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6th Vermont Infantry

Kimball Collection

Letter to the Editor

From the Ninth Regiment.


April 12, 1863

Dear Brother,-You will see by the date our present situation. We returned from City Point yesterday. The previous detachments of our regiment had already encamped at this place and we joined them. It is a pleasant camp, about a mile and a half northwest of the fort, and but a mile or two from old Hampton village. We have pretty good tents and are comfortably situated. It is entirely uncertain how long we shall remain here. We do some guard and picket duty, just enough to make it pleasant.

We had a very nice trip to City Point. I had to take entire charge of our detachment, as the colonel was sick all the way after leaving Baltimore. We reached City Point Thursday, but the rebel captain was not there to receive them till Friday afternoon, so we had to delay.-No one on board was allowed to go ashore save myself, except while counting the prisoners I had two lieutenants go on the pier to assist, and the necessary help to hitch and manage the lines in landing the steamer, see to the boat, &c. I was permitted to go all through the village; it was once a pretty little place of two or three hundred inhabitants, situated on a high point just at the junction of the Appamatox and James rivers.-The railroad from Petersburg runs to this point, and it was quite a business place before the war. Our gunboats completely destroyed it last summer, nearly every house being torn by shells, and some completely riddled. One Dr. Epps is the principal proprietor of the town. He had a fine residence, with beautiful grounds just on the bank. The yard was occupied by the rebels as a picket post. This house is bored through and through in every direction. Every building in town is deserted by its owner, and the only signs of life are a score or two of rebel soldiers and two or three officers who have charge of receiving and delivering prisoners. Such scenes ought to be profitable warnings to the rebels.

City Point is about twelve miles from Petersburg and thirty six or forty from Richmond. We exchanged a few newspapers with the rebel officers by order of Col. Ludlow. The papers we received are to be sent to the secretary of war.-The country along the James is rich and beautiful, but war has robbed it of all appearance of wealth or thrift. The negros have generally abandoned their masters; their stock has been taken to feed soldiers; the blockade of the river has cut them off from their usual supplies and necessaries; nearly every able bodied man is in the army. These agencies combined are enough to ruin any tract of country, and their natural result has not been escaped here. Silent farm houses and neglected fields or plantations are on either hand; scarcely a horse, an ox, a chicken, or even a dog was to be seen along our entire route of nearly one hundred miles. Among the points of peculiar interest to me and doubtless it will be to you, was old Jamestown, or rather the site of Jamestown, for it is not now an inhabited place. This you will recollect was the first place in America settled by Englishmen. It is on an island of 1000 or 2000 acres extent,-as near as I can learn; is flat and rather low, covered mostly with pine timber. It does not appear to be an island from the river, but there is a small stream which cuts it off from the mainland. I cannot commend the judgment of the settlers in selecting this point, for it could hardly appear to any one as a healthy location, while just across the river the shore rises high and rolling. The place pointed out to us as the immediate locality of the first huts erected, and where the very oldest settlers were buried, appears to be a barren, desolate opening in a dark pine woods. The soil is fertile of course, but the dry wild grass and the marks of unremitting neglect which meet the eye on every hand, give it that appearance.-The subsequent and perhaps more permanent settlement was made about a half mile from this point. Here was their village, and here now stands a portion of the belfry to the old brick church. The brick of which it was built were brought from Europe. Just near it among a few old trees in the village cemetery; something resembling earth works or fortifications is neat, but they look too old to have been built during this war. The pilot, however, told me they were thrown up by the rebels. Quite a large fort is seen a mile or two to the north.

Several chimneys and the charred walls of a large brick house, built before the revolution, now alone mark the site of this venerable village. I think this house was destroyed by our troops last summer, but of this I am not certain. It was occupied or used at one time as a signal station. As I looked upon the desolate, yet lovely spot, my mind wandered back to its early history. The sufferings, the dangers, the trials and hopes of that little band of pioneers were all pictured before me. I could not resist a feeling of almost reverence for the memorable spot. It is "the cradle in which our infancy was rocked." I have visited many interesting spots; I have looked upon the tomb of Washington; I have stood by his tomb, but none of them ever called forth such feelings as I experienced in looking upon this early home of our fathers. I could not but notice that the old church, or what remains of it, is more prominent and in a better state of preservation than any building erected at the same period. Does it not suggest the hope that God's church may endure among us, though all political organizations may topple and crumble away.

We passed Harrison's landing, the headquarters of Gen. McClellan after his change of base. This was the residence of president Harrison; his mansion is a large brick building, and looks as you have often seen it pictured. The plantation is large and beautiful; lower down is the residence of the widow of dirty John Tyler; it is some distance from the river however, in a grove, and I did not get a fair view of it. A few miles above Newport News we came to our picket boat and soon after to the iron boat Galena and one of our little Monitors. Just opposite Newport News are still seen the wrecks of the Congress and Cumberland. There is some thought I believe of trying to raise the Cumberland.

We hear cannon yesterday and to-day in the direction of Yorktown, but their rapidity and number do not indicate a very severe engagement. The numbers on either side cannot exceed a few thousand. We may have something to do even if we remain here.

Your affectionate brother,




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