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Letters of a soldier

March 1864 - June 1864

March 20, 1864
Headquarters, 4th Vol. Del. F., Court House (Fairfax)

Dear Wife,

Ireceived your letter of the 14th in due time and was glad to hear from you but did not answer it because I had just written to you and I wanted to see how I would send my money home. I shall send it by Manlove. His furlough went in this morning and he will be home on next Saturday and will come to the Landing on Sunday or Monday and bring it to you, but do not say anything about it for he does not want his people to know anything about it. You must give him a receipt for the money.

My throat is a great deal better but my mouth is sore. I am well every other way. You need not see any trouble about me for I can have good attention and my throat is not as bad as you suppose. I think now it will get well.

I suppose I could get a furlough but I have had one and there is other men that has had none and I shall not try for one, and then it would cost me so much. Now you say you cannot see that the war is any nearer over than it was when it first broke out, but if you will just stop and think you cannot help but see that it is pretty near played out for there is not a state in the United States but what there is Union troops in and there is but 5 states out of the union now and when the war broke out there was 14, so you see there is less chance for them to support an army and just look around Washington. The rebels held Arlington Heights and all that part of Virginia and Alexandria and this place and so on, but now they are on the other side of the Rapidan which is about 90 miles from Washington, and then we have got plenty of Forts and a good army and plenty of arms and equipment and the rebs are getting weaker, and are getting whipped all the time.

There was a fight yesterday at Bristow station just above here a few miles with rebel Stuart's & White's cavalry. White crossed the Rapidan below our army somewhere about Fredericksburg and come around in the rear of the army of the Potomac and Stewart crossed above and come on to the station and run into the 5th corps and they whipped him and White run in to some of our cavalry and got whipped and could not get back the way he come and started to go back the other way and he run in to the 5 corps at the station about the same time that Stewart did and a general fight ensued and the rebs were cut to pieces. Our men throwed the grape and canister into them and litterly covered the ground with them so you see they run into a hornet's nest. We had to sleep with our equipments on last night but they did not come for I reckon they were glad to go back.

Sally sends her respects to you. She has a very sore hand, I assure you she will do all she can for me. Her and Mrs. Burnet will never be friends any more for Mr. and Mrs. Burnet are neither of them like they were.

Give my love to Johnny and kiss Lena for me. Put your trust in God. No more at present but still remain your true and loving husband,

Signature

History

The 4th Delaware Infantry was assigned to the 22nd Army Corps, Brig. General Robert O. Tyler's Division, Department of Washington from January to May 1864.

Union Soldiers

Union Soldiers in the Field - 1864

Several reports by Colonel Grimshaw in January and February stated that it was fairly quiet in his command. They had been scouting between Goose Creek, Annandale, Centreville and finally, Vienna, Virginia.

Culpeper Court House

Culpeper Court House Railroad Depot

On this same day, March 20, 1864, from Culpeper Court House, U.S. Grant told Maj. Gen. F. Sigel of the the Dept. of West Virginia,"... that is, in the spring campaign it is desirable to bring into the field all the troops possible."

On April 15, 1864, Col. Grimshaw reported that they had captured 5 privates of Mosby's battalion, "... whose intention was undoubtedly to destroy bridges ..." around Fairfax Court House.


On April 27, 1864, Grant received indications of "an intention on the part of the enemy to move a force down the Shenandoah Valley." This prompted the ordering for the 4th Delaware to join the Army of the Potomac in the field in May.

Rapahannock Bridge, Va, May 5, 1864

Dear wife,

Itake this opportunity to inform you that I am well and hope these few lines may find you all the same. We arrived here last evening time enough to get our tents up. You need not be uneasy for our regt. is scattered along the railroad. I want you to write as soon as you can. Direct your letters to the Court House until further orders. I can tell you but little but the army is on the move. There will soon be some good news.

Excuse my short letter for this time. Give my respects to all. Your true and loving husband,

Signature

History

The 4th Delaware was now with Tyler's division, 1st Brigade under Col. Grimshaw, and Lt. Col. Charles E. LaMotte. They were with the 24th District of Columbia and 4 companies of the 157th Pennsylvania. They had left Fairfax Court House on May 4th, ordered to guard the Railroad bridges over Cedar and Licking runs & Rappahannock River.

Railroad Gun

The Army of the Potomac had crossed the Rapidan River with 120,000 men at Ely's Ford (north of Chancellorsville), engaging Lee in what was called the Battle of the Wilderness.

