The Civil War Diary of Henderson George
Diary 1864



In the latter part of August, Lieut. Justice was transferred from the field Hospital to City Point and placed in charge of a prisoners camp or Barracks, and I was taken with him as assistant. The prisoners confined here were our own men, made up of the off scourings of the Union Army, such as deserters, bounty jumpers, and various other offenders and crooks awaiting trial by Court Marshall. There were two or three hundred of these men, many of whom were criminals in civil life.

My duties continued at City Point until Dec. 26th., when an order was received relieving me and sending me to my company at the front. This order was in line with the fact that our fighting ranks at the front were becoming so decimated from sickness and casualties, that they were under a heavy strain of duty; and therefore to afford some relief all men on special duty were called to the colors.

This will be a marked change in my army service, and will give me a taste of genuine seige work. Reported to my Co. G. on Dec. 29th., and was ordered to be ready to go on night watch at mid-night. Next day was detailed for picket, going on post immediately after dark, to remain twenty four hours. Weather was cold, snow covered the ground, making my first experience on the Petersburg picket line any thing but pleasant. The rebel picket line, and our own, are not more than fifty to one hundred yards apart. The men often chide and bluff one another; they calling us "Yanks," and we calling them "Johnnies." Sometimes we would sing a song to which they would either cheer or jeer. Then they would sing us a southern song and we would laugh and make fun of it. Often stories were told by one side or the other; in this way often during the night, time was whiled away.

The rebels changed pickets at the same time we did, that is, just after dark. It was customary to keep up firing from both sides for the purpose of annoying and harrassing each other, while the lines were being changed. Finally some of our men shouted over asking whether they would not agree to cease firing until after nine o'clock if we would do the same. To our proposition they willingly agreed. And from that time, to the credit of both parties, during the next four months of the seige not a shot was fired until after nine o'clock P.M.

Our pickets were posted along our line about fifty feet from one post to another -- three men on a post. Each post has thrown up a redoubt or pit for protection against rebel bullets; much care must be used against rebel sharpshooters, one cannot show his head without danger. Pickets are stationed for twenty four hours, day and night, completely exposed to the weather, be it blistering sun, storm, rain, sleet or snow. Sometimes the rains are so incessant that these posts become mud-holes making them truly a nightmare of patient suffering and endurance. The seige of Petersburg was begun on June 16th., and it is now the last of December, so that it has been under way for more than six months.