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Gen. P. G. T. Beauregard.

His comprehensive and aggressive strategy.

Drewry's Bluff and Petersburg.
An address of Gen Johnson Hagood at the Beauregard Memorial meeting at Charleston, S. C., December 1, 1894.

Following is the admirable address of General Johnson Hagood at the great Beauregard memorial meeting in Charleston, S. C., December I, 1894. It is a graphic story of three engagements, or rather series of engagements, in the defence of Richmond. South Carolinians had a leading place in the picture, as their brigade commander and General Beauregard attest:

The winter of 1863-‘64, with its comparative quiet, had closed, and the Federals and Confederates were concentrating and marshalling their forces for a more vigorous and decisive campaign than had yet marked the history of the war. Virginia and Tennessee were respectively in the East and West, the theatres upon which the opposing banners were unfurled, and it was evident that around these two centres would be collected in hostile array all the strength that either party possessed.

Gilmore, with the bulk of his army, had early in April been transferred from South Carolina to Virginia. Beauregard had been assigned to the department of North Carolina and Southern Virginia —a territorial command which was made to extend from Wilmington to Richmond. Of the infantry under his command at Charleston, Wise's and Walker's Brigades followed him; soon after Hagood's Brigade, and a week later Colquitt's. Hagood's Brigade was concentrated at Wilmington by the 4th of May, whence it was directed to report by letter to General Beauregard's headquarters, at Weldon. On the 5th of May it received orders to proceed by rail to Petersburg.

Some reference to the general strategy of the Virginia campaign is here necessary. Grant, made commander-in-chief of all the armies of the United States a few months before, had made his headquarters with the Army of the Potomac, numbering 140,000 men, and lying behind the Rapidan, sixty miles north of the Confederate [319] capital. It was confronted by the Army of Northern Virginia, under Lee, numbering about 52,000 men of all arms.

The city of Richmond was Grant's objective, and he proposed to move upon it by the direct overland route, while Butler, moving from Fortress Monroe up the James, was to secure a point at its junction with the Appomattox from which to operate on the southern communications of Richmond. There was also to be made from the Valley of Virginia a co-operative move against the western communications of Richmond, while in Tennessee and elsewhere in the West, a heavy and continuous aggressive move was to be taken in order to keep reinforcements from Lee. The movement from Fortress Monroe was, however, the most important and immediately threatening diversion in the programme of the Virginia campaign, and, with something over thirty thousand men and a large naval armament, was entrusted to General B. F. Butler.

On the 4th of May Grant crossed the Rapidan and commenced his overland march. On the same day Butler commenced ascending the James. On the night of the 5th he debarked at Bermuda Hundred, the peninsula made by the confluence of the James and the Appomattox. Richmond and Petersburg are some twenty miles apart, and the point of Butler's debarkation was within three miles of the railroad and of the turnpike parallel to it, which were the direct communications between the two cities.

General Beauregard's troops in the Carolinas, Georgia and Florida were much scattered over his extensive department, pending the development of the enemy's designs. The largest portion were under General Hoke, who had been dispatched upon certain offensive operations in Eastern North Carolina, devised by the authorities at Richmond prior to General Beauregard's assignment to command. Very few troops, other than local militia of an inferior military character, were under General Pickett, commanding at Petersburg. A division of some five thousand troops under General Robert Ransom was at Richmond, beyond the James, but not under General Beauregard's orders. It was to meet and delay Butler's assumed advance upon Petersburg, that Beauregard, still at Weldon, in North Carolina, pushed forward Hagood's brigade, which, from its locality, had railroad transportation, while he got the remainder of his force in hand, and drew reinforcements from points further South. The immediate danger to Richmond, apart from that to which Petersburg was subjected, aroused the apprehensions of the War Department to such an extent that Hagood's brigade was ordered by it to [320] push straight through to Richmond, and not to stop on the way. General Beauregard, by telegraph, insisted upon, and succeeded in having this order revoked. Results showed he had correctly assumed the purpose of General Butler.

How Hagood saved Petersburg.

The leading detachment of Hagood's Brigade, under Colonel Gralam, consisting of his own regiment (21st South Carolina), and a part of the 25th South Carolina, under Major Glover, in all some 600 men arriving at Petersburg, was sent forward towards General Butler by General Pickett, and at Walthall Junction, on the evening of the 6th of May, encountered and repelled the brigade of Heckman, supported by artillery, which had been sent by Butler against the railroad at that point. Graham's loss was two killed and thirty-one wounded; the Federal loss, nine killed and sixty-one wounded.

