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Doc. 19. the siege of Suffolk, Virginia.

General John J. Peck's report.

headquarters U. S. Forces, Suffolk, Va., May 5, 1863.
Colonel D. T. Van Buren, Assistant Adjutant-General, Department of Virginia:
On the twenty-second September, 1862, I was ordered to Suffolk, with about nine thousand men, to repel the advance of Generals Pettigrew and French from the Blackwater, with fifteen thousand men.

No artificial defences were found, nor had any plan been prepared.

Situated at the head of the Nansemond River, with the railway to Petersburg arid Weldon, Suffolk is the key to all the approaches to the mouth of the James River on the north of the Dismal Swamp. Regarding the James as second only in importance to the Mississippi for the Confederates, and believing that sooner or later they would withdraw their armies from the barren wastes of Northern Virginia to the line of the James, and attempt the recovery of Portsmouth and Norfolk, as ports for their iron-clads and contraband trade, I prepared a system, and on the twenty-fifth commenced Fort Dix. From that time until the present, I spared no pains for placing the line of the river and swamp in a state of defence. My labors alarmed the authorities at Richmond, who believed I was preparing a base for a grand movement upon the rebel capital, and the whole of the Blackwater was fortified, as well as Cypress Swamp and Birchen and Chipoak Rivers. This line rests upon the James, near Fort Powhatan.

About the twenty-sixth of February, Lieutenant-General Longstreet was detached from Lee's army, and placed in command of the Department of Virginia, with headquarters at Petersburg; of his corps fifteen thousand were on the Blackwater, and fifteen thousand between Petersburg and the river, near the railway. This distribution enabled him to concentrate in twenty-four hours within a few miles of Suffolk, and looked threatening. Reports were circulated and letters written to the effect that Longstreet was in South Carolina and Tennessee, with all his forces, with the view of throwing me off my guard.

My information was reliable, and I fully advised the department of the presence of this force, and on the fourteenth of March, Getty's division, Ninth corps, reported for duty.

Early in April deserters reported troops moving to the Blackwater, that many bridges were being constructed, and that a pontoon train had arrived from Petersburg.

On the sixth I was advised that General Foster was in great need of troops, and asked to send him three thousand. I replied, no soldiers ought to leave the department, but I would spare that number, provided they could be supplied at short notice. On the tenth, at 4:30 P. M., as the troop train was leaving, I was informed of the contents of a captured mail by General Viele, to the effect that General Longstreet would attack me at once with from forty to sixty thousand; that he had maps, plans, and a statement of my force, and that General Hill would co-operate. On the eleventh, Hood's division followed up my cavalry returning from Blackwater on the South Quay roads, and about four P. M. captured, without a shot, the cavalry outposts. Others followed on other roads, and a surprise in open day was attempted. The signal officers, under Captain Tamblyn, rendered most signal service. Lieutenant Thayer held his station for a long time, in spite of the riflemen about him.

On the twelfth, about noon, Picket's division advanced on the Sommerton, Jenkins on the [122] Edenton, and a large column on the river, by the Providence Church road. Much fine skirmishing took place on all these roads, but the pickets were pressed back and the enemy was not checked until he came within artillery range. He sustained some loss, and fell back a few miles to his line of battle.

On the thirteenth the enemy skirmished with our light troops on all the approaches. On the Sommerton, Colonel Foster handled him very roughly, driving him back and restoring his picket line at sundown. On the river the contest was sharp and long, but the batteries and gunboats held the enemy at bay.

On the fourteenth, Lieutenant Cushing, United States Navy, was hotly engaged for several hours with a large force at the mouth of the West Branch. His loss was severe; but the enemy suffered much, and had some artillery dismounted.

The enemy opened a ten-gun battery near the Norfleet House, for the purpose of destroying the gunboats and of covering a crossing. Lieutenant Samson., with the Mount Washington, West End, and stepping Stones, engaged the battery for some hours in the most gallant manner, but was compelled to drop down to the West Branch.

The Mount Washington, completely riddled and disabled, grounded, as did the West End, and both were towed off by the Stepping Stones. The rudder of the Alert was broken.

Several batteries on the river were opened with fine effect, and others were pushed with all despatch towards completion. More or less skirmishing and artillery fire on all portions of the lines.

In the night the Smith Briggs, lying near my headquarters, was attacked, but Captain Lee and the guns of the Draw-bridge repulsed the enemy.

Fifteenth.--The force between Suffolk and West Branch, last night, was reported by the best authorities at ten thousand, with a pontoon train, under the immediate command of General French. About noon our batteries, under direction of General Getty, below the mouth of Jericho Creek, were warmly engaged with the Norfleet battery. Four of the rebel twenty-pounder rifles were dismounted, and the battery was silenced.

