Potomac River Md.
Near Chain Bridge July 30th 64
We arrived here last night from Bermuda Hundred. The last few days and nights are so mixed up and blended into each other that one can hardly set his mind on any occurrence as having taken place at any given time, but by following circumstances from the beginning I may get things straight.
Last Saturday (23rd) we were marched from the landing at Bermuda Hundred to what is called "Strawberry Plain" on the North side of James River opposite the point of James Neck and on the left bank at 4 Mile Creek. The spot is about 2-1/2 or 3 miles from Malvern Hills and 12 or 15 from Richmond. It is the extreme right of our Army before Richmond and Petersburgh. Upon arriving we found the spot occupied by a detachment of the 11th Me. who had held it for three days having had a sharp brush the day before (22) in regaining position of an earthwork throw up by the Enemy to cover 4 20lb Parrotts. This work had been abandoned both days previous by the Enemy but retake at night by them so the 11th Me had too small a force to retain the whole of the territory captured in the day, at night. The 173' were posted across the plain, and facing the works, soon after dark and were withdrawn at daylight in the morning when the works, spoken of before, at the edge of the woods was again brought within our lines but without any firing as the Enemy gradually retired as we advanced our skirmishes and early in the morning the whole line of skirmishers was relinquished to the 173' with the exception of a short line held by the 30th Me to the left that connected with Genl Fosters line on the other bank of the creek. The front was held by our Regt. and the 30th Me. until Monday, (25th) when we were relieved by the 162nd N.Y. During our occupation of the line the Enemy was in plain sight but no firing on each other took place. When we relinquished the line to the 162d, however, a charge occurred. that Regt. has, apparently many very timid men in it (I will not call them solders), and no sooner were they posted than they went to the works firing the men who had so freely exposed themselves to our view, resulting in wounding some. ???? the Enemy returned fire, and before night the parties who had commanded this work were sick of this hurry to have a shot as they were made very uncomfortable not being able to uncover any part of their person without having it made a target of. But the worst of it was, that some of the 162d allowed themselves to be frightened and allowed the Enemy to see that they were scared having been more than once chased off their posts more by the awful yelling of the Rebs than by any immediate danger. As a consequence at night the "Johnnies" decided to have a little sport, so at about 10 o'clock on Monday night we were startled by a sudden and rapid discharge of musketry which by the flashes was discovered to be outside of the woods a hundred yards to the rear of the line where the pickets should have made a stand. Upon inquiry it was discovered that the whole line had fallen back without firing a shot, to the reserve and the firing we heard was the reserve encountering the Rebel line of skirmishers. The whole Brigade was at once turned out and under arms except the working party in the ditches. A sufficient force was sent out and a new line formed while we remained all night under arms having been reinforced by three Regiments from Foster under whose orders the Brigade was acting.
Serving in conjunction with the land forces were two Gunboats whose ten twelve and fifteen inch shells were continually being hurled into the woods when they were occupied by the Enemy. Thus when we first went up on Saturday they were firing away over our heads but ceased the next morning when we had obtained possession of the woods. As soon as word could be conveyed to them on Monday night they again opened and kept up a constant shelling for the next twenty-four hours. These together with the we had planted and a cross-fire from beyond the creek made it very hot for the Enemy in the woods and they dare not come out in the face of such a fire. On Tuesday morning our Regt and the 30th Me. were sent to Forsters side of the creek to replace the 11th Me. and 10th Ct. who it had been decided should remain with the rest of our Brigade. Foster having a distrust of the whole Brigade on account of the faulty action of the 162d. All day Tuesday the cannon kept up a roar but little was done toward regaining the lost ground. The Enemy emboldened by this display of our weakness determined by a reinforcement of their troops to trust their four Parrotts into the thrice captured earth-work. Early on Wednesday morning therefore they opened upon our position with these heavy field-pieces. But in the meantime, however, our Generals had not been idle: Early apprised of troops having been seen passing behind the Enemy's lines toward the threatened point, Hancocks (2') Corp (Reserve at Petersburgh) was ordered up and arrived before daylight Wednesday morning, and a Brigade was so disposed under cover of darkness, that in the morning, when the Enemy opened with their 2 Pounders this Brigade suddenly charged out of their cover and took the forces as quickly as if they belonged to hem, there being scarce any loss in making the capture.
The failure to hold the line without this fighting came neigh spoiling a very nice affair. Sheridans Cavalry were to cross on "Strawberry Plain" during the night of the 26th (Tuesday), and to start Wednesday morning on a raid from that point. They were on their way to the bridges when the point being threatened by an attack of Infantry and Artillery, Cavalry would be worse than useless where they would be so cramped for room. Besides, Hancocks Corps was marching to the relief and protection of the spot, and must take the same road and bridges. Consequently the cavalry could not cross until Wednesday, and were thus delayed a day in the start on a grand raid, giving the Enemy time and a chance to discover the point at which it was to break out of our lines.
From the position of our regt. in Fosters outer redoubt situated on a prominent hill with and excellent "lookout" in a large tree I had an excellent view of all the operations of Tuesday and Wednesday until after our lines passed into the woods. We were then ordered to joint he remainder of the Brigade to march to Bermuda Hundred.
I believe in a former letter I made mention of having found another of my old company (E of the 9th) in the person of Capt. W.S. Howe a 2. no. Bermuda ???. Upon arriving there Wednesday evening I saw him a-gain and also his clerk A.F. Terry. you may have heard me speak of write of "Little Terry". He was very glad to see me and I him. Capt. Howe had charge of the transports that were to convey us to Washing and was very busy in getting off troops. We were split, the Rt. Wing going upon the "Dincrnd ??? State: and the Lt. Wing up on the "St. Cloud, arriving at Washington last night The trip around was a very pleasant one and the passing of Mt. Vernon and Ft. Washington was rendered memorable by the perfect harmony of Nature, the beauties of scenery, the hallowed memories of the one and the interest manifested in the other point of attraction taken in connection with the music from a fine band we had on board, belonging to the 30th Me. But the passing of the two last mentioned places was not to be the end of all feelings of enthusiasm. An incident occurred which if it did not heightened the enthusiasm at least served to bring it out in expression. In front of a cottage a short distance above Ft. Washington stood several ladies, one waving a large American Flag and the others their handkerchiefs. At sight of this, the Band which had not yet dispersed (although just dismissed) struck up "The Star Spangled Banner" and during the execution of the piece the Flag and handkerchiefs continued to wave, hats were lifted and tipped on board the vessel, and the hearts of those witnessing the affair could but beat in unison with the sentiments expressed and implied in the national Air played under circumstances that rendered it particularly appropriate. On board the vessel were men, who had left their homes and families far away to endeavor to uphold that flat throughout the country it represents by its stars; and on shore were women, whose homes were threatened with destruction should those represented by the party on the vessel not be successful and who were doing all in their power to convince us that we had by leaving friends for such a cause made others in them, Country-women of a State represented on that flag by one of its stripes, "One of the Original Sisters"
After some delay in getting the Brigade together from the various boats in which they were transported we were marched by the "flank" through the heart of the city. Marching thus as is usually in country roads gave all bystanders a chance to see almost every face, and many were the remarks passed upon us as we marched down Penn. Avenue. our colors were an especial object of interest as their tattered appearance too heavily indicated the cause of our paucity of members.
We are off somewhere at once. Lt. Thinkham ?? has just joined us having chased us through all ??? he mentions having heard of father thru Capt. Woeglens ??
I have a ?? map of "Strawberry Plain but dare not trust it