War of the Rebellion: Serial 068 Page 0258 Chapter XLVIII. OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C.

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me. Colonel Griffin, on my right, reported indication of a diversion by the enemy on the opposite side. At Red Bluff information was received of the advance of a large force toward the city from the superintendent of the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad, and also a dispatch from General Colston forwarding similar information, while shortly after a message reached me from the cavalry on my left that the enemy were moving in that direction with infantry and artillery. While preparations and new dispositions of Wise's troops were being made for this, General Hill went over to the left to ascertain. It is possible this was a movement caused by General Dearing's successful attack in that direction, but of that, at the time, I was ignorant. It was evident that the enemy, resting in his works, was in observation on my right flank as I advanced, falling back to his lines as i moved on the turnpike, passing to the right and rear. A reconnaissance by General Pryor informed me that the line of what was evidently a moving force extended from the right-hand road at considerable distance from the Junction toward their fortifications. I felt myself in much perplexity called upon to decide whether I should, in spite of all reports, cut loose from Petersburg and move forward in absolute ignorance of even the fact that the general had made his proposed movements and the position of the main body of the enemy, or whether, the day being far spent, I should not take up a position from whence, when I learned the movements of the general, I could move early enough to aid the next day, or, if needed, be in place to defend Petersburg. At any rate, the Junction was no place to stay at. I ordered the troops of General Wise to move to the rear, to be followed by General Martin, intending at night to bivouac at Swift Creek, where the men had left their knapsacks and where their rations would be.

I then received the dispatch dated Fort Stevens, informing me for the first time of the movement of the early morning. General Dearing himself met me. (See his report.*) He had most gallantly performed his work, capturing 220 prisoners on his route, communicating with the general, and returning. He made me acquainted as far as he knew with the condition of affairs up to 1 o'clock, and I halted my troops. It was then too late for me to do anything, as long before I could reach either the right of our people or the retreat of the enemy darkness set in.

At 7.15 p. m. I received the general's dispatch of 4.15 p. m., to which I replied, "Too late for action on my part." The troops were then directed to their bivouac on the creek. My personal presence was absolutely required in Petersburg, and not having to clear the road, I hope to be able to join the general readily on the 17th.

The conduct of the troops, officers and men, was most praiseworthy. General Wise and Martin, Colonel Jones, and Major Read were prompt and skillful in the disposition of their commands. Whatever was accomplished was due to the advice and ability of General Hill on the field, and very active, but not in command. General Dearing particularly distinguished himself by a brilliant attack upon the enemy at Chester.

At 3 a. m. on the 17th (still without rest) I received your dispatch directing a junction and a movement at daylight, and proceeded at once to the troops. They moved out, after some consultation with the generals, under the command of General D. H. Hill, I having relinquished it to him in consequence of the dissatisfaction expressed


*Not found.