Private John G. Hall’s Account of the Fight at Drewry’s Bluff (Hall Letters #1)

John Green Hall enlisted as a private in Company C, 35th Regiment North Carolina Troops on September 12, 1861. He served with the Thirty-Fifth until May 31, 1864, when he transferred to Company G, 51st Regiment NCT. On the day that Private Hall wrote this letter, Confederate troops were pushing Benjamin Butler’s men out of their outer line of entrenchments at Bermuda Hundred. The letter is written on a blank Union Army Descriptive Roll form. (The John G. Hall letters are part of the W. P. Hall Collection, PC551, North Carolina State Archives.)

Intrenchments near James River

May 20th/64

     Dear Father, I seat myself this morning to try and write you a few lines to let you know I am still in the land of the living. We have had awful times out hear with the Yankees. Last Saturday we had just got in the breastworks at Drewry’s Bluff. When we had just taken our position, we had skirmishers put out in our rear. Before they had deployed them out the Yankees charged on them and they ran in to the breastworks, and before they got to the breastworks the Yankees were in fifty yards of the breastworks, coming with a yell. We changed sides with the breastworks and gave them the best we had in our Enfields, and they halted and gave us a heavy fire for a while when we repulsed them. Our company suffered very bad much. We lost three killed and two wounded. I will give you their names. Lieutenant Kelly[1] got his leg broke and Lieutenant Ray[2] was shot through the leg. I recon he won’t have to have his leg cut off. Lieutenant Kelly had his leg taken off. Sargent Patterson[3] was killed and John A. G. Johnson[4] was killed and Nathaniel Morris[5] was killed and Duncan McDonald[6] was wounded in the hips.

They are skirmishing very heavy now on our right. I don’t know what moment we will be attacked. We are looking for them every moment. I can’t half write in such place as this. I saw Marsden[7] and William day before yesterday; they both came through safe so far.

Give my love to mother and all the children and ask them all to write. I wrote you a letter when we were leaving Kinston[8]. I don’t know whether you got it or not. I want you to write soon as you get this and let me no whether you got it or not. I haven’t got a letter from you since the 25th of April.

We haven’t had a change of clothing since the fight at Plymouth[9]. I don’t no when we will get our clothing. We are just as dirty humans as ever you saw.

We have the Yankees under shelter of their gunboats, and there they stay. They have been shelling us for the last two or three days. They are skirmishing very heavy now. We are in our intrenchments now waiting for them. Well father, I must bid you adue for the time.

Joe McArthur[10] is wounded and missing. His company don’t know whether the Yankees has him or not. General Ransom[11] is wounded in the arm. I hope he will recover soon again. Colonel Clark[12] of  he 24th Regt is wounded. We lost agood many men in this fight. The Yankees got one line of our breastworks, and we had to charge them out, and in the charge we lost agood many men. They flanked us several times. Some of our men got in very close contact with them. Some of our men knocked them down with their guns. Good by father. Write soon to your Son, John G. Hall

[1] First Lieutenant Neill R. Kelly. Wounded in arm and breast on May 14, 1864; died of wounds on June 2, 1864 (North Carolina Troops Vol. 9, page 379).

[2] Second Lieutenant Malcolm Ray, Jr. Wounded in arm and breast on May 14, 1864; died of wounds on May 28, 1864 (NCT, 9, 380)

[3] Sergeant John A. Patterson. No records after July 1, 1863; died at Jackson Springs (NCT, 9, 386).

[4] Private John A. G. Johnson (NCT, 9, 383).

[5] Private Nathan Morris (NCT, 9, 385).

[6] Private D. C. McDonald (NCT, 9, 384).

[7] Sergeant Marsden King, Company G, 51st Regt NCT, John Hall’s brother-in-law.

[8] The 35th North Carolina left Kinston on May 8, 1864.

[9] The 35th North Carolina was involved in the attack on Plymouth, NC April 17-20, 1864.

[10] Probably First Lieutenant Joseph McArthur, Company I, 51st Regiment NCT; wounded and captured at Drewry’s Bluff on May 15, 1864.

[11] Brigadier General Matthew Ransom returned to duty before the war’s end.

[12] Colonel William J. Clarke did not return to duty after being wounded at Drewry’s Bluff.

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