SOPO Editor’s Note: The Civil War diary of Orlando P. Benson of the 92nd New York was found and published in The Courier and Freeman (Potsdam, NY). I’ve chosen to publish the portion of the diary covering Bermuda Hundred, Petersburg, Salisbury prison, and his postwar experiences through the end of the diary. Check out this installment below, and be sure to look over the other installments as they are published. I’ve included a list of all published installments at the bottom of this and every post. MANY thanks to Jack Phend for transcribing this entire diary for me. It appears here solely due to his help. Are you interested in first person accounts at the Siege of Petersburg? Check out our Letters and Diaries page for more!
92D [NEW YORK] BEFORE CITY OF PETERSBURG
ARE ORDERED BACK AND MOVE DOWN JAMES AND UP YORK
The Courier and Freeman [Potsdam, NY] this week presents the ninth installment of the diary kept by the late Orlando P. Benson of Massena, while he was a soldier in the Union army during the Civil War. He enlisted in the 92nd New York Volunteer Regiment when 19 years of age and was sent to the training camp at Potsdam [NY] in October, 1861, leaving here in February for the front. He was made a co[r]poral in the 92nd, later being promoted to sergeant. In this installment he tells of his discharge and the regiment leaving Fort Anderson by boat for Yorktown, Va. From there they move up the James river and advance toward Petersburg everything indicating a rapid move toward Richmond, the rebel capitol. After skirmishes, they again board a transport and move down the James and up the York [and Pamunkey] river to the White House.1
[Feb.] 16th —Commence our palisade Cold and windy. Low water. All the regiment on fatigue. Make a few improvements in our ornamental rooms. Receive a letter from Silas accompanied by a few lines from mother.2
17th—Quite cold. Work gets along finely. Palisade nearly half finished. Write to Silas, also send him a paper, the North Carolina Times. Spend nearly all day indoors.
18th—Receive our bounties. Draw $185.70. Purchase a coat of lieutenant O’Neil for $10. Get a little shaved. Weather cold. All the men and non-commissioned officers on fatigue. Work goes along finely. All the fort that can flag up the river practice.
19th—Go to town in the adjutant’s race boat. Get a 64 pounder rifle in place of our left 32 pounder. Row up to blockade. Alick tells a strange story. McFerran is much pleased. About four inches of snow fell last night. Our first.3
20th—Very late. Have just finished the History of Napoleon by J.S.C. Abbott. One can but cherish his memory regardless of prejudice. Alick has a chill. Weather very pleasant. Am quite anxious to go home for the first time.
21st—Inspection by Captain Parkerson. Have a dress parade. Weather very pleasant. A[l]ick has another chill. Read a sketch of the life of Andrew Jackson. One experiences a peculiar train of thought in reading of the wise and great of our own nation.
22nd—One hundred and thirty three years ago today the great father of American nationality was born. The day has been well observed. Flag of truce comes to our lines. Colonel Whitford in person.4 Write a short letter home. Ward and Wheaton over. Weather very pleasant.
23rd—Go to town twice and to Battery Chase.5 Have a non-commissioned officers’ school. Many of the officers present. Did my best to make it as interesting as possible. Report Sergeant Dore and others for being absent. Weather splendid.
24th—Several citizens in from Raleigh. Two deserters come in early in the morning. Take a boat ride with Alick and McFerran.6 Weather very pleasant. Quite warm.
25th—Have another very interesting school. A good many officers present. Go to town with the colonel and from there to Battery Chase. Practice firing. Hard ones. Express home $195. Freight charges $1.75.7
26th—Commence the abutments in the river to protect the palisade. Alick expressed home $130 out of $172. Weather superb. Northwest wind. Spend the evening in reading of the horrors of Spanish war. What a rotten thing must be the Court of Spain.
27th—Go to town with colonel in Adjutant’s boat. Criminals march about town with “THIEF” printed on their back. A good example to many. Colonel sees General Peck about our going home. Cannot go for fear of an attack.
28th—Go to church in the afternoon. Hear Chaplain James who has charge of all negros in North Carolina and tends to colonizing them on Roanoke Island. Text: Romans 12:1-21. Connecticut Volunteers leave on the Thomas Collier for Little Washington.
