|April 17, 1862, Camp Winfield Scott
near Yorktown Va.
My dear Wife
I expect you will hear awful stories about yesterdays days work, so I will say a word or two in regard to it. As I wrote you last we were sent on picket Tuesday Morning & expected to be relieved after twenty four hours, but as the "ball was opened" Yesterday morning we did not get relieved until this morning.
We (companies "B" & "D") were informed by Gen Gorman that an attack would be made on our left by Gen Smith & he (Gorman) should attack from his point to attract the attention of rebel ______, so our Gunboats could run their blockade at Yorktown on our right. The 15th were ordered to support the 3d R.I. Battery. This Brigade had only part of two Batteries engaged at the same time. We commenced shelling them about 7 oclk with two 10 lbs. Parrot guns. The "Rebs" come to time quite promptly & responded for some half dosen (sic) times when the Rhode Island boys knocked their gun (which served to point - most direct to the 15th) off its pins, which put an end to that - two other guns were under the special care of our sharp shooters & as often as a rebel showed his head down things came in such numbers that they deserted the guns entirely & after 10 oclk I hear they did not throw a shell at the Battery supported by the 15th. From 12 oclk until about 4 or 5 the firing was light, but at 4 we opened on them more raid than ever & kept it up till dark. The rebels seemed to give Gen Smith more attention than they did us in the forenoon one of his Batteries lost 4 men killed and 3 wounded. In our shelling not a man was scratched in the regiment or battery all day. Gen Smith has quite a sharp fight for an hour before sundown, but I have not been able to learn anything of the result. I only know one Captain was killed. Understand the troops engaged were from Vermont & Maine.
Companies B & D were not with the regiment but done the skirmishing on the left flank of the Batteries. We were about 1/8 of a mile in advance & at the left of the artillery. We simply deployed & laid on our guns, with our "eyes open tight", awaiting the approach of some rebel picket, but they did not come. They were evidently reinforced late in the afternoon & could be heard at work about their fortifications soon after dark so it was thought advisable to keep our forces in position during the night. The 15th remained with their Battery, we remained in our position as pickets & the 2d N. York & 1st Mina.
Were in line of battle in the road in our (the pickets) near acting as a support to us. It was supposed that if any attempt to take our battery or attack us was made, it wont be at this point where we were stationed. Our Batteries shelled them at intervals all night to prevent their making repairs to any advantage. We had our rations brought to us all day & you better believe companies B & D were a sleepy set of fellows this morning & I ought now to be making up some of my two nights lost sleep, but thought I would spend a few minutes in writing. They commenced shelling again smart this morning & continue for two or three hours with what success I have not heard, as we were relieved. The have continued to give them often enough through the day to prevent their making any repairs. Their barracks & a house inside the fort were knocked all in pieces yesterday. I expect by the time we get into Yorktown that we shall get so used to sleeping "by the booming of cannon" that it will be impossible to go to sleep without them. Some of us will doubtless get put to sleep full as sound & in a definite was than we care to before reaching Yorktown.
I must tell you that yesterday we (the skirmishers) laid a portion of the time in the same rifle pit that were dug by the forces under Gen Washington nearly 81 years ago & are yet quite a protection against the enemy. Gen Clinton commanded the Brig. Composed of N.Y. and N.J. troops who occupied the same ground for camping as we now do & Clinton occupied the old house, nearby as his headquarters. We were relieved this morning by Genl. Burnís Brigd. It does not look now much like Sedgewickís Division being in the reserve. We are pushed as far in advance as they can get troops. I want to go ahead till we have wiped out the Balls Bluff fight to say the least, though I may get wiped out myself perhaps.
I did not get a letter from you by the last mail Tuesday night and if I donít tonight I shall give up - give up writing to you till you write me again. I donít see what you are about, though I can imagine your busy at work on those new rags you have spoken of - by the way I received a piece of your silk dress while at Hampton - think it very neat & pretty. I wish I had a summer wardrobe. It is getting to be mighty hot in the middle of the day. There is one thing sure, they cannot give us a very long march now, unless we get driven back. We have to turn out at 4 oclk am. & remain under arms until about half past 5. It comes hard to turn out quite so early when we are so much broken of our rest - but we expect anything in this business.
I hear today that Col. Devens has been confirmed as a Brigadier General & that he has received a dispatch from his friends to that effect. It is supper time & I must close. Are going to have coffee, Fried Ham & Army pies or hard bread. We are not out of the land of soft bread. Received a letter from Laura by last mail. Give my love to her & mother when you see them. Shall write her again before long. Love to Ann Marie, Alfred, Laura & c & c & I will bid you good bye with much love and a kiss. Ever your husband
Sly Herbert & Frank are all well. Frank appeared yesterday P.M. at our line of skirmishers with gun in hand he had just returned from Fortress Monroe with his team. Says he heard we were going to have a fight & thought he would come up good for him.