Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Leverett Bradley: A Soldier-Boy’s Letters (1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery.)

Camp 1st Mass. H. Arty., Near Burksville Junction, Va.,
Apr. 20, 1865.

Dear Jed:

I have been at work all the afternoon fixing up our tent. I have seen considerable within the last few weeks; when we first struck the “John Henrys “and had followed them a few miles, we began to pick up the relics by the bushels, a great many of which had to be thrown away, as the marches were so severe that the men had rather keep their tack; but we had but little of that. I have got a Confederate States Army Regulations. We are just getting the news of the surrender of Johnson to Sherman. The boys say be ready to meet them at the depot with your drums about the 4th July. They begin to feel more homesick; they feel they have done their duty and now want to go home. Some 60 cannon were dug up near the station today, which the Rebs buried, and placed head boards at the head of the graves; some were Sergts, corpls. &c, quite a joke! Our Co. (just previous to our first move from camp) was changed from the third to the Second Batt. Our U. S. colors got torn all to pieces in our late scrap, and shell broke the staff in three pieces and tore the flag from the staff. We pitch our tent this time as we used to last summer, high, and then build a bunk of poles. We have got a gay one. We have three wool blankets and are hunky! None of us expect any more fighting. I got a chronicle of our new president’s plans and views, the most noticible being, “treason must be punished.” I feel that the South were interested in the late assassination. It will avail them nothing; but will rather injure them. I think they can well say that this is a curious army: a foreign one would have massacred the inhabitants on receiving the news that we rec’d, but with us it was all quiet. Tell mother my catarrh is all right. Give my regards to all the boys and gals.

Love to all.                                           Lev.

Camp In The Field, Near Burksville Junction, Va.,
April 17, 1865.

Dear Family:

We moved yesterday to this position, only a few rods from our former one, to wait orders. We rec’d the sad news of President Lincoln’s being severely wounded in the head, yesterday morning, and of his death last night. The news cast a gloom upon all. Many were the oaths taken against the perpetrator of the deed. We rec’d no particulars, simply that it was by J. W. Booth in Ford’s theatre, and that Sec’ty of State Mr. Seward and his son were attacked in their own house. We have had no newspapers of late date, since we left Petersburg, except the Richmond Whig, which goes on the same as before, with a great change in its tone. I will try now and give you a description of our operations, although I have no notes to copy from. I think it is impressed strongly enough upon my memory to transfer it to paper.

Sunday morning, Apr. 2nd, at about 7 o’clk our Regt. with the 5th Mich, filed out through the works into the woods on a double quick; all expected a repetition of the scene we passed through before, but what was our surprise, when we passed by the picket line, through the woods into an open field in full view of the Johnnies’ works, and found them vacated. We immediately struck off in pursuit up the Boydton flank road, the sixth Corps in advance. The “Johns” made a stand about two miles from the City and the Artillery kept up the firing for the rest of the day. The next morning, we took the back road and struck out for the Danville road, which we reached the night of the 5th; fortified across it. Our Corps struck the Rebs the next day and gave them an awful run; they would make a stand on a hill, our skirmish line would run them out and then the Cavalry would give them a charge across the open country, till they found they had made another halt. The road was strewn with cars, ammunition boxes, blankets, old broken down mules, horses and wagons, caissons, limbers, forges, and occasionally a gun. The men were all excitement over our late victories and nothing could stop them. Our Brigade captured seven flags. Our regt. was unlucky and got none. We followed them up this way till the surrender. I have never seen such a sight and never expect to, as I did when Genl. Meade rode in from the front and a staff officer announced that Lee had surrendered [the surrender of General Lee at Appomattox Court House]. The men hurrahed as if their throats would split. Soon after Meade came riding through the lines. All the flags were given to the breeze and the men crowded around them and cheered lustily, rushing after Genl. Meade all the time. Men threw up their caps, haversacks, and canteens and some even took off their shoes and threw them up, running a great risk of ever getting them again. Every one had a smile on his face, although they had been without rations for a day and a half.

Regards and love to all.                                                                 Lev.

Camp 1st Mass. H. Art., March 28, 1865.

