A letter from General Beauregard to General Wise Regarding the battle, and the difference between General Beauregard and General Bragg as to the war policy at that crisis.Now printed, as written, from the original, now owned by the grandson of General Wise, Mr. Barton Haxall Wise, of Richmond, Virginia:
Alleghany Springs, October 3, 1873.My dear General. Mr. Marrin has referred to me your letter of the 19th ulto. I give you, with pleasure, some of the dates you refer to. I arrived at Petersburg from Weldon (where I had been ordered to from Charleston to ‘await orders’) on or about the 14th May, ‘64. Finding that General Pickett was very ill from fever, I ordered Genl. Whiting, then at Wilmington, to come at once to Petersburg to assume command, while I moved to Drury's Bluff, where General Hoke temporarily commanded. General W. arrived at about noon on the 13th, & after about one hour's conference with him & leaving with him some written general instructions, I started for Drury's Bluff accompanied by 3 regiments of Colquitt's brigade & part of Col. Baker's Regiment of Cavalry. When we arrived at Swift Creek I was informed by one of my aids just returning from Richmond that he had met some of Butler's Federal troops on their way to attack Drury's Bluff. I therefore diverged to Chesterfield C. H., where we arrived about 12 h. P. M., & found it occupied by a small force of Federals which we drove out of the place. We reached D's Bluff about 3 h. A. M., in a terrible rainstorm, passing between Butler's left & the river. I at once sent for Col.s Harris and Stevens of the Eng'rs & after conferring with them about one hour, I sent the latter to the Pres't [Davis], to tell him that, if he w'd that day (the 14th) send me 10,000 men from the troops about Richmond (5,000 under Ransom) & General Lee's army, I w'd attack Butler's 30,000 men (who had been successful in the afternoon of the 13th in taking the outer line of defences) capture or destroy them by 12th on the 15th. I would then move to attack Grant on his left flank & rear, while Lee attacked him in front, & I felt sure of defeating Grant & probably open the way to Washington where we might dictate Peace!  The Pres't being sick & very tired, Col. Stevens could not see him, but delivered my message to General Bragg with my request that the necessary order sh'd be issued at once, but he refused to do it, although mil'y adviser of the Pres't, without the orders of the latter & as he w'd not disturb him (!) he came to confer with me at D's b. where he arrived at about 6 h. A. M. After discussing my plan, which he agreed was the only one which might save Richard & the Conf'cy, he still refused to issue the necessary orders. I then said to him ‘Bragg circumstances have thrown the fate of the Conf'cy in y'r hands & mine, let us play our parts boldly & fearlessly! issue those orders & I'll carry them out to the best of my ability. I'll guarantee success!’ but he w'd not, saying that he w'd return at once to Richard & get the Pres't to issue them—about one hour after the latter arrived, & after a long conference, he refused to issue them, except as to Ransom's command, which came only on the morning of the 15th & the battle of D's b. was fought & won on the 16th—if General Whiting had obeyed my orders, which I sent him by three diff't couriers on the afternoon of the 15th we w'd nevertheless have captured or destroyed Butler's army. Bragg's last dispatch to Whiting could not have been dated before the 14th of May, for he only knew of my intended attack on the morning of that day. Fearful of interference from Richard in General Whiting's movement, I insisted as a part of my order to him, that he w'd obey no orders, from any source not passing through me. Such, General, are my recollections (distinct) of those events—which you will find in the No's. of the ‘Land We Love,’ or Baltimore ‘Southern Magazine’ in which they were published a few years since, numbers of which I sent you at the time. I regret that I have not a copy of Ransom's subterfuge in defence of Bragg or I w'd send it to you with pleasure, but you will probably find it in the back files of the Richard Whig, in which, I think, it was published, shortly after the Battle of Drury's bluff. With my kind regards to your family, & hoping that you may furnish Mr. Marrin with your recollections of that eventful period of our late war, I remain, Sincerely y'r friend Petersburg were also critical & glorious.
G. T. B.