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[495] to their own admission, they have a strong force at Charles City Court-house, six miles inland from Wilson's wharf, engaged in collecting negroes together for work on the Richmond fortifications. It is strange, if this force was aware of our approach, that they did not come up and give us a few shots from a field battery. But no welcome of this lefthanded sort greeted us. It is quite likely that our negroes may repair VI et armis to the Charles City rendezvous, and so reverse the kind of work their brethren have been assembled to perform on the strongholds of Richmond. The boat is just now leaving Powhatan, where a strong negro garrison has been landed, having little to do in the way of securing their position but mount the ordnance in the works which the rebels two years ago so laboriously constructed.

General Butler's headquarters, Richmond and Petersburg pike, within three miles of Fort Darling, May 13, 1864.
I write to-night, in the house latterly occupied by Dr. Cheatham, an account of yesterday's and to-day's operations, to the music of the rifles of our own and the rebel skirmishers, in the woods a mile distant. These rifle-balls sing soprano, and the bass of the guns of our batteries, and of the cannon in the rebel intrenchments, only ceased with the coming of night. The good news from Grant, read to the troops to-night, called forth cheers that must have awakened the echoes of Richmond, and elicited from the rebels a few parting shots of spite. We will settle that score with them to-morrow, however.

Wednesday night orders were issued to General Smith to move with five brigades at daylight, and occupy a position at right angles with the Richmond and Petersburg pike, above Chester station. As General Smith occupied our left, this necessitated a march across the right. General Gillmore was directed to leave sufficient force in the intrenchments, and to move with the rest of his command to the junction of the railroad with the Richmond and Petersburg pike. This was to prevent the forces said to be in Petersburg from moving up the pike to Richmond. The first object of the move was to mask a cavalry raid by General Kautz, for the purpose of cutting the Danville railroad, and the second to reconnoitre the position about Fort Darling, and ascertain the enemy's strength or weakness.

Thursday morning brought with it a drenching rain, which, of course, retarded the movements of the troops. General Smith was in motion soon after daylight, and got into position by noon, when it was found that his force was insufficient to properly cover the whole line. Part of General Gillmore's force was therefore ordered up to complete it. The Commanding General and staff left headquarters at seven o'clock, expecting to find all the troops in position, but, as before stated, an unavoidable delay occurred in consequence of the heavy rain. General Butler, therefore, went riding around to find the lines, and found himself once or twice in rather close proximity to his skirmishers. We finally struck the turnpike, about midway between Richmond and Petersburg, and then waited, in a most terrific rain, till couriers, who were sent out to ascertain where General Smith was to be found, returned. The good-natured Chief of Staff, in response to the half-earnest, half-joking remonstrance of one of the staff, as to the propriety of bringing them out in such a shower, remarked, “I know it rains pretty bad; but, gentlemen, this rebellion has got to be crushed.” The party persisted in having their jokes, even though their boots were filled with water and their coats wet through. At last General Smith was found to the left of the pike and about the centre of his line.

It must be said that this country is one of the very worst to campaign in.

Roads leading nowhere; swamps where swamps ought not, by any physical rules, to be; woods, impenetrable at the very points where, for military operations, they should be at least passable; ravines of considerable width and variable depth; creeks, formidable for their muddy bottoms more than their width; in short, everything that is horrid, and rendering the country one of peculiar advantages for defence. A brigade lost its commander, and the commander lost his brigade, and the General's aids could find neither. Division commanders lost their line, or rather never found it, and the whole thing, which was perfectly plain on the map, became an unaccountable muddle on land. Under all these difficulties the Commanding General and all his officers preserved a remarkable equanimity, and philosophically worked out the difficult problem. General Turner, with his division of the Tenth corps, held the extreme right, resting on James river, at Dr. Howlett's farm. General Weitzel held the centre, and General Brooks the left. Subsequently General Gillmore was sent to the left with a portion of his command, a brigade from General Terry's division being ordered to the support of General Weitzel. General Ames, of the Tenth corps, was at Walthal Junction with his brigade. General Weitzel moved up the pike, in conjunction with General Brooks, and their skirmishers soon met those of the enemy. General Turner, on the right, did not advance as soon as directed and the enemy succeeded in driving Weitzel's skirmishers back. With the force sent to his support in reserve, Weitzel again advanced, and drove the enemy up the pike nearly a mile. The One Hundred and Forty-eighth New York, Colonel Guyon, Wistar's brigade, steadily pushed the enemy back. General Turner, by this time, was also in motion, and our whole line obtained an advanced position beyond Kettle run, and near Proctor's creek. The enemy had a battery in position on the pike, which annoyed our men considerably, and we were unable to obtain a position which commanded

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Weitzel (5)
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