Oct 5 1864 Letter from 1st Maryland Cavalry Soldier Before Battle at Petersburg
From the 1st Maryland Cavalry.
Camp 1st Reg’t Md. Cav.,
Before Petersburg, Va.,
September 21st, 1864.
Mr. Editor : I had the pleasure of perusing your welcome and favorite sheet, sent by a friend in Hagerstown, the same morning we heard the news of Sheridan’s victory over “Jubilee Early,” as the rebels call him. Anything from a section so truly loyal as old Washington county, I assure you makes my heart fill with pride that I am of the manor born. I deeply sympathize with you all for your heavy losses from constant raids of the enemy. I hope with Sheridan in the Valley, as he has shown himself to be justly one of U. S. Grant’s favorites, you may never see the forces of the Johnnies in your section, disturbing the weak nerved part of your community. They are not pleasant visitors even to those who sympathize with them.
This morning, reveille was sounded earlier than usual. It was not the sound of the soul-stirring bugle we are so accustomed to hear, but the sharp crack of the rifle, the dull heavy peal of the bomb mortar hurling shells weighing 300 pounds, into Petersburg; also the shrill whirling sound of the 32-pound Parrot, and James rifle guns. You can imagine what kind of music this makes. Consider at least three hundred heavy guns hurling death and destruction from the enemy into our lines and we into theirs.
You must not think we are in the distance quiet lookers on, not in Venice but Petersburg. Our lines vary in distance apart from 30 yards to a greater distance, depending entirely upon the nature of the ground for defense, &c. Just in front of us it is only 30 yards to the enemy’s earthworks and fortifications. We believe earthworks and bomb-proofs never witnessed such cannonading as these, but strange to say, the losses in our division are very few.
You will wonder what cavalry men are doing in the trenches. Easily answered. We are dismounted, and have been, ever since we reported to this army. It seems rather rough to be treated in this way, especially to those of us who re-enlisted as veterans, but it can hardly be avoided. Some people opposed to Honest Old Abe, charge it upon his administration in order to make capital for “little Mac.” We have considerable respect for “Mac,” as a military chieftain, but consider him as too easily influenced by a foe we despise more than those in arms, called “Rebs,” that is, the copperheads.
We are just in front of the 8 mile railroad constructed in nine days, and now enjoy the sight of cars running, bringing bright recollections of home. We are being rapidly reinforced. At least one-third more have come than have gone home by reason of expiration of term of service. Let the nation pour out its hardy yeomenry to fill up our decimated ranks. I may not see it, but the coming summer will see returning the husband, son and brother, the lover and long-absent friend! Happy will be the greeting by those who truly love their country, of its noble defenders on their return. Our hopes are strong that with the blooming Spring of ’65, sweet, white-robed peace will spread her mantle over our beloved land, not on a divided but a united country, cemented by the best blood of a brave people.
Our regiment, to show they have not forgot what it requires to make a successful charge in cavalry, charged the enemy’s breast works without fixed bayonets. It looked rash, but we did not like to be eclipsed or surpassed by any troops in the service. We do not get credit fully due us. I think it must be because we are from a slave state, and bigoted, envious writers, and those who wish to absorb all the credit, transfer it to regiments who have more transportation for that great evil, commissary whiskey.
I occasionally, with my old friend Brown and -----, stroll on the heights opposite Petersburg about sunset to see old Sol go down in all his splendor. We mostly have a salute all along the line, for what purpose I cannot understand unless both sides do it to see if new batteries have been erected.
You will pardon this lengthy epistle. I would not have it spread out so long, but sometimes, when we set down to write to friends about our situation and think it will interest those at home we do not know when to stop. Our cry is still for our Country, Lincoln, and a conquered Peace, with no promises, and Washington County forever! Yours &c.,
Herald & Torch Light
Washington County Free Library
Hagerstown (Md.), Newspapers; Maryland, History, Civil War, 1861-1865
Washington County (Md.), 1861-1865