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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. IV
p41
Chapter IV

The Breaking of the Line

Lee heard the first incomplete report of Five Forks stoically on the afternoon of April 1, and, as was his habit when making his first adjustments to a new situation, in his deep voice he asked abstractedly of the cavalry officer who brought him the news, "Well, Captain, what shall we do?"1

The best he could do was little enough, and it entailed new risks: he must reinforce the cavalry with other infantry in place of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pickett's. At 5:45, Bushrod Johnson was ordered, through Anderson, to proceed at once to Church Crossing, near Ford's, and to support the cavalry.2 Forty-five minutes later Johnson moved with three brigades — Wise's, Moody's, and Hunton's.3 This meant the virtual abandonment of that part of the line within the bend of Hatcher's Run.

It meant even more, for as the few remaining units were spread out, they were so thinned as almost to be helpless. From Battery Gregg to Hatcher's Run the men were from ten to twenty feet apart, and at some points still farther. A single regiment of Scales's brigade and the sharpshooters of another, McRae's, were all that could be put in the position that Wise's and Hunton's brigades had occupied.4 Lee's only chance of remanning the endangered, the all-but‑abandoned works on the right was to bring Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Field's division of 4600 men from the north side of the James. He now ordered this, most urgently, and directed that Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Longstreet come with Field's men. In the last struggle he wanted near him that lieutenant, who, for all his stubborn self-opinion, was the best corps commander he had left. Lee must have put the extremity of his plight into that order, the text of which has been lost, for as it was transmitted through channels, it had an ominous ring. p42 "It is important beyond measure," Longstreet's adjutant general wrote Field, "that no time be lost."5 As Field's departure would leave only one division of infantry, a single brigade of cavalry, and some heavy artillery north of the James, the tocsin was sounded in the capital and all the local defense troops, together with the state cadets, were ordered out to man the works below Richmond.6 Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Ewell reassumed actively his general command on the northside.

Had Lee known early in the evening the full magnitude of the disaster that had befallen Pickett he might have ordered the evacuation of the Petersburg line before daylight. Even as it was, with the enemy on his right flank and the river behind him, he must have ridden back to the Turnbull house in full knowledge that what little hope remained to him hung on the arrival of Longstreet before Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant assaulted.

As compared with the state of affairs on March 27, here was the situation, in terms of the density of infantry, after Field started to move and the local defense troops took position:

ZONE AND COMMAND
INFANTRY PER MILE
[PER KILOMETER]
OF DEFENDED LINE
APRIL 1
MARCH 27
North of the James —
   
Cavalry on the left flank, approximately 500; on March 27, 1800
   
Kershaw's division, 1800, and 2200 of Ewell's local defense troops and reservists not previously on the line
600 [370] 1360 [850]
   
Ewell, with other reservists, on a front of 5 miles, local defense troops and heavy artillerists, on a front of 2½ miles
740 [460] 740 [460]
Howlett Line —
   
Mahone's division
740 [460] 740 [460]
From the Appomattox to Lieutenant's Run —
   
Gordon, with Walker's and Evans's divisions
870 [540] 1350 [840] 7
From Lieutenant's Run to Burgess's Mill —
   
Grimes's division of Gordon's corps, 2 miles
870 [540] 1350 [840]
   
Wilcox's division of Hill's corps, 2¼ miles
1100 [680] 1100 [680]
   
Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Heth's division of Hill's corps, diminished by casualties of March 31, approximately 250, and by McRae's sharpshooters and one regiment of Scales's
1565 [970] 1200 [745]
   
Average density of this zone
1262 [784] 1150 [715]
Beyond Burgess's Mill —
   
One regiment of Scales's brigade, McRae's sharpshooters, about 400 men on 3‑mile front
133 [83] 1600 [990]
Moving April 1 —
   
Anderson, with Wise, Hunton, and Moody, about 3500 men, to support the cavalry on the right.
   
Field's division, from the extreme left, about 4600 men, ordered to Petersburg.
   
Cavalry: north and west of Hatcher's Run, strength and condition unknown the evening of April 1 to Lee.
   
Pickett's command: A quasi-reserve on March 27; position and strength unknown to Lee on the evening of April 1.

South of the James River, on nearly 20 miles of line, Lee now had scarcely 16,000 infantry in position and none in reserve. From the Appomattox to Hatcher's Run, he had only 11,000. From Lieutenant's Run, where the works began to be less formidable, to the very end of his fortified position, where the Claiborne road crossed the western stretch of Hatcher's Run, he had no more than 12,500 infantry. These included the forces in the highly important position of Burgess's Mill. If Grant were held off one day longer, as he had been held off for nine months, there was still a chance of a safe withdrawal and a reconcentration. But if Grant turned the right, or discovered how thin was the line of infantry behind the works . . . then . . . but Lee could only tell General Grimes, who reported the weakness of his position, that he must do the best he could.

