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[599] is in splendid condition. Mr. Fay invited me to visit the hospitals on my return. Here I also met Dr. Graves, of the Marine Hospital at Chelsea. He had just returned from a visit to General Butler.

On reaching Bermuda Hundred, I reported to Lieutenant North, assistant provost-marshal; and, he being one of our Massachusetts boys, I received every courtesy in his power to render. He ordered an ambulance to take me to the headquarters of General Butler, which was about six miles distant, in a grove of oaks. The ride was of much interest, as we passed several camps and hospitals; the road lay through cornfields most of the way. At Wilson's Landing, we crossed a bend on the James, on a pontoon bridge. On reaching headquarters, I was cordially welcomed by Major Davis and Captain Sealy, of General Butler's staff: the General, with other members of his staff, had gone to the front that morning, distant about five miles. I heard firing all the day. The Tenth and Eighteenth Army Corps are in the Army of the James.

I here learned that the advance of the armies was a concerted movement, to obtain possession of the Danville Railroad. Lee's army was to be attacked by the Army of the Potomac, and the railroad taken if possible, while the Army of the James was to operate on that side, and prevent reinforcements being sent to Lee, and to take advantage of circumstances.

As General Butler and staff were expected in the evening, I concluded to remain for the present where I was. It rained during the whole of the afternoon, and part of the evening. The celebrated Dutch Gap, where General Butler is making a canal, is about a mile and a half from headquarters; a rebel battery on the opposite side of the James, in a thick wood, keeps up a fire upon it during the day and night. I had a strong curiosity to see the Gap; and, as there had been no firing for an hour, Captain Sealy thought it had ceased for the afternoon. Accordingly, I set off on horseback with an orderly, to see the famous canal. I got within a quarter of a mile of it, when a report was heard, then a whistling sound, then a strike, then an explosion, then dirt and mire. The shell was in direct range, as all their shots are, but it fell short. I thought I could get a sight of the Gap before the ‘rebs’ would load and fire again, and pushed my horse forward, and got a partial look at it, when another shell came over, and exploded within twenty-five yards of where I was. I therefore ‘retired in good order, having accomplished the purpose of my reconnoissance,’ to within a quarter of a mile of the Gap, and watched the shelling for half an hour or more. Not more than one shell out of five fell into the Gap, where many hundred men are working day and night. The

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Benjamin F. Butler (5)
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