1863-4: Edgar B. Bennett to Mary E. Marsh

Edgar B. Bennett

Edgar B. Bennett

These five letters were written by Edgar B. Bennett (1842-1918), the son of Smith Bennett (1807-1875) and Susan Snow (1809-1851) of Monroe, Connecticut. He served in Battery K, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery. He remained with his battery until March 25, 1865 when he was slightly wounded and taken prisoner during the Battle of Fort Stedman ¹ (in front of Petersburg) and confined in Libby Prison for five days until he was paroled. On April 9, 1865, while on parole, he married Mary E. Marsh (1849-1919), daughter of Lewis and Evaline (Stone) Marsh.

Edgar wrote the first letter in 1863 from Fort Richardson — a detached redoubt in Arlington, Virginia, that was part of the defense ring surrounding Washington D. C.

Edgar wrote the fifth (and possibly the third & fourth) letter in 1864 from Redoubt Anderson, one of the fortifications on the Bermuda Hundred line south of the James River, not far from Petersburg, Virginia. The letter enclosed a couple of swatches of silk that are purported to be cut from the Regimental flag of the First Connecticut Heavy Artillery but I find it odd there is no mention of it in the letter. The color of the swatches, however, seem to match those of advertised in an on-line auction which claims to have hand-written provenance to support it. See images below.


Image 7

Addressed to Miss Mary E. Marsh, Burlington, Connecticut

The First Connecticut at Fort Richardson, ARlington, VA

The 1st Connecticut H.A., at Fort Richardson

Fort Richardson
[near Washington D. C.]
September 2nd 1863

Dear Mary,

It is with pleasure that I now seat myself to answer your most affectionate letter which I have just received. Oh how glad I was to hear from you. Also that you were well. I am well and hope this may find you the same. I am glad that we both think so much of each other for Mary, I could not bare the thought of parting could we but meet. But we cannot till in about 8 months. Then I hope we may visit. I hope this war will be over then but I am afraid it will not. I hope you will not be lonesome while your folks are on a visit to the Salt Water. I wish I could be there to keep you company but the time will soon pass off for it passes swiftly by and can never be recalled again. Time passes off so quickly here. I can hardly keep track of the days. Time seems long to look ahead but it is not. But I hope the time while your folks are gone will pass happily for you.

1st Connecticut at Fort Richardson

1st Connecticut H.A., at Fort Richardson

I received a letter tonight with yours from my grandparents and one from my aunt so in all I had three letters tonight and how glad I was to hear from them for it had been some time since I had heard from them all.

There is no war news except the same old story over and over about Charleston. One day it is taken and the next there is no truth in it. It is an wonder the people don’t get sick of hearing the same news over and over again for we have here and won’t believe anything. The soldiers around here have come to the conclusion they had better turn and be “Know Nothings.” We think it will be a good plan for us.

I am not going to worry at all about the draft although my uncles are drafted but I cannot help but feel bad to think that the people have got to come out here against their will and leave their homes and wives and children to mourn their loss if they should never return although they may not know how they die or how or where they are buried. So I cannot help but feeling bad to think of it and to think what they have to come out here to fight for.

Dear, I think of nothing more to write this time so I will close by sending my love and best wishes to all. My truest love to you. I remain your affectionate friend, — Edgar



1864 Letter

Addressed to Miss Mary E. Marsh, Burlington, Connecticut

Fort Richardson, Va.
January 1st 1864

Dear Mary,

It is with true love’s affection that I now seat myself to write you these few lines as I have nothing to do tonight for we had our lessons last night. I am well and hope this will find you all well. There is but little going on here but building barracks for the men, but I have nothing to do with that for we have all we can tend to drilling the recruits that we have got so they keep the sergeants and corporals busy all the time night and day mostly.

The snow is going off fast & it looks like rain & I think it will by tomorrow. I hope it will for I have had all I wanted to do since I got back. We got some more recruits today — 15 of them.

Mary, the last letter I wrote to you I dated it wrong. I thought it was the 14th but it was the 13th. I believe I have not told you that we had got an addition to our shanty. We have 7 men in it now instead of 5 and you can bet we are thick all in here together — some dancing — some singing — and some hollering — & all trying to see which can make the most noise. It makes me almost mad when one is trying to write for it seems as if they tried to make the most noise then.

Have the folks got over thinking that you are married yet? How is Martin & Eme? Give my best respects to them when you see them. How is your grandparents?

The boys are all snowballing & they are having a great time at it.

[Note: Edgar must have joined in the snowballing a returned with wet hands as the remainder of the letter is barely legible due to faint or smudged ink.]

