Southern Historical Society. cn.

Southern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) online

. (page 27 of 61)
Online LibrarySouthern Historical Society. cnSouthern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) → online text (page 27 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the battle of that place. Went into camp 27th December near Guinea
Station, and remained until r4th February, 1863. Received orders.



252 SoutJiern Historical Society Papers.

and marched in direction of Richmond, passing through the city on
19th and went into camp near Chester station. March ist moved to
east Petersburg, remained until 27th, marched reaching near Ivor
station after hard march through swamp, &c., on the 30th ; camped
until 9th April ; moved in direction of Suffolk, halting at Franklin
depot on night of loth; cooked four days rations, and crossed Black-
water at South Quay on nth, with Generals Hood's and Pickett's
divisions. The regiment, with the brigade, marched on 12th on Som-
merton road, arriving in about seven miles of Suffolk, the regiment
marching in front. Company K, Captain Griggs, was ordered for-
ward as skirmishers, and soon engaged the enemy's pickets and drove
them within three miles of Suffolk, night stopping further advance —
Captain Griggs remaining in advance with his company as senti-
nels. Early on the next morning, 13th, advance continued, the
regiment still being in advance of brigade, and drove the enemy into
his fortifications around Suffolk. Line of battle soon formed, and the
men waited anxiously for the order to advance on the works, but it did
not come. Captain Joseph R. Cabell. 7tow Major, havmg bee?i pro-
moted, took charge of the line of skirmishers, and drove the enemy into
his works near the city, and it was the impression of Major Cabell
that the city might now have easily been captured, but no further
advance being ordered, the day passed by with desultory fighting
between the skirmishers. Lieutenant William G. Cabaniss. Company
K, with ten privates, was ordered to cross the Dismal Swamp and cut
the M. & P. railroad east of Suffolk, but finding a heavy picket
guarding the point at which he was to cross, and his object being
secret, he returned without any success. On the 14th, a lady in at-
tempting to leave her house near the enemy's line of battle for a place
of safety was wantonly shot by the enemy. No other service except
as picket duty was required of the regiment, and 3d May fell back
with division, halting on 4th at 12 o'clock near Franklin depot,
having marched about twenty-seven miles over a very swampy road.
The march was continued until the 9th, went into camp on Falling
Creek seven miles below Richmond. On 15th marched through the
city, and continued the march until 17th; went into camp near Han
over Junction and remained until 2d June. The enemy reported in
King & Queen, the regiment with brigade proceeded to New Town;
finding no enemy, marched on 5th to Reedy Mills, on 6th to Aylett's
and returned to Hanover on 8th; marched to New Market loth,
cro.ssed the Rapidan at Summerville ford, and rested on nth near
Culpeper Courthouse. Left on 15th with three days' cooked rations



Memoranda of Thirty-eighth Virginia Infantry. 253

and ten days' on wagons. On 17th the sun was so excessively hot
that many of the men who had never failed to keep up fell on the
road exhausted. Passed Ashby's Gap on i8th, and on 19th crossed
Blue Ridge at Snicker's Gap. A heavy rain fell at night, raised the
river, and the command had to rest until evening, when forded the
Shenandoah at Shepherd's Mills, and to prevent being washed down
by the rapid deep water the men had to march four deep and hold
to each other. On 25th June passed through Martinsburg, and forded
the Potomac at Williamsport into Maryland. Passed Hagerstown
on 26th ; entered Pennsylvania at Middleburg ; halted at night at
Green Castle; through Chambersburg on 27th. At night the regi-
ment was ordered to Scotland to guard commissary stores, and re-
joined the brigade on 29th, when it, with the division, was marched back
through and south of Chambersburg and halted until 2d July, when
again marched through Chambersburg on Baltimore turnpike to
within two miles of Gettysburg; the regiment was often fired on
during the day by bushwhackers. At 3 A. M. on morning of 3d
the division was ordered forward to the right of Gettysburg and
formed line of battle in front of • — ; the troops remained under par-
tial shelter by a small strip of woods until the order of advance, when
they moved forward as steadily as when on drill. The Fifty- seventh
Virginia regiment of the brigade was immediately to left of the regi-
ment ; Thirty-eighth charged the enemy across a wide plain — they
being sheltered behind a rock fence, earthworks, &c. — and though
unprotected and having to climb two high fences in the face of a
concentrated fire from the masked number of the enemy's artillery,
the troops moved steadily forward, driving the enemy from his strong
position, capturing all his guns, but only for a moment; having no
reinforcement, and the enemy in strong force on our left and rear,
the few surviving men cut their way back. The loss was irreparable
to the regiment as well as division ; the noble and beloved Colonel
E. C. Edmonds killed ; Lieutenant- Colonel Whittle, who had lost
an arm at Malvern Hill, was seriously wounded in thigh ; Captain
Towns killed, and all the other company officers more or less seri-
ously wounded. Never did men more than these on that day. In
retiring, the regiment with the division had the difficult duty of es-
corting the prisoners captured into Virginia, arriving at Williamsport
on 7th July. The regiment did the various camp duties up to Oc-
tober 7th, when, with the brigade, now commanded by Brigadier-
General S. M. Barton, General Armistead having been killed at
Gettysburg, left Petersburg, where it was in camp, for Kingston,
North Carolina, and went into camp near that place on 8th. Major



