Tag Archives: Petersburg

Final duty in Petersburg, Va.

On 27 June 1865, my ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull joined Co. E of the 6th New York Heavy Artillery — a consolidated battalion that was created at the end of the Civil War when 10th NYHA soldiers were transferred in to replace 6th NYHA soldiers who were returning home.

http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2013647585/
U.S. Bvt. Major General E. Ferrero and staff (1861-1865). Like the soldiers at the lower right, my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull served as a provost guard at BMG Ferrero’s headquarters, and later in Petersburg, Va., from June – August 1865. Photo: Library of Congress

The reorganized 6th NYHA was assigned to provost guard duty in Petersburg, Va. from June – August 1865. This assignment speaks highly of the integrity of the men — among them my great, great grandfather.

They were tasked with keeping order in support of the Union Army’s political, economic and social service functions in a severely damaged city that lacked a civilian government at war’s end.

Sometimes this included serving as headquarters guard for Union officers — a duty my ancestor carried out at the headquarters of U.S. Brevet Major General Ferrero — or coming to the aid of the civilian population.

At war’s end, the Union Army also relied on the provost guards to keep order during the earliest stages of Reconstruction as it set about assisting and protecting the newly free African American population now that the brutal system of slavery had at last been eliminated.

Alas, my ancestor’s pension file contains little information about this period of his military service.  But in a letter to his wife, one of his fellow soldiers — Pvt. Orson Reynolds of the 6th NYHA — wrote a humorous passage indicating that the dangers of battle appeared to be over.

Petersburg, Va. June 29, 1865: All is quiet within our lines and no great battles have been fought within the last few days of late in this vicinity except it be with mosquitoes and fleas which are somewhat troublesome [in] this warm weather.

As Pvt. Reynolds, my ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull and their compatriots carried out their duties, they likely did so while longing for home now that the fighting was over — especially as they bid farewell to fellow soldiers who were being mustered out ahead of them. Again, from Pvt. Reynolds’ letter:

I read in the papers that great preparations are being made to celebrate the 4th in our State [New York]. Some time ago I hoped to be with you on that day but it was a vain hope and not to be realized…John O’Connor left Petersburgh (sic) for home some time ago and no doubt has reached it ere this.

And here I pause to express my gratitude to 6th NYHA Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds of Bombay, Franklin Co., N.Y., for his detailed, heartfelt letters home — the last of which is quoted above — and to his family members, who saved his letters and generously shared them by allowing them to be transcribed.

My great, great grandfather’s story would have been that much harder to tell had it not been for Pvt. Reynolds’ correspondence — written between September 1864 and June 1865 during a time when he shared by ancestor’s Civil War experience.

My great, great grandfather Pvt. Arthur Bull remained on duty in Petersburg, Va.,  through the summer of 1865, until he was mustered out with his company in August. More on this in the next post.

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Soldiers bid farewell

At the end of June 1865, the Union Army’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery — my ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull’s regiment — was reorganized as some of his Civil War compatriots mustered out and began returning home.

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Petersburg, Va. Row of stacked Federal rifles; houses beyond (4 April 1865). Some soldiers from my ancestor’s 6th New York Heavy Artillery regiment mustered out in late June 1865. Before departing for home, they presented a set of veteran colors to those who remained on duty. Photo: Library of Congress

In his diary, Sgt. William Thistleton of the 6th NYHA traced the regiment’s journey  from central Virginia back to Petersburg as part of this post-war troop pulldown.

June 20th Packed up in readiness to move. June 21st started at 4 a.m. and marched to Burksville (sic.) station we were releaved (sic) by the 16th NY.H. Artillery at Burksville took the cars for Petersburg arrived 7 p.m. left the cars and crossed the Appomattox to Pocahontas heights and pitched our tents.

While they were camped, my great, great grandfather’s regiment was divided up — with some soldiers he had fought with for more than a year bidding a military farewell as they returned to their civilian lives. Sgt. William Thistleton was one of them, and he described the scene.

June 22nd the regiment were divided this morning the original members who enlisted in 1862 and the one years men who enlisted in 1864 are to be sent home and mustered out and the three years men who enlisted in 1863 were consolidated with a similar detachment of the 10th N.Y. Artillery and designated the second Battalion 6th N.Y.H. Artillery and were detailed to do provost guard duty at Petersburg. Before we departed we presented them with a set of veteran colors.

My ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull enlisted in 1863 and was a three-year man, so he remained on duty. According to a Company Muster Roll in his pension file, Arthur transferred from Co. L into “Co. E, Consolidated Battalion 6 and 10 N.Y.H. Artillery,” which was formed on 27 June 1865.

Sgt. William Thistleton mustered out the same day, and here we bid him a fond farewell. His diary has been invaluable in helping me piece together my great, great grandfather’s Civil War experience — from his earliest battles in May 1864 through the end of the war in 1865.

As I have inherited no journal or correspondence from my ancestor, I will be forever grateful that Sgt. Thistleton took the time to chronicle his experience — and that of the 6th NYHA regiment –for the benefit of future generations.

