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The gallant defence of Staunton river Bridge. From Richmond, Va., Times-dispatch, August 1, 1909.

Editor of the Confederate Column:
Sir,—You recently published in your Confederate Column an inquiry from Philip Alexander Bruce for my address, and also expressed a wish for an article on the engagement at Staunton Bridge. I enclose a letter to Mr. Bruce explanatory of the conditions and circumstances of that engagement, which you are at liberty to use in your Confederate Column.

Yours very truly,

B. L. Farinholt, Late Colonel C. S. A.

West point, Va., July 14, 1909.
Mr. Philip Alexander Bruce, 118 Beachwood Place:
Dear Sir:—Seeing a letter from you to Major Hunter, concerning the preservation of the fortifications which I had erected at Staunton River Bridge, and which enabled the forces under me to make such a gallant defense of the position and hold it against the bold and determined attack of about 6,000 of the best armed and well-seasoned veterans of General Grant's army, supported by three batteries of choice artillery, the whole constituting three brigades, under the command of their cavalry generals—Wilson, Kautz and Speer—I write to advise you of my address, and to tender my services in any way in which I can assist to further the laudable purpose which prompted your interest in the preservation of the fortifications, as yet plainly observable, but which time and the encroachments of nature, or perhaps those who have no sentiment or appreciation of the patriotism and heroism of the men who erected and defended these works, will within a decade or two efface entirely.

I am truly glad to know that, as one of the thoughtful leaders [322] and prolific writers of Virginia in her palmiest days, you are yet sufficiently alert and watchful to advise the good old county of Halifax to preserve sacredly these fortifications, which will be a priceless heirloom for her sons and their posterity for all time, and an inspiration to guard and defend with their lives, if necessary, as did those brave men in June, 1864, the soil of Halifax from invasion; and Charlotte, Mecklenburg, Pittsylvania, Lunenburg, Nottoway and Amelia can well afford to lend a helping hand for this worthy purpose, as they each and all furnished men who did their part nobly in that battle; the momentous results from which were the saving of the most important bridge from Danville to Richmond, and from absolute destruction all the rolling stock of the Danville Railroad, which had been run just beyond my command, and also the saving not only of the road itself from Staunton River to Danville, but probably Danville, with its vast army stores, from being given to the flames. They had already destroyed the road and all the depots and telegraph officers from Burkeville to Staunton Bridge, and all rolling stock caught between these points, and their object was a complete destruction of the entire road to Danville and all cars and depots on the entire route.

Over this road much the greater portion of our supplies came for our armies around Richmond and Petersburg, and had I yielded to the superior force of the enemy or acquiesced in the Fabian policy adopted by some of our distinguished generals, fallen back and endeavored to gather a larger force and confront the enemy at Danville, as was discretionary with me, and which was advised, and possibly might have been creditably executed, but which I never entertained for a moment, it would then have been quite questionable if all the wagon trains in our service in Virginia at that time could have hauled the vast supplies needed at Richmond and Petersburg rapidly enough to have kept our armies from starving, or evacuating those cities nine months earlier than we did; as it was, we were weeks repairing the destruction on the road from Burkeville to Staunton River, and during that time every available wagon was called in use, and our quartermaster and commissary departments taxed to their utmost ingenuity until this connection was made over the damaged road. [323]

Colonel Charles Marshall, of General Lee's staff, on several occasions talked with me of the anxiety expressed by General Lee for the safety of the Danville Railroad at this crisis, and of his satisfaction and gratification at the result of this battle, and as a further mark of his appreciation expressed his pleasure in a congratulatory order sent to me soon thereafter, which I had read on dress parade, where it was received with much enthusiasm by the entire command, my men being proud of this recognition from General Lee. What soldiers would not have been at any time, but especially when this commendation was not to seasoned veterans, but in recognition of their fortitude in their baptismal fire against a force far better equipped and numbering over five to one.

My artillery consisted of two twenty-pound guns, mounted in bastions at the outer angles of the fortifications, effective a distance of two miles, and two rifled six-pounders, and four smooth-bore six-pounders, these last more noisy than serviceable, carrying effectively barely 1,000 yards. The two twenty-pound pieces and the two rifled Napoleons I had but just received after persistent appeals following much procrastination on the part of our Ordnance Department.

