places.
July 26th—Nothing doing. I pass the time writing. Received word from my brother, his regiment is to move.2
July 27th—Morning cloudy. All quiet.
July 28th—Col. [Simeon] Sammons again takes command and is ordered to report to Col. [Louis] Bell, Fourth New Hampshire, which places us in the third brigade3. I am detailed on picket.
July 29th—We have a trying time in this position. The lines are not more than fifty yards apart, obliging us to stay awake night and day. Are relieved at midnight when I learn that our division has been relieved by the third division, second corps.
July 30th—We have orders to march our division with some other troops, move to the right, and mass in front of the Ninth Corps where we remain until daylight when we learn that a rebel fort is to be blown up and we must lie still and make no noise to attract the rebel fire. A little after daylight the explosion occurs. Our men are then moved forward, the artillery opens all along the line with a terrific roar immediately after the explosion. The battle opened favorable to us and continued with varying results all day. Charging and countercharging is the feature. Many go down on both sides. Several small squads of prisoners are brought in. Finally the enemy make a desperate effort and retake the ground secured by us in the morning. About five p. m., our troops fall back in good order. Nothing accomplished though our loss is appalling. Field left to the rebels to bury the dead. Our division returned to position occupied previous to battle.4
July 31st—We are again relieved by Second Corps and ordered to City Point. When opposite Point of Rocks order is countermanded and we cross the Appomattox on a pontoon bridge to Bermuda Hundreds. The day is exceedingly hot and we lose several men by sunstroke. I saw two fall just as we crossed the bridge. The march was conducted very orderly with frequent rests. After crossing we lay down a couple of hours, after which we march one and a half miles encamping then for the night.
August 1st—Everything is quiet here. We fix up a camp. Weather remains hot.
August 2nd—I make up company report during the day. No news.
August 3rd—I received a letter from brother Michael with a money remittance that I have occasion to use.
August 4th, 5th, and 6th—Nothing of note occurs.
August 7th—Volunteers are called for, for some special duty with extra pay. I did not learn the nature. Nine men volunteered from this company. Afternoon a detail of twenty-two men are ordered on picket. Sergeant Brown and I have charge.
August 8th—We are in line very near the same place we occupied some time previous, when we had a pleasant visit with the “Johnnies.” Although strict orders are in force prohibiting these social functions, we take a little chance and exchange goods, papers, etc. We take a good bath in a brook running between the lines.
August 9th—All quiet.
August 10th—All quiet. I am writing up the company’s reports and clothing returns.
August 11th—We are aroused at daylight and remain in ranks half an hour, then break ranks. Did not learn the cause of the proceeding.
August 12th—Weather hot. No news of importance.
August 13th—We received orders to march with three days’ rations. All sorts of conjectures as to our destination. We pack up and are to move at eleven p. m. We start at that time and march to the James river, where we arrive at daylight.5
August 14ty [sic, 14th]—We cross the river and move out to engage the enemy. The Second Corps has crossed one day ahead of us. We reach the front and after forming the artillery opened on the enemy. We soon make a charge and capture two hundred prisoners, after which we are formed on the extreme left and deployed in a corn field. Two p. m., we are ordered back and move to the center. When nearly to our destination the order is countermanded and we march back to our old position where a detail is made. For picket detail took all the non-commissioned officers and half the privates in the regiment. We go on at dark and dig rifle pits for protection.6
August 15th—We evacuate the line and go back to the river and find the regiment gone. We cross the river and lie down. At day light we go to the regiment. The next pontoon below we recross and go to the right of the line. Eight p. m., the brigade moved to the front in a north-west direction. We form in column by regiment in a valley. The Second Corps is on our right and a division of colored troops on our left. We lay in this position apparently prepared for a charge. Later our brigade is moved to the extreme right of the line. Here we received two days’ rations. Again moved farther to the right and threw out skirmishers. We are in the woods and through some mistake the colored troops got in front of us and opened fire which was replied to by the skirmishers, and several were killed and injured before we could get straightened out. We remain near here until noon after which we are moved again to the right. Day is awful hot and we have cases of sunstroke. Camp here for the night.
