The letter written by Richard Clow to his sister, Agnes, on Feb. 23, 1865 illustrates the Fort Hayes situation as seen through the eyes of an enlisted man. Here’s a section of his letter:
Fort Hayes: It is an earthenwork with three guns, six pound rifle guns. We can see the city of Petersburg quite plane. It is just through a small belt of wood. It sounds so funny here to me, the pickets at night – on both sides fire every ten minutes. The whole line of pits, six men in a pit and the pits a few rods apart. So it sets up a continual rattle. A stranger would think it an awful battle. Well they do kill a few once in a while as they point right at them.It looks so funny to see the ditches full of dead Johneys as they call them.
Here is a typical emplacement of a field cannon on the Union fortifications at Petersburg as they would have been at Fort Hayes and many of the smaller forts along the western front. In the background are the cemin de frises and beyond that in and through the woods would have been the picket posts, opposite the Confederate lines and the first early warning of any attack.
This is how that cannon would have looked to attacking Confederate soldiers from under 100 yards away. Pretty daunting if that gun is loaded with exploding canister and the trenches ahead ar full of men with their muskets and bayonets ready and waiting.