Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
THE WAR NEWS.
About six o’clock yesterday morning there was heard a furious cannonade in the direction of Chaffin’s bluff, on James river. Cannonades have of late been things of such everyday occurrence, that this excited no great degree of curiosity. During the morning a soldier reached the city, who represented himself as from the immediate neighborhood of the firing. He stated that a foraging party of the enemy having crossed the river and set about cutting oaks on Cox’s plantation, our men opened upon them with several pieces of field artillery and drove them off.
KAUTZ’S RAIDERS—THE FIGHT AT STAUNTON RIVER BRIDGE—THE ROUTE OF THE RAIDERS.
We have learned some of the particulars of the fight at Staunton river bridge, last Saturday, from men who took part in the engagement. We purpose laying the facts before our readers, withholding nothing necessary to the interest of the affair, and publishing nothing which, in the remotest degree, can benefit the enemy. Whatever we state shall be true to the best of our knowledge and belief.
Staunton river bridge, upon which the Danville railroad crosses Staunton river, is ninety miles from this city. Staunton river, at this point, flows between the counties of Charlotte and Halifax, the latter being on its west bank. Proceeding from this city the railroad, a mile and a half before reaching this bridge, crosses the Little Roanoke bridge. The Little Roanoke is a deep creek, which flows into the Staunton river a mile and a half, or thereabouts, below the railroad. Little Roanoke bridge was formerly a handsome structure, which was carried away by a flood some time since; its place was supplied by a simple trestle. After crossing this trestle the railroad ascends a steep grade to Roanoke station, half a mile distant. The half mile between Roanoke station and Staunton river bridge is down grade, the road running across wide and open bottom land, the low ground of Staunton river. The bridge is a long, substantial structure, with weather-boarded sides. A county road crosses the Little Roanoke a mile above the railroad, and runs south to Roanoke station.
As the enemy were within fifty yards of some of our works at Staunton river, and within three hundred of the rest, besides testing satisfactorily their strength, there is little danger of our giving them any information in what we are going to say. On each side of the railroad, twenty yards this side of the bridge, we have strong earthworks. On the hills beyond the river, on either side of the railroad, and from two to three thousand yards from the eastern end of the bridge, we have other earthworks, mounting a number of cannon.
Last Friday evening, the twenty-fourth instant, detachments from two regiments of reserves from this city, numbering fifty each, being in Danville on business, started home by rail.—About dark they reached Staunton river, and, the enemy being expected, joined the troops collected there under command of Captain Farinholt, and laid in the trenches that night and the greater part of the next day. Rumours of the approach of the enemy were brought in from time to time.
About 4 o’clock Saturday evening, the 25th instant, the enemy reached Little Roanoke bridge, and, having destroyed it, crossed the Little Roanoke by the county road and proceeded to Roanoke station. A battery of the enemy, having got into position on the high ground near Roanoke station, shelled our position at the Staunton bridge. During this shelling, which lasted for over an hour, the enemy deployed their forces as infantry in the fields north and south of the railroad. Our batteries replied to the enemy’s fire, and shelled their infantry. It was evident a determined attack was about to be made on the bridge, and our troops were put in position. Our earthworks in the valley, near and on this side of the bridge, were held by a portion of our men. The reserves previously mentioned were in the trenches on the hills beyond the river.
At half past five, P.M., the enemy, under cover of a heavy fire of shell and solid shot from several differently located batteries, sent forward a strong body of sharpshooters. Between these and our men at this end of the bridge there was fierce exchange of shots. The sharpshooters at length reached a ditch some hundred yards in front of the bridge, and, covering themselves with it, kept up their fire.
At six o’clock the enemy’s main force, moving in two columns, one on each side of the railroad, rapidly towards our position, our batteries opened upon them with grape. Still they advanced briskly, firing rapidly as they came on, and at the same time their sharpshooters, from their position in the ditch, keeping up an annoying fire with their Stevens’ carbines. The crisis of the battle had come. If the bridge was to be saved the enemy must not be allowed to drive our men from the works in front of it. The reserves were ordered to cross the bridge and reinforce our men in the earthworks. Gallantly the reserves dashed over the bridge under a fire which would have reminded them, had they had time to think, of the bridge of Lodi. Shot and shell were crashing through the roof; enfilading volleys of musketry were poured in from either side, and one hundred Yankees, fifty yards distant, fired straight through the bridge, sweeping it from end to end. It was a hot place, and our men lost no time in getting through it and into the earthworks, from which they immediately opened on the enemy, who, by this time, were so close at hand that the canister fired at them from our batteries beyond the river passed within a few feet of the heads of our men. Our batteries being better served than in the beginning of the action, and our fire from the earthworks steady and well directed, the enemy, dispirited by our reinforcement just sent over, at length wavered, halted, and then fled to cover. Three times again were they brought up, but our fire, both from the batteries and earthworks, having rather improved than slackened, they at length, about eight o’clock, P.M., withdrew from our immediate front. We threw forward some pickets, between whom and the enemy there was some desultory firing for an hour or two.