His orders given, Lee went to his quarters and partly disrobed, but he slept little, if at all.8 He was exhausted, though not actually ill. He may have heard the shelling that began at 9 P.M. on Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Wilcox's front, the nearest point of which was only a little more than two miles from his headquarters. He probably knew nothing of a minor shift of part of McRae's force to the east of Hatcher's Run, next McComb, where danger seemed to be threatened.9 p44 Perhaps he caught the sound of the picket firing that broke out at 1:45 on the morning of the fateful 2d of April. Soon A. P. Hill, who had been apprehensive because of the heaviness of the artillery fire, came out from his quarters, which were a mile and a half nearer Petersburg than Lee's.10 About 4 o'clock Longstreet arrived in advance of Field's division, which was moving toward the city as rapidly as the creaking wheels of the decrepit railroad could turn. Lee was in bed, still feeling very unwell, but received Longstreet at once and reviewed for him the condition on the right. He directed Longstreet to take his troops, the instant they detrained, and to march for Hatcher's Run.11

Suddenly, while Lee was explaining the route of the division, Colonel Venable broke excitedly into the room. Wagons and teamsters, he said, were driving wildly down Cox's road toward Petersburg. An infantry officer had told him that Federal skirmishers had driven him from Harris's quarters, less than half a mile from Edge Hill.12

From Harris's quarters? Why, the huts of the Mississippians were a mile and a half in the rear of the main line! If the enemy were there, then the Federals had broken the line — broken it at a point that would put them in rear of the whole of the Confederate right!

Instantly the General sprang from his bed and hurried to the front door of the Turnbull house with Longstreet. It was an usually dark morning.13 Distant objects were vague. But long lines of men, like those of skirmishers, were visible, moving slowly toward Edge Hill from the southwest.14 Were they retreating Confederates or advancing Union troops? Quick, Colonel Venable, mount and reconnoitre, and General Hill — but Hill was already running toward his horse. There must have been something desperate in the manner of Hill, for as the two hurried p45 off, Lee called to Venable to caution Hill not to expose himself.15 Away they galloped. Other officers leaped into their saddles and sped after them. Couriers lashed their lean and frantic horses as they dashed away with orders.

Then, for a few moments, the line that stretched far across the gray fields halted as if in doubt. Anxiously Lee concentrated his gaze on it. Soon, in the growing light, the color of the men's uniforms was visible — blue. They were Federals. Could Longstreet use Field's division to stop them? No, "Old Pete" had to answer: Word had not yet come that any of Field's regiments had detrained, much less that they had arrived on the ground.16 If that were so, the best that could be done for the moment was to rally the Confederate forces on Fort Gregg and Fort Baldwin, south of the Turnbull house and perpendicular to the main east-and‑west line.17 And as Fort Baldwin18 was a mile and a quarter from the Appomattox, it was necessary for the troops south of Fort Baldwin and Fort Gregg to withdraw more to the east and to occupy the "inner line." In simplest terms, the general situation as then known to General Lee is sketched on page 46.


[image ALT: zzz]
Situation on Lee's right-centre after the Confederate line had been penetrated on the morning of April 2, 1865.

1 The Federals were advancing on Lee's headquarters in the direction indicated by the arrow, but the point and the extent of the break were not known to Lee.

2 To halt the Federals, Lee planned to hold the front indicated by the dots and dashes, extending from the main defensive system, via Forts Gregg and Baldwin, to the Appomattox River and covering the old inner line west and southwest of Petersburg.

