1864 Letter - 58th Massachusetts Band - Petersburg - Machine to Control Dust at City Point

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1864 Letter - 58th Massachusetts Band - Petersburg - Machine to Control Dust at City Point

239.99

Item No. SQ5458471

Offered here is a very interesting letter written by Musician Jonah Benson, Jr. of the 58th Massachusetts Volunteers, a regiment raised in the early months of 1864 and attached to the 9th Corps at Petersburg. As a musician in the 58th’s band, Benson was detailed to the rear at City Point. In this letter to his brother, Benson described how dry conditions resulted in choking dust, but that there was a water-pumping system installed to sprinkle the ground and lessen the dust. He also described having witnessed a lively artillery duel between Union gunboats on the James River and a Confederate battery. After lamenting that he still was lacking a revolver as a war trophy, Benson closed the letter with a description of how the US Sanitary Commission and Christian Commission made a variety of luxuries available to the men. While he stated that he was in good health at the time, Benson is listed as having died of disease just twelve days later while being transported by steamer to Fortress Monroe, July 30, 1864. The letter reads, in full:

City Point Va July 19th 1864

Dear Brother
As it is raining very hard and I have nothing to do but sit in my tent, I will occupy the time by answering your very welcome letter. This is the first rainy day we have had since we came here. It has been very dry and dusty. They have 3 steam engines here to carry water around the camp They have a large tank that is put up on a frame about 20 ft high. The engines are stationed at the river and force the water through iron pipes that are laid in the ground all over the camp. They also have 1500 feet of rubber pipe that takes the water from the tank and carries it anywhere within the length of the pipe and throws it with great force. This they use to sprinkle the ground. Besides this they have six watering or sprinkling carts that work all the time sprinkling the ground. They drive under the tan and the water is let down through a large pipe in to the cart which fills it very quick. I should not think by the work they are doing here that they were expecting to leave this place very soon It is very still here now as to fighting. I have not heard a gun in the direction of Petersburg for some time. i should not know that there is any fighting going on last Saturday I saw some shooting that was worth looking at. It was from our gunboats. I suppose they were firing at a rebel battery. The boats were in the James River and the battery on the north side of the river up the hill. I could see the flash from the gun on the boat and then see the shell burst over the fort. Sometimes they would burst up in the air 100 or 150 ft above the fort. Others would strike the ground and then burst throwing up a cloud of dust. Some would seem to burst right on the fort. Now and then there would seem to be a smoke from a rebel gun. They fired in this way for four or five hours. I have not heard what the result was. You spoke in your letter about going a gunning on the fourth. Is there much game this summer? I have not seen much game here except turkey buzzards. There are enough of them. There are some herons in the river every day standing in the water. Some very tall ones. There are some crow blackbirds here but there are not many birds here that we have in Mass. There are some Quails here but I have not seen a partridge or a woodcock. They say there are some coons here but I have not seen any. The principal wood here is southern pine, black walnut, white wood and locust. If I had a chance to carry them or send them I could get any Quantity of rifles. There is one of our band that got a nice carbine and sent it home by the captain of a boat that he was acquainted with. I have not found a revolver yet. I have got some pieces of gunlocks to bring home.

I am very glad to hear that you have got along so well with your haying. How does your grass turn out this year I was glad to hear that you were all well. I suppose the baby is growing finely. I was glad to hear that Father and Mother were well. How does the crops look?  Is there a prospect of having much fruit this year? I have not had much fruit yet. The evening of the Fourth we were invited out to Dr. Daltons, head surgeon, to play. We had a nice supper. We had ripe apples [illegible] and many other things that we do not get very often. We do no get many luxuries but we have good wholesome living and enough of it. The Sanitary and Christian Commission are a great help to the soldiers. If we wish anything we have not got if they have it we can get it. If we want to make some lemonade we go to them and get lemons & sugar. If we want anything different to eat from what we have we go there and get it. I suppose people are inquiring about how I like a soldiers life. I like if full as well as I expected to. I enjoy myself very well. My health is quite good and we are getting along first rate. You used to know Cyrus Alden? He came to see us the other night. He is in a New Hampshire reg’t. Has been there about 2 years. He looks tough and hearty. I would like to come home and go a gunning with you some day this fall but it is so far that I do not think I shall. Give my love to father and mother and keep a good share for yourself and Abbie. This from your affectionate Brother
Jonah Benson, Jr.

Please write often and tell me all the news from home. Letters from home are received with a great deal of pleasure. I am very much obliged to you for the letter received.

The letter was written upon four pages of a 5 1/4” x 8” stationery sheet. The paper is in very good condition with very little wear to edges and corners. Creases where originally folded, where there is also some shallow separation at one fold.

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