• Signal Corps Officer Writes Of Famous Avery House Station, Siege Of Petersburg

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    WILLIAM W. EDGE enlisted as a private on August 15, 1862 and was ultimately transferred to Signal Corps in 1864.


    Edge writes a brilliant Signal Corps letter with a strong description of the strategically important Avery House and the Siege of Petersburg.


    Avery House Signal Station, Headquarters 2nd A.C. Army Potomac near Petersburg, Nov. 1864.  Edge writes to Private David Corbin. “...I have often wondered what had become of you and friend Whitmer and how you were getting along in the army. Perhaps a synopsis of my history since entering the service may not be uninteresting to you.


    “Since enlisting I have served 10 months in the ranks and was then detailed as clerk at Division Hd Qrs, 3rd Div, 3rd Corps and afterwards at Hd Qrs, 3rd Div, 6th Corps.  Last spring I was transferred from my Regt to be a 2nd Class Private of the U.S. Signal Corps and stationed at Genl Meades’ Hd Qrs and was there through the great campaign [Siege of Petersburg] until Sept when I was promoted to 1st Class and ordered to report for duty to Capt. Thickston at Genl Hancock’s (2nd Corps)...where I have been since our Signal Station is on a large house once owned and inhabited by a F.F.V. who fled however at the approach of our army.  We have a splendid view of the fortifications in and around Petersburg. We have splendid telescopes and have some good views of the Confederacy. Whenever we want to know the time of day, we direct the glass on the Petersburg town clock and tell exactly. There are five of us boys running this station, 2 1st and 3 2d class men.  We have no officer with us and generally have very good times.


    “How things have changed since the time when you and I and others used to debate and have gay times generally. But David if we live until this time next year we can again assume the right of citizenship and look down on some whom we now are forced to look upon as our superiors.  Well old friend our country has again passed through a Presidential campaign and Abe is re-elected. We will soon now see what course the Johnnies will pursue. From present indications our army will soon resume active operations here. Butler’s Canal at Dutch Gap is nearly completed and as soon as that is completed something will be done. We are now under marching orders and have just drawn ten days rations. I was with the 2nd Corps on the advance last month toward the Danville on South Side Raid Road and was in some pretty tight places but I am happy to state that I came out all right.


    “The 110th as you are doubtless aware are with Sheridan in the Shenandoah. I have not seen them for a long time, since the 6th of last July when they left here for Harpers Ferry. The Regt is pretty badly cut up. A great many were killed and wounded since last winter. John Hays is all right and is 5th Sergeant...Well David, the Signal Corps is a big thing...W.W. Edge, Signal Corps., 2nd A.C. Hd Qrs. Army Potomac”


    The AVERY MANSION was a fine old colonial mansion situated near the Union firing line. The mansion was occupied by the Fifth Corps Headquarters. The mansion was occupied by Union forces during the Siege of Petersburg, which lasted 292 days, extending from June 9, 1864 to March 25, 1865.


     A large group of commissioned officers, a company of sharpshooters, a company of cavalry escorts and many others occupied the mansion. United States Military Telegraph operators, United States Signal Corps, mail clerks, waggoneers, teamsters and Negro cooks were all camped close together. At night, Confederate and Union batteries would break out in duels lasting often an hour or more. Stray shells and spent cannon balls frequently struck the old Avery Mansion.


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