Washington Review and Construction of the Capital Dome - Inventory Number: DOC 169
Four page letter from Charles H. Pickett, Company "H" of the 15th Connecticut Infantry with envelope and stamp. Letter is dated Virginia Oct. 19th, 1862. Envelope is addresses to Warner Pickett and includes a Washington postmark.
Reads as follows:
"Virginia Oct. 19th 1862
Your letter dated the 12th came duly to hand, Elliot and I are feeling first rate. Yesterday I went to review on Capital Hill. It is about 7 miles from camp. There was about 7 Regiments besides ours there. We were reviewed by General Banks and Casey. The 15th was the best drilled and the best looking regiment on the ground. The weather is growing cooler here and I think more healthful though a good many have the fever and ague. The grounds around the camp are kept as clean as a kitchen floor and everything looks neat and clean. I have grown fat since coming here I went through the yard of the Capital yesterday when we were coming from review and picked up a piece of the stone they are making the pillars of the pillars would measures four feet through them I should think and about 16 feet long. The dome of the capital is not finished and probably wwill not be fore some years, it is a noble building.
You wanted to know if I should be willing that you should use my bounty, I am perfectly willing that should. I would likr to have you consider it as your own it will not begin to cancel what I owe to you.
If Mother should have time between now and winter I should like to have some stockings knit. Kiss Nellie for me not Nellie Hills but Nellie M. Pickett and give my love to Mother. I will write you again soon and keep you posted in regard to our where bouts from your affectionate son.
Charles H. Pickett"
Charles H. Pickett:
Residence Naugatuck CT;
Enlisted on 8/5/1862 as a Private.
On 8/25/1862 he mustered into "H" Co. CT 15th Infantry
He was Mustered Out on 6/27/1865
CONNECTICUT FIFTEENTH REGIMENT C. V. INFANTRY. (Three Years.)
WRITTEN BY COLONEL GEORGE M. WHITE, LATE CAPTAIN OF COMPANY E, FIFTEENTH CONNECTICUT VOLUNTEERS.
The Fifteenth Regiment was recruited in New Haven County in July and August, 1862, and was mustered into United States service in camp at Oyster Point, New Haven, August 25th. Under the organization thus effected, Dexter R. Wright of Meriden became Colonel, Samuel Tolles of New Haven Lieutenant-Colonel, and E. Walter Osborn of New Haven Major. Of these, only Major Osborn had seen prior service in the civil war, though Lieutenant-Colonel Tolles had at an earlier period been identified with the State militia as Captain of the "New Haven Grays."
On August 28th, without arms, but with a fine stand of colors presented through Hon. O. H. Platt by the ladies of Meriden, the regiment left New Haven for Washington, D. C., where it arrived on the 30th and went into camp on Arlington Heights. It spent its first day and night in this camp without arms or tents, and in this condition listened to the artillery of the second battle of Bull Run, only twenty miles away. The regiment received its arms and camp equipage next day, and was at once assigned to the duty of guarding Long Bridge.
Orders were received on September 5th for the regiment to join the Union forces hurrying into Maryland to repel the invasion of Lee's army, but they were at once countermanded, and during that critical period the Fifteenth continued guarding Long Bridge, a part of the time encamped near the unfinished Washington monument, but most of the time at "Camp Chase," on Arlington Heights. Here it remained until November, the night duty in the malarial atmosphere and fogs of the Potomac flats working serious harm to the health of the men.
During November the regiment was encamped at Fairfax Seminary, Va., guarding an extended picket line, attending numerous parades and reviews, and suffering fearfully from malaria contracted while on duty at Long Bridge. On December 1st the Fifteenth recrossed Long Bridge into Washington and began its march down the Maryland side of the Potomac. On December 6th, having reached a point nearly opposite Aquia Creek, Va., it crossed the river and bivouacked, without tents or cooking utensils, in eight inches of snow, on the Virginia side. Four days later the Fifteenth was a part of the "Connecticut Brigade" encamped at Falmouth, Va., opposite Fredericksburg, amid surroundings which fastened upon the location the name of "Camp Mud." The Fifteenth was now in "Harland's Brigade," made up of the Eighth, Eleventh,
Fifteenth, Sixteenth, and Twenty-first Connecticut regiments, and designated the Third Brigade, First Division, Ninth Army Corps.
Burnside's attack on Fredericksburg began with heavy artillery on December 11th, and on the 12th the Fifteenth crossed with its brigade into the town, and bivouacked in the streets with the shells from both armies flying or bursting over head.