During the night the enemy was heard moving their wagons. The next morning, Sunday, 26th, they threw a dozen or more shells at us, but it was plain that this was a parting salute. Their troops were moving off, retracing their steps to the ford over the Little Roanoke, and thence following the road running south towards Mecklenburg county. At nine o’clock their rear guard disappeared. Two hours afterwards some of General W. H. F. Lee’s men made their appearance on the ground lately left by the enemy; but very soon these also went off, apparently following the track of the raiders. In this affair we had eight men killed and twenty-six wounded, two of whom have since died. Of the reserves from this city, Sergeant J. E. Walker, Colonel Danforth’s regiment, was mortally wounded, and died on Sunday at three o’clock, P. M. Captain James E. Riddick was severely wounded in the thigh, and Lieutenant J. H. Cook and B. L. Wilson each slightly wounded. In Colonel Evans’ regiment, H. C. Calvert received a slight wound in the left leg, and James Fletcher received a severe flesh would in the left shoulder. Every one of these men are said to have been struck in crossing the bridge to reinforce our troops in the earthworks. If the storm of missiles that rained upon the bridge is considered, it must create surprise that the casualties to those crossing it were so few. The weather boarded sides of the bridge are riddled with bullets, and its roof is much torn by shot and shell, but none of the timbers are injured, and its usefulness is in nowise impaired.
It is said that a surgeon and a minister of the gospel belonging to the neighbourhood were killed during this fight.
The enemy left seventeen dead upon the field, and there were traces of their having dragged a large number to the Roanoke river and pitched them in. They carried off their wounded.
Neither before nor after the engagement at the bridge did our troops there hear any sounds indicating that General William H. F. Lee had engaged the enemy.
All that is yet known of the route taken by the raiders after their repulse at the Staunton river bridge is contained in the following despatch from General Lee, received yesterday:
“HEADQ’RS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
“June 28, 1864.
“HON. SECRETARY OF WAR:
“Sir—The enemy has been engaged to-day apparently in strengthening his lines in front of Petersburg, advancing them at some points. His cavalry, after being repulsed at Staunton river bridge on the afternoon of the 26th, retired in the direction of Christiansville, where they encamped that night. The next morning they continued their march towards Lawrenceville, by way of Burntville, and a part of them encamped last night about eight miles northwest of the former place. They appear to be making their way back to the main body of the army.
“Very respectfully, etc.,
“R. E. Lee, General.”
It will be seen from this despatch that the raiders, after leaving Staunton river bridge, went south through Charlotte county into Mecklenburg, then turning east across Mecklenburg to Lawrenceville, in Brunswick. A road running due east leads from Lawrenceville to Bellfield, near Hicksford, on the Petersburg and Weldon railroad, in Greenville county, which point the enemy might select to take in their route if they did not find it too strongly guarded.
THE LATEST FROM THE RAIDERS.
By the last evening’s train from Petersburg we received a report, coming from a very trustworthy source, that our cavalry had met and whipped the raiders at Spasada church, in Dinwiddie, twelve miles west of the point at which the Petersburg and Weldon road crosses Stony creek. If this be true, as at present we see no reason to doubt, the enemy, instead of travelling east from Lawrenceville, turned their heads from that place directly towards Petersburg. The point at which the fight is reported to have occurred is about twenty-five miles southwest of Petersburg.
A RAID INTO WESTERN NORTH CAROLINA.
Information was received here yesterday that four hundred Yankees and Tennesseeans, under one Captain Kirk, came over into Western North Carolina, and on the morning of Tuesday, the 28th instant, captured Camp Vance, at Morganton, and took three hundred Junior Reserves prisoners. We have no particulars of this affair. In the absence of all information we can only say, hurrah for General Holmes!
OUR VICTORY IN GEORGIA.
Through the Signal corps, upon whom we are just now entirely dependent for all our information from the South, we learn, upon the authority of a general officer at Atlanta, that Hardee bore the brunt of the attack mentioned in General Johnston’s despatch published yesterday; and that the loss of the enemy was VERY great—similar to that sustained by the enemy when they attacked our position at Cold Harbour.
THE ENEMY ON JAMES RIVER.
Two deserters from the Yankee fleet lying below Dutch Gap came into Fort Drewry yesterday morning. They were intelligent men and had a good deal to say. It may be of interest to repeat a part of their statement. They say every man in the monitor fleet would desert if he could get a chance. The Yankees have set to work removing the torpedoes in the river and the obstructions recently sunk by themselves in Trent’s reach. While out on a torpedo fishing expedition Tuesday night they picked a chance and came into our lines.—They say that the fire of our rams nearly knocked one of the monitors into a cocked hat—so disabled her, in fact, that she had to be sent to Fortress Monroe, but that only one man was killed upon her. They gave it as their opinion that if our rams had come down to the obstructions and thence opened on the Yankee fleet, that the latter would have been terribly damaged.
There is no doubt but that Grant is preparing for a grand attack, and there may be some truth in the story of these deserters so far as concerns the removal of the obstructions.1
- “The War News.” Richmond Examiner. June 30, 1864, p. 2 col. 1-2 ↩