Mary, I __________ & I hardly know war to write but how would you like to go to State Prison again ____ I would just like to be somewhere I could go to Catherine’s place first rate but  I am not nor want to be for a long time but never mind; there is a better day coming. Whoever lives the ____ them. Ever since I have got back, I _____ than we ever did before for ____ have got ______ more rations and our cook don’t cook but little — more for _____. He is not too far ____ it is so much better _____ can’t eat so much of _____. My box _____ got here ____ but I [illegible].

I don’t think of anymore to write so I will quit by sending my true love to all. Don’t forget your Father & Mother. I remain your true love — Edger B. Bennett

[P.S. illegible]


1864 Letter

1864 Letter

Addressed to Miss Mary E. Marsh, Burlington, Connecticut

Camp in the field [near Petersburg, Virginia]
June 12th 1864

Dearest Mary,

It is with pleasure that I now take this opportunity to answer your kind and welcomed letter I have just received of the 6th. I was glad to hear from you often as our mail comes direct now. I was glad to hear you were all well. I am well and unharmed so far but the coming week I am afraid will be a hard one for there has been no fighting here now for several days. The signal officers say that Grant is going to try to move again this week. Oh, what a lot of soldiers will get killed and wounded if he does. I seen in the papers that the 2nd Connecticut Vol. [Heavy] Artillery has lost 385 men in their regiment but I have not seen the names.¹

We are having nice times here now for we are getting more rations. We get some soft bread. We get two loaves a week, and the rest is crackers.

Today is Sunday and I never witnessed a nicer day in the army and everything so quiet. But to look off on the works, it looks sad — also at the foot of our streets — to see the large number of headboards of where there is so many soldiers buried — some from our own regiment. Oh, Virginia has got[ten] to be quite a graveyard.

[You could] Also go outside the works and see the Rebs shells they have thrown over here and did not burst. They could be picked up by wagon loads. And no one dare touch them. There is a nice stream of water runs close by us where we go and wash every morning — all that wish to — at 3 o’clock. We have to [go] then as it is not safe to go any other time in the day when the Rebs keep quiet. We have nothing to do but to wash and make ourselves comfortable. Since I last wrote, we have not fired a shot.

Yes, Minnie, I think of you often and those many hours we spent so happily together. Give my truest love to all my friends. Love and a kiss to thee. I remain yours truly, — E. B. B.

¹ The 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery’s first battle was at Cold Harbor on June 1, 1864, where it suffered 323 men killed or wounded, including its Lieutenant-Colonel, Elisha S. Kellogg,  dead with two bullets to the head.


Battery of Mortars and Light Twelves, Lt. Jackson, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, 18th Corps Drawing by Alfred Waud, Library of Congress. (Hare House in background; became part of Fort Stedman)


Image 10

Addressed to Miss Mary E. Marsh, Burlington, Connecticut

Camp in the field [near Petersburg]
June 27, 1864

Dearest Mary,

It is with affection true that I take this opportunity to write you these few lines as I have not had time to write any before since the 24th as a detachment of our Company has moved and I had to go with them. We moved yesterday — myself and 13 other men. We are in what is called a redan and about 300 yards from the rebels picket line. Our company is the only one that is left here now as the rest of the regiment has gone to Petersburg but we expect to go soon. The sooner the better so we get away from this place for I don’t like being here quite so much.

Yesterday they were fighting on both sides of us and very hard too. Cannon was heard for miles but we have had not fighting since I last wrote. Our Col. [Henry L. Abbott] ¹ has left us and is General Grant’s staff. Our Major [Thomas S. Trumbull] ² is on Gen. Ferris’ staff, so we have not got but one field officer now with us. We are independent of anyone at the present and are having better times now than ever and live better. For the first time they gave us some pickles the other day. Pickles, onions, papers and cabbage and now they give us soft bread and how can we help but enjoy ourself with plenty of fresh beef. More than we want for when we get a pound before we can get it cooked, there will be two pounds of it and so we have to throw the most of it away for the flies are too thick. So we draw ham or bacon in its place.

I am seated in a bomb proof which is made to protect the infantry. We don’t have any news of any account from the army except reports for the papers don’t come here now and we don’t know where Grant is.

I think of nothing more so I will close. Give my love to all my truest love and a kiss to the ____. I remain your true and affectionate friend, Eddie Bennett

¹ Henry Larcum Abbott (1831-1927) was appointed colonel of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery on 19 January 1863. He was placed in charge of the “siege train” by U.S. Grant with the daunting responsibility to get heavy siege guns into position near Petersburg.

