Third Battery Light Artillery Vermont Volunteers
Civil War Diaries and Letters of
Eugene William Rolfe, Tunbridge
Letter of March 2nd 1865
Camp near Patrick Station.
This is a very pleasant day. I am feeling very well. But am somewhat sleepy as we were waked up at 1 o'clock and were ordered to pack up and be ready to move at a moments notice. The officer's horses were hitched up and tents struck and everything packed in a hurry. The 6th Corps charged on the enemy works this morning at 2 o'clock this morning and drove them in every direction. They crawled on their hands and knees up under the ---- and taking their hatchets cut places for them to charge through and then rising up they gave a yell and charged on the large fort in front of Battery Welch and captured it with three pieces of artillery and the men. 140 in number. The men were all large men and well dressed. The 6th Corps then swung right in around them, split their forces and drove their right wing to Hatchers Run capturing the whole of them. They then returned to Fort Fisher and were there joined by the first and second divisions of the 24th Corps. The 6th Corps then struck off to the right of the point of woods near Fort Fisher and the 24th Corps were massed behind the Welch house. At this time about noon. Captain Start got the desired order to place his battery out in front: The horse was ordered up to the front and soon the gun chewers little brave pieces were blazing into the rebs at short range. They were followed by Major Cowans battery, The crack battery of the army. And they were led by us through the day. . At this time as I had just got off guard I asked and received permission form Lieutenant Taplin to go up to the front and in company with Corporal Brigham I went up to Fort Fisher on the way we met a ---- of prisoners, 2258 in number. They were quite spunky and said that we would --- it before we got to Petersburg. . I kept on up to the fort but instead of going out where our guns were I struck off to the left to the south side road a distance of about one and a half miles while I stood there the 25th Telegraph (?) Corps passed by. I returned to Fort Fisher and went out to the little redoubt near our guns and stood there to see the 24th Corps charge on a large fort on the brow of a hill. They were a half hour in taking it and then had it completely surrounded. They captured three pieces and in ten minutes time had them turned on the johnnies. I then went out where our battery was and found that they had taken their third new position and was far in advance of the other battery. Capt Start was in his element. The boys were feeling well but were pretty tired having had nothing to eat since morning. Nearly everyone that I met had something to say in praise of our battery. All said that we had the best marksmen and the coolest set of men that they ever saw. They have a pretty hard position now as the Rebel sharpshooters are firing upon them whilst I stood there a solid shot struck Sergeant Chamberlains piece, shattering the ---- and striking near Corpl Parkhurst. I staid up to the guns for some time. When we got nearly out of ammunition, having but a few rounds of solid shot and 6 rounds of spherical case and the captain ordered me to go till I found Rubilee and to order him to ride till he could find the 6th Corps ammunition train and to send up 400 rounds immediately. Our Captain had shown himself such an able commander that he has charge of all the reserve artillery consisting of four batteries. I want down to the fort and found Rubilee. The other buster, Lord, and Lieutenant. Taplin. I delivered my orders and the Lient ordered Lord to go and help find the train and he would the same. They made about two hours and at last Lord found them near --- station on the southside near the react. As I came down from the front, General Grant, came out near our battery accompanied by President Lincoln. He stood there a few moments and asked General Wright, commanding 6th Corps what battery that was that made such good shots and then rode along. He was greeted with cheers everywhere. I returned to camp and as I had eaten nothing since last night I went to cooking me some pork and hard tack. The cooks made us some coffee and we eat as only hungry men will eat. At about 4pm, General Sheridan came back from the left accompanied by his staff and 7000 cavalry. Lord has just returned from the front. He says that we are in our 3rd new position. Sheridan drove the right wing of Lees army out beyond Hatchers Run and then the 5th Corps swung in and they captured every man. And came near capturing Lee. As it was they captured part of his staff. There is no Rebels left at this point now and we are fast driving them towards Petersburg. We have got all but one of their third line of works. That is a very large fort with eight pieces .. Our guns are throwing shells into it at the rate of ten a minute. There is very heavy firing in front of Petersburg where the 9th Corps has a lieutenant from there that says that we have taken 4 of their largest forts in front of Fort Sedgwick better known as Fort Hell. One of the works that we have taken is the old crater in front of Battery 16 where we laid last bell. We have captured a good many prisoners but our loss is very heavy. The rebels had a large ten inch colunliad in front of Fort Sedgwick. With that, held the 9th Corps at bay for some time mowing them down in great numbers.
