War of the Rebellion: Serial 026 Page 0323 Chapter XXX. SIEGE OF SUFFOLK. VA.

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Numbers 23. Report of Brigadier General George Ho. Gordon, U. S. Army, commanding Reserve Division, of operations May 1-4.


Folly Island, S. C., October 21, 1863.

GENERAL: Constant service in the field has delayed a report of my participation in the memorable siege of Suffolk, Va., during portions of the months of April and May in the present year. Reporting to Major-General Dix, commanding the Department of Virginia, on April 29, I was ordered to join you at Suffolk, Va., to assume command of a division of troops within the almost closely-invested town. I reported on May 1 and was assigned to the command of the Reserve Division, consisting of two brigades, the Second and Third, of what was formerly Abercrombie's division, the Second, commanded by Colonel Burr Porter, of the Fortieth Massachusetts Regiment, consisting of his own regiment, the Twenty-second Connecticut, One hundred and forty-first New York, and Eleventh Rhode Island Regiments; the Third, commanded by Colonel William Gurney, of the One hundred and twenty-seventh New York Regiment, consisting of that regiment and One hundred and forty-second, One hundred and forty-third, and One hundred and forty-fourth New York Regiments; in all, eight regiments, numbering over 5,000 officers and men. The siege had continued for some days before my arrival. I found the enemy holding a belt of woods that surrounded the town in front and flank from the Nansemond on the right to the Dismal Swamp on the left. His rifle-pits covered his line far to the front, while his sharpshooters annoyed not only our gunners at their pieces but the men in their encampments.

All had been done that skill could suggest to strengthen your position. An outer and inner line of forts protected the front; strong inclosed works defended the flanks, the whole connected by a line of intrenchments for infantry protected by ditches and abatis. The woods cleared from your front gave a full sweep to the artillery. Every precaution by artificial works, by the advantages of strong natural sites, and by a judicious disposition of the troops to repel an assault, seemed to me to have been taken. The sudden flight of the enemy from the front on the night of May 3, thus raising the siege, placed my division at the disposal of the commander of the department, by whom I was immediately ordered on the important duly of occupying, holding, and fortifying West Point as a military base for future operations. The removal of the enemy from our front developed the whole of his operations and gave me a good opportunity of judging, from the extent and character of his works, the force which threatened your position.

it was well known that Generals Longstreet and Hill, of the rebel service, had united their forces in front of Suffolk. Without taking into consideration the reports of deserters and facts revealed by reconnaissances, special as well as in force, but simply judging from the amount of labor performed in completing their lines of investment, the besieging force could not have been less than 30,000. Everywhere in front, from the Nansemond to the swamp, they had thrown up heavy intrenchments for infantry. On all the roads batteries for artillery, in embrasure, well revetted, with ditches wide and deep, and abatis skillfully laid and thickly interwoven, rendered a sortie almost hopeless. Not only one line of such defenses covered the enemy's front but on some roads three, four, and even five parallel lines of formidable works