On the 13th the regiment saw repeated and desperate assaults upon the rebel lines repulsed with fearful loss, and at 6 P. M., with the entire Connecticut Brigade, marched out and bivouacked for the night within short range of the rebel guns which had so effectually defended Marye's Heights. This was probably the most quiet night the regiment or the brigade ever passed in bivouac, and never was quietness less expected. With the dawn of Sunday, December 14th, the brigade filed back into the main street of Fredericksburg. The regimental and company officers were soon called to headquarters, and on their return the brigade was called into line to await orders for a grand assault upon the Heights, to be headed by the old Ninth Corps, with General Burnside personally in command. During six hours of suspense the men stood in line fully realizing what was before them, but the slaughter was averted by the wise council of corps commanders.
At midnight of next day Harland's Brigade was silently wending its way over the pontoon bridge, and daylight found it at its former camp ready for picket duty on the same lines as before the battle. The Fifteenth had borne its share of marching and suspense, but its casualties in this terrible contest amounted to but two killed and eight wounded. By being held in reserve for the final assault, Harland's Brigade had unwittingly been kept out of active participation in the bloodiest part of the fight.
From the disaster at Fredericksburg, for nearly two months the Fifteenth was occupied only by camp duties and the ordinary alarms, until Feb. 6, 1863, when with the Connecticut Brigade, it left its camp before Fredericksburg for Newport News, Va., where it went into comfortable barracks on February 8th. After a pleasant month here it embarked with the brigade for Norfolk, Va., and on March 14th arrived at Suffolk, where it went into camp west of the town. Here Colonel Charles L. Upham assumed command of the Fifteenth, Colonel Wright having resigned soon after the battle of Fredericksburg, in consequence of disability incurred at Long Bridge.
The Post was commanded by General Peck, and he soon had all the troops shoveling dirt and making gabions in defense of a place which seemed as destitute of strategical importance as any in the Southern Confederacy. But the work went on, despite
grumbling, and by April 10th the reason for it was apparent. Suffolk was besieged by Longstreet, who, almost as soon as his presence was known, held the town as in a vise. From then until May 3d, when a determined sortie, in which the Fifteenth participated, disclosed the fact that he was preparing to retreat, Longstreet was given no rest, and on the 4th he hurried his main force across the Black Water, leaving many of his rear guard to fall into our hands.
From the raising of the siege until June 20th the regiment was very pleasantly quartered in various camps in or near Suffolk, but on the latter date it took cars for Portsmouth, and soon after arriving there joined the raid up the Peninsula organized by General Dix for the purpose of drawing Lee from Pennsylvania by threatening Richmond. This raid, leaving White House Landing, whither it had gone by water on July 1st, was simply a forced march, in the hottest season of the year, to the immediate vicinity of the rebel capital, and then back down the Peninsula to Hampton, Va.; a distance from start to finish of 120 miles.
On July 4th the Union forces were within twelve miles of Richmond, but Lee was already fleeing from Gettysburg, and it was too late to take Richmond by surprise. Terrible as was the strain of this march upon the men, it really accomplished nothing in a military sense, and on July 14th the regiment was back in its camp at Portsmouth in a most dilapidated and exhausted condition. The Fifteenth was occupied with camp and picket duty at Portsmouth and South Mills from now until January 21, 1864, when it took steamer for Morehead City, N. C., arriving January 23d. It went at once to Newbern, thence directly to Plymouth, N. C., and back again to Newbern on February 3d, and on April 18th started for Little Washington, N. C., where it arrived on the 19th. On the next day the rebel general, Hoke, captured Plymouth and its garrison, including the Sixteenth Connecticut, and on the 27th Hoke's force appeared in front of Little Washington. He left without a serious attack, and on the 29th, in obedience to orders from the commanding officer at Newbern, who expected an attack, General Harland dismantled the forts at Little Washington, burned the government buildings, and embarked the troops for Newbern with all possible haste. Arriving in Newbern, the Fifteenth was assigned to provost duty, and the town was for several days threatened with siege, but like Little Washington it was watchfully defended, and the stubborn defense of Plymouth had given the rebel general, Hoke, little ambition to assail a town which he could not surprise.
