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Vermont Artillery
Third Battery Light Artillery
Diaries/Letters

Civil War Diary
Eugene W. Rolfe, Tunbridge,
3rd Vt. Light Artillery Battery

Sat. Oct. 1. [1864] [1864]

We started at a little past midnight and mounting the chests on the carriages we drew our guns down the covered way for a half a mile to where the cowardly drivers had stopped from fear of the shells, refusing to go farther, and going to the right we entered and took possession of Battery 17. Found some boxing gloves left by a German Battery that went out just as we came in; spreading out the tarpaulin, we rolled ourselves in our blankets and were soon asleep although it rained hard.

The right section (to which belong Milo Cushman and Lucius Barnard, were ordered on Picket out near Prince George's Court House and off they went in the rain, as sorry a looking set of beings as ever I have seen. Have some fun with a Dutchman who was drunk and came back after a canteen that was full of Commissary but which some of our boys had emptied. Carl saved him from drowning as he came near walking into the well and then the fool wanted to whip Carl for pulling him back, but felt better when he saw where he was. I wrote to D. H. Wetherbee today. (General Warren moved on Squirrel Level road and captures three small forts.).

Sunday Oct. 2. [1864]

It rained hard all night but as we had our tents up we came out all right, yet it is a dismal hole here this morning. From one part of the Fort we can see a large part of Petersburg. Can see the steeples of three large churches on one of which is a large town clock and we can hear the bells ring as the people go to church as they are but about one and a half miles distant-wish I were somewhere near them so that I could go to some good point and watch them as they go to church-see what the latest fashions of Petersburg-see the notables.

All are wishing that we might hear from the 5th. and 6th. Detachments as there was heavy firing in the direction of the Court House last night. We do not get any mail today as the 9th. Corps to which we are attached has moved its headquarters and our mail agent can not find them. Wrote to Herb today giving him an account of our travels as the 3rd. Travelling Menagerie has been moved often and showing but a few times in a place.

Monday Oct. 3. [1864]

After "Policing" around our camp, Carl and I went down to the camp in the rear, got some coffee and had just got back when the order came to pack up and be ready to march. By the time we got ready the horses came and we started for the left. When we reached the old Suffolk R.R., we were joined by the Caissons and the Right Section. Marching to the left about 4 miles we left he Right Section and then moving about one mile farther, the rest of us went into Battery 25. The Caissons and Drivers left us to camp in the rear and proceeded to make ourselves comfortable, putting up our tents and building bunks of poles. Received letters form Herbert and Charlotte, one from father and one from Mrs. Searles, (Cousin Lib), with one for Carl in the last. Sent letter to Herbert and to D. H. Wetherbee. Have some fun with the negroes here but they are a thievish set and we have to keep them from our tents.

Tuesday Oct. 4. [1864]

Rations a little slim and what we do get are not of the first quality but then they have worse down South. This would be a hard fort to take as there are two lines of abbatis and then a quarter of a mile of underbrush with wire tied to at about 12 inches from the ground. The forts to our left and right projecting outward so that an engulfing fire could be poured in from many of them.

Carol and I wrote to Lib today and then went down to the Caissons to mail it, got our knapsacks and came back. Captain Stuart returned from Vermont today and we were drilled at the piece for a little while this afternoon.

We have three brigades of Negroes supporting us and I had rather have a Corporal's Guard of white soldiers-the confounded nigger will wait until we get sound a sleep and then fire a half dozen volleys, enough to wake us, think that there is an attack and get our guns ready for action, and giving us time to get well to sleep again will fire again.

Wed. Oct. 5. [1864]

Slept sound last night but when I got up found that I had worn the skin on my hips some sleeping on these poles that we have for bunks, being pine poles of the size of one's wrist and laid length wise. We had a new engagement to day and moved five miles farther to the left covering the advance of our army on Squirrel Level Road. Had some fun and some things that were not so funny. We crossed the Welden R.R. and came to the Six Mile Tavern in what is called the Peebles Farm, extending our lines some little distance. We passed Gen. Warren's Headquarters today and saw there, some Secesh women, some were saucy and some were sober and some were fine looking. The youngest of the party waved her handkerchief as we passed. We are having a jolly time in camp today or tonight rather.

Received a letter from father today bearing date of Oct. 1. Wrote and sent a letter to Sue. Farnham.

Thursday Oct. 6. [1864]

We had hardly time to put up our tents before Carl and I had to go on guard. I went to the stable, had not much to do but read, take an occasional look at the horses and at night I get to the further end of my [post], smoke and chat with the sentinel on the other side of the horses. We name our camp with the name of our Captain (Stuart), and having a good chance fix it up in good shape.

