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be shown upon the regular branch, in improving its material and tone, and making it in all respects the picked army of the world. The committee do not feel authorized to propose any measure of this character, in connection with this report, but they respectfully refer the suggestion to the consideration of the Senate. It is not deemed necessary by your committee to enter at further length upon the discussion of the measure proposed in the bill submitted for their examination. The arguments against it which might be drawn from its tendency to a dangerous centralization of power in the hands of the Federal government; the manifest injustice which would be done to the officers of the regular service, whose education and pursuits have been of a character to fit them peculiarly for the intelligent practice of the profession of arms, by reducing them to a level with volunteer officers, lacking both in professional skill and experience; the injustice, also, on the other hand, of forcing untaught volunteer officers into direct competition with practiced regulars, by placing them on the same footing, and thus requiring of them the same knowledge and proficiency; these, and other arguments which might be brought forward, your committee have not thought proper to advance. It is believed that enough has already been said to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Senate that the bill is wanting in every essential quality which would justify its enactment into a law.
The committee, in conclusion, recommend that the military service of the country shall be permitted to remain undisturbed upon the basis where it was placed by the Constitution. Upon that basis the military affairs of the government have been satisfactorily managed ever since the government itself has had existence; and regulars and volunteers, in following the instincts of their patriotism, and in pursuing the generous rivalry which springs from the distinct character of their organizations, have been at once the defence and the glory of the republic.
The committee report the bill back to the Senate, with a recommendation that it do not pass.
THE SIEGE OF SUFFOLK, VIRGINIA.
GENERAL JOHN J. PECK'S REPORT,
HEADQUARTERS U. S. FORCES, SUFFOLK, VA.,
Suffolk is the key to all the approaches to the mouth of the James River on the north of the Dismal Swamp. Regarding the James as second only in importance to the Mississippi for the Confederates, and believing that sooner or later they would withdraw their armies from the barren wastes of Northern Virginia to the line of the James, and attempt the recovery of Portsmouth and Norfolk, as ports for their iron-clads and contraband trade, I prepared a system, and on the twenty-fifth commenced Fort Dix. From that time until the present, I spared no pains for placing the line of the river and swamp in a state of defence. My labors alarmed the authorities at Richmond, who believed I was preparing a base for a grand movement upon the rebel capital, and the whole of the Blackwater was fortified, as well as Cypress Swamp and Birchen and Chipoak Rivers. This line rests upon the James, near Fort Powhatan.
About the twenty-sixth of February, Lieutenant-General Longstreet was detached from Lee's army, and placed in command of the Department of Virginia, with headquarters at Petersburg; of his corps fifteen thousand were on the Blackwater, and fifteen thousand between Petersburg and the river, near the railway. This distribution enabled him to concentrate in twenty-four hours within a few miles of Suffolk, and looked threatening. Reports were circulated and letters written to the effect that Longstreet was in South Carolina and Tennessee, with all his forces, with the view of throwing me off my guard.
My information was reliable, and I fully advised the department of the presence of this force, and on the fourteenth of March, Getty's division, Ninth corps, reported for duty.
Early in April deserters reported troops moving to the Blackwater, that many bridges were being constructed, and that a pontoon train had arrived from Petersburg.
On the sixth I was advised that General Foster was in great need of troops, and asked to send him three thousand. I replied, no soldiers ought to leave the department, but I would spare that number, provided they could be supplied at short notice. On the tenth, at 4:30 P. M., as the troop train was leaving, I was informed of the contents of a captured mail by General Viele, to the effect that General Longstreet would attack me at once with from forty to sixty thousand; that he had maps, plans, and a statement of my force, and that General Hill would co-operate. On the eleventh, Hood's
Colonel D. T. Van Buren, Assistant Adjutant-division followed up my cavalry returning from General, Department of Virginia: On the twenty-second September, 1862, I was ordered to Suffolk, with about nine thousand men, to repel the advance of Generals Pettigrew and French from the Blackwater, with fifteen thousand men.
No artificial defences were found, nor had any plan been prepared.
Situated at the head of the Nansemond River, with the railway to Petersburg and Weldon,
Blackwater on the South Quay roads, and about four P. M. captured, without a shot, the cavalry outposts. Others followed on other roads, and a surprise in open day was attempted. The signal officers, under Captain Tamblyn, rendered most signal service. Lieutenant Thayer held his station for a long time, in spite of the riflemen about him.
On the twelfth, about noon, Picket's division advanced on the Sommerton, Jenkins on the
Edenton, and a large column on the river, by the Providence Church road. Much fine skirmishing took place on all these roads, but the pickets were pressed back and the enemy was not checked until he came within artillery range. He sustained some loss, and fell back a few miles to his line of battle.
