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Evacuation of Richmond.

Report of General R. S. Ewell.

General,—About the middle of February last I received a communication from you, enclosing a law which I was directed to carry out. This law required preparations to be made for destroying the cotton, tobacco, &c., which the owners could not remove, in places exposed to capture by the enemy. I immediately sent Major [248] Brown, of my staff, to Mayor Mayo with the document, and requested him to call a meeting of the Common Council to give their opinion as to the measures proper to be taken. After a free discussion with some of the Council and by their advice, I issued a circular to the ‘merchants and owners of cotton and tobacco,’ embodying the substance of your order and the law that accompanied it. This I entrusted to those gentlemen and to Major Isaac N. Carrington, Provost-Marshal, for distribution. Being informed a few hours later that it was misunderstood as to take effect at once, I substituted another, stating expressly that the ‘necessity had not yet arisen.’ Together with Mr. Scott, a tobacco-owner and councilman, I visited and inspected all the warehouses containing tobacco, and after consulting the keepers, we concluded they could be burned without danger of a general conflagration. I gave instructions to Major Carrington to make the necessary arrangements, and requested Mr. Scott and the other members of the Council to consult with him and give him their views. The Ordnance Department offered to furnish barrels of turpentine to mix with the tobacco so as to insure its burning; but this I declined, for fear of setting fire to the city. I sent for the Mayor and several of the most prominent citizens, earnestly urged upon them the danger of mob-violence, should we be forced to evacuate and the entrance of Federal troops be delayed, and begged them to endeavor to organize a volunteer guard force for such an emergency, proffering the necessary arms. I regret to say but one man volunteered, and the rioters, as predicted, were unchecked. On the night of Saturday, 1st April, I received a dispatch from General Longstreet, telling me he was going to the south side with two divisions, that Kershaw would be left on the lines, directing me to move whatever troops I could collect down the Darbytown road, and to ride by his headquarters for further instructions. I left my staff to see to the movements and collection of troops (of which only the cadets and three battalions of convalescents from the hospitals were in town), and rode down, but General Longstreet had gone before I reached his headquarters, and I received orders from his Acting Adjutant-General, Colonel Latrobe, to relieve and send forward two brigades left on picket, which was done soon after sunrise by Colonel Shipp, commanding the cadets and convalescents. At 10 A. M. of Sunday I received a message from Major Chestney, my Acting Adjutant-General, to return at once to the city, and on doing so received the order for the evacuation, and to destroy the stores which could not be removed. All that time allowed was done. [249]

General G. W. C. Lee's division being mostly composed of heavy artillery, was almost without transportation, which was procured by impressing all that could be found. All the guard-forces were required to take the prisoners from the Libby and Castle Thunder, and as the militia had dispersed (being mostly foreigners), no troops remained in town except a few convalescents. A mob of both sexes and all colors soon collected, and about 3 A. M. set fire to some buildings on Cary street, and began to plunder the city. The convalescents then stationed in the Square were ordered to repress the riot, but their commander shortly reported himself unable to do so, his force being inadequate. I then ordered all my staff and couriers who could be spared, to scour the streets, so as to intimidate the mob by a show of force, and sent word to General Kershaw, who was coming up from the lines, to hurry his leading regiment into town. By daylight the riot was subdued, but many buildings which I had carefully directed should be spared, had been fired by the mob. The Arsenal was thus destroyed, and a party of men went to burn the Tredegar Works, but were prevented by General Anderson's arming his operatives and declaring his intention to resist. The small bridge over the canal on Fourteenth street was burned by incendiaries, who set a canal boat on fire and pushed it under the bridge. This was evidently done in hopes of embarrassing our retreat, and General Kershaw's division passed the bridge while on fire at a ‘double quick.’ By 7 A. M. the last troops had reached the south side, and Mayo's and the railroad bridges were set on fire.

