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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The XVIII Corps Moves up the Pamunkey IV

Gen. William F. Smith

More from "Baldy Smith" . . .
My command consisted very nearly of 16,000 infantry, sixteen pieces of. artillery, and one squadron of cavalry of about 100 men. As I knew of no landing-place on the north side of the Pamunkey near the White House, II had asked permission from Washington, through General Butler, to land at West Point and march to the designated point, but this was refused. I, however, took the responsibility of sending General Ames and one brigade in fast steamers to land at West Point, and march to protect my landing if it should become necessary, and requested Admiral Lee to give orders to Captain Babcock, U.S. Navy, to cover the landing of this brigade by gun-boats. The necessary orders were promptly given by the admiral, with his usual zeal in all his co-operations: By Sunday morning, 11 a.m., 29th, the embarkation was so far advanced that I started to overtake the head of my command. On arriving at Fort Monroe, a telegram gave me information that General Grant had crossed the Pamunkey with the greater part of the Army of the Potomac, and then, deeming my proper course to be up the Pamunkey, landing at the White House, I immediately gave the necessary orders, and reached the landing at the White House, with my headquarters, on Monday, May 30, at 11 a.m. The transports were as rapidly unloaded as the inadequate means of landing would admit, and several fast steamers were sent back to assist in towing barges and schooners, and in aiding other steamers which had run aground on the shoals in the James River. During the night of the 30th and morning of the 31st, I received three copies of the following order:

                Hanovertown, Va., May 28, 1864-1 p.m.

Maj. Gen. W.F. SMITH,
    Commanding Eighteenth Army Corps:
GENERAL: The Army of the Potomac is now crossing to the south side of the Pamunkey River and massing at this place; the most of it has already crossed. You will leave a garrison at the White House until it is relieved by General Abercrombie's command from Port Royal, and with the remainder of your command move direct to New Castle, on the south side of the Pamunkey, and there await further orders. Order the garrison left by you at White House, on being relieved, to follow after and join you.
By command of Lieutenant-General Grant:
                            JNO. A. RAWLINS,
                        Brigadier-General and Chief of Staff.

As my troops had not all arrived, and none of my wagons or ammunition, I sent to ask if my command should move as I then stood, or wait until I could take supplies with me, but later in the day, upon the receipt of a letter from General Grant, I determined not to wait for a reply to my first letter, but to march at once. I left General Ames with about 2,500 men to garrison White House, and marched about 3.30 p.m. with about 10,000 men and my artillery, and without wagons to carry supplies or extra ammunition. About 10 p.m. I reached Bassett's house near Old Church and distributed my troops to cover the roads leading to New Castle Ferry. The men had had but little experience in heavy marching, and that, together with the heat of the day, caused much straggling, which I was unable to prevent, as my provost guard had not arrived when I left the White House. From Bassett's I sent to inform General Grant of my position, and asking further orders. The next morning at daylight I received an order to proceed at once to New Castle Ferry, and place myself between the Fifth and Sixth Corps. Deeming time to be of great importance, I moved the command, without allowing the men time to get their coffee. On reaching New Castle Ferry I found that we were in the broad valley lands of the Pamunkey, surrounded by hills within artillery range, which, if occupied by the enemy, would force us to carry them by assault. The Fifth and Sixth Corps were not in this vicinity. I at once sent Captain Farqnhar, of the Engineers, to say to the Lieutenant-general that I was certain from my position there was some mistake in the order, and to ask that it be rectified. While my lines were being formed I began the construction of a bridge across the river, and during these operations, Lieutenant-Colonel Babcock, of General Grant's staff, arrived to say there had been a mistake in my order, and that it should have been to march to Cold Harbor instead of New Castle Ferry. The command was immediately marched back over the road we had just traveled, and in the direction of Cold Harbor.
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-The war of the rebellion: a compilation of the official records of the Union and Confederate armies. ; Series 1-Volume 36 (Part I)

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