NP: June 14, 1864 New York Herald Tribune: From Gen Butler From The South Side

   

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in June 1864

Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Ken Perdue.

FROM GEN. BUTLER.

From the South Side — A Remarkably Curious Expedition — Attempted Surprise of Petersburg — Failure — Gen. Gillmore Behind Time — Lay it all to Butler — A Rebel Battery at Work.

From Our Special Correspondent.

HEADQUARTERS GENERAL BUTLER,

June 10, 1864.

The development of the details of the recent movement on Petersburg proves that its failure was solely due to the course pursued by the General who commanded on that occasion. As usual every preparation had been made by Gen. Butler to insure success, and to make the movement as near a surprise as could be. The pontoon bridge had been covered with hay to deaden the sound of the passing cavalry, and the troops going from this side of the Appomattox were to be across the river by 12 o’clock so as to obtain some little rest before starting at daylight. Gen. Hinks with his troop was to meet Gen. Gillmore at a point named on the City Point side. Gen. Hinks was ready at the appointed time. Gen. Gillmore was two hours and a half behind time. The brigade, under his command, on reaching the opposite side, presented a sorry aspect, covered with mud and water. As the roads were dry this was hard to account for, but upon inquiry the poor fellows said they had been marched through swamps and bogs in order to reach the pontoon bridge to which several excellent roads lead from along the intrenchments. Field officers did not even know where they were going, having had no instructions. The expedition did not move at the appointed time, and instead of making a rapid march, a surprise, and a fight, crept on at a snail’s pace, feeling its way. Officers present aver that, with the exception of capturing the outer pickets, there was no attack made, and no attempt made to attack but that, on the contrary, the troops were withdrawn, on coming up to the intrenchments. Both officers and men ask each other what they went out for; why they didn’t take Petersburg, when it could have been done so easily; at least, why they didn’t try to take it. It is safe to assert that with the exception of the General in command of the expedition (and, perhaps, his military family, or staff), there was not a General, field or line officer in the column but was anxious to make the attempt upon the place. Prior to the moving of the expedition, the best and most trustworthy information gave the force at the place at 600 Confederate infantry, and three or four companies of cavalry. Then there was the militia, composed of what? Boys between 16 and 18 years, and old men between 50 and 55 years, able to muster say 1,000 to 1,200 men. This gave the total force at say 2,000 men. The intrenchments were about 10 miles long, and this was all the force they had to guard and fight that line. Gen. Butler agreed to make such demonstration along our line and upon “Fort Clifton” as should prevent rëenforcements from being sent. This was done, and no troops went to Petersburg after daylight, nor before, for that matter. While Gen. Hinks and Col. Hawley (7th Connecticut), who commanded the brigades respectively, were awaiting orders to attack these works, or at least to make such demonstration upon them as should give evidence of their strength or weakness, Gen. Gillmore gave orders to to retire to Baylor’s Cross-Roads to effect a junction — they were only a mile apart — and to await news from Gen. Kautz. Now, it was distinctly understood that Gen. Gillmore was to attack, so as to divert attention from Gen. Kautz’s attack. The cavalry rode over the rifle-pits and intrenchments of the enemy, but Gen. Gillmore suffered 3,500 men, all eager for a fight, to look at similar works, and then — fell back.

It is proper that the public, who latterly have been swift to censure Gen. Butler, should understand the facts relative to this last movement. Let me add that these are only part, and that further evidence can be adduced should occasion require.

Yesterday afternoon the Rebels brought a battery down into the woods opposite our left, and commenced firing at the new signal tower. The first two shots fell short, the third, a 30-pound Parrott, went whizzing over the battery, and landed in Fort Wisconsin. They were beautiful line shots. The guns from Capt. Follett’s battery, in charge of Lieut. Thompson, were at once opened upon them, and the Rebels soon beat a retreat. While the firing was going on, two naval captains, commanding gunboats on the river, and who chanced to be ashore, came into battery. One of them was exceedingly excited, and instead of a Rebel battery of two or three guns firing at us, one would have supposed from his actions that we were attacked by the whole Southern Confederacy. They soon left for their boats, and the Commodore Perry was dropped down stream and opened fire from her 9-inch guns. Entirely unnecessary, as the land batteries had done the work. Now comes the sequel. The Com. Perry left to go down to Bermuda for ammunition. The Gen. Putnam came up and commenced firing from 24-pounder brass pieces long after the Rebel battery had done firing. Gen Graham, commanding army gunboats, sent the Captain word that it was unnecessary, and firing could stop. Even after that four shots were fired.

W. H. K.1

Note: This newspaper article is used with the permission of NewsInHistory.com.  All rights reserved.

Source:

  1. New York Herald Tribune, June 14, 1864

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