Description

    [Siege of Petersburg]. John W. Clement Archive comprised of one war-dated diary, three photographs, and over eighty war-dated letters. Corporal John W. Clement (1826-circa 1901), a native of Exeter, New Hampshire, lived the life of a farm boy until heading to California during the 1849 gold rush. Having found no success out west, he returned home. With the outbreak of the Civil War, Clement, at thirty-five-years-old, enlisted for three years as a corporal in the Union Army and, on August 22, 1861, was mustered into Co. "B," 3rd New Hampshire Volunteer Infantry. The regiment almost immediately left New Hampshire and headed south, arriving off the coast of South Carolina in November 1861.

    Of note is Clement's diary for the year 1864, giving intimate details of life in the Union trenches during the Siege of Petersburg. When he begins his account, he is on Morris Island, South Carolina, working as a boatman for the army. Though the southern coast had been blockaded by the Union Navy for the last three years, Confederate blockade runners were still making runs to the coast to deliver much needed goods. Clement notes one such attempt on February 2, 1864, as written: "A Blockade runner got ashore on Sulli[v]ans Island and our Monitors went up and opened fire on her which brot on a heavy Artilliry Duel on both sides." The next day there was "Considerable firing Day & night, at Blockade Runer. Took 8 Rebs."

    The 3rd N.H. had been on the south Atlantic coast for nearly three years when, on February 27, 1864 (but occurring the following day as noted in the entry for February 28), "An Order came at about 10 A.M. to prepare to move. . . . Embarked on a small Steam boat for 'Pawnee Landing.'" After short duty near Jacksonville, Florida, the 3rd was transferred north to Virginia where they participated in the Siege of Petersburg as part of the Army of the James.

    They arrived "off Cape Henry . . . & at Fortress Monroe at 8 a.m." on April 28. The regiment continued its advance into the interior of Virginia, headed for Petersburg. Arriving on May 8, Clement commented that it had been "Reported that our advance had surrounded Petersburg." They soon began a march north toward Richmond and two days later they met the enemy when "the Rebs . . . made an attempt to outflank us but in this they were defeated." On May 16, they engaged the enemy again near Fort Darling on Drewry's Bluff. Clement notes that "Capt. Ayer & Lt. Butler killed. Ordered up to the Front at 7 a.m. Stayed about an hour when we were ordered back. The Rebs followed us for a while when our Regt. and the 40th Mass. Charged back on them and drove them back." Two days later, the "rebs drove our outpost pickets in . . . but could not drive our Regt. farther than the Reserves." In early June, the regiment returned south and "crossed Appomattox River . . . Marched round to the South Side of Petersburg skirmishing as we went."

    The rest of the summer was spent "in the trenches" surrounding the besieged city of Petersburg, skirmishing on and off with the rebels. In mid-August, the regiment found themselves again on the move toward Richmond and engaged in heavy fighting at the Second Battle of Deep Bottom. After arriving the day before, Clement wrote on August 14 that "at Sunrise advanced and drove in the Reb Picket. Skirmished all day," though his "Regt. not engaged." Three days later, the "Brigade made a charge and got badly cut up." The 17th saw a day of truce and the rebels counterattacked the following day, "but were repulsed." Having been beaten, the Union Army "Comenced [sic] retreat at Dark" on the 20th.

    Luckily for Clement his time had come. On August 23, 1864, three days after his retreat from Deep Bottom, he received his discharge papers. The following day, thirty-eight-year-old John Clement made his way home to Exeter, New Hampshire, where he lived out the rest of his days.

    Also included are over eighty letters spanning the years 1861 through 1865, the bulk of which date from 1863, providing even more detail to an already fascinating story, and three photographs: two cartes de visite and one tintype. The men in the photographs are unknown, but similarities between the men in the CDVs lead one to believe it is the same man, probably Clement himself. The tintype is of an older gentleman, circa 1863, possibly Clement's father.


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    April, 2014
    3rd Thursday
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