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The battle on the Weldon railroad

[from our Own Correspondent.]
Petersburg, Virginia, August 26, 1864.
The heavy firing which was heard down the line of the Weldon railroad yesterday evening is at length explained, and very satisfactorily to the Confederate arms. By direction of the Commanding General, Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill started, from camp, near this place, on Wednesday evening, upon a grand flank movement, according to the opinions of the unofficial wiseacres in and out of camp. This, however, was true only partially. General Hill had no purpose to attack the enemy who are holding the road in our front just out of town. His object was to engage the force of the enemy which it was well ascertained were engaged in tearing up the track of the Weldon railroad between the point of their occupation just below the city and Reams's station, which is some ten or twelve miles below the city. The forces engaged in this expedition began their move about three o'clock P. M., going by the way of the Boydton plankroad some three and a half miles; then deflecting to the left at Harmon's house, they passed on the Armstrong's mills, eight miles below the city, where they encamped for the night. Early next morning the troops were again in motion, and advance as far as Monk's Neck bridge, three miles from Reams's station, and parallel to it. Here the column halted until one o'clock, awaiting the result of the cavalry reconnaissance which General Hampton was then making in order to determine the strength and position of the enemy.

About 11 o'clock, the cavalry under General Hampton engaged the enemy's cavalry and infantry about four miles below Reams's station, and steadily pressed them back, on a road parallel with the railroad, to Malone's station. As soon as Lieutenant-General A. P. Hill learned that our cavalry had pressed the enemy back to Malone's station he ordered General Hampton to connect his cavalry with the left of our infantry and to prepare for an assault of the enemy's works on the western side of the railroad, in front of Reams's station. About 2 o'clock, all arrangements being completed, Lieutenant-General Hill ordered the line forward, and the command was promptly obeyed. The line thus formed, and in motion, was preceded by two squadrons of the Seventh Virginia cavalry, under Lieutenant-Colonel Marshall, of Fauquier. This little body drove the enemy's pickets back, in gallant style, into their rifle-pits, in sight of the enemy's main line of battle. In this affair Colonel Marshall was slightly wounded. Having arrived in front of the enemy's line of works, General Hill determined to assault them at once, and, accordingly, ordered Major-General Wilcox to take two brigades and assault the enemy's works. Scales's (North Carolina) and Anderson's (Georgia) brigades were selected for the work in hand. The dispositions being made, the order to advance was given, and the troops moved forward in good style, driving in with ease, and with great enthusiasm, the enemy's skirmishers and sharpshooters. At the moment they began their advance the enemy opened with artillery and musketry most rapidly. The result, briefly told, was that our column was repulsed.

