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Rebellion Record: a Diary of American Events: Documents and Narratives, Volume 11. (ed. Frank Moore), Doc. 19. the siege of Suffolk, Virginia. (search)
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
At Whitney's Bridge (river road) the bridge is destroyed, road barricaded, and a breastwork one hundred yards above. Five thousand men at Garrysburg; five hundred men at Edwards' Ferry, guarding the iron-clad battery and ironclad in course of construction. These recent dispositions have resulted from your late raids, and will make it a matter of some difficulty to destroy the iron-clad at Edwards' Ferry. For this enterprise, from eight hundred to one thousand good cavalry will be requisite. My plan would be to land the cavalry six or eight miles above Plymouth, and move by Windsor, on an intermediate road, Roxobel, etc., since this rout has been less used by our troops than the one via Winton. A demonstration from Norfolk via Winton upon Weldon, at the same time, would materially enhance the chances of success. I respectfully submit the above information and suggestions for your consideration. Very respectfully, your obedient servant, John J. Peck, Major-General.
ral Sheridan, joined by the division now under Goneral Davies, will move at the same time by the Weldon road and the Jerusalem plank-road, turning west from the latter before crossing the Nottaway, anrps may be thrown back so as to occupy the position held by the army prior to the capture of the Weldon road. All troops to the left of the Ninth corps will be held in readiness to move at the shorteater. The crossing should probably be at Uniten. Should Colonel Sumner succeed in reaching the Weldon road, he will be instructed to do all the damage possible to the triangle of roads between Hicks' ford, Weldon, and Gaston. The railroad bridge at Weldon being fitted up for the passage of carriages, it might be practicable to destroy any accumulation of supplies the enemy may have collected soWeldon being fitted up for the passage of carriages, it might be practicable to destroy any accumulation of supplies the enemy may have collected south of the Roanoke. All the troops will move with four days rations in haversacks, and eight days in wagons. To avoid as much hauling as possible, and to give the Army of the James the same number o
lry division under command of General Kautz has just reached City Point, after one of the most daring and successful raids during the war. The great railroad from Weldon to Richmond has been repeatedly cut, its bridges burned, and the inpouring of reinforcements to the threatened rebel capital and to beleaguered Petersburg has beee they surrendered. The two bridges at this place were soon in flames, and the track torn up for a considerable distance. The communication between Richmond and Weldon was thus for the first time during the war effectually broken. Three thousand rebel troops had passed through Stony Creek station just previous to our arrival, and five thousand more were on their way from Weldon. Owing to the destruction of telegraphic communication, however, they discovered that something was wrong, and stopped at the bridges below, which they proceeded to fortify. Large quantities of provisions and forage were found at Stony Creek, and all that could not be carried
down the same road, but did not succeed in penetrating so far. He met the rebels in still stronger force, but, obtaining a good position, sent back word that he thought he could hold it. The rest of the battery was sent out, and firing ceased soon after. The wounds of the men hurt the day before were caused by rifle balls; to-day wounds caused by shells were plentiful. General Beauregard was in command of the rebel forces, said to number about twenty thousand, with which he came up from Weldon. Prisoners belonging to South Carolina and Virginia regiments, and to the Washington battery, were captured. Meanwhile, General Brook, commanding First division, Eighteenth corps, with three brigades, marched down the road leading to the Petersburg and Richmond road. He soon encountered the enemy in force and a severe fight ensued, lasting with intervals up to six o'clock P. M. These movements were made to cover a third, which had for its object the cutting of the R. & P. R. R. For this p
then the dashing horsemen will do other damage to the enemy's means of supply as far as they can find opportunity. General Kautz has received a roving commission, and if not too hardly pressed by the rebels, he may penetrate as far south as Weldon, N. C., returning when it suits his convenience. Starting up the Peninsula from Williamsburg, another cavalry force, somewhat smaller, commanded by Colonel West, also set out at daybreak. Their object was to create a diversion in our favor by keops had been thus fighting successfully with the rebels directly in front, General Kautz, with his cavalry, had executed a grand raid round to the south of Petersburg, playing the mischief with the railroads leading from that place to Suffolk and Weldon. Nor did our success stop there. On the morning of Thursday the twelfth, the army, after a rest of twenty-four hours, began another advance in full force ; General Kautz setting forth about the same time on another raid, to break up the railroa
s them, including the army's interruption, it is doubtful whether they will succeed in reconstructing this railroad before the present campaign is decided. The Weldon road, although but a small portion of it is torn up, is equally unavailable, and practically the rebel army under Lee, and the rebel Government are isolated by anat Jarrett's station, but it was ascertained that the road at that point was guarded by a heavy force, made up partly of militia and partly of troops sent up from Weldon, and the design of crossing there was, in consequence, abandoned. The rebel pickets were met at the bridge, and no sooner had our vanguard, comprising a squadr General Lee had sworn that not a single raider should get back. He has evidently made stupendous efforts to make his oath good, for not a single crossing on the Weldon road was left unguarded. The enemy had scouts out for miles to the westward on every road by which our troops could possibly approach, and carried information
ese spoils of war were divided among them on their own motion. headquarters Army of the Potomac, Thursday, June 23--10 P. M. The operations of the last three days have had for their object possession of the railroads south of Petersburg — the Weldon and Raleigh road and the Lynchburg. To accomplish this required an extension of the line far to the left. It was thought possible a surprise might be effected. In that case, planting ourselves on those roads, all would be attained which the ocEighteenth was brought from Butler, and with the Fifth and Ninth holds the old works. Thus three corps were stretched over the ground until then occupied by four. The distance from the left of that line, being Warren's left, to the point on the Weldon road which it was thought might be struck, is five miles or thereabout. The Second corps under Birney, had gained position on Warren's left on Tuesday--so withdrawn, however, as not to attract the attention of the enemy. By yesterday morning th
daybreak of the day appointed all the heads of columns were in motion straight against the enemy, Major-General H. W. Slocum taking the two direct roads for Smithfield; Major-General O. O. Howard making a circuit by the right and feigning up the Weldon road, to disconcert the enemy's cavalry; Generals Terry and Kilpatrick moving on the west side of the Neuse river, and aiming to reach the rear of the enemy between Smithfield and Raleigh. General Schofield followed General Slocum in support. d anxious thus to consume a few days, as it would enable Colonel Wright to finish our railroad to Raleigh. Two bridges had to be built and twelve miles of new road made. We had no iron except by taking up that on the branch from Goldsboroa to Weldon. Instead of losing by time I gained in every way, for every hour of delay possible was required to reconstruct the railroad to our rear and improve the condition of our wagon-roads to the front, so desirable in case the negotiations failed, and