[from our own Correspondent.]
Army of Northern Virginia,
Spotsylvania C. H., May 18th, 1861
The calm which has prevailed along the lines since the great battle of the 10th was broken at an early hour this morning.
At dawn of day, before any of us but the brave men who keep watch in the trenches had left our blankets, the enemy opened a furious artillery fire upon Major General Gordon
, of Ewell
Of course Gen Long, formerly of Gen Lee
's Staff, and now commanding the artillery of Ewell
's corps, was not slow in returning this early morning salutation of the Federal
For nearly two hours the cannonade equalled that at Gettysburg
The enemy seemed to have massed his heaviest and best guns on that part of the lines which he had assaulted successfully on the 12th, and all supposed that an other death struggle for the mastery was about to occur.
Fortunately the precautions taken by our great chief were so wise, and his dispositions so admirable, that all the brave Confederate soldier had to do, when he rose from his dreams on the ground behind the entrenchments, was to reach out for his trusty musket.
As you were informed by my letter of the 16th and by Gen Lee
's official dispatches, the enemy moved a portion of his forces to the east bank of the Ny
; in the direction of the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroad.
The opinion prevailed at the time that Grant
was trying to throw his army to the east side of the Mattapoul, and that he would probably move down the stream to Bowling Green
, and possibly to West Point
, where he would form a junction with Butler
Doubtless he desired to produce this impression upon Gen Lee
, as in that event he might reasonably "calculate" that the latter would make a corresponding movement to the east.
It is not yet time for me to say precisely what Gen Lee
did do. This much, however, may be safely published now, viz: That he did exactly what was best for the army and worst for the enemy.
Accordingly, when Grant
commenced the assault this morning upon what was formerly our right wing but is now our left, he found Ewell
and Cordon just where he left them on the 12th.
His stratagem had failed to accomplish its purpose.
did not move his whole army to the right and away from the battle field, and thus leave the way open to an advance, as he had hoped he would do. The truth is, Grant
, while a bold leader and an able commander, is no more a match to our great captain in tactics and strategy than his motley followers are to the bronzed veterans of the South
in the qualities of the soldier — He may march his army one way in the day time and countermarch it another way at night; but at the end of all his labor and trouble he will find no one so much surprised as himself.
But I find that I am falling into the terror so common in the army, and indeed in the whole country.
All of us, including the highest officers as well as the humblest privates, have come to look up to Gen. Lee
with the most implicit faith; and confidence, and to believe that the path he treads must surely lead to victory.
This feeling is increased.
If not justified, when we recollect how quickly and successfully he penetrated Grant
's designs and anticipated him at the Wilderness
, and especially when we recall the supernal prescience.
Which enabled him to foresee and provide against the advance of the Federal
army upon this place.
The case with which he unravels the most intricate combinations of his antagonist, the instructive knowledge which he seems to possess of all his plans and designs, and the certainty with which he moves his own army and makes his own dispositions, is truly wonderful.
But, good and as our chief is, there is a greater Power than he — a Power upon whom he leans, as the army leans up on himself, or a child upon a father; and one must sometimes tremble, lost we be guilty of the monstrous crime of diverting from that beneficent Power the love and gratitude which are so justly due for the good fortune that has literally been showered upon our cause and country since the dawn of this blessed year of 1864.
When we recall the disasters which attended our arms last year, the gloom which settled upon the hearts of the people during the winter, the miraculous inspiration that descended upon the army, and extended through the country, as the year unfolded its monthly leaves, and the series of brilliant and substantial, and unexpected victories that crowned our arms in rapid and almost bewildering succession in every part of the country, it would seem impossible for any son or daughter of this stricken land, be they Jew or Gentile, Pagan or Christian
, to rise from the contemplation except with a heart swelling with gratitude, and eyes brimming with tears of joy. Heaven has been kind in giving us such leaders and such armies, but kinder still in leading them in the path of victory.
But let us return to the battle — the last, let us hope, of the battles of Spotsylvania Court-House.
The attack was begun as soon as it was light enough for the enemy to see how to train his
splendid guns upon our position.
The fire was very heavy, and was kept up without intermission from near four o'clock until six, when the infantry were brought forward to carry the works.
The assault by the latter, however, was very feeble, the enemy at no time coming nearer than seventy five yards from our entrenchments.
At many places they kept at the respectful distance of two and three hundred yards. The artillery fire was renewed at seven o'clock for half an hour or more, and again at nine, and fresh and earnest efforts were made to bring the infantry up to their work as on the 12th, but all to no purpose.
They would advance, but would not fight as heretofore, bring easily repulsed, in many instances by our sharpshooters and skirmishers alone.
No attack was made upon other parts of the lines.
A few prisoners were taken, who report that the assaulting column consisted of 8,000 men from the Second and Sixth corps, who, in response to a call from Gen Grant
, had volunteered their services in the attack.
If the Federal
army has reached a point of demoralization where it becomes necessary to call for volunteers to assault our works, and if the volunteers when they come forward do no better than those did to day, then the struggle here is approaching its end. But there is a homely but wise maxim which teaches us not to shout until we get out of the woods.
After all, these movements on the right and feeble attacks on the left may have a meaning which we do not yet fully understand.
The prisoners report, also, the arrival of a division yesterday under Gen. Angur
, composed of the sweepings of the hospitals, jails, and provost guard houses.
These are believed to be the last reinforcements that can be sent to Grant
, unless a portion of the forces operating in North Georgia
and against Richmond
from below are recalled.
It is not improbable that the arrival of Augur
's division, and intelligence of the defeat of Butler
, may have influenced Grant
to order the attack.
's troops, like Burnside
's "black spirits and white," will be worth but little in the hour of trial.
The number of wounded men left by the enemy in the two field hospitals, which he abandoned a few days ago was not 2,400, as I was informed at the time by a staff officer high in position, but 900.
We still hold the battle field of the Wilderness
and our badly wounded who were left there.
When will Congress act upon the question of rations for officers?
It members intend to afford relief, the sooner they do it the better, not only for officers, but for the service itself.
And let them act liberally, giving one ration and granting the privilege of purchasing others without restriction.
There is no danger that officers will abuse the privilege as long as their own pay remains so small and the price of provisions so high.
It is a disgrace to subject Lee
, and thousands of others, who have fought and bled as men seldom ever fought and bled before, to the annoyance and vexation to which they are daily exposed in order to obtain their stinted rations.
There is nothing in the surrounding country for them to purchase.
A liberal act will work no disadvantage to the privates, for whom I need hardly make protestation at this late day of my jealous friendship; if left to them they would adopt a generous policy at once.