despatch Station, June 8.The First and Fourth divisions of the Fifth corps reached here this morning. It was three o'clock A. M. when the men began the march. When day dawned, the rebels on the south side of the Chickahominy observed the moving column, and opened on it with two guns of very heavy calibre. Several men were injured while marching in the ranks. Colonel Hoffman's brigade, of the Fourth division, immediately took possession of this side of the railroad bridge. A barricade was thrown across the railroad about half a mile below this station. Between us and the rebels flows the Chickahominy, a sinuous, sluggish stream, bounded on either side by jungles and morasses, from which is continually arising unwholesome dampness, and noxious vapors. At this point the stream is not more than one hundred yards in width; the bridge is three times as long. All the track is in excellent running order. A little rusty from long disuse, but still quite complete, with switches and side-tracks in good repair. During the afternoon the rebels mounted a heavy piece of ordnance upon a truck, and approached within a short distance of the bridge. They threw some six-inch shell over our men, which elicited considerable criticism from those happening to make narrow escapes. Rifle-pits were dug, and along line of fortifications begun. For a time the skirmishers were friendly, and conversed with each other, across the river. Before dark they were using every species of finesse to cause each other to expose their bodies to be shot. Few of our peaceful readers imagine how skilful and inventive a successful sharpshooter must be ere he enters the rifle-pit, which may prove his grave. It is not enough that he be an excellent marksman. Your good sharpshooter is always a fine strategist In front of the Second corps, Barlow's division, I believe, is a rebel battery. Our fortified skirmish line is within a few rods of the enemy's intrenchments. This battery for some days annoyed us exceedingly. Throughout the entire day shell after shell would be dropped among the troops in reserve. Shells are noisy missiles. They seldom effect great damage, unless used upon heavy masses within easy range. A screaming shell is little more than a moral effect. I have known a brigade of infantry to be concealed in the woods, while the rebel shells appeared to burst with wonderful precision in their very midst. Scarcely a man would be hit. Upon new troops the effect is terrifying. There is no man, however brave or courageous, but will wince and shrink when he listens, for the first time, to the bursting of shells. One soon gets accustomed to them, and an old soldier  will calmly smoke his short pipe and speculate upon the chances of one bursting in some spot close by, which he has selected. One morning the rebels around this battery discovered a small lunette immediately in front. It had grown up in a single night. Twenty men lay concealed in this small trench. They were but a few yards from the dark muzzles of those threatening cannon. The rebels attempt to work the guns. All efforts are futile. When a rebel shows his head a small jet of white smoke curls slowly above the small semi-circle where our men are concealed. The rebel falls. In this way we render the once formidable battery useless. During the day it is quiet; at night they use it freely. All the old dodges are used freely practised. A man puts his hat on the end of a ramrod, and holds it above the pit. In a trice it is pierced with a dozen bullets. Another exposes his own person slightly, that an associate may get a “single fair pop at a rebel.” Great quantities of powder and lead are thrown away. About sunset every night, both sides endeavor to push out their respective skirmish lines. It frequently happens that both sides open with cannon and musketry, and keep up a continual uproar for half an hour. Already there have been two such occurrences, which, to those not upon the spot, would assume the magnitude of a fearful night attack. Barlow's and Gibbon's divisions, of the Second corps, are so near the enemy, great precautions are necessary to ward off a collision. Two nights ago there was a savage rattle of musketry and showers of grape and canister exchanged. Every one thought a bloody battle had been fought. Next morning I discovered that scarcely a dozen men had been struck. Bottom's bridge is not quite two miles from here. The rebels had cut the supporting timbers, but were driven away before they could complete their work of destruction upon the timbers of the bridge. A train of cars came to the station to-day from the White House. Near the river is a large saw-mill. A large quantity of lumber was here. It was loaded on the cars and carried off. The cavalry have gone on another raid. Whatever they undertake to do will be well done. June 9th, 1864.--There is nothing especially interesting to report to-day. On a part of the line picket firing has been kept up all day, while at other points it would seem as if by a mutual agreement this practice had ceased. Last evening a battery in Birney's division opened on a house on our left, which, according to a deserter who came in, was occupied by General Wilcox. Three shells went through it, causing the occupants to leave rather hastily. The fire was returned with very good aim, but without loss to us. The deserter says that Beauregard's troops are posted from Bottom's bridge all the way to the James River, watching for the appearance of our army in that direction. June 10 P. M.