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Chapter
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
R. E. Lee: A Biography

by Douglas Southall Freeman

published by Charles Scribner's Sons,
New York and London, 1934

The text, and illustrations except as noted, are in the public domain.


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Vol. III
p492
Chapter XXVIII

Götterdämmerung

After the close of the battles for the Weldon Railroad, Lee returned to Chaffin's Bluff. Neither to his staff nor to the other soldiers he met on his daily rounds did he disclose any of the deep concern he must have felt. He had been a bit irritable at headquarters, where his staff had now been reduced to three,1 but on the lines he was as cheerful as ever and seemed in good health and spirits.2 One day, during the operations on the north side of the James, he was standing on the steps of the Libby house when he saw a small and very fat dog come wandering around the corner of the building. His risibles were stirred. Turning to Colonel Thomas H. Carter's courier, Percy Hawes, a youngster whose scant hundred pounds covered the heart of a lion, he said in his gravely jesting voice, "Percy, don't you think he would make good soup?"3 During the same engagements, he guyed Colonel Carter with great satisfaction because he encountered that intrepid officer's body-servant going to the rear with much equipment and jangling utensils of cookery, having served the colonel his breakfast on the line.4 It was about this time also, when he was in an exposed position, under hot shell-fire, that Lee found an excuse for sending his companions to shelter and then stepped out into the open to pick up a tiny sparrow and to return it to the tree from which it had fallen.5

He must have needed all his self-mastery to maintain his cheerfulness and his calm, for each day seemed to bring new anxieties and new perplexities, personal and official. Robert had been wounded in action on August 15, though not seriously;6 Custis's p493 health was so uncertain that Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Mr. Davis was unwilling to assign him to duty in the Shenandoah Valley, where there was a vacancy in the cavalry;7 Mrs. Lee's condition was as bad as ever.

The wear of war was showing on every arm of the service. For a hundred days, Lee told President Davis on August 29, there had not been one without casualties.8 In the midst of loss, alarms, and exhausting duty, Lee had to take up the old task of reorganization once again. Hampton had shown so much energy and ability that he had been given command of all the cavalry on August 11.9 He made several excellent suggestions for its betterment,10 despite the fact that he could do nothing to improve its horses, which were so hard-ridden and so cruelly fly-bitten that they could not fatten, even where they had good pasturage.11 Hampton, moreover, took a hint from Lee that he might advantageously organize and expedition in rear of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant's base at City Point,12 and from this he developed a plan for a raid that, on September 14, was brilliantly executed. It brought 2486 steers to the Confederate commissary at a time when there was only a fifteen-day supply of meat in Richmond for Lee's army.13

This raid served, also, to divert the attention of the army from disasters that now began to fall on other fields of battle. A fine Federal fleet under Admiral Farragut on August 5 had destroyed the feeble Confederate craft in Mobile Bay, and, at the end, had shot away the rudder chains of Admiral Buchanan's unwieldy ram Tennessee, thereby forcing him to surrender. This action had sealed that port and, to Lee's mind, presaged an early attack on Wilmington.14 He had not taken over-seriously the gloomy forecasts of the pessimistic Whiting,15 who still commanded on the North Carolina coast, but he now dispatched Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Beauregard to Wilmington to ascertain the real state of affairs there. Beauregard's report was, on the whole, favorable to Whiting, who had been much criticised by Governor Vance.16

p494 In Georgia, as in Alabama, the Southern cause was losing. On September 3 the telegraph announced that Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hood, after a serious of bloody and imprudent offensives, had been compelled to evacuate Atlanta the previous morning. When this grievous news arrived, Lee was on his way to Richmond to confer with the President, and he doubtless advised him as to the next move by Hood's defeated army.17 There is, however, no record of their conversation. Hood's retreat depressed the mind of the public and even of the armed forces. Those who had demanded that the President dismiss Johnston now denounced him for having done so.18 The men in the ranks of the Army of Northern Virginia had never approved of the change of commanders.19

Mobile Bay closed, Atlanta lost — and, now, disaster to Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Early. That commander had remained north of the Potomac only a few days on his second invasion of Maryland. Upon his return, Lee for a time had not anticipated that Early could do more than keep Sheridan out of the Shenandoah Valley.20 There had been some question in Early's mind as to how he could co-operate with Anderson east of the Blue Ridge, for though Anderson advanced no claim to the command, he was Early's senior. Sensing this, and needing Anderson to direct the First Corps, Lee ordered him back. Lee then suggested to Early that he reorganize his command,21 and that he consider alternatives — either to undertake an offensive with the aid of Kershaw's division, which had been sent to northern Virginia on August 6, or else, if he thought a defensive wiser, to return Kershaw secretly to the Richmond front.22 Before Early could make any decision, as between the two plans, Sheridan attacked him near Winchester on September 19 and, after a hard-fought action, used the powerful Union cavalry to force Early back two miles. In this, the last battle of Winchester, General Rodes was killed and Fitz Lee was badly wounded.23 As soon as Lee learned of this disaster he directed Kershaw to march p495 at once to Early's support.24 Ere Kershaw could reach the Valley from the eastern side of the Blue Ridge, Early sustained another defeat on the 22d at Fisher's Hill.25 Losing twelve guns and sustaining severe casualties, he was forced to retreat up the Valley. "My troops are very much shattered," Early wrote in deep gloom, "the men very much exhausted, and many of them without shoes."26 Lee encouraged Early all he could, sent him Rosser's brigade of cavalry and, lacking a better man for his place, declined to relieve him of command in answer to a clamor akin to that which had arisen against Johnston.27 The only criticism Lee made was a direct one, to Early himself, that he seemed to have operated more with divisions than with his full command.28 Even this mild censure did not take into account the immense odds against which Early fought. He was credited by Sheridan with 27,000,29 but certainly had less than 15,000.30 Lee did not believe that Sheridan had more than 12,000 infantry31 when, in reality, he had 32,646, exclusive of the Harpers Ferry force.32 Lee never made as great a mistake in computing the strength of an opposing force.

But if Lee underestimated Sheridan's numbers, he did not and could not misread the warnings of coming calamity, as written at Mobile, in front of Atlanta, and in the Shenandoah Valley. He did not urge on the government the evacuation of Richmond, for when its defense was his chief mission, his sense of discipline precluded any discussion of the subject. He knew how indispensable the city's munition works were to the Confederacy. Yet it seems probable that he was beginning to consider the advisability of abandoning Richmond and Petersburg, of shortening his communications by retiring to the Staunton River, and of undertaking operations in an open country where he would have a wide field p496 of manoeuvre.33 It is possible, also, that Lee was influenced by the views of his father. "Light-Horse Harry" had contended that in defending Virginia against an enemy who controlled the sea, an army might best withdraw inland from the navigable streams.34

Many of Lee's officers who had been wounded in the early stages of the campaign were now returning to duty35 and were ending what the chief inspector declared to be the "source of almost every evil" in the army — "the difficulty of having orders properly and promptly executed."36 But attrition and exhaustion were daily becoming more serious. Finegan's and Hagood's brigades, for example, had come to Virginia as recently as the spring p497 of 1864, but both were now reduced by two-thirds.37 On the Howlett line, a couple of artillery companies that had a roster-strength of 252 had only 40 men present for duty.38 Johnson's division had been kept in the trenches, with scarcely any rest,39 and not only was being worn down but was showing signs of incipient scurvy.40 The firing on the front was heavier. One small regiment used 36,000 rounds of ammunition in a month.41 The local defense troops were being called out so often at Richmond that their absence interfered with the flow of munitions and the transaction of governmental business, yet in an emergency they could cover only a short sector of the defenses.42 Desertion, too, was disgracing and weakening the army. Old commands like Law's43 and Corse's brigades44 reported men leaving their posts. In a single Alabama regiment, one lieutenant and twenty-four men quit and went home.45 From Johnson's front, where the opposing pickets were close together, men began to slip away almost every night and to go over to the enemy.46 Meade estimated that an average of ten Confederates a day were coming into the Union lines.47 Morale was definitely declining. The strength of the force from White Oak Swamp to the extreme Confederate right, including the Richmond garrison and Beauregard's command, hardly exceeded 50,000 men48 at the beginning of the autumn. "I get no additions," Lee told Bragg on September 26. "The men coming in do not supply the vacancies caused by sickness, desertions, and other casualties."49 So great was the need for every private who could carry a musket that Lee could not even furlough the Jewish soldiers for their religious observances.50 With a few thousand conscripts placed in the strongest parts of his line, Lee believed he could use his veterans advantageously against the enemy,51 but "as matters now stand," he explained to Mr. Davis, "we have no troops disposable to meet movements of p498 the enemy or strike when opportunity presents, without taking them from the trenches and exposing some important point. The enemy's position enables him to move his troops to the right or left without our knowledge, until he has reached the point at which he aims, and we are then compelled to hurry our men to meet him, incurring the risk of being too late to check his progress and the additional risk of the advantage he may derive from their absence."52

