LT: August 21, 1864 Theodore Lyman

   

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Editor’s Note: Theodore Lyman was General George G. Meade’s aide-de-camp from the fall of 1863 through Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.  An intelligent and outspoken individual, Lyman’s letters to his wife provide great insight into the happenings at Meade’s headquarters.  These letters, taken from the now public domain book Meade’s Headquarters, 1863-1865; Letters of Colonel Theodore Lyman from the Wilderness to Appomattox and written by Lyman to his wife, appear here at the Siege of Petersburg Online exactly 150 years to the day after they are written.  Since this site is concerned solely with the Siege of Petersburg, the letters start on June 12, 1864 and end on April 3, 1865.  See the bottom of this and every other letter for a list of all the letters which have appeared to date.

August 21, 1864

Last night, Hancock, with his two remaining divisions, marched from Deep Bottom and took position on our left, ready to support Warren. The long, rapid marches of this Corps have given it the name of “Hancock’s cavalry.” When a halt was ordered, one soldier said to the next: “O Jim, what er we a-stoppin’ for?” “The Staff is getting fresh hosses!” replied James. At 9.30 in the morning we again heard Warren’s artillery opening very heavily. I felt anxious on account of the nature of the last attack. This, however, turned out a very different thing. You saw my diagram of his position in my last letter. In addition he now had made a short exterior flank line. The enemy formed in the woods, out of sight, so as to envelop his flank defence, and coming partly in rear; the troops were those of Beauregard and A. P. Hill, many of which had been concentrated from Deep Bottom. They first opened a heavy artillery fire from behind the woods, throwing most of the projectiles into the angle of the line. Then their infantry advanced, in three lines of battle, and attempted to charge, but were received by such a discharge of all sorts of things that they broke and ran back before getting anywhere near. A South Carolina brigade coming out of the woods, saw that they were on the prolongation of our front flank line, and, thinking they had us foul, immediately charged, and caught an awful musketry fire on their flank, from our rear flank line, which they had not noticed. Immediately they began throwing down their arms and shouting, and an officer and some men from our front ran out to accept their surrender. The officer approached General Hagood and either demanded or seized the flag he held in his hand, when Hagood shot him mortally with a pistol, and shouted to his men to run. Some did so, others (about 300) gave themselves up, and others were shot down as they ran. The conduct of Hagood is denounced as treacherous, but this all depends on the details of the affair, which remain to be proved. The next time I think we shall go on shooting till some official announcement of surrender is made! Hagood’s flag we got, a new one, with fifty-seven bullet holes through it! Also three or four other flags, and some 400 prisoners in all. The total loss of the enemy in the day’s work must have been from 1500 to 2000.

We left at about one o’clock, and rode down, first to the stalwart Hancock, who was just then at the Jones house, and then kept on and saw Warren; for we expected another heavy fight, and General Meade wished to be present and see all the troops worked to proper advantage. Warren proposed to attack in his turn, but I am glad he did not, for there was no advantage to be gained that I could see, and we had all we could desire, the possession of the railroad. . . .1

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