Dear Jed:

I received your letter. I take this opportunity to answer, not knowing that I shall ever have another. We are under orders to move at 6 A.M. tomorrow; rations are being drawn and other little matters attended to, but you know too well how this is all done. The 24th Corps is here with Sheridan’s famous raiders and rumors have it that we are to join Sherman across the Country. I hope so for one; but it may only be a move for the south side of the R. R. The recommendations that you wished me to get for you have been obtained. I feel as though I must give you a little advice. Have you considered and made up your mind to give the rest of your years to your country? Either branches of the service are apt to lose their charm after a few years. It seems to me that you could choose some occupation or profession that you would be more capable of, and feel better satisfied with. I am willing, so far as it lays in my power, to do anything for you, even giving money for your advancement, of which you were robbed, by entering the service at so youthful an age. We can say that we passed three years in our country’s service together. I will close now, to get a little sleep before tomorrow’s movements. I beg of you now give this subject a long thought, for I think that your future depends upon it. You are moulding what is to be the man.

Give my love to all; please remember me to all enquiring friends.

Ever your brother,

L. Bradley, Jr.

Camp In The Field,
Feb. 12, 1865.

Dear Mother:

We were forced to come back from Washington by the Potomac river. There was but one Brigade in the fight [2nd Hatch’s Run] last Sunday night, the 3rd of our division. They were charged three successive times by Divisions. And a fresh division each time. It is said that Genl. Lee commanded the movements in person. They intended to break our lines and by so doing, cut off the 5th Corps, which had gone out farther on the left. But they ran foul of fighting stock and were driven back with great loss. Our artillery was placed in such a position that it cut them up terribly. Four men were found at the foot of a tree, all mangled up. The battery belonged to the “Old Bay State,” viz. 10th Mass. I did not join the regt. till Thursday; I found them in a small pine thicket. The smoke was so dense as to be able to cut in slices. Our eyes were all blood shot. The old company was right glad to see me back. Do not take what I write as self esteem! It was proposed to give me three cheers; but the plan was abandoned much to my pleasure. All the time that I was gone there had been a perfect hubbub in the company. Sergt. D. not knowing human nature, swords had to be drawn one time. It was a great pleasure to me to be welcomed back the way I was. Every one had a good word to say to me. I pray God that I may always deal with men in such a manner that I may be looked up to as one possessing a whole soul, for it is a great pleasure to one to know that he is liked. And especially one placed as I am. We have moved every day since I got back. Yesterday our regt. with the 93rd N. Y. was on fatigue, slashing timber in front of works. It was splendid wood. I cannot imagine what farmers North would say to see the whole of an immense forrest levelled in a day. We are lying now on a hill in an open field. There is a good prospect of our going in to camp, but for how long no one knows. I have found all of my things well cared for, stove and all. I have slept well since I got back. Do not, I beg of you, feel any uneasiness on my account. What ever I need I will write for. I wish you would get some yarn or worsted and get one of the Dole’s to knit me a sleeping cap; if they can’t do it, get some one else. It would be a great comfort to me to have one, I have caught a cold already. I will do the honorable when I write to them. I enjoyed my furlough hugely; but bidding you all a long farewell marred the pleasure slightly. I beg of you again, do not worry for me; although life is uncertain, it is not necessary to borrow trouble. A great many of the regiments are without officers. By the last move, our lines have been lengthened three miles. We are ignorant of the genl. result of the move. My regards to all enquiring friends, and love to all the Bradley family.                    Your dutiful son,

Leverett Bradley, Jr.

P. S. Captain [he always called his father that in these days], our men slightly wounded are falling off very fast. Co. B numbers only twenty-eight ready for duty. I wish you might get a place for me. I shall not expect one, because so many want them.

[He held the position of orderly sergeant, and was at many times commanding the company on account of the loss or absence of all commissioned officers.—Ed.]

Camp 1st Mass. H. Arty.,
Dec. 31st, 1864.

Dear Family:

I rec’d your last Sabbath letter, yesterday morn’g. It has been raining and snowing. I have but just returned from the Major’s office, where I have been to report concerning the absence of men, preparatory to a muster for payment. This is the first time, for three years, that I have not made out the rolls; but my duties are such now that it would be impossible to do it. I have to drill recruits once a week, besides the regular forms and duties that it is necessary for us to go through, as soon as we come to a halt. Frank’s letter I shall preserve with great care, or rather I wish you to. I shall enclose it with this, where you can let it remain. In years to come, if through the divine mercy of God, we are both permitted to live, it would doubtless be a pleasure to us both to look back to this his first letter. The wind has started up and it is snowing at a furious rate. Many of us are unprepared for it. My tent is quite comfortable, but I am forced to lay on the ground; wood is very scarce with us, having to back it almost a mile, and nothing but green pine at that. It will probably be drawn to us if we stop here any length of time. I am writing in great haste and in the cold, as you will plainly see by the writing. But come to look it over, as I have just done, it looks and reads a great deal worse than I expected; but I am forced to let it go, for this time, and in order to pass it by to my advantage, you will not consider it my weekly missive.                            Love to all from                               Lev.

