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The Harpers

of the retreat of Confederate forces, and the occupation of the by the Federalists.

Headq'rs 39th Virginia Reg't. Norfolk, Jan. 28, 1862.
Editors of the Dispatch:--Will you permit me, through the columns of your paper, to make a statement of the facts concerning the late retreat of the Confederate forces on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and the subsequent occupation of that peninsula by the forces of the Federal Government? I am induced to make this statement, not only in justice to myself, but to the officers and men then engaged with me in the defence of the counties of Accomac and Northampton. Believing that the columns of your paper are ever open to the vindication of truth and justice, I request the favor of a small space.

On Sunday morning, the 10th of November last, I received information of the concentration of a large body of Federal troops; (supposed to be at least 5,000,) at the towns of Snow Hill, Princess Anne, and New Town, Md., near the line separating that State from Virginia, and that their intention was to invade the counties of Accomac and Northampton. I immediately issued a proclamation to the people of these counties, and started witht eh whole of the force under my command to meet the enemy. We marched a distance of sixty miles, and arrived within four miles of the Maryland line on the evening of Tuesday, the 12th instant. The work of throwing up embankments; felling timber across the roads, and other means of defence, was immediately commanced.

The enemy received additional reinforcements from Baltimore on Wednesday and Thursday, and consolidated their entire force at New Town, numbering (according to information received through scouts and others) about 8,000 troops, consisting of infantry, cavalry and artillery, and that this force was destined for invasion of the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

On Friday afternoon, the 15th inst., I called a council of war, consisting of the field and staff officers of both volunteers and militia, and the question arose whether we should make our stand where we were, or fall back to a stronger position, about 10 miles in our rear. During the discussion, General Dix's proclamation was handed me, by one of our pickets, who stated that a negro had already distributed a number of copies among the citizens and soldiers.

It was now ascertained beyond all doubt, that the enemy would advance upon us in a day or two with from 7,000 to 8,000 troops. To oppose this force, I had under my command the 39th regiment of Virginia volunteers, consisting of about 500 infantry, 140 cavalry, and a field battery of smooth-bore six-pounders. Colonels Gunter and Northam, of the Accomac militia, could raise but little over one hundred men, armed with flint muskets and shot-guns — making a total of six hundred infantry, one hundred and forty cavalry; and a field battery of six-pounders, to oppose from seven to eight thousand of the enemy. No sane man would counsel resistance in the face of such odds. The council unanimously resolved that, while there was a little time yet left us, a retreat should be immediately ordered, in order to save as many men and arms to the Southern Government as possible, knowing that the only chance to evade the enemy would be by running a strict blockade of Chesapeake Bay in small, open boats at night, capable of carrying from ten to twelve men. I here insert the resolution, which was unanimously signed by the field and staff officers:

Headq'rs 39th Va. Regiment, Ooak Hall, Nov. 15, 1861.
Whereas, We have ascertained beyond all doubt that the forces of the United States are upon the point of invading the counties of Accomac and Northampton, Virginia, in overwhelming force; and whereas, we have also ascertained that with the means at our command resistance would be utterly hopeless, and could but result in a useless effusion of blood and destruction of property, and having ascertained beyond all doubt that there is no possibility of being reinforced, the undersigned, being all the officers present at a council of war, held this day, are unanimously of opinion that it is the duty of the Confederate States officers to save as many of their men and arms to the Confederacy as possible — we having not more than eight hundred badly armed troops, and poorly provided with ammunition, and the enemy pressing us with from six to eight thousand men, and being daily reinforced.

Signed — Chas. Smith, Colonel commanding 39th Virginia regiment; Louis C. H. Finney, Lieutenant-Colonel, 39th Virginia regiment; N. R. Cary, Major, 39th Virginia regiment; Wm. A. Thom, Surgeon; 39th Virginia regiment; Wm. S. Stoakley, Assistant Surgeon, 39th Virginia regiment; Wm. G. Smith, Assistant Surgeon, 39th Virginia regiment; R. B. Winder, Captain and A. Q. M.; Mitchell W. West, Brigadier-General, 21st brigade Virginia Militia; Benj. T. Gunter, Colonel, 2d regiment Virginia Militia; Wm. P. Custis, Lieutenant-Colonel, 2d regiment Virginia Militia; Eugene J. W. Read, Major, 2d regiment Virginia Militia; Philip A. Fitzhugh, Aid-de-Camp to Brigadier-General; John S. Harmaneur, Surgeon, 2d regiment Virginia Militia.

A retreat was accordingly ordered that night. The artillery, together with many of the small arms and accoutrements, were carried to a vessel (the only one available) in Pungoteaque creek, and ordered to be put on board; but, owing to a very high wind which was then prevailing, it was impossible to ship them for two days. By that time the enemy had invaded Accomac, the blockade in the Chesapeake at the outlets of all the creeks was made effective, and the hope of thus saving the guns was abandoned.--Many of the small arms and accountrements were either buried or destroyed to prevent them from failing into the hands of the enemy. All who could of the men and officers, procured small open boats, and crossed the Chesapeake at night, through the enemy's blockade. Thirty officers and about one hundred and fifty privates have thus succeeded in making good their escape. Many more are anxious to come, but they are now strictly watched. But even new a boat load escapes from time to time. Those that have remained have been taken and held by Brigadier General Lockwood as ‘"prisoners of war."’ Why cannot our Government exchange for them?

I have thus endeavored, briefly as possible, to narrate the facts concerning the retreat of our forces on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.--Those who have escaped, have sacrificed everything on earth for their country, and are now ready and willing to sacrifice their lives, if necessary. This force was organized on the Eastern Shore for the purpose of protecting the property of our citizens in that section of our Confederacy from marauding expeditions of the enemy; but we knew at the same time that if the Federal Government saw proper, they could overwhelm us at any moment. In order to show the state of feeling existing at the time of our retreat among the citizens of that section, I here annex a paper which was handed me on Thursday, the 14th inst., signed by twenty-one of the most prominent citizens of Accomac:

"The undersigned, citizens of the county of Accomac, believing that they are acquainted with the feelings and wishes of a large portion of our fellow-citizens in the present emergency, would respectfully make to Col. Smith, and others in military authority, the following statement:

‘ "Confiding in the military to do all in their power for the defence of the shore, and not wishing to interfere in the least with their province, yet as citizens they cannot be blind to the fact that an overpowering force, or the want of sufficient munitions of war, may render the military entirely powerless to afford us adequate protection. In the event of such a contingency arising, and of the offering of any terms on the part of the enemy which can be acceded to with honor, and thereby a sanguinary and useless conflict avoided, we feel authorized in assuring the military that the entertaining and acceptance of such terms would meet with our approbation and that of our citizens generally. This statement is made solely to remove any apprehension on the part of the military of an accusation of cowardice, or want of spirit in the event of entertaining propositions, if made, of the character above referred to, and to assure them that we do not, nor do we believe the citizens require of them the waging of a hopeless contest."

’ Signed — Mease Smith, Thos. P. Copes, J. W. Gillett, Thos. P. Bagwell, Wm. Samuel Custia, Littleton K. Le Cato, Edw. J. Young, Thos. Lilliston, Jas. Walker, Jas. R. Garrison, John W. H. Parker, John E. Wise, John J. Blaskstone, Wm. Walston, John R Drummond, O. P. Drammond, John D. Fox, John D. Melson, W. J. Ayres, John B. Allworth, T. J. Rayfield.

Hoping you may see fit to publish this statement, I am, with much respect,
Chas. Smith, Colonel Comanding
29th Reg't Va. Vol's.

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