War of the Rebellion: Serial 014 Page 0562 THE PENINSULAR CAMPAIGN, VA. Chapter XXIII.

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Now, at 8 o'clock p.m., Captain Magruder, of the cavalry, reports that they came up as high as Varina, and so near to the wharf that the enemy invited Mr. Aiken to go on board, assuring him that neither he nor his property should be injured. Mr. Aiken did not go on board, but conversed with them from the shore. They asked him the distance to Dutch Gap; then the distance to the batteries at Drewry's Bluff; how many batteries we had between there and Richmond; where our pickets were placed; whether there had been any fighting to-day or not; whether we intended to fight, &c. After desultory questions and replies they turned down the river. They did not go far before one of the boats stopped; a skiff, with but one man in it, went off to her and returned with two men in it; they were negroes. Near there is a rendezvous of free negroes, who live by fishing and who are good river pilots. Doubtless the gunboat had taken in one of them as a pilot and put him off in this skiff. It is supposed by me that these boats came up to mark the channel and to note the landings. It is said that a large fleet of transports is below. The boats were sounding all the way. Unless otherwise ordered I shall picket the river side at the landings as low down as safe and all the roads with cavalry, and shall concentrate the infantry and artillery at close supporting distances at or near the crossing of the Kingsland and Varina roads, placing our baggage and provisions in the rear on the Osborne turnpike.

Mr. Aiken states that there is an immense amount of corn at Mr. Allen's and other places, which may be gotten off. It can't be got by Government wagons in the day-time, but can be gotten by plantation wagons at night. It is in reach of the enemy's shells. If the quartermaster's department will furnish the wagons to haul it away from the depots of the plantation wagons a large quantity may be saved. I have ordered about 30 head of fat cattle to be driven within our lines.

I shall order these free negroes to be arrested and put on the works as prisoners and the fishing skiffs to be destroyed-those of low white men as well as those of the negroes. Some of the whites are as dangerous as the negroes.

In the act of posting my regiments this evening we were arrested by a drenching rain and thunder storm, which still continue. In the morning I shall give the necessary orders for the posts. Some infantry pickets and more cavalry pickets will be stationed on the New Market road and I will reach as far as possible with the cavalry in my command down the river and on the Central and Charles City roads.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,



SATURDAY MORNING, May 31-6.45 a.m.

GENERAL: I omitted to state that Captain Magruder reported also that the sharpshooters on the Chesterfield or south side annoyed the gunboats yesterday as they returned.

I think the enemy will land and approach by land to flank the batteries very soon, and say to you frankly that the troops under me are too green to be relied on and too few to be adequate for the defense. But I will fight against all odds and mean to be cut to pieces or to repulse the enemy. The rain has continued all night and prevented sending a courier, before this morning.

Yours, truly,