Going back to his private quarters, Lee dressed quickly and prepared to leave the Turnbull house, which was directly in the line of the Federal advance. When he reappeared, he was in full uniform and had on his sword.19 Quickly he mounted his horse and rode down to the gate of Edge Hill and across the road, whence he had a good sweep of the country. He had not been there long, intent with orders for meeting the surprise, when a number of staff officers came up. Some of them were of Hill's entourage, and with them was Hill's dapple-gray horse. But the commander of the Third Corps was not astride the animal. Instead, Sergeant G. W. Tucker rode him — Tucker, who was p46 known throughout the army as Hill's daredevil courier, the man who had asked permission in the Wilderness campaign to go out to the skirmish line and kill a Federal cavalryman in order that he might get a horse to take the place of his own, which was dead. Tucker had no jest in him now: with heavy heart he told how Hill and himself had ridden on, after Colonel Venable had left them, and how they had encountered two Federals who had answered their call for "Surrender" with rifle shots. Hill had been hit and had toppled out of his saddle. Tucker had seen him on the ground, motionless, had caught his horse and had changed to it because the gray was fresher than his own mount. Lee listened intently. Grief showed itself in a sharp change of p47 expression. Tears came to his eyes: "He is at rest now," he murmured, "and we who are left are the ones who suffer." Then he turned to Tucker and directed him to go with Colonel Palmer, Hill's adjutant general, so that Mrs. Hill might know the facts. "Colonel," he said to Palmer, "break the news to her as gently as possible."20 To Major General Heth, Hill's senior division commander, Lee dispatched the grim announcement, with orders to report at once in person. As it happened, Heth was far down on the right, near Burgess's Mill, and found the enemy between him and the headquarters when he attempted to get to the Turnbull house. As he failed to appear, Lee put the Third Corps under Longstreet.21

After the first irruption of the Federals there was a period of comparative calm west and southwest of Edge Hill. The tide of blue seemed, indeed, to be receding rather than advancing. It was probably at this time, though it is not certain, that Lee learned what had happened. Further fact, of course, sifted in with the hours. The Federals had started bombardment during the night, and at 4:45 had assaulted along nearly the whole of the line from the Appomattox River, on the Confederates' left, far around to the right on Hatcher's Run. The assaults had three aspects. On Gordon's lines, from the river to Fort Gregg, the enemy had gained the first line easily, but had there met with resistance of the most stubborn sort. At the very time that Lee was getting information of this, Gordon was counterattacking as vigorously as he had that day at Bloody Angle.22 On his front, though the Federal advance could of course be pressed till the rear line was overrun, there was no immediate danger. Southwest of Fort p48 Gregg, where the lines turned away toward Hatcher's Run, the assault had a second aspect. Thomas's and Lane's brigades of Wilcox's division, who occupied that part of the front, had simply been overwhelmed. Coming through at a little ravine below the Banks house, opposite the Federal Forts Fisher and Welch, at a point two miles southwest of the Confederate Fort Gregg,23 the van of the Federals had pushed due north to the Boydton plank road and beyond. These were the troops that had first been seen from Lee's headquarters.24 Two soldiers had actually gone half a mile farther to the Southside Railroad, where they had torn up a couple of rails. Most of Lane's and Thomas's men, and a few from Heth's division, falling back in front of the Federals and counterattacking more than once, had been ordered by General Wilcox toward Fort Gregg.25 Some of them had gone the opposite way, toward the right. The Federals had turned in that direction much more heavily than to the Confederate left centre and were sweeping down the Boydton plank road and along the works towards Hatcher's Run. Near that stream the assault took on its third aspect. The fog had hung heavily along the run and had prevented a frontal assault at 4:45.26 After 7 o'clock this fog had lifted and the Federals had gone forward. They first reached the line at a point about three miles southwest of the other break, and just to the east of Hatcher's Run at the first crossing of the Confederate lines over that stream.27 The Federals met with little resistance here28 and captured Davis's brigade and part of McComb's, both of Heth's division. The Confederates around Burgess's Mill, on the other side of Hatcher's Run, got away — Cooke's, Scales's, McGowan's, and a part of McRae's brigades. They marched northward to the Southside Railroad at Sutherland's Station, whither Anderson had gone and where Pickett had orders to join him.29 The Federals who had turned toward the Confederate right, after the break-through on Lane's front at the Banks house, soon met those who had marched into the Confederate works on Hatcher's Run. There was a halt as the lines p49 were re-formed. Then a large part of the combined forces turned back toward Petersburg.

Lee did not have all this detail in the early morning, but he knew that the troops on Hatcher's Run were cut off from him,30 and he could see that beyond the right of Fort Gregg he practically had no line. About the same time, presumably, Lee got his first full news of the magnitude of the disaster to Pickett the previous evening, though he had heard from the cavalry and knew something of it. Calamity was piled on disaster.31

Lee's situation now presented two obvious problems. One was to hold Petersburg until night and then to get out with the troops still on the lines. The other problem was to effect a new concentration with the forces cut off on the right, which forces he could not now help in their efforts to escape. He was not certain, shortly after 10 o'clock, that he would be able to maintain his position until night and he saw no prospect of doing more; but he determined, if he could hold out that long, to evacuate the whole front as soon as darkness fell, and to reconcentrate on the Richmond and Danville Railroad. In a few minutes of relative quiet32 he dictated to his adjutant general a telegram for the Secretary of War, reviewing the facts, outlining his plan, and concluding significantly: "I advise that all preparation be made for leaving Richmond tonight. I will advise you later, according to circumstances."33 Taylor in his turn, probably from his rough notes, dictated this fateful message to the telegram operator, who sent it directly to the War Department in Richmond, where it was received at 10:40.34 This was the dispatch that was carried to Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.President Davis in Saint Paul's Church, Richmond, during the p50 morning service. He read it, got up quietly, and left the building.