29th—Have a school. Colonel and major present. One of the crew of the Underwriter washed up and was discovered by our boat. He was a negro with marine clothes on. Rumor of an attack quite current in camp. Captain Smith returns from furlough. Looks well.
March 1st —Very windy and blustering toward evening. Have a slight difficulty with Sergeant Fuller. Do not consider him worthy of attention. Many citizens in. L. H.’s G., Ella May and Allison up around the blockade until night. Get aground going back and lay in the river all night opposite us.
2nd—All non-commissioned officers shouldered axes and started for the woods about 8:00 this morning. Was detained by guard mount until about 10:00. General Peck is still rushing along the blockade. Every man that can lift an axe or spade is kept busy. Weather splendid. Rumor of scouts seen.
3rd—Weather splendid. Take a row up to the blockade. Non-commissioned officers all at work. Lieutenant O’Neil went out with a few men to look for a fire in the country but returned without finding it. Report that Keckman’s brigade is at Beaufort.
4th—Take another trip up to the blockade. Have occasion to report Corporal Leonard. But few citizens in. Rumor that our mail boat is captured. Weather splendid.
5th—Send up the signal rocket f[r]om each [s]tation for practice. Air very clear. Band in town sounds splendid.
6th—Go to Episcopal church. Have preaching in our eating hall at 2:30 p.m. by minister belonging to the Sanitary Commission. Every man in the regiment attended. The colonel for once is entitled to credit for not throwing his influence against religion.
7th—Go with Alick and McFerran and cut wood enough to last all the spring.
8th—Go to church with Steward and Mike in Hawkin’s sail boat. Have a very dangerous voyage. [C]ould get frightened out and dare not come back. Have considerable sport. Weather pleasant but windy.
9th—Get Old Jimmy to tap and heel my boots–$1.50. The Fairwind gets afloat this afternoon. She has been aground two days. Get a la[r]ge mail for the regiment but none for me. Can it be that I am entirely forgotten? Eleven recruits come from Lawrenceville, N.Y. Large fire in town about 11:00 p.m.
10th—Very rainy until about 4:00 p.m. Strong wind. Water very high. Washed away the dirt from our palisade.
11th—Showery. Have out all our fatigue force in the afternoon. Mrs. Mansfield and sister come to camp. They are now to stay with the doctor. Commence to read or rather to finish the History of England by B. Macaulay.
12th—Weather very pleasant. Alick and I take a boat ride up the river creek. Fuller the drummer, on a barrel. Read history but little. Am now reading about the stormy scenes in M. of A.’s reign in its commencement.
13 (sic 13th)—Attended Presbyterian church this morning and listened to an excellent discourse by a member of the Christian Commission. Weather right pert.
14th—Anniversary of the bombardment of Fort Anderson. One year ago tonight we were all at work with desperation. It has indeed been a short year. The boys have punch (,) cigars and a dance. This seems to be the only way in which they can celebrate.
15th—Get to letters from home. Jacob LaCroix, a deserter from Company E is brought back to the regiment under guard, he having been gone nearly one year.
16th–Awake to find the ground partially covered with snow. Are to have our regular monthly inspection tomorrow by Colonel Wardrop. Adjutant pretty busy. He is already ruined. He is a slave.
17th—In[s]pection by Colonel Wardrop. He is a thorough-going, wide awake officer. He has been in the British service and served in the East Indies. He has been wounded eleven times. He tells some interesting stories of warfare.
18th—Chop in the morning and row in the afternoon. Read but little. Alick gets a copy of General McC[l]ellan’s report, price 50 cents.
March 19 1864—Furnish ten men and one sergeant to guard men at work on blockade. Quartermaster intoxicated. Take a row. Captain B. still on court martial. Weather beautiful Receive a letter from C.P. Gray.
20th—Go to Presbyterian church. Have dress parade. Have Hill, Hayes and Bowhall drawn up in front of regiment to listen to their sentence by court-martial. Another example for the regiment Corporal Thurston faints on parade.