For the dark emergency these conditions so tragically disclosed, Lee saw but one major policy the government could employ. That was the vigorous enforcement of the conscription act of February 17, 1864. This law had restricted the exemptions from service and had extended the age limit for military duty to include every able-bodied white man between the ages of seventeen and fifty. All from eighteen to forty-five who were then in the ranks were accounted liable for service until the close of the war. Those between seventeen and eighteen and those between forty-five and fifty, who elected to do so, could organize as volunteer reserves or "minute men," and if they did this they were not subject to call for duty outside their state.53 Lee urged that this statute be applied to the letter54 and he called attention to the statement of General Kemper that in Virginia alone 40,000 were exempt, were on detail, or had applied for detail and had not then been refused.55 Urging that every man who was physically fit be brought into the field,56 he pleaded for the speedy organization of the reserves.57 In dealing with North Carolina, where difficulty had been encountered in getting out the "minute men,"58 he carried on direct correspondence with General Vance, who was on bad terms with the administration.59 He advocated a general review of the entire conscription service and a consolidation of its activities with those of organizing the reserves.60 He wanted to be sure, also, that where reservists were given clerkships they were taking the place of able-bodied men who were being sent into the field.61 p499 In his letters he exhibited none of the deep feeling of the army at the injustice of exemptions,62 but nothing that he could say to speed up conscription before it would be too late, did he leave unsaid. More vigorously than ever he waged his perennial war on the slackers who sought easy posts, close to home. Besides asking for 5000 Negro laborers to build roads and fortifications,63 he recommended that Negroes serve as teamsters and perform all possible labor that would release white men for combat service.64 To discourage desertion by men who wanted to get into new independent companies that would not be likely to see hard service, he prevailed on the Secretary of War to revoke the permits to organize such units.65 He even intimated, in one appeal, that leniency would be shown deserters who returned to their duty,66 and he encouraged desertion from the Federal ranks by emulating the Union commanders in promising immunity and transportation to all who came into his lines from the enemy.67

Exerting himself, in these ways, to the very limits of his official authority, in order to build up his army and to offset attrition, Lee began to speak very plainly, from the time of the seizure of the Weldon Railroad, concerning the inevitable results of unchecked attrition. His views, of course, were expressed only in confidential letters to the administration and were carefully concealed even from his staff and his corps commanders, but they give more than a hint that he believed the Southern cause was becoming hopeless. On August 23 he told the Secretary of War: "Without some increase of strength, I cannot see how we can escape the natural military consequences of the enemy's numerical superiority,"68 and on September 26, writing General Bragg of his failure to receive enough men to make good his losses, he said: "If things thus continue, the most serious consequences must result." Unless Negroes were sent him, promptly, to replace teamsters, cooks, and hospital attendants, "it might be too late."69

Scarcely had this warning been written than it was emphasized p500 by a tragedy on the north side of the James, a tragedy that might have become a catastrophe. Lee had long been apprehensive of a heavy attack on that part of the defenses, where at the time he had barely 2000 men, including only two very small brigades of veterans, Johnson's Tennesseeans and Gregg's Texans.70 He instructed Colonel W. Proctor Smith to build a new line of fortifications there, and on September 28 he ordered General Anderson to move north of the James and, under the direction of General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ewell, to assume command.71 The next morning, early, Lee received a telegram from Ewell announcing that the Federals had made a surprise attack on Fort Harrison and had captured it.72 As this was one of the most important positions on the outer line of Richmond, and was close to the fortifications of Chaffin's Bluff, its loss was serious in itself and might open the road to the capital.


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Sketch of the Confederate defenses
on the Chaffin's Bluff-Fort Harrison sector,
as of September 29, 1864.

p501 Lee forthwith notified Bragg and directed him to call out the local defense units and all other troops that could be assembled.73 Telegraphing Ewell to recover the fort,74 he sent at the same time for General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Field, whose troops were on the southside, told him what had happened, and ordered him to cross the James at once.75 A little later he sent similar instructions to Hoke, whose division, in fine new uniforms, he had reviewed only three days previously.76 To facilitate Hoke's march, he ordered a special pontoon bridge laid as far down the river as practicable.77 Four regiments from Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pickett were also rushed to the northside. Rooney Lee was directed to move his division over,78 and six field batteries were given similar orders, with the specific instruction that General Alexander go with them to command all the guns used in stopping the enemy's advance.79

As soon as these movements were under way, Lee went in person to the front.80 He found that Ewell had skillfully employed Gregg and the Tennessee brigade in gallant support of Hardaway's battalion of artillery, and had managed to retain most of that part of the line lying between Fort Harrison and Fort Gilmer.81 Benning's and Perry's brigades of Field's division had arrived in time to help these troops beat off a violent attack on Fort Gilmer.82 Field was for attacking Fort Harrison immediately, but Lee saw that the outer line had been stormed, that the defenders were near exhaustion, that only two brigades of the reinforcements were up, and that a precipitate counterattack was for these reasons dangerous. He accordingly told Field to wait.

Soon, Bratton's and Anderson's brigades came up to complete Field's organization. Part of Hoke's men arrived, as did the regiments from Pickett.83 With this force available Lee seems, for a time, to have considered a night attack, but either because of its difficulties or else because he did not wish to assault until all p502 Hoke's division and ample artillery were available, he deferred operations until the morning of the 30th.84 Before darkness, as he rode alone behind the lines, he met a very youthful soldier who was some distance behind his command.

"What are you doing behind, my little fellow?" he asked.

The boy explained that he had stopped at a well to fill his company's canteens.

"Well," said Lee, "hurry and catch up; they will need you by daylight." The youngster dutifully struck out down the road, and, when he overtook his comrades, announced to them, in a free interpretation of the General's remarks that "Marse Robert" had told him they would have "hell by daylight."85

The soldier was wrong as to the hour, but right as to the character of the fighting that occurred on the morning of September 30. It was past noon when Hoke was in position to attack from a point slightly west of north, while Field was drawn up on a front northwest of the fort. Then the artillery opened a concentrated fire on the work for about half an hour. Field had about 500 yards to go, whereas Hoke could form in a ravine close to the towering earthworks the Federals held. For this reason, as the attack was to be on a brigade front, Field threw out Anderson's brigade, which was to lead his attack, with instructions to advance as close as possible to the Federal position and then to lie down and wait until he saw that he and Hoke's troops would reach the works at the same moment. Anderson, however, did not tell his men they were to halt, and when they got orders to advance, they thought they were to drive their charge home.86 Seeing them rushing forward, Field had to send Bratton's and Perry's brigades forward in support. When the hot, concentrated fire of the fort forced Anderson back, Bratton and Perry were thrown into confusion, and the whole attack by Field's division soon collapsed, though some of Bratton's men got close to the enemy's new parapet.87 Hoke must have realized that Field was attacking prematurely, but he waited until the agreed time and then delivered an assault, with the understanding that Bratton was to renew his p503 attack at the same time.88 But co-ordination was not on the cards that day. Hoke was so quickly repulsed that Bratton did not make another attempt.


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Plan of counterattack on Fort Harrison, September 30, 1864. It is probable, though not certain, that an early work which linked the two lines where "Hoke" appears on this map had been levelled in part by the Federals during the night of September 29‑30, 1864.º

At this moment Lee arrived on the ground and rode along the ranks of Hoke's division as it formed again. Astride Traveller, he seemed oblivious to the fire, exposing himself recklessly.89 His hat was in his hand; his gray hair was shining in the afternoon light. A mighty cheer went up from the North Carolinians when they recognized him. He urged them to the charge. Fort Harrison was an important part of the defenses, he said, and he was sure the men could storm it if they would make one more earnest effort. They shouted their willingness to try, and, at the order, rushed out again — only to be repulsed a second time, in greater disorder and with heavier losses than before. But Lee persisted. "I had always thought," one young observer wrote, "General Lee p504 was a very cold and unemotional man, but he showed lots of feeling and excitement on that occasion; even the staid and stately 'Traveller' caught the spirit of his master, and was prancing and cavorting while the General was imploring his men to make one more effort to take the position for him."90 They did not refuse. As courageously as before, they went forward, but when they were repulsed and hurled back, they were not far from panic, and they did not halt until they had reached cover.91 Fortunately the enemy did not attempt to follow the repulsed troops or to exploit his success.