Friday Oct. 7. [1864]

Came off guard at 7 o'clock this morning and Carl and I got some pine boughs and made ourselves a good nest. Received a letter from Herbert with one for Carl from Charlotte, one from Ed. Hutchins and one from father and a paper from Lib., answered Herb's letter this afternoon The boys are building a three gun fort out to our left having volunteered to do so, not being obliged any fatigue duty.

Sat. Oct. 8. [1864]

I got a good night's sleep, got up and after guard mounting went over and played build a fort with the rest but did not do enough to hurt me, nor did the rest. We were longer talking about moving a long then we were moving it. Went out in the shade and layed down in the afternoon.

We went over to work on the damned old fort but were relieved by a party of negroes. Gave them three cheers and then left. We named the fort after our Senior 1st.Lieutenant Phillips as he is as good officer and a boy with us. It was as cold last night as it is in Vt. at this time of the year, or at least it seemed much colder after having so much warm weather.

Monday Oct. 10. [1864]

On guard at the spring today in 3rd. relief and a "soft" job as all the guard is for is to keep the negroes away who have been here and dirtied the water every time they get a pailful so that we could not get any for the next hour had a bitter cold night and was glad for it's better cold than sultry when one had blankets and woollens enough to keep warm. Gen. Ferrera's Colored Brigade is right below us in the woods. We get down there in the evening, find negroes with banjos and violins, get them to sing, dance and play in reverse order. The colored individuals were feeling well so we had any amount of fun.

If the country that I have seen is a fair sample of the "Dominion" I do not want any of it-'tis a lonesome dreary country and barren as a desert with its houses scattered miles apart. Wrote to Ellen (Mrs. J. W. Smith) today and to Will. 4th. Detachment go over into new Fort Phillips.

Tuesday Oct. 11. [1864]

Had another cold night but was comfortable. Write to Cousin Charlotte Marston and send today. Gen. Grant with his staff and Gen. Warren pass by us today examining the lines. He was cheered right heartily by the boys for they are convinced that he is the right man in the right place.

Had a little "Fuss and Feathers" tonight in shape of a "Dress Parade," we have but little of the parade but a good deal of "fuss" in our work at the piece, indeed if we fail to be as precise in our movements whilst engaged in a sharp fire as we are when drilling we are in gentle terms reminded of the fact and told to look sharp or we will catch a slap of the sabre, for the Captain (Romeo H. Stuart) is a strict old dog but all but a few like him, and the few that do not are amongst the supernuisances.

Wed. Oct. 12. [1864]

Another cold night and we shall probably have enough more during this month. For a rarity we had some soft bread today, our Commissary going to City Point after it and it was an agreeable change that we made throwing away the "Hard-tack" and taking good soft bread that was not cold. I fell to and devoured one loaf of mine before stopping.

Just commenced a letter to Albert Wilson as the order came to pack and after dinner we started back to the right, went about 6 miles and into Fort "Alexander Hays," got our guns up and then went down into the Bomb Proof to sleep. Was waked up at 10 o'clock and ordered to move again. Getting our guns out of position we waited for further orders as to where we should go and getting sick of standing out in the cold, several of us took one of the tarpaulins and carrying it in to the Bomb Proof we layed down and went to sleep. Say eight very pretty Southern girls at a house that we passed this afternoon.

Thursday Oct. 13. [1864]

We left Fort Alex No Hayes at midnight and marching out past our old headquarters at Battery 17 we entered Battery 16 to the left and in the rear of the old Crater, (the Rebel fort undermined and blown up the 10th. of last July), spreading out our tarpaulins we went to sleep. I had to get up and go on guard at 4 A.M. and stood one hour. Having a hard cold and being very sleepy and tired, I am about knocked up, could but wish that I were at home so that I could drop into a good comfortable bed and lay until I got rested but then there must be an end to this war and then we shall not think of these hardships and those of us that live will in after times remember the many jolly when in camp and only speak of these hard times as being a little rough.

Finished a letter to Cousin Bert Wilson. Went down to camp today on my pack found some persimmons that were good.

Friday Oct. 14. [1864]

Carl and I take in a quiet fellow as bunk-mate by name of Henry Palmer. He is a good square fellow. Have some sweet potatoes roasted today, they were good. Cold enough to chill my feet pretty thoroughly last night. Sometime ago Carl and I made a Co-purse from which we buy what extra food we desire, tea, coffee, sugar, crackers, butter, cheese. We take Palmer into the Co-, buy some sweet potatoes for 5 cents a pound, butter for 90 cents and have a grand meal. Experimenting today we learned how to cook hard-tack, put 4 of them well broken up into a tin cup then add a slice of pork and an onion, slat and pepper to cut the taste and do really get a palatable dish, at least it tastes delicious to one who had had nothing better than hard tack straight for some time. The first Detachment fired at several marks today some of which they hit and some they missed, but they manage to break up a party that were trying to plant a mortar in our front.

