26 March 1865: “We had a small fight at Petersburg yesterday”

Item Description: In this letter, E.P. Alexander describes the atmosphere around Richmond after the Attack on Fort Stedman in Petersburg, VA. He also discusses what the the scene was like following that battle. In particular, he mentions a large crater where the fighting occurred, and the number of dead Union soldiers burned in it afterwards. As of the time he wrote this letter, he had not heard whether Johnston had succeeded against Sherman in North Carolina. Alexander also anticipates a confrontation near Richmond in the immediate future, and discusses an attempt to steal two commanding officers horses.

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Item Citation: 

From Folder 22a, in the Edward Porter Alexander Papers, #7, Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 Item Transcription: 

Camp Lance Place, Mch 26th 65
Sunday night

I have just returned from Rich’d. where I went into Church today my Darling Little sick Wife! + having this evening with nothing else to do will send another letter to comfort all in my power the sick bed on which I expect this will find you. I expected that Sallie + Lou would both leave Rd. tomorrow, but they have deferred it for at least another day hoping to hear confirmation of the report that Johnston has brought Sherman to grief. wh. is prevalent in the City. If it is confirmed Lou will not leave at all I think, Sallie, not for some time yet. The telegraph will have informed U of it truth or falsity long before U get this so, I won’t discuss it. We had a small fight at Petersburg yesterday in wh. we got a number of prisoners – (600) + had part of their lines for a while, + everything now indicates a severe fight over there very soon. possibly tomorrow. The weather + roads have been good now for several days, + unless Grant intends leaving everything for Sherman to do he will probably be “pegging away” pretty soon. This army appears to be in good spirits + its numbers are sufficiently respectable to make me feel very hopeful of the result. We have certainly nothing to fear on our side of the river. We had a little excitement in our camp last night over an attempt to steal the horses of Majors Middleton + Franklin My L.M. and C.S. Franklin heard some moving + went out + found both horses gone. We waked Middleton + they got other  horses + started out on different roads to pursue. Middleton overtook the thieves on the two horses + pursued them + fired on them + and compelled them to jump off + take to the woods leaving the horses wh. we caught. We are only sorry that he fired before he got close enough to clap the pistol to the fellows head. I went to see Lucy Webb today to ask her to get U one of the merinos wh. Hilly wrote. Sally about but she says they are English merinos + very poor + the would not advise getting one + she did not think a good french one could be gotten for less than  $1,000 even if one could be found in town. I had intended to have sold the gold I gave Sallie for U + got one but for this advice. I gave Sallie to take to U a painting of the crater at Petersburg several days after the Battle in it. It is not very good as it does not indicate the depth wh. was over thirty, but even after it was partly filled up by burning 200 dead Yankees + negroes in it, nor does it sufficiently indicate the character of the earth thrown up, wh. was in enormous boulders e+ – some of them 20 feet high. In the picture it looks more like dirt thrown up by a spade. The foreground of the picture is the gap we cut thru the earth thrown out inside of our lines + opposite it is shown the new parapet made in that towards the enemy + our sharp shooter on it. I went to see Jennie yesterday but she had gone over to Petersburg to see Mrs Cameron. I expect she got a good scare over there from the fight yesterday. I have been trying to recollect + manage to sing “Just as I am” + after a good many attempts have at last learnt to sing it very well indeed. I have been trying to learn ” I’m a Pilgrim” + “Oh could I speak the matchless worth-” but cant get them quite right. I think that I sing the “second” + it Keeps me from getting the airs. It is certainly something very like the airs but not the airs themselves. My latest letter from U was the 15th. I have had none between Feb 23rd + March 12th. I wrote to U daily last week. Give my warmest love to all. Keep a good heart My Darling One for God is still + always good to us, + we have the greatest of all blessings in each others affection.  My heart is with U in all your troubles + I feel more closely drawn to You in love + trust daily by the very thought them. May God ever bless & keep U all my Darlings ever prays Your Devoted Husband.  

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One Response to 26 March 1865: “We had a small fight at Petersburg yesterday”

  1. Buck Lawler says:

    The crater Alexander refers to most likely refers to the “the Crater” that resulted from the underground explosion Union soldiers set off under Confederate lines the previous summer.