Gloomily Lee rode back to Chaffin's Bluff; regretfully he had to report to the War Department the failure to recapture Fort Harrison;92 sadly, he answered General Pemberton when that officer, during the evening, ventured to ask if Lee would not take the fort, cost what it might. "General Pemberton," he said, "I made my effort this morning and failed, losing my killed and wounded. I have ordered another line provided from that point and shall have no more blood shed at the fort unless you can show me a practical plan of capture; perhaps you can. I shall be glad to have it." Some of those who heard this answer thought that Lee meant to silence Pemberton with an unforgettable rebuke, but Lee doubtless meant exactly what he said when he affirmed he would be glad to get a better plan. No general more heartily welcomed suggestions at any time and from any source.93

While Lee was vainly trying to recapture Fort Harrison, Hampton was checking a Federal advance that might have carried the Federals to the Southside Railroad. On the 29th, Butler's cavalry, in advance of the Confederate right flank below Petersburg, had been attacked and driven back, but Rooney Lee's division, which was under orders to march to the northside, arrived opportunely p505 and reversed the situation. The next day, September 30, when the Federals again advanced, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Heth's division was brought up to support the cavalry. The combined attack of horse and foot repulsed the enemy. On October 1, however, a new advance on Hampton's part was balked by a false report that the enemy was in his rear. Before he could organize a heavy movement, the enemy "dug in."94

To give Hampton sufficient infantry backing, it had been necessary to spread Johnson's division to the right and to leave scarcely more than a picket line on part of the Petersburg defenses. "If the enemy cannot be prevented from extending his left," Lee warned Hampton, "he will eventually reach the Appomattox and cut us off from the south side altogether."95 Dutifully, Hampton began drawing a line that would extend to Hatcher's Run and would remove, for the time at least, any serious danger that the Federals would envelop Petersburg.96 This, however, meant still more attenuation of force. By October 7 Johnson's division was holding a front previously occupied by that command, by Hoke's division, and by two brigades of Mahone.97 In an emergency that arose before the end of the month, his division, plus two brigades and one battalion, occupied the whole of the Petersburg defenses from the Appomattox to Battery 45, a distance of nearly six miles.98

Lee saw early and plainly what this endless extension of line involved.99 Ere the line to Hatcher's Run had been started, or even his plan for operating on the northside after the capture of Fort Harrison had been drafted, he wrote the Secretary of War a new appeal for men. In this, for the first time, he spoke of the fall of Richmond as possibility. He said:

"I beg leave to inquire whether there is any prospect of my p506 obtaining any increase to this army. If not, it will be very difficult for us to maintain ourselves. The enemy's numerical superiority can only meet his corps, increased by recent recruits, with a division, reduced by long and arduous service. We cannot fight to advantage with such odds, and there is the gravest reason to apprehend the result of every encounter. . . . The men at home on various pretexts must be brought out and be put in the army at once, unless we would see the enemy reap the great moral and p507 material advantages of a successful issue of his most costly campaign. . . . If we can get out our entire arms bearing population in Virginia and North Carolina, and relieve all detailed men with negroes, we may be able, with the blessing of God, to keep the enemy in check to the beginning of winter. If we fail to do this the result must be calamitous. The discouragement of our people and the great material loss that would follow the fall of Richmond, to say nothing of the great encouragement our enemies would derive from it, outweigh, in my judgment, any sacrifice and hardship that would result from bringing out all our arms bearing men."100


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Sketch showing the extension of the Confederate and Federal lines
southwest of Petersburg, October, 1864.


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LIEUTENANT COLONEL WALTER H. TAYLOR
Assistant adjutant-general of the Army of Northern Virginia
and, in 1864‑65, its chief of staff in all but name.
Colonel Taylor was only twenty-six when the war ended.
The army was beginning to feel even more than Lee expressed in this letter. Colonel Taylor, with the optimism of youth, argued that the capture of Fort Harrison was a negative gain for the enemy, but he had to admit that in the attempt to recover that position "matters were not executed as well as they were planned," and he wondered if all was well with the morale of the army. Perhaps he was not aware of the full import of his words when he wrote his fiancée: "Though our men have not altogether the old spirit, there still are many who will do anything to be expected of mortals; and if this fraction is properly supported, all is well."101 Truth was that while conscripts were not arriving in sufficient quotas to strengthen the army materially in numbers, enough of them were being sent in to impair the morale and to destroy the old-time confidence of the commanders in the invincibility of their men.

This was grimly illustrated early in October when Lee undertook a movement to recover the exterior line held by the Federals above Fort Harrison as an alternative to the construction of a retrenchment between it and the line to the west. He called out the local defense troops and put them in the works. Thus set free for an attack, Field and Hoke were moved up the line, and Gary's cavalry and Perry's brigade were marched beyond its northern end. The plan was that Gary's men, dismounted, and the infantry of Perry's brigade were to sweep down in rear of the line. Field was then to assault from the west and, if successful in p508 crossing the works, was to join the troops already on the outer side of the exterior line; Hoke was thereupon to attack from the inner side. The whole of the line was to be recovered as far to the southward as the close artillery range of Fort Harrison.


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Plan of operations against exterior Richmond line north of Fort Harrison, October 7, 1864. Here again, there is some doubt concerning part of the line. It is known that by October 16, 1864, work was underway on the fortifications that appear as a dotted line bisecting the Chaffin's Bluff enclosure, but it is not clear whether this line had been begun as early as October 7. For the doubt regarding a small part of the line north of Fort Harrison, see the sketch on page 503.

On the 6th Lee had a conference with the President at Chaffin's Bluff102 and on the morning of the 7th he rode up to Field's front to see the action open. After a while, he inquired of one of his staff if the troops were ready to go forward.

"None but the Texas brigade, General," the officer replied.

"The Texas brigade is always ready," Lee commented, half-proudly, half-sadly.103

p509 Soon the advance began. Gary and the little remnant of the Florida brigade pushed forward, turning the works; Field quickly cleared the line and, pursuing the Federals, came upon them in a strong position, well covered by abatis.104 At this stage of the advance Hoke was to join in the attack from the western side of the exterior line, but for some reason, never explained, he either misunderstood his orders, was deterred by the obstacles in his way, or was held back by the artillery fire of the enemy. Field attacked again, but at doleful cost, for the valiant Gregg fell, killed by a ball through the neck.105

As Lee was watching the struggle, a boy of eighteen or nineteen, his uniform all bloody, came up to him.

"General," he said, "if you don't send some more men down there, our boys will get hurt sure."

"Are you wounded, my boy?" Lee inquired.

"Yes, sir."

"Where are you wounded?"

"I'm shot through both arms, General, but I don't mind that, General! I want you to send some more men down there to help our boys."

Lee placed the boy in charge of one of his staff, to be carried to a surgeon, and turned to see what could be done.106 But it was too late. Struggling through a jungle of small timber, Field was repulsed while Hoke waited.

So it was, time after time, in the battles of the late summer and autumn. On every field there were individual exploits as fine as those of '62. The veterans were as valiant as ever. But, somehow, the old machine was not working as in earlier days!"107

Lee was convinced by this affair, by the operations of October 1‑2 on the right at Petersburg, and by the reports of his scouts, that the Federals were planning a further extension of their lines on both flanks, and on the 10th of October he issued a general warning. "We must drive them back at all costs," he told his p510 corps commanders,108 but to General Cooper he confided, in an explanation of Grant's anticipated movement, "I fear it will be impossible to keep him out of Richmond."109 Abandoning all hope of recovering Fort Harrison on the exterior works, he drew a retrenchment that cut off the fort and secured the front.110 The day this was done he had the satisfaction of seeing Field repulse the enemy's repeated attacks from his new position.111


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Retrenchment drawn, October 1864,
after Lee abandoned hope of recapturing Fort Harrison.