About the time Lee sent this warning to the President, General Gordon forwarded a report of conditions on his front. He had met the enemy's assaults with local counterattacks, he said, and was preparing a larger operation. As this would be costly of life, he asked whether General Lee's future movements depended on the recapture of his original line. Lee sent back answer that the enemy's gains on the right would necessitate a withdrawal and that Gordon should sacrifice no more men needlessly,35 but should close the breach the Federals had made in his line and should be prepared to quit at nightfall.

Thus far Lee had maintained his equanimity. When a staff officer came up, asked some question of one of his subordinates, and formally saluted the General, Lee raised his hat in acknowledgment and gave the answer "in a voice entirely measured and composed."36 He was "self-contained and serene," wrote Colonel Taylor, and "he acted as one who was conscious of having accomplished all that was possible in the line of duty, and who was undisturbed by the adverse conditions in which he found himself."37

New tests of his self-control lay ahead, for the Federals, who had been inactive and had almost disappeared after their first rush toward the Turnbull house, began to move forward again. Their evident purpose was to storm or mask Fort Gregg and Fort Baldwin and to close in north of these works, past Lee's headquarters, to the Appomattox River. Shell began to come over. One of them went through the house itself. Federal infantry were massing. Assaults were brewing. Guns that Lee had ordered down from the Howlett Line the previous day38 had gone into action nearby, some of them in the garden of the Turnbull house. They were served under Lee's eye in a manner to win the enemy's praise, and they seemed to hold up the Federal flanking movement.

Soon Taylor and the telegraph operator were leaving the house. Musketry fire was mingling with the shell. Even the artillery was about to withdraw. Lee himself must turn his back on the p51 enemy and go within the inner lines. Carefully sending away a chair he had borrowed,39 and manifestly unwilling to start, he remained until the enemy was so close that Traveller had to be put to a gallop. "This is a bad business, Colonel," he said to one of his staff, in a tone still untroubled. Ere long the Turnbull house was aflame — by design, he thought, and much to his regret.40 A little way, and he reined in his gray, but evidently his cavalcade had been seen and recognized, for the Federals pursued it with a hot fire.41 Soon a shell exploded only a few feet behind, killed a horse and scattered fragments. Lee's face became flushed as it did when he was angry, he turned his head over his right shoulder, and his eyes were gleaming. He wanted to charge his pursuers, but he quickly recovered himself, and rode through the inner line, where a thin, "scratch" force received him with cheers as warm as those of that great high noon of his glory at Chancellorsville. "Well, Colonel," he is said — perhaps apocryphally — to have told one of his officers, "it has happened as I told them it would at Richmond. The line has been stretched until it has broken."42

Now came one of the most dramatic incidents of an overwhelming day. Some 400 to 600 troops of Wilcox's division and of Harris's brigade43 — men who had previously been rallied and employed in counterattacks that had delayed the enemy's advance — were put into Fort Gregg and were told to hold it to the last extremity. They made a Homeric defense. Using their few field p52 guns as long as they could, they then employed their muskets, and in the final assault at 1 o'clock, their bayonets. Against them was directed a full division. At one time, in the hand-to‑hand fighting on the parapet, six Federal flags were to be counted. "And still the fighting continued. At length the little battery was entirely surrounded, and from the loopholes in the palisades enclosing the gorge a spirited and telling fire was delivered upon the enemy at short range; after the complete surrounding of the battery, the struggle continued fifteen or twenty minutes."44 When the Federals at last entered Fort Gregg, they found fifty-five dead and took about 300 prisoners, including the wounded.45

