Saturday, October 8, 2016

Letter #46 -- Camp Near Petersburg, VA -- March 26, 1865

It's been a long time...a long long time.  I should have finished this blog/letters contribution last year and given closure to the letters of John W. Derr.  I was reminded of my delinquency by a follower of this website and for that, I apologize.  With over 100,000 page views, I am well pleased with the results of my project.  I sincerely appreciate the followers, casual viewers and the insightful and kind words people have sent to me.

So...on with the letters...

John references personal information as well as battle information.  From the description of "a small fight here on the 25", I take it that this was the battle of Fort Stedman. General Lee's final gasping attempt to breakout through the Petersburg siege lines and regroup his depleted army. Though John calls it "a small fight", and his casualty numbers are rather large, the official numbers are referenced below in a small paragraph on the battle at Fort Stedman provided by the Civil War Trust website.

Battle of Fort Stedman
March 25, 1865
In a last-gasp offensive, Gen. Robert E. Lee amassed nearly half of his army in an attempt to break through Grant’s Petersburg defenses and threaten his supply depot at City Point.  Directed by Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon, the pre-dawn assault on March 25 overpowered the garrisons of Fort Stedman and Batteries X, XI, and XII. The Confederates were brought under a killing crossfire, and counterattacks led by Maj. Gens. Parke and Hartranft contained the breakthrough, cut off, and captured more than 1,900 of the attackers. During the day, elements of the II and VI Corps assaulted and captured the entrenched picket lines in their respective fronts, which had been weakened for the assault on Fort Stedman. This was a devastating blow for Lee’s army, setting up the Confederate defeat at Five Forks on April 1 and the fall of Petersburg on April 2-3.

John also references the I and III Corps, though that seems to be incorrect as well.

John, as always, is concerned about monies that he sent home with friends for his parents to save for him.  Francis Dengler, an agent in town more than likely was able to draw this $50 for John and pass it to his parents.  John is also concerned about the coming summer weather and clothing he has to wear.  During this time, soldiers would switch from a woolen shirt to a cotton shirt, which was cooler in the hot humid months in the south.  As you would expect, he needs new shirts every season, as the conditions in which he lived were rather rough and clothing wore out very fast.

Camp near Petersburg, Va.
March the 26, 1865

My Dear Father and Mother,

            I take my pen in hand 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 received your letter the other day and I was very glad to hear from you and hear that the boys are all well again.  I am sorry that you wasn’t at home when Franklin Hoch was there for I would like to have them shirts for this summer.  Them woolen shirts are too warm in summer.  I think you could do them up in some brown paper and put the direction on it and send them by mail.  If two makes too big a bundle send one at a time and let me know whether you are going to send it or not.  You said that you got the money from Francis Dengler.  It was a fifty dollar bill and I think you got it so.  I let you know that we had a small fight here on the 25.  Our loss is about 500 killed, wounded and prisoners and theirs lost about 5,000.  That was quite a haul for about a two hours fight.  Our division wasn’t in the fight only the first and third.  I am glad to hear that all the boys are well again and I am the same.  I have no more to write today so I will bring my letter to a close for this time.  From your son.

                                                                                                John W. Derr

Answer soon and direct your letter John W. Derr, 2nd Division Ammunition Trainin, 9th Army Corps, Washington, D.C. Peter Derr answer soon.         




Jim D