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SHS Papers: Volume 2: Defence of Petersburg by W. Gordon McCabe


Address of Capt. W. Gordon McCabe (formerly Adjutant of Pegram’s Battalion of Artillery, A. N. V.) before the Association of the Army of Northern Virginia, November 1, 1876.1


Comrades of the Army of Northern Virginia:

I am here in obedience to your orders and give you a soldier’s greeting.

It has fallen to me, at your behest, to attempt the story of a defence more masterly in happy reaches of generalship than that of Sebastopol, and not less memorable than that of Zaragoze in a constancy which rose superior to accumulating disaster, and a stern valor ever reckoned highest by the enemy.

It is a great task, nor do I take shame to myself that I am not equal to it, for, speaking soberly, it is a story so fraught with true though mournful glory-a story so high and noble in is persistent lesson of how great things may be wrested by human skill and valor from the malice of Fortune-that even a Thucydides or a Napier might suffer his nervous pencil to droop, lost, perchance, in wonder at the surprising issues which genius, with matchless spring, extorted time and again from cruel odds, or stirred too deeply for utterance by that which ever kindles the hearts of brave men-the spectacle of human endurance meeting with unshaken front the very stroke of Fate.

And if intensity of sorrowful admiration might not unnaturally paralyze the hand of the historian, who should undertake to transmit to posterity a truthful record of the unequal contest, what mortal among the could stand forth undismayed, when bidden to trace even the outlines of the story in presence of the survivors of that


*From a strictly military point of view, the term “siege” cannot properly be applied to the operations around Petersburg, for there was lacking what, according to Vauban, “is the first requisite in a siege-perfect investment.” The same is true of Sebastopol.


incomparable army, the followers of that matchless leader-veterans, to whom it has been give to see its every episode emblazoned in crimson letters by the very God of Battles.

And yet it is because of this presence, that I stand here not unwillingly to-night-for when I took down upon these bronzed and bearded faces, I cannot but remember that we have shared together the rough delights, the toils, the dangers of field of battle, and march and bivouac, and feel sure of indulgence in advance from those who are knit to even the humblest comrade by a companionship born of common devotion to that Cause which is yet “strong with the strength” of Truth, and “immortal with the immortality” of Rightborn of such common devotion, nurtured in the fire of battle, strengthened and sanctified by a common reverence for the valiant souls who have fallen on sleep.

It is not mine, comrades, to dazzle you whit the tricks of rhetoric, nor charm your ear with smooth following periods; but even were such mastery given to me, it would scarce befit my theme-for we have now to trace the history of the enemy to which we belonged, not in its full blaze of triumph, as when it wore Richmond and Chancellorsville upon its standards, but in those last eventful days when its strength was well nigh “too slender to support the weight of victory;” we have now to mark the conduct of its leader, not as when, the favored child of Mars, the clangor of his trumpets from the heights of Fredericksburg haughtily challenged the admiration of astonished nations, but in that severer glory which shines round about him as he stands at bay, girt with a handful of devoted soldierly, staying the arm of Fate with an incredible vigor of action and a consummate mastery of his art, and, still unsubdued in mind, delivers his last battle as fiercely as his first.

And in the prosecution of the task confided to me-in my attempts to reconcile the conflicting testimony of eye-witnesses, in sifting hostile reports, and in testing by official date the statements of writers who have essayed the story of this final campaign – although at times it has seemed well-night a hopeless labor, and more than once recalled the scene in Sterne’s inimitable masterpiece, in which Mr. Shandy, taking My Uncle Toby kindly by the hand, cries out, “Believe me, dear brother Toby, these military operations of yours are far above your strength,” yet, remembering the spirited reply of My Uncle Toby, “What care I, brother, so it be for the good of the nation,”-even so have I been upheld, reflecting that if it should be my good fortune to restore to its true light and bear-

ing even one of the many actions of this vigorous campaign, which may have been heretofore misrepresented through ignorance or through passion, it would be counted as service, however humble, to that army, whose just renown can never be too jealously guarded by the men who were steadfast to their colors.

That I should attempt a critical examination of that defence in detail, is manifestly impossible within the limits of an address, when it is remembered that, south of the Appomattox alone, thirteen pitched fights were delivered outside the works, beside numberless “affairs” on the part of the cavalry and small bodies of infantry, while each day was attended by a number of minor events, which, taken separately, appear to be of little historian importance, but, when combined, exerted no mean influence on the conduct of the campaign.

Nor, on the other hands, has the time yet come, in the opinion of many officers of sound and sober judgment, for that larger treatment of my theme which would necessitate an impartial examination of the measure to which the military operations were shaped by considerations of a political character-in other words, the time has not yet come when one may use the fearless frankness of Napier, who justly reckons it the crowing proof of the genius of Wellington, that while resisting with gigantic vigor the fierceness of the French, he had at the same time to “sustain the weakness of three inefficient cabinets.”

I propose, therefore, to notice some of the leading events of the campaign in its unity, which will indicate the general conception of the defence of Petersburg, animated by no other feeling towards the many brave men and officers of the Army of the Potomac than one of hearty admiration for their courage and endurance, desirous, above all, truth, so far as we can attain it now, shall be spoken with soldierly bluntness, and error be not perpetuated.

And at the very outset, it is only not pertinent, but essential to a proper appreciation of the conduct of affairs, that we should consider the morale of the two armies and contravallation, destined to become more famous than Torres Vedars or those drawn by the genius of Turenne in the great wars of the Palatinate. The more so, that the most distinguished of Lee’s foreign critics has declared that from the moment Grant sat down before the lines of Richmond, the commander of the Army of Northern Virginia saw that the

inevitable blow “might be delayed, but could not be averted.” Other writers, with mawkish affectation of humanity, little allied to sound military judgment, have gone still further, and asserted that the struggle had assumed a phase so hopeless, that Lee should have used the vantage of his great position and stopped the further effusion of blood. Let us, the survivors of the Army of Northern Virginia, authoritatively declare in reply, that such was not the temper of our leader nor have temper of his men.

It would, indeed, have been an amazing conclusion for either army or general to have reached as the lesson of the


Grant had carried into the Wilderness a well-officered and thoroughly-equipped army of the 141,000 men, to which Lee had opposed a bare 50,000.+ Despite these odds, Lee had four times forced his antagonist to change that line of operations on which he emphatically declared he “proposed to fight it out if it took all summer.” He had sent him reeling and dripping with blood from the jungles of the Wilderness, though foiled himself of decisive victory by a capricious fortune, which struck down his trusted lieutenant in the very act of dealing the blow, which his chief, in a true inspiration of genius, had swiftly determined to deliver; barring the way again with fierce and wary caution, after a grim wrestle of twelve days and twelve nights, he had marked the glad alacrity with which the general, who but a few weeks before had interrupted the prudent Meade with the remark, “Oh, I never manoeuvre,” now turned his back on the blood-stained thickets of Spotsylvania, and by “manoeuvering towards his left” ++ sought the passage of the North Anna-seeking it only to find, after crossing the right and left wings of his army, that his wary, antagonist, who, unlike himself, did not disdain to manoeuvre, had, by a rare tactical movement, inserted a wedge of gray tipped with steel, riving his army in sunder, forcing him to recross the river, and for the third time abandon his line of attack. Then it was that the Federal commander, urged, mayhap, to the venture by the needs of a great political party, whose silent


*Colonel Chesney-Essays in Military Biography, p. 119.

+Stanton’s Report, 1865-66; General Early’s able article in Southern Historical Papers, vol. ii, July, 1876; Lee’s letter to General David Hunter, U. S. A.; Lee’s letter (October 4th, 1867), to Colonel C. A. White; Swinton, A. P., p. 413.

++”The 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th (of May) were consumed in manoeuvring and awaiting the arrival of reinforcements from Washington.”-Grant’s Report of Campaign. At this time Lee had not been reinforced by a single man.


clamors for substantial victory smote more sharply on his inner ear than did the piteous wail which rose from countless Northern homes for the 45.000 brave men whose bodies lay putrefying in the tangled Golgotha from Rapidan to North Anna-urged by these clamors, or else goaded into unreasoning fury by the patient readiness of his adversary, ordered up 16,000 of Butler’s men from south of the James, and at break of day on June the 3d assaulted Lee’s entire front-resolute to burst through the slender, adamantine barrier, which alone stayed the mighty tide of conquest, that threatened to roll onward until it mingled with the waves of Western victory, which were even then roaring through the passes of Alatoona-resolute, yet, like Lord Angelo, “slipping grossly,” through “heat of blood and lack of tempered judgment,” for the slender barrier yielded not, but when subsided the dreadful flood, which for a few brief moments had foamed in crimson fury round the embattled slopes of Cold Harbor, these was left him but the wreck of a noble army, which in sullen despair refused longer to obey his orders.*


Such was the retrospect of this thirty days’ campaign to Lee, as he sat in his simple tent pitched upon the very ground, whence, but two years before, whit reversed, he had driven McClellan in rout and disaster to the James; and through Lee the man was modest, he was but mortal, and Lee the soldier could but be conscious of his own genius, and having proved the matchless temper of the blade, which Providence, or Destiny, or call it what you will, had placed within his hands, we may be sure that his heart was stirred with high hopes of his country’s deliverance, and that through these hopes his pliant genius was inspired to discern in each new difficulty but fresh device. And his veterans of confirmed hardihood, watching the gracious serenity of that noble face, conscious of the same warlike virtues which made him dear to them, caught up and reflected this confidence, remembering that he had declared to them in general orders after Spotsylvania: “It is in your power, under God, to defeat the last effort of the enemy, establish the independence of you native land, and earn the lasting love and gratitude of your countrymen and the admiration of mankind.”+

And to an army intelligent as it was resolute, there was surely


*Swinton, A. P., p. 487; Draper, vol. iii, p. 387.

+Lee’s General Order, May 16th, 1864.


much to confirm this confidence, outside enthusiastic trust in the resources of their leader.

The sobering consciousness of instant peril had quickened their discernment, and the patient watchers in the swamps of Chickahominy, no longer deluded by the ignis fatuus of foreign intervention, hopes of which had been kindled anew in the Capital by the fiery speech of the Marquis of Clanricarde, regarded only, but with eager exultation, the signs in camp and country of the enemy. Mr. Seward’s thirty day’s draft on victory, though given to a superb army for collection, and endorsed by the credulity of the nation, had gone to protest, and Mr. Lincoln now signified his intention of calling for 50,000 additional men to enforce its payment.*

No censorships of the press could restrain the clamorous discontent which burst forth North and West at this proposed call for half a million more men, and


that unfailing barometer of the hopes and fears, the joy and despair, of a purely commercial people, indicated clearly enough the gloomy forebodings of the nation. Every tick of the second-hand on the dial registered an additional $35 to the national debt, or $2,100 per minute, $126,000 an hour, $3,024,000 a day. Ragged veterans, leaning on the blackened guns in the trenches, reading the newspapers just passed across the picket lines-men who had left their ledgers and knew the mysteries of money-marked, while their faces puckered with shrewd wrinkles of successful trade, the course of the precious mercury. When Grant crossed the Rapidan, gold had gone down with a rush from 1.89 to 1.70,+ and though from the Wilderness on, Mr. Stanton-who was Napoleonic in his bulletins if in nothing else-persistently chronicled success whenever battle was joined, gold rose with a like persistency after each announcement-a signal example of cynical unbelief in a truly good and great man.

True, for a few days after Cold Harbor, the telegraph wires became mysteriously “out of working order,” “owing,” as he candidly confesses to General Dix in New York, “to violent storms on the Peninsula,” but the dreadful story gradually leaked out, and gold gave a frantic bound to 2.03, to 2.30-before the end of the month


*This draft of 500,000 men was actually made under of July 4th, 1864.

+The quotations of gold in this address were tabulated from files of the New York Herald for 1864.


to 2.52-while Congress in a flurry passed a silly “gold bill,” and the New York Herald shrieked out curses against “Rebel sympathizers in Wall Street”-as if Wall Street ever sympathized with anything save the Almighty Dollar.

Of the temper of the enemy, I myself do not presume to speak, but there are not lacking indications that General Grant’s theory of action, which he summed up in the phrase “to hammer continuously,” had become somewhat modified by experience, and that, at this time, his new evangel of “attrition” found but few zealous disciples in the Army of the Potomac. Lee had lost in the campaign between 15,000 and 16,000 men*-veterans, whose lives, it is true, regarding them simply as soldiers, were precious beyond numerical reckoning. Of the Army of the Potomac, not counting the losses in the Tenth and Eighteenth corps, which had been called up to take part in the battle of Cold Harbor, more than 60,000 men had been put hors du combat, including 3,000 officers-a loss greater by 10,000 than the total which Lee had carried into the Wilderness.+ “Had not success elsewhere come to brighten the horizon,” says the historian of that army, “it would have been difficult to have raised new forces to recruit the Army of the Potomac, which, shaken in its structure, its valor quenched in blood, and thousands of its ablest officers killed and wounded, was the Army of the Potomac no more.”