Just before the attack on Fort Gregg began, Benning's brigade, which was the van of Field's division, reported to Longstreet and was put in to fill a gap on the Confederate right, between Fort Baldwin and the Appomattox River. Along with the men already on the line they fought desperately but against such heavy odds that their officers kept calling for reinforcements. Lee had each time to send the same answer — that he had none. Finally, when Colonel Palmer came up from Longstreet, and asked for the troops to be employed around Battery 45, Lee's patience failed him. He was standing at the time on the bluff above Town Creek, in the thickest of the fire, near the Whitworth house, but, as always, he seemed oblivious to the danger. "I have received that message several times," he said to Palmer, "and I have no troops to send." Palmer saluted formally. "I cannot help it, General, how often you have heard it; I am compelled to deliver you General Longstreet's message." Lee's manner softened, but his necessity continued. The men must fight it out where they were.46 And they did. Shortly thereafter a broken line was taken up in rear of the forts from Battery 45 to the Appomattox. This line was stabilized during the early afternoon.47

p53 As soon as he was reasonably sure that he could hold Petersburg until nightfall, Lee went to the McIlwaine or Dupuy house, one mile from the city,48 and proceeded to arrange the details of the evacuation. This was a more difficult task than the withdrawal from Maryland in 1862, or the retreat after Gettysburg, owing to the condition of the men, of the animals, and of the roads, and to the necessity of destroying many supplies and guns that could not be moved. The march was to be directed to Burkeville, and the point of reconcentration was to be Amelia Courthouse, a village distant forty miles from Petersburg, on the railroad from Richmond to Danville.

A retreat to Amelia meant that all the units except Anderson's corps and Mahone's division would have to make two crossings of a river, with all the encumbrance of their heavy wagon trains. The reservists and those of Longstreet's troops left on the north side of the James must pass over that river and then over the north-and‑south stretch of the Appomattox, just east of Amelia Courthouse. The divisions from Petersburg had to get north of the Appomattox, and, turning westward, had to negotiate that stream again. Anderson's corps could strike out up the south bank of the Appomattox and could reach Amelia Courthouse without crossing the river.

The roads from the different parts of the line to Amelia Courthouse had been studied by Lee's engineers, and the condition of the bridges, as already noted, had been reported as of March 30.49 The task of the staff was primarily that of routing the commands so as to minimize congestion on any particular road. Of three spans on the upper Appomattox, Goode's and Bevill's were passable. The state of the third, that at Genito, being in doubt, Lee ordered pontoons sent to Mattoax by railroad. Thence engineers were to transport them to Genito bridge and were to put them down so that the wagon train from Richmond could pass.50 Orders were to destroy all bridges after the last Confederate forces had crossed. In the case of Ewell, who would be in charge of all p54 the troops leaving Richmond, supplementary instructions were given to avoid any alarm of preparation in the capital.51 The evacuation of Petersburg was to begin immediately after dark. All guns were to be out of the works in front of that city by 8 o'clock and were to be across the Appomattox by 3 A.M.52 The special orders were issued as rapidly as possible. The general order was drafted more slowly and was revised with some care, though not materially changed.53


[image ALT: zzz]

Proposed lines of retreat of the Army of Northern Virginia, April 2, 1865, for a reconcentration on the Richmond and Danville Railroad. The encircled X and the arrow indicate where the line was broken. The dotted line shows how Anderson could move on Amelia Courthouse and avoid a crossing of the Appomattox. A more detailed sketch of the routes of the other units appears on page 62.

p55 Its composition was interrupted by many calls for counsel and direction. Mr. Davis, going from the church to the War Department, telegraphed that a move from Richmond that night would involve the loss of many valuables, both for the want of time to pack and of transportation."54 It was a plain request for more time, despite warnings repeatedly given since February 21. Lee's nerves were beginning to feel the strain of a day in purgatory, and when he read the President's message he tore it into bits. "I am sure I gave him sufficient notice," he said,55 but he replied calmly that it was "absolutely necessary" to abandon the position that night. Lee thought at the time that the President would go with the army and he made arrangement to acquaint him with the route and to supply him with a guide.56

Rumors of the proposed move were getting afoot. The naval commander at Drewry's Bluff had heard of the stir among the infantry, and as he had no orders from his department, he asked for suggestions, through Mahone, who held the adjacent lines.57 From the bureau of subsistence in Richmond came an inquiry to Colonel Cole as to the proper route for the reserve rations that had been accumulated.58 Lee probably never saw this message. Soon there came the mayor and two members of the Petersburg city council to inquire what was to be done and what action they should take. Lee found them at the house when he returned from a brief absence, and he took pains to say nothing that would create needless panic in the town. With polite reticence he said he would communicate with them officially at 10 P.M.59 Reminders there were, in the midst of it all, that Petersburg was not the only city in anguish. From Lieutenant General Taylor in Alabama, Lee received telegrams predicting the fall of Mobile.60

p56 Another message now from the President: Would the Danville Railroad be safe that night? Lee thought so and notified him it could be used until the next day.61 The admission was gloomy, but so was the situation, yet Lee did not abate his efforts. Receiving a letter of the previous day from Mr. Davis, he found time at 3 o'clock to dictate an immediate reply, in which he discussed plans for raising Negro troops, as if the war would go on indefinitely. In a later paragraph he told what had happened and explained: "I do not see how I can possibly help withdrawing from the city to the north side of the Appomattox tonight." He concluded characteristically: "I regret to be obliged to write such a hurried letter to your Excellency, but I am in the presence of the enemy, endeavoring to resist his advance," as though the exactions of the greatest crisis in the army on which his government depended for its existence would not have excused sentences far more disjointed than his calm lines. He was full of courtesy still — and still full of fight.62