From the hills above Manchester we watched for some time the progress of the flames, and all at once saw fire break out through the roof of one of the large mills on the side farthest from the burning warehouses, the flames from which scarcely reached half way up the sides of the mill. It was considered a fire-proof building, and extra precautions had been taken by the owners. I cannot conceive how it could have caught in such a place, unless set on fire. I have been told that Mr. Crenshaw found his mill full of plunderers, whom he got out by agreeing to give them all the provisions in the mill, and that they were in the act of building a fire on the upper story of the mill when discovered. I tried to find out if this was true, but no reply has come to the letters written for that purpose. If correct, it affords exact proof of what I am firmly convinced is the case, that the burning of Richmond was the work of incendiaries, and might have been prevented by the citizens. General G. W. C. Lee's division crossed the river at Drewry's and united with Kershaw a few miles from Manchester. [250] We marched very rapidly to join the main body, and though delayed by the swollen condition of the Appomattox, came up with it near Amelia Courthouse on the 5th of April. We were to march all that night, but owing to the slow progress of the trains and troops in front, had only reached Amelia Springs, seven miles off, by 8 A. M. Parties of cavalry here appeared on our left flank, and about 11 A. M. made an effort to get to the road on which our trains were moving past us. Gordon's corps, the rear-guard, was being hard pushed at the same time. I threw out as skirmishers part of Colonel Atkinson's command of heavy artillery of General Lee's division, and a battery of light artillery acting as infantry under Captain Dement, which had just been assigned to me. These troops soon repelled the enemy's cavalry skirmishers. Their demonstrations continued from 11 A. M. till 2 P. M., and I retained my troops in position to cover the passage of the trains. As soon as they were out of the way, I followed General Anderson's corps, and was followed by General Gordon, who brought up the rear of the trains, constantly fighting. On crossing a little stream known as ‘Sailor's Creek,’ I met General Fitz. Lee, who informed me that a large force of cavalry held the road just in front of General Anderson, and were so strongly posted that he had halted a short distance ahead. The trains were turned into a road nearer the river, while I hurried to General Anderson's aid. General Gordon's corps turned off after the trains. General Anderson informed me that at least two divisions of cavalry were in his front, and suggested two modes of escape, either to unite our forces and break through, or to move to the right through the woods and try to strike a road that ran toward Farmville. I recommended the latter alternative, but as he knew the ground and I did not, and had no one who did, I left the dispositions to him. Before any were made, the enemy appeared in rear of my column in large force, preparing to attack. General Anderson informed me that he would make the attack in front, if I would hold in check those in the rear, which I did until his troops were broken and dispersed. I had no artillery, all being with the trains. My line ran across a little ravine which leads nearly at right angles towards ‘Sailor's Creek.’ General G W. C. Lee was on the left, with the Naval Battalion under Commodore Tucker behind his right; Kershaw was on the right. All of Lee's and part of Kershaw's divisions were posted behind a rising ground that afforded some shelter from artillery. The creek was perhaps three hundred yards in their front, with brush pines between and a cleared field beyond [251] it. In this the enemy's artillery took a commanding position, and finding we had none to reply, soon approached within eight hundred yards and opened a terrible fire. After nearly a half an hour of this, their infantry advanced, crossing the creek above and below us at the same time. Just as it attacked, General Anderson made his assault, which was repulsed in five minutes. I had ridden up near his lines with him to see the result. When a staff-officer, who had followed his troops in their charge, brought him word of its failure, General Anderson rode rapidly towards his command. I returned to mine to see if it were yet too late to try the other plan of escape. On riding past my left, I came suddenly upon a strong line of the enemy's skirmishers advancing upon my left rear. This closed the only avenue of escape, as shells and even bullets were crossing each other from front and rear over my troops, and my right was completely enveloped. I surrendered myself and staff to a cavalry officer who came in by the same road General Anderson had gone out upon. At my request, he sent a messenger to General G. W. C. Lee, who was nearest, with a note from me telling him ‘he was surrounded, General Anderson's attack had failed. I had surrendered, and he had better do so, too, to prevent useless loss of life;’ though I gave no orders, being a prisoner. Before the messenger reached him, General Lee had been captured, as had been Kershaw and the whole of my command.

My two divisions numbered about three thousand each at the time of the evacuation. Twenty-eight hundred were taken prisoners, about one hundred and fifty killed and wounded. The difference of over three thousand was caused mainly by the fatigue of four days and nights almost constant marching, the last two days with nothing to eat. Before our capture I saw men eating raw fresh meat as they marched in ranks. The heavy artillery brigade of Lee's division was closely engaged for the first time on this occasion, and spite of the fall of its commander, Colonel Crutchfield, displayed a coolness and gallantry that earned the praise of the veterans who fought alongside of it, and even of the enemy.

I was informed at General Wright's headquarters, whither I was carried after my capture, that thirty thousand men were engaged with us when we surrendered, viz: two infantry corps and Custar's and Merritt's divisions of cavalry, the whole under command of General Sheridan.

I deem it proper to remark that the discipline preserved by General G. W. C. Lee in camp and on the march, and the manner in which [252] he handled his troops in action, fully justified the request I had made for his promotion. General Kershaw, who had only been a few days under my command, behaved with his usual coolness and judgment.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. S. Ewell, Late Lieutenant-General, C. S. A.

