[Johnny Rebels] is trying to undermine and blow up one of our forts.

Now in the front pits, before Petersburg VA, Aug 3 1864, from SGT William H. Sipe of Company “I,” 188th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment, to his mother, Mrs. Peter Sipe, Eberly’s Mills, Cumberland County, Pennsylvania with original cove postmarked Washington DC, Aug 6 1864.

The letter reads, in part, as follows

I am still in the land of living … I feel rather sleepy to write today, as I have had no sleep for several nights as we are looking for notact every night for the Jonys [Johnny Rebels] is trying to undermine and blow up one of our forts. They have been working at it some time. Our boys in the fort heard them working under it last night, but I think they mustbe mightly shart or their work will be all for nothing … our darkeys is now working in the fort they are digging down to get the powder out. Bully for them … we had a high time on Saturday about five miles from here we marched on Friday night and on Saturday morning about daybreak the ball opened. The first thing I knew as the earth shaking & we saw the dirt, cannons and men sailing up in the air. We blowed up one of their forts. Then the fuss began. There was heavy firing all day. Mother, it was the hottest day ever I went through, both with heat and heavy fighting. But I got through safe. The firing was kept up till dark. They we were relieved & that night marched back here again. But I think we will be bedeviled tonight, for a couple of days. Good for us … I received the dollar he [his father] sent me … I will get me some paper & a little tobacco … you said you would like to send me a [goddie] box if it is safe. I should be very glad to have one, but we can’t get any here for there is no telling how long we may stay … not there is no boxes can get here either. We get plenty of hard tack and pork & here of late we get a gill of whiskey evey other day to mix with the beans. Mother, you wanted to know where Fox is. He is now in Camp Howitzer. He is got charge of the ambulance train. He has got a good position. He is detached from the regt., but he don’t forget to come & see his boys sometime. The boys all like him & want him to com & go with us. I told him he should come, for he has got the boys to stick to him. You wanted to know our captain’s name. It was Harry E. Breel, Commanding Co. “i”, 188 Regt … guess you heard that Davy Meirs of our company was wounded. He is wounded in the heel. It happened about a week ago …”

SGT William H. Sipe enlisted on Oct 20 1862 as a sergeant and was mustered into the 188th Pennsylvania on that same day. He was killed on Sep 29 1864 at Fort Harrison VA. The 188th Pennsylvaniawas organized at Fortress Monroe Va on Apr 1 1864. Almost immediately they saw action on the south side of the James River and against Petersburg and Richmond VA (May 4-28 1864) .

They fought at Swift Creek or Arrow, May 9-10; Battle of Drewry’s Bluff, May 14-16; Battle of Cold Harbor, Jun 1-12; before Peytersburg Jun 15-18. In trenches beforePetersburg till September. Mine Explosion, Petersburg, Jul 30.

The writer was apparently killed during the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, New Market Hieghts, north of the James River.


  1. I am researching the history of the 188th Pennsylvania Regiment. I have a photograph of Sgt. Sipe’s tombstone at Fort Harrison National Cemetery. Would also like very much to speak with person who submitted Sipe’s letter. So far, it is rare to find actual letters from 188th soldiers, so this one is very exciting. Please contact me.

  2. Thank you for posting this!

    I would be interested in hearing from Ed Worman regarding his research on the 188th. I am the ggg-grandson of Fredrick Kline of Company G who was killed at Petersburg 3 days before Sgt. Sipe wrote this letter. My family has the letter that5 was sent home to his widow by Sgt George Ervin of Co. G as well as a letter sent by the Christian Commission. I would be glad to share copies. I also have 2 188th reunion ribbons and a reunion photo that I would be glad to share copies of as well. Please contact me at gregsuvcw@yahoo.com

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