A party sent out on the Edenton road captured the camp equipage of one regiment. Fear of an ambuscade alone prevented taking many prisoners.

Seventeenth.--Major Stratton, with a force of cavalry, held South Mills, which is the key to nearly all the approaches from North Carolina on the south side of the Dismal Swamp.

There was much skirmishing on all the avenues of approach, with some field artillery. General Terry's front was much annoyed from the first day by the near approach of riflemen. Under his orders the enemy was signally punished.

General French's engineer was taken prisoner by Lieutenant Cushing's pickets. He was laying out works, and had a map of Suffolk, which he tore in pieces.

Eighteenth.--The enemy was very active in throwing up new batteries and rifle-pits along the river. A heavy one was in progress near the mouth of West Branch, on Hill's Point.

Admiral Lee, United States Navy, ordered all the boats out of the upper Nansemond, lest they should be destroyed, leaving the whole defence of the river to the land forces. The Admiral was urged to reconsider his orders. Upon my representation the order was temporarily suspended.

Nineteenth.--About dusk General Getty and Lieutenant Samson executed most successfully a plan which had been agreed upon for crossing the river and capturing Battery Huger, at the mouth of the West Branch. The Eighty-ninth New York and Eighth Connecticut were taken over on the Stepping Stones. Five pieces of artillery were captured, nine (9) officers, and one hundred and twenty (120) soldiers. It was well conceived, ably conducted, and reflects great honor on the combined arms. Lieutenant Samson suggested the enterprise, landed with four of his howitzers, and played a most brilliant part. Captain Stevens was conspicuous for his gallant conduct in this affair, and deserves mention; also Lieutenants McKechine and Faxon, Aides of General betty.

Twentieth.--Major Stratton visited Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and found it abandoned by our troops. He found General Longstreet's pickets in the vicinity of Sandy Cross.

Twenty-first.--The command was highly honored by a visit from Major-General Halleck, Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by Major-General Dix.

Twenty-second.--A heavy rain storm commenced, suspending all fatigue labors; but adding materially to the strength of the swamp on the left flank.

Twenty-fourth.--A demonstration was made upon the enemy's right flank on the Edenton road, under General Corcoran, Colonels Foster and Spear, while a feint was made on the Sommerton by Colonel Buler. The enemy was driven in confusion from all his advance points and rifle-pits, back upon the main line of defence behind the dam and swamp at Darden's Mill. A force, estimated at about fifteen thousand, was believed to be massed on that front. The object of the move was attained, and the command withdrawn. Colonels Beach, Drake, and Murphy, had provisional brigades, and handled them extremely well. Captain Simpson commanded the artillery.

Twenty-fifth.-Information was received of the arrival of heavy artillery from Petersburg. Troops were reported on this side of the Chowan, on the way from General Hill, under General Garnett.

Twenty-seventh.--Major Stratton occupied Camden Court House, and burned a ferry boat of the enemy's. The rebels were very active at [123] night, chopping, moving troops, and signaling. A new battery of three guns was opened by them below Norfleet battery. Chopping parties were broken up by the Redan and Mansfield battery. They re-occupied the Hills Point battery in the night.

The steamers Commerce and Swan, under the volunteer pilotage of Lieutenants Rowe and Norton, of the Ninety-ninth New York, ran down past the batteries in the night, but not without many shots. These officers are entitled to much credit for this service.

Twenty-eighth.--Suffolk was visited by a heavy storm. A rebel work for several guns was discovered on the river.

Twenty-ninth.--The Honorable Secretary of State, William H. Seward, paid a visit, in company with Major-General Dix, to this command.

Thirtieth.--The enemy opened early this morning with one Whitworth, one thirty and thirty-five-pounder Parrott. Towards night they opened fire upon the Commodore Barney, and the battery was silenced by the Barney (Lieutenant Cushing, United States Navy), and Captain Norris' battery, in Fort Stevens.

May first.--There was a sharp skirmish in General Terry's front, about five P. M. The enemy, reinforced largely, was held in check from the guns of Nansemond, South Quay, and Rosecrans, with considerable loss.

Another brigade, from North Carolina, was reported to have joined Longstreet.

Third.--A reconnoissance in force was made by Generals Getty and Harland on the enemy's left flank. The troops crossed at nine A. M., at the Draw-bridge, under the fire of Battery Mansfield, Onondaga, and the Smith Briggs, and seized the plateau near Pruden's house, in spite of sharp-shooters in the rifle-pits, orchards, and woods. The advance was slow, every inch being hotly contested. The movement resulted in bringing heavy reinforcements for the enemy. His numbers and artillery failed to check the troops. By night the enemy was massed on his strong line of intrenchments, and under the fire of a numerous artillery. The purpose of the movement having been attained, the troops were directed to remain on the ground, awaiting events.