It was, however, an immense relief to Lee on the 19th to be able to welcome Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Longstreet back and to place in his experienced hands the defense of the north side, where, it had to be admitted, Anderson had not distinguished himself.112 Anderson was assigned command of Hoke's and of Johnson's divisions, which were informally organized as a separate Fourth Corps.113 Longstreet p511 was still unable to use his right arm, but he had learned to write with his left hand114 and was fully capable of resuming command of his old corps. Characteristically, he at once asked that Lee bring together his three divisions on the northside,115 and he went vigorously to work strengthening his front.116 In Longstreet's eyes, Lee "seemed worn by past labor, besides suffering at seasons from sciatica, while his work was accumulating and his troubles multiplying to proportions that should have employed half a dozen able men."117 Yet for a part of the month of October, Lee had only two members of his personal staff on duty. Both Colonel Venable and Colonel Marshall were sick.118

To the burdens that Longstreet described, the next sun after that officer's return put a new load of anxiety on the weary shoulders of Lee. Following the battle of Fisher's Hill, General Early had retired up the Valley as far as Waynesboro,119 but hearing that Sheridan had reduced force, he had again advanced northward. Lee had urged Breckinridge to reinforce Early, if possible, so that Kershaw could be recalled,120 and on the 12th of October he sent Early a lengthy letter of instructions, cautioning him not to employ his cavalry recklessly. "If [Sheridan]," he wrote, "should remain in the lower Valley, and send reinforcements to Grant, you can reinforce me correspondingly, and watch him with the rest of your troops. It is impossible at this distance to give definite instructions; you can only proceed on the principle of not retaining with you more troops than you can use to advantage in any position the enemy may take and send the rest to me. I have weakened myself very much to strengthen you. It was done with the expectation of enabling you to gain such success that you return the troops if not rejoin me yourself. I know you have endeavored to gain that success, and believe you have done all in your power to insure it. You must not be discouraged, but continue to try. I rely upon your judgment and ability, and the hearty co-operation of your officers and men still to secure it. With your united force it can be accomplished. I do not think Sheridan's infantry or cavalry numerically p512 as large as you suppose; but either is sufficiently so not to be despised and great circumspection must be used in your operations. Grant is receiving large reinforcements, and building up his army as large apparently as at the beginning of the campaign. This makes it necessary for me to draw to me every man I can."121

In the exercise of the discretion thus given him, Early decided to assume the offensive, and on the 19th he attacked Sheridan near Cedar Creek. The battle was his during the forenoon, but in the afternoon some of his infantry broke, the enemy's cavalry outflanked him and he was forced into a disorderly retreat, with the loss of twenty-three guns and about 3000 men.122

This meant, of course, that all prospect of a diversion in the Valley of Virginia was at an end. Grant need have no further concern for Washington. Lee's old game of playing on Lincoln's fears for the safety of the capital could not be tried again. More than that, it was doubtful whether Early, with the 12,000 men left him,123 could keep the enemy from completing the destruction of the food supplies in the Valley, or even prevent his marching eastward over the mountains. Sheridan could reduce force to assist Grant; Lee could not weaken Early except at great risk. A dark autumn was growing blacker.

On his own front, Lee became apprehensive of a new attack, especially as the Federals were digging furiously on Dutch Gap Canal, where some Confederate prisoners were kept under fire in retaliation for alleged forced labor by Negro soldiers the Confederates had captured. Lee put an end to this through correspondence with Grant.124 Doing what he could to procure the co-operation of the navy in preventing an advance up the river,125 he remained at Chaffin's Bluff, busy with preparations to meet the next shock.

On October 25‑26, there were signs of an increase in the Federal force on the north side of the James,126 and on the morning p513 of the 27th the enemy attacked vigorously on the whole front from the New Market to the Charles City road. Simultaneously, Lee received reports that the Union troops had crossed Hatcher's Run on the right of the Petersburg front and were moving toward the Boydton plank road. Taylor remarked, "It looks like a sure enough advance,"127 and Colonel Marshall, in more formal phrase, notified the Secretary of War, "There . . . appears to be a simultaneous movement on both flanks."128 The administration was profoundly alarmed and called the last available reserves, the munition workers and the cadets, to the defenses.129

Counter-operations on the southside had, of course, to be left to the judgment of Hill and of Hampton. On the northside, Lee left the dispositions to Longstreet. And never did he have better reason to trust the military judgment of "Old Pete." The front opposite Fort Harrison had been carefully planted with subterra shells or "land mines," after the capture of that earthwork,130 so Longstreet had nothing to fear on that sector, which the Chaffin's Bluff garrison manned. He concentrated Hoke and Field on the front of attack, and soon became convinced that the attack there was merely a feint. Shrewdly reasoning that the Federals might be preparing to turn the upper end of the outer line, which was undefended, he boldly moved his infantry as far northward as the Williamsburg road and sent Gary's cavalry to occupy the fortifications on the Nine-Mile road. In the course of a few hours he completely repulsed the enemy and captured some 600 prisoners and 11 flags. No drive on the northside, during the whole of the investment of Richmond, had been broken up so readily.131

On the southside the Federals crossed Hatcher's Run at Armstrong's Mill, and Rowanty Creek at Monk's Neck Bridge. Their numbers were large132 and their advance was rapid. Hampton p514 met them by shifting his attack from road to road with a skill and a speed that would have done credit to Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Stuart himself. Hill hurried Heth and Mahone from the line, where they had been on a quiet sector.133 This left Johnson to defend the front from the Appomattox to Battery 45 with six brigades and one battalion, while three of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Wilcox's brigades covered the right of the new line from Battery 45 to Hatcher's Run.134 The enemy reached Burgess's Mill, on Hatcher's Run, but as the two strong Federal corps failed to co-operate, the combined attacks of the Confederate infantry and cavalry drove the Union troops back in confusion. It was in a spectacular charge during this fighting along the Boydton plank road135 that Hampton had one of his sons killed and another seriously wounded. Despite this personal affliction,136 he proposed to renew the action at dawn. Hill, however, was unwilling to leave the Petersburg line so thinly held, especially as there was a surprise attack that evening on Johnson's front, near the Baxter road.137 The morning of October 28 found Hill back in position, the Federals withdrawn to their lines, and Hampton in possession of the field.138

Thus ended the most ambitious of the Federal attempts in the autumn of 1864 to outflank the Richmond-Petersburg line. It closed with substantial Confederate victory. Some began to hope that it was the last great effort of the year, because the weather, which had been mild and open in October, became uncertain with the opening of November, "good and bad by turns," as General Hagood said.139

p515 Satisfied that the northside was temporarily safe, Lee started back on November 1 for Petersburg.140 He made the journey something of a tour of inspection and that day covered the whole of the front from Chaffin's Bluff along the Howlett line to the city.141 On reaching Petersburg he went to new headquarters. A change from Violet Bank had become necessary, for, with the fall of the leaves, that pleasant place was in plain view of the enemy's batteries across the Appomattox.142 Lee had approved a move and Taylor had selected the comfortable Beasley house on High Street.143 The General, however, allowed himself only a single night's rest before starting out to examine the new line on the right.144 Next he went down as far as Rowanty Creek, where he joined Rooney and Robert, then on outpost duty. It was as happy a meeting as the times would allow. Both boys were well and cheerful. Robert's wound had healed and Rooney had new laurels, won in Hampton's battle on the Boydton plank road.145

Remaining on the extreme right several days, Lee found that most of the soldiers in the trenches were in good health,146 though the men who were doing fatigue duty, in the endless labor of constructing or strengthening fortifications, were beginning to show physical weakness because of the poor ration.147 Sometimes their food was fairly abundant;148 more often the third of a pound of "Nassau bacon" that was issued with the daily pint of corn meal was so bad that the facetious affirmed the enemy let it pass the blockade in order to poison the army.149 Once, when transportation was interrupted, there was only a single issue of meat in four days.150 Firewood was scarce and green;151 soap was not to be had.152 Dirty and cold, the men dug themselves small caves in rear of the trenches, caves that were popularly known as "rat-holes" and officially styled "bomb-proofs,"a despite the oft-repeated p516 experience that they were not "proof."153 The troops were beginning to lack even the means of defense. Percussion caps were running low, though most of the stills in the South that had been dedicated to Bacchus had now been sacrificed to Mars.154 The Confederates in the advanced rifle-pits were limited to eighteen rounds per man, while the Federal pickets who fraternized with them between the lines complained that each of them was required to expend 100 rounds every twenty-four hours.155

