Battle of Petersburg Letter Written by Lt. William Henry Mix Co. I, 19th U. S. Colored Troops Infantry – Wounded at Gettysburg & Twice a P.O.W.
This 4-page letter in nice dark ink is filled up in every inch (probably equal to an 8-page letter!). WITH THE LETTER COMES AN EXCELLENT PATRIOTIC ENVELOPE SHOWING THE 9TH CORPS, 4TH DIVISION CORPS BADGE. THE COVER HAS A FINE STAMP WITH WASHINGTON D.C. JULY 30TH, ’64 CANCELATION. ON THE BACK OF THE ENVELOPE THERE IS AN INK NOTE WRITTEN BY MRS. C. H. KNAPP, THE SISTER OF HENRY MIX. SHE IS UNDER THE IMPRESSION THAT HENRY WAS RECENTLY KILLED IN PETERSBURG. FORTUNATELY, HE WAS NOT KILLED, BUT TAKEN PRISONER. IN PRISON, HENRY USED ONE OF THESE EXACT COLORFUL COVERS TO WRITE HIS MOTHER. INCLUDED IS A CONFEDERATE PHILATELIST MAGAZINE, JULY 1960 WITH THIS P.O.W. COVER ON THE FRONT!
Here is the content of our letter:
- South East of Petersburg Left & Near of the 5th Corps July 28th, 1864
- Dear Mother, I received your kind & welcome letter of the 18th a few days ago. We came back from the Norfolk R. R. where we were building forts & rifle pits to protect the rear & went backwards to the front. Halted in the rear of Burnsides’ Hd. Qrs. from which place we have been doing fatigue duty in front of that. Corps digging & building covered mags for the batteries, building forts, batteries & throwing up new rifle pits, etc.
- FOR THE LAST WEEK, WILCOX’S DIV., I BELIEVE IT IS, HAS MINED THE REBELS ON THEIR FRONT. WE HAVE TO WORK NEAR THE MOUTH OF THE MINE. IT IS 6 FEET HIGH AND FOUR FEET WIDE, THAT IS THE SHAFT OR PASSAGE MAY BE SOME 200 FEET IN LENGTH. IT WINDS UP DIRECTLY UNDER A LARGE REBEL FORT WHERE ONE OF THE MARKING PARTY BRING THE SAME CLAY FROM. I WILL SEND SOME TO YOU, IF I CAN.
- THEY WERE CARRYING IN BOARDS & BOXES DAY BEFORE YESTERDAY TO PLACE THE POWDER IN, & I THOUGHT THAT IT WOULD BE READY TO BLOW UP TODAY. IT WAS VERY WET & MUDDY ALL THE WAY THROUGH, & THE MEN AS THEY CAME OUT WERE COMPLETELY SPATTERED & DAUBED FROM ONE END TO THE OTHER. MOST ‘WORKED IN THEIR SHIRTS & DRAWERS BEING EASIER TO WASH THAN PANTS.
- THE REBEL’S HAVE HAD SOME SPIES & TOLD THEM WHAT WE ARE ABOUT, SO THEY ARE COUNTERMINING TO GET INTO OURS, IF POSSIBLE & GET THE POWDER OUT. ONE OF OUR MEN WHO GAVE ME THE CLAY & WAS TO MARK UNDER THE REBEL FORT, SAID THAT WE HEARD THEM DIGGING, BUT THEY WERE TOO FAR TO THE RIGHT TO STRIKE ANY.
- OF COURSE OUR MEN WILL KEEP PRETTY STILL TILL ALL THE POWDER IS IN, THEN ALL THINGS BEING IN READINESS, THE REBELS’ FORT & ALL WILL GO UP FOR A SHORT RIDE INTO THE CLOUDS. I UNDERSTAND THAT THERE IS ONE ALSO IN FRONT OF THE 5TH CORPS.
- Mother, I went over to see Wesley the 1st thing on coming back to the front. Crossing the railroad, I PASSED BY THE “7 SISTERS,” THE NAME OF A BIG GUN BATTERY ON THE LEFT OF OUR CORPS, & striking the right of the 5th in the edge of woods, thinking to find Wesley on the extreme front, as usual I went in front to the marks & looked over at the pickets. They were walking around cooking their dinners & acted just as though they were in camp out. They usually came back to the same post or rifle pit.
- THE REBEL PICKETS WERE LITERALLY SCARCELY A STONE’S THROW FROM THEM, & A NOD IN THE REAR WERE THE REBEL WORKS. TWO LINES OF HEAVY RIFLE PITS, BACKED BY TWO FRAMING FORTS, THE MUZZLES OF WHOSE GUNS I DID NOT LIKE THE LOOKS OF. IN THE RIFLE PITS AND THE FORTS & IN THEIR NEAR MINE, ANY QUANTITY OF GREYBACKS IN GROUPS SQUINTING AT US OR COOKING THEIR MEALS. I COULD HAVE EASILY SHOUTED ACROSS TO THEM, BUT THINKING THERE MIGHT BE ORDERS AGAINST IT, AS THERE USUALLY IS, I DID NOT, BUT I COULD NOT HELP CONTRASTING THE QUIETUDE & STILLNESS OF THE FRONT OF THIS CORPS & THE CONSTANT FIRING OF THE RIGHT & CENTER FRONT OF OURS, WHERE THERE ARE 5 OR 6 MEN KILLED & WOUNDED EVERY DAY, JUST ON THE PICKET LINE ALONE.
