1864-65: James Peters Elliott to his Mother

These notes and letters were written 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.

1stconn
Unidentified member of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery

TRANSCRIPTION NOTES

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.

 


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER ONE

Spring Hill Fort
August 12th 1864

Dear Mother,

Again I resume my pencil to inform you and the rest of the family that I am still in the land of the living and at the same place where I was the last time that I wrote to you. I have had a light attack of the “back door trot” but have not had to be up only two or three times a night yet, and I think it is somewhat better today. I have tried “sweet-gum tea,” Tamoca ginger, & blackberry cordial. I have no pain and seem to be gaining. I do not think the water here is first rate although it is quite clear and looks good.

Oh! I hear some news to tell you and that is the 37th New Jersey Regiment is here with us. They are out for 100 days. I was with them the other day looking for some of my pupils thinking there might be some of them here and finally I found a young man that lived about three miles from where I used to teach. He was acquainted with most of my patrons and finally I asked him if he knew John Dobler. He said yes—that he belonged to Co. (II) of his regiment so a day or two after I called on him. He knew me and was very glad to see me and also very much surprised. I found him most sick with a turn of the colic. He is a corporal. His father & mother are still alive and well and most of their neighbors also. Butler still stay there and keeps his span of grey as in days of yore.

The paymaster has been here and paid us off to July 1st. I have about one hundred dollars and I am in hopes that by the 1st of next January that I may have two hundred to pay in on my place so that encumbrance may be reduced to $400. Then we shall have to pay only $12.00 interest the next six months and then things will be a little more clear, but they look clear enough now ion nothing happens to George or me—that is, if he is willing to look out for you at home. At any rate, there is at this time 290 dollars more bounty due me from the government.

Another member of our company has run his race. Died of sickness in the hospital since I wrote last. His name was James F. Huntly. One more is quite sick now.

Stamps are played out. Cannot get any here. Love to you all. — James

 


TRANSCRIPTION LETTER TWO

Battery No. 4 near Petersburg, Va.
October 25th 1864

Dear Mother,

Again I resume my pen to write you a few lines, not that I have anything of importance to communicate, but as much to pass away the evening as anything.

I have dated my letter the 25th although it is the evening of the 24th, but it will be the 25th when I send it to mail as it is near enough. I have some cotton that grew in a field near our fort in a field say about a mile from here and I thought you might like to see some of it an that is the reason I write tonight—so that I can send the cotton in this letter. Some of it is in the boll as it grew and some of it it picked out. It is very nice cotton although the staple is not very long. I will send also some blue yarn or worsted that I picked up near Jordan’s house. It is of no value but may be looked on as a curiosity more than anything else.

I saw some rose buds that were picked in the garden near the same house last night. I think it is getting rather late for roses up in Connecticut but they bloom all summer here until the cold weather kills them which will not be until next month.

I think by appearance here that another move will be made here immediately. If such should be the case, you will hear from me often so that you need not worry about me if you should hear of a fight, for letters will inform you of my whereabouts. I am well. Have not had any more shakes and think they are not worth having anyway even if a man could just as well as not.

I see by the papers that Gen. Sheridan gave the rebels a good dressing up the Valley last week.

Do you remember Russell Perkins? the man I learned to paint oriental painting of? He used to board at Mrs. Carrol’s at the time I did. He belongs to Co. L of our regiment and was badly hurt by a shell last Saturday.

Love to you all. From your affectionate son, — James

 


 

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TRANSCRIPTION LETTER THREE

Battery No. 3
Bermuda Hundred, Va.
Christmas Day

Dear Mother,

Since I wrote to you last both of your last letters have come to hand and the money all right, and I will reply to them both at once being that I had just written at the time the first of them reached me.

There is not much news to write about here—only that the pickets have stopped firing at each other on this line so that all is quiet here now.

I suppose you will wish to know how I get along and how I like it here first rate. There is quite a difference in our living from what there was when I was an enlisted man, for now we have as good as the market can afford. Fresh meat three times a day and coffee generally twice & tea once. Also soup two or three times a day. Butter all of the time. Mackerel almost every day. Codfish cakes three or four times a week. Oysters & chicken once in awhile &c. &c. But these things cost us the cash and we have to advance the money for them, and as there is four months pay due us, we are a little short of funds until the paymaster comes around which I hope may be in January. Therefore, if you can spare me another ten dollars and not cut yourself short, please send it and when I get paid, I will return the same to you at that time. Everyone here is short of money at this time or I could borrow it without any trouble.

Just say to Austin and Benjamin I want they should keep wood enough cut to last you a week and that they can do it easy if they are a mind to try. Now boys, you are old enough to attend to the chores around the house without making Mother any trouble, and I want you to do so. You ought to be ashamed to give mother any occasion to write me concerning your slackness about these little things.

Mr. Hall have moved to No. 390 Main Street (in the third floor). Can you find it? I have not heard from Mr. Hill’s folks for several weeks. I walked 25 miles yesterday and am a little lame today but am well.

With love to you all. I will close. Your affectionate son, — James

Direct the same as last time. No more snow here yet.

 


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TRANSCRIPTION LETTER FOUR

Redoubt McConihe, Virginia
April 8th 1865

Dear Mother,

Your very kind letter came safely to hand. I was very sorry to hear that the family has been unwell. It must make it very hard for you. I should have thought George would have been home again before he went to Brooklyn. I am sure I should and would even now if I could come but that is beyond my power and therefore I shall have to remain for  a time longer. You didn’t say how you were off for money and thinking you might need some, I will send you ten dollars. I should like to send you more but cannot very well spare it at this time, not knowing how long it may be before we get any again. I hope that Bennie and Charlie are better by this time. I hope you will do all you can for them regardless of the expense as I will attend to this when I have an opportunity which I hope and trust now may not be many months more for I believe the Rebellion is nearly over, and how the war can last much longer I cannot conceive.

One of our Lieutenants in coming on met George on the boat between Hartford and New York. He sent his address to me as G. F. Elliot or Thos. Paine, No. 128 Prospect Street, Brooklyn, New York. Thinking you might wish to know where he is, I concluded to let you know, fearing it might be too much work for him to write you a letter.

I have a letter from Mary. All well as usual. Send your next letter to me as Washington D. C. as I cannot say where I may be. With much love to you all, I close affectionately, — James

 

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