This apparent digression from my theme has seemed to me, comrades, not impertinent, because, as I have said, the temper of this army at that time has been misunderstood by some and misrepresented by others; because the truth in regard to the matter, will alone enable those who come after us to understand how such a handful, ill-appointed and illfed, maintained for so long a time against overwhelming odds the fiercest defence of the modern times. Nay, more, I believe that when the whole truth shall be told touching this eventful campaign, ti will be shown that, at no time during the war, had the valor of this army and the skill of its leader been so near to compelling an honorable peace as in the days immediately succeeding Cold Harbor. Such is the testimony of Federal officers, high in rank, whose courage you admired in war and whose


*On May 31st, Lee, according to the returns, had 44,247 men. Allowing him 50,000 men at the opening of the campaign, and 9,000 reinforcements at Hanover Courthouse, his loss would be 14,753. To this we must add his loss at Cold Harbor, which was but a few hundreds. Swinton (p.494) says that “the Army of the Potomac lost at least twenty men to Lee’s one” in that battle, and put Grant’s loss at 13,153.

+Swinton, p. 491.


magnanimity you have appreciated in peace. Mr. Greeley, in his “History of the Rebellion,” says emphatically, these were “the very darkest hours of our contest-those in which our loyal people most profoundly despaired of its successful issue.”* Swinton, a shrewd observer and candid historian, says: “So gloomy was the military outlook after the action on the Chickahominy, and to such a degree by consequence had the moral spring of the public mind become relaxed, that there was at this time great danger of a collapse of the war.” And he adds, significantly: “The archives of the State Department, when one day made public, will show how deeply the Government was affected by the want of military success, and to what resolutions the Executive had in consequence come.”+ But, alas! the “success elsewhere,” of which the historian speaks, had” come to brighten the horizon,” and, continuing, quickened into vigorous action the vast resources of the North.

Grant, reinforced by over thirty thousand men at Spotsylvania,++ was heavily reinforced again; and putting aside with great firmness the well know wishes of the Federal Executive, prepared to change his strategy for the fifth time, and


It was a determination based upon the soundest military principles, for from that direction could an assailant hope to bring to bear with greatest assurance of success that cardinal maxim of military strategy, “operate on the communications of the enemy without endangering your own.” Though the plan was now for the first time to be put to the test, it was no new conception. McClellan had proposed it to Halleck, $ when that General visited the Army of the Potomac after what was euphemistically termed “its strategic change of base to the James,” but the Chief of the Staff curtly rejected it as “impracticable.” Lee, cautions of speech, had not hesitated to say to friends here in Richmond that the good people of the town might go to their beds without misgiving, so long as the enemy assailed the Capital north and east, and left unvexed his communication with the Carolinas. General


*He embraces period from Cold Harbor to Crater, inclusive.

+Swinton, p. 495, note.

++As the Secretary of War denies access to the archives at Washington, it is impossible to state the precise figures. Mr. Stanton in his report says: “Meanwhile, in order to repair the losses of the Army of the Potomac, the chief part of the force designed to guard the Middle Department (Baltimore) and the Department of Washington (in all 47,751 men), was called forward to the front.”

$Memorandum of Halleck (July 27th, 1862), in Report on Conduct War, Part I, p. 454.


Grant himself, while still in the West, had urged upon the Government the adoption of this plan, which, in his eyes, was identical in its main features with that which had won for him the capitulation of Vicksburg. Whey, when invested with supreme command, he should have rejected a plan which his judgment had approved but a year before, and adopted only after the losses of sixty thousand veteran troops a line of advance open to him at the obtest without firing a gun-is one of the mysteries of war, the key to which is most likely to be found in the political history of the time.

Resolved upon this last change of base, General Grant pressed its execution. From the 4th to the 11th of June, by a gradual withdrawal of his right flank, he had placed his army within easy marches of the lower crossings of the Chickahominy, and Sheridan, meanwhile, having been dispatches to destroy the Virginia Central railroad and effect a junction with Hunger, on Sunday night, June 12th.


Warren, with the Fifth corps and Wilson’s division of cavalry, seizing the crossing at Long Bridge, made his dispositions to screen the movement. Hancock’s corps, marching past the Fifth, was directed upon Wilcox’s landing; Wright’s and Burnside’s corps upon Douthat’s, while Smith, with four divisions of the Tenth and Eighteenth corps, moved rapidly to White House and embarked for Bermuda Hundred.*

Early on the morning of the 13th, Warren, who executed his critical task with marked address, pushed forward Crawford’s division on the New Market road, and compelling the few Confederate squadrons of observation to retire across White Oak Swamp, threatened direct advance on Richmond, while the activity of his powerful horse completely shrouded for the time the movement in his rear.

Lee did not attack, for Early had been detached for the defence of Lynchburg, and the main body of his cavalry being absent under Hampton he was compelled, like the Great Frederick, when Traun’s Pandours enveloped Silesia in midnight, “to read his position as if by flashes of lighting.” On the next day, however, a small body of horse, under W. H. F. Lee, body charging the enemy, drove them hotly past Malvern Hill, and on the same evening Lee received accurate information as to the whereabouts of his adversary.+


*Swinton, A. P., p. 493.

+Lee’s dispatch, 9 P. M., June 14th, 1864.


But not a man of the Army of the Potomac had as yet crossed, and the conjuncture being now so nice that the slightest blunder would have been attended with irreparable disaster, he drew back his troops towards Chaffin’s, dispatched Hoke early on the 15th from Drewry’s Bluff to reinforce Beauregard, and stood ready to repel direct advance by the river routes or to throw his army into Petersburg, as events might dictate.

Grant’s design, as we now known, was to


and it had certainly succeeded but for an incredible negligence on his own part. Smith’s command reached Bermuda Hundred, where Grant was in Person,* on the evening of the 14th, and being reinforced by Kautz’s Division of Cavalry and Hink’s Division of Negro Infantry, was at once directed to cross the Appomattox at Point of Rocks, where pontoons had been laid, and move rapidly on Petersburg. The passage of the river was effected during the same night, and early on the 15th, Smith advanced in three columns, Kautz with his horsemen covering his left. Now Hancock’s entire corps had been ferried to the south side on the night of Smith’s arrival at Bermuda Hundred, and might easily have been pushed forward to take part in the assault, but, left in ignorance of the projected coup-de-main, its commander, in obedience to orders, was awaiting rations where he had crossed. Incredible as it may seem, General Meade, the immediate commander of the Army of the Potomac, was left in like ignorance,+ and General Grant, hurrying back to the north side to push forward reinforcements from the corps of Wright and Burnside, found that the army pontoon-train had been sent to piece out the wagon-train pontoons, which had proved insufficient for the passage of the Chickahominy at Cole’s ferry. Thus nearly a day was gained to the handful of brave men defending the lines of Petersburg, and lost to the Army of the Potomac-a curious instance of the uncertain contingencies of war, reminding the military student, with a difference, of the happy chance which saved Zaragoza in the first siege, when Lefebre Desnouettes, “missing the road to the bridge, missed that to victory.”

Smith, pushing forward his columns towards Petersburg early on the morning of the 15th, had scarcely advanced a distance of two


*Grant and His Campaigns, p. 348

+Swinton, pp. 499 and 503506.


miles, when he encountered a hasty line of rifle trenches, held by Graham’s light battery and a meagre force of dismounted cavalry-the whole under Dearing, a young brigadier of high and daring spirit and of much experience in war. This position, resolutely held for two hours, was finally carried by the infantry, yet Dearing, retiring slowly with unabashed front, hotly disputing every foot of the advance, so delayed the hostile columns that it was 11 o’clock A. M. before they came upon the heavy line of entrenchments covering the eastern approaches to the town.


Shortly after that hour, Smith moved by the Baxter Road upon the works in front of Batteries 6 and 7, but the men of Wise’s brigade resisted his repeated assaults with “unsurpassed stubbornness”-I use to the exact language of Beauregard*-while the rapid fire of the light batteries completed for the time his discomfiture.

Smith had been told that the works defending Petersburg were such that “cavalry could ride over them”-“a representation,” says Mr. Swinton archly, “not justified by his experience,” and he now proceeded to reconnoitre more carefully what was in his front.


consisted of a heavy line of redans connected by powerful rifle trenches, and were of such extent as to require a garrison of 25,000 men. In the opinion of General Beauregard, this line was in many places faultily located, and especially vulnerable in the quarter of batteries 5, 6 and 7. Reckoning his heavy gunners and the local militia, Beauregard had for the defence of this extended line, on the morning of the 15th, but 2,200 men of all arms, while Smith confronted him with above 20,000 troops. At 7.30 P. M. the enemy, warned by their heavy losses of the morning against assaulting in column in face of artillery served with such rapidity and precision, advanced at a charging pace in line, and after a spirited contest carried with a rush the whole line of redans from 5 to 9 inclusive.

Scarcely had the assault ended, when Hancock came up with the Second corps, and though the ranking officer, with rare generosity, which recalls the chivalric conduct of Sir James Outram to Have-


*From the Confederate operations from the 15th to the 19th June, inclusive, I am greatly indebted to General Beauregard’s MS. Report, kindly placed at my disposal.


lock in front of Lucknow*, at once offered his troops to Smith, and stood ready to receive the orders of his subordinate.


had he boldly advanced-and the moon shining brightly highly favored such enterprise-but Smith, it would seem, though possessed of considerable professional skill, was not endowed with that intuitive sagacity which swiftly discerns the chances of the moment, and thus halting on the very threshold of decisive victory, contented himself with partial success, and having relieved his division in the captured works with Hancock’s troops, waited for the morning.

Meanwhile, Hoke had arrived on the Confederate side, and Beauregard, having disposed his meagre force upon a new line a short distance in rear of the lost redans, ordered down Bushrod Johnson’s three brigades from the Bermuda Hundred front, and made such preparation as was possible for the assault of the morrow.


The situation was indeed critical, for though the enemy assaulted but feebly the next morning, and Johnson’s brigades arrived at 10 A. M., there was still such disparity of numbers as might well have shaken the resolution of a less determined commander. Burnside’s corps reached the Federal front at noon, and General Meade, having met General Grant on the City Point Road*, directed to assume immediate command of the troops, and assault as soon as practicable. Thus at 5.30 on the evening of the 16th, more than 70,000 troops were launched against the works manned by but 10,000 brave meant, a disparity still further increased by the arrival at dusk of Warren’s corps, two brigades of which-Miles’ and Griffin’s-took part in the closing assaults. For three hours the fight raged furiously along the whole line with varying success, nor did the contest subside until after 9 o’clock, when it was found that Birney, of Hancock’s corps, had effected a serious lodgment, from which the Confederate in vain attempted to expel him during the night.

On the same day Pickett’s division, dispatched by Lee and leading the advance of Anderson’s corps, recaptured the lines on the Bermuda Hundred front, which Beauregard had been forced to


*Outram’s Division Order on night of September 16th, 1857-Brock’s Life of Hancock, p. 213.

+Grant and His Campaigns, p. 349.


uncover, and which had been immediately seized by Butler’s troops. It is surely sufficient answer to those who represent Lee as even then despondently forecasting the final issue, to find him writing next day in great good humor to Anderson: “I believe that the men of your corps will carry anything they are put against. We tried very hard to stop Pickett’s men from capturing the breastworks of the enemy, but couldn’t do it.”*


Fortunately for the weary Confederates, the enemy attempted no offensive movement until nearly noon of the next day, at which hour the Ninth corps, advancing with spirit, carried a redoubt in its front, together with four pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners, while Hancock’s corps pressed back the Confederates over Hare’s Hill-the spot afterwards known as Fort Steadman, and made famous by Gordon’s sudden and daring stroke. Later in the day the Ninth corps attacked again, but were driven back with severe loss.


Then along the whole front occurred a series of assaults and counter charges creditable to the courage and enterprise of both sides, yet so confused that an attempted narrative would necessarily share that confusion. Suffice it to say, that at dusk the Confederate lines were pierced, and, the troops crowding together in disorder, irreparable disaster seemed imminent, when suddenly in the dim twilight a dark column was descried mounting swiftly from the ravines in rear, and Gracie’s gallant Alabamians, springing along the crest with fierce cries, leaped over the works, captured over fifteen hundred prisoners, and drove the enemy pell-mell from the disputed point.+ Then the combat broke out afresh, for the enemy, with reason, felt that chance along had foiled them of decisive success, and despite the darkness, the fight raged with unabated fury until was past midnight. Meanwhile,


bore herself with proud and lofty port, worthy her renown in other wars, and the fires of her ancient patriotism, quickened by the hot breath of peril, blazed forth with such surpassing brightness


*Lee’s letter to Anderson, Clay House, June 17th, 1864.

