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[559] column was then halted, and the force placed in line of battle. We had heard the sound of your cannon at Drury's Bluff, and I expected an immediate advance by General Whiting of his line of battle, according to instructions. For some reason not known to me at the time, however, there seemed to be considerable and unnecessary delay in the advance even of his skirmish line towards the enemy's pickets. General D. H. Hill, who was also with General Whiting, and who was at that time occupying a similar position to me, that of acting temporarily as one of your staff-officers, had had some conversation with me during the morning as to your order of battle and your special instructions to General Whiting. He also began to show considerable uneasiness at the unnecessary delay of General Whiting in making his advance. We repeatedly approached General Whiting on the subject, together, but got no satisfactory replies—he apparently being engaged in arranging and rearranging his line of battle. He finally stated that he was waiting to get reliable information from his scouts on his right flank, and that he did not desire to advance until satisfied that his right flank and rear were not threatened. Later in the morning, upon being urged by General Hill and myself to advance, and on our insisting that your instructions were explicit, and after my stating to him that you had authorized me to say verbally to him that nothing should prevent him from attacking in his front, he said that his scouts reported that a force of the enemy had been seen near Port Walthall, and that he was apprehensive of being attacked on his right flank, in case he made any advance. The enemy in our front had by this time placed a few pieces of cannon in position, and had opened fire with them; but General Hill and myself made a reconnoissance on the left, and reported to General Whiting that we were satisfied that a very small force confronted him. General Whiting, however, could not be induced by us to advance; and while intimating that he would do so later in the day, when he felt he could do so with safety, both General Hill and myself felt perfectly satisfied that, for some reason, he would not do so. After conference General Hill and myself decided that it would be best for him to remain with General Whiting, and, if possible, force him to advance; and that I should make my way as rapidly as possible around the lines and report the situation to you.

General Dearing, who was in command of the cavalry forces, undertook to force a way for me through Chester Station, so as to avoid the detour around by Chesterfield Court-house. He met with the enemy's pickets at Chester, and they were driven in by a gallant charge of General Dearing, who forced them back as far as the Half-way Station, and captured between Chester and that point a large number of stragglers from the enemy's lines; and on reaching Half-way Station we saw that the enemy was in a state of great disorganization and demoralization. General Dearing captured several hundred prisoners at this point. He then gave me a small escort, and I soon made my way around, and joined you on the turnpike, in advance of Drury's Bluff. President Davis was with you, and you were occupying a position which had been occupied in the morning by the enemy. I reported substantially what I have stated above as to General Whiting's position, and I recollect distinctly stating to you very emphatically that you need not rely on any advance being made that day

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W. H. C. Whiting (9)
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