Friday, May 16, 2014

Letter #34 - Spotsylvania Court House, VA -- May 16, 1862

With the appointment of Ulysses S. Grant to lead the Union forces in the eastern theater, the lives of the 48th PVI were about to change dramatically.  May of 1864 would usher in the start of the Rapidan Campaign and would include some of the most horrific battles seen during the Civil War...The Wilderness...Spotsylvania...Spotsylvania Court House...The Assault on the Salient...Stannard's Mills...North Anna River...Line of the Pumunkey...Totopotomoy...Cold Harbor...Bethesda Church...and the start of the Petersburg Siege.

The letter of May 16, 1864 provides a rare description of the difficult situation faced by the 48th PVI.

John describes "firing at the rebels" during the the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House battles.  The unit survives the battles well, but there are some casualities...John Boyer and his cousin John D. Weikel.  He sends home some level of reassurance for other family and friends...Daniel Derr, Elias Derr (17th PA Cav.) and Isaac Yarnell and Emanuel Bolich.

Spotsylvania Court House, Va.
                                                                                                May 16th, 1864

My Dear Father and Mother,
             I take this present opportunity to inform this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope this few lines will find you in the same state of good health.  You must excuse me for not writing to you any sooner because we was busy this two last weeks after the rebels.  We had two pretty hard fights since.  We are out and are now laying on the battle field for the six last days firing at the rebels and are fighting with them every day.  But all the boys from around there are safe yet as much as I know.  But John Boyer got wounded today but it ain’t very bad.  It is only a flesh wound through the left leg above the knee.  And John D. Weikel is missing.  Nobody knows anything about him and I don’t know where he is or where he got to.  He got away from us in the morning that we went into the battle.  He was along when we advanced in line of battle.  Thank God that I am safe yet and I hope that I always may get through safe.  We have some hard nuts to bite.  But I hope we will be successful in taking Richmond for we are bound to have it or else all die.  This is the cry all through the Army.  I also seen some of the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry.  I seen Daniel Derr and Elias Derr and Isaac Yarnall and Emanuel Bolich and they are all well and look hearty.  So I must close this few lines for it is getting dark and I have no more to write for this time.  This few lines from your beloved son.

                                                                                                John W. Derr
Answer soon and direct your letter to John W. Derr, Co. D 48th Regt. Pa, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps Washington, D.C.            

Union trench works at Spotsylvania Court House battlefield

Battle of Spotsylvania Court House

John D. Weikel had joined the 48th PVI Co. D when the regiment completed it's furlough in March of 1864.  Joining the regiment at Pottsville and entering the exciting world of the Army!  John, and the other cousins, more than likely were tasked by the family at home with the job of keeping an eye on the new...novice private.  It was quite a time for a new recruit to enter the Civil War and it is not surprising that he went missing in the fog of war.  

P.S.  John D. Weikel was found and mustered out of the regiment with his fellow 48th PVI-ers in 1865.

Jim D.