Friday, July 9, 2021

"A Sad Incident Occurred"

Dutch Gap Canal (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

In September 1864, Capt. Samuel Vannuys (Co. E, 4th USCI) served as Acting Assistant Adjutant General for Col. Samuel Duncan's Brigade headquarters, stationed at that time at Deep Bottom, Virginia. Before coming into the United States Colored Troops Vannuys fought with the 7th Indiana Infantry. Born in 1840, in Johnson County, Indiana, Vannuys often wrote home to his parents back in the Hoosier State informing them of his army adventures.

On September 15, just two weeks before his death at the Battle of New Market Heights, Vannuys sent his second to last letter home. He wrote:

"Affairs remain quiet here. The work on "Butler's canal" progresses slowly; the rebels keep tossing mortar shells regularly during the day at the working parties--of late their practice has been much better than usual. Yesterday, three men were killed and two wounded. Butler has lately erected an enormous 'signal tower' about 140 feet high near us, at which the 'Howlett Battery' sends her iron complements. So far they have missed their mark and their shells whistle over us a half a mile to the rear. I will add for ma's information that our Head Qrs. are sheltered from this battery, or at least so concealed that they can't discover us.

Last evening a sad accident occurred by which one of the members of our staff lost his life. About 7 P.M., Lieutenant Kingsbury went over to the Head Qrs. of the 6th [USCI] Reg. While there, a shell which had been been thrown during the day accidently exploded, a piece struck Lieut. Kingsbury on the forehead. He lingered unconscious until 2 o'clock this morning, then died. Today we had his body embalmed and sent home. No news from the left [Petersburg]--guess Grant is waiting for something to turn up. Recruits are said to be arriving rapidly at City Point.

Look out for something important from this quarter soon."

That "something important" came on September 29, 1864, when Vannuys and the Third Division of the XVIII Corps attacked the Confederate defenses along New Market Road. And although the young Hoosier lost his life battling the foe with his men, he helped achieve a monumental (albeit too often overlooked) victory.  

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