+”Gracie’s brigade was promptly into the gap in the lines, and drove back the Federals, capturing from 1,500 to 2,000 prisoners.”-Beauregard’s MS. Report, p. 16.


as pierced the darkness of that gloomy night; nor could “the driving storm of war,” which beat as pitilessly upon this heroic city for well-night a twelve month, ever quench the blaze which, even to the end, shone as flaming beacon to the people of the vexed Commonwealth and to anxious patriots, who from afar watched the issues of the unequal contest. Her men fitted to bear arms were yonder with Lee’s veterans, and now her women, suddenly environed by all the dread realities of war, discovered a constancy and heroism befitting the wives and mothers of such valiant soldiers. Some, watching in the hospitals, cheered on the convalescents, who, when the sounds of the battle grew nearer, rose like faithful soldiers to join their comrades; others, hurrying along the deserted streets, the silence of which was ever and anon sharply broken by screaming shell, streamed far out on the highways to meet the wounded and bear them to patriotic homes. Nor shall we wonder at this devotion, for in the very beginning of those eventful days, these noble women, hanging for a few brief moments on the neck of gray-haired grandsires, or pressing the mother-kiss upon the brows of eager boys, had bidden them, with eyes brimming with prayerful tears, to go and serve the State upon the outer works; and surely, when thus duty and honor had weighed down the scale of natural love, they had learned, with an agony which man can never measure, that life itself must be accounted as a worthless thing when the safety of a nation is at stake.

That it is no fancy picture, comrades, which I have drawn for you, is attested by that battle-tablet in old Blandford Church, which records the names of the gray-haired men who fell in defence of their native town; while, if you will pardon a personal allusion, it afterwards came to me, as a schoolmaster, to teach some of these veterans’ lads, who every day come to class with empty sleeves pinned across their breasts.


The battle, as we have seen, did not cease until half-past 12 on the night of the 17th, and the evacuation of the town seemed inevitable, when, by a happy accident, an officer of Burnside’s staff, losing his way in the darkness, rode into the Confederate lines, bearing a dispatch Burnside to Meade to the effect the Ninth corps had been very roughly and should be promptly reinforced. This dispatch had been referred by Meade to Smith for his information, with the request that at he at once reinforce Burnside with

such troops as could be spared. Scarcely had Beauregard finished reading the captured missive, when a courier galloped up with a message from Hoke, stating that he had easily repulsed Smith’s assaults and could lend a helping hand elsewhere.* But before this, Beauregard, foreseeing the rupture of his lines, as yet too extended for the strength of this command, now materially weakened by recent casualties,+ had selected a new a shorter line to the rear, and shortly after the combat ceased, the troops were ordered to retire upon this new position-a delicate movement, considering the proximity of the enemy, yet executed rapidly and without confusion for he had caused the line to be marked with white stakes, and required brigade and division staff-officers to acquaint themselves with the positions to be occupied by their respective commands.

This was the line held until the close of the defence.


Grant had ordered Meade to assault along the whole front at daylight of the 18th, but when the Federal skirmishers moved forward at that hour, it was found that the line so stoutly defended the evening before, had been abandoned by the Confederates. This necessities fresh dispositions, and Meade, having reconnoitred his front, now determined upon assault in column against certain selected points instead of a general attack in line, as originally intended.++

At 8 1/2 A. M. Kershaw’s division moved into position on right of the Confederate line, and at 9 o’clock.


It was noon before the enemy essayed any vigorous attack, but then began a series of swift and furious assaults, continuing at intervals far into the evening-from Martindale on the right, from Hancock and Burnside in the centre, from Warren on the left; but though their men advanced with spirit, cheering and at the run, and their officers displayed an astonishing hardihood, several of them rushing up to within thirty yards of the yards adverse works, bearing the colors, yet the huge columns, rent by the plunging fire of the light guns, and smitten with a tempest of bullets, recoiled in confusion, and finally fled, leaving their dead and dying on the field along the whole front.


*This incident is vouched for by two of General Beauregard’s staff-officers.

+Beauregard’s MS. Report.

++Grant and His Campaign, P. 352. Meade’s Report of Campaign of 1864.


The men of Anderson’s and Hill’s corps were now pouring into the Confederate works, division after division, battery after battery, and when night fell, those two grim adversaries, the Army of the Potomac and the Army of Northern Virginia, again confronted each other in array of battle, while General Grant had learned that Petersburg, as Napoleon said of Valencia,


In these four days of assault, from Wednesday to Saturday inclusive, the enemy confess to a loss of more than 10,000 men*-a fact which attests with appalling eloquence the vigor of the defence.

Sunday morning, June 19th, dawned with soft and dewy brightness, and the Sabbath’s stillness remained unbroken, save when at distant intervals a single gun boomed out from the great salients, or the rattling fire of the pickets on the river from fretted for a few brief moments of peaceful air. But it was no day of rest to the contending armies, for theConfederates were actively strengthening their crude position, while the enemy plied pick, and spade, and axe with such silent vigor, that, this comparative quiet reigning for two successive days, there arose, as if by touch of a magician’s wand, a vast cordon of redoubts of powerful profile connected by heavy infantry parapets, stretching from the Appomattox to the extreme Federal left-a line of prodigious strength, and constructed with amazing skill, destined long to remain, to the military student at least, an enduring monument of the ability of the engineers of the Army of the Potomac.

This done, General Grant was now free to being that series of attempts against Lee’s communications, which, despite repeated disaster, he continued, with slight intermission, to the end.


On Tuesday, the 21st, the Second and Sixth corps were put in motion to extend the Federal left-the Second, to take position west of the Jerusalem Plank Road, its right connecting with Warren’s left, which rested at that point; the Sixth, to extend to the left of the Second, and, if possible, effect a lodgment on the Weldon railroad. On the same day Wilson, with about 6,000 sabres,+ con-


*Swinton, A. P., p.514.

+Coppee (Grant and His Campaign, p. 358), says “8,000 men in all, but this seems, on investigation, an over-estimate.


sisting of his own and Kautz’s divisions, was dispatched to destroy the Weldon road farther to the south, and thence, by a wide sweep to the west, to cut the Southside and Danville roads. The Second corps, now commanded by Birney-for Hancock’s wound, received at Gettysburg, had broken out afresh-succeeded, after some sharp skirmishers with the Confederate cavalry, in taking position to the left of Warren, and the Sixth corps, moving up the same evening, established itself on a line in rear and parallel to the Second, its left slightly overlapping that corps. But the next morning, the Confederate horse showed such a bold front, though ’twas but a scratch force with cattle like “walking trestles,” that General Grant determined to suspend the movements to the railroad, and Birney was ordered “to swing forward the left of the Second corps so as to envelop the right flank of the Confederates.”*


This change of orders led to delay, which Lee, consummate master of that art which teaches that “offensive movements are the foundation of a good defence,” was swift to improve. Riding to his right, he sent for Mahone, who, as civil engineer, had surveyed the country and knew every inch of the ground hidden by the tangled chaparral. Few words were wasted. Mahone proposed that he be allowed to take three brigades of Anderson’s old division and strike the enemy in flank. Lee assented. Passing his men quickly along a ravine, which screened them from the enemy’s pickets, Mahone gained a point which he rightly conjectured to be beyond the hostile flank. Here, in an open field fronting the “Johnston House,” he formed line of battle-the brigades of Saunders and Wright in front, his own brigade, commanded by Colonel Weisiger, supporting the right, while McIntosh of the artillery was directed to move with two guns in the open on the left. Birney, meanwhile, had nearly completed his movement, which was executed without reference to the Sixth corps, and left an ever-widening gap between the two lines, as, “pivoting on his right division, under Gibbon, he swung forward his left.”+ Yet Mott’s division had come into position on Gibbon’s left, and had commenced, entrenching, and Barlow was moving up to the left of Mott, when suddenly and swiftly, with a wild yell which rang out shrill and fierce through the gloomy pines, Mahone’s men burst.


*Swinton, A. P., p. 512.



upon the flank-a pealing volley, which roared along the whole front-a stream of wasting fire, under which the adverse left fell as one man-and the bronzed veterans swept forward, shrivelling up Barlow’s division as lightning shrivels the dead leaves of autumn; then, cleaving a fiery path diagonally across the enemy’s front, spreading dismay and destruction, rolled up Mott’s division in its turn, and without check, the woods still reverberating with their fierce clamor, stormed and carried Gibbon’s entrenchments and seized his guns.

When night came down the victors returned to the main lines, guarding 1,742 prisoners, and bearing as trophies a vast quantity of small arms, four light arms, and eight standards.*

In this brilliant feat of arms, co-operation, it would appear, was expected from another quarter, but though, as Touchstone says, “There is much virtue in if,” I am here to relate the actual events of the defence, rather than to speculate upon what might have been.


On the same day, Wilson with his cavalry struck the Weldon railroad at Reams’ Station, destroyed the track for several miles, and then pushed westward to the Southside road. Here, while tearing up the rails at “Black-and-Whites,” having dispatched Kautz, meanwhile, to destroy the junction of the Southside and Danville roads at Burkeville, he was sharply assailed by W. H. F. Lee, who had followed him with his division of cavalry, and who now wrested from him the road upon which the raiders were moving. Again and again did Wilson seek to wrest it back, but Lee could not be dislodged. The combat was renewed next day, lasting from midday till dark, but at daylight of the 24th the Federal cavalry withdrew, leaving their killed and wounded on the field.+ Wilson reached Meherrin Station on the Danville road the same day, and Kautz having rejoined him, the two columns pushed on rapidly to Staunton River Bridge. But the local militia, entrenched at that point, behaved with great firmness, and W. H. F. Lee boldly attacking, again drove the Federals before him until dark.++ Wilson now turned to regain the lines in front of Petersburg, but his officers and men were marauding in a fashion which no prudent officer, on


*Lee’s official dispatch, June 22d, 1864. Swinton (p. 512) says “2,500 prisoners and many standards.” Is appears on close investigation that General Lee, through caution, very frequently understates in first dispatches the losses of the enemy.

+Lee’ official dispatch, June 25th, 1864.

++Lee’s official dispatch, June 26th, 1864.


such service as his, should ever have allowed, while W. H. F. Lee hung upon his rear with an exasperating tenacity which brought delay and redoubled his difficulties. At every step, indeed, the peril thickened, for Hampton, who had crossed the James, now came to W. H. F. Lee’s help with strong body of horse, and attacking the enemy on Tuesday evening (June 28th), at Sappony Church, drove him until dark, harassed him the livelong night, turned his left in the morning, and sent him helter-skelter before his horsemen.*

Wilson, fairly bewildered, sought to reach Reams’ Station, which he believed to be still in possession of the Federals-a determination destined to be attached with irreparable disaster to him, for General Lee had dispatched thither two brigades of infantry (Finnegan’s and Saunders’) under Mahone, and two light batteries (Brander’s and “the Purcell”), under Pegram, followed by Fitz. Lee, who had just roughly handled Gregg at Nance’s Shop, and who now came down at a sharp trot to the take part in the tumult. Wilson, reaching his objective, described ominous clouds of dust rising on the roads by which he had hoped to win safety, but offering, in desperation, a seemingly bold front prepared for battle.

Informed by a negro, whose knowledge of the country notably expanded at sight of a sixshooter, that there was a “blind-road” leading in rear of Wilson’s left, Fitz. Lee at once pushed forward with his dusky guide, and having assured himself by personal reconnaissance of the truth of the information, quickly made his dispositions. Lomax’s horsemen, dismounted, were formed across this road, with Wickham’s mounted brigade in reserve, the later being instructed to charge so soon as Lomax had shaken the enemy. In a twinkling, as it seemed, the rattling fire of the carbines told that Lomax was hotly engaged, and on the instant the movement in front began-the infantry, under Mahone, advancing swiftly across the open field, pouring in a biting volley, Pegram firing rapidly for a few moments, them limbering up and going forward at a gallop to come into battery on a line with the infantry, while Fitz. Lee, the Federals rapidly giving ground before his dismounted troopers, called up his mounted squadrons and went in with his rough stroke at a thundering pace on the enemy’ left and rear.+

For a brief space the confused combat, ever receding, went on-fierce shouts of triumph mingling with the dismal cries of stricken


*Lee’s official dispatch, June 29th, 5 P. M.

