Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
THE SIEGE OF RICHMOND.
The Position on Sunday—All Quiet—Unauthorized Truces—Casualties.
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC, June 11, P. M.—The past few days have been quite uneventful as to the Army of the Potomac. Our lines are scarcely nearer the enemy than was the position at the close of the battle on Friday, more than a week ago. The troops on both sides, each behind their intrenchments, have kept up a desultory but useless fire, just sufficient to make it apparent that the respective works were not vacant. Both armies, in fact, have been enjoying the repose which was needed after the hard fighting and rapid marching of three weeks’ campaigning from the banks of the Rapidan. To-day the silence is even more marked than before. The sound of a musket has scarcely been heard along the entire front. A few bursts of artillery and the explosion of a shell or two high over the trees about the centre of the line, have been the only reminders this afternoon of the enemy’s presence. From present indications, it is not likely that there will be fighting for several days to come; but the storm is brewing, and may burst in quarters least expected by the enemy. It is not proper at this time to say precisely how General GRANT will attempt to discomfit the enemy.
Yesterday an order was issued by General MEADE forbidding unauthorized communications with the enemy. The men on both sides have been holding intercourse with each other for interchange of newspapers and the barter of coffee and tobacco. In this way a great deal of [illegible] was likely to result, as information of vital importance is always apt to leak out. The opposing lines of rifle-pits, it must be borne in mind, are not a hundred yards apart, in some parts on the line much closer. For any portion of the body to be exposed, the penalty is certain wounding, if not death. But the men are utterly weary of loading and firing. They have kept up this heavy skirmishing for days, and no visible advantage has been gained by either side. The fire gradually slackens. Officers become careless about urging the men to their work. A tacit and magnetic spell influences with equal power on our own men and their mortal enemies. It is very curious. The combatants are entirely hidden from each other’s sight.
The last shot is fired, and the lull in the battle storm is perfect. Adventurous spirits on both sides cautiously raise their heads above the earthworks “How are you, Johnny?” “How are you, Yank?” are questions usually bantered. “Won’t you shoot?” says one. “No,” says the other. “Well, we won’t,” chime in all, and immediately the parapets are swarmed with men who have been concealed and protected behind them. Out jump the fellows from the rifle pits, and putting down their guns stretch their cramped forms up on the grass. Sharpshooters covertly slide down from their perches in the trees and loll about in utter abandon. Trade is quickly opened, and all sorts of commodities are exchanged. The men have seen pleasure in their singular armistice, bantering each other sharply, and never overstepping the halfway line which separates their respective fortifications.
Suddenly the cry is raised, “Run back, Johnnys,” or “Run back, Yanks,” just as it happens to be, “we’re going to shoot,” and the hostilities begin again. It is always understood, however, that the first shot shall be aimed high, and the [illegible] gets back to shelter safely. While this fraternal scene is being enacted on one limited part of the line the battle rages hotly at other portions of the extended front, which measures by [illegible]. Was ever such strange warfare known before? It is easy enough to see, however, that these anomalous episodes may be abused. The Rebels availed themselves of such a truce the other day to strengthen a battery which had been reduced to silence and had kept still for nearly a week. The work, consequently, has had to be done over again.
I have seen a great many prisoners lately. Their appearance entirely refutes the very current story that the Rebel army is in a destitute and starving condition. It is simply idle to talk about starving the enemy into submission. The Rebel soldiers, as a general thing, are stout, strong and the very picture of health. It is insulting to our own brave men that the statements so industriously circulated respecting the feebleness and lack of power of endurance of the Southern soldiers should be believed. The rations of the Rebel troops may not be in as great variety as those furnished to our men, but they have proved to be truly as nutritious. This fact cannot be gainsayed.—N. Y. TIMES.1
- “The Siege of Richmond.” Philadelphia Inquirer. June 15, 1864, p. 2 col. 3 ↩