21st—Sixteenth Connecticut Volunteers start for Little Washington. Rumor of an expedition out. Weather heavy and dull. An occasional sprinkle. Quite cold.
22nd—Another inundation. Water four feet above high water mark. Highest ever known. Go with a boat into our mess tent and eat our dinner. Te[r]rible wind. Turns into snow. Hens and chickens drowned. Very cold and no wood.
23rd—Pleasant. Water down. Captain Parkinson over to inspect all unserviceable ordinance [sic, ordnance] camp and garrison equipage.
24th—Weather fine. Officers have a drunk by taking advantage of the colonel’s absence while in town to a party. Mules and horses begin to come to New Berne. Rumor that Burnside is coming here.
25th—Commence a flower bed. A violent wind arises. High water. Captain Judson over. See one of our soldiers do one of the meanest acts that a soldier is capable of doing—stealing six dozen eggs from a poor white woman.
28th—Finish the fence to my garden. All done but sowing. Get information that Saturday a party of about 200 rebels lay in ambush for our fatigue guard. They burn a scow but get no men as none went up.
29th—Sow my seeds. Weather terrible. Never saw it rain much harder. Officers intending to have the Massachusetts band over to aid in a terrible spree. The rain came very importunely. Rumors of rebels outside. See nor hear none.
30th—Have another chill. The Second Massachu[s]sets Heavy Artillery band come over to play at a party given by our officers to officers in town. They are out on a terrible time. They open by having a stag dance.
31st—Take a sail to Fort Chase and from there to Fort Spinola. Ward comes over early in the morning. Major ventures to go to town in the afternoon.
April 1st —Lieutenant Barstow over. River very high. Rumor that the veterans can go home as soon as the colonel is willing to let them.
2nd—Damp. Judson and Barstow over to see the major. Doubtless arranging for the duel. Hope they may all get dismissed. Clothing issued [t]o the regiment. Get a blouse from McFerran. Take exercise chopping.
6th—Write to Silas. High water. Get sight of one of the most atrocious outrageous pamphlets the world has ever seen. I would gladly shoot the man who wrote it.
7th—Very pleasant. An artist over to take a picture of the fort but after taking the colonel’s house and the guards puts it off until another day. Several ladies over from town. Have practice firing. Water very high.
8th—Take a trip into the country with Company A boys to get a roof. See an old antique looking grave yard.
9th—Very disagreeable weather. Manning, the sutler, taken into custody. His shop closed by the provost marshall (sic marshal) from town. His wife goes with him. It has been expected.
10th—Attend Methodist church. Sentence pronounced by regimental court martial upon Privates Hall, Merrit, McKinney and Fuller read [a]t dress parade. Weather very unsteady.
11th—Am directed by General Order No. 15 to drill recruits. Commence tomorrow. Manning returns. Mike and Miller spend the evening with me.
12th—Drill recruits in a squad often. Take them through the first part of S.S. Learn easy. Receive a letter from home. Sergeants Dore and Johnson while out after lumber run across five rebels. Several shots exchanged but no one hurt.
13th—Recruits learn fast. Take them through the loadings. The rebel scout seen yesterday turn out to be our own boys. A great joke on Johnson and Dore. Weather superb. Quartermaster goes to Beaufort.
14th—Recruits learn rapidly. Our chaplain arrives. His first impression upon the boys is good. His figure is manly and his manner gentile which together with dignified air can but command respect.
16th—Weather hazy. Put the recruits through the flank marchings they learn very rapidly. I fear we shall be obliged to put them on duty before they are sufficiently drilled.
17th—Regimental inspection. Our new chaplain preaches an excellent sermon in the dining hall.
18th—Regiment inspected by Captain Parkinson. I never saw them in better condition. The men’s guns and equipment were such as would do honor to a regular soldier. Soldierly pride is on the rise.
20th—Figh[t]ing at Plymouth. Report that rebel ram has sunk two of our gunboats. Are looking sharp for them here. Turn over my squad of recruits for duty. Take another tomorrow. Chaplain gets into his new tent.
21st—Captain Flusser, ‘The Brave’ is no more. The Southfield sank. Rumor that Plymouth has fallen after a gallant resistance.
