Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin. Portions of this lengthy article have been omitted because they do not pertain even indirectly to the Siege of Petersburg.
The HERALD had a correspondent with Sheridan, who has got to Fortress Monroe. The following excerpt from his last letter will enable the reader to put a proper interpretation on Sheridan’s “160” total loss:
FORTRESS MONROE, June 21, 1864.—In my last I left the command of General Sheridan at Trevillian station, on Sunday evening of the 12th. As before stated, during the morning General Custer had recovered nearly all his lost property, except the pack train and his personal baggage. From prisoners taken we had learned that we had fought all Wade Hampton’s cavalry, including Fitz Lee’s, Rosser’s, Young’s, Butler’s and Lomax’s commands. Rosser was severely wounded, losing a leg. Colonels McAllister, of the Fourth South Carolina, and Aiken, of the Seventh Georgia, were among the killed and wounded.
Our losses were chiefly in Torbert’s division, the heaviest being in Merritt’s brigade. Merritt lost:
Of these one officer was killed and nine-wounded; fourteen men killed and one hundred and five wounded.
THE FIFTH MICHIGAN ROLLS LOOKED BETTER THIS MORNING, AND MUSTERED ABOUT TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY, LEAVING ONLY ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY MISSING, which was much better than was expected the night previous.
“THE REBEL RAMS.”
We are gratified to learn that our rams have accomplished something: they broke up a council of Grant, Butler, &c. Perhaps Lincoln was of the party—he has visited City Point within the last few days:
The absorbing feature of the past twenty-four hours is the visit of Lieutenant General Grant and Major General Butler to Admiral Lee, commanding the United States naval forces on the James and Appomattox river. The Lieutenant General was accompanied by Colonel Comstock, Chief Engineer on his staff, and several others of his staff officers; also Major Ludlow, and others. The visit had its important objects and bearings—While the distinguished party were at lunch an officer was announced, who desired to see the Admiral immediately. The Admiral rose and ascended to the deck of the flag-ship. The officer informed the Admiral that the rebel rams were coming down the James river, and that observation would disclose that three hostile craft had already reached a point known as Dutch Gap, and that a force of rebel sharpshooters were proceeding down the shore land. Admiral Lee at once communicated these facts to Generals Grant and Butler, who, with the several gentlemen of the staff, proceeded to investigate the facts. It was true that a hostile fleet was approaching, but the sharpshooters could not be seen. As the rebel gunboats came to the bend in the river, our guns opened on them across the neck of land; whereupon the enemy speedily retired, after four shots from the Admiral, which elicited no response.
GRANT ON THE SOUTHSIDE—THE PROSPECT—RICHMOND MUST FALL—WHAT WILL BECOME OF JEFFERSON DAVIS.
The New York HERALD has a long editorial on the transfer of Grant’s army to the Southside, in which it says:
The removal of the army of the Potomac from the north side of the Chickahominy to the south side of the James river places General Grant in a most admirable position for decisive works against Lee’s shattered and diminished army and the rebel capital. First, the transfer of his army from the deadly swamps and jungles of the Chickahominy to the dry, rolling, healthy country between Petersburg and Richmond is a matter for general congratulation. Secondly, the entire army of General Butler, a powerful reinforcement, has thus been added to the army of the Potomac, together with the ironclads and gunboats of Admiral Lee, another tremendous reinforcement. Thirdly, in transferring his base of supplies to the James river, General Grant’s active army is again practically reinforced to the extent of fifteen or twenty thousand men relieved from the duty of guarding the railroads and common highways used on the Chickahominy for transportation purposes.
But most important of all, in a strategical view, General Grant, with the magnificent army which he has now concentrated immediately under his eye on the south side of the James river, at once cuts off Richmond from all the Southern railroad lines through which the city and Lee’s army are fed from day to day. Lee must, then, make up his mind very soon either to give battle, in order to reopen his communications with his sources of subsistence, or to abandon Richmond under cover of the night, in order to save his army; for if he attempts the experiment of shutting himself up behind his fortifications, like Pemberton, he will inevitably suffer the fate of Pemberton. We think it highly probable that Lee will repeat his old trick at Antietam, Gettysburg and Williamsport—a hasty evacuation between two days—carrying this time Jefferson Davis and his Cabinet along with him, (the rebel Congress, taking time by the forelock; have already cleared out,) and that he will move off up the James river, on the north side, along the canal, towards Lynchburg, which is the only route of escape likely to furnish subsistence for his army.
General Lee would have now the opportunity for stealing a march upon Washington, if he only had the means and facilities for moving in that direction. But all the railroads to the north and northwest from Richmond have been so seriously broken up by Generals Grant and Mosby that it will take thousands of men and months of labour to repair them; and if they were not broken up they would be useless to Lee with the whole intervening country between Richmond and Washington exhausted of its provisions.
The army of General Grant stands now across the roads on the south side of Richmond. To give him battle there Lee will be utterly defeated; to stand still in Richmond is, on his part, to prepare for a surrender A LA Pemberton; and what, then, can he do but steal off in the night up the James river, and next, by a roundabout way, move down upon the desperate enterprise of a junction with Joe Johnston!
In any event the fall of the rebel capital is not far off; and then, as with the loss of Richmond and the retreat or decisive defeat of Lee, Old Virginia will have no further interest in Jeff Davis, the seventy-five thousand veteran Virginia soldiers now in his service will leave it in disgust, the people of North Carolina will then revolt against him, his kingdom will fall to pieces, and Nassau or Mexico will be his only chance of escape.
HORROURS OF THE CHICKAHOMINY.
A correspondent of a Northern paper writes as follows of the swamps of the Chickahominy:
Without a single regret, I left the margin of White Oak Swamp, and turned my back upon the Chickahominy. Never have I so strongly experienced the sensation of being in a charnel house. Dead horses strewed our path and odorized the air. The unwholesome dampness from the ground settled on the trees, and fell in humid drops from leaf and spray. In spite of whiskey and quinine, the men shook with ague, and your correspondent, who had just passed the paroxysm, was burning with fever. Dare me to a jaunt through the Roman hecatombs, or a stroll in the Parisian sewers, but ask me not to linger in the swamps of the Chickahominy.1
- No title. Richmond Examiner. June 27, 1864, p. 3 col. 3-4 ↩