During the night General Hagood reached Graham with the 29th regiment and the remainder of the 21st regiment; at daylight Colonel Gaillard with the 27th regiment of the brigade, arrived, raising his command to 1,500 men. General Bushrod Johnson, at Drewry's Bluff, a few miles beyond, hearing Graham's firing, had marched to his aid also, and arrived during the night, with his brigade of J,168 Tennesseans.

On the morning of the 7th General Butler sent forward against the Confederate advance at Walthall a division under General Brooks, of five brigades, with the usual proportion of artillery, and supported by cavalry. The action that ensued was open-field fighting and severely contested. Hagood's command of 1,500 men lost: 22 killed; 132 wounded, and 13 missing; Bushrod Johnson's loss was slight—7 men wounded from shell fire. Before dark the enemy withdrew to their now fortified base at Bermuda Hundred, and the Confederates slept upon the field. Of the affair at Walthall General Beauregard subsequently was pleased to say:

Succeeding in having the order for General Hagood to be pushed on to Richmond without an instant's delay rescinded, he was thus enabled to baffle General Butler's forces on May 6th and 7th, in their assault upon the Richmond railroad above Petersburg. General Bushrod Johnson, who had hurried from Drewry's Bluff to take part in this action, was of material assistance, although, from the point he occupied with his troops, his services were less conspicuous.

Petersburg would inevitably have fallen into the hands of the [321] enemy had not General Hagood been halted there at that most opportune hour. * * * He and his command were justly looked upon as the saviors of Petersburg upon that occasion.

But the crisis had not yet passed. It was for three days yet in the power of General Butler, by a determined advance, to brush the handful of Confederates from his path and march into Petersburg. His strength and position were now, however, fully developed by the Confederates, and before day on the morning of the 8th, General Pickett, at Petersburg, ordered the force at Walthall Junction to withdraw into the Northern lines, on the south side of Swift Creek, nearer to the city.

An advance party of Hagood's Brigade held the field at Walthall until the morning of the 9th, when Butler again advanced, but now with his whole army. By midday he had it in position before the Swift Creek line. These were ordinary breastworks, and were now held by the brigades of Bushrod Johnson some 1,100 strong, Hagood, reinforced by the arrival of his remaining regiments, to 2,400 officers and men, and Colonel McCanthen's 51st North Carolina Regiment, unattached, probably less than 500 strong, making in all something like 4,000 infantry. There were eighteen pieces of field artillery, being the batteries of Owens, Payne, Hancken and Marten. Twenty-two men of Johnson's Brigade were detailed to work, under Captain Marten, the heavy guns of Fort Clifton, situated near the debouchment of Swift creek into the Appomattox, and controlling the navigation of that river.

Butler's two blunders.

Upon the deployment of Butler's army in front of the Swift Creek line, a rapid artillery engagement ensued, together with severe infantry skirmishing, the latter continuing well into the night. Coincident with his advance, five gunboats attacked Fort Clifton, and after three hours fighting, retired, with the loss of one of their number. With this ended the opportunity at this time of taking Petersburg by a coup de main. The next day Beauregard had arrived with sufficient troops from the southward to make it safe from assault.

On the 10th all was quiet along the Swift Creek front, but General Ransom, with Barton's and Gracie's brigades, and perhaps some other troops from the Richmond garrison, assailed Butler's rear, near Chester Station, with some, but not decisive, success. It is [322] said that Butler had intended to cross Swift Creek on the 10th, and make a determined effort at the capture of Petersburg, but deceived by tidings from Washington, received on the night of the 9th, that Lee was in full retreat before Grant, he determined to turn north and assist in the capture of Richmond. Instead, however, of pressing at once upon the latter place, with its meagre garrison, on the evening of the 10th, he withdrew aside into his entrenchments at Bermuda Hundred, leaving the road open for the transfer by the shortest route of the bulk of the troops now at Petersburg into the southern defences of the Confederate capital at Drewry's Bluff, and did not move upon the latter place until two days later, Beauregard, himself remaining at Petersburg for the further organization of his assembling force, promptly availed himself of the opportunity, and sent forward along the open pike a column under General Hoke, of six brigades of infantry, with eight batteries of artillery, in the afternoon of the 11th, which arrived and took position at Drewry's Bluff on the morning of the 12th. Soon after this force was in position at Drewry's, on the 12th, the enemy appeared, skirmishing commenced, and was maintained, with more or less vigor, during that day and the next. Towards evening of the 13th, some advantage was obtained by the Federals on our right, and Hoke withdrew before day on the 14th to our second, or interior line of defence.

Drewry's Bluff an entrenched Camp.