Rappahannock Bridge, Va., May 8th, 1864

Dear wife,

I is with pleasure that I write you a few lines to let you know that I am well, and hope these few lines will find you the same. I want to hear from you as soon as possible. There is no prospect of our going to the Court House for there is a regiment there in our place and Burnsides, Grant and Butler have formed a Junction and things are going on all right. I believe the rebs are retreating to Richmond and I believe they will be badly whipped.

You need not be uneasy about me for we have a good place here and there is but few rebs here for they have all they can attend to in front of our army. We have good summer quarters and are doing well. There is but little news of importance.

Some three of our guards done a trick I am ashamed of. Do not say anything about it. There was 3 rebs came up to the post and the guards told them who was here and how many there was and let them ride off and never fired a gun. We seen them from camp and fired several shots but they were too far off so they just rode off right before us.

There is several trains here to take down the sick and wounded and prisoners, but they have not began to come in yet. I expect there is a good many for there has been some hard fighting. As there is no official news and I have but little time to write, you must excuse me.

I received 3 letters, 1 from your mother, 1 from Maggy V., 1 from Marty Wilson. Give my love to Johnny and all our friends. No more at present, but still remain your loving husband,

Signature

History

Major General C.C. Augur (in the Washington D.C. Headquarters) ordered the trains to stay at Rappahannock Station to keep them from being captured.

Rappanhanock Station

Rappahannock Station

On May 13, 1864, Chief of Staff, J.H. Taylor, reported that the 2nd D.C. Vol. and the 4th Del. Vol. were ordered, "...to take position and guard the Orange & Alexandria Railroad from Springfield Station to Bull Run bridge."

Orange and Alexandria Railroad Destroyed by the Confederates

After 2 days of fighting in the Wilderness Battle, the Union had lost 18,000 men and the Confederates about 12,000. On May 7, Grant and Meade continued moving south toward Spotsylvania Court House.

updown

History

The Battle of Spotsylvania

SpotsylvaniaLeaving the wilderness on May 7, 1864, Grant ordered the troops to Spotsylvania Court House. Lee was headed for the same on a parallel road. On May 8, them met again along Brock Rd. with Lee having arrived shortly before the Union. By May 12, the Union crashed over fortifications and took 3,000 prisoners. Lee counter-attacked in the earthworks. With fighting continuing for 22 hours, this gave Lee time to construct a new and stronger line along Mule Shoe Salient.

Both Armies continued to attack and counter-attack until May 19 when Lee ordered Ewell's II Corps to find the federals which he believed where retreating. When Ewell attacked the Union at Harris Farm, the artillery was so devastating, that many in the Corps lay dead in orderly rows with their ranks perfectly preserved.

Neither Army had achieved their goals, and on May 20th, Grant continued to the south and east. On the 21st, Lee also moved south toward the North Anna River. In two weeks of fighting, the Federals again lost 18,000 men and the Confederate about 11,500.

 

Near Alexandria Va, May 24th, 1864

Dear Wife,

We are again on the move but we do not know where, we are going. I am well and hope these few lines will find you the same. The women went home today. They are in a great way. I will write as soon as we stop. I have sent a bag of blankets and dress coats and pants. The middle blanket is Mrs. Johnson's. The rest is mine.

Give my love to all my friends and kiss Johnny and Lena for me. Do not unease yourself for the Lord will take care of me, so let us trust in Him.

Excuse my short letter for I am in a hurry but I still remain your loving husband,

Signature

History

The 4th Delaware had been on the move from May 13, and on May 28th went by transport to Port Royal on the Rappahannock. They marched to Bethesda Church at Cold Harbor (a distance of 56 miles) to report to General Warren. They continued on to the 5th Corps, joining the main Army of the Potomac on June 2, 1864.

Warren

General Warren of the 5th Army Corps

Grant and Lee had again been fighting along the North Anna River, but by May 27, Grant abandoned the assaults unable to break a V-shaped line that Lee had formed. Grant moved again to the southeast with fighting continuing along the Totopotomoy Creek.

The last meeting of the Armies north of the James River came at Cold Harbor.

History

The Battle of Cold Harbor

Grant at Bethesda ChurchOn June 2, 1864, U.S. Grant planned his next moves from Bethesda Church, just north of Cold Harbor and approximately 10 miles north of Richmond. The Confederates spent the time constructing strong fortifications.

