Alfred P. Rockwell, 10 May 1864

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In this letter, Alfred describes the Battle of Chester Station which was fought on 10 May 1864. The Action at Chester Station was a relatively minor battle of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign and ended indecisively. It started as a Union expedition against the Richmond & Petersburg Railroad. The object was to destroy the railroad in order to cut the line of communication. It was met by a reconnaissance-in-force of two Confederate brigades led by Major General Robert Ransom, who attacked south from Drewry’s Bluff near the Winfree House. Both sides fought gallantly and fiercely including hand-to-hand.

In Camp Bermuda Hundred, Va.
May 10th 1864

Dear Kate,

Thank God I am still alive, safe and sound, and only almost exhausted by fatigue and want of sleep. We have had a hard fight today and have been so far successful that we repulsed the enemy greatly outnumbering us, if we may believe the prisoners taken, and with heavy loss to them. Our own loss has been considerable. My loss is four men wounded and two horses killed. At one time I feared my battery would be taken and I, if alive, would write you next from Richmond. But the good conduct of our troops, under Providence, saved us.

I never felt more thankful in my life. Life does seem sweet when it has been risked and preserved. It does not become one to exaggerate the danger and conduct of one’s command, as it seems but indirect praise of oneself. Still, I must say the bullets whistled and shells exploded uncomfortably near and my men did behave admirably and to the satisfaction of the Generals commanding. Say only as coming from me that my men showed their usual good conduct.

General Terry fought the battle admirably and showed good generalship. I cannot give you any more details tonight as I can hardly hold up my head and only write this much to let you know I am safe & well, [un]less in the morning something might prevent my writing. Goodnight my dear Kate & may God bless & keep you as He has me.

May 11th. “Thrice blessed be the man who first invented sleep.” How soft the ground was last night and how delicious was the rest. It seems as if I could not get sleep enough, but this morning finds me in good condition, suffering only from the reaction following great excitement.

Day before yesterday morning at 4 o’clock we moved from camp with the rest of the troops out to the Richmond & Petersburg Turnpike—a broad, fine road. A part of the force went to the railway and tore up the track, then moved toward Petersburg. Yesterday morning the enemy came down in force upon our right where a small force and one section of my battery was stationed under Lieut. Metcalf. I had gone with the other four guns down the road toward Petersburg the afternoon previous. That morning we moved back, and hearing the enemy attacking our right, we hurried forward & I came up with my four guns just in time to relieve the two guns which had fired away nearly all their ammunition. I sent them back & took up the fight with my fresh guns. It was not a moment too soon.

The infantry support came up and helped to repulse the attack. The fight lasted some two or three hours when we retired slowly to a stronger position. More troops came to our support & there was no more fighting. We held the ground & did not wish to advance & the enemy had suffered enough.

Toward night, our whole force retired to our present entrenchments as we were doing when the enemy made their attack. During the past two days I have hardly been out of the saddle and officers and men & horses were about worn out. I expect we shall rest quiet for a few days where we now are—a beautiful spot on the James river & a strong position.

I must close abruptly to send for the mail. Write me often. Goodbye. Yours ever, — Alfred



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