In conjunction with the above, Major Crosby crossed the Nansemond, near Sleepy Hole, with the Twenty-first Connecticut, a section of the Fourth Wisconsin battery, and eleven Mounted Rifles, at four A. M., and pushed on and occupied Chuckatuck, driving out three hundred rebel cavalry. He skirmished all the way to Reed's Ferry, capturing sixteen prisoners, and then returned to the river, under the cover of the gunboats.

At the same time Colonel Dutton crossed in boats and occupied Hill's Point with the Fourth Rhode Island, a portion of the One Hundred and Seventeenth New York, and a detachment from the Commodore Barney. He advanced some distance, but was met by a superior force, posted strongly in the woods, and after much skirmishing returned upon Hill's Point, from which the enemy could not dislodge him.

I again take pleasure in acknowledging the valuable services of Lieutenants Cushing, Samson, and Harris, United States Navy. These officers rendered every assistance in their power in crossing the river. Lieutenant Cushing sent a boat, howitzer, and detachment, with the Fourth Rhode Island, under Colonel Dutton.

I regret to state that Colonel Ringgold, of the One Hundred and Third New York, lost his life from two wounds, while leading on his men in the most gallant manner. He was a meritorious officer.

Fourth.--About nine P. M., on the third, the enemy commenced retiring upon the Blackwater. His strong line of pickets prevented deserters and contrabands from getting through with the information, until he had several hours the start. Generals Corcoran and Dodge were promptly in pursuit on the Edenton road, while Colonel Foster followed upon the Sommerton. By six A. M. Colonel Foster was pressing the rear of a formidable column on the old road near Leesville. He was compelled, from the smallness of his force, to wait for the command under General Corcoran, and could not again strike the column before it reached the river. The cavalry of Colonel Spear and Colonel Onderdonk were pushed on numerous roads, and rendered valuable services, procuring information and capturing prisoners.

Thus ends the present investment, or siege of Suffolk, which had for its object the recovery of the whole country south of the James, extending to the Albemarle Sound, in North Carolina, the ports of Norfolk, and Portsmouth, eighty miles of new railroad iron, the equipment of two roads, and the capture of all the United States forces and property, with some thousands of contrabands.

General Longstreet, finding that an assault at the outset upon works defended by one-half his own force, would be expensive and uncertain, and having failed in turning either flank, decided to besiege the place, and asked for reinforcements. Probably not less than two divisions joined from General Hill. The works are constructed on the most extensive scale, and in the most approved manner. The rules and regulations prescribed by military authorities for the conduct of siege operations, have been observed. Some idea may be formed of this so-styled “foraging expedition” when I state that not less than ten miles of batteries, covered ways, and rifle-pits, have been thrown up. Most of the artillery was protected by embrasures. The parapets were from twelve to fifteen feet in thickness, and well rivetted, while the covered ways were from eight to ten feet. Longstreet had a wire laid from the Blackwater, and telegraphic arrangements throughout his lines.


We have taken five pieces of the famous Fauquier artillery, about four hundred prisoners, [124] some rifles and camp equipage. Probably five hundred or six hundred have been killed and wounded, and five hundred have deserted, making a total loss of at least fifteen hundred.

Our own killed is forty-four, wounded two hundred and two, missing fourteen, and total two hundred and sixty.

All the morale, prestige and glory belong to the patient and brave officers and men. of the Federal army.

Besides these brilliant results, this command has held the masses of the enemy around Suffolk, in order that General Hooker might secure the crowning victory of the war, and it is entitled to a share of the glory that may accrue to his arms.

My thanks are due all officers and soldiers who have worked cheerfully and patriotically on these fortifications. They now see that their labors are not in vain.

The truth of history requires that I should state that a small portion of the One Hundred and Twelfth New York became home-sick and discontented, and said that they came to fight and not to dig. This feeling was seized upon by politicians, and, since the adjournment of the Senate I have been advised that efforts were made to defeat my confirmation in consequence thereof.

Soldiers who love their country will cheerfully perform any duty assigned them; men who know how to build fortifications, will know how to defend or assault them. It should not be forgotten that the principal rebel successes have been behind intrenchments, as at Manassas, Fredericksburg, Richmond, Vicksburg, Charleston, &c., &c.

It is an unpleasant duty to state that most of the Ninth New York, Colonel Hawkins, left this command on the third, by expiration of their term of service, while their comrades were actively engaged with the enemy. It can be regarded only as an unfortunate termination of a hitherto brilliant career of service.