+Fitz. Lee’s MS. report. Lee’s official dispatch.


men, ringing pistol shots, the clattering fire of cavalry carbines, the dull roar of the guns then, on a sudden, the headlong pace of “Runaway Down.” The woods were now all ablaze, for Wilson had fired his trains, and the infantry and artillery, pressing forward through the stifling heat and smoke, were greeted by a sight not soon to be forgotten-a score or two of Federal troopers, in gaily-trimmed jackets, lying dead upon their faces in the dusty road-pistols, carbines, sabres, scattered over the ground in wildest profusion-a long line of ambulances filled with wounded men, who gave vent to piteous moans-a confused mass of guns, caissons, supply and ordnance wagons, dead horses, stolen vehicles of all kinds, from the wonderful “one-horse shay” to the old family carriage, all of them crammed with books, bacon, looking-glasses, and ladies’ wearing appeal of every description, from garments of mysterious pattern to dress of the finest stuff-while cowering along the road side were nearly a thousand fugitive negroes, the poor creatures almost pallid with fright, the pickaninnies roaring lustily, several of the women in the pangs of childbirth. Nor was this shameful pillage on the part of the men to be wondered at, for in the head-quarter wagon of the commanding general was found much plunder among other articles of stolen silver a communion-service inscribed “Saint John’s Church, Cumberland Parish, Lunenburg.*


captured within a few miles two more light guns, and ordered the Federal artillerymen to turn them upon their flying comrades. Whether through pride in their well-known proficiency in this arm of the service, or because they were conscious of the exclusive, if not gratifying attention, of sundry lean-faced Confederates of determined aspect, I do not known, but certain is it had the cannoniers soon warmed to their work, and the gunners, stepping quickly aside to avoid the smoke, marked the successful shots, and discovered their satisfaction by cries of approbation to their men.+

Thus Wilson, who but eight days before had crossed this road in all the pomp of war, with gaily-flaunting pennons and burnished trappings flashing in the sun, while the earth trembled beneath the thunder of his trampling squadrons, now slunk across the Notto-


*A list of the stolen silver may be found in the Richmond Examiner, July 5th, 1864. In the same paper (June 27th) may be seen an official list, sent by General Lomax, of the silver found in Custer’s head-quarter wagon captured at Trevilian’s. The silver was sent to W. H. McFarland, Esq., of Richmond, to be identified and reclaimed by its owners.

+Fitz. Lee’s MS. report. Statement of Lieutenant Charles Minnigerode, A. D. C.


way (“horses and men in a pitiable condition,” says the Union historian), having abandoned to the Confederates his trains, a great quantity of valuable ordnance stores and small arms, the captured negroes, one thousand prisoners, besides his killed and wounded, and thirteen pieces of artillery.*

Yet General Grant, to use his own phrase, felt “compensated,” and the Confederate, forbearing to inquire too curiously into his reasons, were not dissatisfied, for the damage to the roads was son repaired,


the latter openly alleging that Wilson had given a striking example of what is known in strategy as moving on parallel lines, for that, after eagerly tearing up the rod, he had been no less eager in tearing down the road.

I have dwelt thus at length, comrades, on these two attempts of General Grant to extended his left and cut Lee’s communications, because they were the first of a series of like enterprises, and illustrate fairly the repeated disaster which befell him in his efforts to reach the Confederate arteries of supply.

Having made still another attempt on the 23d to extend the Sixth corps to the Weldon railroad, in which he suffered a loss of above five hundred prisoners, General Grant now sharply refused his left on the Jerusalem Plank Road, yet abated no with the marvelous energy which he had displayed since his partial investment of the town. Early was at this time menacing Washington, uncovered by Hunter’s extraordinary line of retreat, and thither, in obedience to urgent orders, Grant dispatched the Sixth corps. But, at the same time, he directed his engineers to examine the whole front south of the James with a view to direct assault, and pushed forward vigorously to completion his works, which, when heavily armed with artillery, would be capable of assured defence by a fraction of his preponderating force, leaving the bulk of his army available for active operations on the adverse flanks, or, should occasion offer, for such assault as he contemplated. The later stroke suited best the temper of the man, and the engineers reporting, after careful reconnaissance, the Bermuda Hundred front impracticable, but that held by Burnside’s corps as favoring, under certain conditions, such enterprise, he determined to assault from that quarter.+


*Lee’s official dispatch, July 1st, 1864.

+Grant’s letter to Meade.-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 42.



Burnside held and advanced position, carried in the assault of the 17th and 18th of June by his own troops and Griffin’s division of Warren’s corps, and had succeeded in constructing a heavy line of rifle-pits scarcely more than 100 yards distant from what was then known as the Elliott Salient.* Immediately in rear of this advanced line the ground dipped suddenly and broadening out into a meadow of considerable extent, afforded an admirable position for massing a large body of troops, while working parties would be effectually screened from the observation of the Confederates holding the crest beyond.+ Now, it happened that the Second division of the Ninth corps guarded this portion of the Federal front, and as early as the 24th++ of June, Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Pleasants, commanding the First brigade of that division, a man of resolute energy and an accomplished mining engineer, proposed to his division commander that he be allowed to run a gallery from this hollow,


Submitted to Burnside, the venture was approved, and at 12 o’clock next day, Pleasants began work, selecting for the service his own regiment, the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania, most of whom were miners from the Schuylkill region. But though Burnside approved, the Commanding General of the Army of the Potomac and the artillery engineers regarded the scheme from the first with ill-concealed derision. Meade and his Chief of Engineers, Duane, declared that it was “all clap trap and nonsense”-that the Confederates were certain to discover the enterprise-that working parties would be smothered for lack of air or crushed by the falling earth-finally, as an unanswerable argument, that a mine of such length had never been excavated in military operations. “I found it impossible to get assistance for anybody,” says Pleasants, with an indignation almost pathetic; “I had to do all the work myself.” Day after day, night after night, toiling laboriously, he came out of the bowels of the earth only to find himself in the could shade of official indifference; yet the undaunted spirit of the man refused to yield his undertaking. Mining pickets were denied him, but he straightened out his army picks and delved on; he


*Burnside’s report, August 13th, 1864.-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 151.

+Ib., p. 211.

++Lieutenant-Colonel Pleasants’ testimony.-Ib., p. 112.


cold get no lumber for supports of his gallery, but he tore down an old bridge in rear of the lines and utilized that; barrows were wanting, in which to remove the earth taken from the mine, but he bound old cracker-boxes with hopes of iron wrenched from the pork-barrels and used them instead; above all, he needed an accurate instrument to make the necessary triangulations, and although there was a new one at army headquarters, he was forced to send to Washington for an old-fashioned theodolite, and make that answer his purpose.

Despite all this and more, he persevered, working on until.


engaged in laying platforms for their guns, assured him that he was well under the doomed salient.

By July 23d the mine was finished. It consisted of a main gallery five hundred and ten and eight-tenths feet in length, with lateral galleries right and left, measuring respectively thirty-eight and thirty-seven feet, and forming the segment of a circle concave to the Confederate lines*. From mysterious paragraphs in the Northern papers and from reports of deserters, though these last were vague and contradictory, Lee and Beauregard suspected that the enemy was mining in front of some one of the three salients on Beauregard’s front, and the latter officer had, in consequence, directed counter-mines to be sunk from all three, meanwhile constructing gorge-lines in rear, upon which the troops might retire in case of surprise or disaster. Batteries of eight and ten-inch, and Coehorn mortars were also established to assure a cross and front fire on the threatened points. But the counter-mining on part of the Confederates was after a time discontinued, owing to that lack of proper tools, the inexperience of the troops in such work, and the arduous nature of their service in the trenches.+

The mine finished, official brows began to relax, and Pleasants asking for 12,000 pounds of powder, got 8,000 and was thankful, together with 8,000 sand bags to be used in tamping. On the 27th of July, the charge, consisting of 320 kegs of powder, each containing, 25 pounds, was placed in the mine, and before sunset of 28th the tamping was finished and the mine ready to be sprung.++


*All of the foregoing statements regarding construction, &c., of the mine are based on Lieutenant-Colonel Pleasant’s official report, August, 1864.

+Beauregard’s MS. report of mine explosion.

++Pleasants’ official report.


General Grant, meanwhile, in his eagerness for the coveted prize so long denied him, resolved to tempt Fortune by a double throw, and not to stake his all upon the venture of a single cast. To this end, he dispatched, on the evening of the 26th, Hancock’s corps and two divisions of horse under Sheridan to the north side of the James, with instructions to the former to move up rapidly next day to Chaffin’s and prevent reinforcements crossing from the south, while Sheridan, making a wide sweep to the right, was to attempt from the north a surprise of the thinly-garrisoned fortifications of Richmond. Mead was to spring the mine and assault from Burnside’s front on the same day, General Grant stating in the telegraphic order, with


“Your two remaining corps, with the Eighteenth, make you relatively stronger against the enemy at Petersburg than we have been since the first day.*” But the cautious Meade replied that he could not advise an assault in the absence of the Second corps,+ while the rough treatment experienced by Sheridan indicated that the Confederate capital was secure against surprise.

But although the movement north of the James was not, as commonly represented, a skillful feint which deceived Lee, but a real attempt to surprise Richmond,++ which he thwarted by concentrating heavily on his left, yet to parry the stroke the Confederate commander had been compelled so to denude the Petersburg front that the was left for its defence but four brigades of Bushrod Johnson’s division and the divisions of Hoke and Mahone, which together with the artillery made up a force of little over 13,000 effective men.$

The conjuncture was still bright with success to the Federals, and it being now decided to spring the mine before daylight of the 30th, Hancock’s movement was treated as a feint, and that officer


*Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 45.

+”I cannot advise an assault with the Second corps absent. * * * It is not the numbers of the enemy, which oppose our taking Petersburg; it is their artillery and their works, which can be held by reduced numbers against direct assault.”-Meade’s telegram to Grant, July 26th, 1864.

++General Grant’s testimony, “falling on the north bank of the river to surprise the enemy as we expected or hoped to do.”-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 169.

$This estimate is based on the morning report of the Army of Northern Virginia, June 30th, 1864. It is, perhaps, excessive by a few hundreds. General Grant’s information as to the Confederate force at Petersburg was entirely accurate.-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 170.


was directed on the night of the 29th to return with all secrecy and dispatch to take part in the assault, while Sheridan was to pass in rear of the army, and with whole cavalry corps operate towards Petersburg from the south and west.*

On the evening of the 29th,


As soon as it was dusk, Burnside was to mass his troops in front of the point to be attacked, and from them in columns of assault, taking care to remove the abatis, so that the troops could debouch rapidly, and to have his prisoners equipped for opening passages for the artillery. He was to spring the mine at 3.30 A. M., and, moving rapidly through the breach, seize the crest of Cemetery Hill, a ridge four hundred yards in rear of the Confederate lines.

Ord was to mass the Eighteenth corps in rear of the Ninth, immediately follow Burnside and support him on the right.

Warren was to reduce the number of men holding his front to the minimum, concentrate heavily on the right of his corps, and support Burnside on the left. Hancock was to mass the Second corps in rear of the trenches, at that time held by Ord, and be prepared to support the assault as events might dictate.+

Engineer officers were detailed to accompany each corps, and the Chief Engineer was directed to park his ponton-train at a convenient point, ready to move at a moment’s warning, for Meade, having assured himself that the Confederates had no second line on Cemetery Hill, as he had formerly supposed and as Duane had positively reported,++ was now sanguine of success, and made these preparations to meet the contingency of the meagre Confederate force retiring beyond the Appomattox and burning the bridges; in which event, he proposed to push immediately across that river and Swift Creek and open up communication with Butler at Bermuda Hundred before Lee could send my reinforcements from his five divisions north of the James.$

To cover the assault, the Chief of Artillery was to concentrate a heavy fire on the Confederate batteries commanding the salient and its approaches, and to this end, eighty-one heavy guns and mortars


*Swinton, A. P., p. 520.

+Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 221.

++Ib., pp. 43, 44.

$Meade’s testimony.-Ib., p. 75.


and over eighty light guns were placed in battery on that immediate front.* Burnside had urged that


declaring that it was superior in morale to the whit divisions of his corps, but in this he was overruled by Meade and Grant.+ He therefore permitted the commanders of the white divisions to “drawn straws,” as to who should claim the perilous honor, and, Fortune favoring the Confederates, the exacting duty fell to General Ledlie, an officer unfitted by nature to conduct any enterprise requiring skill or courage.++ This settled, Burnside, in his turn, issued his orders of assault.$ Ledlie’s was push through the breach straight to Cemetery Hill.

Wilcox was to follow, and, after passing the breach, deploy on the left of the leading division and seize the line of the Jerusalem Plank Road.

Potter was to pass to the right of Ledlie and protect his flank, while Ferrero’s Negro Division, should Ledlie effect a lodgment on Cemetery Hill, was to push beyond that point and immediately assault the town.

Long before dawn of the 30th, the troops were in position, and at half-past three, punctually to the minute, the mine was fire.


and the dark columns, standing in serried masses, awaited in dread suspense the signal knowing that death awaited many on yonder crest, yet not animated by the stern joy of coming fight, nor yet resolved that thought Death stalked forth with horrid mien from the dreadful breach, it should be but to greet Victory.

Minute followed minute of anxious waiting-a trail to even the most determined veterans and now


yet the tender beauty of the din tranquility remained unvexed of any sound of war, save one might hear a low hum amid the dark-


*Statement of General Hill Hunt, Chief of Artillery, Army of Potomac-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 184; of Colonel H. L. Abbot-Ib., p. 198.

+For Burnside’s proposal regarding the negro troops-Ib., pp. 17, 18; overruled by Meade and Grant-Ib., p. 145, cf. specially-Ib., p. 223.

++General Grant says: “The lot happened to fall on what I thought was the worst commander in his corps.”-Ib., p. 110. See further on.

$Ib., p. 243.


ling swarm as grew the wonder at delay. Nor was the cause of hindrance easy to ascertain; for should it prove that the fuze was still alight, burning but slowly, to enter the mine was certain death. Thus time dragged slowly on, telegram upon telegram of inquiry meanwhile pouring in from Meade, who, unmindful of the dictum of Napoleon, that “in assaults a general should be with his troops,” had fixed his headquarters full a mile away.* But these were all unheeded, for Burnside knew not what to answer.

