War of the Rebellion: Serial 069 Page 0886 OPERATIONS IN SE. VA. AND N. C. Chapter XLVIII.

Search Civil War Official Records


Swift Creek, Va., June 9, 1864.


Commanding C. S. Armies, Richmond, Va.:

GENERAL: The present movements of Grant's army have a significance which cannot have escaped your observation. He clearly seeks to move around Lee's forces, by an advance upon his left flank, in the direction of the James River, with a view to operate between that river and the Chickahominy, and in case of his meeting with no adequate resistance to plant himself on both sides of the former, throwing across it a pontoon bridge, as close to Chaffin's Bluff as circumstances may permit, and failing in this scheme, he may continue his rotary motion around Richmond, and attack by concentrating the whole of his army on the south side of the James River, using the fortified position at Bermuda Hundred Neck as a base for his operations.

In that hypothesis, our first object would seem to be to throw him off as far as practicable from his objective point - Richmond - unless the Government were to adopt the bold, and perhaps safer, policy of giving him battle, and decide at once the fate of that city, whilst we still remain with a comparatively compact, well-disciplined, and enthusiastic army in the field.

To accomplish this object the river battery at Howlett's should be completed without delay, and thoroughly armed. The river should be obstructed by rope works and torpedoes, so distributed as to leave passage for only one iron-clad at a time, which, in the meanwhile, should prevent the crossing of the river between that battery and Chaffin's Bluff.

My defensive line, now nearly completed, and extending from the river battery at Howlett's to Mrs. Dunn's house, would be held by Johnson's division.

The comparatively level and open country between these two points might be defended by a line of redoubts from Dunn's house to Swift Creek.

The short line west of Fort Clifton, between Swift Creek and the Appomattox, would be a barrier against any approach from the intersection of those two streams. The defensive line from Mrs. Dunn's to the Appomattox could be defended by a part of Hoke's division, while the rest, taking position in Petersburg, might hold it until re-enforcements from Lee's army were obtained. Two divisions of about 15,000 men in all would thus prevent any force of the enemy from penetrating between Drewry's Bluff and Petersburg and compel him to take the latter before he could venture a real advance on Richmond.

With these views hastily thrown on paper, I send you a statement* of the strength and organization of the forces at the lines around Petersburg, at Drewry's Bluff, and in front of Bermuda Hundred Neck, that you may judge of my resources and ability to face the impending contingencies for which I may, from moment to moment, have to provide.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,




* Not found, but see abstract from return, June 10, p. 890.