The afternoon was passing. Duties for the desperate night had to be apportioned. Lee called his entire staff together, explained the plans for the evacuation and assigned to each his work.63 There was one staff officer, however, who had plans of his own for the evening. That was Colonel Walter Taylor. He worked furiously until the last orders were out and awaiting execution. Then he came to Lee and preferred as strange a request as ever adjutant general put forward on the day of a general troop movement: Would the General excuse him that evening and permit him to go over to Richmond? He would overtake the army early in the morning, but tonight — tonight he wanted to get married! He explained that the home of his affianced was within the enemy's lines and that she was alone in Richmond, working in one of the government offices, and wished to follow the fortunes of the Confederacy if the front should be restored farther south. Thereupon General Lee, said Taylor, "promptly gave his assent."64 Thus it came about that on the night when the whole army was p57 to move, and over strange roads, Lee acted as his own adjutant general.

When the dreadful day ended the lines were still holding. The enemy's attacks had died away, as if Grant knew that the morning would yield him the city, without the shedding of more blood. Lee sent the last word to the War Department: "It is absolutely necessary that we abandon our position tonight, or run the risk of being cut off in the morning. I have given all the orders to officers on both sides of the river, and have taken every precaution that I can to make the movement successful. It will be a difficult operation, but I hope not impracticable."

In the spirit of that final statement, soon after night fell, the troops began quietly to move out of the city. Lee mounted Traveller and passed over the bridge to the north side of the Appomattox65 — for the last time as a soldier. He was next to see Petersburg as a silent guest at a wedding party, in the midst of gaiety depressed by the memories of a suffering city, of a starving army, and of a dying cause.

His heart was heavy but his manner was calm as he rode to the mouth of the Hickory road, where Gordon was to take the right fork and Longstreet the left if they slipped successfully away from their positions. Lee drew rein between the forks and in person superintended the movement. In darkness, the columns pressed on, with no drum for their step, no word from the sergeants. Their march was to the growl of the Federal guns on the lines and to the groan of heavily laden wagons. The different commands could not be distinguished in the blackness. Pickett was not there, nor Johnson's division, nor Kershaw's, nor more than a fragment of Heth's or of Wilcox's. Mahone was moving by a different road. But the ghosts of others walked the night — Perry's Alabamians, Benning's Georgians, and that glorious old Texas brigade that Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Hood and then Gregg had commanded. There was the remnant of Rodes's division and there the wreck of Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Early's, with what was left of the renowned "Stonewall Brigade." Lee waited till the rear was well closed up before he rode on.66


The Author's Notes:

1 28 S. H. S. P., 110.

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2 Anderson's report, Lee MSS. — K.

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3 O. R., 46, part 1, p1288.

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4 Wilcox's MS. report, 70.

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5 O. R., 46, part 3, pp1374, 1375.

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6 O. R., 46, part 3, p1375. The hour of this dispatch, 7:30 P.M., makes it possible to fix the time of Lee's order for the dispatch of Field as subsequent to the receipt by Lee of the first news of the disaster to Pickett.

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7 On March 27 this corps had extended only to Lieutenant's Run.

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8 This is inferred from Longstreet's description of conditions at headquarters on his arrival. (Longstreet, 604. See Grimes, 112.)

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9 O. R., 46, part 1, p1285; ibid., Atlas, Plate LXXVII; report of Colonel E. Erson, Lee MSS. — K.

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10 11 S. H. S. P., 566.

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11 Longstreet, 604; his report, Lee MSS. — K. Colonel Venable, 12 S. H. S. P., 185, said that Longstreet arrived about 1 A.M., ahead of Hill, but he is contradicted both in Longstreet, loc. cit., and in the contemporary report of the commander of the First Corps, which gave the time of his appearance at headquarters as "at daylight." Longstreet stated in 1896, loc. cit., that he was ordered to Five Forks. In his report (April, 1865) he named Hatcher's Run. The earlier version, of course, is taken.

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12 Venable in 12 S. H. S. P., 186.

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13 O. R., 46, part 1, p902.