22nd—News of General Wessells capture confirmed by an order from Gene[r]al Peck. All feel bad for General Billy. Send up a gun boat to do picket duty. War has its reverses as well as its victories.
23rd—Have a chill. Signal over from town that Killpatrick is in Picketts rear. Rumor that Banks is defeated. Hear nothing more from Plymouth. All quiet about New Berne.
24th—One company of the 12th New York Cavalry lands at our dock and strikes off into the country.
25th—Cavalry return as we all expected. They were bound for Little Washington but saw a few pickets and heard some one whistle so they skedaddled back without firing a shot. A new general name not yet known comes to take command.
SOPO Editor’s Note: I’ve chosen to break up this diary to briefly point out that the 92nd New York’s time in North Carolina had come to end. They were about to be moved to Yorktown, Virginia in preparation for Benjamin Butler’s Bermuda Hundred Campaign of May 1864. From this point forward over several installments the diary will focus on the Bermuda Hundred Campaign followed by the Siege of Petersburg. The remainder of this installment discusses the Bermuda Hundred Campaign and the beginning of18th Corps’ move from Bermuda Hundred to Cold Harbor. The Siege of Petersburg was only two weeks away.
[April] 26th —Receive orders to leave the fort about 4:00 p.m. Never had orders come so unexpected. In two hours the boys are all ready boot and baggage. Where we are to go is a mystery. Officers nearly all drunk as usual [o]n such occasions. Troops nearly all leaving.
27th—Leave Fort Anderson [near New Bern, NC] at sunrise. Get aboard of the Patuxen[t] and leave New Berne at 5:45 a.m. Reach Hatteras at 7:00 p.m. Cast anchor for the night. Weather very fine. Boys in good spirits.
28th—Lay all day at Fort Hatteras but dare not put out on account of wind.
29th—Stilling lying at anchor. Very lovely. Go ashore and get some shells. Weather very fine. [M]ore troops arrive and cast anchor for Little Washington. Rumor that the place a[l]ive and cast anchor from Little is evacuated. Expect to start tomorrow. Pass away time reading.
30th—Leave Hatteras at last. Weather very fine. Round Cape Hatteras about 7:00 p.m. Boat pitches considerable. Many seasick. Sleep on the top deck. Feel rather seasick but not enough to cause trouble.
May 1st —Get near to Fortress Monroe about 7:00 a.m. Wait an hour and move on to Yorktown where we land about 4:00 p.m. Draw shelter tents and camp out. Seems odd. Baggage sent back to the fort. Men nearly all right.
2nd–Again in camp for earnest. Just dark a terrible thunder storm comes up without apparently a moments notice. Quartermaster Hubbell appointed acting brigade commander. Lieutenant [Asa B.] McChesney appointed acting regimental quartermaster. Boys all in good spirits.8
3rd—Everything hurly-burly in camp. Expect to move in the morning. Baggage gone tonight. Colonel and quartermaster get back from Fortress Monroe each with a horse. Report that horse for sale are very scarce. Chaplain terribly insulted by Captain Bice.
4th—Leave camp about 4:00 p.m. and get aboard of the Charles Thomas, a splendid transport. She takes our regiment and the 58th Pennsylvania. Cast anchor in Hampton Roads just dark. An immense fleet gathered here. All ignorant of our destination.9
5th—Weigh anchor at daylight and move immediately up the James river. The whole fleet presents a beautiful appearance. Beautiful country. Everything works with the greatest regularity. Land at Bermuda Hundred about 5:00 p.m. and camp for the night.10
6th—March about 7:00 a.m. some five or six miles and camp in the woods. Considerable lightning towards night. Heckman’s brigade engaged and lose quite heavily.11 Our camp near the Appoma[t]tox and not a great way from the James. We are but few miles from Fort Darling [at Drewry’s Bluff] and in sight of the steeples of Petersburg.
