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Petersburg Medals of Honor: At the “Breakthrough”



Sergeant Charles H. Tracy, of Company A, Thirty-seventh Massachusetts Volunteers, relates two brave adventures, as follows:

SOPO Editor’s Note: The first adventure relates to the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House and was not reproduced here.


Sergeant. Co. A, 37th Massachusetts Volunteers.
Born in Jewett City, Conn., Oct. 3, 1833.

“At one o’clock on the morning of April 2, 1864 [sic, 1865],” continues Sergeant Tracy, “my regiment broke camp near Petersburg, Va., and moved up to the enemy’s front. Brigade pioneers and sharpshooters were ordered to rush in advance of the brigade. The pioneers were to remove all obstacles in front of the enemy’s works, while the sharpshooters covered the parapet. I was at that time detailed as sergeant of the Third Brigade [3/1/VI/AotP] pioneers, and was second in command in the assault. The part of the line we were expected to carry was made of enclosed works, connected by breastworks of great strength with outer obstructions in the form of two lines of chevaux de frise and two lines of abatis. It was impossible to take the works while the enemy defended them, unless the several lines of obstruction were first removed.

“As Lieutenant Shiver was wounded early in the attack the command fell on me, and in directing the removal of the first two lines of the obstructions I received a shot over my ear and one in my left side; and while removing the third line, a bullet shattered my right knee-joint, costing me, subsequently, the loss of my leg. Supporting myself on the abatis, I gave my orders to my men, and at last had the satisfaction of seeing them carry away the obstruction, thus enabling General Edwards to rout the enemy and cut the railroad and telegraph. The flag of the Thirty-seventh Massachusetts was the first to wave over the enemy’s works.”


Read about even more Medal of Honor winners at the Siege of Petersburg:


  1. Beyer, Walter F. and Keydel, Oscar F. Deeds of Valor: How America’s Heroes Won the Medal of Honor…, Volume 1 (The Perrien – Keydel  Company: 1901), pp. 338
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