1865: James Peters Elliott

These notes appear to have been kept by James Peters Elliott (1835-1909) while serving with Co. I, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery. The notes pertain to the time Elliott was posted with other members of Co I at Battery No. 5 and No. 10 before Petersburg, Virginia, in late March and early April 1865, including a description of the assault on a Rebel line of works on 3 April 1865. This assault — with others — culminated in the fall of Petersburg and the collapse of the Confederacy.

James Elliott enlisted at Bridgeport, Connecticut. He served with his brother George Frederick Elliott (1834-1919) who left after three years service while James re-enlisted. Another brother, Edward Augustus Elliott (1843-1863), served in the 5th Connecticut Infantry and died in 1863. Several of James’ letters can be found on the website, Soldier Studies. He entered the service as a private and mustered out as a 2d Lieutenant. After the war, he returned to Bridgeport and was for many years a foreman at the Union Metallic Cartridge Company. The Bridgeport Evening Farmer published a notice of Elliott’s death in 1909, calling him “the veteran of many bloody battlefields in the Civil War.” He was buried in Manchester, Massachusetts.

Unidentified member of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery


Battery No. 5
Part of Co. I

I left the platform before the works went there last September [    ] was terrible hot weather. The first night we was there, as soon as [it was] dark, the negroes commenced to shovel and strengthen the works. The rebels fired on them and they came rushing over the works. A regiment of negroes arrived in the rear of us and they fired a volley of bullets among us but as we was laid down trying to sleep, none of us was hurt.

George Morgan & David Sullivan were wounded with the same bullet. James Kelley was killed with a 30 pound shell which came through the parapet. Ebenezer Selleck was sitting in a chair leaned back against an old board shanty [when] a shell came through the shanty and burst near the chair which sent Ebenezer sprawling. He was nearly scared to death but not hurt, About that time a shell upset a kettle of beans for us. Chester B. Russell and Henry W. Loomis was in the magazine [when] a shell struck it and came so near through that it filled the magazine with smoke. Russell run out but Loomis stayed in.

At Battery No. 10, Richard B. Tucker  & Levi Sommers were killed ¹ & Benjamin F. Reed wounded by flinging powder into the fire at the cook house from a 30 pounder shell from the reb guns. The company were out drilling at the time but were dismissed as soon as they heard the report of the shell.

On the 2nd of April a detachment of one hundred men was detailed from the First Heavy A Battery to join in the charge and man the rebel guns in case we were able to capture them. There were 20 men from Co. I. We laid on our arms till the morning of the 3rd. About daybreak we joined the infantry brigade and with cheers we started through trenches and holes — all sorts of obstructions. The rebels opened with artillery but fired too high to be very effective. By the time we reached the rebel works, we were well mixed up with the infantry. I think our colors were the first inside the rebel fort.

After a short struggle, the rebels retreated to their reserve line of works. Our detachment turned their guns on them and compelled them to lay low. They made an attempt to form a line and charge on us twice but were completely broken up by our well-directed shots. The rebels run a cannon out in the open field and attempted to use it but we made it so hot for them they never fired a shot from it.

We had three of their guns we could use on them which only took about twenty of our men to man. Walter Wright & Levi Slocum were wounded. Wright with a grapeshot in the breast; Slocum with a bullet in the hand. Corporal Russell’s thumb was badly burned thumbing the vent — the gun being very hot from rapid firing. ² The rest of the boys were engaged carrying ammunition which we were obliged to carry about a mile across the lots by hand — a shell in one hand, a cartridge in the other. The struggle was kept up all day. We doubled [the gun] with canister at night but the rebels took advantage of the night [to retreat] and all was over in the morning of the 4th, We picked up our traps and returned to Battery 10.

¹ Both Tucker and Sommers were killed on 28 March 1865 at Battery No. 10.

² During the loading sequence on a gun, a member of the gun crew places his thumb over the vent hole to prevent a draft and seal off any excess air in the bottom of the bore.


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