² In June 1864, the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery was ordered into positions near Petersburg to take part in the siege of the strategically important Virginia city. Maj. Thomas S. Trumbull, an officer from an old and prominent Connecticut family, was given command of several batteries of the regiment, and quickly settled into the hard and dangerous duty in the trenches. In a letter written on June 26, 1864, the day before Edgar’s letter, Major Trumbull brims with optimism and seems to relish the opportunities that lay ahead for him: “Our siege train arrived on Friday night, and three companies of our Regt. have already gone to Petersburg with guns, mortars &c. It would be improper for me to say how many guns have gone up, but I shall have a very pretty command. I do not wish to exaggerate the importance of my position, but I can safely say that it will be one of great responsibility & some honor We have had but little firing here for a few days past, and I was getting a little impatient at lying idle, while hearing the constant booming of Artillery from Petersburg. I judge we shall have plenty of firing up there, before long…” Trumbull’s assessment of the situation was spot on: “It will really be hard work for me to open fire in the beautiful city of Petersburg, but we shall have to do it, and in such a way that the enemy cannot live in it. My opinion may not be worth much, but I believe that the enemy will be forced to make a big fight at Petersburg, or evacuate Richmond. They must get hungry soon. I do not believe, of course that they will surrender, and if they fight I think they will have to be the attacking party, and then the result is run.”


Image 2

Addressed to Miss Mary E. Marsh, Burlington, Connecticut
Postmarked, Old Point Comfort, Virginia

Redoubt Anderson

Redoubt Anderson

Battery Anderson, Virginia
August 20th 1864

Mary Dear,

It is with affection true that I take this opportunity to write now a few lines hoping they may find you all well. I am well as usual and unharmed by the Rebs. There has been hard fighting on the north side of the James River for several days past.² We still remain in our old battery [on the Bermuda Front] where we are likely to stay till the whole lines are advanced. Petersburg is the same as it has been for the last two months.

Drawing of pontoon on Appomattox River, August 1864

Pontoon on Appomattox River, August 1864

It has been very warm lately but today it is quite cold and rains some. Yesterday I went down to the Appomattox River. There is a splendid view of the surrounding country. Pontoon bridges across the river and everything looks nice.

I have just stopped to have some watermelon that one of the boys brought in. They are plenty out here at 75 cts to 1.25 cts apiece; apples 2 for 5 cts — little green ones; tomatoes 25 cts quart; potatoes three pounds for 25 cents and everything is as high as they dare sell them. They haven’t got only little over two years longer to sell them to me at that price.

There is a great deal of talk about politics here and most of the soldiers go in for McClellan. There is but little said in favor of Abe. ³ They don’t like him at all. I see by the papers that the quota of Burlington is 12 for the last call. I would like to know where they are going to get them. I cannot see who there is to come. Most of the young folks have all gone before.

I think of no news to write so I will close by sending my love to all my friends. Love and a kiss to you. I remain your true and affectionate friend, — Eddie B. B.

Firing a Coehorn Mortar

Firing a Coehorn Mortar

¹ Edgar was in a detachment of Company K, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, that manned a Coehorn mortar-battery near Battery X adjacent to Fort Stedman that was defended by eight companies of the 14th New York Heavy Artillery. The following summarizes the positioning of the units that comprised the Third Brigade the morning of March 25, 1865:

The Third Brigade was formed on the lines as follows: Eight companies of the 14th New York Heavy Artillery garrisoned Fort Stedman and Battery X, and guarded the trenches from the fort to a point one hundred yards to the right of the battery, and the 57th Massachusetts occupied the trenches on the right of the 14th; a detachment of Company K, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery, served a Coehorn mortar-battery near Battery X, and one section of the 14th Massachusetts Battery, Light Artillery, was stationed in the battery. Two sections of the 19th New York Battery occupied Fort Stedman.

BattlesAndLeadersVol4Page579Image2The 29th and 59th Massachusetts garrisoned the trenches and occupied Batteries XI and XII, where, also, Company L, 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery served, with batteries of 8-inch and Coehorn mortars. The 100th Pennsylvania occupied the trenches from Battery XII to Fort Haskell, and the 3d Maryland those for a short distance on the left of that work. The garrison of Fort Haskell consisted of four companies (I, K, L, and M) of the 14th New York Heavy Artillery, Captain Christian Woerner’s 3d New Jersey Battery, and a detachment of the 1st Connecticut Heavy Artillery with Coehorn mortars. [Source: George L. Kilmer]

² Edgar is referring to a series of engagements (August 14-20) which has come to be called Second Battle Deep Bottom.

³ In general, union soldiers favored Lincoln over McClellan in the presidential election of 1864. Lincoln carried Connecticut by only a slim margin, however, receiving just 51.4% of the votes. Connecticut was probably the only state in which the soldier vote determined the winner and the disposition of the state’s electoral votes.


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