Saturday, June 28, 2014

Letter #35 - City Point, VA - June 28, 1864

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 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 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.


Camp near 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. Derr
Give 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.

Jim D.


  1. Hi, Jim! Very impressive information you have collected and shared!
    I am a descendant of Christiana Reiner/Reinert who had a son named John Elmer Derr in 1873 Pennsylvania. The only thing I know is that his father's name was Jacob W? Derr. He died sometime before 1880 and I think he served in the Civil War. His son's mother, Christiana Reiner later married George Singmaster and had a daughter (my Great Grandmother) and a son. George accepted John E. Derr as his son but John kept the name Derr (and have plenty pictures and documents). I am desperate to find info on Jacob W? Derr and notice that this post mentions a Jacob Derr as a cousin of your John Derr. The people I mentioned related to me were from Pitman and Lavelle areas(Butler/Barry)of Schuylkill County. Any chance you have any info on 'your' Jacob or could point me in the right direction to find out if it is the Jacob I'm looking for? Many many thanks in advance..and again, incredible work on the info in your entire blog. Blessings, Kat

    1. Kat
      Apologies for replying so late. I tried to do a bit of research on whether the Jacob Derr mentioned in my GG-Grandfather's letters was your Jacob W. Derr, but was unable to get an exact match. If YOUR Jacob Derr was from the Butler/Barry Township area, it is more than likely that the person mentioned in the letters is him or that he is related to my GG-Grandfather. There were a lot of Derrs living in that area and I believe based on my research that most can be traced back to either Johannes Derr or Johannes Hendrick Derr (my GGGG-Grandfather and GGGGG-Grandfather respectively). I did pull up the Pennsylvania ARIAS database card for Jacob Derr reference in this letter above. He was in Company D of the 48th PA. Vol Inf. I do not know if it is the same person as your relative. You can check this out at . Also, there is a very good 48th PVI website by David Hoptak that references Jacob Derr at . It shows him entering the regiment at the same time as John in September 1861 and leaving by a Surgeon's Certificate Discharge in February of 1865. It also says he is buried (1923) in Fairfax, Va. Good luck and stay in touch. Jim Derr.