Letters from Wib McIntosh and Herb to day.

Find a clear cold spring down near our picket line under a large pine tree. The most of the water here is like the ground, yellowish, and one cannot see the bottom of the springs, the water being full of some fuzzy substance.

Saturday Oct. 15. [1864]

It was a very cold night but it is clear and warm today, as pleasant a day as one could wish for. Drilled a little at the piece today and fired a few shots. Sergeant Thomas or "Old-", as he is called by reason of his service in and many tales of the Mexican War, asked and received permission of Perrin to fire our piece, ('tis said to be the best in the Battery), and with his first shot he dismantle a Rebel piece on the brow of the hill to our front and left. This tickled the old fellow and [he] wanted to try again but after firing several percussion shells with but little success concluded that the sun shone too squarely into his eyes. Charles Estes put a ball squarely through the Town clock in the tall steeple in Petersburgh.

Wrote to mother for some gloves. Wrote to Wib McIntosh.

Received a letter from father today bearing date of Oct. 10th. Drew some soft bread today. Had some good beans for diner. Carl and I go down to camp today.

Sunday Oct. 16. [1864]

A very cold night but 'tis as pleasant as one could wish to see today. We are a lazy set of dogs now all that we pretend to do is to cook what "stodge" we want to eat and lay on our backs the rest of the time "though the army moves." I am a little nervous and cannot remain still long so I prospect out on the picket line and have a jolly good time the Johnnies are quite sociable and we chat, swap papers. We get pounds of tobacco for a pound of coffee Whisky and tobacco they have enough of but coffee and sugar they only get now and then as part of their rations. Exchanged some hard-tack for hoe-poke and the Johnny seemed well pleased. Received a letter from father bearing date of Oct. 12th. Carl got one from his mother and Abby with a photograph of Charles W. Smith. Commenced an answer to father's letter in relation to my account against D. C. Jones.

Monday Oct. 17. [1864]

It was a very cold night, (am lost), yet I slept well and dreamed that I was home Do not know why I should remember this dream for I never have any others that I may have had, but somehow this dream was so pleasant a one that I could not well forget it.

Finished a letter to father and sent it down by Milo this morning.

We were drilled a while this forenoon, at the piece.

Out across the battle line to a clump of pines and find that the "Rebs" were planting a large mortar down to our left just back of their line and in a good position to give the Grant's Army Line R.R. an unpleasant dose. Swan goes over the Heinies' Headquarters and reports, we are questioned and then go to the fort and Phillips opens, give them some percussion and some spherical fuse, that makes them get.

Letter from father with needles, pins, linen thread and quire of quarts writing paper. Commenced a letter to father giving journal of events since Sept. 2nd. And this sheet with Sept. 9th.

Tuesday Oct. 18. [1864]

It is a cloudy day but pleasant for all of that. Right in front of the fort is a scrubby persimmon tree full of persimmons ripened by the frost we have had lately. Thought I would have some. Got up into it picked a few and had my quiet somewhat disturbed by ball striking about a foot and a half above my hand. Did not like this very well but yelled to the Johnny that he could not hit the side of the house and other things, emphatic but not printable. He fired several more shots but did not come so near again until just as I was getting down he let drive his ram rod and that took my left knee. Not liking this very well I went back to the fort, interviewed Phillips and soon had the satisfaction of seeing a percussion strike the old chimney, (that he was in) and bring chimney, Johnny and all to the ground.

Received and answered a letter form John A. Reynolds. 2 days rations of soft bread today. Shells are flying off to our right this evening-pretty warm work.

Wed. Oct. 19. [1864]

Very pleasant today, neither too warm or too cold.

We have a warm old Artillery duel today but no damage done and there is but little done in those duels except to keep posted as to whereabouts. There is considerable moving of trains in Petersburgh today so we expect news of a lively sort soon either from the Valley or from our own front in shape of a skirmish or battle for they must be moving troops or else there would not be so much stir as there has been since early in the forenoon.

Waldo and Williamson bring us a kettle of beans from camp and we have a good square meal for there was more than we wanted.

Not feeling very well, have headache and a touch of what I call rheumatism but Carpenter is sure it is the ague. Hope not but if it come shall take it without grumbling.

Thursday Oct. 20. [1864]

A cold night but the day is pleasant. Had a chill or some other meanness last night and did not have a very good night of it. On guard today in second relief. Write to Ed. W. Hutchins.

The trains continue to pass in and out of Petersburgh all day long and at night we have considerable fun, nearly all the guns on the lines open and there is any quantity of shells wasted. Or mortar shells I count as thrown from out lines 24 and 11 from the Rebel lines, all in the air at one time and of rifle shells there is no end. 'Tis one continuous roar, a shower of shell. Are a little bothered with a new missile form the "Rebs"-a ball (like a minnie) that is explosive and throws small pieces around.

