No. 276. Report of Major General George W. C. Lee, C. S. Army.1
RICHMOND, VA., April 25, 1865.
COLONEL: In obedience to instructions, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command from the time of its leaving the lines at Chaffin’s farm, on Sunday night, April 2, 1865, to its capture on the afternoon of the following Thursday, April 6, 1865:
The order to withdraw from the entrenchments was received by me at Major-General Kershaw’s quarters, about 10 p.m. of the 2nd of April, and was issued to the two brigades [Barton’s and Crutchfield’s] under my command, at Chaffin’s farm, about 11 p.m. of that night. The wagons, which had been loaded up in obedience to the preparatory order received at Chaffin’s on the afternoon of Sunday, April 2, were at once sent off to cross James River at Richmond and proceed to Amelia Court-House, via Buckingham road and Meadville, as ordered. Not being able to cross the Appomattox River near Meadville, the wagon train moved up to Clemmentown, there made the passage of the river, and proceeded with safety until within about four miles of Amelia Court-House, when it was destroyed by a detachment of the enemy’s cavalry on the morning of Wednesday, April 5, with the baggage of my division and 20,000 good rations, as I have recently learned from the division commissary, who escaped. The troops [Barton’s and Crutchfield’s brigades] crossed the James River on the Wilton bridge about 1 a.m. of Monday, April 3. The picket-line was withdrawn at 3 o’clock of that morning, and passed safely over the same bridge about daylight. My command then moved to Branch Church, and thence by Gregory’s to the Genito road, as directed, camping that night about half a mile beyond Tomahawk Church.
In the absence of Lieutenant-General Ewell in a Northern prison, it may be proper for me to mention here that the detachments of troops in Richmond and Kershaw’s division, followed by Gary’s cavalry, or a portion of it, crossed the James River at Richmond, and followed my division to Tomahawk Church.
On the following morning, Tuesday, April 4, it being positively ascertained that the Appomattox River could not be crossed at Genito Bridge, arrangements were made to prepare the railroad bridge at Mattoax Station for the passage of the wagons, artillery, and troops, which was accomplished that night, and all went into camp on the hills beyond the river.
Early on Wednesday, April 5, the bridge having been destroyed, the column moved on to Amelia Court-House, at which place the Naval Battalion, commanded by Commodore Tucker, and the command of Major Frank Smith, from Howlett’s, were added to my division. From Amelia Court-House, General Ewell’s column, following that of General Anderson and followed by that of General Gordon, much impeded by the wagon trains, moved toward Jetersville and Amelia Springs, marching slowly all night. During this night march, firing having commenced between our flankers and some of the enemy’s scouts, as is supposed, Major Frank Smith was mortally wounded, Captain Nash, assistant adjutant-general, Barton’s brigade, lost a leg, and several others, whose names I have not been able to ascertain, were wounded. We passed Amelia Springs on the morning of Thursday, April 6, and
moved toward Rice’s Station. About midday, immediately after crossing a little stream within about two miles of Sailor’s Creek, the enemy’s cavalry made an attack upon a portion of General Anderson’s column, about a mile in advance of us, at the point where the wagon train turned off the right, causing some delay and confusion in the train. The cavalry was soon driven off, and my division, followed by General Kershaw’s, closed upon General Anderson. About this time the enemy attacked our train at the stream we had shortly before crossed, and appeared in heavy force to the left of our line of march between this stream and Sailor’s Creek, which, measured on the road we traveled, are about two miles apart. Word was also received from General Gordon that the enemy was pressing him heavily. To cover the wagon train and prevent General Gordon from being cut off, line of battle was formed along the road and a strong line of skirmishers was thrown out, which drove back the enemy’s skirmishers, and held him in check until General Gordon came up in the rear of the wagons, which must have been from one to two hours after the skirmishing commenced.
