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[239]

Colonel Thomas H. Carter's letter.

Editor of the Times.
I have read with interest in your Sunday's paper General James A. Walker's account of the capture of General Edward Johnson's division in the salient, near Spotsylvania Courthouse, May 12, 1864, and also the editorial on the subject in your issue of February 7th.

General Walker's record for splendid courage, as well as his whole career as a soldier, is well established and known in the Army of Northern Virginia, and is a guarantee of the correctness of his account of the battle as he saw it.

While, however, the damp ammunition of the infantry may have prevented a successful resistance against the attack of Hancock, the chief cause of the capture of the division was the absence of the artillery from the line, the removal of which had been ordered and carried out on the afternoon of May 11th.

This reason General Johnson always asserted with emphasis and feeling; he justly and indignantly denied to the end of his life the statement in some current accounts, and in one history, that he was surprised on this occasion.

The salient projected far in advance of the general direction of the line of battle. General Walker's description of the woods and ground around and works forming it is excellent.

Speaking in a general way, the whole projection, called the salient, may be likened to an irregularly-shaped horseshoe, with heels turned out, a mile or more around and a half mile across the heels. It was a wretchedly defective line, in a military sense, its adoption having been brought about as described by General Walker. It was only kept because of the work done upon it, and the belief that our troops, entrenched, could never be driven out.

So defective was it that in the battle of the 10th in order to confront that onset I had to transfer the guns and caissons from the inside and right of the toe of the horseshoe to the corresponding positions outside of the works, with our backs to the enemy at that point, fortunately not there in sight. But the breastworks were good of the kind, and much of the ground in front was sufficiently open to see for a short distance the enemy's lines, when charging, and had the artillery been in place the line could not have been carried.


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