The lines of Drewry's Bluff were in the nature of an entrenched camp. Starting at the bluff, they ran first south and then westwardly, crossing the pike and reaching the Petersburg and Richmond railroad, then bending back they returned to the river James, about a mile and a half north of the bluff. From Fort Stephens—a bastioned work on the lines east of the pike—another line of slighter profile branched off in a curve still more to the southwest, forming an advanced line, with its left running into Fort Stephens, and its right resting ‘in air’ near the railroad. It was this last line that Hoke abandoned on the night of May 13th and 14th.

At 3 o'clock in the morning of the 14th General Beauregard arrived at Drewry's by a circuitous route from Petersburg, bringing with him two regiments—about 1,200 men—of Colquitt's Brigade, and Baker's Regiment of Cavalry. Before assuming command or seeing General Hoke, who expecting another attack from Butler, was then engaged along his lines, he met and held a conference with [323] Colonels Harris and Stephens, of the engineers. They acquainted him with the exact state of affairs in our front, and also gave him a succinct account of the last engagements up to the 12th, between Grant and Lee, with the then position of those armies. Instantly devising a scheme for the co-operative action of his own and General Lee's army, Beauregard dispatched Colonel Stephens to Richmond for the purpose of submitting it to Mr. Davis and asking his permission to carry it out. Mr. Davis could not be seen, but General Bragg, then occupying the position of Chief of Staff, came immediately to Drewry's for conference upon the subject, and gave the scheme his unreserved approval, while stating that he could not command its execution without first consulting the President.

Davis Disapproves Beauregard's scheme.

Mr. Davis arrived in person at Drewry's between 8 and 9 o'clock that morning, and giving grave attention to the proposition, disapproved it. Observing that General Lee, now at Guinea Station, above Richmond, and himself, at Drewry's, below, occupied the interior line, Beauregard's plan was that General Lee should fall back upon the defence of the Capital; that 10,000 of his men should in the meantime be swiftly transferred to Drewry's, together with the 5,000 now at Richmond under Ransom; that upon the arrival of this reinforcement, raising his command to 25,000 effectives. Beauregard should at daybreak on the 15th, attack Butler on his right flank, so as to cut him off from his base at Bermuda Hundred; while General Whiting with some 4,000 men moving simultaneously from Walthall Junction, should strike Butler's right rear, and pressing him back upon the James, force a surrender. Beauregard should then, by a concerted movement, throw his victorious force across the river, and strike Grant upon his left flank, while General Lee should attack him in front. The feasibility of these movements seem to have been conceded. The moral effect upon the people of an apparent retreat by Lee, and the impairment of the prestige of his heroic troops, were considerations urged against the manoeuvre. Beauregard claimed that it was better for the army to take a voluntary temporary step rearward, in order to foil the design of its adversary, as proposed, than to passively maintain the strategic defensive, and follow the movements of the enemy without making any possible headway against him.

It is generally useless to speculate upon the ‘might have been,’ [324] but this suggestion of Beauregard's is noteworthy. It brings forward in strong relief the bent of his military genius—a consummate master of the engineer's defensive art, in strategy his views were comprehensive and essentially aggressive.

What might have been.

Again, it was a campaign similarly devised that had signally defeated McClellan before Richmond two years before. The Confederates had fallen back to the immediate defences of the city, over a greater distance without an effort at decisive resistance, and then assumed a determined offensive, aided by Jackson's wide-swinging flank movement. Jackson, to disengage himself from the enemy in his front, had harder fighting to do than Beauregard, with the reinforcements asked for, would have needed to dispose of Butler; and then had to encounter more of the contingencies which in military affairs attend time and distance, before he could place himself in position for the supreme co-operative effort. With Grant along the Chickahominy, but a few hours were needed for Beauregard, moving from Drewry's to be in actual conflict upon his flank. More than twenty years aftewards a distinguished military critic, General Wolseley, of the British army, in a study of the Virginia campaign of 1864, said of Beauregard's proposal: ‘As far as one can judge, it was then the scheme most likely to give a brilliant result. * * If vigorously carried out, there does not seem any reason to doubt that it would have been big with great results for the Confederacy.’ But the President, commander in chief of all the armies on the spot and in person, had decided. It was the prerogative and responsibility of his high office.

Beauregard promptly addressed himself to the work before him with the means assigned. Ransom's Division from Richmond reached him on the evening of the 15th and at daylight on the 16th the battle was delivered.

Battle of Drewrys Bluff.

