This letter was written by 30 year-old Sgt. Thomas H. Kirby (1833-1887) who enlisted in November 1861 at Plattsburg, Clinton County, New York to serve three years in Co. H, 96th New York Infantry. He re-enlisted in January 1864 as a veteran and was promoted to First Sergeant on 1 November 1864. He mustered out with his company on 6 February 1866 at City Point, Virginia. [Note: Surname sometimes spelled Kerby in military records]
Thomas was the son of Barnabas Kirby (1801-1883) and Anna Lobdell (1797-1874) of Plattsburg. He wrote the letter to his Aunt Betsy (Lobdell) Thew of Peru, Clinton County, New York.
August 17th 1864
Headquarters 96th New York Volunteers
On the battlefield bear Petersburg
I thought I would try once more to see if you had forgotten a fellow. This leaves me well as I hope it will find you and all the rest of the relatives and friends in your part of the country.
We have had a pretty rough time for the last four days between the shells from the rebs [and] a very hard rain storm. We was camped on a low flat and the rain drowned us out. It was over my head. There was four sutler’s stores just above our camp. I tell you things was cheap. If a fellow had not got any money, he could help himself to what he liked best. I got about one hundred and fifty dollars worth of stuff.
Aunt, this is not a very safe place. While I was writing, there was two men got wounded. One of them got his leg off with a shell. I tell you it is an awful sight to see the wounded. They are as plenty as you could wish to see. It makes me think of a slaughter yard. There has been enough men killed and wounded this summer to dishearten any man and what is gained? We are within twenty-five miles of Richmond and do not seem to gain any ground on the rebs. They will fight as long as the present administration lasts. If the North wants peace, let them change drivers. It will be the only way they can stop this drafting. It looks hard for soldiers to get down on the commander in chief as bad as the army is now, but I am for peace in some style. I am for having for our next President someone that will get whipped or whip the hounds and I do not care but a little which. I am sick of this man-killing. A fellow may get crippled and then what is he good for? He will get kicked around by every brat of boy that meets him. But I must not complain for it is all for the best.
Aunt, tell Uncle Daniel ¹ that he must not think me a Copperhead, but I am sick of this way of doing business. Tell Hellen and Kate to write to me. I have wrote to you before but got no answer. Give my best respects to Daniel Rodes and his family. But I must close for this time by asking you to write to your nephew.
— T. H. Kirby
P. S. Direct to Fortress Monroe, Va., Co. H, 96th New York Volunteers
¹ Daniel Thew (1792-1870), was the husband of Thomas’s Aunt Betsey Lobdell. They resided in Peru, Clinton County, New York. In the 1860 Census, there was a 10 year-old “Katy Thew” and a 29 year-old “Helen Thew” residing in the household.