--The enemy are busy throwing up fortifications in the vicinity of Summer's and Bottom's bridge. The spires of Richmond are in view from the signal stations at these points, and their wagon trains can be seen moving within three or four miles of the city, where the road for a short distance is visible. Very little firing has taken place to-day. No change in position has been made within the past two days. Last evening as Colonel McAllister, of the Eleventh New Jersey volunteers, was riding along the line he was fired at by a rebel sharpshooter, notwithstanding there had been a tacit agreement that no picket firing should take place. The ball passed across the Colonel's breast and entered the head of his orderly, who was riding with him. The entire command was at once put under arms expecting an attack, but nothing further occurred. June 11 P. M.--Our lines are scarcely nearer the enemy than was their position in the case of the battle of Friday, more than a week ago. The troops on both sides, each behind their intrenchments, have kept up a desultory but useless fire, just sufficient to make it apparent that the respective works were not vacant. Both armies, in fact, have been enjoying the repose which was needed after the hard fighting and rapid marching of the three weeks campaigning from the banks of the Rapidan. To-day the silence is even more marked than before. The sound of a musket has scarcely been heard along the entire line. A few blurts of artillery, and the explosion of a shell or two over the trees, about the centre of the line, have been the only reminders this afternoon of the enemy's presence. From present indications it is not likely that there will be fighting for several days to come; but a storm is brewing, and may burst in a quarter least expected by the enemy. It is not proper at this time to say precisely how General Grant will attempt to discomfit the enemy. Yesterday a general order was issued by General Meade forbidding unauthorized communication with the enemy. The men on both sides have been holding intercourse with each other, for the interchange of newspapers and the barter of coffee and tobacco. In this way a great deal of mischief was likely to result, as information of vital importance is always apt to leak out. The opposing lines of rifle-pits, it must be borne in mind, are not one hundred yards distant, and in some parts of the line much closer. For any portion of the body to be exposed the penalty is certain wounding, if not death, but the men are utterly weary with loading and firing. They have kept up this skirmishing for days, and no visible advantage has been gained by either side. The fire gradually slackens. Officers become careless about urging the men to their work. A magnetic spell influences with equal power our own men and their mortal enemies. It is  very curious that the combatants are entirely hidden from each other's sight. The last shot is fired, and the lull in the battle-storm is perfect. Adventurous spirits on both sides cautiously raise their heads above the .earthworks. “How are you, Johnny?” “How are you Yank?” are the questions usually bandied. “Won't you shoot?” says one. “No,” says the other. “Well, we won't,” chime in all; and immediately the parapets are swarmed with men who have been concealed behind them. Out jump the fellows from the rifle-pits, and putting down their guns, stretch their cramped forms upon the grass. Sharpshooters covertly slide down from their perches in the trees, and loll about in utter abandon. Trade is quickly opened, and all sorts of commodities are exchanged. The men have keen pleasure in their singular armistice, bantering each other sharply, and never overstepping the half-way line which separates their respective fortifications. Suddenly the cry is raised, “Run back, Johnnys,” or “Run back, Yank,” just as it happens to be, “we're going to shoot,” and the hostilities begin again. It is always understood, however, that the first shot shall be aimed high, and the veriest pawdler gets back to shelter safely. While this fraternal scene is being enacton one part of the line, the battle rages hot at other portions of the extended front, which measures by miles. Was ever such strange warfare known before? It is easy enough to see, however, that these anomalous episodes may be abused. The rebels availed themselves of such a truce the other day to strengthen a battery, which had been reduced to silence, and had kept still for nearly a week. The work, consequently, has had to be done over again. I have seen a great number of prisoners lately. Their appearance utterly refutes the current stories that the rebel army is in a destitute and starving condition. It is simply idle to talk about starving the army into submission. The rebel soldiers, as a general thing, are stout, strong, and the very picture of health. It is insulting to our brave men that statements, so industriously circulated respecting the feebleness and lack of power of endurance of the Southern soldiers, should be believed. The rations of the rebel troops may not be in as great variety as those furnished our men, but they have proved to be fully as nutritious. This fact cannot be gainsaid.
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Table of Contents:
Doc . 16 . operations in Tennessee .
Doc . 19 . the siege of Suffolk, Virginia .
Doc . 36 . General Rousseau 's expedition.
Doc . 59 . battles of Spottsylvania , Va: battle of Sunday , May 8 , 1864 .
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