The trend of the river from the fort at the bluff, where the left of our lines rested, was for half a mile or more nearly due eastward and then southeast. Kingland creek, coming from the west, passed the fort at the bluff, probably six hundred yards to the South, and continuing its eastern course reached the river after the southward bend of the latter had been made. [325]

Our lines were drawn directly south from the bluff to the southern bank of Kingland creek, where Fort Stephens was placed. At this point, now nearly a mile from the river, they turned westward, as previously stated, 'till the railroad was reached; then bending back, finally again rested upon the river above the bluff. The direction of the river road, the turnpike and the railroad was north and south, and in proximity to the river came as named. Proctor's creek crossed these avenues about three-fourths of a mile south of the Confederate lines. Hoke's Division, which at first constituted Beauregard's whole army, it will be remembered, occupied the southern front of our entrenched camp, from Fort Stephens westward. Directly in his front, at a distance of some four hundred yards, was the William Gregory woods, between which and the river eastward was an open plain.

Butler's efforts had been diverted to turning our right flank. His line was now unduly extended, its right resting in the eastern edge of William Gregory's woods, and overlapping Hoke's left but little. From thence to the river the open space was watched by a small force of negro cavalry. Upon the night of Ransom's arrival he was placed along Kingland Creek, outside of our entrenchments, and confronting this unguarded space on Butler's right.

Ransom and Whiting to blame.

Beauregard's plan of battle was the same as indicated in his proposition to the President on the 14th. He had now, however, to execute it against Butler's 30,000 with 19,000, including Whiting's co-operative force, instead of 29,000 effectives asked, but the plan was well devised and such was the disposition of the Federal army, its substantial destruction would in all probability have followed, had not two of the Confederate division commanders failed in the parts assigned them.

Our army was organized into three divisions, right and left under Hoke and Ransom, and reserve under Brigadier-General Colquitt, while a co-operative column of 4,000 men, under Major-General Whiting, was got into position upon Butler's rear. Ransom was instructed to turn Butler's weak right and double it back upon the centre, at the same time seizing the crossing of Proctor's creek by the river road, which was Butler's shortest line of retreat. Whiting was ordered on hearing the opening of the engagement to advance boldly and rapidly, and attack the enemy in rear and flank. Hoke [326] was to advance with skirmishers as soon as Ransom was fairly engaged, and afterwards in force, and occupy the enemy, to prevent his reinforcing his right, without, however, prematurely seeking to force him back before Ransom could completely outflank him, and Whiting close up in his rear. These instructions, carefully and explicitly prepared, were reduced to writing, and impressed upon subordinates. The shortcomings of Generals Ransom and Whiting in their execution are noted in General Beauregard's official report. The first failed to carry out his instructions with vigor, and made strangely inaccurate reports of the condition of things in his part of the field. General Whiting did not move at all, notwithstanding his previous instructions and reiterated and imperative orders sent him during the action. Thus the conceptions and provisions of genius failed of fruition, and Butler, out-manoeuvred and environed by his adversary, instead of being forced to surrender, was merely pushed back upon his fortified base at Bermuda Hundred. After the war, the Federal General Ames told General Hagood that during the evening and night of the 18th, when Butler's routed and disorganized column was defiling within a mile of Whiting's 4,000 men of all arms, but a thin skirmish line intervened between them and destruction.

Beauregard's story of the battle.

The details of the battle are given in the words of General Beauregard, in the North American Review, March, 1887:

Ransom moved at 4:45 A. M., being somewhat delayed by a dense fog, which lasted several hours after dawn. This division consisted of the following brigades, in the order mentioned, commencing from the left: Gracie's; Kemper's, commanded by Colonel Terry; Bartow's, under Colonel Fry, and Hoke's old brigade, under Colonel Lewis. Ransom was soon engaged, carrying the enemy's works in his front at 6 A. M., with some loss. His troops moved splendidly to the assault, capturing five stands of colors and some five hundred prisoners.

The brigades most heavily engaged were Gracie's and Kemper's, opposed to the enemy's right, the former turning his flank. General Ransom then halted to reform, reported his loss heavy and troops scattered by the fog; his ammunition short, and asked for a brigade from the reserve. Colquitt's brigade (two regiments) was sent him at 6:30 A. M., with orders to return when it ceased to be indispensable. Before either ammunition or the reserve brigade [327] had arrived, he reported the enemy driving Hoke's left, and sent the right regiment of Lewis' brigade at double quick towards the supposed point of danger. This held the enemy long enough for the reserve brigade to arrive, charge and drive him back from the front of our left centre, where the affair occurred, over and along the works to the turnpike. It will be seen from a subsequent part of this report that one of Hagood's advanced regiments had unexpectedly come into contact with the enemy and been ordered back, it not being contemplated to press at this point until Ransom should swing round his left, as directed in the battle order. This possibly originated Ransom's impression as to the condition of Hoke's left, which, in fact, had steadily maintained its proper position.