To Generals Corcoran, Terry, Dodge, Harland, Colonels Dutton and Gibbs, commanding fronts lines; Colonels Spear and Onderdonk, of the cavalry; Colonels Gurney and Waddrop, commanding reserves, and Captain Follett, Chief of Artillery, I am under very great obligations for the able, faithful, judicious, and cheerful discharge of every duty incident to their important positions.

General Getty was intrusted with the river line below Onondaga battery, the key of the position, and about eight miles in length; a very difficult line to defend against an enterprising enemy, acquainted with every by-path, and guided by owners of the soil. His responsibilities were of the highest order, and the labors of his troops were incessant. Under his vigilant supervision everything was done that could be for the security of the right flank, and the enemy was foiled in all plans for crossing.

Colonel R. S. Foster, of Indiana, commanding brigade and portion of the front, added fresh laurels to the high reputation which he established in West Virginia and the Peninsula. He was at home in grand skirmishes, and the enemy always recoiled before him.

General Gordon reported three days before the conclusion of the siege, and was assigned to the command of the reserve division. His long and varied experience rendered his judgment of great value, and I regret that he has been called to another field.

My thanks are due General Viele, of Norfolk, for the prompt transmission of important intelligence, and for the alacrity with which my calls were responded to.

Captain Ludlow, Quartermaster at Norfolk, deserves mention for his untiring efforts in forwarding the main bulk of supplies for this army.

The Medical Department, under the able management of Dr. Hand, was in excellent working order, and equal to every emergency. The wounded were promptly cared for, and spared all unnecessary suffering.

The Commissary Department was admirably managed by the late Captain Bowdish, and since his death by Captain Felt.

Colonel Murphy commanded brigade; Colonel Drake, Fort Union; Colonel Hawkins, Fort Nansemond; Captain Sullivan, Fort Halleck; Colonel Davis, the Draw-bridge Battery; Colonel Worth, Battery Mansfield; Colonel Thorpe, the Redan, and Rosecrans; Captain Johnson, Battery Mowdey; Colonel England, Battery Montgomery; Colonel Pease, Battery Stevens; Colonel McEvilly, Fort Dix, with ability, and their troops were always ready for the enemy.

Major Stratton, Eleventh Pennsylvania cavalry, was at South Mills watching the operations of the troops from Carolina. By his discretion and energy the rebels were prevented from penetrating the Dismal Swamp.

Captain Tamblyn, Lieutenants Seabury, Young, Thayer, Strong and Murray, of the signal corps, have been indefatigable, day and night, and of the greatest service in their departments. Captain Davis shares the above commendation for the few days he was here.

The conduct of Lieutenant-Colonel Nixon, Ninety-ninth New. York; of Captain Morris, Lieutenants Hasbrouck, Hunt, Whitney and Beecher, of the artillery; Lieutenants James, Grant, Macardle, Soederquist, Burleson, Engineers; of Lieutenant Butts, Assistant Provost Marshal, and of Major Wetherell, was conspicuous. Major Stuart, of the Engineer corps, joined for a few days, evincing the same lively interest which characterized his valuable services on the Peninsula.

The command is mainly indebted to the Provost Marshal, Major Smith, of the One Hundred and Twelfth New York, for the good order and cleanliness which has prevailed in the town and camp.

The co-operation of the gunboats, under Lieutenants Cushing, Samson and Harris,United States Navy, sent by Admiral Lee, has been very [125] effective, and I take great pleasure in acknowledging the gallant services of their officers and crews. The army gunboats, Smith Briggs. and West End, commanded by Captain Lee and Lieutenant Rowe, proved invaluable. The Smith Briggs was for many days the only boat above the West Branch, in consequence of the order of Admiral Lee.

My personal staff have all earned a place in this record by their zeal, fidelity, and unremitting labors, day and night, increased by injuries which I sustained from the fall of my horse. Their claims to promotion were established long before the siege of Suffolk: Major Benjamin B. Foster, A. A. G.; Captain George S. Dodge, Quartermaster; Lieutenants Charles R. Stirling and James D. Outwater, Aides-de-Camp; Lieutenant A. B. Johnson, Ordnance Officer, and Lieutenant J. D. Mahon, Judge Advocate.

Doubtless many names have been omitted, but discrimination is impossible where all have done so well.

For the conclusion is reserved the agreeable duty of testifying to the cordial and efficient support I have ever received from Major-General Dix. No request or suggestion has ever escaped his attention, and most of my requirements have been anticipated by his liberal and comprehensive policy.