- 100 MEN ARE DETAILED OUT AS SHARPSHOOTERS, TAKING THEIR PLACES AT NIGHT IN THE RIFLE PITS DUG BY THE PICKETS, OR LITTLE HOLES DUG IN THE GROUND, DIRT THROWN UP TOWARDS THE ENEMY, A HEAD OR ARM STICKING UP ON EITHER SIDE FROM THERE BY THE WORKS IS SURE TO GET PERFORATED. SOME PLACES ALONG THERE, THE LINES ARE SO NEAR TOGETHER THAT THEY CANNOT HAVE ANY PICKETS OUT.
- A few nights ago, we worked all night down there, & I have been in a great many skirmishes & did not have balls fly as thick around me as they did that night & we in the rear of our first line. Yet only two were wounded in any Regt. but the 30th U. S. C. T. There work in the daytime, lost three from one Company, but perhaps the other Companies did not suffer as bad in preparation, but I’m going astray.
- For a wonder, Wesley’s Brigade were lying back some half a mile in reserve in a large pine grove, cool but not very good water. I happened to see some ripe tomatoes at a sutler’s going over & bought some for him. Also carried him a couple of lemons that came from the Sanitary Commission.
- Wesley had been out all the night before on fatigue & did not feel well, but he has been quite healthy since I saw him last. Lieut. DeCounsey was over to see me 3 or 4 times after we got back. Being on the staff, he has got paid off & is dressed quite neatly & looking well! How I wish they would pay off somebody besides the Generals, their staff.
- My wife is entirely out of funds. She wrote me the 21st & I had five hundred due & can’t get a cent. I wrote to Uncle a while ago to send her 30 dollars more. If he has not done it, ask him to do it immediately. If he has not the money, beg for now or steal it somewheres. I am getting desperate, I believe, or will be soon if government does not pay us off. If he, Uncle, ever gets what money of mine there is left back into his hands, tell him whether I am dead or alive to send it to my wife immediately! Do send her 30 or 40 dollars as soon as you can for my sake. She is well. Her mother is not so well & is off on a visit for her health.
- Tell Eva her lover is tough & hearty. Being relieved from Provost Marshall, he is appointed to take charge of the ambulances of his Brigade, a position of still less danger than the other, in fact of no danger at all.
- Back on front page: I am glad of this for Eva’s sake & would like to have him come home to her alive & well. He was down to see Cousin Herman Morden day before yesterday who was well. Sent his & Frankie’s regards to me. Mine to her when you write. Cousin Herman was just going off on another raid or scout, as he had just got four days rations all ready instant. He is in Wilson’s Cavalry or the 3rd Division of the Cavalry Corps.
- I cannot get away to go to City Point, but should we go down there, I will see if I can find Uncle & Henry.
- Monday The 2nd Corps went to the fight day before yesterday. We came here in their place on the left flank & near & heard today that the 2nd, 6th, & 19th Corps were across the Appomattox fighting & had drove the enemy up towards Fort Darline capturing works & guns.
- The 5th, 19th & 8th Corps are on this side & should the Rebels think that most of us are up mine & try this place, we would give them a massive reception. I take it we still hold this place in siege. Only have had to draw in our lines a little on our left on account of the 2nd Corps leaving. I am sorry Capt. Knapp is so unwell. Give him my (Page 2 sideways) regards when he comes home, also Tom. It is very queer that Father did not call on you. Wesley had a letter a few days before. I went to see him and he said nothing about going to Warsaw. I can’t think what he keeps going there & back without any special business or staying anytime. He won’t tell even Wesley what made him leave the Granary business, though Wesley has asked him a number of times. I hope he may get into some profitable business soon, for he is my Father, though not so dear as a mother. I love him still, though helping him out of any difficulty, I could not if, would in fact can’t help myself.
- Don’t forget to send Susie thirty or forty dollars soon as you can, if you have not sent her any the 2nd time! Your affectionate Son, W. H. Mix
The envelope is addressed: Miss. Eva Knapp, Warsaw Wyoming County, New York. On the back of the envelope, in ink, is written:
- Sunday Aug. 14th – I cannot think that my noble brother Henry is really dead. I still have his letter in my portfolio with the hope that I can yet answer it. I cannot force myself to believe that I cannot write to him again or receive any more of his dear kind letters. One of his brothers’ officers says he saw him fall, hit in the head by a piece of a shell, and that he thinks he was killed instantly. I cannot help hoping that he is a prisoner and will one day come home to us. Oh, it is so hard to give him up, but if he has fallen, we have the great consolation of knowing that he was prepared to die. May God grant that we may all meet in Heaven and give us strength to feel “His will be done.” Henry fell July 30th, before Petersburg Va. 1864.
Quite an amazing letter especially giving such great detail about building the Petersburg mine. Henry Mix was captured the day of the mine explosion… at the battle of the Crater.
#L7-28-64 – Price $1,295