At 7:15 A. M., Colquitt's brigade of the reserve was recalled from Ransom, and a slight modification of the original movement was made, to relieve Hoke, in whose front the enemy had been allowed, by the inaction of the left, to mass his forces. Ransom was ordered to flank the enemy's right by changing the front of his own right brigade, to support it by another en echelon, to advance another to Proctor's Creek, and to hold a fourth in reserve. Upon receiving this order, he reported a necessity to re-form and straighten his lines in the old position near the breastworks he had stormed. Here his infantry rested during the greater part of the day. Dunovant's cavalry, of his command, dismounted, and were thrown forward as skirmishers towards a small force which occupied a ridge in the edge of George Gregory's woods, near Proctor's Creek. This force, with an insignificant body of negro cavalry, and a report of threatening gunboats, were the only menace to our left, as since ascertained.

At 10 A. M. I withheld an order for Ransom to move until further arrangements could be made, for the following reasons: The right was heavily engaged; all the reserve had been detached right and left at different times; a dispatch .had been sent to Whiting at 9 A. M., which was repeated at 9:30, to press on and press over everything in his front and the day would be complete; and Ransom had not only reported a strong force in his front, but had expressed the opinion that the safety of his command would be compromised by an advance. On the right Hoke early advanced his skirmishers.

The fog temporarily delayed the advance of his line of battle. He was soon hotly engaged. Hagood and Bushrod Johnson were thrown forward, with a section of Eschelman's Artillery (Washington), and found a heavy force of the enemy, with six or eight pieces [328] of artillery, occupying our outer line of works across the turnpike, with his own defensive lines beyond. Our artillery engaged at short range, disabling some of the enemy's guns and blowing up two limbers. Another section of the same battery opened from the right of the turnpike. They both held their position, though with heavy loss, until their ammunition was spent when they were relieved by an equal number of pieces from the reserve under Major Owens. Hagood, with great vigor and dash, drove the enemy from the outer line in his front, capturing a number of prisoners, and in conjunction with Johnson's five pieces of artillery, three twenty-pounder Parrots and two fine Napoleons.

Hagood's Brigade's splendid work.

It was afterwards claimed, and General Hoke confirmed the claim, that Hagood's Brigade alone, with the assistance of no other command, captured these five pieces of artillery, the only ones taken by our troops from the enemy on that day.

He then took position in these works, his left regiment being thrown forward to connect with Ransom, in advancing this regiment encountered the enemy behind their second line in the woods, with abbattis interlaced with wire. Attack at this point not being contemplated, it was ordered back to the line of battle, but not before its rapid advance had caused it considerable loss. This circumstance has been referred to before, as the occasion of a mistake made by Ransom.

Bushrod Johnson's heavy loss.

Bushrod Johnson had meanwhile been heavily engaged. The line of the enemy bent around his right flank, subjecting his brigade for a time to a fire in flank and in front. With admirable firmness he repelled frequent assaults of the enemy, moving against his right and rear. Leader, officers and men alike displayed their fitness for the trial to which they were subjected. * * * The brigade, nobly holding its ground, lost more than one-fourth of its entire number. I now ordered Hoke to press forward his right for the relief of his right centre. He advanced Clingman and Corse. They drove the enemy with spirit, suffering some loss. * * * But afterwards withdrew, not quite as far back as their original position. The enemy did not occupy the ground from which they had driven them before their retreat. [329]

In front of Hagood and Bushrod Johnson the fighting was stubborn and prolonged. The enemy slowly retired from Johnson's right, and took a strong position on the ridge in front of Proctor's creek, massing near the turnpike, and occupying advantageous ground at the house and grove of Charles Friend. At last Johnson, having brushed the enemy from his right flank in the woods, with some assistance from the Washington Artillery, and cleared his front, rested his troops in the shelter of the exterior works. One of the captured pieces having opened on the enemy's masses, he finally fell back behind the woods and ridge at Proctor's creek, though his skirmish line continued the engagement some hours longer.

Further movement was here suspended to wait communications from Whiting or the sound of his approach, and to reorganize the troops, which had become more or less disorganized. * * * At 4 P. M. all hope of Whiting's approach was gone, and I reluctantly abandoned so much of my plan as contemplated more than a vigorous pursuit of Butler, and driving him back to his fortified base. * * * The more glorious results anticipated were lost by the hesitation of the left wing, and the premature halt of the Walthall column before obstacles in neither case sufficient to have deterred from the execution of the movements prescribed.

Ransom now assisted Hagood.