Very respectfully

Your obedient servant,

John J. Peck, Major-General.


headquarters Army and District of North Carolina, Newbern, N. C., December 25, 1863.
Brigadier-General L. Thomas, Adjutant-General United States Army:
General: I have the honor to make the following supplementary report, as a part of my report of operations during the siege of Suffolk, in April and May last:

The name of Colonel J. R. McMahon, One Hundred and Sixty-fourth New York, should have been in the paragraph commencing with “Colonel Murphy, commanding brigade.”

My right flank rested upon the upper Nansemond for some eight miles, a narrow, shallow, and tortuous stream, offering great facilities to an enterprising enemy for crossing and cutting the communication with Norfolk. Including this, the whole line extending to the Dismal Swamp was from twelve to fifteen miles in length; besides, a force in observation was requisite at South Mills, thirty miles distant--the key of the southern approaches to the Swamp. In view of these and other objections, I advised the withdrawal of the troops to a reduced short line near Portsmouth after the reduction of the rebel and Union fortifications.

The advance of Pettigrew towards Newbern, and of Hill upon Little Washington, were only feints (our casualties being less than a dozen at both places), made by order of Longstreet some days before the date fixed for his own advance upon Suffolk, for the purpose of inducing the authorities in North Carolina to call on Virginia for reinforcements. As designed, ten thousand men were asked for North Carolina, of which I was contributing three thousand on the tenth. The information reached Longstreet at Franklin, and he crossed the Blackwater last night.

Major-General Hooker kindly telegraphed that he had advices that General Hill would join Longstreet. The time when the North Carolina troops arrived is material; Major Stratton, of the cavalry, reported the fact on the twentieth, and I did the same on the twenty-fifth; some of them being captured. Major Stratton was correct, for Major-General Foster advised that the enemy retired from Little Washington on the evening of the fifteenth, and that the deserters said the cause was that they were, ordered to “reinforce the army in Virginia.”

May fourth.--While in full pursuit of the columns of Longstreet and Hill towards the Blackwater, an order was received to despatch General Gordon with a large force to West Point. Ten thousand additional were also ordered to be held in readiness to be moved at a moment's notice, leaving but the ordinary small garrison intact at Suffolk, and, of course, ending offensive operations.

On the fourth of May prisoners were taken representing forty odd regiments and independent commands, which gives some idea of the organization and masses of the enemy.

The many miles of earthworks thrown up by the rebels were constructed by the troops. Lest the contrabands should come into my lines, the bulk of them were left on the other side of the Blackwater.

It is proper to remark, that the forces under my command, from September to April, 1863, were rated by the public at twice and even thrice the actual numbers.

I am, very respectfully

Your obedient servant,

John J. Peck, Major-General.

headquarters Eighteenth Army corps, Newbery, April 17, 1863.
Major-General H. W. Halleck, General-in-Chief, Washington, D. C.:
Being about to start with a relieving force to raise the siege of Washington, North Carolina, I learned that the enemy had evacuated the batteries in front of Washington; and deserters say that the cause was that they were ordered to reinforce the army in Virginia.

I shall march myself, with my force, in pursuit, and endeavor to overtake the enemy.

I have the honor to be,

Very respectfully

Your obedient servant,

J. G. Foster, Major-General, commanding.


General Peck's final report.

Department of the East, headquarters, New York, May 4, 1865.
General L. Thomas, Adjutant-General, United States Army:
I have the honor to transmit the following additional supplementary report upon the siege of Suffolk, and request that it may be attached to the reports already made, and published with them:

On or about the twentieth September, 1864, I gave the following communication to the press, through the columns of the New York Daily Herald; General Hooker being then in this city:

Siege of Suffolk, Chancellorsville.

New York, September 20, 1864.
The truth of history and justice to the little army of Suffolk, demand that I should place this paper before the reading world.

Campaign of 1863.

The Southern history has the following on the campaign in April, 1863, which locates the position of Lieutenant-General Longstreet, viz.:

Now they (the rebels) confronted the enemy from the Rappahannock, and hovered upon his flank, within striking distance, to the Potomac, while another portion of our forces manoeuvred almost in the rear, and quite upon the flank, in Norfolk.

Longstreet had been promised sixty thousand men for his spring work, and was ready about the last of March to open the campaign for the recovery of Southern Virginia. He ordered Hill and Pettigrew to make a series of demonstrations at Newbern, Little Washington, and other points in North Carolina, with the design of causing troops to be sent from Norfolk, Fortress Monroe, and other localities. In consequence I was ordered, on the tenth of April, to despatch a considerable portion of my force to General Foster. Longstreet, advised of the order and success of his feints, crossed the Blackwater, and on the same day advanced, with about twenty-eight thousand men, upon Suffolk. On the fifteenth of April, Hill discontinued his feints upon Little Washington, and sent those troops to Suffolk. He followed soon after with the remainder of his command.

