SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin. This series of articles covers the Civil War “Memories” of Private Thomas Moore of the 96th New York. In an article accompanying this series, I discuss how the clues provided in these articles allowed me to figure out the regiment to which Thomas Moore belonged.
MEMORIES OF A CIVIL WAR VETERAN
The third installment of the Civil War Memories of Thomas Moore1, uncle of the Rev. Herbert Moore, is presented herewith. The preceding installments dealt with his recollections of his first few months in the army after enlisting at the age of 16, the siege of York Town, the famed Merrimac-Monitor episode, the weeks spent in the Chickahominy swamp, the winter of 1863 spent in North Carolina, the building of Fort Gray at Plymouth, N. C. where Thomas Moore was located when his two years of service were completed.
Grand Army of the James.
We went up the James and landed at Barmudd (Bermuda) Hundred and City Point [in May 1864]. The Appomatox flows down from Petersburg and enters into the James between City Point and Barmudd (Bermuda) Hundred. We landed at Barmudd and made our first start for Petersburg.2 It was one of the hottest days I think I ever saw. Our company was in the rear guard and had to do lots of running after men who had fallen out and urge them forward to their companies. Quite a number were sun-struck. I think it is one of the worst deaths a person can die. The trouble is all in the head and they have such awful spasms. We had to fight for every inch of ground from the James River to Petersburg. I saw more dead and wounded men at Paint of Rocks (Painted Rocks) [sic, Point of Rocks] after the second day’s fighting than I ever saw before or after the War.
Point of Rocks is on the Appomatox River and this is where the hospital was established and all the doctors got together here and the wounded were all brought here for treatment. There was a large farm house here and about five acres of an orchard and a large garden patch. The wounded were brought in and laid in rows under the trees till the whole five acres were about covered. There were two amputating tables about 50 feet long, each. I don’t know how many surgeons there were. I didn’t feel as if I wanted to stay long enough to count them. Between those tables there were wheel barrows about twenty feet apart. Limbs were thrown into them and when the wheel barrow was full, it was wheeled off, its contents dumped into a hole, and brought back to be filled up again. I saw one of these surgeons stick his knife in his mouth while he tied an artery. It staggered me at the time but I soon got used to such scenes.
Dead Buried in Trench
At this same place they dug a trench about 400 feet long and six feet wide to bury the dead. They laid them in what they called heads and points till they were three deep, then dug another trench. We had three brothers—two belonged to our regiment [the 96th New York] and one to the 118th New York. Two of these three brothers were laid in this trench. Their names were Joseph, Albert, and John. Albert and John were killed, and Joseph saw them laid in this trench like as many cattle without a blanket or anything but the dirt for a covering. It very near broke poor Joseph’s heart.
Right here I want to mention a little incident that happened about two months later. On Sunday evening when the bands got out to serenade the general headquarters, we were playing quite close to the Rebs. They were playing their kind of music and we were playng our kind of music, but to wind up, they both played Home Sweet Home. I can never tell you what an impression that old tune had on those men. Especially on Joseph, as both of his brothers were younger than he. He said he didn’t feel as if he could ever go home and meet his mother and leave those two boys in that trench at Paint of Rocks, Va. Any one that can see anything glorious in it will have to explain it to me.
Never Reached Petersburg
We crowded on to Petersburg fighting for every inch till we had got where we could look into the city and that is as close as we ever got.3 Petersburg was well fortified. We used to have to fire one hundred rounds of cartridges every day just to keep up a continuous fire. It was here we dug the tunnel and blew up one of their forts, but the scheme did not prove a success. The orders were for every man to be ready, and when the fort lifted, every man was to shoot in that direction, and we had 500 pieces of artillery all let loose at once. I want to tell you we made a racket if we didn’t hold the fort.4
About this time our regiment was taken off this line long enough to back to the Wilderness to fight, and almost a half of them never came back. One volley from the Rebs took down seven of our commissioned officers, and I don’t know just how many men. This fight was mostly in the woods, and the woods took fire and lots of our boys that were wounded and couldn’t walk were burnt to death; it was awful. I always thought Grant let the Rebs lead him into a trap. We didn’t make a thing, never held a foot of ground, but went back to the breast works in front of Petersburg with about half the men we went out with.5,6
Thomas Moore’s Siege of Petersburg in the Sandy Creek (NY) News:
- Finding Thomas Moore: An Army of the James Soldier’s Account of the Petersburg Campaign
- NP: February 26, 1953 Sandy Creek (NY) News: Thomas Moore (96th NY) at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 2
- NP: March 26, 1953 Sandy Creek (NY) News: Thomas Moore (96th NY) at the Siege of Petersburg, Part 3
- SOPO Editor’s Note: See my original article researching the identity of Thomas Moore for more information on who this man was and what regiment he fought with at the Siege of Petersburg. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Moore here discusses Benjamin Butler’s May 1864 Bermuda Hundred Campaign. After a promising start in which Butler briefly bisected the railroad running from Richmond to Petersburg, he was driven back into his trenches at Bermuda Hundred, where he was situated as if in a bottle tightly corked, to paraphrase Ulysses S. Grant. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The 96th New York and other members of the XVIII Corps, Army of the James were involved in the fighting at the Second Battle of Petersburg from June 15-18, 1864, just east of Petersburg and south of the Appomattox River. The Federals failed to take Petersburg and settled in for a lengthy siege. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Moore is referring to the famous July 30, 1864 Battle of the Crater. The 96th New York, along with the entire XVIII Corps, Army of the James was in a reserve role at the Crater, luckily for them. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: I’m honestly perplexed on which battle Moore could be talking about here. The Battle of the Wilderness, fought May 5-6, 1864, occurred at the opening of the Overland Campaign. At that time, Moore and his 96th New York were just starting out on the Bermuda Hundred Campaign, well away from the Battle of the Wilderness. I’m not sure if this is a case of Moore simply forgetting some things in his old age, but there is no way his regiment participated in the Battle of the Wilderness, and especially not after the une 15-18, 1864 Second Battle of Petersburg and the July 30, 1864 Battle of the Crater. A look at the 96th New York Page here shows that the 96th was involved in no other battles between the Crater and the September 29, 1864 Battle of Fort Harrison, the topic of the next article in this series. ↩
- “Memories of a Civil War Veteran.” Sandy Creek (NY) News. February 19, 1953, p. 2, col. 2-4 ↩