Then it was that two brave men, whose names should be mentioned with respect wherever courage is honored, Lieutenant Jacob Douty and Sergeant Henry Rees, both of the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania, volunteered for the perilous service and entered the mine. Crawling on their hands and knees, groping in utter darkness, they found that the fuze had gone out about fifty feet from the mouth of the main gallery, relighted it, and retired. “In eleven minutes now the mine will explode,” Pleasants reports to Burnside at thirty-three minutes past four, and a small group of officers of the Forty-eighth, standing upon the slope of the main parapets, anxiously await the result.

“It lack a minute yet,” says Pleasants, looking at his watch.

“Not a second,” cries Douty,+


A slight tremor of the earth forth for a second, then the rocking as of an earthquake, and with a tremendous burst which rent the sleeping hills beyond, a vast column of earth and smoke shoots upward to a great height, its dark sides flashing out sparks of fire, hangs poised for a moment in a mid-air, and then hurtling downward with a roaring sound showers of stones, broken timbers, and blackened human limbs, subsides-the gloomy pall of darkening smoke flushing to an angry crimson as it floats away to meet the morning sun.


for now the site of the Elliott Salient is marked by a horrid chasm, one hundred and thirty-five feet in length, ninety-seven feet in breadth, and thirty feet deep, and its brave garrison, all asleep, save the guards, when thus surprised by sudden death, lie buried


*Meade’s own statement-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 72. Cf. also General Warren’s statement-Ib., p. 169.

+Grant and His Campaign, p. 369.


beneath the jagged blocks of blackened clay-in all, 256 officers and men of the Eighteenth and Twenty-second South Carolina-two officers and twenty men of Pegram’s Petersburg Battery.*

The dread upheaval has rest in twain Elliott’s brigade, and the men to the right and left of the huge abyss recoil in terror and dismay. Nor shall we censure them, for so terrible was the explosion that even the assaulting column shrank back aghast, and nearly ten minutes elapsed are it could be reformed.+


bursts in red fury from the Federal front, and in an instant all the valley between the hostile lines lies shrouded in billowing smoke. The Marshall, putting himself at the head of the stormers, sword in hand, bids his men to follow.

But there comes no response befitting the stern grandeur of the scene-no trampling charge-no rolling drums of Austerlitz-no fierce shouts of warlike joy as burst from the men of the “Light Division” when they mounted the breach of Badajos, or from Frazer’s “Royals” as they crowned the crimson slopes of St. Sebastian.

No, none of this is here. But a straggling line of the men of the Second brigade, First division, uttering a mechanical cheer, slowly mounts the crest, passes unmolested across the intervening space,++ and true to the instant fostered by long service in the trenches, plunges into the crater, courting the friendly shelter of its crumbling sides.

Yonder lies Cemetery Hill in plain view, naked of men.$ and, hard beyond, the brave old town, nestling whitely in its wealth of green.

Silence still reigned along the Confederate lines, yet Ledlie’s men did advance, and now the supporting brigade of the same division running forward over the crest, and with an incredible folly crowding in upon their comrades, already huddled together in the shelving pit, all regimental and company organization was lost, and the men speedily passed from the control of their officers.#


*Beauregard’s MS. Report of Mine Explosion; Lieutenant-Colonel Loring’s statement.

+Statement of General O. B. Wilcox, U. S. A.-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 79; Burnside’s testimony-Ib., p. 147.

++Grant, Meade, Potter, Duane and others testify to this effect.-Ib., pp. 36, 87, 110, 116.

$Statement of Captain F. U. Farquhar, U. S. Engineers; “There was not a soul between the Crater and that position, and I believe that position was the objective point of the assault”-Ib., p. 211; cf. testimony of other officers-Ib.

#See testimony of General Grant-Ib., p. 110; Meade, p. 36; Pleasant, p. 116. As regards the men passing from control of their officers, see statement of Lieutenant-Colonel Loring-Ib., p. 92; General Hartranft, p. 190.


If we except Elliott, who with the remnant of his brigade was occupying the ravine to the left and rear of the Crater, no officer of rank was present on the Confederate side to assume immediate direction of affairs, and a considerable time elapsed before Beauregard and Lee-both beyond the Appomattox-were informed by Colonel Paul, of Beauregard’s staff, of the nature and locality of the disaster.

But almost on the moment,


a glorious young battalion-commander, whose name will be forever associated with the artillery corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, galloped to the front, followed by two light batteries, and having disposed these pieces along the Plank Road, and opened Flanner’s light guns from the Gee House, passed to his left to speak a word of cheery commendation of Lampkin of his battalion, who was already annoying the swarming masses of the enemy with this Virginia battery of eight-inch mortars. Passing through the covered-way, Haskell sought Elliott, and pointing out to him the defenseless position of the guns on the Plank Road, urged him to make such dispositions as would afford them protection. Essaying this, Elliott sprang forward, followed by a mere handful of brave fellows, but almost on the instant fell stricken by a grievous hurt and was borne from his last field of battle.

The fire of the enemy’s artillery was now very severe, owing to their superior weight of metal, and the guns on the Plank Road, exposed in addition to the fire of sharp-shooters, were suffering such loss that it was determined to retire all but six pieces, and, as the situation seemed rather hopeless, to call for volunteers to man these. To Haskell’s proud delight, every gun-detachment volunteered to remain.

Nor did the artillery to the right and left fail to bear themselves with the resolution of men conscious that, for the time, the hope of the army was centred in their steadiness, and that


for, let me repeat, Cemetery Hill was naked on of men. The officers of one battery, indeed, misbehaved, but these were promptly spurned aside, and the very spot of their defection made glorious by the heroic conduct of Hampton Gibbs of the artillery and Sam Preston of Wise’s brigade, both of whom fell desperately wounded-

while spurring had from the hospital, with the fever still upon him, came Hampden Chamberlayne, a young artillery officer of Hill’s corps, who so handled these abandoned guns that from that day the battery bore his name, and he wore another bar upon this collar.*

Wright, of Halifax, opened too a withering fire from his light guns posted on a hill to the left, nor could he be silenced by the enemy’s batteries, for his front was covered by a heavy fringe of pines+; and now the eight-inch mortars in rear of Wright, and Langhorne’s ten-inch mortars, from the Baxter road, took part in the dreadful chorus.

On the Federal side, Griffin of Potter’s division, not waiting for Wilcox, pushed forward his brigade, and gained ground to the north of the Carter, and Bliss’ brigade of the same division, coming to his support, still further ground was gained in that direction.++ But his leading regiments, deflected by the hostile fire, bore to their left, and mingling with Ledlie’s men swarming along the sides of the great pit, added to the confusion. Wilcox now threw forward a portion of his division and succeeded in occupying about one hundred and fifty yards of the works south of the Crater, but stopped by the fire of Chamberlayne’s guns, and whenever occasion offered, by the fire of the infantry, his men on the exposed flank gave ground, and pushing the right regiments into the Crater, the confusion grew worse confounded. Some of the men, indeed, from fear of suffocation, had already emerged from the pit and spread themselves to the right and left, but this was a matter of danger and difficulty, for the ground was scored with covered-ways and traverses, honey-combed with bomb-proofs, and swept by the artillery. Others of them pressed forward and got into the ditch of the unfinished gorge-lines, while not a few, creeping along the glacis of the exterior line, made their way over the parapet into the main trench. In all this, there was much hand-to-hand fighting, for many men belonging to the dismembered bri-


*As regards of execution of Chamberlayne’s guns, see especially statement of General Warren-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 166; General Hunt, pp. 98, 184; Duane, p. 100; and others. For general efficiency of the artillery fire, see Meade’s Report, August 16th, 1864-Ib., p. 31; Colonel Loring’s statement-Ib., p. 95, General Potter, p. 117.

+Statement of General Potter-Ib., p. 87. Cf. statement of other Federal officers-Ib.

++Burnside’s official report, August 13th, 1864. Colonel Bliss, commanding First brigade, Second division, “remained behind with the only regiment of his brigade which did not go forward according to orders”-Opinion of the Court of Inquiry.-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 217.


gade still found shelter behind the traverses and bomb-proofs, and did not easily yield.*

Meanwhile, General Meade,


to use his own phrase,+ sent telegram upon telegram to Burnside to known how fared the day, but received answer to none. At fifteen minutes to six, however, one hour after Ledlie’s men had occupied the breach, an orderly delivered to him a note in pencil, written from the Carter by Colonel Loring, Inspector-General of the Ninth corps, and addressed to General Burnside. This was Meade’s first information from the front and was little cheering, for Loring stated briefly that Ledlie’s men were in confusion and would not got forward.++

Ord was now directed to push forward the Eighteenth corps, and the following dispatch was sent to Burnside:

July 30th, 1865, 6 A. M.

Major-General BURNSIDE:

Prisoners taken say that there is no line in their rear, and that their men were falling back when our advanced; that none of their troops have returned from the James. Our chance in now. Push your men forward at all hazards, white and back, and don’t lose time a making formations, but rush for the crest.

Major-General Commanding.

But Ord could not advance, for the narrow debouches were still choke up by the men of the Ninth corps and by the wounded borne from the front, and although Burnside promptly transmitted the order to his subordinates, the troops in rear moved with reluctant step, while no general of division was present with those in front to urge them forward.$

Again did Meade telegraph to Burnside: “Every moment is most precious; the enemy are undoubtedly concentrating to meet you on the crest.” But not until twenty minutes past seven, did he receive a reply, and then briefly to the effect that Burnside “hoped to carry the crest, but that it was hard work.”


*For all statements in above paragraph, cf. Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol, I, pp. 21, 92, 94, 96, 121, 157, 177, 201.

+”I have been groping in the dark since the commencement of the attack”-Meade.-Ib., p. 71.

++Ib., p. 53/

$See testimony of General Ord-Ib., pp. 172, 173; General Grant, p. 110; cf. also, Ib., pp. 197, 210. For state of debouches, see Ord’s official report, August 3, 1864-Ib., p. 101.


Then Meade’s patience seems fairly to have broken down. “What do you mean by hard work to take the crest?” he asks,

“I understand not a man has advanced beyond the enemy’s line which you occupied immediately after exploding the mine. Do you mean to say your officers and men will not obey your orders to advance? If not, what is the obstacle? I wish to know the truth, and desire an immediate answer.”


To which Burnside, in hot wrath, straight-way replied:

7.35 A. M.

General MEADE:

Your dispatch by Captain Jay received. The main body of General Potter’s division is beyond the Crater.

I do not mean to say that my officers and men will not obey my orders to advance. I mean to say that it its very hard to advance to the crest. I have never in any report said anything different from what I conceived to be the truth. Were it not insubordinate, I would say that the later remark of your note was unofficerlike and ungentlemanly.


Griffin, it is true, in obedience to orders to advance straight for Cemetery Hill, had during this time attempted several charges from his position north of the Crater, but his men displayed little spirit, and, breaking speedily under the fire of the artillery, sought their old shelter behind the traverses and covered ways.* The rest of Potter’s division moved out but slowly, and it was fully 8 o’clock-+ more than three hours after the explosion when Ferrero’s Negro Division, the men beyond question inflamed with drink,++ burst from the advanced lines, cheering vehemently, passed at a double-quick over the crest under a heavy fire, and rushing with scare a check over the heads of the white troops in the Crater, spread to their right, capturing more than two hundred prisoners and one stand of colors.$ At the same moment, Turner of the Tenth corps pushed forward a brigade over the Ninth corps parapets, seized the Confederate line still further to the north, and quickly disposed the remaining brigades of his division to confirm his success.#


*Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol, I. pp. 96, 228 (Meade’s dispatch, 5 A. M. July 30th).

+Ib., pp. 103, 195, 196.

++There are many living officers and men, myself among the number, who will testify to this.

$Ib., pp. 96, 109.

#General Turner’s statement.-Ib., p. 121.



and fortune was if for maiden and matron of Petersburg, that even at this moment that there was filing into the ravine between Cemetery Hill and the drunken battalions of Ferrero, a stern array of silent men, clad in faded gray, resolved with grim resolve to avert from the mother-town a fate as dreadful as that which marked the three days’s sack of Badajos.

Lee, informed of the disaster at 6.10 A. M.,* had bidden his aide, Colonel Charles Venable, to ride quickly to the right of the army and bring up two brigades of Anderson’s old division, commanded by Mahone, for time was too precious to observe military etiquette and send the orders through Hill. Shortly after, the General-in-Chief reached the front in person, and all men took heart when they described the grave and gracious face, and “Traveller” stepping proudly, as if conscious that he bore upon his back the weight of a nation. Beauregard was already at the Gee House, a commanding position five hundred yards in rear of the Crater, and Hill had galloped to the right to organize an attacking column,+ and had ordered down Pegram, and even now the light batteries of Brander and Ellett were rattling through the town at a sharp trot, with cannoneers mounted, the sweet, serene face of their boy-colonel lit up with that glow which to his men meant hotly impending

Venable had sped upon his mission, and found


but the Federals, from their lofty “look-outs,” were busily interchanging signals, and to uncover such a length of front without exciting observation, demanded the nicest precaution. Yet was this difficulty overcome by a simple device, for the men being ordered to drop back one by one, as if going for water, obeyed with such intelligence, that Warren continued to report to Meade that not a man had left his front.++


*The hour is taken from the note-book of the staff-officer who delivered the message from Beauregard to Lee, and who noted the exact time at the moment. This note-book was kindly placed at my disposal.

