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[184] no possibility of crossing it, as it was muddy and swollen beyond its inner banks.

It is said Colonel Dahlgren became so inflamed at what he believed to be the negro's treachery, that he took a rein from his own bridle and had his men hang the negro to a tree on the river bank. A few hours later, Captain Mitchell, of the 2nd New York Regiment, who with his company had been separated from Dahlgren in order that he might destroy the mills and ferry boats on the north bank of the river, found the negro hanging to the tree, and incorporated the incident in the report of his movements, which he afterwards submitted to his superior officers.

This unfortunate negro was named Martin Robinson. For a considerable time prior to his murder by Dahlgren, he had been a freedman. He was a bricklayer by profession, and was employed by citizens in doing work of that character. Robinson formerly belonged to the late Mr. David Mimms, who lived about the Courthouse some twelve miles or more from Contention, where the ford crossed James River. This ford was impassable in freshets, such as was prevailing at the time. In ordinary conditions, low stages of water, etc., was easily fordable, and was the route taken by Mr. Samuel A. Guy, and other gentlemen in going across from Contention, in Goochland, to Centre Hill, in Powhatan County. The writer, prior to the war, lived for a number of years in this vicinity, and is familiar with the above mentioned facts.

It has always seemed to the writer that Richmond was saved from destruction at the hands of Dahlgren's men by the freshet in James River at that time. If Dahlgren could have crossed the river, as he might have done had the water been lower, he would, no doubt, have been able to enter the city through Manchester, while Kilpatrick was storming the trenches in the city's guards on the north. His first act would have been to set the prisoners on Belle Isle at liberty, and then, no doubt, there would have occurred the greatest carnival of rapine, murder and crime ever known in the history of civilization. Men who had long been in imprisonment, with a plenty of liquor, which they would have been able to obtain, and with no officers, would be about as irrepressible as wild beasts of the field. We can hardly estimate, even at this late day, the providential blessing to the women of Richmond of the flood that prevented Dahlgren from crossing James River from Goochland into Powhatan on the 1st day of March, 1864.

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