254 Souihern Historical Society Papers.

]. R. Cabell had been promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel, Captain G.
K. Griggs to Major, date from 3d July. The regiment remained in,
winter quarters until ist November it was sent to Hanover Court-
house, Virginia, and returned on nth to Kingston, North Carolina.
On 30th January, 1864, the regiment with the division ordered to
invest Newbern. On morning of ist February formed line of battle at
Polletsville and opened fire on enemy's works at Brice's Creek. Re-
mained in line of battle until night 3d, when fell back and with rapid
and hard marching arrived in camp at Kingston on 4th, remained
until 14th, took train for Richmond, Virginia, going into camp near
the city on 3d May on nine-mile road. Ordered and disposed of all
surplus baggage. Marched on 7th, taking steamer to Drewry's Bluff to
check the enemy under Butler. Colonel Whittle having been retired,
Lieutenant-Colonel J. R. Cabell promoted to Colonel and Major G.
K. Griggs to Lieutenant-Colonel. He having cut the Petersburg
and Richmond railroad near Chester station, remained in breast-
works until 6}4 A. M. On loth ordered forward. The brigade
under General Barton was divided by order of General Ransom and
sent on different roads (official report made of the campaign), and
soon engaged the forces of General Butler, United States Army, esti-
mated at from twenty to thirty thousand strong, upon the Richmond
and Petersburg turnpike. In this action the Thirty-eighth Virginia
regiment was formed on the left of brigade and left of the turnpike.
About 9 o'clock A. M. the signal for advance was given, the regi-
ment moved forward and soon engaged the enemy's skirmishers,
driving them upon their line of battle. At this point I found my left
entirely unprotected and the enemy upon a line with my own. I
immediately reported the fact to Colonel Cabell and one of General
Barton's staff and deployed my left. Company K, Lieutenant W. G.
Cabaniss commanding, perpendicular to my line of battle and con-
tinued the advance, breaking and driving back three lines of battle the
depth of my regiment, capturing two pieces of artillery. My ranks
having in this time been so much depleted from casualties, and the
enemy on my left having passed around and in my rear, I was or-
dered by Captain Thom, Acting Adjutant and Inspector General, to
fall back, and turning about, fought its way out, killing about fifteen,
wounding many, and capturing fifty of the Thirteenth Indiana regi-
ment. My loss in this action was heavy, and none more regretted
than that of the brave and noble Colonel Cabell, who fell mortally
wounded in the early [)art of the action. For casualties you are
respectfully referred to Forms A and B.

I cannot mention any particular instance of gallantry where all



Memoranda of Thirty-eighth Virginia Infantry. 255

acted so well. The regiment was engaged on dutj' after this in
trenches around Richmond, operating against the Sheridan raiders
until i6th May. When the battle of Drewry's Bluff was fougiit,
the brigade, then commanded by Colonel Fry, formed a part of the
attacking force on the left, and acting as a support to Brigadier-
General Hoke's North Carolina Brigade, which, owing to the density
of the fog, was invisible at forty paces, and having left my front my
regiment was precipitated upon the enemy's works, and many were
shot down without firing a gun, while laboring under the delusion
that General Hoke's brigade was in our front, and it was not until
when within twenty paces of the enemy's works, which were yet in-
visible, that a fire was made, when, with much reduced ranks, only
a few of the right and many of the left wing entered the enemy's
works, capturing many prisoners. I lost here many good and
noble men, who had attested their gallantry upon many a bloody
field. For casualties you are referred to Forms C and D.

