Headquarters First Brigade, First Division, Ninth A. C.
Before Petersburg, Va., July 27, 1864.
Yours of the 21st-24th reached me last evening. It is pleasant to hear you talk, even at this distance, where the sound of artillery and musketry is heard from the time you wake till you sleep again. A stranger, if he should at this moment be put down at my Headquarters to make a little friendly visit, would hardly be prepared to carry on a connected conversation with these mortar shells bursting over and around him. At this very instant one explodes, two — three — just over and in rear of these tents. It is wonderful how we escape. The pieces go humming in all directions. My stockade stops all bullets, so that while behind that I am safe from those. But these shells are inconveniently searching, and dropped with a precision which would interest an amateur (if he was iron-plated).
I don't know how long this thing is to continue. The Second Corps crossed the James at Deep Bottom this A. M. at daylight, and has met with some success, so a telegram from Headquarters tells us. Taken four guns, etc. My brigade is under orders to move at a moment's notice, being in the reserve line to-day. (We occupy the front line by brigades.) I shouldn't be very sorry to leave this place. General Ledlie still commands the Division. He has not been confirmed, but he ranks me by appointment. He is not much liked by the officers of the Division, and it seems they hoped I was to succeed him, but I think I had rather try a brigade before I venture any higher, although the whole Division does not number so many as a full brigade of four regiments should. I have six Massachusetts regiments and one Pennsylvania.
I am glad McLaughlin has the Fifty-seventh. If he fills it up it will make a good regiment.
I am to have Charlie Amory, of Jamaica Plains, for A. A. General, a very good one, I am told. Tom Stevenson had him appointed for him. Frank Wells, of H. U. 1864,I have asked to have commissioned in the Fifty-seventh to make an aide of. He is a gentleman, clever I believe, and has seen a little service. There is quite a collection of alumni here. Mills, Jarvis, Weld, 1860; Shurtleff, Lamb, of 1861. Mills is to be made Captain and A. A. G., I hear. I wish we were together this warm day, and certainly don't wish that you were here.
Paradoxical as it may seem, I have a floor to my tent of “store boards,” and a bunk of the same, with hay in it. A meal at Corps Headquarters keeps fresh in your memory the existence of ice, claret, etc. It is like grizzly bear hunting. So long as you hunt the bear it is very pleasant pastime; but if the bear takes it into his head to hunt you, it has its drawbacks. I hope I shall pull through safely, Frank, and get to see you again; but when or where, is beyond my ken.
I think physically I shall be able to endure it, although this siege work, which won't admit of the use of a horse, but requires that you should move very lively across certain localities marked “Dangerous,” is pretty severe.
I have much that I must leave unsaid, but not the injunction to write me a few lines when you can. With kind remembrances to all your family,
I remain ever yours,
SOURCE: Francis Winthrop Palfrey, Memoir of William Francis Bartlett, p. 116-8