Report of General J. B. Kershaw.

Camden, S. C., October 9th, 1865.
Major,—On the morning of Monday, the 3d of April last, I moved in obedience to the orders of Lieutenant-General Ewell, from my position on the lines near Fort Gilmer, through Richmond to Mayo's Bridge, reporting in person to General Ewell. Under his orders I detached two battalions to suppress the mob then engaged in sacking the city. Arriving at the bridge I found it in flames, and rapidly passed my command over to Manchester, informing General Ewell of the facts. By the efforts of some boatmen the flames were arrested before they had rendered the bridge impassable. By the time the infantry had passed, the large mill above the Danville depot, and too far distant from it to have been ignited by the burning of the latter, was observed to be on fire, the smoke being first seen to issue through the roof in all parts of it, and then the windows on all sides, indicating that it had been set on fire in the interior. As much of the conflagration which ensued was caused by the burning of this building, the circumstance has been deemed of sufficient importance to be stated here, in order to remove the erroneous imputation that the conflagration resulted from the action of the authorities.

A few miles from the river the command united with that of General Custis Lee, and moved in the direction of Amelia Courthouse. Learning that all the upper crossings of the Appomattox were impassable, on Tuesday the command moved to the railroad crossing, and by night had succeeded in passing the river with the entire train. The next day the rear of the Petersburg army was overtaken at Amelia Courthouse, and marching all night the command arrived at Amelia Springs a little after sunrise the next day. From this point Gordon's corps marched in rear. About 10 o'clock [253] the command reached a point where the wagon train was moved to the right, upon a cross road which intersected that upon which the troops moved at right angles. Here the column was posted to resist the cavalry of the enemy—Merritt's and Custar's divisions— which attacked at that point, and repulsed several charges upon different parts of the line. They were held at bay until the last of the train had passed the point attacked, when I was directed to follow the movement of General Custis Lee's division. Before my troops left the ground Gordon's advance appeared, while his rear was engaged with the enemy. I was not informed that Gordon would follow the wagon train as he did, and was therefore surprised on arriving at Sailor's Creek to find that my rear was menaced. As the troops in my front had halted, I detached Humphreys' brigade, commanded by Colonel Fitzgerald, and Gary's dismounted battalion, under Lieutenant-Colonel Barham, to take position near the house occupied as a hospital by Pickett's division, to cover my crossing of Sailor's Creek. Upon arriving at the top of the hill, on the south side of the creek, I was informed by General Ewell that the enemy had possession of the road in front of General Anderson, and that we were to hold the enemy in check while that officer attempted to open the way. My command then consisted of only three brigades, Humphreys, Simms', Brigadier-General J. P. Simms commanding, and DuBose's brigade, Brigadier-General D. M. DuBose commanding, and the dismounted cavalry already mentioned. The whole at the time amounted to less than two thousand effective men. DuBose was placed in the edge of the wood, with his right resting on the road; Simms on the right of the road, a little in advance. General Lee's division was on the left of the road, his right occupying a line in front of DuBose, his left on the same line, or nearly so. In the meantime the enemy attacked and overpowered Humphreys and the dismounted cavalry, forcing them back to my position. They were formed at once on the left of the road, and Simms was moved further to the right. The enemy planted batteries near the hospital, and swept our position at short range, and under cover of the fire the Second and Sixth corps attacked us. Both in Lee's front and my own they were repulsed with loss on every advance, but pressed us constantly with fresh troops, extending all the while to our left. During the attack I received from General Anderson a message through Captain S. D. Shannon, Aide-de-Camp, to the effect that he had commenced his movement, and hoped to be successful if I could hold out a few [254] minutes longer. Sending him an encouraging reply, I continued to resist the enemy for some time, hoping to hear from General Anderson that the way was open. Unfortunately his attempt had failed, and the enemy made his appearance in rear of Simms' brigade, at the same time he was engaged in front and flank. That officer attempted to extricate his command, but found it impossible to do so without confusion, as he was attacked on all sides. This condition of things being discovered by the other troops, all fell back towards the rear and left. I kept up something of a skirmish as the command retreated; but after moving some four hundred yards I discovered that all who had preceded me had been taken by the Yankee cavalry, who were in line of battle across the road. I then directed the men about me and the members of my staff to make their escape in any way possible. I discovered afterwards that but one had succeeded, as the enemy had completed the circle around our position when General Anderson's line was broken. My losses in killed and wounded must have been considerable, but I have no means of estimating the number. The conduct of the officers and men of the command under these trying circumstances is beyond all praise, and worthy the reputation of these veteran regiments. On no battlefield of the war have I felt a juster pride in the conduct of my command. I beg leave expressly to include in these just encomiums the little command of Lieutenant-Colonel Barham, and especially that officer.

