ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, NEAR PETERSBURG, VA.,
July 7th, 1864.
DEAR EDITOR:— Perhaps a few lines from this part of the field of mars may not be unwelcome to your numerous readers. The citizens of your quiet town, no doubt, look anxiously for news from their numerous friends in the army. For more than two months this Army of the Potomac has been very busily engaged. Marching and fighting has been our daily occupation, since crossing the Rapidan. Perhaps never in the memory of man have so many events, fraught with so much interest, transpired in so brief a period of time. The sound of cannon, or the rattle of small arms has greeted our ears almost daily. While our infantry has been weaving garlands for their brows, the cavalry corps hasn’t been idle. The graves of their dead, mark their pathway from the Rapidan to within one and a half miles of that city around which so much interest is now concentrated. Having full confidence in their gallant leader, Sheridan, they consider themselves almost invincible and licensed to go where they will. They have become a terror to “Southern Railroads,” and [Confederate cavalry commanders Wade] Hampton and Fitz Lee have learned to their cost, that “Sheridan’s Raiders” know how to fight as well as raid. After participating in the battles of the Wilderness for several days after crossing the Rapidan, this Corps turned the right of Lee’s army, and after burning his supplies, tearing up his railroads, and cutting his communications, on the 13th [sic, 11th] of May , we found ourselves 1 ½ miles from Richmond, and inside the first line of communications around the city. The rebel cavalry disputed every step of our way, and when at Richmond they met our advance at Yellow Tavern, while their infantry pitched into our Division (Gregg’s) [2/Cav/AotP] in the rear, and while yet inside their fortifications, our gallant [Torbert’s] First Division [1/Cav/AotP] charged and routed them on the advance, while Gen. Gregg politely informed them that he had no objection to permitting the citizens of Richmond to hear the music of his cannon, and that he would take his own time in leaving their fortifications. The rebel General [J. E. B.] Stuart fell. For awhile the “Johnnies” were on all sides of us, right and left, front and rear, their iron hail, shot and shell, came whistling around our ears like rain. Many of our comrades were left behind, or found graves around the rebel city. From Richmond we wended our way to the Peninsula, and crossing the Chickahominy and Pamunkey, rejoined the army near Hanover. Remaining with the army some time, we were engaged in the several fights and skirmishes on the Peninsula, until the 8th or 9th of June , when our First and Second Divisions started on a raid towards Gordonsville, enroute for, the Richmond papers said “no one knew where.” Near Louisa Court House, the whole rebel cavalry corps attacked us [at the Battle of Trevilian Station on June 11-12, 1864], whom we repulsed after a severe engagement. Tearing up the railroad for several miles, we returned to White House [on the Pamunkey River on June 20, 1864], where we found awaiting us a large wagon train, which we were to escort to the James, no easy task, in the then existing state of affairs. Their entire cavalry force were hovering around us like hungry vultures. By fighting and maneuvering, the train was brought in within a few miles of the James River, and Charles City Court House. On Friday, June 24th , the First Division taking the advance, the Second, Gen. Gregg’s, was to hold the only remaining road which led to Richmond. A few miles from the train we met the enemy apparently in heavy force. For some time neither party made any demonstration, when the rebels learning that only one Division opposed them, attacked us with their whole cavalry corps. Then followed one of the severest cavalry fights, said to have ever been experienced by any portion of this corps. Charge upon charge was given and received, though four times our number they were hurled back with terrible slaughter. For two hours the contest raged, until outnumbered, overpowered, and flanked right and left, our Division for the first time we believe, since its existence, was forced to retire, disputing with our force, every foot of ground we trod.1 A few days sufficed to transport train and corps to the southern banks of the James river. Engaged in active operations a few days, we have gone into camp to rest our faithful, but weary horses. Though we expect to rest but a very few days, men and horses will again be ready for the saddle and the march when the Bugle calls. The weather has been very warm for some time and the dust in field and road is almost suffocating. From all appearances this army have not yet finished their summer’s campaign, but have yet deeds to perform, which will be celebrated in story and in song, long after the actors have passed from earth. Victory is now hovering around our starry banners, and we believe that under our gallant leader, Gen. Grant, complete and triumphant success will eventually reward all our efforts and toil. We hope that Pennsylvania and Maryland will not again be polluted by the rebel horde, as now threatened. Trusting to your kindness, for forgiveness for this intrusion, I am,
Very respectfully, your obd’t. servant,
[?] D. FEIGHTE.2
SOPO Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Roy Gustrowsky.
- SOPO Editor’s Note: This was the June 24, 1864 Battle of St. Mary’s Church. I’ve always struggled with whether or not to include these cavalry fights north of the James during Sheridan’s retreat on my site. Also note that the Union soldiers always mistakenly called this church “St. Mary’s Church,” while the real name was Samaria Church. You run across this again and again in first person accounts. ↩
- “Army of the Potomac.” The Bedford Inquirer, August 12, 1864, p. 3, col. 2 ↩