7th—Lie all day upon arms. Quite sharp fighting in front. Our men get ta branch of the main railroad. All things go off smoothly. All have unbounded confidence in Generals Smith and Butler. We are just breaking into the hardships of Camp. We have been fancy soldiers long enough.12
8th—Remain quiet all day in our humble retreat. Some cannonading on our left. The rebels undertake to plant a battery to s[h]ell our shipping. One of our gunboats soon drives then away. Wash in the Appoma[t]tox.13
9th—Leave camp with only haversacks and canteens about 6:00 a.m. Advance towards Petersburg in three columns. Gillmore on the right, Brooks in the center and Martindale with our brigade on the left. Very heavy picket firing all night.14
10th—Last night the rebels madly tried to capture from us Hunt’s battery. Charge three times but are roughly repulsed each time. At daybreak move on to the main railroad between Petersburg and Richmond and tear up several miles. Ordered away to reenforce Gillmore. Rebels licked when we get there. Reach camp about 5:00 p.m. Would back.15
11th—Weather very warm. Move camp about a quarter of a mile to the front about 5:00 p.m. Commences to rain just dark. Great news from General Grant. 16
12th—The whole army again put under motion in light marching order. Everything seems to indicate a rapid move on Richmond. Perhaps Fort Darling is their object. Our regiment and the 58th Pennsylvania left behind to do picket duty probably on account of our being veterans without furloughs. Very rainy.
13th—Still rainy. Camp on a little hill to support the pickets. Our regiment divided for different duties. Hear but little from the front. But few stragglers as yet. Saw Lieuten[a]nt Partridge. Looks as natural as ever. Large mail but get no letter. Rumor that Elwell’s [sic, Ewell’s Second] corps is captured.
14th—Showery. Papers of the 12th in. Wounded and a few skedaddlers begin to come in. Our brigade the 19th and 188th engaged. Good news everywhere. The spirits of all are high. Weather showery. Hear some cannonading in front. Rations go out to the army.
15th—Still rainy. Our regiment gathers up the skedaddlers and send them to the front. Saw 16 rebel prisoners and nine negroes. Brigade commissaries going to the front. Will not issue to us for three days. Draw potatoes. Can see the rebels build a fort.
16th—Showery. Heavy firing at daylight. Fighting everywhere through the whole army. Heavy loss on our side. Results not known. Our army falling back. Have a long talk with rebel prisoners. This has been an eventful day. 17
17th—Weather fair. Our army all in. See Corporal Shelldin of the 142nd New York. Some heavy cannonading on our right. Looks much like a shower at dark. The men all in good spirits.
18th—Steady skirmishing all day in our front. Have not heard the results. Our forces work all night fortifying. Colonel Sanders relieved from the command of the brigade and Colonel Dutton put in his stead. Dr. Edmeston a[p]pointed brigade surgeon.
19th—Some skirmishing in the morning. The enemy fall back. Weather showery. Rearrange my tent. Our regiment relieved from picketing by the Tenth New Hampshire Volunteers.
20th—Enemy charge our outwork but are handsomely repulsed. Sharp cannonading at just dark. Two companies of our regiment ordered out to work during the night. Captain Foster over. Whole regiment ordered out. Ordered [sic, orders] countermanded.18
21st—Rebels unusually quiet. Weather splendid. Some of our sick join the regiment. Draw clothing. Furnish 50 men for fatigue. About 11:00 p.m. sharp firing in front. Our brigade turns out to the breastworks. Firing lasts about one hour when we all retire to our quarters.
22nd—Move camp about 10:00 a.m. to the right about one mile. Go to the front with Alick where our men are fortifying. Our men shell the enemy almost continually. Enemy throw shells while we are there. See General Gillmore and staff.
23rd—Pickets along the whole line unusually quiet. Regiment paid for months. Draw no pay on account of the colonel’s leav[i]ng the field and staff rolls at Fortress Monroe.
24th—Weather very warm. All work of the fortifications pressed with vigor. Two new forts commenced. Our regiment fu[r]nish 150 men to chop in the afternoon. Adjutant buys a horse jet black. Colonel Anderson getting popular for his promptness.
25th—Very warm until 4:00 p.m. when it commences to rain. Our regiment slash in the morning and go on picket in the afternoon. See Captain Garvin. Looks as natural as ever. Full of energy. Alick has a chill. He will take no medicine so of course he must expect chills.
