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SHS Papers: Volume 16: Account of Skirmish at Swift Creek by Lieutenant-Colonel George C. Cabell


Account of the Skirmish at Swift Creek.1

By Lieutenant-Colonel George C. Cabell, Eighteenth Virginia Infantry.

About the 9th of May, 1864, the Eighteenth Virginia, temporarily attached to Corse’s brigade, was ordered from Kinston, North Carolina, to Petersburg. On the 1oth, we reached Stony Creek late at night and left the train at that point, finding that the track had been torn up by the enemy. The regiment marched from this point, and about daylight on the 11th reached Meherrin depot and river, a point some fifteen or more miles from Petersburg, where we were met by a train of cars and taken to Petersburg. On the 11th we reached Petersburg; remained there a few hours, drew provisions, marched out in the direction of Richmond and bivouacked on side road. On the 12th, resumed march in the direction of Richmond; had been marching an hour or two when a violent storm arose, succeeded by a remarkably heavy rain; troops were halted just after crossing Swift Creek in direction of Richmond—storm abated. On the Petersburg side of the creek our rear guard was very heavily attacked by some regiments of the Yankee general, Baldy Smith, of Butler’s command. My regiment was sent to the creek, and just below the ford, to reinforce our rear guard and to check the enemy. The enemy came up in large force and made a number of efforts to cross the creek, but were as often repulsed; the skirmishing, or rather fighting, along this line was, at times, very heavy. Our troops were well posted and were able to inflict much more loss on the enemy than they could on us. Every effort to cross the creek by the enemy on the evening of the 12th, proved fruitless. Firing ceased about nightfall. At 9 P. M., I was ordered quietly to withdraw in the direction of Drewry’s Bluff, which I did, retiring to our fortifica-

tions. The next day, the 13th, the enemy followed us up, and there was heavy skirmishing, with occasionally hard fighting on this day and the 14th. At this time General Hoke seems to have had command of the division with which I was acting. On the 14th, manning the fortifications to our right was Ransom’s (Matt.) brigade. About 11 o’clock on this day, Ransom’s brigade was outflanked and driven from their position. This necessitated a change in our position. Corse was moved to the right to aid Ransom. After some fighting Ransom got again into line some distance in rear of his former line. Corse moved again to his left and had heavy skirmishing the entire evening. On the night of the 14th, we retired to our inner lines of fortifications. All day of the 15th in front of and around our lines, the skirmishing was very heavy and the artillery practice most severe. I lost a number of my men on each of the days, viz: 13th, 141h and 15th. At night on the 15th a considerable force of the enemy stealthily approached our works in front of the Eighteenth regiment; whether for scouting and reconnoitering purposes, or to attack, I never knew. They were discovered and driven off with considerable loss.


  1. Southern Historical Society Papers, Volume 16, Pages 223-224
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