“In the field near Petersburg, Va. June 23rd, 1864” – Samuel B. Pierce, Co. C, 6th New York Heavy Artillery Describes the Greatest Siege American History
Samuel B. Pierce at the age of 20 enlisted at West Farms, N.Y. He was mustered into Company C of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery on September 2nd, 1862. Pierce spent a full year in Petersburg as that was where he was mustered out on June 28th, 1865 and our letter is dated “June 23rd, 1864”!
The letter is written in nice dark ink and is 4 pages long with a great regimental I.D. at the close. Samuel is writing his brother George and he states in closing “The enclosed letters was taken from a Rebel by some of our boys”. No letters are present but with them apparently there was a fancy purple envelope on which Samuel has written, “Ain’t this tutchy, George”. “Please send a few stamps”.
Here is the great content:
- June 23rd, 1864, In the field near Petersburg, Va. Dear Brother, Having a few spare moments I thought I would write you a few lines to let you know that up to this date I am still in the land of the living, but the Lord only knows how soon I may be launched into eternity.
- We are within 2 miles of the city of Petersburg, but we have obstacles between us, and that place which are very formidable. As near as I can judge, we are on the left center of the Army and in the first-line of breastworks.
- The Rebels’ works and ours are about 500 yards apart at this point. The skirmishes are much nearer in fact, so near that they can talk with each other, but it would be rather a dangerous piece of business for either party to expose themselves above their pits (small holes dug in the ground to lay in)…
- …but sometimes some more daring than the rest will raise up to stretch himself a little, when the balls will whistle around him and make him get down.
- Their works in our front are very strong. The Rebels were driven out of one line of works before we got up to the main part of the Army, which were well built and looked as though they had been done a year from the grass that was growing on it.
- The Rebels have a number of guns planted in our front, and when we advanced to where we are now, they threw the shells over us in plenty.
- We threw up breast works as fast as possible. As luck would have it, most of their shells went over us and burst in our rear. Sometimes they burst right over our heads, and it would make everything ring and made us lay close to the ground.
- One of our Batteries came up and was planted along our breastworks and began to throw shells pretty fast at their Battery, and we did not have quite so many fired at us after that, and that suited us first rate. You may depend upon it.
- Co.’s C and G were thrown out to support skirmishers in our front. Towards evening the Regt. advanced where we are now. I cannot write you how we came here (that is through what part of the state).
- We crossed the James River on the 16th of June in the John Brooks, and I saw a man on board of her that was mate on the Steamer John Romer. I guess he was mate on the Brooks. It was a very warm day that we crossed. The name of the crossing was Wilcox Ford and landed at Windmill’s Landing.
- My last letter I wrote you I believe was on the 12th, but I did not have a chance to send it until the 16th. There was very hard fighting on our left (about a mile) last night, but I have not learned the particulars of it.
- 0, how hot it is today, and it is bad to be wounded this weather. We have lost a great many men since we have laid here behind our breastworks. The Regt. has lost since they left winter quarters about 500 men killed, wounded, and missing. If they keep on this way, there will not be many to return home.
- But for all everything looks so dark, we should endeavor to look on the bright side and take everything for the best.
- Andrew McIntyre accidentally shot himself through the leg while cleaning his piece yesterday. The boys keep well with one or two exceptions. Jim Sloane and Jim Sherr was sent to Washington the other day sick. Paul and John Lounsbury keep well. I believe I have written enough, so I will close. Love to all the folks. Write often, George, for you do not know how welcome a letter is to us, even if it is a twice-told story.
- Lieut. Raspberry is in temporary command of the company. Capt. Nibbee is acting Major the 14th Brooklyn or what is left of it is in our division. 2nd division 5th Army Corps. The enclosed letters was taken from a Rebel by some of our boys.
- Hoping this will find you all in good health. I will remain your affectionate brother, Samuel B. Pierce Co. C. 6th N. Y. H. Artillery 5th Army Corps Washington D. C.
Petersburg was the longest siege in American history and this letter is an excellent example of that.
#L6-23-64NY – Price $350