The rebel force in North Carolina was estimated by General Foster as very large, and in my judgment far above the real numbers. If his estimate was correct, there must have been with Longstreet, after the concentration, more than fifty thousand men. Probably forty thousand is a safe estimate; and he had associated with him such able West Pointers as Lieutenant-Generals Hill, Hood and Anderson, and Major-Generals Picket, French and Garnett, &c. The Petersburg Express of the fifteenth of April reflected the Confederate expectations in regard to Longstreet's army, in the following:

Our people are buoyant and hopeful, as they ought to be. We have in that direction as gallant an army as was ever mustered under any sun, and commanded by an officer who has won laurels in every engagement, from the first Manassas to that at Fredericksburg. Such an army, commanded by such an officer as Longstreet, may be defeated; but such an event is scarcely within the range of possibility.

In spite of the high hopes of the South, the siege was raised during the night of the third of May (twenty-four days), after the construction of from eight to ten miles of covered ways, rifle-pits, field works, and the loss of the celebrated Fauquier battery and some two thousand men.

The rebel press, with few exceptions, admitted the failure, and censured Longstreet. The Richmond Examiner, of November twenty-seventh, 1863, pronounced his Knoxville and Suffolk campaigns as parallel failures, and said:

It was during the parallel campaign of Longstreet against Suffolk that Hooker made his coup at Chancellorsville; but he found there Jackson, while Grant had to do with Bragg alone.

The effective Federal force at the outset was nearly fourteen thousand, with three small wooden gunboats. This was distributed on lines of about twelve miles in extent. No defeat was experienced by our arms.


During the presence of Longstreet's wing at Suffolk, Lee, with Jackson's wing, was confronted by the army of Hooker. Hooker was advised of every change in my front, and assured that I would hold Longstreet as long as possible in order that he might destroy Lee. He was urged to strike before aid could be sent to the Rapidan.

Perhaps a division, or a portion of one, joined Lee, in spite of the interruption of the communications by Stoneman. Longstreet did not; for his horses and servants fell into our hands near Suffolk, on the fourth of May. No mention of his presence is made in any accounts of Chancellorsville, nor in the “Southern history.” Jackson contended with Hooker on the first and second of May, while Early fought Sedgwick, near Fredericksburg. On the third, Stewart succeeded Jackson.

Hooker's and Lee's forces.

Up to the meeting of Congress, Hooker had made no report to General Halleck, and official data is out of the question. But information is at hand from which an approximation can be made.

Lee's Army.

New York Tribune, May 18, 1863, estimates 50,000
New York Tribune, March 26, 1861, estimates 49,700
New York Herald, March 26, 1864, estimates 64,000
“Southorn history” (Pollard's) gives 50,000

Hooker's Army.

New York Times gives 159,800
“Southorn history” gives 100,000 to 150,000
New York Tribune, March 26, 1864, gives 123,300


The editor of the Times had the very best opportunity for getting reliable data, and there are many reasons for accepting his figures as nearest the true ones.

This paper explodes the idea that any material portion of Longstreet's army was transferred to the fields of Chancellorsville. No such theory is entertained in any quarter now; but in the smoke of that disaster it was mooted.

These figures show where the rebel pressure really was, and attest the good conduct of the soldiers and sailors at Suffolk, under the weightiest responsibilities. The army should no longer be deprived of its honors and rewards because of the unexpected reverse on the Rapidan.

Further details cannot be given without trenching upon the official documents. The allusions to Hooker's operations are made solely. to shed proper light upon the campaign, and not for the purpose of criticism.

John J. Peck, Major-General.

My object was to ventilate the spring campaign of 1863, and secure a proper recognition of the services of the army of Suffolk, without criticising the operations of General Hooker.

More than seven months having elapsed without any adverse reply from any quarter, the government and people are warranted in accepting my theory of the campaign as conclusive, and based upon facts and principles of the military art.

Besides the demonstrations made early in April, in North Carolina, by Hill and Pettigrew, Wise made a bold one on Williamsburgh, to favor Longstreet. All were regarded as real. Ten thousand men were asked for North Carolina, and it was thought I would have to contribute for Williamsburgh also.

Longstreet's Army

General William Hays, United States Army, was taken prisoner at Chancellorsville, third May, and passed through Lee's army to Richmond. He thinks Longstreet took four divisions, of eight thousand each, in January or February, to Suffolk--thirty-two thousand men.

General Hooker telegraphed, April thirteen: “All of Longstreet's forces that have gone from here, left in January and February.”

