Spectacular Hand-Drawn Map + 3-Page Letter, Siege of Yorktown, Va. by Lt. John J. Knox Company D, 5th Michigan Infantry

John J. Knox, a resident of Clarkston, Michigan was mustered into Company D of the 5th Michigan Infantry on August 28th, 1861.  Their first assignment as part of Kearney’s Division was to take part in the Peninsula Campaign with General McClellan.  The letter is in nice dark ink and easy to read.  Also included is the original cover that the letter was mailed in (but stamp removed).  Here is the content:

  • Camp near Yorktown, Virginia, Saturday Morning April 12th, 1862.  My Darling Emma, After I finished my last letter to you, I lay down in a bed that Charlie and I made that afternoon. Had to go about 1 mile after some pine boughs. Laid them on the ground all wet, but had nearly gone to sleep when the order came “fall in for Picket.” This was about 10 o’clock.
  • We got up and by the time the boys had knapsacks packed and reached the line, it was something after 11. We were not allowed to have any fire. The wind continued to blow. It rained and was decidedly the coldest night I have yet seen in Va.
  • In the morning the wind turned. It grew warmer and commenced snowing. Upon the whole I never spent a more miserable night in my life.
  • In the morning everyone of us trembled and shook with cold till near noon when it cleared off, and thank God the sun shone on us poor homeless soldiers once more. Since then the weather has been warmer.
  • We were relieved from Picket Thursday night about 11 o’clock and found our way to our new camp in the woods about 12, very much tired, cold and hungry.
  • No Reserve Guard Soldiering about this. Everything is all confusion here today. The Capt. has gone out on Fatigue, and the boys are asking so many questions, I shall have to stop and answer about 100.
  • Afternoon – It is rather dull here today and but little firing is going on. We are momentarily expecting the mail and sutler. I hope I may hear from you again and that old Harris will bring some crackers as this hard bread is too much for my teeth.
  • I think of Camp Michigan often now and conclude it is “Paradise Lost” to us. After we take this place and Richmond, we will have better times again.
  • I shall write you as often as the mail leaves here. Can think of nothing more of interest. Capt. Trowbridge went to the Hospital today looking very badly.
  • Mathews and Charlie do not agree very well since you left. Sidney Walter returned to the Regt. last night. I have not yet seen him. Mose [William Mosey, killed 5/5/62] is well and should fudge from his talk. He had got about as much soldiering as he wanted.
  • Last night after dark we made a bed in which 5 of us sleep, Capts. Mathews, Gilluly, Kinsberk, Charlie, and your most Obt. Servt. Write often and with much love. I am away down here in the woods. Your own Johnnie
  • The mail have just arrived, but nix for me. Good night, Emma, my Dear. I hope you will sleep warm.


  • This map, though imperfect, will give you something of an idea of the Rebel Fortifications about Yorktown. With a glass at a distance of 1 ½ miles, it is difficult to see many guns, but their line of Fortifications are very extensive. A dash from Forts No. 3 & 5 were made on our Pickets yesterday. They drove our men in killing only one, while we killed seven of them. Our whole Division was immediately formed in line of battle in the field marked Hamilton’s Division 1st but upon learning the enemy was not advancing, we returned to our temporary quarters in the woods. As soon as we get our siege guns mounted on the field marked with a star, it is the opinion of the General that he can dismount their guns on the forts, then advance with the Infantry, kill them or take them prisoners. This in all probability will be accomplished within 10 days.

#L4-12-62 MI – Price $1,495

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