Union Civil War soldier’s letter from PVT John L. Henry of Company “I,” Ohio 123rd Infantry Regiment, dated Camp Holly, New Market Heights, Virginia, Jan 5 1865, to his brother, Isaac N. Henry, Fostoria, Seneca County, Ohio
The letter reads, in part, as follows
Your letter found myself and all my comrades here in Camp enjoying good health … We left Opequan Creek, West Va. the morning of the 19 December. We took the [railroad] cars … and went to Washington City, distance about one hundred and fifty miles. We arrived … on the morning of the 20 of Dec … took the boat … and went down the Potomac River to Point Lookout Va., distance about one hundred and twenty five miles. From there we went up the Chesapeake Bay to Fortress Monroe, Virginia, distance about one hundred miles. From there we went up the James River to Jones Landing, East Virginia, distance about one hundred and twenty five miles. We got off the boat at Jones Landing and went into Camp. We had a tedious time getting here. It was very cold and windy and the water was very rough. Our whole Regiment and all of the Brigade horses and baggage was on one boat. The boat likened to sink several times. Whenever a large wave would strike, the boat … cracked and gave way. The name of the boat was KEYPORT. We are now in Camp what is called New Market Heights, East Virginia. We are about eight miles from Richmond City and about eleven miles from Petersburg … and about twenty miles from no place. We arrived at Jones Landing on the morning of 24 of Dec and since I came here, I seen but two houses and I have not seen one citizen, neither man nor woman. There have been some fighting here every day and night since we came. There is some pretty hard fighting today in the left of the lines. Our lines here must be between thirty five and forty miles long. One can’t see anything here but breast works, rifle pits and fortifications. We have good winter quarters here now, and get plenty to eat and drink and wear. We have had a very open winter here. We have had but one snow storm … and it only lasted a few days. The weather here is pretty cold at this present time. I can’t tell you how long we will stay here. We may stay … all winter and again we may leave in a few days. There is, near as I can tell, between one hundred and fifty to one hundred and seventy five thousand troops …
[signed] John L. Henry …”
Eighteen year old PVT Henry enlisted on Sep 24 1862 and was immediately mustered into “I” Company, Ohio 123rd Infantry Regiment. On Oct 16 1862, the was transferred to “K” Company, same regiment. Henry was taken as a Prisoner of War (POW) on Jun 15 1863 at the Battle of Winchester VA and paroled on Jul 15 1863. On Feb 1 1865, he was promoted to corporal. At the time the letter was written his unit was engaged in siege operations against Richmond and Petersburg. The 123th Ohio was present at the surrender of Confederate GEN Robert E. Lee and his army at Appomattox Court House VA on Appr 9 1865. The Steamer KEYPORT (91 tons), mentioned in the letter, was chartered by the US Army as a transport vessel. At the time (1864) it was operating in the James River. Our short research file is included.