The distress of his soldiers wrung the heart of Lee, and the scantiness of their numbers gave him the deepest concern for the future. After his first day of inspection, he wrote the President, "the great necessity I observed yesterday was the want of men,"156 and on every rod of the line he visited after his return to his Petersburg headquarters he read the same warning. With all the troops on the works he could present, at best, only one man every four and a half feet.157 H. H. Walker's brigade was diminished before the end of November to such feebleness that it was disbanded, and Johnson's Tennessee brigade, which had fought so well at Fort Harrison, was consolidated with Archer's.158 In Early's command, Terry's brigade contained the fragments of thirteen regiments, and York had the remnants of ten regiments in his brigade.159 Desertion grew as ominously as a cancer. Johnson's reports told almost daily of men who had been unable to endure the ceaseless vigil of the freezing trenches and had crossed over the lines to safety, if to infamy.160 Usually, the deserters were new conscripts, but sometimes they seduced older soldiers from their allegiance.161 Among the local defense troops, on the Richmond front, forty-five desertions occurred in a short time because these reservists feared they were to be retained permanently in the army.162 Lee hurried the munition workers back to Richmond, both because of their low morale and also because the men were needed in the plants, but the exigencies were such that they were soon put in the trenches again.163 Lee had to be p517 stern in the face of the steady loss of men, but if he were not sure that justice had been done a deserter, he would personally see to it that the man had the benefit of the doubt. On one occasion he got up at 2 A.M. and intervened with the President because he was afraid that a German deserter might not have understood the published orders.164

It probably was in connection with desertion that Lee had distressing evidence during November that the exhaustion which was threatening the army was wearing down the sensitive nerves of the President. Longstreet's adjutant general reported that General Pickett had about 100 men in his guard-house charged with desertion. "He explains the state of things," the letter read, "by the fact that every man sentenced to be shot for desertion in this division for the past two months had been reprieved." A little earlier, Lee had been disposed to deal leniently with deserters who returned to the army, but he forwarded this document to the War Department with the endorsement: "Desertion is increasing in the army notwithstanding all my efforts to stop it. I think a rigid execution of the law is [best] in the end. The great want in our army is firm discipline." Through channels, this reached the President. It touched him on the old, sore spot of his constitutional prerogative. He wrote tartly, in a tone he rarely employed with Lee, familiar though it unhappily was to some of the other Confederate leaders: "When deserters are arrested they should be tried, and if the sentences are reviewed and remitted that is not a proper subject for the criticism of a military commander."165 Lee made no reply.

To meet the losses due to attrition and desertion, it was now apparent that the reservists would be of little value. The only hope lay in conscription and in the substitution of disabled soldiers and Negroes for the able-bodied white men who were on detail. For a while in October there had been hopeful signs of replacements from farmers who had harvested their crops,166 but before the end of that month Lee had been forced to tell Hampton, "The only source we have to depend upon is the conscription now going on."167 Lee continued to urge the organization p518 of Negroes in the service of supply168 and in this he had the warm support of the President, who asked the approval of Congress.169 Detailed men were slow in arriving, conscripts were few. From Early, when it was apparent that Sheridan did not intend to follow up his victory at Cedar Creek, Lee recalled Kershaw's division about November 14,170 but that shattered unit of the old First Corps, which he placed north of the James, was all he felt he could as yet safely detach from the Valley. There was some increase in the cavalry,171 but the shortage of horses was so great172 that of the 6200 troopers with Lee, about 1300 were dismounted.173 For all the efforts of Lee, the President and the War Department, the maximum strength of all arms reached in the return of November 30 was 60,753, exclusive of the Richmond garrison of something less than 6000.174 This was a gain, but not enough, in Lee's opinion, to give him any prospect of victory. "Unless we can obtain a reasonable approximation to [Grant's] force," he wrote the President early that month, "I fear a great calamity will befall us."175

While Lee was thus vainly using all his prestige and all his influence to bring the Army of Northern Virginia up to fighting strength in November, Grant undertook no offensive operations on a large scale. In the Valley of the Shenandoah, Early waited, with his reduced force, gloomy and uneasy. Off Wilmington, whither Bragg had been sent in general command, subject to Lee's control, there was as yet no increase in the blockading fleet to indicate an early attack, though Lee expected that port or Charleston soon to be assailed. He urged that the garrison at either place be ready to assist that of the other.176

In the far South were direful developments. Largely at Lee's instance, General Beauregard had been slated to assume charge p519 of the department where Hood was operating.177 Beauregard had bidden Lee an affectionate farewell about September 23178 and had gone first to Charleston. Then he had been assigned to his new post of duty, but he had no real authority. Hood made his own plans, with the acquiescence of the President. After sending Forrest on a brilliant raid against Sherman's railroad communications, Hood decided to attempt to force Sherman out of Georgia by marching his army into Tennessee. This was, perhaps, the fatal military decision of the war. If Lee was consulted regarding it, there is no record of the advice he gave.179 On November 16, while Hood tramped toward Nashville, Sherman boldly abandoned his communications with Tennessee and started on his march across Georgia to the sea.180 For two weeks there was suspense; then, on November 30, Hood met Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Schofield at Franklin, Tenn., and in a wild, reckless, and wasteful battle threw him back on Nashville, where George H. Thomas was concentrating force in a determination to destroy Hood and to leave Sherman free to move on Savannah.181

These events sent a shiver down the spine of every Confederate. Could anything be done to check Sherman's advance? Would Lee be able to send troops to oppose him? Feverishly the question was debated. It probably was the subject most anxiously discussed at a conference between the President and Lee on the 22d of November182 and it was not easily answered. For Grant seemed to be co-operating shrewdly with his lieutenant in Georgia. Lee's information was that the Army of the Potomac had received twelve days' rations and was preparing a flank movement in an effort to keep him from detaching troops against Sherman. Lee at once made ready to attack Grant, and on November 21 even considered abandoning the Valley and concentrating everything for one final thrust; but Grant's anticipated movement did not occur, and the weather temporarily put a stop to operations.183

p520 Bragg was forthwith sent southward from Wilmington with half the forces there, in the hope that he might organize a small army at Augusta, Ga., to attack Sherman.184 No decision was made, and none could be reached, as to a detachment from Lee's army, because Grant speedily became most active again. On the 29th there were signs of a new shift of troops to the north side of the James.185 The next week, when the fickle weather changed again for the better,186 all the signs pointed to another outflanking movement. "I think we are ready," Taylor wrote, "and hope with God's help for success."187 Lee made no predictions, but watched every move and studied carefully every spy's report. On December 5 the scouts brought in dark news: The well-led VI Corps, which had been fighting against Early in the Shenandoah Valley, had rejoined Grant.188

Heavier odds against the weary Army of Northern Virginia, increased probability that Grant would try once again to swing around one flank or the other, virtual certainty that the Army of Northern Virginia could not detach even a regiment to hope in holding back Sherman — could Lee do anything to offset this turn of affairs? There was only one move he could make on the chessboard of war: As Grant had recalled part of his troops from Sheridan, Lee might bring back part of the Second Corps without subjecting Early to the threat of immediate destruction. Accordingly, Gordon's division was ordered to start for Petersburg as soon as Lee was sure of the return of the VI Corps to Grant. Early's division, now under John Pegram, followed it at once.189 On Longstreet's assurance that the northside was measurably safe,190 Lee prepared to transfer Hoke to the southside again and to turn over his lines to Kershaw.191 When Gordon arrived from the Valley, he was marched through Petersburg and was placed on the extreme right.192 This hurried reconcentration did not counterbalance the return of the VI Corps to Grant, but it p521 made the odds less serious. Moreover, it relieved the cavalry and left A. P. Hill's corps available for employment in meeting new flank operations.