On the thirteenth the enemy skirmished with our light troops on all the approaches. On the Sommerton, Colonel Foster handled him very roughly, driving him back and restoring his picket line at sundown. On the river the contest was sharp and long, but the batteries and gunboats held the enemy at bay.
On the fourteenth, Lieutenant Cushing, United States Navy, was hotly engaged for several hours with a large force at the mouth of the West Branch. His loss was severe; but the enemy suffered much, and had some artillery dismounted.
The enemy opened a ten-gun battery near the Norfleet House, for the purpose of destroying the gunboats and of covering a crossing. Lieutenant Samson, with the Mount Washington, West End, and Stepping Stones, engaged the battery for some hours in the most gallant manner, but was compelled to drop down to the West Branch.
The Mount Washington, completely riddled and disabled, grounded, as did the West End, and both were towed off by the Stepping Stones. The rudder of the Alert was broken.
Several batteries on the river were opened with fine effect, and others were pushed with all despatch towards completion. More or less skirmishing and artillery fire on all portions of the lines.
In the night the Smith Briggs, lying near my headquarters, was attacked, but Captain Lee and the guns of the Draw-bridge repulsed the
oner by Lieutenant Cushing's pickets. He was laying out works, and had a map of Suffolk, which he tore in pieces.
Eighteenth. The enemy was very active in throwing up new batteries and rifle-pits along the river. A heavy one was in progress near the mouth of West Branch, on Hill's Point.
Admiral Lee, United States Navy, ordered all the boats out of the upper Nansemond, lest they should be destroyed, leaving the whole defence of the river to the land forces. The Admiral was urged to reconsider his orders. Upon my representation the order was temporarily suspended.
Nineteenth.-About dusk General Getty and Lieutenant Samson executed most successfully a plan which had been agreed upon for crossing the river and capturing Battery Huger, at the mouth of the West Branch. The Eighty-ninth New York and Eighth Connecticut were taken over on the Stepping Stones. Five pieces of artillery were captured, nine (9) officers, and one hundred and twenty (120) soldiers. It was well conceived, ably conducted, and reflects great honor on the combined arms. Lieutenant Samson suggested the enterprise, landed with four of his howitzers, and played a most brilliant part. Captain Stevens was conspicuous for his gallant conduct in this affair, and deserves mention; also Lieutenants McKechine and Faxon, Aides of General Getty.
Twentieth.-Major Stratton visited Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and found it abandoned by our troops. He found General Longstreet's pickets in the vicinity of Sandy Cross.
Twenty-first. The command was highly honored by a visit from Major-General Halleck, Commander-in-Chief, accompanied by MajorGeneral Dix.
Twenty-second. A heavy rain storm commenced, suspending all fatigue labors; but adding materially to the strength of the swamp on the left flank.
Twenty-fourth.-A demonstration was made upon the enemy's right flank on the Edenton road, under General Corcoran, Colonels Foster and Spear, while a feint was made on the Sommerton by Colonel Buler. The enemy was
Fifteenth. The force between Suffolk and West Branch, last night, was reported by the best authorities at ten thousand, with a pontoon train, under the immediate command of General French. About noon our batteries, under direction of General Getty, below the mouth of Jericho Creek, were warmly engaged with the Norfleet battery. Four of the rebel twenty-driven in confusion from all his advance points pounder rifles were dismounted, and the battery was silenced.
A party sent out on the Edenton road captured the camp equipage of one regiment. Fear of an ambuscade alone prevented taking many prisoners.
Seventeenth.-Major Stratton, with a force of cavalry, held South Mills, which is the key to nearly all the approaches from North Carolina on the south side of the Dismal Swamp.
There was much skirmishing on all the avenues of approach, with some field artillery. General Terry's front was much annoyed from the first day by the near approach of riflemen. Under his orders the enemy was signally punished.
General French's engineer was taken pris
and rifle-pits, back upon the main line of defence behind the dam and swamp at Darden's Mill. A force, estimated at about fifteen thousand, was believed to be massed on that front. The object of the move was attained, and the command withdrawn. Colonels Beach, Drake, and Murphy, had provisional brigades, and handled them extremely well. Captain Simpson commanded the artillery.
Twenty-fifth.-Information was received of the arrival of heavy artillery from Petersburg. Troops were reported on this side of the Chowan, on the way from General Hill, under General Garnett.
Twenty-seventh. - Major Stratton occupied Camden Court House, and burned a ferry boat of the enemy's. The rebels were very active at
night, chopping, moving troops, and signaling. A new battery of three guns was opened by them below Norfleet battery. Chopping parties were broken up by the Redan and Mansfield battery. They re-occupied the Hills Point battery in the night.