August 16th—We move one and a half miles to the left stack arms and rest. I saw a member of my brother’s company who said he is well and somewhere about. Eleven a. m., we are moved up to where our troops have taken the enemy’s rifle pits. We deployed and brigade is ordered formed as skirmishers (on crossing the ground approaching rifle pits I saw several lying on the ground wounded and some dead, one in particular as I passed by him on double quick raised his head and looked up. I thought from the expression on his features he was satisfied to see friends instead of enemies near him. He did not speak and probably fell into the hands of the enemy again later.) On passing the rifle pits we come into an open field, and again probably forty rods away the woods extended clear across our front. In the cleared fields are some farm buildings behind which the rebels are posted. They opened on us as soon as in sight, a withering fire from every point. We moved forward on double quick. Men falling on every side. Among these mortally wounded is Lieutenant John Van de Sand, but we finally reached the woods which is a little relief. Our loss in crossing the field is heavy. I think I never saw or heard the firing more rapid or continuous. The bullets passed in and around us like hail. They cut the ground and corn stubble something terrible. The woods seemed to be full of rebels and our position soon became too hot and without support we must abandon the ground. By moving to the right we will not have to go back through the open field which would be almost certain death, so while still firing at the enemy we kept moving to the right. Our men were going back now quite steady. No evidence of a panic as usual in such cases. I met friend, Sergeant Brown. About this time Seely Conover was shot. He fell into the hands of the enemy. Brown and I were moving back when we saw Norman Miller, one of our company, lying on the ground. Learning that he was suffering from sunstroke, we opened his clothing and picked him up. He was able to stand and leaning on us we succeeded in getting him back to the rifle pits. The rebels were continually firing at us and yelling like Indians but we escaped. The troops that got back first were in the pits returning the enemy’s fire which checked them. After dropping Miller I was completely exhausted, heat was intense and I told Brown, who did not seem to be so much affected, that I could not go another step if I must be taken prisoner. I then saw James Sneck, of our company, within a few feet of me, with a gun shot wound through his body, with all the appearance of having but a short time to live. He must have been cared for by somebody, as he got away and lived twenty-five years. What happened to me after seeing Sneck I do not know. I only know that some time in the night I awoke to find myself, with many others in a woods. I knew from the groans and talk about me the others were wounded or sick men. I raised up examined myself and found I was not injured but very weak. It was dark and raining. I sat a few minutes and looking some distance away I saw the doctors busy caring for the wounded; they had lanterns. While watching them I saw our hospital steward there, “Jadua Countryman.” I called him and he came over. I first asked him how I happened in this lot! He said I had a sunstroke yesterday and that Dan Stauring and “Doc” Hicks had met me in the woods, I was delirious and they brought me here. I asked if he had any water, he replied, no, but had whiskey of which I took some.7
August 17th—I remain at rest all day by order of the doctor. Wounded are all sent to the hospital.
(To Be Continued.)8
John Reardon 115th New York Series from the 1908 St. Johnsville NY News:
- NP: May 6, 1908 St. Johnsville NY News: John Reardon Diary (115th NY): June 16-July 17, 1864
- NP: May 13, 1908 St. Johnsville NY News: John Reardon Diary (115th NY): July 18-August 17, 1864
- NP: May 20, 1908 St. Johnsville NY News: John Reardon Diary (115th NY): August 18-September 25, 1864
- NP: May 27, 1908 St. Johnsville NY News: John Reardon Diary (115th NY): September 26-December 5, 1864
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The 115th New York was part of the second and third brigades, Second Division, Tenth Corps, Army of the James during this portion of the Siege of Petersburg, moving from the Second to Third Brigade on July 28, 1864. The unit was stationed on Bermuda Hundred and opposed the Howlett Line, but was in reserve during the Battle of the Crater in July 30 and participated in the Second Deep Bottom campaign in mid-August 1864. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The 2nd New York Heavy Artillery was a part of the First Brigade, First Division, Second Corps, Army of the Potomac, and was about to participate in the First Deep Bottom campaign, from July 26-30, 1864. The object was to draw Southern troops to the north side of the James River, away from Petersburg and the impending mine explosion which resulted in the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The 115th New York was moved from the Second Brigade, Second Division, Tenth Corps, Army of the James to the Third Brigade, Second Division, Army of the James under Colonel Louis Bell. Note that Bell was in command of the brigade, NOT the 4th New Hampshire. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Reardon is describing what he experienced while waiting in reserve in support of the Ninth Corps during the Battle of the Crater, July 30, 1864. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Reardon and the 115th New York were about to embark on the Second Deep Bottom Campaign, from August 13-20, 1864. As in the earlier Deep Bottom Campaign, this second effort was meant to draw Southern troops north of the James while Gouverneur Warren’s Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac attempted to reach and hold the Weldon Railroad, one of Lee’s supply lines. These two thrusts made up Grant’s Fourth Offensive against Petersburg and Richmond. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: From Bryce Suderow’s summary of the campaign: Early on the morning of August 14th, the X Corps crossed the pontoon at Deep Bottom and attacked the skirmishers from Field’s division who composed the Confederate left flank. These skirmishers were deployed along the Kingsland Road, half a mile south of the main Confederate entrenchments on New Market Heights. The X Corps drove in the skirmishers and the Confederates fell back to New Market Heights. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: From Bryce Suderow’s summary of the campaign: On August 15th, Hancock shifted the X Corps from the Union left to the Union right and on the 16th, the X Corps attacked the Confederate line above Fussell’s Mill. The Confederates gave way and the X Corps occupied their trenches, but the Federals attempts to penetrate into the Confederate rear were halted, partly due to the efforts of two of Anderson’s regiments. Anderson’s brigade helped recapture the lost Confederate works. ↩
- “Memories of the Civil War.” St. Johnsville NY News. May 13, 1908, p. 2 col. 2-3 ↩