Before Gordon got into position, the Federals, on December 7, undertook a raid down the Weldon Railroad. Lee interpreted this to be an attempt to occupy Weldon193 and he at once sent Hill to support Hampton, who had put his men on the march at the first report of the enemy's move.194 Longstreet was ordered to attack on the northside, if possible, to keep the enemy from further enterprises.195 The weather co-operated, for once, by turning discouragingly cold on the 8th.196 The enemy got as far as Belfield, but could not cross the Meherrin River to Hicksford197 or destroy the bridge in the face of the battery that had been constructed to protect the crossing.198 When the Federals were forced to turn back, their rations being near exhaustion, Hampton's cavalry skirmished hotly on their flanks and took some prisoners. Hill, however, could not overhaul them, and they returned unpunished. A simultaneous demonstration on Hatcher's Run amounted to little.199 The enemy had torn up more of the track of the Weldon Railroad than Lee had thought — sixteen miles instead of six — but had done little additional military damage. There was some disappointment in the army that Hill had not engaged the Federal infantry.200

Sherman's march to the sea was, meantime, progressing ominously, and the question of detaching troops from the Army of Northern Virginia became even more pressing. Lee considered it likely that Sheridan would reinforce Grant, and that an attempt might be made to break the Confederate centre through the Dutch Gap Canal, which was now nearing completion. For this reason it was dangerous, he thought, to weaken his forces. In the emergency, p522 however, he felt that he could detach a division if Grant were not reinforced by Sheridan, and, as always, he expressed willingness to do more if the administration so directed. Davis, in a quandary, left the decision to Lee. When he heard that the snow was six inches deep in the Shenandoah Valley, Lee, on December 14, ordered Rodes's division to return to Petersburg. This stripped Early of nearly his whole command, but it gave Lee some guarantee that if he had to dispatch a force to Georgia, he could replace a part of it.201

With its gallant commander left behind in his grave in the Valley, Rodes's division reached Petersburg on December 18.202 But the telegraph that told of his approach also brought dread tidings: On the 15th and 16th, Hood had met Thomas in front of Nashville and had been hopelessly routed.203 On the 19th a great armada from Hampton Roads, eighty-five steamers altogether, arrived off Wilmington.204 The same day Beauregard announced from Savannah that Sherman was approaching and had demanded the surrender of the place. "The city," he said, "must be evacuated [as] soon as practicable. The loss of Savannah will be followed by that of the railroad from Augusta to Charleston, and soon after of Charleston itself. Cannot Hoke and Johnson's divisions be spared for defence of South Carolina until part of or whole of Hood's army could reach Georgia?"205

Davis could not bring himself to believe that Beauregard's forecast was correct, but he turned to Lee for counsel, with the old, old question: What reinforcements could Lee send south? And should they go to Wilmington or to South Carolina?206 As calmly as he weighed every other question, and without any evidence of the profound anxiety he must have felt, Lee concluded that the danger to Wilmington was more imminent, and, for all the odds on his own front, he ordered Longstreet to send a division to the North Carolina port. Longstreet selected Hoke's.207 On the p523 morning of December 20 Lee conferred with Longstreet and with Hoke, and started one of the latter's brigades for Wilmington, over the long route via Danville and Greensboro.208 The railroad equipment was now near collapse. Cars were few and locomotives were scarcely able to crawl over the worn tracks. It was the 22d before the last of Hoke's men left Richmond.209 Kershaw and Field took over their lines,210 and Rodes's division was temporarily sent to Longstreet on the northside.211 At this juncture, on December 22‑23, from a front that was dangerously thin,212 Longstreet had to detach two brigades to meet a raid on Gordonsville, but they were lucky enough to drive the enemy off, and returned so promptly that their absence had no serious consequences.213

The movement of Hoke's division southward from Danville was incredibly slow, so slow that suspicion of treachery on the part of the Piedmont Railroad was widespread in the army.214 By Christmas Day only the leading brigade had reached Wilmington, and by the afternoon of December 26 scarcely 400 of the next brigade had arrived.215 For a time it looked as though the delay would be fatal, but, as it happened, the attack was abortive. Union troops were landed and a powder ship was blown up in the mistaken belief that the concussion would destroy Fort Fisher, the main defense of the town.216 As no damage was done, the land forces returned to their ships,217 and on the 28th the fleet steamed away.218 This was, of course, a relief to Lee and to the administration, but the good news that Wilmington was still open to the blockade runners meant little compared to the baleful tidings that on December 21 Sherman had marched into Savannah.

Hood's army a wreck; Georgia and the Gulf states cut off from Virginia; Sherman soon to be ready to march up the coast and to capture Charleston; the Army of the Potomac every day more powerful and better able to outflank Lee, no matter what his p524 vigilance, or what his strategy; Sheridan free to return with his overwhelming cavalry — surely, when the last December sun of 1864 set over the Petersburg defenses it brought the twilight of the Confederacy.


The Author's Notes:

1 Taylor MSS., Aug. 14, 15, 1864. Major H. B. McClellan, who had been serving with Lee since the death of Stuart, had rejoined the staff of the cavalry corps.

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2 Cf. Richard Lewis: Camp Life of a Confederate Boy, 95: The General was "looking remarkably well," Sept. 17, 1864.

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3 Major Henry C. Carter to Percy Hawes, MS., Aug. 12, 1925.

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4 Long, 386‑87.

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5 Jones, 164.

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6 R. E. Lee, Jr., 137.

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7 O. R., 43, part 1, p992.

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8 Reagan, 195.

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9 O. R., 42, part 2, p1171.

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10 Ibid., 1173‑74, 1174‑75.

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11 Cf. O. R., 42, part 2, p1275.

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12 O. R., 42, part 2, p1235.

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13 IV O. R., 3, 653. For details of "Hampton's beef-raid," see O. R., 42, part 2, pp1242, 1247; Hampton's report, ibid., part 1, p944; U. R. Brooks, Butler and His Cavalry, 314 ff.; E. L. Wells, 287 ff.; 22 S. H. S. P., 147 ff.

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14 O. R., 42, part 2, p1206.

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15 Lee's Dispatches, 262‑63.

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16 For affairs at Wilmington, as Lee was concerned in them, see O. R., 42, part 2, pp1209, 1235, 1246; ibid., 51, part 2, p1039; 2 Roman, 274‑75; R. E. Lee to G. W. C. Lee, MS., Sept. 18, 1864; Duke Univ. MSS.

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17 Taylor MSS., Sept. 4, 1864; Taylor's General Lee, 262.

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18 Mrs. McGuire, 303.

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19 Cf. U. R. Brooks: Butler and His Cavalry, 291‑92, quoting John C. Calhoun to Miss M. M. Calhoun, July 22, 1864.

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20 O. R., 43, part 1, p1006.

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21 O. R., 43, part 2, p874.

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22 Irvine Walker, 183, 186‑87; O. R., 42, part 2, pp1257‑58; ibid., 43, part 2, p873.

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23 The clearest account of the battle is in Early, 420 ff. The official reports are in O. R., 43, part 1, pp46 ff., 552.

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24 O. R., 43, part 2, p878.

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25 Early, 429 ff.; O. R., 43, part 1, p552.

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26 O. R., 43, part 1, p558.

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27 O. R., 43, part 2, pp880, 893 ff.

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28 O. R., 43, part 2, p880.

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29 O. R., 43, part 1, p23.

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30 John W. Daniel to Walter H. Taylor, MS., Dec. 17, 1904, maintained that Early mustered only 12,000 (Taylor MSS.). In O. R., 43, part 1, p1002, the strength of the infantry was given as 8269, without counting Wharton's division, which, according to a note in O. R., 43, part 1, p1011, could not have numbered less than 1500. The strength of the cavalry with Early is doubtful, but it probably was around 3000. This would make his total strength around 12,700, to which the artillery should be added.

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31 O. R., 43, part 1, p559.

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32 O. R., 43, part 1, p61. His total "present for duty," infantry, artillery, and cavalry, was 40,672, of whom 6465 were cavalry.

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33 Cf. Long, 370, 403; Taylor's Four Years, 145; De Leon, 348‑49; personal statements to the writer by Colonel Walter H. Taylor and Colonel T. M. R. Talcott. The late Captain W. Gordon McCabe, a most accurate authority, stated to the writer that Colonel Charles Marshall and Colonel C. H. Venable likewise were of opinion that Lee desired the evacuation of Richmond long before it was ordered. Colonel Marshall (op. cit., 182) stated that Lee "had been heard to say that Richmond was the millstone that was dragging down the army." As these officers based their views on inference, rather than on anything Lee specifically said, it is impossible to fix a date, or even an approximate time, when he decided that the defense of Richmond was hopeless. Lee may have reached this conclusion in October, after the battle of Cedar Creek, instead of after the battle of Fisher's Hill. Evacuation of Petersburg did not imply any intention on his part to end the war. He told "a Southern senator that he was determined to die rather than yield" (Jones, 294), and, toward the close of the fighting around Petersburg, he said to the President, "With my army in the mountains of Virginia, I could carry on this war for twenty years longer" (Jones, 295). Subsequently, according to Colonel Venable, "one night when [Lee] was groaning about the difficulties and dangers attending the holding of his long line with his small force, I unwisely ventured to ask why he did not abandon it. He turned on me sharply and said that to do so would be to be a traitor to his government, or strong words to that effect" (C. S. Venable to W. H. Taylor, MS., March 29, 1878. Taylor MSS.). Still later, at some indeterminable date, he realized that the struggle was hopeless. After the war, about 1868, he was riding with a guest of his daughters, Miss Belle Stewart, later Mrs. Joseph Bryan. She asked, "Why are you so depressed?" He answered, "I am thinking about the men who were lost after I knew it was too late." His brilliant young companion inquired, "Why didn't you tell them?" The old General shook his head: "They had to find it out for themselves." (Statement to the writer by John Stewart Bryan.)