7PM Sunday evening
There is no firing along these lines now, but there is heavy firing in the direction of Petersburg. General Orel has got his headquarters in front of our camp. His teams or the teams belonging to the 24th Corps cover the plain behind our camp as far as we can see. They are rather thievish. We have to keep a sharp lookout for our things. The ambulances are running all the time bringing off the dead and wounded. We dare not put up our tents as we are expecting to move. Everything is packed in anticipation of a move. Corporal Clapp and I have made up our beds on a lower bunk with nothing over us but our blankets and the sky. I went on guard at 8 and stood till ten. The teamsters tried to play some of their tricks on us but were not sharp enough. One of them came up to me with what he claimed to be an order from General Orel for two sacks of oats. I informed him that I was not the commissary for the 24th Corps. He saw that he could not get nothing there and he left. After I came off guard, I went up to the front once more. Our boys were pretty tired but were hard to work throwing up a redoubt in front of the guns. The 24th and 3rd Corps are massing in front of the large fort that Rebs are hanging on to so tenaciously. General Grants Headquarters are near us. I stayed up to the front about two hours and then returned to the battery as I returned as I come by the lookout the wagon train of the 2nd Corps came up and stopped there. The 6th Corps train lays on in front. When I got back to camp it was 12 o'clock. Everything is quiet along the lines, you cannot hear a single gun. You can hear nothing but the cry's of the mules. This has been one of the greatest days in American History. One of the greatest victories for our army has been where I have seen about 13,000, thirteen thousand prisoners today and I have seen none of those captured by Sheridan as they were sent down on the branch of the army line RR from Hatchers Run. Or those taken by the 9th Corps.
Monday morning April 3rd
I was marked up at --- to get out and help take care of 24 pieces captured by the 6th Corps. Captain Start has charge of them. After breakfast I started to go over into Petersburg. Oh by the way, the 24th and 25th Corps charged on the large fort. I went and found that it was deserted. Sheridan immediately started in pursuit of them. He was followed by the 2nd Corps, Capt Start and Herrick went over into Petersburg. When I got up to Battery Lee I met the battery coming back. They have been ordered to report to City Point with the captured artillery. Start has command over that and four other batteries. As soon as we could pack up, we went down to Patrick Station and hitching up the captured pieces behind the five batteries, we started for City Point. Coming there at 6pm. When we passed the 9th Corps burying ground, we stopped to look at the dead. It was worst sight I ever saw. Some were literally torn to pieces.
City Point, Tuesday, April 4th 1865
Dear father. I sent you an account of last Sunday but you will probably get a full account of the battle in today's paper but you will not believe reports at first but the thing can not be exaggerated. I must give you a short account of today's news. There has over 3000 prisoners passed our camp today. Our captain was down to the Point. He said that there was 20,000 prisoners besides those that had gone on to Washington. There was an officer dispatch came into the point at 4pm from General Grant stating that General Lee had surrendered with 18,000 prisoners but there is a report that Lee had slipped away. Lee with several of his officers tried to escape on a gunboat but the report tonight is that he was captured. How true it is I cannot tell. There was heavy firing up the river this morning. There is 19 pieces passed by this afternoon. They were captured by the 9th Corps. The extra battery are coming in tonight. They take only 6 batteries with a Corp. The rest are in park here at the point or will be as soon as they can get here. I received your letter bearing date of March 31. I was in before that box had --- along. I was going down to the express office and to the distribution camp to look after my box and Carl but I guess I shall not find them. Please tell Carl that we lay near where we did when he left last fall. I could fill a half dozen sheet with accounts of the battle but I guess this will do. General Grants Headquarters is at Richmond. President Lincoln is with him. I hope there is some tea, butter and cheese in that box. Please give my best respects to --- our folks------ alden---- and all others our folks in Montpelier Just as soon as you can, get a paper with an account of the causalities in the VT Regt. Please send it. Write soon and accept this with the best respects. Your son, Eugene W. Rolfe, 3rd Vt Battery, Washington DC.
PS; when you write, please write about Uncle Earls folks and how Etty is. Tell Amos that Milo is well. He is acting ------- he has not heard from her for two weeks I would be much pleased to hear from our --- folks. I shall write to them as soon as I get time but you must remember I have so much duty at present that I do not have much time to write. For a fortnight we have had a very busy time. We have been up night and day. I had the jaundice when I was sick. I did not lose anything by doing my duty. I have but to ask to get a favor if there is anything you wish to hear about please write and I will answer. Eugene
Contributed by Eugene L. Rolfe, Las Vegas, Nevada, great-grandson of Eugene William Rolfe.