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[293] part of both soldiers and sailors, were frequent, and prevented the siege from assuming a monotonous character. Many of these actions would adorn the pages of a romance, but the limited space of this sketch must exclude them.

By the second of May, the approaching terrible conflict between the armies of Hooker and Lee, compelled Longstreet to raise the siege. Continually on the alert, General Peck did not intend that his enemy should steal off secretly and unmolested, and no sooner had the retreat fairly commenced than he resolved to test its reality. On the third of May, therefore, a column about seven thousand strong, under Generals Getty and Harland, crossed the drawbridge and advanced up the Providence Church road. Simultaneously Colonel Dutton was directed to cross two small columns six or eight miles lower down, and attack the enemy in flank. General Getty encountered a powerful rear-guard of the enemy in a position of immense strength. From a cover of rifle-pits and abattis, and protected by impassable ground on either side, they poured a terrible fire of musketry and artillery across the plain over which our troops advanced. With undaunted bravery, however, they moved onward preceded by skirmishers and from noon till night maintained an unequal contest. The rebels were forced from all their advanced and some of their retired positions, but at nightfall still held their principal lines. During the night (which was excessively dark) they stole away while our weary troops rested on the field. Meantime Colonel Dutton had sent the Twenty-first Connecticut with a section of artillery and a dozen cavalrymen, in all less than four hundred men, across the Nansemond eight miles below. Advancing toward the village of Chuckatuck, they encountered the rebel cavalry about four hundred strong, who charged the column. Major Crosby commanding, instantly formed line and opened fire with musketry and artillery, promptly routing the enemy. Continuing his march, he was perpetually harassed by the enemy, who with skirmishers disputed his advance. But driving all before him, he arrived after a march of eight miles at the west branch of the Nansemond, which he had hoped to cross and feel the enemy's main force, but the bridge was burned, there was no means of crossing, and both banks of the stream were lined with the enemy. However, he advanced at double-quick, driving all those on his own side into the stream except eighteen whom he captured. Thus finding his further progress at an end, he marched down the West Branch to the Nansemond, where he bivouacked under cover of the gunboats.

Colonel Dutton with a small force crossed in row-boats at “Hill's point.” After advancing a short distance he found the enemy in largely superior numbers and strongly intrenched. Nevertheless, the attack commenced, and resulted of course in a repulse. The troops were then deployed as skirmishers and as such engaged the enemy the greater part of the day without important results. Colonel Dutton thus continued the action with the expectation that he would soon be joined by General Getty's advancing column.

About midnight on the third, our troops under Corcoran, Dodge, and Foster started in pursuit of the retreating foe, but only succeeded in capturing a few hundred stragglers before the enemy crossed the Blackwater.

Thus ended the memorable siege of Suffolk, resulting to the rebels in a gain of nothing and a loss of one thousand five hundred men, five guns, and a considerable quantity of small arms and stores.

The writer cannot relinquish his theme without allusion to contemporary events. As late as the second of May, Lieutenant-General Hill confronted Suffolk with some thirty thousand men, Longtreet having gone by rail with one division, to aid Lee at Chancellorsville. Of this fact, the writer who has every facility for information, speaks without fear of truthful contradiction. On the same day Hooker and Lee fought their desperate engagement in the “Wilderness.” Lee's army, thus depleted by Longstreet's diversion, numbered not far from fifty thousand, and Hooker knew that General Stoneman's operations would delay if not prevent reenforcements from Suffolk. The returns of the army of the Potomac for that date exhibit about one hundred and twenty-five thousand men present for duty, yet notwithstanding this disparity in numbers, our magnificent army, the boast of the North, was ignominiously defeated, despite the high-sounding proclamation that heralded its advance. This truth is mournful, yet it is no less a truth. Nor is it possible to review in connection the events of the last of April and first of May on the Rappahannock and on the Nansemond, without reflecting that had both Federal armies been commanded with equal ability, the united results might and could have been one of the most glorious triumphs to our arms that history has yet recorded.

The Richmond Examiner of the twenty-seventh November, 1863, has the following in its leading editorial upon Lieutenant-General Longstreet and his Knoxville and Suffolk campaigns, which are pronounced as parallel failures:

Perhaps the result might have been different if Longstreet and his corps of the Virginia army had been in line. His operations in East-Tennessee afford little compensation for the reverse at Chattanooga, nor have the late bare and scanty news from that quarter sustained the high hope which the public justly based on the first intelligence briskly forwarded by General Bragg. His telegram declared that Longstreet's cavalry had pursued the enemy into Knoxville; that the infantry was ‘close up,’ and it was natural to suppose that the next news would be that of Knoxville's recapture. But the next news from Longstreet contained a mention of intrenching, which suggested disagreeable reminiscences of Suffolk. Since then, little or nothing has been heard from Longstreet, unless we are to receive the ‘unofficial’ story of the telegraph this morning to be trustworthy. Oh! that it may be so!


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