August 8, 1864 Letter from Private Robert Dawson to his sister, Rebecca Dawson while camped near Petersburg, VA describing the recent "Mine Explosion" or Battle of the Crater during the Petersburg Campaign
(transcribed by granddaughter, Ms. Clara Warner)
Camp near Petersburg, Va. Aug. 8th, 1864
I seat myself to night to answer your very welcome letter which I received this morning. I was very glad to hear from you. I am enjoying excellent health at present and I hope those few imperfect lines may find you all enjoying the same blessing. we had a hard fight here on last Saturday week, but I think it is hardly necessary for me to give a full account of the fight for you can get a full account of it in the papers they give a very correct account of it too. but I will give you a few details of it our corps was formed during the night ready for the charge against daylight. the guards were called out about one oclock and we went out and when we came out to the front line of our breastworks we stopped right there under the guns of one of our forts, we stopped there until we would find out where our division was as it was dark yet. I lay down and went to sleep, but about daylight I was wakened up by the report of the fort blowing up and some of the boys said there it goes and I looked up and saw the aire filled with dirt, logs and so forth and at the same time our Artillery opened up and I tell you there was a noise for a while, well after they had been fighting a while the provost marshal came along and we moved to the right to where they were fighting and deployed out to keep up stragglers but we were pretty well under cover and consequently we were not in much danger, well I need not be writing so much about the fight for I give Benoni a full account about it and you can see the letter I wrote to him there was not so much picket or Artillery firing for a few days after the fight as there was before, but now they have got at it as bad as ever. To night they are pecking away steady and this evening both parties threw over a good many shell, the rebels attempted last week to blow up one of our forts but they missed it for they had not dug far enough. They was not under the fort, it tore up the ground outside of the fort a piece but did no damage, they have discovered that the rebs are undermining other forts of ours and they allow to build another fort to the rear of the one they are undermining and take the guns out of it and put in the one to the rear and then let them blow it up and charge on it if they will and then open on them with the new fort. They have been holding a court of inquiry to find out who was to blame for the disaster that happened our Corps here the time of the fight, some seem to think that old meade was to blame for not ordering the 5 corps to charge, the 5th Corps boys say all the rebels left in front of them and went to the right to keep our Corps from advancing any farther then there was part of the 18th Corps laying back a short distance they were not brought up, well I hope the blame will fall on the right man, I think they kind of used Burnside and his corps mean in the fight in not sending up more troops and letting his corps get cut up so the other Generals does not appear to like Burnside, nor does the men of other Corps appear to like our Corps and I should not be surprised if he would get our of this with his Corps before long. Well I believe I will close to night by asking your to write soon from your brother
R D Dawson
P.S. I wrote in the last letter for some postage or a one dollar greenback, but that I would prefer the greenback for I would soon be out of paper and envelopes. I will use my last stamp on this to night and have twoo sheets of paper yet if they have not received the letter and sent the greenback send it when you get this. I can get plenty of stamps here. I was over at the 2nd Corps yesterday and saw Sam Reed he is well, I saw Curg Richardson and tom Brooks a few days ago. they are well.
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