May second, he telegraphed: “Longstreet has three divisions at Suffolk. When they left Lee they were each eight thousand strong. D. H. Hill is ordered from Washington to reinforce Longstreet's corps.”

May second, General Hill reported by letter to Longstreet, the arrival of an “entire division.” This arrival was in addition to the forces from Washington, North Carolina.

Spies sent into his camp reported the forces on the Blackwater from thirty thousand to thirty-two thousand.

Union men, deserters, prisoners, and contrabands, placed the force that crossed, tenth April, at thirty thousand and over.

Governor Wise had five thousand (Hooker's figures) or more. After his demonstration upon Williamsburgh, he withdrew, and beyond doubt sent a portion of his force to Longstreet.

The troops from North Carolina commenced arriving about the eighteenth or nineteenth of April, having left Little Washington on the fifteenth, under orders. Not less than twelve thousand came under Hill, French, and others. General Foster's estimates were very high, and I have not adopted them in consequence.

These, independent of the forces about Richmond, which could always be drawn upon temporarily for any great operation, since Longstreet had two railways.

Among the division commanders were Lieutenant-Generals Hill and Hood, French, Picket, &c. Major-General Anderson was not present, although so reported often — troops claimed to be under some General Anderson, and hence the error.

Longstreet not at Chancellorsville.

On the twenty-ninth of April I was informed by a member of the Cabinet that the army of the Potomac, in round numbers, reached one hundred and sixty thousand men. Being wholly ignorant of the plans and movements of Generals Hooker and Stoneman, I deemed it probable that at the crisis Lee would call for Longstreet, and that the latter might, perhaps, get through with a division.

Had I been advised of General Stoneman's movements on the communications near Richmond, as I should have been, the idea of Longstreet's leaving would not have been entertained.

General Stoneman's report, doubtless, will show that no part of Longstreet's army passed to Lee until some time after Chancellorsville. His reports not being accessible, I addressed him upon the subject; also Generals Meade and Slocum. A brief extract will suffice:


headquarters Department of the Ohio, Louisville Kentucky, January 30, 1865.
Major-General J. J. Peck:
In regard to the subject therein referred to, I had thought the thing was settled long since, and that it had became a historical fact that Longstreet had no hand whatever in the battle of Chancellorsville, which proved so disastrous to our arms, &c. &c. * * * * *

I have always looked upon it as a most fortunate thing for us that you were enabled to hold Longstreet at Suffolk, and also that Jackson was killed. * * * * * * *

Very truly,


headquarters Army of the Potomac, February 15, 1865.
Major-General J. J. Peck:
Dear General: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the eighth instant, with the documents enclosed, relating to the defence of Suffolk, in 1863.

The testimony and evidence which you have accumulated, prove most conclusively the importance and value of the services rendered on that occasion by yourself and the gallant army under your command, for which I doubt not full credit will hereafter be awarded you.

Lee's army at Gettysburgh was from forty to fifty thousand stronger than at Chancellorsville, and it is only reasonable to infer that this difference was in front of you at Suffolk.

That with the limited force under your command you should have held in check and defeated the designs of such superior numbers, is a fact of which you may well be proud, and is the most practical proof of your own skill and the gallantry of your troops.

Very respectfully yours,


George G. Meade, Major-General.

Army of Georgia, headquarters left wing, Savannah, Ga., January 1, 1865.
My Dear General:
Your esteemed favor of the twenty-second ultimo, has just come to hand. I was fully convinced, at the battle of Chancellorsville, that the force of the enemy did not exceed fifty thousand men, of all arms, and was satisfied at the time that but a small portion of Longstreet's command was in our front.

I believe that the force of the enemy in your front, at Suffolk, far exceeded your own ; and I think the gratitude of the nation is due to you and your gallant army for the important services performed at that point.

I am, General,

Very truly your friend

And obedient servant,


H. W. Slocum, Major-General. Major-General J. J. Peck, New York.

My theory is proved by these witnesses from General Hooker's army. No higher evidence can be produced. General Stoneman had all the railways in his hands, just outside of Richmond. General Slocum had the confidence of his commander, and was thanked by him in orders. The President made General Meade the successor of General Hooker, with the concurrence of all his leading officers.

This evidence is in harmony with all that of the army of Suffolk. In my possession is a communication from General Hill to Lieutenant-General Longstreet, commanding department of Virginia and North Carolina, in which he reports the arrival of a “division,” and asks for orders. It bears date second May, 1863, and fell into our hands on the fourth, as also did Longstreet's servants and horses, a few miles from Suffolk.

This division came by the Weldon railway to Franklin, and marched twenty miles, being engaged, on the third, at Suffolk. Had Longstreet wished to send troops to Chancellorsville (third), why did not this division keep the rail? By coming to Suffolk it lost more than two full days.