I am, Major, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

Camden, April 29, 1867.
my Dear Major:—Your favor covering copy of my report came to hand this day, and you will please accept my thanks for the same. You are correct in your recollection of the position at Sailor's Creek; Simms was on the right of the road. Please have the correction made in the original.

Yours truly,


Report of General G. W. C. Lee, from the 2d to the 6th of April, 1865.

Richmond, Va., April 25th, 1865.
Lieutenant Colonel W. H. Taylor, Acting Adjutant-General:
Colonel,—In obedience to instructions, I have the honor to submit the following report of the operations of my command from the time of its leaving the lines at Chaffin's Farm on Sunday night, April 2, 1865, to its capture on the afternoon of the following Thursday, April 6, 1865:

The order to withdraw from the entrenchments was received by me at Major-General Kershaw's quarters about 10 o'clock P. M. of the 2d of April, and was issued to the two brigades (Barton's and Crutchfield's) under my command at Chaffin's Farm, about 11 o'clock P. M. of that night. The wagons which had been loaded up in obedience to the preparatory order received at Chaffin's on the afternoon of Sunday, April 2d, were at once sent off to cross James river at Richmond, and proceed to Amelia Courthouse via Buckingham road and Meadville, as ordered. Not being able to cross the Appomattox river near Meadville, the wagon-train moved up to Clementtown, there made the passage of the river, and proceeded with safety until within about four miles of Amelia Courthouse, when it was destroyed by a detachment of the enemy's cavalry on the morning of Wednesday, April 5th, with the baggage of my division and twenty thousand (20,000) good rations, as I have recently learned from the Division Commissary, who escaped. The troops (Barton's and Crutchfield's brigades) crossed the James river on the Wilton bridge about 1 o'clock A. M. of Monday, April 3d. The picket line was withdrawn at three o'clock of that morning, and passed safely over the same bridge about daylight. My command then moved to Branch Church, and thence by Gregory's to the Genito road, as directed, camping that night about one-half mile beyond Tomahawk Church. In the absence of Lieutenant-General Ewell in a Northern prison, it may be proper for me to mention here that the detachments of troops in Richmond and Kershaw's division, followed by Gary's cavalry, or a portion of it, crossed the James river at Richmond and followed my division to Tomahawk Church. On the following morning, Tuesday, April 4th, it being positively ascertained that the Appomattox [256] river could not be crossed at Genito bridge, arrangements were made to prepare the railroad bridge at Mattoax Station for the passage of the wagons, artillery and troops, which was accomplished that night, and all went into camp on the hills beyond the river. Early on Wednesday, April 5th, the bridge having been destroyed, the column moved on to Amelia Courthouse, at which place the Naval Battalion, commanded by Commodore Tucker, and the command of Major Frank Smith, from Howlett's, were added to my division. From Amelia Courthouse General Ewell's column, following that of General Anderson, and followed by that of General Gordon, much impeded by the wagon-trains, moved towards Jetersville and Amelia Springs, marching slowly all night. During this night march, firing having commenced between our flankers and some of the enemy's scouts, as is supposed, Major Frank Smith was mortally wounded, Captain Nash, Acting Adjutant-General, Barton's brigade, lost a leg, and several others, whose names I have not been able to ascertain, were wounded. We passed Amelia Springs on the morning of Thursday, April 6th, and moved towards Rice's Station. About mid-day, immediately after crossing a little stream, within about two miles of Sailor's Creek, the enemy's cavalry made an attack upon a portion of General Anderson's column about a mile in advance of us, at the point where the wagon-train turned off to the right, causing some delay and confusion in the train. The cavalry were soon driven off, and my division, followed by General Kershaw's, closed upon General Anderson. About this time the enemy attacked our train at the stream we had shortly before crossed, and appeared in heavy force to the left of our line of march between this stream and Sailor's Creek, which, measured on the road we travelled, are about two miles apart. Word was also received from General Gordon that the enemy was pressing him heavily. To cover the wagon-train and prevent General Gordon from being cut off, line of battle was formed along the road, and a strong line of skirmishers was thrown out, which drove back the enemy's skirmishers and held him in check until General Gordon came up in the rear of the wagons, which must have been from one to two hours after the skirmishing commenced. So soon as General Gordon closed up, my division, following General Anderson's rear, and followed by General Kershaw, moved on across Sailor's Creek towards the point where General Pickett was understood to be engaged with the enemy's cavalry, which had cut the line of march in the interval between him and General Mahone. General Gordon having filed off to the right after the wagon-trains, [257] the enemy's cavalry followed closely upon General Kershaw's rear, driving it across Sailor's Creek, and soon afterwards the enemy's infantry (said to be the Sixth corps) massed rapidly in our rear. To meet this movement General Kershaw's division formed on the right and mine on the left of the road upon which we were moving, our line of battle being across the road, facing Sailor's Creek, which we had not long passed. Before my troops got into position, the enemy opened a heavy fire of artillery upon our lines, which was continued up to the time of our capture. After shelling our lines and skirmishing for some time, an hour or more, the enemy's infantry advanced and were repulsed, and that portion which attacked the artillery brigade was charged by it and driven back across Sailor's Creek. This brigade was then brought back to its original position in line of battle under a heavy fire of artillery. Finding that Kershaw's division, which was on my right, had been obliged to retire in consequence of the enemy having turned his right flank, and that my command was entirely surrounded, to prevent useless sacrifice of life the firing was stopped by some of my officers aided by some of the enemy's, and the officers and men taken as prisoners of war. I cannot too highly praise the conduct of my command, and hope to have an opportunity of doing it full justice when reports are received from the brigade commanders. Among a number of brave men killed or wounded, I regret to have to announce the name of Colonel Crutchfield, who commanded the artillery brigade. He was killed after gallantly leading a successful charge against the enemy. I have also to mourn the loss of Lieutenant Robert Goldsborough, my Aid-de-Camp, who was mortally wounded by a fragment of a shell while efficiently discharging his duty. In the absence of Generals Ewell and Kershaw in a northern prison, I have endeavored to give the principal facts of the march and capture of the former's command, so far as I am acquainted with them, and although for the want of reports, memoranda, or maps, I may be mistaken in some minor matters, I believe, in the main features, this report will be found to be correct, so far as it goes.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

