Superlative Battlefield Letter From Bermuda Hundred

June 2, 1864

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Superlative Battlefield Letter From Bermuda Hundred
Autograph Letter Signed
4 pages | SMC 103

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  • George Cortelyou


    Written from Bermuda Hundred* as the Battle of Cold Harbor raged not far away, this marvelous letter sizzles with war-time news… The Rebels, with their bloodcurdling yell, attack repeatedly, almost killing the 65th’s commander; Colored Troops capture over two hundred Confederates, and kill a Colonel; starving women and children stream toward the Union lines from besieged Petersburg, and throughout, both the rumble of Grant’s cannonading and the clanking of the South’s most vital Railroad, can be heard in the background. Private Levy watches it all, confidently, from outside his tent and atop a haystack, and only worries a little about potable water and collecting an enlistment bounty.

    * A large neck of land just fifteen miles south of Richmond whose strategic importance centered on the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad, which served as a vital connection between the Confederate capitol and points south. The Bermuda Hundred Campaign lasted from May to June 1864.
    Some wear at the folds, else very fine.
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    Bermuda Hundred June 2/64  

    My Dear Brother   

    Your most welcome and affectionate letter of the 26th ult. came duly to hand, but this is the first opportunity I have had to write. It was doubly welcome on account of it containing the pictures of my beloved parents and dear sister, and my sweet little neice [sic], with whom I would like very much to be; also $1.00 which was acceptable, but not ^actually needed. On the 30th there was very heavy firing ^(cannonading) from our breastworks and fortifications, behind which we lay. Yesterday morning about 2¼ oclk [sic]. I was awakened from my sleep by heavy cannonading, being a simultaneous attack of the rebels along all our lines. Our regiment were sent to the breastworks, but as our horses lay over in the woods, and there is six men to take charge of them, and I am one, I did not go, but

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     I stood at our tent and had a splendid view of a couple miles of our lines, and it was a beautiful, but awful spectacle. The shells flying through the air and bursting continually, making a whistle like a locomotive letting off steam. One fell right behind where our company were laying, but luckily did not burst, and another, a solid ball, falling in the yard of the house where our General (Kautz) has his head quarters. Every day, two or three times, the batteries are opened, and the other day, on our left, some of our troops made a charge on a rebel battery and took four pieces. This morning on our right, they charged on a fort of ours, and the shelling and musketry was awful, our troops falling back to the breastworks after every charge, which the rebels made with a yell, but our boys drove them back every time, they making eight charges, the shells flying all the time. I was  

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    on a pile of hay and could see our troops rushing after the rebels. After a couple of hours fighting the darkie regiments were sent out from our left going around the woods, flanking the rebs. and taking over two hundred prisoners, and killing a rebel colonel. Last evening it was reported by some of our scouts that the rebels had left our front, so our division of cavalry were ordered to get every thing ready for an expedition, taking three day’s [sic] rations, but the rebs. opened their batteries, and I suppose our general came to the conclusion that the rebs. were still there, so the order was countermanded. We’ve been expecting an attack this afternoon, as deserters so reported, but as yet it has not came [sic] off, and it is about six oclk. [sic] with a heavy rain. Yesterday there was a good many refugees came in from in front of Petersburg, saying they were near starved. They mostly women and children. From 

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    our camp we see the steeples of the town and with a glass I suppose could have a fine view of the whole town. We can hear the cars running up to Richmond every now and then with troops. We can also hear the cannonading of Grant’s forces on the peninsula. In your letters I will expect pictures of the family, as also the Sergeant’s. Let the folks down home write and put a small package of cream of tartar, with directions how to prepare a drink with it as it is seldom we get any water worth drinking. I would also like to receive a letter from Ben, and let him write me what he has done in reference to those bounty papers, for if he does not collect them soon they will loose [sic] the whole thing. Send the album as it will be no inconvenience whatever. I want for nothing, having good health, and being in first rate spirits on accounts [sic] of the cheering news from our armies, we receiving one day’s papers, on the evening of the following day. Give my love to all the folks. It is dark and the wind is blowing too hard to keep the candle lit. So God bless you all. 

    Your loving brother,    


    P. S. June the three. Last evening I received a letter from Ben; as paper is scarce let him read this and you can read the few lines I will enclose for him.