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4th Vermont Infantry - Battle of Lee's Mill, Virginia April 1862

This letter was written by James Harry Platt Jr., a resident of Hartford, Vt.  Harry (as he liked to be called) enlisted in August 1861 as a Captain in Company B of the 4th Vermont Volunteers.  The 4th was part of the famous “Vermont Brigade” consisting of the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th regiments. 

This letter is 4 pages in nice dark ink and has GREAT CONTENT.  IT PROVIDES THE BEST DESCRIPTION OF TROOPS OPERATING UNDER THE WHITE FLAG, BURYING THEIR DEAD, ETC. THAT WE HAVE EVER READ!  Usually we do “bullet points” of the highlights in a letter, but this letter tells such an intriguing story, that it is all too important to just quote!   Take time to read it, it’s fascinating!

While the letter is just signed “Harry”, we have had several other letters by Platt and will include a copy of one with envelope showing that Harry is truly James H. Platt Jr.  The letter is in fine condition, has good eye appeal and again, truly wonderful content! 



                                                                                                                   Camp near Yorktown, Va.
                                                                                                                                                 April 20th/62

                           My Darling Wife,

               No fighting worth mentioning has occurred since yesterday when
 I last wrote you about 3 P.M.  The rebels displayed a “flag of truce” from
their works, and proposed a secession of hostilities for two hours to enable
them to bury their dead.  This was agreed to on our part on condition that
they send us the dead of our regiments left on their side of the Creek on
Wednesday.  The preliminaries being arranged, the sad work commenced
and a party of their men brought our dead one by one, half way across the
dam at which point they were received by our men.  The spectacle though
melancholy was deeply interesting.  The rebel troops were in full sight, all
portions of their works being covered with them, & a large body of their
horseman were stationed along the bank of the creek.  Our men were also
out in large numbers on the dam midway between the two shores were two
rebel officers & two of Genl. Smith’s staff amiably conversing.  To have seen
 them meet, one would have thought it a meeting of dear friends long
separated so cordial, were the handshakes & so mutual the smiles.  A large
 party of the rebels were engaged sorting the dead conveying their own into
their fort and ours to the party waiting to receive them.  Thirty three bodies
were conveyed to our side & seemingly three were carried into the fort to
one brought over.  While engaged in the work the two parties conversed
together freely one of the rebels said he was from Burlington, Vt. & his
name he gave as Lyon.  They expressed their determination to make every
farm in Virginia a graveyard & every house a hospital before they would
yield & other remarks of the “dying in the last ditch” style.  At the expiration
 of the two hours, forty minutes was agreed upon for both parties to place
themselves in safety and at the end of the forty minutes the white flag was
hauled down & we were enemies once more.  It was a sad sight to me to see
my old friends and comrades from Co. F & some of the men in Co. K to whom
last summer I taught the rudiments of military discipline, brought in lifeless
& disfigured  by wounds and lying so long on the field uncared for but such
 is war gallantly they met the fate of true soldiers & fell bravely fighting for
 the noble cause we are defending.  It is a curious circumstance that the
 rebels exhibit no flag – the white flag is the only emblem we have seen.  
Our dead here buried carefully & tenderly amid the groups of sorrowing
comrades who witnessed this last sad office. I went out at 9 o’clock with a
 fatigue party of one hundred men to work on rifle pits & trenches which
are being thrown up to shelter our men who protect the batteries.  Imagine
 an open field of ten or twelve acres directly in front of the rebel fort with
the creek between & surrounded on three sides by dense woods – let me
attempt a diagram which may better enable you to understand the position.
  You will find it enclosed & please don’t laugh at it as it’s only for your eyes.
  The rifle pits marked 10 are simply dry ditches with the dirt thrown up so
that when a man is standing in the ditch the embankment rises about a foot
above his head thus completely protecting him from bullets these as you
perceive allow communication between the different batteries at all times
& serve to protect infantry.  We worked on these all night every few minutes
 the rebels would fire a heavy volley of musketry at us to embarrass us in
the work.  The men were all in the trenches shoveling like good fellows.  I
stood on the bank keeping a sharp look out for the first sign of a volley – the
 night was very dark & it rained hard all night.  When the rebels fired, I could
 see the flash of the powder then hear the report at the flash.  I would sign
out “down” & jump into the trench and just get in when bang would come
the bullets whizzing over our heads & striking all around us when up we
would jump and work away until the next volley & thus we passed the night.
  The firing alarmed the camps & three times the regiments were called out
by the long roll & marched out under arms so that on the whole those of us
who were at work had about the best of it.  Tonight the entire regiment with
the exception of those who were out last night are out as guards for the
batteries.  It has been raining all day but has stopped for the present.  I am
very comfortably fixed and the regiment is encamped in a magnificent grove
of great pines.  I should enjoy myself very much could I only know that my
dear wife was well & free from suffering.  I do not hear at all regularly from
you – our mails come & go as it happens – we do not know whether our
letters ever reach their destination but I continue to write to you almost
daily.  Believe me dear one you are continually in my thoughts & your
suffering causes me much anxiety & if I could only bear them for you or in
some way lighten them it would cause me great happiness.  I look anxiously
for the hoped for intelligence of your convalescence.        
       
                                                                                   Ever your own loving,

                                                                                                                                                   Harry

#L451 - Price $325