A Soldier’s Letter from Cold Harbor

The following letter was sent to the Fayetteville Observer by a soldier serving in the 51st North Carolina. The regiment suffered heavy casualties during an engagement with Yankee cavalry on May 31, 1864. The next day, the Fifty-First was almost completely surrounded, and 122 men were captured. McKethan’s boys were placed in reserve and didn’t participate in the slaughter of Federal troops assaulting the Rebel lines on June 3. After the failed Yankee assault, the two sides sat in their trenches and warily watched each other.

FROM THE 51st REG’T. – A member of this reg’t (Col. McKethan’s) writes us as follows from Gaines’s Mills, June 8th:

Our boys are in good spirits and cheerful, rations plentiful – ½ lb. of bacon and plenty of bread, also as extras, coffee, sugar and onions.  The casualties in 51st Reg’t have been pretty heavy since we left Petersburg with 800 men.  We have in four different cases been called on to contend with great odds and in each case drove the enemy in our front, but for want of proper support were flanked on two occasions and compelled to retire under heavy fire, to prevent the whole being captured.  Gen. Hoke complimented the 8th and 51st for their conduct under the trying circumstances of June 1st.

We captured a few days ago several Yankees who were members of the company stationed at the N. C. Arsenal just before the war broke out.  Several Fayetteville boys recognized them and talked with them.  Their Reg’t was the 146th N. Y. Zouaves.  They said the Reg’t was cut all to pieces – but few left.

Fayetteville Observer, 16 Jun. 1864

Copyright © 2021/2022 by Kirk Ward. All rights reserved.

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