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Fighting that was close by us.

One who was there tells about the battle of Drewry's Bluff—Many errors corrected.

Herewith is an article of Captain John W. Sumpter, of Christiansburg, who is well known in Virginia as a railroad man, and as formerly connected with the Railroad Commissioner's office in Richmond.

The war records, Vol. 36, part 2, contain the reports of the heavy battle of Drewry's Bluff, and show that he is right in his declaration that it was fought on May 16th, 1864. On pages 200-201 of the volume above referred to General Beauregard's circular order of battle for the 16th of May is quoted in his report of the engagement, and on page 205 appears the list of causualties in Ransom's, Hokes', and Colquitt's Divisions. Ransom's Division, commanded by Major General Robert Ransom, was composed of Barton's Brigade, under Col. D. B. Fry; Graves' Brigade, under Brigadier-General Gracie; Kemper's Brigade, under Col. William R. Terry, of the Twenty-fourth Virginia Infantry; Hoke's old Brigade under Lieutenant-Colonel (afterwards Brigadier-General) Lewis, and a battalion of artillery, under Lieutenant-Colonel Lightfoot.

The casualties in all of these commands appear, except in Kemper's Brigade.

On the next day, May 17th, 1864, Kemper's Brigade was transferred to Hoke's Division in exchange. Bushrod Johnson's Brigade, and Kemper's Brigade, under the new arrangement marched through Richmond displaying the colors it had captured the day before. It appears that Brigadier-General Heckman and some four hundred of his men were captured, but not his brigade as a whole. There is no report in the war report from the commander of Kemper's Brigade (Col. W. R. Terry). Its immediate transfer and movement to the north of the James, is the probable cause of this deficiency, and we discover no statement of its casualties. [180]

The battle of May 16th, 1864, at Drewry's Bluff was the culminating and well designed execution of Beauregard's well conceived plan that bottled up Butler the blusterer. The plan was so well made that but for the failure of General Whiting with his division to execute Beauregard's idea, Butler would not only have been bottled as he was, but much more seriously damaged, perhaps destroyed. There seems to be the difference of opinion on this point.

General Beauregard says of General Ransom and his division in the battle of the 16th May:

Ransom moved at 4:45 A. M., being somewhat delayed by a dense fog which lasted several hours after dawn, and occasioned some embarassment. * * * He was soon engaged, carrying at 6 A. M., with some loss, the enemy's line of breastworks in his front, his troops moving splendidly to the assault, and capturing five stand of colors and some 500 prisoners. The brigades most heavily engaged were Gracie's and Kemper's opposed to the enemy's right, the former turning his flank.” (See War Records, Vol. 36, Part 2, p. 201).

Major-General Robert Ransom says in his report:

“The conduct of the troops throughout was unquestionable, but the brigades of General Gracie and Colonel Terry (Kemper's), deserves special notice; also the regiment of Colonel Lewis, ,which he so gallantly led at double-quick against the enemy. It has been impossible to get reports from subordinates, and I wish this meagre outline may answer for immediate requirements.” (Vol. 36, Part 2, War Records, p. 213).

General Ranson adds on a postscript that ‘on taking the breastworks, five stand of colors, one brigadier-general and about 400 prisoners were captured.’

As the official reports of the battle at Drewry's Bluff, of May 16, 1864, do not state what particular part was taken by the brigades of Ransom's Division, other than a few references of the major-general commanding, the differences between Gracie's men and those of Colonel Terry cannot be settled by these reports. [181] Captain Sumpter's account is from a soldier of worthy service, and from a man whose testimony is known by all who knew him to be reliable. There are doubtless officers and men still living who were participants in the action of Kemper's brigate at Drewry's Bluff, and one of them, Colonel Maury, of the twenty-fourth Virginia, is now living in Richmond, where he is well known. A statement from him would be welcomed.

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