A Remarkable Letter Concerning the Battle of the Crater at Petersburg – “I WAS SHOCKED TO SEE SOLDIERS’ SKULLS & SOMETIMES NEARLY WHOLE SETS OF BONES LAYING ON THE GROUND & SOMETIMES SAW TOES OF SHOES FROM JUTTING OUT OF THE GROUND WHERE THE SOLDIERS WERE HASTILY BURIED IN TRENCHES. THE SIGHTS WERE SICKENING THE CRATER HAS BEEN ENCLOSED BY THE OWNER OF THE LAND & NOW VISITORS PAY 25 CTS. ADMISSION TO SEE THE SAME.”
When we saw this letter mentioning the Crater, we paid a top dollar price for it many years ago… just had to have it. When it mentions charging 25 cents admission, that was the Griffith Family Museum, shown in the photo we found. Here is the content:
- Willards Hotel Washington, D. C. April 16, 1866. Samuel Batchelder Esq. Dear Sir: Agreeable to promise I have to say that I stopped 2 days in Phila. & made the acquaintance of some of the Pig Iron Manufacturers.
- Spent 2 days at Baltimore pleasantly. Went down the Chesapeake Bay to Fortress Monroe & Norfolk & up the James River to Richmond, seeing many things of interest.
- ONE DAY VISITED THE BATTLE GROUNDS AROUND PETERSBURG & FOUND FORT STEADMAN & THE CRATER WHERE GENL. BURNSIDE BLEW UP A REBEL FORT TO BE OF MUCH INTEREST, & THERE PICKED UP SEVERAL BULLETS & SAW MANY OF THE FREEDMEN DIGGING FOR SHOT & SHELL, ETC.
- IN RICHMOND I WAS TOLD THAT ONE MAN HAD SHIPPED MORE THAN 50 TONS OF LEAD CAST FROM MINNIE BALLS PICKED UP BY COLORED PEOPLE.
- I WAS SHOCKED TO SEE SOLDIERS’ SKULLS & SOMETIMES NEARLY WHOLE SETS OF BONES LAYING ON THE GROUND & SOMETIMES SAW TOES OF SHOES FROM JUTTING OUT OF THE GROUND WHERE THE SOLDIERS WERE HASTILY BURIED IN TRENCHES.
- THE SIGHTS WERE SICKENING THE CRATER HAS BEEN ENCLOSED BY THE OWNER OF THE LAND & NOW VISITORS PAY 25 CTS. ADMISSION TO SEE THE SAME.
- I saw at Petersburg the oldest church building now standing in this country & made from imported bricks, but there are no floors in it now. Richmond suffered much more by the fire than I ever imagined, that of the Railroads being very severe, having lost depots of all kinds, bridges & rolling stock of very great value & in fact, most of their good buildings were burned. They have, however, built some very fine new buildings in parts of the burnt district.
- CASTLE THUNDER & LIBBY PRISON ARE HARD PLACES OR HAVE BEEN. BELLE ISLE LOOKS LIKE A HARD PLACE TO LIVE IN THE OPEN AIR.
- There is a great Water Power at Richmond running to waste. I visited one of their cotton mills, & it was the hardest looking machinery I ever saw, there being at least 3 hands to each spinning frame. It is Patterson Machinery and Taunton Spreaders, all being nearly 30 years old. I have a piece of the cloth that I will give you.
- I WENT ALL OVER THE TREDEGAR IRON WORKS & FOUND THEY COULD MAKE AND TURN 9 OF THE LARGEST SOLID CAST IRON GUNS AT ONE TIME, WITH A RAILWAY RUNNING RIGHT OVER & ACROSS EACH LATHE WITH A SCREW TO LIFT THEM IN FRONT OF THE LATHES.
- I CANNOT TELL YOU OF ALL I SAW THAT WAS VERY INTERESTING TO ME. THE WHITE PEOPLE OF RICHMOND ARE NOT DISPOSED TO WORK MUCH, BUT SEEM TO RELY UPON THE BLACKS TO DO ALL WORK FOR THEM.
- THEY ARE VERY RESERVED WITHIN TALK ABOUT RECONSTRUCTION WHEN IN PRESENCE OF NORTHERN OR UNION MEN, BUT I OVERHEARD TALK THAT CONVINCED ME THAT MUCH OF THE OLD SOUTHERN DOMINEERING SPIRIT STILL PREVAILS & WILL BE MADE MANIFEST IF EVER THE DAY COMES WHEN THEY DARE SHOW IT OUT.
- I am convinced beyond a doubt that the Southern people are very poor indeed & there cannot be prosperity in business there until one or two years, bountiful crops can be had & sold. HAD PRESIDENT JOHNSON CARRIED A STEADY HAND WITH THE SOUTHERN PEOPLE & DEMANDED WORKS MEET FOR REPENTANCE, I BELIEVE THEIR CONDITION NOW & FOR THE FUTURE WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER.
- Coming through Fredericksburg, I saw many marks left by the Armies. When passing Mt. Vernon, I was much impressed by the tolling of the bell on the steamer & upon inquiring was told that this had always been customary since Washington’s burial there. Nothing of interest has occurred here. I expect to be at home within 3 weeks & remain your humble servant. Wm. H. Thompson.
#L4-16-66 – Price $1,295