War of the Rebellion: Serial 068 Page 0200 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter XLVIII.

Search Civil War Official Records

form his northern barrier, without, however, prematurely seeking to force him far back before our left could completely outflank him and our Petersburg column close up on his rear; and, finally, that the Petersburg column, marching to the sound of heavies firing, should interpose a southern barrier to his retreat. Butler, thus environed by three walls of fire, with his defeated troops, could have no resource against substantial capture or destruction, except in an attempt at partial and hazardous escape westward, away from his base, trains, or supplies. Two difficulties alone might impede or defeat the success of this plan. One was a possible stubborn and effective resistance by the enemy, in virtue of his superior numbers. Another (probably a graver one) existed as to the efficient, rapid handling of a fragmentary army like ours, so hastily assembled and organized-half the brigades without general officers, some of the troops unacquainted with their commanders and neighbors, staff officers unknown to each other, &c. The moral force which tells so significantly of the unity which springs from old association was entirely wanting, and from these causes, generally so productive of confusion and entanglement, great inconvenience arose. On the other hand, I reckoned on the advantages of being all in readiness at daybreak, with short distances over which to operate, a long day before me to maneuver in, plain, direct routes, and simplicity in the movements to be executed.

Accordingly, at 10.45 a. m. on May 15, preparatory information and orders were forwarded to Major-General Whiting, then at Petersburg, 12 miles from me, with instructions to move his force to Swift Creek, 3 miles nearer, during the night, and at daybreak next morning to proceed to Port Walthall Junction, about 3 miles still nearer. These instructions were duly received by that officer, and were as follows:

I shall attack enemy in my front to-morrow at daybreak by river road, to cut him off from his Bermuda base. You will take up your position to-night at Swift Creek with Wise's, Martin's, Dearing's [brigades], and two regiments of Colquitt's brigade, with about twenty field pieces, under Colonel Jones.

At daybreak you will march to Port Walthall Junction, and when you hear an engagement in your front you will advance boldly and rapidly by the shortest road in the direction of heaviest firing, to attack enemy in rear or flank. You will protect your advance and flanks with Dearing's cavalry, taking necessary precautions to distinguish friends from foes. Please communicate this to General Hill. This revokes all former orders of moments.

G. T. BEAUREGARD,

General, Commanding.

P. S.-I have just received a telegram from General Bragg, informing me that he has sent your orders to join me at this place. You need not do so, but follow to the letter the above instructions.

G. T. B.

In the early afternoon I delivered in person to the other division commanders assembled the following circular instructions of battle, with additional oral instructions to Major-General Ransom, that while driving the enemy he should promptly occupy with a brigade the crossing of Proctor's Creek by the river road, which was the enemy's shortest line of retreat to Bermuda Hundred Neck:

CIRCULAR.] HDQRS. DEPT. OF NORTH CAROLINA AND SOUTHERN VIRGINIA,

Drewry's Farm, May 15, 1864.

GENERAL: The following instructions for battle to-morrow are communicated for your information and action:

The purpose of the movement is to cut off the enemy from his base of operations at Bermuda Hundred, and capture or destroy him in his present position. To this