An incident mentioned in the foregoing report requires comment. It is stated that information from Ransom's division was received that about 7 A. M., after some preliminary effort by the right regiment of Lewis' brigade, the reserve brigade arrived, charged the enemy, and drove him back from in front of Hoke's left, over and along the works to the turnpike. This movement at the time stated and in its consequence is simply a myth. The writer avers most distinctly that no part of Ransom's division ever came to the assistance of Hagood's brigade in the assault it made, or afterward. Late in the afternoon, when the enemy had retired upon Proctor's Creek, that division moved along the line of the enemy's abandoned works in Hagood's front to and beyond the turnpike. One of Hagood's regiments was thrown out to make the right in this march. General Hoke, who was in person upon his line of battle during the whole day, says officially:

* * * I cannot refrain from calling the attention of the commanding general to the fact that his desire to relieve my command of the necessity of a front attack by the flank [330] movement of Ransom's division was on no portion of my line accomplished.

And again:
In the meanwhile, the enemy made two charges upon Hagood and Johnson, but were repulsed, and with the assistance of the artillery the pike was cleared of the enemy before the flanking column reached that point.

Some 1,400 prisoners and five pieces of artillery were taken by the Confederates. The total Federal loss is stated by Swinton at 4,000. The Confederates' killed, wounded and missing was about 2,800.

Bermuda Hundred.

During the evening and night of the 16th Butler retreated upon Bermuda Hundred. On the 17th Ransom's Division was recalled to Richmond, and Beauregard, with the remainder of his troops, moved in pursuit, Whiting's force joining him upon the march. About 3 P. M. our advance encountered Butler's pickets, in front of his entrenched position. The column was at once deployed, skirmishers thrown forward and engaged. The position at Howlett's house was seized after dark; the two twenty-pound Parrott's captured at Drewry's Bluff were put in position, and manned by infantry from Hagood's brigade. The James, running southerly from Richmond, encounters at Dutch Gap a considerable ridge, which it passes by a detour of perhaps a mile and a half to the west, and returning, after making almost a complete loop, resumes its general course. Howlett's house was on the western bank of the river, at the bend of the loop, and situated upon a high bluff. Some three hundred yards below it the river narrowed greatly, affording a good place for obstructions under the guns of a battery, and immediately spread out into a wide reach, as it progressed again towards Dutch Gap. In this reach were congregated a number of gunboats and transports, upon which the two Parrotts opened in the morning, driving them beyond range.

This position in the re-arrangement of the defences of Richmond that ensued during the campaign, became its ‘water gate,’ a description applied by Beauregard to Drewry's Bluff in the original plans of fortification. It was afterward made very strong, and the desire to get up the river with their gunboats without encountering its guns and obstructions, inspired Butler's famous canal across the ridge at Dutch Gap. The battery was named by General Beauregard in honor of Colonel Dantzler, of South Carolina, who was killed a few days afterward in fighting near this point. [331]

Beauregard's attention was now given to establishing the shortest practicable line across the neck and entrenching it, so as to hold with the fewest number of troops General Butler in the cul de sac to which he had retreated. His purpose was accomplished in the next few days in a series of actions rising almost to the severity of battles. After each he advanced and straightened his lines, until commencing at Howlett's, on the James, they ran in a line more or less direct to Ashton Creek, near its junction with the Appomattox.

Butler, says Swinton, was now in a position ‘where if he was secure against attack, he was also powerless for offensive operation against Richmond-being, as he himself said at the time, “bottled up and hermetically sealed.” ’ And General Badeau in his military history of U. S. Grant says ‘an end had absolutely been put to Butler's campaign.’

The recital of events preceding the battle of Drewry's Bluff, as well as the description of that successful onslaught by 15,000 hastily assembled men (excluding Whiting's 4,000, which never reached the field, or was near enough to exercise even a moral influence), upon an army in position of full twice its numbers shows how much was due to the foresight, the skill and the devotion of the Confederate commander. It is a brilliant page in military history.

The battle of Petersburg.

Let us turn now to another—to that which records later the three days fighting before Petersburg.

While Butler's co-operative move was being foiled, Grant was urging his sanguinary way from the northward to the vicinity of Richmond. He was now approaching the Chickahominy, upon the banks of which the fate of the Confederate capital was once more to be submitted to the issue of direct assault. To reinforce Lee, Beauregard was depleted until he had, including ‘the old men and boys’ of Petersburg, but 5,400 troops with which to hold Butler off of the Southern communications of Richmond and to protect Petersburg itself.