The steamers Commerce and Swan, under the volunteer pilotage of Lieutenants Rowe and Norton, of the Ninety-ninth New York, ran down past the batteries in the night, but not without many shots. These officers are entitled to much credit for this service.
Twenty-eighth.-Suffolk was visited by a heavy storm. A rebel work for several guns was discovered on the river. Twenty-ninth.-The Honorable Secretary of State, William H. Seward, paid a visit, in company with Major-General Dix, to this command. Thirtieth. The enemy opened early this morning with one Whitworth, one thirty and thirty-five-pounder Parrott. Towards night they opened fire upon the Commodore Barney, and the battery was silenced by the Barney (Lieutenant Cushing, United States Navy), and Captain Norris' battery, in Fort Stevens.
May first. There was a sharp skirmish in General Terry's front, about five P. M. The enemy, reinforced largely, was held in check from the guns of Nansemond, South Quay, and Rosecrans, with considerable loss.
Another brigade, from North Carolina, was reported to have joined Longstreet.
Third. A reconnoissance in force was made by Generals Getty and Harland on the enemy's left flank. The troops crossed at nine A. M., at the Draw-bridge, under the fire of Battery Mansfield, Onondaga, and the Smith Briggs, and seized the plateau near Pruden's house, in spite of sharpshooters in the rifle-pits, orchards, and woods. The advance was slow, every inch being hotly contested. The movement resulted in bringing heavy reinforcements for the enemy. His numbers and artillery failed to check the troops. By night the enemy was massed on his strong line of intrenchments, and under the fire of a numerous artillery. The purpose of the movement having been attained, the troops were directed to remain on the ground, awaiting events.
In conjunction with the above, Major Crosby crossed the Nansemond, near Sleepy Hole, with the Twenty-first Connecticut, a section of the Fourth Wisconsin battery, and eleven Mounted Rifles, at four A. M., and pushed on and occupied Chuckatuck, driving out three hundred rebel cavalry. He skirmished all the way to Reed's Ferry, capturing sixteen prisoners, and then returned to the river, under the cover of the gunboats.
At the same time Colonel Dutton crossed in boats and occupied Hill's Point with the Fourth Rhode Island, a portion of the One Hundred and Seventeenth New York, and a detachment from the Commodore Barney. He advanced some distance, but was met by a superior force, posted strongly in the woods, and after much
skirmishing returned upon Hill's Point, from which the enemy could not dislodge him.
I again take pleasure in acknowledging the valuable services of Lieutenants Cushing, Samson, and Harris, United States Navy. These officers rendered every assistance in their power in crossing the river. Lieutenant Cushing sent a boat, howitzer, and detachment, with the Fourth Rhode Island, under Colonel Dutton.
I regret to state that Colonel Ringgold, of the One Hundred and Third New York, lost his life from two wounds, while leading on his men in the most gallant manner. He was a meritorious officer.
Fourth.-About nine P. M., on the third, the enemy commenced retiring upon the Blackwater. His strong line of pickets prevented deserters and contrabands from getting through with the information, until he had several hours the start. Generals Corcoran and Dodge were promptly in pursuit on the Edenton road, while Colonel Foster followed upon the Sommerton. By six A. M. Colonel Foster was pressing the rear of a formidable column on the old road near Leesville. He was compelled, from the smallness of his force, to wait for the command under General Corcoran, and could not again strike the column before it reached the river. The cavalry of Colonel Spear and Colonel Onderdonk were pushed on numerous roads, and rendered valuable services, procuring information and capturing prisoners.
Thus ends the present investment, or siege of Suffolk, which had for its object the recovery of the whole country south of the James, extending to the Albemarle Sound, in North Carolina, the ports of Norfolk, and Portsmouth, eighty miles of new railroad iron, the equipment of two roads, and the capture of all the United States forces and property, with some thousands of contrabands.
General Longstreet, finding that an assault at the outset upon works defended by one-half his own force, would be expensive and uncertain, and having failed in turning either flank, decided to besiege the place, and asked for reinforcements. Probably not less than two divisions joined from General Hill. The works are constructed on the most extensive scale, and in the most approved manner. The rules and regulations prescribed by military authorities for the conduct of siege operations, have been observed. Some idea may be formed of this sostyled "foraging expedition" when I state that not less than ten miles of batteries, covered ways, and rifle-pits, have been thrown up. Most of the artillery was protected by embrasures. The parapets were from twelve to fifteen feet in thickness, and well rivetted, while the covered ways were from eight to ten feet. Longstreet had a wire laid from the Blackwater, and telegraphic arrangements throughout his lines.
We have taken five pieces of the famous Fauquier artillery, about four hundred prisoners,