More on my ancestor’s final army days in the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Grand Review of the Armies

When the Grand Review of the Armies took place in Washington, D.C. — a mammoth procession and celebration held 23-24 May 1865 at the close of the U.S. Civil War — my ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was still on duty in Virginia with the 6th New York Heavy Artillery and en route to a new location.

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U.S. Gen. William T. Sherman’s troops at the Grand Review of the Armies, Washington, D.C. (24 May 1865). Shown is the 20th Army Corps., Army of the Georgia, passing in review as seen from the the Treasury Bldgs. looking up Pennsylvania Ave. My ancestor Union Pvt. Arthur Bull was still on duty in Virginia during the Grand Review and en route to a new assignment. Photo: Library of Congress

As members of the Union Armies of the Potomac, Shenandoah, Georgia and Tennessee marched down Pennsylvania Avenue 150 years ago this week — before cheering crowds and past the presidential reviewing stand — Sgt. William Thistleton chronicled the 6th NYHA’s movements near Petersburg, Va., where my ancestor had been stationed since 2 May 1865.

May 23rd at 7 we left our quarters for a little march to the canal basin about 1 ½ miles the other side of the city [of Petersburg] camped all night in the freight house.

May 24th took the cars at the South Side Railroad went to Burkeville station arrived at 1 P.M. rested until 4 P.M. then we marched about 5 miles halted for the night.

May 25th at 5 a.m. on the march again marched 16 ½ miles to Lunenburg Court House arrived at 1 P.M. weather very warm.

My great, great grandfather entered the service in January 1864, and he was scheduled to serve for three years. Now that the Civil War was officially over, Arthur and others in his regiment likely hoped for an early release to return home.

So they may have been surprised by this new assignment, as reflected in 6th NYHA Pvt. Orson L. Reynolds’ letters to his wife.

Petersburg, Va., May 7th, 1865: Another week has rolled around and we still remain at Petersburg…We will probably stay here until the State government gets into operation and no longer…I have a much easier time here than I probably should were I at home. Yet I long to be with my wife and children.

Lunenburg Court House, Va., May 27, 1865: I am some seventy miles south west from Petersburgh (sic) & of course so much farther from home. Our Regiment took the cars last Wednesday for Burksville Junction and were marched from thence to this place arriving Thursday noon…I am told our prospects remain good for our remaining here for the remainder of our term of service.

Arthur’s 6th NYHA regiment was now attached to the Union Army of the James in Sub-District of Roanoke, District of the Nottoway in the Dept. of Virgnia.

More on his regiment’s new duties in the next post.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Postwar Petersburg

When my Union Army ancestor Pvt. Arthur Bull returned to active service with his 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery regiment on 2 May 1865, he reported to Blandford, Virginia, near Petersburg — a new location which brought new postwar duties.

By: Internet Archive Book Images
Civil War map of Petersburg, Va. My ancestor Arthur Bull was stationed in Blandford, Va., (upper right) in early May 1865 when Union Armies passed through en route to the post-war Grand Review of the Armies in Washington, D,C. Image: Internet Archive Book Images

On 3 May 1865  — the day after my ancestor’s return — Pvt. Orson Reynolds of the 6th NYHA sent an assessment of the situation to his wife.

The people of Virginia have had enough of war. I am told that there are some 12,000 poor white people who are daily fed by our government. The City has been very quiet and orderly since we came here and the inhabitants are getting quite sociable and friendly…The prospects now are that we shall stay here as long as troops are needed. In military matters all is uncertain.

Union troops that remained in the south after the Civil War’s end were tasked with restoring order, assisting the civilian population and holding the areas where they were stationed — duties my great, great grandfather would now perform.

Bur first Arthur would be on hand to witness the northward march of victorious Union Army units headed to Washington, D.C. for the final Grand Review of the Armies on 23-24 May. Again from Pvt. Orson Reynolds in Petersburg, Va.:

May 3rd, 1865: Sheridan’s Cavalry are now passing through the City on their way to Alexandria [Va.]. Three army corps have also passed for the same place and we will soon be the only remaining troops.

May 7th, 1865: I understand General Sherman’s army is but a short distance from the city and will probably pass through tomorrow on their way to Washington to be mustered out of the service.

My ancestor did not take part in the Grand Review — he remained on duty in Virginia until mustering out in August 1865. But I imagine he was amazed and proud to see the vast army of Union soldiers — including his fellow combatants from the Armies of the Potomac and Shenandoah — trekking north toward the U.S. capital, where they would be cheered by civilian crowds.

Of particular note would have been U.S. Gen. William Tecumsah Sherman’s 65,000-strong Armies of the Tennessee and Georgia — rough and ready Union soldiers accompanied by masses of newly-free African Americans. This diverse contingent personified the heart and soul of the successful struggle to end the brutal slave system — and would march for six hours during the Grand Review.

No doubt Arthur and his comrades gave them a hearty reception as they passed by the 6th NYHA camp en route to their final, glorious postwar march into history.

More in the next post.

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