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34 On Nov. 5, 1929, Major George Taylor Lee told the writer that he once asked his father, Charles Carter Lee, what General Lee thought about defending Richmond. He said Charles Carter Lee did not make a positive answer, but remarked that when they were children Henry Lee used to talk to them about defending Virginia, and told them that when an enemy that controlled the sea attacked a land force, the enemy, when defeated, could always retreat by using its ships. Henry Lee said the best way to deal with such an enemy was to draw him into the interior of the country where his ships would be of little value. In describing conditions in Virginia, Henry Lee said that the ideal would be to draw the enemy at least fifty miles beyond Tidewater.

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35 McGowan on Aug. 18, 1864 (O. R., 42, part 2, p1185); Archer on Aug. 19 (ibid., 1189); Kirkland, the same day (ibid., 1190); Lane, Aug. 29 (ibid., 1207). The return of the army for Aug. 31 (ibid., 1214 ff.) showed so many temporary officers that the old brigades could hardly be recognized, but by Oct. 31 (ibid., part 3, p1187 ff.) the roster took on something of its old form.

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36 O. R., 42, part 2, p1276.

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37 O. R., 42, part 2, p1188; Hagood, 289.

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38 O. R., 42, part 2, p1188.

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39 O. R., 42, part 2, pp1252‑53.

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40 O. R., 42, part 1, p895.

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41 Shaver: History of the Sixtieth Alabama Regt., 111.

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42 Cf. O. R., 42, part 2, p1293; ibid., 51, part 2, 1040, and infra, p516.

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43 O. R., 40, part 1, p761.

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44 O. R., 42, part 2, pp1290‑91.

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45 O. R., 42, part 2, pp1175‑76.

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46 O. R., 42, part 1, pp890 ff.

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47Meade, 228.

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48 Cf. O. R., 42, part 2, p1213.

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49 O. R., 42, part 2, p1292.

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50 Jones, 444.

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51 O. R., 42, part 2, p1200.

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52 O. R., 42, part 2, p1228.

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53 Text of act in IV O. R., 3, 178 ff.; history and analysis of the law in A. B. Moore: Conscription and Conflict in the Confederacy, 308 ff.

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54 O. R., 42, part 2, p1157, 1199‑1200, cf. ibid., 1203‑4.

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55 Lee's Dispatches, 297‑98.

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56 Ibid.

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57 O. R., 42, part 2, p1230.

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58 Lee's Dispatches, 280.

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59 O. R., 42, part 2, p1242.

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60 Lee's Dispatches, 293‑95.

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61 O. R., 42, part 2, pp1245‑46.

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62 Cf. Taylor MSS., Sept. 25, 1864.

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63 O. R., 42, part 2, pp1256, 1260, 1269.

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64 O. R., 42, part 2, pp1205, 1260, 1292‑93; 2 R. W. C. D., 277.

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65 O. R., 42, part 2, pp1175‑76, 1183.

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66 O. R., 42, part 2, pp1167, 1169.

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67 O. R., 42, part 2, pp1182, 1200, 1204, 1210.

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68 O. R., 42, part 2, p1200.

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69 O. R., 42, part 2, p1293.

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70S. H. S. P., 439.

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71 O. R., 42, part 2, p1298.

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72 O. R., 42, part 2, p1302. A MS. account of the seizure of this fort, written by the commander of its garrison, Major R. C. Taylor, is in the hands of his descendants in Norfolk, Va.

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73 O. R., 42, part 2, p1302.

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74 O. R., 42, part 2, p1303.

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75 14 S. H. S. P., 555.

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76 Hagood, 303; for the new uniforms see James Morris Morgan: Recollections of a Rebel Reefer, 208. This delightful book, one of the most captivating of Confederate personal narratives, is cited hereafter as Rebel Reefer.

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77 Rebel Reefer, 208.

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78 O. R., 42, part 1, p947.

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79 Ibid., p859.

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80 O. R., 42, part 2, p1301.

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81 A very graphic narrative of this phase of the defense, by Charles Johnston, will be found in 1 S. H. S. P., 439 ff. See also O. R., 42, part 1, p935.

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82 14 S. H. S. P., 555‑56.

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83 O. R., 42, part 1, p876.

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84 14 S. H. S. P., 556.

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85 F. M. Mixson, 101‑2.

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86 14 S. H. S. P., 557.

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87 O. R., 42, part 1, p880. The fort seems originally to have been open in the rear but was fortified by the Federals, probably beginning on the night of Sept. 29.

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88 O. R., 42, part 2, p880.

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89 2 R. W. C. D., 297.

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90 Rebel Reefer, 210.

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91 Ibid. cf. O. R., 42, part 1, pp859, 938, 947; Hagood, 305; 5 Correspondence of B. F. Butler, 192, 197, 197‑98, 201. The fullest study of the action at Fort Harrison is that of Major Charles J. Calrow: Battle of Chaffin's Bluff, the MS. of which its distinguished author has obligingly placed at the disposal of the writer. To Major Calrow's careful reconstruction of the battle of Sept. 30, the writer owes the data for the map on p503. A comparison of this map with the earlier one, p500, will show that Major Calrow assumes that the Federals during the night of Sept. 29 levelled the works linking Fort Harrison with the intermediate line just south of Fort Gilmer. This cannot be asserted as a fact but it is a probability. The action was confused, the Confederate reports are very meagre, and the positions of the attacking columns cannot be established with absolute certainty.

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92 O. R., 42, part 2, p1306.

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93 See supra, p160.

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94 Hampton's report is in O. R., 42, part 1, pp947‑48; Meade's in ibid., 31. See also U. R. Brooks: Butler and His Cavalry, 325 ff.; E. L. Wells, 318 ff. This movement was undertaken as a major operation, simultaneous with the attack on Fort Harrison, in the hope that Petersburg might be taken or the Southside Railroad occupied (O. R., 42, part 2, pp1046‑47). The Confederates on both sides the James, Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 1864, captured 2226 prisoners (O. R., 42, part 1, p870).

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95 O. R., 42, part 3, p1133.

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96 O. R., 42, part 3, p1146. The line was completed on Oct. 23 (ibid., 1159).

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97 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1140, 1143.

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98 O. R., 42, part 3, p1180.

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99 The sketch represents new positions taken during the whole of October, and not during the first week only. See O. R., 42, part 1, pp166 ff., 436, 546.

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100 O. R., 42, part 3, p1134.

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101 Taylor MSS., Oct. 6, 1864.

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102 Taylor MSS., Oct. 6, 1864.

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103 Polley, Hood's Texas Brigade, 257.

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104 14 S. H. S. P., 557.

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105 14 S. H. S. P., 558. Corbin in his Letters of a Confederate Officer, 79, stated that Lee regarded Gregg as the best brigadier in the army and was considering him as a successor to Rodes.

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106 F. W. Dawson, 127.

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107 O. R., 42, part 1, pp878, 938. Federal reports in ibid., 703 ff.; 14 S. H. S. P., 558; Hagood, 307.

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108 O. R., 42, part 3, 1144‑45.

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109 O. R., 42, part 3, p1144.

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110 Hagood, 310.

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111 14 S. H. S. P., 558.

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112 For Longstreet's return, see Longstreet, 574; O. R., 42, part 1, p871.

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113 Irvine Walker, 193.

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114 Sorrel, 265.

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115 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1155, 1185.

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116 O. R., 42, part 3, p1182.

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117 Longstreet, 573.

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118 Taylor MSS., Oct. 6, 1864.

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119 Early, 435.

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120 O. R., 43, part 2, p885.