+Statement of Lieutenant-Colonel W. H. Palmer, chief-of-staff to General Hill.

++The device was, of course, Mahone’s. General Meade says: Generals Hancock and Warren “sent me reports that the enemy’s lines in their front were strongly held, * * * that the enemy had sent away none of their troops in their front, and it was possible to do anything there.”-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. 1, p. 7. General Warren appears to have been hard to convince, for as late as Dec. 20th, 1864, he testifies that he is “quite well satisfied that they (the enemy in his immediate front) did not take part in the attack.”-Ib., p. 82.


Then forming in the ravine to the rear, the men of the Virginia and Georgia brigades came pressing down the valley with swift, swinging stride-not with the discontented bearing of soldiers whose discipline alone carries them to what they feel to be a scene of fruitless sacrifice, but with the glad alacrity and aggressive ardor of men impatient for battle, and who, from long knowledge of war, are conscious that Fortune has placed within their grasp an opportunity which, but the magic touch of veteran steel, may be transformed to “swift-winged victory.”

Halting for a moment in rear of the “Ragland House,” Mahone bade his men strip off blankets and knapsacks and prepare for battle.

The riding quickly to the front, while the troops marched in single file along the covered way, he drew rein at Bushrod Johnson’s head-quarters, and reported in person to Beauregard. Informed that Johnson would assist in the attack with the outlying troops about the Crater, he rode still further to the front, dismounted, and pushing along the covered-way from the Plank Road, came out into the ravine, in which he afterwards formed his men. Mounting the embankment at the head of the covered-way, he described within 160 yards.


and beyond, floating proudly from the captured works, eleven Union flags. Estimating rapidly from the hostile colors the probable force in his front, he at once dispatched his courier to bring up the Alabama brigade from the right,* assuming thereby a grave responsibility, yet was the wisdom of the decision vindicated by the event.

Scarcely had the order been given, when the head of the Virginia brigade began to debouch from the covered-way. Directing Colonel Weisiger, its commanding officer, to file to the right and from line of battle, Mahone stood at the angle, speaking quietly and cheerily to the men. Silently and quickly they moved out, and formed with that precision dear to every soldier’s eye-the Sharpshooters leading, followed by the Sixth, Sixteenth, Sixty-first, Forty-first, and Twelfth Virginia+-the men of Second Manassas and Crampton’s Gap!


*This was “Jimmy Blakemore,” well known in the Army of Northern Virginia as one of the most gallant lads in the service. In critical events Mahone would entrust to him the most important messages, and in no instance did he fail him.

+The Virginia brigade moved up left in front, which accounts for the order of the regiments. Before moving out of the covered-way each, regiment was counter-marched on its (BTC Editor: continued on next page notes below.)


But one caution was given-to reserve their fire until they reached the brink of the ditch; but one exhortation-that they were counted on to do this work, and do it quickly.

Now the leading regiment of the Georgia brigade began to move out, when suddenly a brave Federal officer, seizing the colors, called on his men to charge. Descrying this hostile movement on the instant, Weisiger, a veteran of stern countenance which did not belie the personal intrepidity of the man,* uttered to the Virginians the single word-


Then the Sharpshooters and the men of the Sixth on the right, running swiftly forward, for theirs was the greater distance to traverse, the whole line sprang along the crest, and there bust from more than eight hundred warlike voices that fierce yell which no man yet heard unmoved on field of battle. Storms of case-shot from the right mingled with the tempest of bullets which smote upon them from the front, yet was there no answering volley, for these were veterans, whose fiery enthusiasm had been wrought to a finer temper by the stern code of discipline, and even in the tumult the men did not forget their orders. Still pressing forward with steady fury, while the enemy, appalled by the inexorable advance, gave ground, they reached the ditch of the inner works-


and the Sixth and Sixteenth, with the Sharpshooters, clutching their empty guns and redoubling their fierce cries, leaped over the retrenched-cavalier, and all down the line the dreadful work of the bayonet began.

How long it lasted none may say with certainly, for in those


(BTC Editor: continued from previous page.) own ground. Singularly enough, the enemy also moved forward left in front.-Cf. Report on the Conduct of the War, p. 139/

*”Captain Hinton came up and reported that he had reported to General Mahone as directed, who said that I must await orders from him or Captain Girardey (who was then acting on Mahone’s staff). A few moments later Girardey came up to us. Just at that time I say a Federal officer leap from the works with a stand of colors in his had, and as last fifty or more men with him, as I supposed purposing to charge us. I repeated my orders to Girardey and told him that if we did not move forward promptly all would be lost. He agreed with me, and I then requested him to report to Mahone the circumstances and that I had moved forward, I then gave the command, “Attention,” “Forward.” The men sprang to their feet and moved forward at a double-quick, reserving their fire, as ordered, until within a few feet of the enemy, when they delivered a galling fire and then used the bayonet freely.”-MS. Report of Brigadier-General D. A. Weisiger. Statement of Captain D. A. Hinton, A. D. C., Adjutant Hugh Smith and other officers. General S. G. Griffin, U. S. Volunteers, says: “The rebels made a very desperate attack at this time.”-Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 188.


fierce moments no man heeded time, no man asked, no man gave quarter; but in an incredibly brief space, as seemed to those who looked on, the whole of the advanced line north of the Carter was retaken, the enemy in headlong flight,* and the tattered battleflags planted along the parapets from left to right, told Lee at the Gee House that from this nettle danger, valor had plucked the flower, safety for an army.

Redoubling the sharpshooters on his right, Mahone kept down all fire from the Crater, the vast rim of which frowned down upon the lower line occupied by this troops.

And now the scene within the horrid pit was such as might be fitly portrayed only by the pencil of Dante after he had trod “nine-circled Hell.” From the great mortars to the night and left, huge missiles, describing graceful curves, fell at regular intervals with dreadful accuracy and burst among the helpless masses huddled together, and every explosion was followed by piteous cries, and often-times the very air seemed darkened by flying human limbs. Haskell, too, had moved up his Eprouvette mortars among the men of the Sixteenth Virginia-so close, indeed, that his powder-charge was but one ounce and a half and, without intermission, the storm of fire beat upon the hapless men imprisoned within.

Mahone’s men watched with great interest this easy method or reaching troops behind cover, and then, with the imitative ingenuity of soldiers, gleefully gathered up the countless muskets with bayonets fixed, which had been abandoned by the enemy, and propelled them with such nine skill that they came down upon Ledlie’s men “like the rain of the Norman arrows at Hastings.”

At half-past ten, the Georgia brigade advanced and attempted to dislodge Wilcox’s men, who still held a portion of the lines south of the Crater, but so closely was every inch of the ground searched by artillery, so biting was the fire musketry, that, obliquing to


*Ib., pp. 21, 121, 208. General Ayres, U. S. Volunteers, says: “I saw the negroes coming back to the rear like a land-side.”-Ib., p. 165. General Ferrero, the commander of the Negro Division, who was censured by the Court of Inquiry for “being in a bomb-proof habitually” (p. 216) on this day, also testified emphatically to the disorderly flight, but scarcely much weight can be attached to his statements unless corroborated by others. On Aug. 31, 1864, excusing the behavior of this troops, he testifies: “I would add that my troops are raw troops, and never had been drilled two weeks from the day they entered the service till that day.”-Ib., p. 181. On Dec. 20th, 1864, he testifies: (my troops) “were in fine condition-better than any other troops in the army for that purpose. We were expecting to make this assault, and had drilled for weeks and were in good trim for it.”- Ib., p. 106. Perhaps his excuse for this discrepancy of statement may be that of the notorious Trenck of the Life Guards, who, when reproached for his mendacity about the battle of Sohr, cried out: “How could I help mistakes? I had nothing but my agitated memory of trust to.”-Carlyle’s Friedreich, vol. vi, p. 97.


their left, they sought cover behind the cavalier-trench won by the Virginia brigade-many officers and men testifying by their blood how gallantly the venture had been essayed.

Half an hour later, the Alabamians under Saunders arrived, but further attack was postponed until after 1 P. M., in order to arrange for co-operation from Colquitt on the right. Sharply to the minute agreed upon, the assaulting line moved forward, and with such astonishing rapidity did these glorious soldiers rush across the intervening space that are their first wild cries subsided, their battle-flags had crowned the works.* The Confederate batteries were now ordered to cease firing, and forty volunteers were called for to assault the Crater, but so many ordinary system of detail was necessary. Happily, before the assaulting party could be formed, a white handkerchief, made fast to a ramrod, was projected above the edge of the Crater, and, after a brief pause, a motley mass of prisoners poured over the side and ran for their lives to the rear.

In this grand assault on Lee’s lines, for which Meade had massed 65,000 + troops, the enemy suffered a loss of above 5,000 men, including 1,101 prisoners, among whom were two brigade commanders, while vast quantities of small arms and twenty-one standards fell into the hands of the victors.++

Yet many brave men perished on the Confederate side. Elliott’s brigade lost severely in killed and prisoners. The Virginia brigade, too, paid the price which glory ever exacts. The Sixth carried in 98 men and lost 88, one company-“the dandies,” of course-“Old Company F” of Norfolk, losing every man killed or wounded.$


*After the recovery of the lines north of the Crater, Meade determined to withdraw all his troops. The order was given at 9.30 A. M., but Burnside was authorized to use his discretion as to the exact hour, and it was nearly 12 M. before the order was sent into the Crater. Of course, no one knew this on the Confederate side, and the fact can in no way detract from the splendid conduct of the Alabamians, but it accounts in great measure for the slight resistance they encountered. See Report on the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, pp. 58, 157. General Hartranft’s statement is very naive as to the conclusion he reached when he was the Alabamians rushing forward with their wild cries: “This assaulting column of the enemy came up, and we concluded-General Griffin and myself-that there was no use in holding it (the Crater) any longer, and so we retired.”-Ib., p. 190.

+”General Burnside’s corps, of 15,000 men, was * * * to rush through and get on the crest beyond. I prepared a forced of from 40,000 to 50,000 men to take advantage of our success gained by General Burnside’s corps.”-Meade.-Ib., p. 37.

++After carefully analyzing all the Federal reports, General Mahone put the loss of the enemy at 5,240; Cannon (Grant’s Campaign Richmond, p. 245) at 5,640; General Meade (Report of August 16th) puts loss at 4,400 in A. P. and 18th corps, but does not give loss in Turner’s division, 10th corps.

$Company K, of Sixth Virginia, carried in sixteen men; eight were killed outright and seven wounded. The small number of men carried into the flight by the Sixth is explained by the fact that quite half the regiment was on picket on the old front (on the right), and (BTC Editor’s Note: Continued on Next Page)


Scarcely less was the loss in other regiments. The Sharpshooters carried in 80 men and lost 64-among the slain their commander, William Broadbent, a man of prodigious strength and activity, who, leaping first over the works, fell pierced by eleven bayonetwounds- a simple captain, of whom we may say, as was said of Ridge: “No man died that day with more glory, yet many died and there was much glory.”

Such was the battle of the Carter, which excited the liveliest satisfaction throughout the army and the country. Mahone was created Major-General from that date; Weisiger, who was wounded, Brigadier-General; Captain Girardey, of Mahone’s staff, also Brigadier-the latter an extraordinary but just promotion, for he was a young officer whose talents and decisive vigor qualified him to conduct enterprise of the highest moment; yet fate willed that his career should be brief, for within a fortnight he fell in battle north of the James, his death dimming the joy of victory.

On the Federal side, crimination and recrimination followed what General Grant styled “this miserable failure.” There was a Court of Inquiry, and a vast array of dismal testimony, which disclosed the fact that of four generals of division belonging to the assaulting corps, not one had followed his men into the Confederate lines.* Nay, that the very commander of the storming division finding, like honest Nym, “the honor of the breach too hot,” was at the crisis of the fight palpitating in a bomb-proof, beguiling a Michigan surgeon into giving him a drink of rum, on the plea that “he had the malaria, and had been struck by a spent ball”+-legends of a hoary antiquity, whereof, let us humbly confess, we ourselves have heard.

Three weeks of comparative quit followed along the Petersburg front, yet, during this time many brave men fell unnoticed in the trenches, for there was no change in the proximity of the hostile lines, and the dropping fire of the pickets by day, and fiery curves of mortar-shell by night, told that the portentous game of war still went on.


(BTC Editor’s Note: Continued from Previous Page) could not be withdrawn. The 41st Virginia lost one-fourth its number; the 61st within a fraction of half its number. The loss in the 16th was nearly as great as in the 6th proportionally, but I have been unable to get the exact figures in that regiment and in the 12th.