Cold Harbor BonesOn June 3rd, 1864, the Army of the Potomac went forward in a massive frontal assault. More than 7,000 Union troops were shot within a few minutes. For 10 days, the Armies lay within 100 yards of each other, tending to survivors.

White House, Va., June 6, 1864

Dear Wife,

It
is with pleasure that I write you a few lines to inform you how I am getting along. I am still unwell but not dangerous, but thank God I am yet alive, and I hope you are so that if we do not meet on earth that we may meet in Heaven.

I have not been to the regiment since it left Port Royal. It has been fighting nearly ever since and very hard too. There has been several killed but none that you know. Samuel Hacket of our company is killed and J. Palmer is wounded in the hand. W.H. Ruth is wounded through the right breast. The regiment has fought hard and not lost very heavy but has been dealing death and destruction to the rebs. I think I shall try to get to the regiment as soon as I can. Do not be discouraged for every thing is going on all right and Grant will soon take Richmond. Time is all he wants.

I cannot hear from you but you must not stop writing for I will get the letters sometime. Give my respects to all my friends. No more at present, but still remain your husband until death.

Signature

History

Throughout the spring fighting, the Union had only advanced further south by marching around General Lee. The Federals had lost approximately 50,000 casualties and the Confederacy about 32,000. Although Lee was fighting with less casualties than Grant, he was running out of supplies and men.


General Robert E. Lee

Grant, highly disturbed by his casualties, decided to focus on the railroad lines that kept Lee alive. On June 13, 1864, Grant moved the Army of the Potomac away from Cold Harbor toward the Petersburg Railroad hub.

White House, Va., June 8th, 1864

Dear Wife,

It
thought I would let you know how I was getting along. I am here detailed for nurse. I am not very well but thank God I am still alive. These are awful times here. You can hardly imagine how bad it is. The wounded cover acres of ground but the rebs are getting the worst of it all the time. There is all kinds of wounds but there is a good many kind women down here of the sanitary commission. God bless them. They are ministering angels. They can cheer the men up when nothing else will.

I do not know when I will go to the regiment. I may never go any more and I may go any time, but as the Lord has brought me through thus far let us put our trust in him for he is our only strength.

Sergt. Warren is killed. Wash. Maclary is here sick but not bad. He killed the first reb when they laid in the entrenchments. Grant is going to change the base of supplies to the James River, tomorrow, and I think Richmond must fall. I think sometimes that I ought to go to the regiment but then I think I can do my duty here and if the doctor sees proper to keep me here it is all right.

They brought in a lot of reb prisoners and there was a young girl that was orderly sergt. of one of the companies. Grant is whipping the rebs bad. The men lay in the rifle pits and the rebs charged on them to drive them back but our men stick and when the rebs fall back our men follow them and then stay, so you see they are scared and are losing all the time.

Give my love to Johnny and all my friends. No more at present, but still remain your loving husband.

Signature

History

The 4th Delaware marched from Long Bridge, crossed the James at Wilcox Landing on the 15th of June, then marched to Prince George Court House, and finally to the front of the enemy works at Petersburg, arriving June 16th, 1864. (A total distance of about 50 miles).

Petersburg Confederate Fortifications captured June 14, 1864 by General William Smith

Matthew Brady with a battery before Petersburg, Virginia, June 1864

Final Letter

Previous Letters-4/1863 - 6/1863 Previous Letters-7/1863 - 3/1864

Company Roster

Reference

There are many places to collect information on the Civil War. Since I am in the Washington, D.C. area, I have the great advantage of the Government Archives, in additional to any books that can be found.

But for now, I would like to mention that most of Matthew Bradys' images of the Civil War are in the Public Domain, and can be found at the National Archives Picture Division in Tacoma Park, Maryland, or the Library of Congress, just to mention a few. All of the battlefields that Stephen Buckson mentions are also within the general Washington, D.C. area.

Much of the history written here is from various sources, the regimental history of the Fourth Delaware Regiment is from The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion and also from Institute for Civil War Research thanks to Mr. J.F. Walter.

Institute for Civil War Research
J. F. Walter
7913 67th Drive
Middle Village, NY 11379
ICWRJOHN@aol.com

National Archives

Library of Congress

National Park Service

U.S. Civil War Fact Sheets

National Civil War Association


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