War of the Rebellion: Serial 082 Page 0758 OPERATIONS IN SE.VA. AND N.C. Chapter LII.

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PETERSBURG, VA., July 9, 1864.


Commanding District of Arkansas:

MY DEAR GENERAL: On the night of the 12th June, as I had anticipated in my former letters, Grant commenced moving across the Chickahominy for the James River, and on the 16th [14th] began to throw his troops over the latter. On the 17th [15th] he assaulted the works in front of the town of Petersburg, defended at the time by only two brigades under General Wise, Bragg having robbed Beuaregard of all his troops save these two brigades and the militia of the place, and Lee being under the necessity of retarding his movements through the apprehension that Grant might possibly hold back a strong force to hurl against Richmond. After desperate fighting the enemy secured the outer line of our works, but in spite of all the odds against him, Wise maintained possession of the interior line, thus saving the place again, as he had before saved it under equally disadvantageous circumstances against Butler. On the following day Lee's advance arrived and secured the position. Since then there have been numerous assaults by the enemy, invariably repulsed. But his batteries are so close in upon the town that his guns command it, and he has every day amused himself throwing shells along the streets leading to the railroad depots and traveled by our commissary and quartermaster's trains. Indeed, he can batter down the place at any moment, and will doubtless finally do so, but this would not materially affect our military position. The inhabitants prefer that their houses should be destroyed sooner than surrendered, and have quite made up their minds to the result. I have never known a braver or more patriotic people. Sheridan with his cavalry was left on the north of the James River with General Wade Hampton to oppose him; and Generals Wilson and Kautz were thrown to the south side with their cavalry, opposed by an inadequate force on our part under General W. H. F. Lee. The first ravaged the whole country through which they passed, robbing the inhabitants of their last morsel of food and last article of clothing, and of their last servant, horse, and mule, burning and destroying as they went, but at last were caught up with by Hampton in Charles City County, not far from my father's plantation and residence, which they had utterly stripped, and retributively cut to pieces the remnant of them escaping only by crossing the river and seeking shelter in the lines of Grant.

The north bank of the river being thus liberated, Hampton also crossed over and proceeded to Petersburg, and it was well he was enabled to do so. Wilson and Kautz had not only proceeded to destroy the country through which they passed, as did Sheridan, often perpetrating enormities upon women too horrible to record, but they had succeeded in cutting all of our communications with the provisioning States of Georgia and Alabama. In forty-eight hours more their work would have been so fully completed that our soldiers would have suffered before repairs could have been made, but again Hampton came to the rescue. He struck the rascals in flank and rear, and hurled them back upon Grant by Reams' Station, on the Weldon road, where General Mahone received them with his infantry and General Fitz, Lee with his cavalry, and their deeds were washed out in their blood. While these things have been going on General Early, in command of Ewell's old corps, has been dispatched in the direction of Baltimore, by way of the Valley. In the Valley near Lynchburg he met Hunter and tore him to pieces, driving him back to Wheeling, and at Martinsburg