Friday Oct. 21. [1864]

A cold night and two hours of the time I was on guard was wasted to chills-I did not need them. Heard the Johnnies talking. They damned Lincoln and cheered for McClellan, they said McClellan was the only man we had who was fit for president as he was the best general we had. If I were of age, do not think I should vote for a man that was so well liked by the Rebels and the New York boys who have been strongly in favor of McClellan do not like to have the Rebels cheer for him. We have some hot political discussions here but there are not many Vermonters that favor McClellan.

We drew five days rations of sugar and three of us drew a large mackerel to day. Letters from Herbert and Charlotte and from Lib and Flora. Chills, headache, rheumatism and I know not what else are visiting me today-do not like their company.

Finished copy of journal for father today.

Sat. Oct. 22. [1864]

We each drew a pound and a half of onions today. Had two good meals today; for breakfast we had boiled mackerel and roasted sweet potatoes with good butter, for supper we fried the remainder of the mackerel and ate with soft bread and butter. Sent letter to father commenced the 17th., wrote to Lib Searles.

Feeling well today so I go out on the picket line and get some papers. The Richmond Examiner gives McClellan some good puffs, says that with him as president, the "Federals" might have more hopes of conquering etc. etc. Another small dirty sheet says that "McClellan is not only respected but in some measures liked by the South for his Nobleness." Perhaps he would do more to preserve the Union were he less noble to the Southern mind and more honorable in his conduct towards the government that supports him. Half an hour's drill today.

Sunday Oct. 23. [1864]

A very pleasant day, neither too hot or too cold. Lay, read, write to Herb, brother Carl and wonder what is being done at home today. Can see those that generally go as they pass to and from the old church and really as I seem to see their faces I have a sort of home-sick longing to meet some whom I never cared to meet at home, indeed a dog, just from home would get one good welcome today.

It is quite noisy here today as there is considerable firing along the lines and the boys seem to think that they are specially called upon for a noisy day and they do their best.

Hear the church bells in the city ring three several times today. See a good many Johnnies lying on the ground in front of their marks apparently enjoying the sunshine. Have another visit from Sir Chills, not any better pleased than before.

Monday Oct. 24. [1864]

There is a general movement along our lines today, many troops are being hurried off towards our left. We receive orders at 6 P.M. to pack up and get ready to move, where to we don't know but expect to be sent to City Point.

Thursday Oct. 25. [1864]

We started at midnight and 4-30 this morning went into the outer defences of City Point. Put up picket rope and then tents. Milo and Carl Cushman, Hen Palmer and I put up a tent together. Pretty well played out and am excused from guard duty and from Roll Call at night. Have a tough old chill at night. Sergeant Perrin excused me, hi is as nice a fellow as there is in the battery be he private or officer.

Wed. Oct. 26. [1864]

Felling better this morning but not very strong. Dr. Hardy says I have got the Fever and Ague. He gave me four large quinine powders, one to be taken now and the rest once in four hours. Carl and I had some good gauntlet gloves come today. Had to go to bed at 2 P.M. and lay there.

Thursday Oct. 27. [1864]

Have little or no appetite and find that I am pretty weak. Hardy give me some quinine and whiskey, take a tablespoon once in four hours. Wrote off Journal from Sept. 10th. to the 13th. for father. Heavy firing on the left. Hardy give me some tea today and it tastes good. Had to lie down today at 2 P.M. and from that time out there was some shaking, leaving [me] with a head that is trying hard to burst.

Friday Oct. 28. [1864]

Not as well as I think. Carl and I got some beef steak and cook it for breakfast. I eat for the first time in 8 hours and the steak tastes good. Finish letter to father but do not send it as we receive no mail today. Had a deuce of an old shake this afternoon.

Sat. Oct. 29. [1864]

We drew six brass Napoleon pieces today. Letter from father with political items. Have a deuce of a shake this afternoon. Carl used up with rheumatism and goes in ambulance to the Chief Surgeon's quarters.

Sunday Oct. 30th. [1864]

Inspected and mustered today. I was assigned to the 6th. detachment. Letters from Herbert, Charlotte, Louise and Eddie, also one from Ellen Smith and one from Charlotte L. Marston. I also got 4 Vt. Journals, one Harper's Weekly, one Walton's Daily Journal, a supplement to the Boston Daily Journal and one of Grant's campaign maps.

Monday Oct. 31. [1864]

Had a hard old night of it but laughed some when Carl and Milo had to go to the spring and wash their clothes. Wrote to Charlotte today and sent her Charlotte Marston's photographs. I received another Boston Daily Journal today. The boys are out on mounted drill with the new guns today.


Diary Continued Back to Introduction


Contributed by Eugene L. Rolfe, Las Vegas, Nevada, great-grandson of Eugene William Rolfe.