JULY 1864 UNION SOLDIER LETTER—BREVET BRIGADIER GENERAL ISAAC DYER, 15TH MAINE INFANTRY

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The letter below is one of a series of 27 letters written by Colonel Dyer to his wife Lydia between August 31, 1862 and August 11, 1865.

A resident of Skowegan, ME, 42 year-old Captain Isaac Dyer was placed in command of the 15th Maine in August 1862 and received his appointment to replace Colonel Worder in September--his appointment to Lt. Colonel (and eventually Colonel) being made official, Dec. 12, 1862. He then commanded the unit through the remainder of the war, and received a Brigadier’s Brevet for meritorious service, March 13, 1865. Resigning from service, Sept. 13, 1865, he returned to Skowegan, lived to age 92 and was buried there in 1913. His 15th Maine served in Louisiana and Florida, participating in the 1864 Red River Campaign, and later in Virginia and was present at the Bermuda Hundred. During service it lost 5 men killed and 343 to disease for a total of 348.

Isaac Dyer was a well-educated, highly articulate correspondent, and a shrewd observer of men and events. With the transfer of the 15th Maine from Louisiana to Virginia, in this letter —[Dated “Bermuda Hundred July 21st 1864]— 4 pp. in ink on lined paper, 9.75” 7.75—exhibiting fold-marks, else VG}—Dyer writes his wife of the difficulties of service in the “Bermuda Hundred” and the evils of “Bounty” enlistments. Text as follows:

We are still at this place. Other troops are arriving daily and the appearance is that there will be quite a force in this vicinity before long. I suppose it means the taking of Richmond and Petersburg.

The rebels are strongly entrenched and it is no small job to route them. This is a hard country to fight in on account of the hills on which Forts can readily be constructed which will command the surrounding country for some distance. There is also a vast amount of forest which is a great protector to the rebels by shielding them from our view. It may not be so in the vicinity of Washington but it is so here and on the river generally.

The soil is poor and the land seems to be generally abandoned to grow up to woods again. We hear cannonading on our front almost constantly. Many are wounded by the shells of the enemy, by carelessness…in not taking care of themselves . Those who are in the front have to look out for sharpshooters and shells which are constantly being throwed to where there is any prospect of doing harm. On the whole it is a quiet time and all are taking thing as easily as possible. Fortifications are being strengthened and rifle pits dug and gradual preparations for defensive and offensive operations.

Many poor fellows will find a grave in Virginia and many more will be maimed for life in this state where universal peace should prevail. O what desolation slavery has brought upon our once fair land. How many thousands will go down to the grave with disappointed wives that might have lived and died in peace and quietness had not this rebellion existed.

We want more men, so many who are entirely unfit for duty are sent to the field it is a curse instead of a blessing. The 29th and 30th [Maine] just from home with full regiments furnish any more men than I can for duty. It is inhuman to allow so many who have been discharged from old regiments on account of disability to re-enlist as veterans just for the sake of the bounty. Poor fellows, they fare hard as they do not get much sympathy from anybody. Many will probably die who might have lived at home for many years.

None but healthy men should come into the army. The idea of making money should be but little consideration. Men must be able to stand hard fare and hard marches and exposure weather, etc. etc.

I thin if I succeed in getting honorably out of the service I shall be willing for some one to take my place. Three years of hard service is my part until all have had a time at the “Wheel”. Patriotism is growing low and one looks at greenbacks as the principal inducement to enter the service. A low motive but it is the fore of circumstance. The crowd generally look only to the dollar or office to be gained. / Pardon my manner of writing for I write and talk, etc., etc.”

Fine collectible. Superb 1864 letter home from the “Bermuda Hundred.” from the admirable colonel of the 15th Maine.  [JP] [ph:L]

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