Page images

a point-blank range, while our men were shooting above that range. I believe it is the general observation of military men that troops usually shoot a little too high.

After some half hour, more or less, the enemy in our front retired, but a large body, at least a brigade, was observed moving around our left.


All things were quiet for a time; then I observed a flag of truce on the opposite ridge. General Barton directed me to meet it. I did so, and proceeded to the bottom of the ravine, where I met a mounted officer, who proved to be General (or Colonel) Oliver Edwards. He informed me that Generals Ewell, Lee, and all of the command who were not killed, had surrendered, and he desired us to surrender in order to prevent the further useless effusion of blood. This proposition I declined, on the ground that we had received no orders from our commanders to surrender. I reported the interview to General Barton, and about that time a squadron of cavalry rode up from the rear and we surrendered. I surrendered my sword, which had been the dress-sword of my great-grandfather, Dr. Thomas Walker, of Castle Hill, to a lieutenant, taking down his name, and some years since I recovered it by paying $25 (C. O. D.)

As this letter is already too long, I must close, with the remark that the men on the left were comparatively raw troops, and yet they acted with wonderful coolness and gallantry.

Very respectfully,

R. T. W. DUKE,

Late Lieutenant-Colonel Second Battalion Va. Reserves.

P. S. John Preston Goss, Esq., clerk in the First Auditor's office, was my sergeant-major, and, I think, was present at my interview with General Edwards. I would like John P. Goss to give his recol

lections of the retreat from Richmond and the fight at Sailor's Creek in your paper, as we are not even mentioned in any of the reports of the battle of Sailor's Creek.

This letter is written from memory, and there may be mistakes. I would, therefore, be glad to hear from any of the survivors of Tucker's Battalion, Crutchfield's Command, or of my command (the Second Battalion). At some future day I propose to write a brief account of what became of me, from our surrender at Sailor's Creek to my return home from Johnson's Island prison, on the 29th of July, 1865. R. T. W. D.

[From the Richmond, Va., Dispatch, May 2, 1897.]


Colonel Crutchfield and the "Artillery Brigade." *


A Forced March 'Mid Cold and Rain. Fight at Sailor's Creek.

To the Editor of the Dispatch:

RICHMOND, VA., April 27, 1897.

Being on a visit to Richmond from my home in St. Louis, I noticed in your paper of the 25th instant, a letter from Colonel R. T. W. Duke, giving some incidents of the retreat from Richmond, and the fight at Sailor's Creek. This has put me in a reminiscent mood, and I would like to give, for your Confederate column, some of my recollections of those stirring times, more especially of the retreat from Richmond, and the participation of my command in the battle of Sailor's Creek.

During the winter of 1864-65, my battalion, the 10th Virginia Artillery, was stationed immediately in front of Fort Harrison. The battalion had formerly been commanded by Major William Allen, of "Claremont," but at that time by Major J. O. Hensley, of Bedford county. It was composed of five companies-Companies A and C, from Richmond, commanded respectively by Captains J. W. Barlow and Thomas P. Wilkinson; Company B, from Bedford county, Captain Robert B. Clayton; Company D, from Prince George, Captain C. Shirley Harrison, of Brandon; and Company E, from Henrico, Captain Thomas Ballard Blake. Lieutenant Sam Wilson, was Adju


The 10th Virginia and the 19th Virginia Battalion (also composed of five companies) were under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel John Wilder Atkinson, of Richmond, with Lieutenant John L. Cowardin as adjutant.

The 18th and 20th Virginia Battalions, commanded by Lieutenant

* See Ante, pp. 38-47. The report to General G. W. Custis Lee, of Major W. S. Basinger, on the operations of "Crutchfield's Artillery Brigade.”

Colonel James Howard, of Baltimore, and the 18th Georgia Battalion, also attached to our command, formed what was known as the "Artillery Brigade," which at that time was under the command of Colonel Crutchfield.

If I have made any omissions I would be glad to have them supplied.

The adjutant-general of the brigade was Captain W. N. Worthington, of Richmond. Captain Worthington had been a schoolmate of mine at Hanover Academy just before the war. MajorGeneral G. W. Custis Lee commanded the division and Lieutenant General Ewell the corps.

We were thoroughly drilled in artillery practice, and manned the heavy guns on the line of the Richmond defences. We were also well drilled in infantry tactics, and were armed with rifles. I wish that it was possible to give all the names of the command, but space would not permit it, even if I could recall them after all of these years. I would be glad to see published a complete roster of all officers and men of the Artillery Brigade, at the time of the evacuation, and of those who were at Sailor's Creek. On the afternoon of Sunday, April 2d, 1865, rumors reached our lines of important movements pending. That night we received marching orders, and were under way by midnight. As our supplies of every description were exceedingly scant we were strictly in "light marching order.” Our daily rations for some time past had been one pound of cornmeal and a quarter of a pound of bacon. The bacon was alternated, with a pound of fresh beef. Both the bacon and the beef were occasionally substituted by a gill of sorghum. So we started on the march with empty haversacks. We moved towards James river, crossing on a pontoon bridge above Drewry's Bluff. The explosions of the magazines at Chaffin's and Drewry's Bluff and at Richmond could be plainly heard.