Lieutenant-Colonel George K. Griggs was shot through the thigh.
The regiment, with the brigade, took the train for Milford on the
iSth, and marched thence to Spotsylvania Courthouse to join Gen-
eral Lee, but finding him falhng back, returned to Hanover Court
house, having marched two days and nights on short rations, and
but little rest. May the agtn, the division was reunited, and General
Picket took command, to the great joy of all. On the 17th June, it
took part in driving the enemy from our lines, near Bermuda Hun-
dreds, which was accomplished with the loss of one killed and
wounded. Since that time my regiment has been holding one of the
most exposed positions on this most important line, and has been
engaged in several skirmishes with the enemy since occupying its
present position. August the 25th, the enemy's picket line in my
front was captured with some prisoners, but my loss here was not
repaid by the advantage gained, having lost two very valuable offi-
cers — Captain Joyce, Company A, killed, and Captain W. G. Caba-
niss, shot through the face, so as to disable him from service —
besides some good men. November the 17th, it being desirable to
advance our picket line, and all necessary arrangements being made,
the line being slightly reinforced moved forward, and before the
enemy well knew what was going on the larger number were
prisoners. I lost one man wounded in this charge, established my
picket line as far as was desired, captured about thirty-seven pri-
vates and non-commissioned officers, one lieutenant and one captain.

Brigadier -General George H. Sieuart, of Maryland, was placed in



256 Southern Historical Society Papers:

command while on the Hne. Lieutenant-Colonel Griggs had been pro-
moted to Colonel — date from T6th May — and continued on the lines
until the night of the 4th of March, 1865, when it left with the
division by railroad to Farmville; reached there on the loth, to
intercept forces of General Sheridan, but that General changing his
course the division returned to Richmond. On the 14th, proceeded
to Atlee's Station, and continued to follow after Sheridan until he
left for Petersburg On the 26th, the regiment proceeded to Bat-
tery 45, south of Petersburg, and proceeded to throw up fortifi-
cations. Left on the 30th March to meet Sheridan, who was ap-
proaching from Dinwiddle Courthouse ; arriving and bivouacking at
night at Five Forks. The regiment was rear guard, and skirmished
most of the day with the enemy. The division moved at 8 A. M.
toward the Courthouse; engaged the enemy about 2 P. M., and drove
them until dark. The regiment did not become actively engaged.
The enemy bringing up his infantry in the night, the division com-
menced to retire at 4}^ A M. On ist April, halting at Five Forks,
it proceeded to throw up rifle-pits along the road. The enemy at-
tacked in the evening with about 35,000 infantry and Sheridan's
cavalry. To oppose which was Pickett's division, two brigades of
Johnson's division, and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry. Colonel G. K.
Griggs was ordered early in the action to take his regiment to the left
of Brigadier-General Ransom, which he did at a double-quick, de-
ployed his regiment in single rank, and opened a deadly fire
on the enemy, who were marching to our left three columns of
infantry. His front was checked, but there being no support to the
left of the regiment, the enemy's heavy columns soon passed its
left and rear — the regiment thus became exposed to front and rear
fires. The situation was immediately reported to headquarters, and
the men kept up a deadly fire until their ammunition was expended,
and the enemy had rapidly closed in, forming a horseshoe shape.
Colonel Griggs ordered the few men he had to cut their way out as
best they could. The regiment fought against at least ten to one,
and, knowing the fact, yet there seemed to be no fear among them,
and some were seen to club their guns after expending all their
ammunition. On the 2d April, the command attempted to cross the
Appomattox river at Extra Mills; not being able so to do, turned up
the river to cross at Deep Creek bridge ; failing here, halted for the
night; marching on the 3d, and crossing Deep Creek at 11 A. M.,
and continued marching on the 4th to near Amelia Courthouse;
formed line of battle here, living on rations of parched corn. The



President Davis in Reply to General Sher-man. 257

enemy attacked with cavalry ; driven off, and inarch continued,
reaching Sailor's Run about 12 M., when it fought its last battle,
and although broken down with hard marches, &c., the men fought
with as much determination as on any previous field, repelling
every attack, until surrounded by overwhelming numbers, when it,
with the division, cut its way to Farmville as best it could, where as
many of the division as were left rallied and continued the retreat to
Appomattox Courthouse, and surrendered with the army.