General Hill was determined, however, not to give up the struggle without another effort to dislodge the enemy. Accordingly, General Heth was ordered forward with Cook's and McCras's North Carolina brigades, (the latter Pettigrew's old brigade,) and Lane's North Carolina brigade, (Wilcox's division,) commanded by Conner, of South Carolina, was ordered to unite in the charge. McGowan's brigade was on the extreme right engaging the enemy's pickets and sharpshooters. The second charge was made somewhat to the right of the point where the first was engaged, but still very near it. The second assaulting column was formed — Lane on the left, Cook in the centre, and McCrue on the right.--Again, about 8 P. M., everything being arranged, and our officers having gone repeatedly up and down the lines and encouraged the men, telling them what they had to do and what obstacles they would meet, the order was given, and the men bounded forward with a yell that made the welkin fairly ring again, and plainly told, in advance, of a determina- tion to achieve success which could scarcely fail of grand results. And now the enemy, having massed their artillery, pour forth a deadly, taking fire of shot, shell, grape, shrapnel and canister; but our brave men need it not and press onward, determined to win a victory or fall in the effort. The abattis and undergrowth in front of the enemy's works had to be parted and for entrance made in the face of a deadly musketry as well as artillery fire, but our braves, heedless of all danger, and resolved on those works, push aside the brush and destroy the abattis and reach the works in small squads and not in line. Here a vigorous hand-to-hand fight ensued over the works, with pistols, bayonets and the but-end of the muskets, until a sufficiency of our force had gotten up to form the line of battle anew; then, springing over the enemy's works, they swept rapidly down them, capturing and driving before them all of the enemy's force engaged in the fight is a point some distance southeast of Reams's station, and, in order to encourage their hasty retreat and to increase their speed, whilst so laudably engaged, our infantry boys manned the artillery which we captured and poured into the retreating foe a raking fire. And here, at Reams's station, just as daylight was fast passing away, the fight ended with the following results: The enemy driven from a mile and a half, at least, of their lines, and their breastworks (constructed doubtless for permanent occupation) wrested from them, with a loss of, at this writing, nineteen hundred prisoners, representing all four divisions of Hancock's crack corps, including quite a sprinkling of heavy artillerists. Among their prisoners, seventy-five commissioned officers, not the least of which is Lieutenant-Colonel. Walker, assistant adjutant-general to Major-General Hancock, commanding the Second corps; nine splendid pieces of artillery--five of them being elegant brass Napoleon's and the other four, fine three-inch rifle guns; eight stand of colors upwards of a thousand small arms, and some twenty horses. Many of the artillery horses were killed or disabled by our sharp-shooters. By the way, to do justice even to an enemy, let me say that I have it from all accounts that their artillerists acted with great gallantry, and fought hand- to-hand using muskets.

But if the artillery of the enemy did well, ours did better; and I have it from high official testimony that the conduct of Pegram and his men was almost beyond praise. Taking position with two of his batteries (Brander's and --'s) to the right of the assaulting column, and within four hundred yards of the enemy's works, he fought them with one-second fuses (and with great accuracy), which is the shortest distance that artillery has been made available for assault during this war. A distinguished officer of the army, in mentioning the services of this artillery, said to me, "But, sir, for the invaluable assistance of Pegram, who had an enfilade fire upon the enemy, much greater difficulties would have been encountered."

Our losses will foot up between six and seven hundred killed and wounded, Among the wounded, I hear mentioned the names of Colonel, Lane, of the Twentieth North Carolina, severely, and Colonel Little, of the Eleventh Georgia, severely. Captain Clark, assistant adjutant-general to the late General Saunders, was also slightly wounded. Some fifty-odd of the enemy's wounded, in charge of an assistant surgeon, fell into our hands, and have been brought here. Some of the enemy's prisoners reported seeing the dead body of a general officer, but his name I could not learn.

Just as the fight was concluded, it was reported that the enemy were attempting to turn both flanks. Mahone's Virginia brigade was quickly thrown on our right, and Sanders's Alabama brigade (now under Colonel Ring) was rapidly disposed on our left; but the enemy showed no purpose to flank, and only annoyed us with a few shell. It was next reported that the cavalry were in our rear. General Hill hastily getting together his personal staff couriers and all mounted and dismounted men in reach, accompanied by Brander's battery, pushed to the spot indicated. A few Yankee cavalry were demonstrating, as if intending a rear attack, but a few shells from Brander's guns quickly put them to flight.

I regret that I am unable to speak more intelligibly as to the precise parts borne by the cavalry in the fight, but it will suffice to say that they did their duty well, capturing near six hundred prisoners and materially assisting the infantry in the substantial work of the day.

The Weldon railroad is now certainly destroyed for a distance of over ten miles, and the rails and sills have both been carried off — perhaps to rebuild the City Point road.

The enemy are still believed to be in the vicinity of the fighting ground in position, and they still hold the road two miles below the city. Altogether, we have captured about ten thousand prisoners from Grant during his effort to take and hold this road.


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A. P. Hill (7)
George M. Lane (3)
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Cook (2)
T. A. Walker (1)
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James H. Saunders (1)
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August 26th, 1864 AD (1)
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