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14 Longstreet, 605. Longstreet did not give the direction, but it can be inferred from the known line of the Federal approach.

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15 Taylor's Four Years, 149; Venable in S. H. S. P., loc. cit.

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16 Longstreet, 605. Jos. R. Stonebraker: A Rebel of '61, pp94‑95, noted that as Lee pointed out to Longstreet the position he wished Field to take, he reached into the rear pocket of his coat, took out a biscuit and ate it with his left hand. It probably was his only breakfast that day.

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17 Both these works had been constructed to cover the dam Lee had erected on Indian Town Creek and they were west of the "inner line" of redoubts that had been laid out in 1863 before the main defenses had been taken up.

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18 Also called Fort (or Battery) Whitworth.

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19 Cooke, 447. The same author, who saw Lee that morning, quoted but did not vouch for a tradition that Lee remarked he intended to have on his full harness if he had to surrender. No authority for this tradition has been found. It would appear to be a misplaced version of an incident at Appomattox mentioned on p118.

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20 Tucker's account, originally published in The Philadelphia Weekly Times, was reprinted in The Culpeper Virginia Star, Sept. 29, 1927, and subsequently in 11 S. H. S. P., 564 ff. Venable's narrative is in 12 ibid., 185; the version of "Courier Artillery, Second Corps," who met Hill and Tucker will be found in 12 ibid., 184. The writer has also a fuller and later MS. account by this courier, the late G. Percy Hawes, of Richmond, Va. There are some minor conflicts of testimony as to Hill's departure from headquarters, but they are believed to be resolved correctly in the text. Colonel W. H. Palmer, Hill's chief of staff, stated in a letter of June 25, 1905, to Colonel Walter Taylor that Lee told him, "Go at once, Colonel, and get Mrs. Hill and her children across the Appomattox." When Colonel Palmer reached the Venable house, where Mrs. Hill was residing, he heard her singing. As soon as she saw him, she said: "The general is dead; you would not be here unless he was dead" (Taylor MSS.). Mrs. Hill was a sister of General John H. Morgan. For further details of the death and burial of Hill, see 19 S. H. S. P., 183 and 27 ibid., 34 ff.

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21 Heth's report, Lee MSS. — K; Longstreet, 608.

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22 Gordon's report, Lee MSS. — K. This report contains some unpublished detail.

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23 Lane's report, O. R., 46, part 1, p1285; Wright's report, ibid., 902‑3.

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24 O. R., 46, part 1, p993.

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25 Wilcox's MS. report.

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26 O. R., 46, part 1, p1224.

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27 O. R., 46, part 1, p1221.

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28 Turner, O. R., 46, part 1, p1214.

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29 Wilcox's MS. report, 71; Heth's, Lee MSS. — K; Pickett's report, loc. cit., McRae's report, Lee MSS. — L.

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30 O. R., 46, part 3, p1378.

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31 The time of the receipt of any adequate report from Pickett is in doubt. Lee knew something of it, obviously, when he sent Breckinridge the telegram received April 2, at 10:40 A.M. Gordon said Lee notified him (see infra, p50) not to sacrifice more lives in another general counterattack. According to Parke (O. R., 46, part 1, p1018), Gordon delivered his heaviest counterattack at 11 o'clock. Having received Lee's orders soon thereafter, Gordon returned to the defensive. Assuming the wires down, it took an hour to get word from headquarters to Gordon. That would indicate that full news from Pickett had been received not long before or after 10 o'clock.

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32 Longstreet, 607.

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33 O. R., 46, part 3, p1378. Reagan, op. cit., 196‑97, stated that he had informed the President, on his way to church, of the situation at Petersburg. The receipt of the dispatch, therefore, simply confirmed what Reagan had told Mr. Davis.

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34 The writer once asked Colonel Taylor if he knew what had become of the original of this dispatch. He answered that there probably had been no original, as he had dictated virtually all the orders for the evacuation to the operator without writing them out.

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35 Gordon's report, Lee MSS. — K; Gordon, 420.

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36 Cooke, 447. Cooke himself was the questioner.

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37 Taylor's General Lee, 275.

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38 O. R., 46, part 1, p1280.

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39 The chair was of special design, with a wide right arm and had a pivoted table attached to the left in such a way that it could be used in front of the chair (Mrs. Campbell Pryor's MS. Memoirs, 8‑9).

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40 Taylor's Four Years, 150. The site was occupied by the 2d Brigade, 2d Division, VI Corps (O. R., 46, part 1, p971).

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41 In Following the Greek Cross, 258, T. W. Hyde stated that Lee was plainly seen by the Federals.