I had only 1,238 men and officers, including Captain Paul Edmunds, with about fifty mounted men, whom I stationed to defend the first ford above the bridge, and Colonel Stanhope Flournoy, with about the same number, whom I stationed at the first ford below the bridge, each about one and one-half miles off as I now recollect, to prevent or advise me of the enemy crossing above or below, and attempting to get in my rear.

I shall always feel thankful to Col. R. E. Withers, who was commanding at Danville at the time, for his prompt response to my telegram to send me every available man from Danville, including every one in the hospitals able to handle a rifle.. These, with the two Danville companies added to my men and boys, made a more seasoned force, which I used effectively.

I am pleased to have you arouse the good people of Halifax to what is due to them and those who come after, in perpetuating the history of this spot in the borders of old Halifax.

The New England States attained a great deal of their prominence [324] in the history of our country by the persistency with which they have noted copiously in all our histories the great importance of every battle fought during the Revolution of 76 to 81 within their borders. Yet many of them were not more important or fought against such odds as was the battle of Staunton Bridge, and even Big Bethel, the first affair between General Butler and General Magruder, was not fought with such dire catastrophy resting upon the result as was in the scales at Staunton Bridge had we been defeated. The boys from the V. M. I. are duly glorified for their intrepid charge and heroic fight at New Market, but they were trained to implicit obedience and under the immediate control of those who had drilled and instructed them in tactics and military duties for over two years, and each and every one of them knew well the duty of a soldier and the importance of alertness and cohesive action. It must be remembered that my command was a heterogeneous mass, the greater part of which had been assembled only three months, the rawest kind of recruits, from fourteen to twenty and from fifty to sixty-five years of age, whom I was as rapidly as possible instructing in the duties of a soldier when they were not working with pick and spade on the fortifications, and that to these I had added the volunteer citizens of the county and the force from Danville, both hastily summoned to my assistance, after being informed by a special messenger from General Beauregard that this large force of the enemy had been detached from General Grant's army and it was thought their object was the destruction of the Danville Road and bridges and rolling stock, then so important for us to hold at all hazards.

There was some criticism of my conduct of this battle by General Dabney Maury many years afterwards in the Richmond Tines, based, I think, upon information furnished him by a man whose name I do not recall, who came to me just as the enemy was approaching and then in sight, requesting to be assigned to an officer's place over one of my recently improvised companies. As I had no place for him as an officer, I gave him a rifle and ordered him in the ranks. If he expected to perform proper service that was the place for him. At this he took offense, and as my duties called me imperatively elsewhere at the moment, I did not place him under arrest, as I should have done. [325] I should never have replied to General Maury's article and should have passed it by in silence, for General Maury had no just foundations for his criticisms, but meeting with General Fitzhugh Lee, who was a warm friend of mine, he, knowing all the circumstances of the engagement at the bridge, advised me not to let Gen. Maury's article go unnoticed, and I replied, though then as now, I think we had enough to do to fight the enemy.

Having been wounded and captured nearby the intrepid Armistead in the heroic charge where he led the remnant of Pickett's Division over the stone wall at Gettysburg; having been honored with this independant command after eight months confinement and subsequent escape from Johnson's Island, and congratulated by President Davis, for, as he facetiously said, ‘arranging my own cartel,’ General Grant at the time refusing to exchange prisoners; having been fortunate to come out victor when attacked by so superior a force, and received the thanks and compliments of my superior officers and commanding general for the great service which they recognized had been accomplished only by handling to the best advantage undisciplined troops, though as brave and patriotic as seasoned veterans, I should have been and am content to let history and posterity take care of the facts.

I regret to have written at such length, especially as I have been so often disgusted with many magazine writers, who being invisible in war and invincible in peace, yet now know all about it, and from a perversion of facts draw false conclusions with a facile pen. And I have time and again promised myself not to talk or write anything more about the War between the States, but as no doubt Noah and his sons being saved in the Ark from the vortex of water talked about the flood for the next hundred years, so I think it likely those who participated in the War of the Confederacy and were saved from the crucible of fire through which the Army of Northern Virginia passed from Seven Pines to Gettysburg, and from the Rapidan to Appomattox, will be apt to talk about it as long as life lasts, and chronologically reckon everything from that era.

Yours very sincerely,

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