Butler's force had also been depleted by drafts from Grant, but he still retained over ten thousand men. He was but seven miles from Petersburg, and while his forward advance was obstructed, it was open to him by a flank movement across the Appomattox, where his passage could not be opposed, to throw his force swiftly upon the almost undefended eastern lines of that place. Beauregard had been [332] invited by Lee to accompany the bulk of his forces, and take command of the right wing of Lee's army, but he unselfishly preferred to remain with the handful of troops left him at what his military instinct pronounced the tactical point of danger to the defence of Richmond. At any time in the campaign of 1864, as afterward in 1865, the abandonment of the Capital would have promptly followed upon the fall of Petersburg.

Grant essayed the last desperate effort of his overland campaign in the murderous assault at Cold Harbor. Sore at his repulse, he lingered upon the northern front of Richmond for ten days, and then, in determining to transfer the operations of his army to the south side of the James, assumed the line upon which Butler's cooperative effort had been directed. Until he had crossed the James, it was open to the Federal general to turn again directly upon Richmond, in continuance of the idea which had dominated his advance from the Rapidan. Lee followed upon his right flank, interposing against such a purpose, but with the coup d'oel which was his own, had on the 14th placed Hoke's division near Drewry's Bluff on the eastern side of the river where it was in a position to go to Beauregard or to act as a reserve in his own operations. Beauregard, while Grant was still at Cold Harbor, had, in communication with the War Department on the 7th and again on the 9th, forecasted Grant's strategy to be the move against which General Lee was now guarding (or preferably operations on the south side). He had called attention to the defenceless condition of Petersburg and urgently asked for the return of his troops which had been detached to Lee. Grant's movement from Cold Harbor was executed with skill and despatch, and his real purpose was not immediately divined by his adversary. The movement was commenced on the night of the 12th. By noon on the 15th General Smith, with his corps, was before Petersburg. At 1:15 P. M. on the 16th General Lee asked in a telegram of Beauregard: ‘Have you heard of Grant's crossing the James river?’ and on the following day, the 17th, at 4:30 P. M., again telegraphed General Beauregard: ‘Have no information of Grant's crossing James river, but upon your report have ordered troops up to Chaffin's Bluff.’

It was thus the fortune of war for Beauregard once more to stand in the breach before Petersburg and save her for the time. It was the three days fighting that ensued from the 15th to the 18th instant, covering the attempt to carry the place by storm, and preceding the [333] regular siege, which was called the battle of Petersburg, and it is of this that it is proposed to speak.

In response to Beauregard's urgent calls, Hoke's division was ordered to him on the 15th, and marched 12 M. Gracie's Brigade was dispatched later. These were his own troops which had been sent to Lee. At Chester Station, Hoke found partial transportation by rail, and sent forward first Hagood's Brigade, then Colquitt's, while the remainder of his division continued the forced march along the pike.

When Smith, with his corps, 22,000 strong, had arrived before Petersburg at noon that day, the three miles of entrenchments threatened, were held by Wise's Brigade, some detached infantry, the local militia and Dearing's Cavalry—in all about 2,200 effectives of all arms. After consuming the afternoon in reconnaissance and preparation, Smith, at 7 P. M., assailed with a cloud of skirmishers, and carried the lines in his front. Just after this success, Hancock's Corps arrived, doubling the Federal force present; but the enemy, instead of pressing on and seizing the town, which now lay at his mercy, determined to await the morning before making his advance. Hagood's Brigade reached Petersburg at dark, and while the men were being gotten off the cars and formed in the street, its commander reported for orders at Beauregard's headquarters. Beauregard was on the lines and Colonel Harris, of his staff, was instructing Hagood where to take position, when a courier arrived, announcing that the enemy had carried our works from Battery 3 to 7, inclusive, and that our troops were in retreat. Hagood was then hastily directed to move out upon the City Point road, uncovered by this success, to check the enemy's advance, and to take a position upon which a new defensive line might be established.