[On January 1, 1865, he was promoted to orderly sergeant and had a furlough of ten days.—Ed.]

[On December 7 he was in the engagement called “Weldon Raid,” but he had stopped recording in his diary. Another soldier writes:

“Supposing that the campaign was ended and that we were now to have winter quarters, the men went to work with a will, and in four days had put up comfortable log huts, all supplied with fireplaces; but on the 6th of December orders were rec’d to march at daylight. The men suffered severely on this raid, many of them coming back over frozen ground without shoes. The distance marched was ninety-six miles.”—Ed.]

Head Quars. Co. B 1st Mass. H. A.,
Dec. 4, 1864.

Dear Family:

Your last was rec’d in due time. Since I last wrote our whole Corps has moved, relieving the 19th at the left of the line. The duties in front of Petersburg were too hard for this corps, with too small numbers. We are now in a fine forest in front of Fort Emory (the one we built the first time that we went to the left, Jerry). The men are building commodious quarters, wood being plenty. Picket duty is very easy here, there being no enemy in sight. Some of the boys heard by letter of the fellows who died in the Bull pens of Georgia. It is terrible to think of, men of strong constitutions and muscular frames, in the prime of life, should die such a death. Starvation, for that is the death that I think they died of. Think of being penned up, dying inch by inch daily, and at last, rot to pieces. I can assure you I shall run a great risk of life before I shall be taken prisoner, for I consider that death is better than a southern Bull pen. It is very evident that Lawrence has a great deal to do with this regt. It is now called a Lawrence and Ipswich Regt. I think by seeing H’s father about my case, or even getting some one in Lawrence to write, would be the best way to carry it through. But do it without my knowledge.

About my pictures, you did perfectly right, Susan Jane!                                            Love to all from

Lev. Bradley, Jr.

P. S. Jerry, you might send me a V., which would be very acceptable.

Fort Hayes, Near Petersburg, Va., Nov. 14, 1864

Dear Family:

Yours of the 6th inst arrived in due time. I have been waiting anxiously to hear from Jere, as he promised to write as soon as he got home. The process of getting mustered out should receive particular attention. I shall forward today his descriptive list, to Major Clark, Boston, Mass. I would advise Jerry to report without delay, after the receipt of this, and do the best he can, for his furlough and term of service expire at the same time.

The weather has been changeable for the past fortnight. At first it was exceedingly cold, then we began to have the beautiful indian summer. The days were perfectly delightful and the nights equally so; but now it seems as if cold winter had fairly set in, but we are fully prepared for him, with a large fire place and a comfortable sheebang. There have been quite a number of promotions in the regt.; doubtless you have read of them in the papers. There was a great deal of surprise expressed when the commissions came, for some have received them that we supposed stood no chance at all; two of them, B ――and A――n. have been in only one fight (the first) and have played ever since. The quarter master Sergt. was promoted, which left a vacancy there. I was asked for; but the Major refused to let me go, on the grounds that he wanted me here, to do the writing for the companies B and C. I think they are not using me exactly right; but still I shall not complain; but one thing is, he is discouraging good behavior and a soldierly bearing; but it shall not serve to move me from a straight and forward course. No one has gone as yet, and they know of no one to send. So perhaps I shall get it yet; but I shall not expect it. Promotions have been made in the Regiment by the Gov. without the sanction of the Regt. Commander. I am not particularly desirous of another lift, but if you think best and should some day have a chance to speak to some influential man, it would have a great weight in the matter. I understand now that names have been forwarded to the Gov. for promotion; but ignorant who they are. Genl. Hancock has tried to get this Corps to the rear in camp, but was unsuccessful. I for one was glad of it.

Old Fort days seem like home. Love to all.

L. Bradley, Jr.

[He was made quartermaster-sergeant.—Ed.]

Nov. 8th. Abraham Lincoln re-elected President of the United States of America by a large majority over Genl. Geo. B. McClellan, candidate of the Chicago Convention.

Jerry arrived home; met father and mother at the village.

Nov. 4th. Went down to Div. Hospital; took Jerry’s rifle. His furlough was a surprise.

[Jerry was very ill and Leverett and the colonel succeeded in getting him a furlough. It was made out giving him leave to go home to vote. He was bugler of the regiment and only sixteen years old! He got through the journey as far as the train from New York to Boston. There he entered the car so weak he could hardly stand. The car was crowded; but he was made to feel how little the people of the North realized the hardship of the soldiers’ lives, for they pushed by him as a vagabond and he sank exhausted on the floor in the corner of the car and could not keep back the tears.—Ed.]