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Chapter 15:

  • Before Petersburg
  • -- flank movement -- cross the James -- incidents of the siege -- Wilson's raid -- Reams Station -- Sixth Corps sent to Washington -- affair at the Monocacy -- Fort Stevens -- pursuit of Early -- up Loudon Valley and through Snicker's Gap -- military execution -- return to Tenallytown -- marches and countermarches -- up the Valley -- Sheridan in the Valley

The march through the bottom lands of the Chickahominy, and over the fields of Charles City County, was uneventful, and, except that the weather was less sultry, and it was an advance movement, would remind one of the march down the peninsula, in the summer of 1862.

It was, we believe, on the 5th of June, that, begrimed with dust and perspiration, we reached a point opposite Charles City courthouse, where the James burst upon our view, glistening in the sun like polished steel. What a spectacle met our view! A seemingly endless, living, moving mass, of which we were a part, reached across the broad river skirting the far-off southern shore, then stretching to the southwest over the plateau toward the Appomattox. Never before had this historic river witnessed such a sight, or held on its bosom such an array of craft. Its rapid tide forbade the anchoring of the hundred pontoons; they were firmly attached by their cables to vessels above and below the bridge. Their anchors lay in the mud more than fourteen fathoms below. Over this driveway, 2,000 feet long, for forty hours, with ceaseless step, moved the vast train, composed of the three arms of our service, having in its wake 3,000 head of beef cattle, and it is said fifty miles of wagon train.


The drought of 1864, unsurpassed in meteorologic annals, had commenced in earnest; there was a continued scarcity of even that impure, brackish water that we were able to procure by sinking wells in naturally moist spots, during the months which we spent south of the James. The water of those wells which we scooped out in the swamp on the line of the Weldon Railroad, used to have a curious flavor of weeds and roots.

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