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42 Cooke, 447‑48. This is the best and the only account of reasonable adequacy by an eye-witness. Both Long, p410, and White, p418, quoted Cooke but did not credit him. Longstreet's chronology of the day was somewhat confused. In his Four Years, p150, Taylor inferentially gave a later hour for the evacuation of the Turnbull house than in his General Lee, p272, where the sequence of events is somewhat jumbled. The writer has not attempted to fix the exact time of the ride to the inner lines, but he is satisfied it was later than has been supposed. The only satisfactory check on the time is that given by the various Federal commanders. It may have been 11 A.M. or 12 M. before the Federal line was well-formed on the Confederate right between Fort Gregg and the river. It was 1 o'clock when the attack on Gregg was ordered, and 3:30 when the Federals reached the Appomattox (O. R., 46, part 1, pp911, 927, 1179). Lee did not leave the house until about the time the artillery limbered up. That was not long before the attack on Gregg.

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43 Wilcox's MS. report, 738. Harris's brigade belonged to Mahone's division.

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44 Wilcox's MS. report, 75.

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45 O. R., 46, part 1, p1174. For details of the defense and statements of the part played by different commands, see S. H. S. P., 105, 403; 3 ibid., 19 ff., 82 ff.; 4 ibid., 18; 8 ibid., 475; 9 ibid., 102. In the Guide to the Fortifications and Battlefields Around Petersburg, 22, it is stated that Lee called his staff around him, pointed to Fort Gregg, and asked them to witness a most gallant defense.

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46 W. H. Palmer to W. H. Taylor, MS., June 25, 1905, Taylor MSS.

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47 This is a later hour than is usually assumed but it is fairly well established by Wilcox's MS. report, loc. cit., and Longstreet's, Lee MSS. — K, as well as by Penrose's report, O. R., 46, part 1, p927, of the hour at which his command, which was on the extreme Federal left, rested its flank on the river. Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Pendleton must have been in error in his statement of the time (O. R., 46, part 1, p1280).

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48 22 S. H. S. P., 70, 71. The old Dupuy property was the country home of Captain Robert D. McIlwaine and was known as the "Cottage Farm." For tracing its interesting history, the writer is indebted to his distinguished friend, Arthur Kyle Davis, LL.D., of Petersburg, Va.

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49 O. R. Atlas, Plate LXXVIII.

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50 32 S. H. S. P., 68.

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51 O. R., 46, part 3, p1380.

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52 O. R., 46, part 1, p1280.

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53 Several drafts are in the Lee MSS. — N. What appears to be the original is in pencil on scraps of paper in the autograph of Colonel Walter H. Taylor. Among the Taylor MSS. is an undated clipping of an article by Colonel John A. Sloan in which it is stated that the final order was dictated to Colonel Taylor about 3 P.M. on the portico of Captain McQuain's house, to the left of but near Cox's road, one-half to three-quarters of a mile from Petersburg. "McQuain," of course is an error for "McIlwaine." Longstreet, Wilcox, and Heth were said to have been present with Lee. It probably was here that (p55)W. W. Chamberlaine,º op. cit., 120, saw Lee with Longstreet. While the orders were being prepared, Colonel W. H. Palmer was asked by Colonel Taylor to assist in writing them out. While doing so, Palmer found a word he could not read and he went to Taylor to decipher it. Lee saw him. "Colonel Palmer," he said, "I wish you would leave Colonel Taylor alone, he is engaged on an important order and I don't want him disturbed." Palmer replied, "Colonel Taylor has asked me to assist him, and there is an indistinct word." Lee promptly apologized: "I did not understand," he said (W. H. Palmer to W. H. Taylor, MS., June 25, 1905, Taylor MSS.).

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54 O. R., 46, part 3, p1378.

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55 Charles S. Venable to Walter H. Taylor, MS., March 29, 1878, Taylor MSS.

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56 O. R., 46, part 3, p1378.

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57 Lee MSS. — I.

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58 St. John's report, Lee MSS. — L.

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59 22 S. H. S. P., 70‑71.

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60 Lee MSS. — U.

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61 O. R., 46, part 3, p1378.

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62Davis, 660‑61; Jones, 309. A very beautiful and careful copy of this letter, on good paper, in Taylor's autograph, is among the Lee MSS. — I. It is an interesting proof of the order that ruled at headquarters.

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63 Major G. B. Cooke, in Richmond News Leader, Jan. 19, 1923.

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64 Taylor's General Lee, 277.

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65 He probably went over the Battersea Bridge, as that was nearer the Dupuy house, but this is not certain.

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66 Cooke, 449; History of the Sixtieth Alabama Regt., 100.


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