So soon as General Gordon closed up, my division, following General Anderson’s rear and followed by General Kershaw, moved on across Sailor’s Creek toward the point where General Pickett was understood to be engaged with the enemy’s cavalry, which had cut the line of march in the interval between him and General Mahone. General Gordon having filed off to the right after the wagon trains, the enemy’s cavalry followed closely upon General Kershaw’s rear, driving it across Sailor’s Creek, and soon after the enemy’s infantry [said to be the Sixth Corps] massed rapidly in our rear. To meet this movement General Kershaw’s division formed on the right and mine on the left of the road upon which we were moving, our line of battle being across the road, facing Sailor’s Creek, which we had not long passed. Before my troops got into position to enemy opened a heavy fire of artillery upon our lines, which was continued up to the time of our capture. After shelling our lines and skirmishing for some time, an hour or more, the enemy’s infantry advanced and were repulsed, and that portion which attacked the artillery brigade was charged by it and driven back across Sailor’s Creek. This brigade was then brought back to its original position in line of battle under a heavy fire of artillery. Finding that Kershaw’s division, which was on my right, had been obliged to retire, in consequence of the enemy having turned his right flank, and that my command was entirely surrounded, to prevent useless sacrifice of life the firing was stopped by some of my officers, aided by some of the enemy’s and the officers and men taken as prisoners of war.
I cannot too highly praise the conduct of my command, and hope to have an opportunity of doing it full justice when reports are received from the brigade commanders. Among a number of brave men killed or wounded I regret to have to announce the name of Colonel Crutchfield, who commanded the artillery brigade. He was killed after gallantly leading a successful charge against the enemy. I have also to mourn the loss of Lieutenant Robert Goldsborough, my aide-de-camp, who was mortally wounded by a fragment of a shell, while efficiently discharging his duty.
In the absence of Generals Ewell and Kershaw in a Northern prison, I have endeavored to give the principal facts of the march and capture of the former’s command so far as I am acquainted with them, and
G. W. C. LEE,
Lieutenant Colonel W. H. TAYLOR, Assistant Adjutant-General.
P. S.-I was told after my capture that the enemy had two corps of infantry and three divisions of cavalry opposed to us at Sailor’s Creek, and was informed by General Ewell that he had sent me an order to surrender, being convinced of the hopelessness of further resistance. This order was not received by me.
G. W. C. L.
On the morning of Thursday, April 6, when the enemy attacked our wagon train between Sandy and Sailor’s Creeks, General Anderson, in conjunction with General Ewell, formed line of battle along the road between these two streams [as I have already stated in my report] to protect the train and prevent General Gordon, who was bringing up the rear of the wagon train, from being cut off. General Anderson seemed anxious to push on, and said to me that he must on to support General Pickett, who was engaged with the enemy farther on toward Rice’s Station [and as I suppose beyond Sailor’s Creek]. As soon as General Gordon closed up on General Ewell’s rear [Kershaw], General Anderson moved forward toward Sailor’s Creek. My division followed, and while its head was halted on the hill beyond Sailor’s Creek to allow the rear to close up, General Ewell told me that the enemy had cut the road in advance of us, and that General Anderson wished us to unite with him and drive the enemy out of the way. To this end my division moved forward a few hundred yards, when the enemy’s driving General Kershaw’s rear across Sailor’s Creek, and his appearance in heavy force of infantry, cavalry, and artillery in our rear, stopped the farther movement. General Anderson told General Ewell that the latter would have as much as he could do to take care of the rear, and that he [General Anderson] would endeavor to drive the enemy out of the way in front. General Anderson did make the attack, but failed, losing Brigadier-Generals Hunton and Corse and a large number of his officers and men as prisoners. No other general officers were captured at that time of General Anderson’s command, as far as I know. General Ewell, with all his general officers, were taken prisoners.
But little of the above came under my personal observation. Most of the statement was gathered from conversation with General Ewell and other officers after the capture.
G. W. C. LEE,
- The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Volume XLVI, Part 1 (Serial Number 95), pp. 1296-1298 ↩