Geo. K. Griggs,
Colonel Thirty-eighth Virgijiia Regiment Infantry.



President Davis in Reply to General Sherman.

[In our last issue, we noticed a slander which General W. T. Sher-
man was pleased to make against the ex- President of the Confede-
racy, and Mr. Davis's emphatic denial, and his challenge of Sherman
to produce the proof.

The following letter, published in. the Baltimore Sii7i, is not only an
able and unanswerable reply to Sherman, but contains other matter
which should have a place in our records, and be handed down for
the use of the future historian. No wonder that General Sherman
hzs ihrow7i himself back on his dignity {1\), and declined to reply
to this terrible but deserved excoriation.]

THE LETTER OF MR. DAVIS.

Beauvoir, Mississippi, September 23, 1886.

Colonel]. Thomas Scharf, Baltimore, Maryland :

My Dear Sir — At various times and from many of my friends,
I have been asked to furnish a reply to General W. T. Sherman's
so-called report to the War Department, and which the United
States Senate ordered to be printed as "Ex. Doc. No. 36, Forty-
eighth Congress, second session." I have been compelled by many
causes to postpone my reply to these invitations, and have in some
instances declined, for the time being, to undertake the labor. A
continuing sense of the great injustice done to me, and to the people
I represented, by the Senate making the malicious assault of General



258 Southern Historical Society Papers.

Sherman a public document, and giving to his slander the importance
which necessarily attaches to an executive communication to the
Senate, has recently caused the request tor a reply by me to be
pressed with very great earnestness. For this reason I have decided
to furnish my reply to you for publication in the Baltimore Szm.

More than twenty years after the storm of war between the States
had ceased and the waves of sectional strife had sunk to the condition
of a calm, the public harmony was disturbed by a retired General of
the army making a gratuitous and gross assault upon a private indi-
vidual, living in absolute retirement, and who could only have at-
tracted notice because he had been the representative of the Southern
State.s which, organized into a confederacy, had been a party to the
war.

The history of my public life bears evidence that I did all in my
power to prevent the war; thai I did nothing to precipitate collision;
that I did not seek the post of Chief Executive, but advised my friends
that I preferred not to fill it. That history General Sherman may
slanderously assail by his statements, but he cannot alter its consis-
tency; nor can the Republicans of the Senate change its unbroken
story of faithful service to the Union of the Constitution until, by the
command of my sovereign State,- 1 withdrew as her ambassador from
the United States Senate. For all the acts of my public life as Presi-
dent of the Confederate States I am responsible at the bar of history,
and must accept her verdict, which I shall do without the least appre-
hension that it will be swayed from truth by the malicious falsehoods
of General Sherman, even when stainped as an "Ex. Doc." by the
United States Senate.

Before a gathering of ex-soldiers of the Union army, General Sher-
man took occasion in the fall of 1884, to make accusations against me
and to assert that he had personal means of information not possessed
by others, and particularly that he had seen a letter written by myself,
that he knew my handwriting, and saw and identified my signature
to the letter. The gravamen of his accusation was that the letter to
which he referred "had passed between Jefif. Davis and a man whose
name it would not do to mention, as he is now a member of the
United States .Senate," and that " in that letter he (I) said he would
turn Lee's army against any State that might attempt to secede from
the Southern Confederacy." The position of General of the United
.States army, which General Sherman had filled, demanded that imme-
diate contradiction of that statement should be made, and to that end
I published in the St Louis Republican the following denial:



President Davis in Reply to General Sherman. 259

"Beauvoir, Mississippi, November 6, 1884.

" Editor Si. Louis Republican :

" Dear Sir — I have to-night received the inclosed published
account of remarks made by General W. T. Sherman, and ask the
use of your columns to notice only so much as particularly refers to
myself, and which is to be found in the following extracts :
"The following is taken from the St. Louis Reptiblican:
'"Frank P. Blair Post, G. A. R., opened their new hall, corner
Seventeenth and Olive streets, last night.