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121 O. R., 43, part 2, pp891‑92.

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122 Early, 437 ff., 450; O. R., 43, part 1, pp553, 561; ibid., part 2, p901.

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123 O. R., 43, part 2, p911, assuming that Early's cavalry, after Cedar Creek, was temporarily reduced to 1000. If it were larger, Early's total strength would be greater by that excess.

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124 II O. R., 7, pp1010 ff. Correspondence of B. F. Butler, 264.

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125 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1174 ff.

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126 O. R., 42, part 1, p871.

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127 Taylor MSS., Oct. 27, 1864.

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128 O. R., 42, part 3, p1178.

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129 O. R., 42, part 3, p1178; 2 R. W. C. D., 316.

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130 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1181, 1219. For the marking of the location of these shells, see History of Kershaw's Brigade, 471.

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131 O. R., 42, part 1, p871; 14 S. H. S. P., 559 ff. In Longstreet, 576, its author asserted that Lee did not approve but did not forbid the shift to the Williamsburg road, which statement probably means neither more nor less than that Lee let Longstreet fight his own battle.

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132 Hancock operated with two divisions of the II Corps, Warren with the whole of the V, and Gregg with his cavalry division. Parke, in command of the IX Corps, was co-operating on the Federal right.

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133 Longstreet, 576.

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134 For Johnson's position, see supra, p505; for Wilcox's, see his MS. report, 68. Thomas's brigade was north of the Appomattox and had been there since July 4 (Wilcox, loc. cit.).

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135 The action took that name.

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136 General Lee wrote him Oct. 29: "I grieve with you at the death of your gallant son. So young, so brave, so true. I know how much you must suffer. Yet think of the great gain to him, how changed his condition, how bright his future. We must labour on in the course before us, but for him I trust is rest and peace, for I believe our Merciful God takes us when it is best for us to go. He is now safe from all harm and all evil, and nobly died in the defence of the rights of his country. May God support you under your great affliction, and give you strength to bear the trials he may impose on you. Truly your friend . . ." (MS. copy, through the kindness of Mrs. Preston Hampton Haskell, of Richmond, Va.).

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137 O. R., 42, part 1, p906.

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138 O. R., 42, part 1, pp853, 860, 944 ff. McCabe, 538 ff., contains perhaps the best narrative. See also E. L. Wells, 326 ff.

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139 Hagood, 312, 313.

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140 O. R., 42, part 3, p1198.

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141 Lee's Dispatches, 305‑6; G. Wise, 204.

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142 Taylor MSS., Sept. 4, 1864.

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143 Taylor's Four Years, 141.

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144 O. R., 42, part 1, p908.

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145 Long, 398.

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146 Welch, 141.

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147 "Some men dug and shovelled well; but the majority, even of those who looked strong and healthy, would pant and grow faint under the labor of half an hour. This was most strikingly the case when our meat ration failed" (History of McGowan's Brigade, 196).

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148 James A. Graham Papers, 196.

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149 Sorrel, 271.

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150 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1156‑57.

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151 Taylor MSS., Sept. 4, 1864; History of McGowan's Brigade, 197.

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152 Lee's Dispatches, 288‑89.

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153 Shaver, History of the Sixtieth Alabama Regt., 82.

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154 Alexander, 585.

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155 O. R., 42, part 1, p918.

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156 Lee's Dispatches, 306.

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157 Shaver, History of the Sixtieth Alabama Regt., 83.

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158 O. R., 42, part 3, p1235.

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159 O. R., 42, part 3, p1246.

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160 See Johnson's reports in O. R., 42, part 1, pp908 ff.

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161 James A. Graham Papers, 199.

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162 O. R., 42, part 3, p1179.

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163 2 R. W. C. D., 326.

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164 1 Macrae, 181 ff.

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165 O. R., 42, part 3, p1213.

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166 2 R. W. C. D., 307.

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167 O. R., 42, part 3, p1176; cf. ibid., p1144.

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168 IV O. R., 3, p838.

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169 IV O. R., 3, p797.

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170 O. R., 43, part 1, p584.

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171 O. R., 43, part 2, p926.

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172 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1134, 1198, 1228.

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173 O. R., 42, part 3, p1236.

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174 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1236, 1248. One brigade of cavalry was not reported.

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175 Lee's Dispatches, 306. Grant's and Butler's combined force at this time, exclusive of troops at Fort Monroe and in North Carolina, was 102,342 (O. R., 42, part 3, pp765‑66).

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176 O. R., 42, part 3, p1177. For the dispatch of Bragg to Wilmington, see O. R., 42, part 3, pp1142, 1160, 1163, 1207, 1209. Bragg took command on Oct. 22. For Lee's effort to reinforce and victual Wilmington, see Jones, L. and L., 341; O. R., 42, part 3, pp1171, 1185, 1215, 1217.

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177 O. R., 37, part 2, p1259;º 2 Roman, 274‑75; T. R. Hay: Hood's Tennessee Campaign, 207.

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178 2 Roman, 275.

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179 T. R. Hay, op. cit., 70.

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180 2 Sherman Memoirs, 178.

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181 Cf. Henry, 429 ff., a brief but very effective account.

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182 O. R., 42, part 3, p1222; ibid., 51, part 2, p1053.

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183 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1222‑23, 1227, 1229. For the weather, see James A. Graham Papers, 198.

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184 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1228, 1233.

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185 O. R., 42, part 3, p1232.

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186 James A. Graham Papers, 200.

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187 Taylor MSS., Dec. 4, 1864.

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188 The VI Corps reached City Point, Dec. 4 (O. R., 42, part 1, p68).

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189 O. R., 42, part 3, p1256; ibid., 43, part 1, p587; ibid., part 2, p936.

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190 O. R., 42, part 3, p1256.

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191 It is possible that the orders to Hoke, which appear in O. R., 42, part 3, p1258, were issued on the receipt of news that the Federals had started the Belfield raid, but it is manifest from O. R., 42, part 3, p1262, that Hoke was held on the north bank.

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192 Gordon, 376.

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193 O. R., 42, part 3, p1259.

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194 O. R., 42, part 1, p950.

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195 O. R., 42, part 3, p1260.

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196 Hagood, 315; Taylor MSS., Dec. 12, 1864.

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197 Belfield was on the north and Hicksford on the south bank of the Meherrin. Together, they now form the town of Emporia.

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198 O. R., 42, part 1, p444; map, ibid., 448‑49. For the armament at Hicksford, see ibid., part 3, p1322.

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199 The Federal force consisted of the V Corps, Mott's division of the II Corps, and Gregg's cavalry. One division of the IX Corps was sent to cover Warren's withdrawal. The demonstration against Hatcher's Run was made by Miles's 1st Division of the II Corps (O. R., 42, part 1, p260). Warren's report is in ibid., 443 ff.; Meade's in ibid., 37‑38, and Lee's are in ibid., 855 and ibid., part 3, p1271. Hampton's is in ibid., part 1, p950. See also R. E. Lee to G. W. C. Lee, MS., Dec. 13, 1864, Duke Univ. MSS.

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200 Pendleton, 379.

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201 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1271, 1272, 1272‑73, 1278.

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202 Grimes, 93; cf. O. R., 42, part 3, p1277. General John B. Gordon subsequently assumed command of the three divisions of the Second Corps when they were reassembled on the Petersburg front, and in his capacity as senior division major general, acted as lieutenant general, but there is no record that he was ever commissioned at that rank.

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203 Henry, 432‑33.

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204 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1278‑79, 1283.

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205 O. R., 44, 966.

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206 O. R., 42, part 3, p1280.

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207 O. R., 42, part 3, p1280.

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208 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1280‑81.

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209 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1282, 1287.

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210 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1281, 1287.

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211 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1291, 1301.

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212 Cf. O. R., 42, part 3, p1288.

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213 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1289, 1290, 1293, 1295, 1301; ibid., 43, part 2, p941. General Bratton's report of the engagement in front of Gordonsville is in ibid., 42, part 1, pp882‑83.

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214 Hagood, 316; O. R., 42, part 3, pp1305, 1334, 1344.

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215 O. R., 42, part 3, p1334.

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216 2 Grant's Memoirs, 390‑91.

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217 O. R., 42, part 3, p1323.

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218 O. R., 42, part 3, pp1334, 1343.


Thayer's Note:

a For a topside view of a bomb-proof, see the photograph in Vol. IV, Ch. 2.


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