Near Petersburg, Va.
Tuesday July 19, 1864
I feel like writing a few lines
to somebody this eve & will write to you.
I got a Harpers from you a few days ago it has whiled away
many otherwise dull moments. Many thanks to you for the plea-
sure I derived from it.
Since writing to you last we have moved around some. On Saturday
night the 9th we packed up & moved to the left over a mile and
relieved a part of the 6th Corps. our whole brigade was put
on picket & kept there 48 hours. we were their [----?] in and
fell back to the breastworks. That evening marched out 3 miles
on the plank road to where our cavalry were engaged with the
enemy but finding nothing serious marched back again and
went to work & tore down all the breastworks.
In the morning marched to our present camp, we lost the road
& marched 7 miles to get 3. it was very hot & dreadfully dusty.
We could hardly see our hands before us for the dust.
This movement places us temporally in reserve, being
about 1½ miles in rear of the 9th Corps. All this part of one line for-
merly held by the 2nd & 6th Corps. has been abandoned and the
breastworks torn down.
Our division is all camped here in one place. the other two Divisions
are near us.
Last Tuesday night, Friday & Friday night our whole corps was
at work throwing down the rebel earthworks which formed
their first line & which we captured when we first came
here. There were earthworks from 10 to 15ft high & 20 to 30ft
thick each long enough to mount 3 to 5 guns. They were placed
at short intervals apart for a distance of two miles and
connected together strong rifle pits. These we had to shovel
down level with the ground. The works were very strong
& the position a strong one, and had they been fully manned
with veteran troops, we could not have taken them by all
assault as we did. It is quite evident that Grant
was ahead of them but not quite quick enough.
While we were taking these, Lee got his whole
army here and was ready for us in his 2nd
line, which is much stronger as regards position
than the 1st. Had the 2nd Corps got here 24 hours sooner
from [---?] [---?] we should have taken this city and
all the fortifications.
We are now making a regular siege, digging our
way into the city. In the 9th Corps in some places
the two lines are not even 25 yds. apart and that
in an open field too so that it is impossible
for either side to have pickets out.
They keep up a slow but continuous shelling
and the same in the 18th Corps. both sides using
mortars, in the evening the firing is generally
a little more brisk. Sometimes quickening into a rapid fire
from many pieces, then dieing away again to its usual rate.
In the evening I can see the mortar shells from both sides
as they rise up in the air, describe a short curve & fall gen-
erally bursting in the air. the fuse of the shell leaves a
stream of fire behind, ending in a great shot of flame.
When the shell explodes it is a very pretty sight. The last
sound at night & the first in the morning is from these shells.
I have never yet been under the fire of mortars. I think they
must be rather unpleasant. ordinary breastworks are no
protection from them. They are thrown up & then they come
down almost straight like this & are just as liable
to drop right behind a breastwork as any where else. but the
men get used to this after a while & don’t seem to care
much for them. The rebs are not near so expert in their use
as we are. they never have used any till we came here.
Our people first used them in field operations this summer.
They are very small & light--four men can carry one any
where. They throw a 24 pd shell.
We have been somewhat amused in reading newspaper accounts
of the war around Washington. This little affair eclipses
the whole summer's campaign in Va. Well I am willing
some of those "fine people" should be just a little
scared tho I didn’t want any one hurt.
But Gen. Lee failed to draw Grant away from this place.
Grant is like a bulldog if he once gets a hold he never lets
go. he is not to be diverted by any little side squabbles.
It is thought now that Lee will attack us here as it is
absolutely necessary for him to get us away somehow.
As it is now he can’t help Johnson any & Sherman
will soon cut his confederacy in two, cutting him
off from his great source of supply [---?] the Gulf States,
also separating him from Johnson. When this is
done Sherman can let Johnson alone & come up and
help us capture Lee's army. Then we can all hands go
down & finish Johnson gobbling up Wilmington,
Charlston & Savannah by the way. We are at work
now around the edges & underneath. bye & bye the whole
concern will fall in one mass. So don’t be impatient
if you don’t read of great things at present. You
will be satisfied ere[?] long.
One thing is absolutely necessary to the final success of this
war & and the future glory of this country and this is
"Old Abe" must be reelected. The next four years will
be devoted to reconstruction or whatever else it may be
called, and we don’t want a "[---?] Man" or "Copperhead"
to let the seceded states back on their own terms.
In every new camp we go into we have to fix it all up
as though were going to stay there six months. Bunks
have to be built in all the tents &c &c. Gen. Barlow, our
Div. Commander is very particular about everything.
I think he is much too much military. He rides all
around thro. the camps nearly every day in his shirt
sleeves, no coat or vest. Nothing escapes his observation.
Several times we have worked two days fixing up a new
camp & just as it was done have to go somewhere
This morning it commenced to rain & has rained all day
steadily. It is the first we have had since Jun 2nd. It will
be a great blessing to the army.
My health is most excellent.
I hope to hear from you soon & trust you all
are well. I suppose Mother is with you yet.
I don’t think I shall go home next Oct. when the old men
do. I enlisted "for the war" & am bound to see it out.
I can't give up till the work is done.
Good Night George