'"General Sherman addressed the assemblage. He had read let-
ters which he believed had never been published, and which very few
people had seen. These letters showed the rebellion to be more than
a mere secession — it was a conspiracy most dire. Letters which had
passed between Jeff. Davis and a man whose name it would not do
to mention, as he is now a member of the United States Senate, had
been seen by the speaker and showed Davis's position. He was not
a secessionist. His object in starting the rebellion was not merely
for the secession of the South, but to have this section of the country
so that he could use it as a fulcrum from which to fire out his shot at
the other sections of the country and compel the people to do as he
would have them. Jeff. Davis would have turned his hand against
any State that would secede from the South after the South had
seceded from the North. Had the rebellion succeeded, General
Sherman said, the people of the North would have all been slaves,'

"another account.

"The following is from the Globe- Democrat' s report:
" 'Referring to the late war, he said it was not, as was generally
understood, a war of secession from the United Stales, but a conspi-
racy. 'I have been behind the curtain,' said he, 'and I have seen
letters that few others have seen, and have heard conversations that
cannot be repeated, and I tell you that Jeff Davis never was a seces-
sionist. He was a conspirator. He did not care for separation from
the United States. His object was to get a fulcrum from which to
operate against the United States, and if he had succeeded he would
to-day be the master spirit of the continent and you would be slaves.
I have seen a letter from Jefferson Davis to a man whose name I
cannot mention, because he is a United States Senator. I know
Davis's writing and saw his signature, and in that letter he said he



'■;<



2(i0 Soutliern Historical Society Papers.

would turn Lee's army against any State that might attempt to
secede from the Southern Confederacy.'

"This pubUc assault, under the covert plea that it is based upon
evidence which regard for a United States Senator does not permit
him to present, will, to honorable minds, suggest the idea of irre-
sponsible slander. ■'

"It is thus devolved upon me to say that the allegation of my
ever having written such a letter as is described is unqualifiedly false,
and the assertion that I had any purpose or wish to destroy the
liberty and equal rights of any State, either North or South, is a
reckless, shameless falsehood, especially because it was generally
known that for many years before, as well as during the war between
the States, I was an earnest advocate of the strict construction State-
rights theory of Mr. Jefferson. What motive other than personal
malignity can be conceived for so gross a libel?

"If General Sherman has access to any letters purporting to have
been written by me which will sustain his accusations, let him pro-
duce them or wear the brand of a base slanderer.
"Yours, respectfully,

"Jefferson Davis."

The publication of the above letter attracted very general notice,
and two interviews were had with General Sherman by reporters of
the Globe- Democrat and from the St. Louis Chronicle. In the Globe-
Democrat oi November 25, 1884, General Sherman is reported as
having said: "Whatever explanation I make will be made over my
own signature. I do not propose to get into a fight with Jeff. Davis.
* * When a man makes a newspaper statement he is never sure of
being quoted correctly, but when he makes a statement in his own
handwriting, he is sure of being placed in the right place."

The St. Louis Chronicle of November 24, 1884, reports General
Sherman as saying: "This is an affair between two gentlemen. I
will take my time about it and write to Mr. Davis himself. We will
settle the matter between us." When asked by the reporter, " Have
the papers misrepresented you in your remarks before the Frank
Blair Post, G. A. R.? " He replied, " I say nothing about that. My
reply to Mr. Davis will not be through the newspapers. They are
not the arbiters of this question, nor the go-between for any dispute.
I have nothing more to say."

It is hardly necessary for me to say that General Sherman did not
write to me, and we have not settled the matter between us otherwise



I



\



President JJ avis in Reply to General Sherman. 261

than as I settled it by denouncing his statement as false and himself
as a slanderer. There the matter would have rested so far as I was
concerned, and anything that Sherman, on his own responsibility,
might have afterwards said would have been treated by me with that
silence which the mendacious utterings of an irresponsible slanderer
deserved. But when the War Department of the United States was
made the custodian of his slander, and the Republican Senators
became its endorsers, and the statements made at the Frank Blair
Post were lifted into official importance, it became a duty, alike to
myself and to the people I represented, to follow the slanders with my
denial, and to expose alike its author and his endorsers.

The United States Senate, by resolution offered by Senator Haw-
ley, and debated during January 12 and 13, 1885, called upon the
President of the United States "to communicate to the Senate a his-
torical statement concerning the public policy of the executive depart-



Online LibrarySouthern Historical Society. cnSouthern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) → online text (page 27 of 61)