Early Monday morning we learned that Richmond was burning. We were then moving in the direction of Burkeville Junction. It was a forced march, halting only to rest on our arms. To add to other discomforts, a cold rain set in. Footsore, almost starved, and well-nigh exhausted, we continued the march. There being no commissary stores from which to draw, no rations had been issued since leaving the lines, and, as before stated, we started with empty haver

sacks. The resources of the country through which we were passing had been almost exhausted, and we had to gather up and eat the grains of corn left on the ground where the horses had fed, whenever we could find any. We were, moreover, constantly annoyed by the enemy's cavalry, which hung on our rear. Thus the retreat continued until the afternoon of Thursday, April 6th. More than half of our men had straggled or fallen by the wayside from sheer exhaustion, but those whose endurance and grit had brought them thus far were ready to face any foe. Between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon of the 6th we arrived at Sailor's Creek. The stream had been swollen by the rains of the past few days and the waters overflowed the banks. We waded across this stream and took position on the rising ground about 100 yards beyond. The ground was covered with a growth of broom straw and a few small bushes, mostly pine. Our line of battle was long drawn out-exceedingly thin. Very soon after taking our position, the enemy opened a brisk fire on us from a battery posted on the opposite ridge, about 300 yards away. We had no artillery to return the fire. This fire did but little damage to my immediate command, but our brigade suffered severely further to the right. Their infantry then appeared in solid line. They moved steadily forward, reached the creek which we had so recently crossed, waded through, as we had done, dressed up their line, and continued their advance towards the rising ground where our men lay. When they had advanced to within thirty or forty paces of our line, the order was given to charge. In a moment we were on our feet, yelling like demons and rushing upon their line. It has always been a mystery to me why they did not then and there wipe our little band from the face of the earth. It may be that the very audacity of our charge bewildered and demoralized them. At any rate they broke and fled just before we reached them, but a portion of the line engaged in a hand-to-hand fight. We followed them to the edge of the stream, into which they plunged, our men keeping up a deadly fire on them as they crossed. It was during this charge that my company suffered most severely. One-third were either killed or wounded, more or less seriously.


Colonel Crutchfield was killed, and Adjutant Wilson shot through the leg, which had to be amputated. I received a slight wound in the shoulder, which, however, did not incapacitate me. After the enemy had retreated across the creek, we gathered up our handful of

men and fell back to our original position. While Captain Barlow, of Company A, was endeavoring to reform his men on my company, which was the color company, he was shot through the head and instantly killed. I regret that I cannot give a full list of those who fell. We had hardly regained our former position, when Sheridan's cavalry came down on us from the rear. A young cavalry officer, riding in among us, begged us to surrender, telling us that we were entirely surrounded, and that further resistance was useless. It was

so gallant an act no one attempted to molest him.

In the mean while the infantry, which had been driven across the creek, had reformed and were advancing in force.

Our men then threw down their arms, and we were prisoners of war. I remember that in the hot blood of youth, I broke my sword over a sapling, rather than surrender it. When the infantry which we had so recently repulsed, came up to us again, it was with smiling faces. They commenced opening their haversacks, offering to share their "hard tack" with us, which in our famished condition we most eagerly and gratefully accepted. They, moreover, complimented us on the gallant fight we had made. In this connection, I will add that we were always treated with every consideration by the veterans at the front. It was only when we fell into the hands of the provost guard that any harshness was shown. About dusk that evening we were taken back across Sailor's Creek, and camped that night in an old field. The next morning (7th), we started on our long march to Petersburg and City Point, en route to northern prisons.


The non-commissioned officers and men were mostly taken to Point Lookout, while almost all of the officers were eventually taken to Johnson's Island, in Lake Erie. We took a boat at City Point, and when we touched at Fortress Monroe, on the morning of April 15th, learned that President Lincoln had been assassinated the night before. We were taken to Baltimore and from there to Washington. The city was draped in mourning. The excitement was intense and we had to be marched through the city to the old Capitol prison under a double guard, to protect us from a threatened mob. After remaining in the old Capitol about two weeks we were taken to Johnson's Island, where I remained until June 18, 1865, when I was released, our cause being then a "Lost Cause." Arrived in Richmond June 25th.

Several years ago a friend of mine in St. Louis gave me a copy of

« PreviousContinue »