G. W. C. Lee, Major-General.
P. S.—I was told after my capture that the enemy had two corps of infantry and three divisions of cavalry opposed to us at Sailor's Creek; and was informed by General Ewell that he had sent me an [258] order to surrender, being convinced of the hopelessness of further resistance.1 The order was not received by me.

G. W. C. L.


On the morning of Thursday, April 6th, when the enemy attacked our wagon-train between Sandy and Sailor's Creeks, General Anderson, in conjunction with General Ewell, formed the line of battle along the road between these two streams (as I have already stated in my report) to protect the train and prevent General Gordon, who was bringing up the rear of the wagon-train, from being cut off. General Anderson seemed anxious to push on, and said to me that he must move on to support General Pickett, who was engaged with the enemy further on towards Rice's Station (and, as I suppose, beyond Sailor's Creek.) As soon as General Gordon closed up on General Ewell's rear (Kershaw), General Anderson moved forward towards Sailor's Creek. My division followed, and while its head was halted on the hill beyond Sailor's Creek to allow the rear to close up, General Ewell told me that the enemy had cut the road in advance of us, and that General Anderson wished us to unite with him to drive the enemy out of the way. To this end my division moved forward a few hundred yards, when the enemy's driving General Kershaw's rear across Sailor's Creek, and his appearance in heavy force of infantry, cavalry and artillery in our rear, stopped the further movement. General Anderson told General Ewell that the latter would have as much as he could do to take care of the rear, and that he (General Anderson) would endeavor to drive the enemy out of the way in front. General Anderson did make the attack, but failed, losing Brigadier-Generals Hunton and Corse, and a number of his other officers and men as prisoners. No other general officers were captured at that time of General Anderson's command, as far as I know. General Ewell and all his general officers, were taken prisoners.

But little of the above came under my personal observation; most [259] of the statement was gathered from conversations with General Ewell and other officers after the capture.

Respectfully submitted,

G. W. C. Lee, Major-General.

1 General G. W. C. Lee speaks of General Ewell's having sent him an order to surrender—a slight error. The note, which I wrote by General Ewell's dictation, was nearly this: ‘General Anderson's attack has failed. General Ewell and all his staff are prisoners. You are surrounded. Being a prisoner, General Ewell gives you no orders, but advises a surrender, as further effusion of blood is useless.’ The above is about the substance of it, and not far from the very words.—Campbell Brown.

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