May 1865: Return to duty

By: David
Walls and moat around Fort Monroe, Va. My ancestor Arthur Bull was treated at the U.S. General Hospital at Fort Monroe from 15 March 1865 — returning to his artillery regiment on 2 May. Photo: David

On 2 May 1865, my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull returned to duty with his 6th New York Heavy Artillery regiment after a seven-week stay at the 1,800-bed U.S. General Hospital at Fort Monroe.

In a 27 Jan. 1884 report in Arthur’s pension file, the U.S. War Dept., Surgeon General’s Office, Record and Pension Division states:

Priv. Arthur T. Bull, Col. L, 6′ N.Y.H.A was admitted to G.H. Fort Monroe, Va. March 15, ’65 with functional disease of the heart, and returned to duty May 2, 1865.

During his absence, my ancestor’s unit played a role in some of the Civil War’s last confrontations in the east — contributing to the Confederate surrender at Appomattox.

In early April, according the diary of Sgt. William Thistleton of the 6th NYHA, portions of the regiment took part in live-fire probing actions, involving infantry and artillery, to test the Confederates’ strength — which were carried out along a broad Union front near Petersburg, Va. They also engaged in a bit of battlefront subterfuge.

April 2nd: at 5 P.M. were turned out and marched in sight of the enemy to make them believe we were reinforcements.

By 4 April, nearby Confederate troops had evacuated Petersburg and were moving west.  Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds of the 6th NYHA penned a letter to his wife on 9 April from Petersburg.

It is now a certainty that the back bone of the Confederacy is broken beyond recovery. No doubt there has been great rejoicing in the North for several days past.

The African American population “as a body our our friends and rejoiced at our occupation of the City,” wrote Pvt. Reynolds. And in a 14 April letter, he captured the exuberance and troop movements at the war’s end.

Last night there was a salute of 100 guns fired in Richmond on the surrender of Gen’l Johnson & his army and it is reported that Jeff Davis is with him. We have moved so often of late we don’t expect to stay here long.

Sgt. Thistleton noted in his diary that the 6th NYHA camped in Petersburg’s Poplar Lawn Park (today called Central Park), pulled guard duty on the rail line to City Point (“called Grant’s Road”) and settled in a new camp at the end of the month.

April 22: moved our camp nearer to the City of Petersburg quartered in a large saw mill at a place called Blanford (sic) a small place just out of the City doing guard duty at the Depot until the 23rd of May.

That’s were the 6th NYHA was stationed when my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull rejoined them on 2 May 1865. More in the next post.

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