Saturday, June 21, 2014

Letter from Rufus R. Dawes to his wife, Mary Gates Dawes

Line of Battle before Petersburg,
June 21st, 1864

I am sitting in a hole four feet deep, eight feet long and three feet wide, shaded by green boughs and quite cool and pleasant for a hot day.  This is my regimental headquarters.  Sergeant Major Cuyler Babcock, who is Acting Adjutant, sits at the other end of the hole, and we are company for each other.  To raise a head in daylight above the surface of the ground is almost certain death, for it will draw the fire of a dozen sharpshooters.  Babcock knows nothing about Latin, but I taught him to-day about twenty lines of Cicero’s first oration against Caitlin, and so we pass our time.  Few of our men are hurt and none need be.  Sometimes a foolish fellow will imagine he wants a drink of water badly enough risk his life to get it, and he generally loses his life trying to run for it.  We have lost forty-five men before Petersburg, six killed. The suicidal manner in which we are sent against the enemy’s entrenchments is discouraging.  Our brigade was simply food for powder in the assault day before yesterday.

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