*General Grant’s statement-Report of the Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 110. See also finding of Court of Inquiry-Ib., p. 216.

+The testimony of Surgeon O. P. Chubb, 20th Michigan (Ib., p. 191), and of Surgeon H. E. Smith, 27th Michigan (Ib., p. 206), is certainly very lively reading. Surgeon Smith is unable to say how often the doughty warriors, Ledlie and Ferrero, “smiled” at each other, for “I was not in the bomb-proof all the while they were there. It was perfectly safe in there, but it might not have been outside. I had to go out to look after the wounded”-Ib., p. 207.


Never was the Army of Northern Virginia more defiant in its bearing-never more confident in the genius of its leader. Deserters pouring into our lines brought consistent reports of the demoralization of the enemy-gold rose to 2.90, the highest point it touched during the war-while from the west and certain States in the North the clamors for peace redoubled, the New York Herald being loudest in demanding that an embassy be sent to Richmond, “in order to see if this dreadful war cannot be ended in a mutually satisfactory treaty of peace.”*

“An army,” says the great Frederick, “moves upon its belly,” and I am not prepared to say that the jaunty bearing of Lee’s men, as “shrewdly out of beef” at this time as ever were the English at Agincourt, was not due in a measure to the fact just then their eyes were gladdened by droves of fact cattle sent them by an old comrades-Lieutenant-General Jubal Early, who, without the trifling formality of a commission from Governor Curtin, had assumed the duties of Acting Commissary-General of the rich Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.+

We have seen that shortly after Grant’s arrival in front of Petersburg, there was open to him ” a swarm of fair advantages,” for his superb line of formidable redoubts, capable of assured defence by a fraction of his force, made it possible for him to operate on either Confederate flank with the bulk of his army, or, should the conjuncture favor, to assault in front.

But now, tenacious of purpose as we the Union general, he had, according to his own explicit testimony,++ satisfied himself that an attack on Richmond from the north side would be attended with frightful loss of life-he had just received humiliating proof that Lee’s front could not be shaken by mining or assault-and thence-forward the campaign narrowed itself to a continuous effort to turn the Confederate right and cut Lee’s communication-a series of rough strokes parried with infinite skill, although at times the “Thor-hammer” beat down the guard of the slender rapier, which so often pierced the joints of the grained armor.

By the end of August, Grant was firmly established across the Weldon road-a line of communication important, indeed, to Lee,


*I have collected a great number of such excerpts form leading Northern and Western papers (1864), as being not without significance. Certainly no such utterances would have been tolerated in 1861-62.

+Later (September 16th, 1864), Hampton made his brilliant “cattle raid,” in rear of the Army of Potomac, in which he inflicted considerable loss on the enemy in killed and wounded, and brought off above 300 prisoners and 2,500 beeves-Lee’s Official Dispatch.

++Report on Conduct of the War (1865), vol. I, p. 110.


but not absolutely necessary. Yet was it not yielded without much desperate fighting, as was witnessed by the sharp “affair” of August 18th, favorable to the Confederates, who were commanded by Gen. Harry Heth; by the brilliant action of Aug. 19th, in which the troops were immediately commanded by Heth and Mahone (the brunt of the fighting falling on Heth’s division and Pegram’s artillery), and in which the enemy sustained a loss of many standards and above 2,700 prisoners; by the battle of August 21st, in which Mahone failed to dislodge the enemy, for, attacking with six small brigades, and twelve guns under Pegram, he encountered, instead of the weak flank his scouts had led him to except, a heavily-entrenched front manned by an army corps, the approaches to which were swept by a powerful artillery;* finally, by


August 25th, in which 12 stands of colors, 9 pieces of artillery, 10 caissons, 2,150 prisoners, and 3,100 stands of small fell into the hands of the victors, who suffered a total loss of but 720 men.+ This brilliant stroke was delivered by Heth, under the immediate eye of A. P. Hill, and was mainly due to the steadiness of the North Carolina troops, for these constituted nearly the whole of the assaulting column, and the first colors planted on the hostile works were borne by Sergeant Roscoe Richards, Twenty-seventh North Carolina, Cooke’s brigade, Heth’s division. General Lee, writing to Governor Vance under date of August 29th, says: “I have been frequently called upon to mention the services of North Carolina troops in this army, but their gallantry and conduct were never more deserving of admiration than in the engagement at Reams’ Station on the 25th instant.” Heth, with a generosity as characteristic of the man as his taciturn pluck, declared that he did not believe that the works would have been “practicable” for any troops, had not Pegram first shaken the position by the terrific fire of his guns, and surely, so long as there is left a survivor of that memorable day, the superb conduct of the cavalry is not likely to be forgotten. Lee, who weighed his words if ever general did, bears emphatic testimony to their gallantry in


*In this action, the gallant Saunders, who led the Alabamians at the Crater, was killed. Immediately on the repulse of his first attack, Mahone carefully reconnoitred, under sharp fire, the whole front, and told General Lee that with two more brigades he would pledge himself to dislodge Warren before night-tall. The division from which Lee at once consented to draw the additional support, arrived too late to make the projected attack advisable.

+A. P. Hill’s Official Report.


his official dispatch, and states that Hampton “contributed largely to the success of the day.”*

In these four engagements, the enemy acknowledge a loss of above 7,00 men, and there is reason to believe that the occupation of the Weldon road during this month cost them between 8,000 and 9,000 men. The Confederate loss was not above one-fourth of that number.+

Then followed the severe combats of September 30th, and October 1st-known as “the Battles of the Jones House,” in which the enemy again lost heavily in prisoners++-after which succeeded in a period of quiet, broken by several minor “affairs” brought on by continuous extension of the Federal left. The Presidential election in the North was now near at hand, $ and before settling down into winter-quarters, General Grant determined to make one more vigorous effort to turn Lee’s right, seize the Southside road, and compel the evacuation of Petersburg. Fort this purpose the Federal commander concentrated on his left the greater portion of three army corps, # and on October 27th, was fought


an action so confused by reason of the heavily wooded character of the country, that it would be impossible for you to follow the details without the aid of a map, so I must content myself with stating simply that the attempt failed; not forgetting the caution to you, however, that so far as concerns the conduct of affairs, and the numbers engaged, on the Confederate side, Mr. Swinton’s narrative is a very fallacious guide.

Once more, Mr. Stanton, who had long preserved silence, appeared to chronicle victory, and gold, which ever sympathizes with success, rose from 2,18 1/2 to 2.41-within ten days to 2.57. Nor shall we judge


*Lee’s official dispatch, August 26th, 1864.

+This estimate is based on a careful collation of Federal and Confederate reports.

++General Cadmus Wilcox in his report says the enemy’s loss on September 30th was “over 350 killed and 2,000 prisoners.” On October 1st, in his front, “the Federal line was captured with 300 prisoners.” “My entire loss,” he adds, “was 285; of this number only 59 were killed. In Heth’s brigades it was probably less.”-Transactions of Southern Historical Society, April, 1875. Swinton (A. P., p. 539.) puts the Federal loss “above twenty-five hundred.”

$Mr. Edward Lee Childe, usually well-informed, makes a curious blunder on this point. He says: “Grant y tenait d’autant plus que l’election presidentielle approchait, et que ses chances comme candidat agumenterait si le succes le designait a l’admiration de ses concitoyens.”-Le General Lee, Sa Vie et ses Campagnes, p. 327. Following Swinton (A.P., p. 543), he represents Lee as present on the field. At the time of the action, Lee was north of the James. Nor was Hill on the field, as Swinton and Childe represent. Both largely overstate the number concentrated on the Confederate side during the night.

#Swinton, A. P., p. 540.


him harshly in this instance, for his bulletin was based upon the following dispatch:

CITY POINT, October 27, 9 P. M.

I have just returned from the crossing of the Boydton Plank Road with Hatcher’s creek. At every point the enemy was found entrenched and his works manned. No attack was made during the day further than to drive the pickets and cavalry inside the main works. Our casualties have been light-probably less than 200. The same is probably true of the enemy. [Later]-The attack on Hancock proves to be a decided success. We lost no prisoners except the usual stragglers, who are always picked up.


General Lee’s dispatch is as follows:

October 28, 1864.

Honorable Secretary of War:

General Hill reports that the attack of General Heth upon the enemy on the Boydton Plank Road, mentioned in my dispatch last evening, was made three brigades under General Mahone in front, and by General Hampton in rear. Mahone captured 400 prisoners, 3 stands of colors, and 6 pieces of artillery. The latter could not be brought off, the enemy having possession of the bridge. In the attack subsequently made by the enemy, General Mahone broke three lines of battle, and during the night the enemy retreated, leaving his wounded and more than 250 dead on the field.

[Later]-“The total number of prisoners, according to General Hill’s report, is 700.”

R. E. LEE, General.

A discrepancy of statement which I leave to be reconciled by those better equipped for the task than I am, simply remarking that a perusal of the war dispatches of General Grant and General Sheridan often recalls to one that witty saying of Sidney Smith: “Nothing is so deceptive as figures, except-facts.”

On the same day, General Fields, north of the James, captured seven stands of colors and above 400 prisoners,* and when it leaked out in the New York papers, as it gradually did, that this was no mere “advance for the purpose of reconnaissance,” as stated by Mr. Stanton in his bulletin, but a grand blow for the capture of Petersburg, which had been promptly parried with a loss to the Federals of above 3,00 men, who shall wonder that for the time the “bulls,” and not the bulletins, had the best of it in Wall street?


* From Lee official dispatch, October 27th, 1864.



that followed, History would fain avert her eyes. They were such as can never be forgotton by those who watched and waited-such as will never be credited by those who shall read the story hereafter in peace and plenty. To guard the long line of entrenchments from the Chickahominy to Hatcher’s Run, there was now left but a gaunt remnant of that valiant host which had cheered Lee in the Wilderness as it passed to victory-which had hurled back nearly thrice its number at Cold Harbor, and wrought humiliation to the Army of the Potomac on a score of fields in this vigorous campaign.

Living on one-sixth of a ration of corn-meal and rancid pork*-remember, men and women of Richmond, that they morn than once offered to share that little with the starving poor of your beautiful city: thinly clad, their bodies indeed shivered under the freezing blasts of heaven, but heir dauntless spirits cowered not under the fiery blasts of war. But there was to be added a pang deeper than the pang of hunger, sharper than the rigor of the elements or hurt of shot and steel. For now from the cotton-lands of Georgia and the rice-fields of Carolina, came borne on every blast the despairing cry which wives and little ones raised to wintry skies lit by baleful glare of burning homes, and the men of the “Old North State” bethought them of the happy homesteads which lay straight in the path of the ruthless conqueror, who was waging war with an audacious cruelty “capable of dishonoring a whole nation.” A subtle enemy, till then well-night unknown, attacked in rear this army which still haughtily held its front, and men, with bated breath and cheeks flushing through their bronze, whispered the dread word, “DESERTION.”

The historian, far removed from the passions of the time, may coldly measure out his censure, but we, comrades, bound to these men by countless proud traditions, can only cry with old Hebrew prophet, “Alas! my brother!” and remember that these were valiant souls, too sorely tried.

Nor may I venture to portray the glorious vicissitudes of


Foreign critics have censured Lee, who in February of this year was raised to the empty rank of General-in-Chief, because he did


*This was the case for a considerable time in Hill’s corps.


not take the commissariat into his own hands and perfect measures for the better care of his men; but it is criticism based on imperfect knowledge, for, under General St. John, the commissariat at this time reached a creditable state of efficiency,* and these critics should not forget that the dictum of the foremost master of the art of war is, that “to command an army well, a general must think of nothing else.” Others have expressed surprise that a soldier of such nice foresight should have persisted for so long a time in endeavoring to maintain lines of such extent with a force constantly decreasing, ill fed and poorly clad; but surely they have failed to remember by the mists of politics.

Too late was evacuation determined upon, and on March 25th Gordon made his brilliant assault against the Federal right-a daring stroke, indeed, but the daring of wisdom and not the rashness of ignoble despair, for by this means alone could Lee hope to force Grant to draw in his left flank, which menaced the proposed line of retreat.

How Gordon’s sudden blow was a first crowned with success; how his guides ran away and left his storming columns groping in ignorance;+ how his supports failed to reach him; how, in short, a moody fortune defeated the accomplishment of the bold plan-how later, when, to use Lee’s own phrase, “the line stretched so long as to break,” the great commander yet yielded not to Fate, but struck again and again with the old, fierce skill all this, as well as the unsparing story of the ill-starred battle of Five Forks, will, I trust, be one day recounted to us by some comrade in memorable detail.