With the Fifteenth on provost duty in Newbern, the time passed with only ordinary camp duty and occasional raids until the last of August, when an enemy appeared against which watchfulness and personal bravery were of no avail. That enemy was the yellow fever, and its presence in the Department was first announced by Surgeon Holcomb of the Fifteenth. The Medical Director of the Department was at first inclined to dispute Dr. Holcomb's assertion, but its truth was soon so unmistakably manifest that, instead of being ordered in arrest as an alarmist, Surgeon Holcomb was invited to a consultation to determine how best to care for the cases actually in hand, and arrest the spread of the disease. Surgeon Holcomb was thoroughly prepared, by previous practical experience, for this emergency, and he was the only medical officer at Newbern at that time of whom this could be said. All other troops save the Fifteenth were soon moved out of Newbern, and the abandonment of property by such of the native residents as could get away, together with the care of the deserted sick residents who remained, largely increased the duty required of the Fifteenth as provost guard of the stricken city. In a short time, more than half the regiment were down with the disease. A little later the muffled drums of the burial parties were sounding constantly from sunrise till dark. A few more days and all burial ceremony was dispensed with, and the bodies of the victims were hurried underground in the quickest manner possible, the burial details often necessarily consisting of soldiers who were themselves under treatment in the incipient stage of the disease. For more than two months, with all its convalescents on duty, the regiment employed every known means to extirpate the disease. The city was fumigated as effectively as possible by means of huge bonfires, commissary buildings were burned, and every unsanitary locality was cleansed, but not until frost came in November was there any relief. During this terrible ordeal the Fifteenth lost over seventy men by death, and as many more disabled by the fever, while of those remaining for duty there were few who had not suffered from the disease.
The regiment continued on provost duty at Newbern through the winter, and received a large number of recruits. On December 9th a brigade under Colonel Upham, of which the Fifteenth formed a part, started on short notice in the direction of Kinston. Its object was to surprise Kinston by fording the Neuse River, destroy the rebel ram lying there, and by this means to so occupy the attention of the rebels as to facilitate a movement by General Grant to extend his lines in the direction of Weldon, N. C. The brigade was scarcely out of Newbern before a heavy winter rain came on, ending in snow; but despite this the crossings at Jackson's Creek were carried and the force pushed on only to find the river so swollen by the rains as to render fording impossible. Rebel re-enforcements were hurried up from Goldsboro', and Colonel Upham had no alternative but to retire to Newbern.
Early in February the rapid accumulation of stores at Newbern indicated that important movements were to be made from that point. General Schofield was assigned to the command of the Department of North Carolina, and his Army Corps, the Twenty-third, began soon to arrive. With it came a large number of recruits from the West to join their regiments with General Sherman. Nearly three hundred of these Western recruits were temporarily assigned to the Fifteenth, and the regiment thus enlarged was divided into two battalions, commanded respectively by Lieutenant-Colonel Tolles and Major Osborn, and incorporated in a provisional brigade, to which was added the Twenty-seventh Massachusetts Infantry, a section of a New York battery, and a detachment of cavalry, all under command of Colonel Upham of the Fifteenth. The advance encountered no serious opposition until on the 7th it reached the rebel entrenched line at South West Creek; and here the brigade was disposed within short range of the rebel lines to await further orders and the disposition of the main force under General Cox. Skirmishing now became lively, and the morning of the 8th showed a determined rebel line in Upham's immediate front, with his nearest support two miles in the rear. Desultory fighting continued till afternoon of the 8th, when suddenly a furious attack from the left, and almost simultaneously from the rear, showed that the brigade was surrounded by an immensely superior force. Hoke with his entire rebel division had reached the rear by the left, and was dealing the little brigade an overwhelming blow in the belief that he was attacking Schofield's entire force. The two battalions of the Fifteenth and the Twenty-seventh Massachusetts fought desperately for an hour, changing front first to left and then to rear, until, almost in the form of a hollow square, the doomed brigade was receiving a murderous fire from all directions. Not until the rebels broke through and occupied even the centre of the square did the fighting cease, and then simply because further fighting was impossible. There was no surrender--it was simply a capture; and when it was over the rebel general for the first time realized that he had been fighting but a small fraction of the Union forces in his front. This sacrifice of Upham's brigade was probably not intended, but had it been deliberately planned, it might possibly be justified as good tactics. By means of it the rebel general lost two days in what he intended to be a surprise which should hurl back the Union force upon Newbern, and effectually cripple that river port as a future base of supply to either Grant or Sherman. When on the 10th he made a second attempt, he found the entire Union force ready to receive him, and was repulsed with a loss which crippled his own force and left the way open for Schofield to join Sherman and Terry at Goldsboro'.
The Fifteenth now had a short tour off duty as prisoners of war, being paroled from Libby Prison March 26th, and was soon back at Kinston, N. C., on duty as provost guard, where it remained until June 6, 1865, when it was ordered to Newbern for muster-out. All members of the regiment whose terms of service did not expire prior to September 30, 1865, were transferred by order of General Schofield to the Seventh Connecticut, and on June 30th the Fifteenth embarked for New Haven, where it arrived on July 4th, and was finally mustered out July 12, 1865.
Fredericksburg, Va., Dec. 13, 1862.
Edenton Road, Va., Apr. 24, 1863.
Providence Church Road, Va., May 3, 1863.
Siege of Suffolk, Va., Apr. 12 to May 4, 1863.
Kinston, N. C., Mch. 8, 1865
Inventory Number: DOC 169