Longstreet's army did not pass through Richmond until after the tenth of May. The rear guard left the Blackwater on the eleventh, and was met by our exchanged officers, near the city, on the thirteenth or fourteenth of May.

General Lee's testimony.

Lee, in his report of Chancellorsville transmitted to the rebel Congress by Jefferson Davis, December thirty-first, 1863, says of Longstreet, that he “was detached for service south of the James River in February, and did not rejoin the army until after the battle of Chancellorsville.”

Commander-in-chief's report.

The commanding General visited Suffolk during the investment, and in his annual report, says, viz.: “The rebel General Hill marched towards the Nansemond to reinforce Longstreet, who was investing Suffolk. Failing in his direct assault upon this place, the enemy proceeded to establish batteries for its reduction. General Peck made every preparation for defence of which — the place was capable, and retarded the construction of his works, till finally the attempt was abandoned.”


The following telegrams reflect much light upon the campaign:

Norfolk, April 10, 1863.
Major-General Peck:
I have a man just in. He says that Longstreet has at least 60,000 men, and will attack you as soon as his material is on the ground. They expect to get in your rear, have exact drawings of all your works, and know your force and means. Hood's division is the largest of all. They are building three bridges on the Blackwater, and have a large pontoon train.

E. L. Viele. Brig.-General.

Norfolk, April 10, 1863.
Major-General Peck:
A letter I am reading, written on the train, corroborates what I have telegraphed to you to-day. The date is April seventh--says: “We are massing large bodies of troops on the Blackwater. Have pontoon bridges. Our generals intend to attack Suffolk.”


E. L. Viele, Brig.-General.


Norfolk, April 10, 1863.
Major-General Peck:
Another letter says, that a Major-General, Lee's right hand man, was down on the Blackwater last week, and reconnoitred the whole position.


E. L. Viele, Brig.-General.

Norfolk, April 10, 1863.
Major-General Peck:
I do not think there is much doubt of the truthfulness of the message I sent you. The man was captured with a large mail. He did not give himself up. He told this with the hope of mitigating his punishment, &c.


E. L. Viele, Brig.-General.

Department head quarters, Fort Monroe, April 10, 1863.
Major-General Peck:
We have been informed that the enemy have sent bridge material for five bridges from Petersburg, to be used in crossing the Blackwater in five places. This information is reliable.


D. L. Van Buren, Col. and Asst. Adj.-General.

April, 10, 1863.
Major-General Peck:
Information has been received at Newport News that rebel gunboats are removing channel obstructions from before them, and placing others in their rear, preparatory to coming down the river.


In my report of December twenty-fifth, 1863, I stated that on the fourth of May, while in pursuit, a telegram was received directing me to send six thousand men and several batteries to West Point. Ten thousand more were ordered to be held in readiness to move at a moment's notice.

These orders, of course, ended offensive operations. A base was established at West Point, and abandoned when it was found that General Hooker was not likely to advance again.

The present is the proper occasion for saying that the army of Suffolk was in no manner connected with the campaign planned by General Hooker. The public has been under the impression that I was charged with a co-operative movement on Richmond. Such was not the case. General Hooker, with his vast army, was confident of destroying Lee, taking the rebel capital at pleasure, and conducted the campaign in his own way.

I volunteered to aid him in so far as was possible, but he declined to give any intimation of his plan or his purposes.

For twenty-four days the army of Suffolk held one wing of Lee's army, which outnumbered it nearly two to one (as I assured General Hooker), that he might win the crowning victor of the war. Had he been successful my command would have been entitled to share the glory with the army of the Potomac.

Is not the army of Suffolk entitled to as much credit as if General Hooker had been victorious? Certainly. How that credit shall be estimated, is arrived at by placing Longstreet with Lee at Chancellorsville. If Lee, with fifty odd thousand, forced General Hooker over the Rappahannock, no doubt that with ninety thousand he would have demoralized his army.

Independent of the credit of holding Longstreet's army from Lee, my command is entitled to great honor for saving itself, many thousand contrabands, the Navy Yard, Norfolk, and Portsmouth, two railways, eighty odd miles of track, and the navigation of the James and Hampton Roads.

The value of this latter service may be appreciated by supposing I had been overwhelmed by Longstreet. Defeat at Chancellorsville and Suffolk would indeed have disheartened the people and embarrassed the government at one of the most critical periods of its domestic and foreign relations. With such defeats the nation would have had no glorious Gettysburg in 1863, to gladden loyal hearts by stemming and turning back the aggressive tide of rebellion.

I am, very respectfully

Your obedient servant,

John Peck, Major-General.

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