On the evening of April 1st, the battle of Five Forks was fought, and lost to the Confederates, and at dawn next morning, from Appomattox to Hatcher’s Run, the Federal assaults began. Lee was forced back from the whole line covering the Boydton Plank Road, and Gibbon’s division of Ord’s corps boldly essayed to break through into the town. The way was barred by an open work of heavy profile, known as “Battery Gregg,” garrisoned by a mixed force


*General John C. Breckinridge was created Secretary of war on February 5th, 1865, and at once placed General I. M. St. John at the head of the Commissary Department. In a letter, now in my possession, written by General Breckinridge, he says: “General St. John’s conduct of the department was so satisfactory, that a few weeks afterwards I received a letter from General Lee, in which he said that his army had not been so well supplied from many moths.”

+Statement of Lieutenant-General John B. Gordon.


of infantry, chiefly North Carolinians of Lane’s brigade, and a score of artillerymen, in all 250 men. Thrice Gibbon’s columns, above 5,000 strong, surged against the devoted outpost-thrice they recoiled, but about noon a fourth assault was ordered, and the assailants, rushing in, front and rear, discovered with surprise and admiration that of these two hundred and fifty brave men, two hundred and twenty had been struck down, yet were the wounded loading and passing up their muskets to the thirty unhurt and invincible veterans, who, with no thought of surrender, still maintained a biting fire from the front. A splendid feat of arms, which taught prudence to the too eager enemy for the remainder of the day, for nearly six hundred of Gibbon’s man lay dead and stricken in front of the work, and the most daring of the assailants recognized that an army of such metal would not easily yield the inner lines.*


But though time admonishes me to pass over in such brief fashion these last eventful days, duty bids me pause to make mention of two, who, everywhere conspicuous in the defence, yielded up their lives at the end.

One, high in rank, had been trained to the profession of arms, and at the very outbreak of hostilities often to his native State a sword already forged to an heroic temper by fire of battle.

Endowed by nature with commanding resolution and marvelous energy, his “forward spirit” ever “lifted him where most trade of danger ranged,” and from that thrice glorious day when, leading in at Mechanicsville his superb “light division” with all the fire of youth and skill of age, he dislodged McClellan’s right flank on the upper Chickahominy, even to this memorable April morning, when, riding with a single courier far in advance of his men, he sought to restore his broken lines at Petersburg-his every utterance and action was informed by the lofty spirit of a patriot, by the firmness and address of a valiant soldier.


*The detachment form Lane’s brigade was commanded by Lieutenant George H. Snow, 33d North Carolina. There were also in the fort some supernumerary artillerymen, armed as infantry, a section of Chew’ Maryland battery, and small detachments from Harris’ Mississippi brigade (under Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan), and from Thomas’ Georgia brigade (under Captain William Norwood). The error of attributing this brilliant defence to Harris’ brigade alone, doubtless arose from Lieutenant-Colonel Duncan of that brigade being the ranking officer in the fort. The incident of the wounded men loading and passing up the muskets to their comrades, is attested by officers in the fort, but I learn from General Lane’s MS. Report that, the ammunition giving out, the men used rock with great effect. General Lane’s report should by all means be published.


Much he suffered during this last campaign from a grievous malady, yet the vigor of his soul disdained to consider the weakness of his body, and accepting without a murmur the privations of that terrible winter, he remained steadfast to his duty until the fatal bullet stilled the beatings of a noble heart which had so often throbbed responsive to the music of victory.

No more splendid monument, no nobler epitaph, than of that Latour d’Avergne, “the first grenadier of France,” to whose name every morning at roll-call in the French army, answer was made, as the front-rank made on right of his old company stepped forward and saluted: Morn sur le champ de bataille-“dead upon the field of battle.” Such monument, such epitaph, at least, is that of


and the men of his old corps remember with sorrowful pride that his name lingered last upon the dying lips of Lee and Jackson.*

Of the other, who fell but the evening before at Five Forks, I almost fear to speak, lest I should do hurt to that memory which I would honor. For to those who knew him not, the simplest outline of a character so finely tempered by stern and gentle virtues, would seem but an ideal picture touched with the tender exaggeration of retrospective grief; while to so many of you who knew him as he was-the gentle comrade and the brilliant fighter-any portrait must prove, at best, but a blurred semblance of the young soldier, whose simple, heroic, godly life rejects, as it were, all human panegyric. Yet even the coldest must allow that it was a life which afforded a notable example a how great a career may be crowded within the compass of few years. In the spring of ’61, a youth of modest demeanor, he entered the military service as a private soldier-in the spring of ’65, still a more lad, he fell in action, Colonel of Artillery, mourned by an army.

More than once in desperate and critical events were grave trusts confided to his prudence, skill and courage; more than once did he win emphatic praise from Hill, from Jackson, and from Lee. Thus, it was his lot to be tried in great events, and his fortune to be equal to the trail, and having filled the measure of perfect knighthood “chaste in his thoughts, modest in his words, liberal and


*”Tell Hill he must come up.”-Colonel Wm. Preston Johnston’s account of Lee’s last moments-Rev. J. Wm. Jones’ Personal Reminiscences of General R. E. Lee, p. 451.

“A. P. Hill, prepare for action.”-Dabney’s Life of Jackson, p. 179.


valiant in deeds,” there was at last accorded him on field-of-battle the death counted “sweet and honorable.”

Such was


of the Third corps, who, at the early age of twenty-two, died sword in hand at the head of his men, with all his “honor-owing wounds” in front “to make a soldiers’s passage for his soul.”

On Sunday night, April 2d, the lines of Petersburg and Richmond were, as I have said, evacuated, and the Army of Northern Virginia passed out in retreat. Thus were yielded at the last forty miles of entrenchments guarded by less than 40,000 men,* yet held during ten months of ceaseless vigil and fevered famine with such grim tenacity, as has made it hard for the brave of every nation to determine whether to accord this sorrowful admiration more to the stern prowess of the simple soldier, or to the matchless readiness of a leader who by the fervor of his genius developed from slender resources such amazing power.

With the abandonment of these lines ends the task confided to me, comrades, by your generous partiality. Already have you listened to the story of the “Retreat” from the lips of a soldier who bore an honorable part in the disastrous week which culminated in the surrender at Appomattox-a day which marked, indeed, the wreck of a nation, yet which may be recalled with no blush of shame by the men who there sadly furled those tattered colors emblazoned with the names of Manassas and Fredericksburg, of Chancellorsville and Cold Harbor-who there returned a park of blackened guns wrested from the victors at Gaines’ Mill and Frazer’s Farm, at Second Manassas and Harper’s Ferry, at the Wilderness and Reams’ Station, at Appomattox Courthouse itself on that very morning who there, in the presence of above 140,000 of their adversaries, stacked 8,000 of those “bright muskets” which for more than four years had “borne upon their bayonets” the mightiest Revolt in history.

Nor shall those men ever forget the generous bearing of the vic-


*In field returns for February, 1865, the number given is 59,094 for Department of Northern Virginia, but as General Early very pertinently remarks, this “affords no just criterion of the real strength of that army, as those returns included, the forces in the Valley and other outlying commands not available for duty on the lines.”-Southern Historical Society Papers, July, 1876, p. 19. General Lee himself says: “At the time of withdrawing from the lines around Richmond and Petersburg, the number of troops amounted to about thirty-five thousand.”-Letter to General William S. Smith, July 27th, 1868, Reminiscences of General Lee, p. 268.


torious host, which even in that supreme moment of triumph remembered that this gaunt remnant were the survivors of an army which but two years before had dealt them such staggering blow that there were more deserters from the Army of the Potomac than there were men for duty in the Army of Northern Virginia*-that they were the survivors of that army which, from the Wilderness to Cold Harbor, had put hors du combat more men than Lee had carried into the campaign; which, from Cold Harbor to Five Forks, had again put hors du combat as great a number as was left him for the defence of Petersburg.+ Surely, it is meet that, with each recurring year, the survivors of such as army should gather themselves together to hear and know the truth. Thus shall the decorum of history be preserved and error be not perpetuated.

It is a duty, comrades, which we owe to ourselves, which we owe to our children, which we owe to our leader, whose fame shall shine with added lustre when the true nature of his difficulties shall be laid bare-when it shall be made clear to all, to what measure Lee the Soldier stood in the shade of powers to which Lee the Patriot rendered patriotic obedience. Yet of his are we sure, that it is a fame which malice cannot touch, which florid panegyric cannot injure-a fame which may well await the verdict of that time of which his ablest critic speaks with such prophetic confidence:

“When History, with clear voice, shall recount the deeds done on either side, and the citizens of the whole Union do justice to the memories of the dead and place above all others the name of him, who, in strategy mighty, in battle terrible, in adversity as in prosperity a hero indeed, with the simple devotion to duty, and the rare purity of the ideal Christian knight, joined all the kindly qualities of a leader of men.”

Above all, it is duty, which we owe those dauntless spirits who preferred death in resistance of safety in submission.

“For a little while,” says Dr. Draper, the Union historian, “those who have been disappointed clamor, the objurgation subsides into


*”At the moment I was placed in command (26th January, 1863), I caused a return to be made of the absentees of the army, and found the number to be 2,922 commissioned officers and 81,964 non-commissioned officers and privates. The desertions were at the rate of about 200 a day.”-Testimony of Major-General Joseph Hooker before the Congressional Committee, March 11th, 1865, Report on the Conduct of the War, vol. I, p. 112. The field returns for month of January, 1863, give 72,226 men “for duty” in the whole Department of Northern Virginia.

+This statement is the result of careful calculations of Federal losses, based entirely on figures give by Swinton and other Northern historians.


murmurs, and murmurs sink into souvenirs, and souvenirs end in oblivion.”

But no-

Time cannot teach forgetfulness
When grief’s full heart is fed by fame.

Here in this battle-crowned capital of our ancient Commonwealth, shall “the men who were the gray” yearly gather and recall the names of those who went forth to battle at the bidding of Virginia-who now lie sleeping on the bosom of his Mother, that, not unmindful of their valor, not ungrateful for this filial devotion, shall keep forever bright the splendor of their deeds, “till earth, and seas, and skies are rendered.”

No “Painted Porch” is hers, like that of Athens, where, for half a thousand years, the descendants of the men who had followed Miltiades to victory might trace the glorious of their Marathon-no gleaming Chapelle des Invalides, with the light flaming through gorgeous windows on tattered flags of battle-no grand historic Abbey, like that of England, where hard by the last resting place of her princes and her kings sleep the great soldiers who have writ glorious names high upon their country’s roll with the point of their stainless swords.

Nay, none of this is hers.

Only the frosty stars to-night keep solemn watch and ward above the wind-swept graves of those who, from Potomac to James, from Rapidan to Appomattox, yielded up their lives that they might transmit to their children the heritage of their fathers.

Weep on, Virginia, weep these lives given to thy cause in vain;
The stalwart sons who ne’er shall heed they trumpet-call again;

The homes whose light is quenched for aye; the graves without a stone;
The folded flag, the broken sword, the hope forever flown.

Yet raise thy head, fair land! thy dead died bravely for the Right;
The folded flag is stainless still, the broken sword is bright;
No bolt is on thy record found, no treason soils thy fame,
Nor can disaster ever dim the lustre of thy name.*

Pondering in her heart all their deeds and words, Virginia calls us, her surviving sons, “from weak regrets and womanish laments to the contemplation of their virtues,” bidding us, in the noble words


*These lines are slightly altered from the noble entitled “The Ninth of April, 1865,” by Percy Greg-Interleaves in the Workday Prose of Twenty Years-London, 1875.


of Tacitus, to “honor them not so much with transitory praises as with our reverence, and, if our powers permit us, with our emulation.”

Reminding her children, who were faithful to her in war, that “the reward of one duty is the power to fulfill another,” she points to the tasks left unfinished when the “nerveless hands drooped over the spotless shields,” and with imperious love claims a fealty no less devoted in these days of peace.

I claim no vision of seer or prophet, yet I fancy that even now I descry the faint dawn of that day, which thousands wait on with expectant eyes; when all this land, still the fairest on the globe-this land, which has known so long what old Isaiah termed the “dimness of anguish”-shall grow glad again in the broad sunlight of prosperity, and from Alleghany to Chesapeake shall resound the hum and stir of busy life; when yonder noble roadstead, where our iron-clad “Virginia” revolutionized the naval tactics of two continents, shall be whitened by may a foreign sail, and you, her children, shall tunnel those grand and hoary mountains, whose every pass Lee and “old Stonewall” have made forever historic by matchless skill and daring. Thus, comrades, assured of her heroic Past, stirred by a great hope for her Future, may we to-night reecho the cry of Richmond on Bosworth field:

“Now civil wounds are stopped, peace lives again;
That she may long live here, God say amen!”


Editor’s Note: I do not have a hard copy or a PDF of the actual pages of many volumes of the Southern Historical Society Papers. As a result, I cannot tell whether the information presented is entirely accurate. I have proofread this article, but some misspellings may be present in the original while others may be the result of incorrect transcription from the source I am using. I have mostly left the misspellings in for the moment. If you know where I can get a PDF of the Southern Historical Society Papers Volume 2 which contains “images” of the original pages, please use the Contact form and let us know. Likewise, if you have access to hard copies of the Papers and would like to proofread for Beyond the Crater, Contact us.


  1. Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 2, Pages 257-306
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