July of 1864 turns out to be the most prolific of letter writing months for private John W. Derr. Since the last letter written during the battle of Spotsylvania Court House in May of 1864, the 48th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry Co. D has been engaged in a number of significant Civil War battles...
- Battles of the Wilderness May 5-7
- Spotsylvania May 8-12;
- Spotsylvania Court House May 12-21.
- Assault on the Salient May 12.
- Stannard's Mills May 21.
- North Anna River May 23-26.
- Line of the Pamunkey May 26-28.
- Totopotomoy May 28-31.
- Cold Harbor June 1-12.
- Bethesda Church June 1-3.
- Before Petersburg June 16-18.
- Siege of Petersburg (starting June 16)
- Jerusalem Plank Road June 22-23
July of 1864 also marks the 1 year mark until the end of John's service in the U.S. Army. I can imagine that during the summer of 1864, after years of fighting, the thought of only a year left in the war was far from his mind.
Letter #35 describes battlefield conditions as well as the status of friends in his unit...an important bit of information sent home to be shared amongst friends and family in the local community. John's cousin Jacob Derr and his good friend Solomon Eyster were wounded during this part of the campaign. He describes them as wounded but "neither of them very bad" Interestingly he mentions receipt of butter and sausage from his parents that was carried by his cousin John D. Weikle (Wiekel). Weikel is mentioned in Letter #34 as having been missing in action, but we know that he is later found and survives the war. He describes...essentially...how much he loved the food, but that he had already eaten all of it...and wished he had more! John also describes that he gets a ration of whiskey every morning...something that a soldier of the day received as part of his daily rations...when available. This letter is a good example of a soldier and his life in the army. He does not go into details about the battles...just that he gets shot at...friends get wounded...and he appreciates packages from home.
|City Point, Va.|
June 28th, 1864
My Dear Father,
I take the opportunity to write this few lines to you to let you know that I am well at present time and I hope that this few lines will find you in the same state of good health. I haven’t had no letter from you this few weeks but I am away from the regiment driving team and then don’t get my regular for I know they have two or three for me. I let you know that our regiment is fighting every day but they are getting along pretty lucky and especially our company. We ain’t got many wounded but there is two wounded that you know, that is my cousin Jacob Derr and Solomon Eyster. But there is neither of them very bad. I always forget to write you that I got that butter and sausage which you did send to me with J.D. Weikle and I was very glad for it but I would be more so if I had it now. Although we get plenty to eat here and them soldiers that are in the field a fighting every day they will get a good drink of whiskey every morning. You must excuse me for not writing more and oftener for I have no time and I can’t write any more that anybody can read it. I am getting quite out of stroke. Let my sisters and brothers know that I am well and tell them that they must excuse me for not writing to them and tell them they should write often to me for they can always get the direction from you. Write soon and don’t forget me for all that I forget you pretty often. I will bring my letter to a close for this time. This few lines from your son.
J.W. DerrGive my best respects to all inquiring friends. Answer soon and direct your letter to John W. Derr Co. D, 48 Regt. Pa, 1st Brigade, 2nd Division, 9th Army Corps, Washington , D.C.