26th—Join the regiment on picket in the morning with all the convalescents in camp. Rains violently. Our brigade except our regiment cross the ravine on a reconnaissance. Soon return. Colonel Dutton wounded through the throat and jaw. It is feared it is mortal.
27th—Our regiment relieved by General Kautz’s dismounted cavalry. (First District Columbia with 16 shooters.) The 18th Army Corps ordered to move. We s[t]art about 2:00 p.m. Our colonel temporarily in command of bridgade (sic brigade). Move about three miles and camp. General Devens assigned to command of our brigade. Howard joins the regiment.19
28th—Showery. Take up the line of march about 4:00 p.m. and camp at Bermuda Hundred about 10:00 p.m. Lie out on the ground with covering a.m. Blankets are all in the wagons. Troops taking transportations as fast as possible. Send guard to brigade headquarters.
29th—At writing am just going to bed aboard the Mary Washington. Where we got aboard about 8:00 a.m. Move down the river about 7:00 p.m. Our regiment and the 188th Pennsylvania aboard. Terribly tottlish boat. Anchor off Jamestown for the night.
30th—Get under way about 8:00 a.m. and arrive at Fortress Monroe about 11:00 a.m. Water up and move across the bay and up the York river. Anchor about 6:00 p.m. off Yorktown for the night. We are all bewildered. Rumor that we are to join Grant.
31st—Get an early start. Reach the White House landing about 11:00 a.m. Land draw rations and get under way in line of march about 4:00 p.m. March until midnight and camp. The men are very tired. Twenty-first Connecticut regiment taken out and 40th Massachusetts put into the brigade. Col. Henry Moss commanding our brigade. 20
(To be continued)21
SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jack Phend.
If you are interested in helping us transcribe newspaper articles like the one above, please CONTACT US.
Other Posts from Orlando P. Benson’s Diary While at the Siege of Petersburg:
- Diary of Orlando P. Benson, 92nd New York
- NP: February 18, 1925 Potsdam NY Courier and Freeman: Orlando P. Benson Diary, 92nd NY, Part 2
- NP: February 25, 1925 Potsdam NY Courier and Freeman: Orlando P. Benson Diary, 92nd NY, Part 3
- NP: March 4, 1925 Potsdam NY Courier and Freeman: Orlando P. Benson Diary, 92nd NY, Part 4
- SOPO Editor’s Note: White House Landing on the Pamunkey River served as a major Union supply depot during the 1862 and 1864 campaigns against Richmond. Grant used White House Landing to supply the Army of the Potomac during the Battle of Cold Harbor, but it was abandoned for that use once the Siege of Petersburg came into being. For a good history of White House Landing as well as its use during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, see this well-done paper by Richard E. Killblane. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: As this installment of the diary kicks off, the 92nd New York is stationed near New Bern, NC in Fort Anderson. They will soon be ordered to move to Yorktown, VA in preparation for the Bermuda Hundred Campaign of May 1864. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: “Alick” is almost certainly Alexander M. Stevens. In one of the very first diary entries in this series on February 2, 1863, Benson writes: “A.M. Stevens acts sergeant major. He is a noble boy and is of great assistance to me I could not get along without him.” If you look at the roster for the 92nd New York, page 1034, this must be Alexander Stevens. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Colonel John Dalton Whitford was a Confederate Colonel prominent in this portion of North Carolina. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: From ncpedia.org: “ One of a series of Federal forts built in 1862–63 to enable Union forces to hold New Bern. Located on the north side of the Neuse River, it mounted three 24-pounder cannons.” ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The only McFarren who was still alive at this point according to the roster, page 993, is First Sergeant William E. McFarren. I am almost certain this is the man Benson is mentioning in his diary. These men were all serving on the regimental staff of the 92nd New York. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: From now until early June 1864, any reference to “the colonel” refers to Lieutenant Colonel Hiram Anderson, Jr., who was commanding the 92nd New York when it moved from North Carolina to the Virginia York-James Peninsula in late April 1864. His roster entry shows he was killed in action on June 1, 1864 at the Battle of Cold Harbor. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The only McChesney in the entire 92nd New York regiment on the roster was part of the regimental staff, so this is almost certainly our man. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The destination for the new Army of the James was Bermuda Hundred, situated in the triangle formed by the confluence of the James and Appomattox rivers. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This was officially the start of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign. Major General Benjamin Butler and his Army of the James landed at Bermuda Hundred on the same day Grant and Lee started the Overland Campaign in the Wilderness. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This was the first day of the Battle of Port Walthall Junction on May 6, 1864. Edward G. Longacre’s book Army of Amateurs: General Benjamin F. Butler and the Army of the James, 1863-1865, page 75, briefly covers what was a small but fierce skirmish. Men of the 21st and 25th South Carolina regiments had been moving up the railroad to reinforce Richmond when Butler’s brigades approached. They had not been expected but happened to be in just the right place to blunt Butler’s opening move to the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad. To men such as Benson his comrades in the 92nd New York who had been mostly spared any large scale fighting this must have seemed a significant event. They would soon learn things could get much, much worse. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This was the second day of the Battle of Port Walthall Junction on May 7, 1864. Edward G. Longacre’s book Army of Amateurs: General Benjamin F. Butler and the Army of the James, 1863-1865, pages 77-78, recounts the events of this day from a Union perspective. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Butler had heard the Army of the Potomac was bogged down in the Wilderness and grew fearful of Confederate reinforcements coming to destroy him. He retreated from the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad and strengthened his works across Bermuda Hundred neck. He lost a valuable opportunity to move while the Confederates were still weaker than was he. See Edward G. Longacre’s book Army of Amateurs: General Benjamin F. Butler and the Army of the James, 1863-1865, page 78. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: On May 9, 1864, Butler decided to try to move on Petersburg to the southwest. Bushrod Johnson’s Division was waiting for him at Swift Creek, where a small battle broke out and even included Union Navy gunboats vs. Confederate Fort Clifton. See Edward G. Longacre’s book Army of Amateurs: General Benjamin F. Butler and the Army of the James, 1863-1865, pages 80-81. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: At the May 10, 1864 Battle of Chester Station, Terry’s Division drove back a recon in force by two Confederate brigades under Major General Robert Ransom. Meanwhile, Butler was arguing with his Corps commanders Gillmore and Smith. He again changed his mind and decided to move on Richmond due to reports of the army of the Potomac now driving the Confederates in the direction of Richmond. See Edward G. Longacre’s book Army of Amateurs: General Benjamin F. Butler and the Army of the James, 1863-1865, pages 83-85. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Union Army of the James had retired from the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad on May 10. This allowed the Confederates to send reinforcements north via that same railroad all day on May 11. See Longacre, page 85. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Butler’s move on Richmond resulted in the Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, also called Proctor’s Creek. A Confederate attack at dawn of May 16, 1864 routed portions of Butler’s army, but fog prevented more damage. Butler was forced to retreat to his intrenchments at the neck of Bermuda Hundred, which his forces manned through the end of the Siege of Petersburg. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Battle of Ware Bottom Church on May 20, 1864 allowed the Confederates to move up close to the Unin lines and build what became the Howlett Line, a Confederate line bottling Butler’s troops up on the Bermuda Hundred Peninsula. Skirmishes and affairs would flare up along these opposing lines during the Siege of Petersburg. For less than $5 (as of early 2021), you can purchase a PDF wargame of Bermuda Hundred which gives a nice, concise overview of this campaign along with maps and orders of battle. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: With Butler bottled up on Bermuda Hundred, Grant ordered him to send the 18th Corps to help the Army of the Potomac at what became the Battle of Cold Harbor. This order to move would take the 18th Corps down the James, then up the York and Pamunkey Rivers to White House Landing, where the corps disembarked and marched west to Cold Harbor. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The 18th Corps including the 92nd New York was headed to Cold Harbor. That famous battle, Grant’s movement to the James River, and the Siege of Petersburg will all be discussed in the next installment. Benson had an eventful time from this point forward. Stay tuned. ↩
- “92d Before City of Petersburg.” The Courier and Freeman (Potsdam, NY). February 11, 1925, p. 1 col. 1-4 and p. 2 col. 3-5 ↩