It was a critical moment. The routed troops were pouring into the town, spreading alarm on every side, and there was no organized body of troops available at the time to check the advance which the enemy was even then supposed to be making, except this brigade and Tabb's Regiment of Wise's Brigade, which still held the left of our line. It would be daylight before Hoke's Division could all get up, and the main body of Lee's army was miles away. In this emergency Beauregard determined upon the bold expedient of imperilling his communication with Lee by the withdrawal of the troops along the Bermuda Hundred lines and their transfer to the south side of the Appomattox. Finding these lines abandoned, Butler next day took possession, and even attempted a further advance, [334] but with the arrival of the main body of Lee's army, he was without much trouble, remanded to his original limits. It was after dark when Hagood received his orders, and being unacquainted with the localities, as well as unable to learn much from the confused and contradictory accounts of the volunteer guides who accompanied him when the fork of the City Point and Prince George roads, just beyond the New Market race-course, was reached, he halted his column, and leaving it under Colonel Simonton, rode forward accompanied by two of his staff, to make a personal reconnoissance. He encountered the enemy's pickets on the latter road at the ford where it crosses Harrison's Creek, inside of the original line of defences. The reconnoitering party had nearly ridden in it when they were warned by a wounded Confederate on the roadside. Turning across the field toward the City Point road, Hagood was opportunely met by a courier with a map from Colonel Harris, who had also the foresight to send a bit of tallow candle and matches. With the aid of this, and in conjunction with General Colquitt, who had come up ahead of his brigade, General Hagood determined upon the line of the creek he was then on, and put his men in position. Harrison Creek, running northward, emptied into the Appomattox in rear of Battery 1, and its west fork across the Southern lines, at Battery 15. The creek was, therefore, the chord of the arc of our captured and abandoned works, and the line taken for the most part had very good command over the cleared and cultivated valley in its front. Tabb, holding Batteries 1 and 2, was relieved, and by the time Hagood was well in position, with his left on the river, Colquitt's Brigade coming up, prolonged the line. The remaining brigades of Hoke arrived during the night, and Johnson's Division, from Bermuda Hundred, at 10 A. M. next day. The Confederates now numbered 10,000 men behind their hastily entrenched line, and Burnside's corps coming up at noon on the 16th, raised the Federal forces to 66,000.

The morning of the 16th was spent in skirmishing and artillery fire. In the afternoon General Hancock, now in command, assailed with all his force. The contest was kept up into the night, and some advantage was obtained over our right.

Ninety thousand against ten thousand.

Warren's corps had now come up raising the attacking army to four corps, numbering at least 90,000 men, and no reinforcements [335] for Beauregard. The battle reopened on the 17th at noon. Three times were the Federals repulsed, but as often resumed the offensive. About dusk a portion of the Confederate lines was wholly broken, and irreparable disaster impended. Gracie's Brigade fortunately arriving from Chaffin's Bluff at this moment, was thrown into the gap, and restored the fight. The conflict raged until 11 o'clock at night. In the meanwhile Beauregard had determined to take a shorter and more compact line of defence than than the one now occupied. It was some 800 yards nearer the city, and, like the first taken was also a chord of the arc of the original eastern fortifications, still more of which was now abandoned. It was this last line which was held during the siege that ensued. Accordingly, after midnight the Confederate General executed the delicate operation of withdrawing from the close proximity of the overwhelming force in his front; and by daylight on the 18th was in his new position.

The line had been partially prepared for occupation. In some portions a slight trench had been constructed; in others the line was merely staked out by the engineers. Shortly after daylight on the 18th the enemy advanced upon our old works, and finding them abandoned came on with vociferous cheers. As soon as their skirmishers encountered ours in their new position, the line of battle halted and heavy skirmishing commenced. This continued until about 3 P. M., the skirmishers alternately driving each other. Kershaw's Division, the first of General Lee's army that arrived at Petersburg, reached Beauregard early in the morning of the 18th. Field's Division followed two hours afterward. They were placed on the right. Beauregard had now 20,000 men against 93,000. About 3 P. M. a general and final assault was given. It was urged with the same pertinacity and resisted with the same determination as those that preceded. Before dark it ended in complete repulse, and in the language of the Federal historian, ‘in another mournful loss of life.’ The same authority places Grant's losses in these three days of battle at 15,000 men—a number half as large again as Beauregard's entire force until the arrival of Kershaw at the close.

Beauregard urges fight.

General Lee reached Petersburg during the 18th, followed on the 19th by the two corps which constituted his army. Upon his arrival General Beauregard no longer in chief command took him to an eminence within our lines, which commanded a view of the field, and [336] proposed that upon the arrival of these corps an attack of all the Confederate forces upon General Grant's left flank and rear should be made. Weighing the revived spirit of our united and reinforced troops against the undoubted depression of the Federals, he deemed the chances of victory with us. General Lee refused assent, on the grounds that his troops needed rest and that the defensive having been thus far so advantageous to him north of the James and to Beauregard at Petersburg, it was wiser to continue the same mode of warfare.

But Grant's sledge-hammer tactics were expended. He gave no more straightforward blows. Afterwards the attention of his numbers and superior resources was directed along the line of siege operations in front, with such turning movements in the field as were necessary to the investment of the place and cutting its communications. It was before this method of attack that near a twelvemonth afterward Petersburg fell. I have told the story of Drewry's Bluff and Petersburg without comment. The narrative itself is an immortelle, and I reverently lay it on the tomb of Beauregard the soldier.

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