Pamunkey River

Pamunkey River
The Pamunkey River in 1864

Friday, October 17, 2014

Near Bottom's Bridge, June 11, 1864

From the Army of the Potomac.
Near Bottom's Bridge, June 11th, 1864.

It seems hard to realize that I am writing on almost the same ground as that occupied by the old "Empire Battery" two years ago. Really, some changes have come over since then, when we stole around through the underbrush and low pines to get a sly shot at the rebels across the Chickahominy. And when we opened on a rebel battery, lying on the other end of the railroad bridge, making them " skedaddle" with indecent celerity, we deemed it true that we had certainly done a big thing. And it was quite an achievement for such greenhorns as we were when. It was not till after the bloody baptism of Seven Pines that we realized the idea of battle. And here let me say that I have never experienced anything, even in this campaign of campaigns, which could compare with that fearful struggle. So here we are on the classic grounds of the Chickahominy. Two years have sped by, two crimson years. We have hoped and struggled and bled, and now, like a benighted traveler, we emerge from the wilderness to find ourselves walking in the same path we left but an hour ago. We are no nearer the rebel capital today than we were two years ago. Under ordinary circumstances this fact might be discouraging, but though we are even further from Richmond than we were two years since, we feel, we believe, we know we are nearer the end of the rebellion than at that time. There is naught pleasant in this desolate region, dotted on every knoll and hillock with the graves of our comrades, but there is an expression on the countenance of each bronzed veteran telling a different tale from that look which sat upon many faces in '62, when the Army of the Potomac dragged its slow length along at the rate of a mile a day. We all believe that the doom of the rebellion is scaled. We hope that this summer may put Richmond in our hands, and so the army is cheerful, even here in the ill-fated Chickahominy country. The army of the Potomac occupies ground near that held by McClellan in 1862, but it occupies the country in a totally different manner. There is life, energy and action in the army now. It fights and marches in downright earnest. We are in the Chickahominy swamps now, but we shall not lie here all summer, except for a purpose.
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- -Utica Morning Herald

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Cutting a Man

POLICE COURT— Justice J.J. White Presiding;. —The following cases were disposed of to-day:
. . .
John Fox, charged with cutting with a knife and killing a man in New Kent county. Continued till called for by the authorities of New Kent.

-The Daily State Journal(Richmond)December 28, 1871

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Fall of Fort Harrison- Part Two

The follow up to Friday's post on the capture of Fort Harrison, and the role in its defense by the Pamunkey Artillery . . . another letter to the Richmond Sentinel.

                                                [Correspondence to the Sentinel.]

                                CHAFFIN'S BLUFF, Oct 11, 1864

Mr. Editor- Inasmuch as there seems to be great misunderstanding in regard to the part taken by the battalion of artillery stationed at this place, in the fight with the enemy on the 29th of September, when the advance was made on our line of defences, immediately below this place, and as there seems to be a strong disposition on the part of some, who are entirely ignorant of the whole affair, to attach all the blame of the fall of Fort Harrison to our battalion, of the sake of justice, I desire to make a plain  statement of facts, that the public may know who are to blame and who are not.
About 5 o'clock on the morning of the 29th September, the battalion, hardly two hundred strong, (more than one hundred of it being on duty at Signal Hill, about -- miles below, was marched to the breastworks.- Thirty five men of the Goochland Artillery, under Lieut. Guerrant, were ordered to Fort  Harrison; the remainder, ten, were at Fort Gilmer, manning the two guns there. These even lighted the fuses in their shells and rolled them down on the enemy in the ditch, when they were too close for their pieces. - The James City artillery, commanded by Lieut. Davis, were sent North of Fort Harrison, on the Varina road, to man four pieces of artillery there, two of which could not be used on account of the ammunition being too large. The others were worked until nearly all the ammunition was expended, and the enemy between them and our lines. The men then made their way back as best they could and, as infantry, helped to repulse a charge of the enemy on a redoubt next to Fort Harrison, and afterwards the attack on Fort Gilmer.
The Lunenburg artillery, Captain Allen; Howitzer company, Lieut. Winder; and Pamunkey artillery, Capt. Jones- the three numbering less than one hundred and twenty five men- were ordered to defend the line of works from Fort Harrison to the river- about a mile and a half- with no infantry support. Capt. Allen had a detachment of fourteen men with him in a redoubt next to and commanded by Fort Harrison. The remainder of his company were in different detachments, considerably lower down the line. As soon as the enemy came in view of the fort, the guns were opened on them, and continued to fire until after the infantry support had left, and Lt. Col. Maury, Maj. Taylor, Adjutant Ellerson, and six of the Goochland artillery were captured at the guns.- While the infantry, which were there to support the  artillery, (a portion of them Reserves, which a certain newspaper editor of Richmond delights so much to extol for their gallantry, left the fort, many of them before the enemy had got within good musket range. Soon after the guns in the fort had opened Capt. Allen did so from his redoubt. Our guns lower down the line were in such a position that the enemy could not be seen from them until they were rushing late the fort, and then our men were kept from firing by a captain of some other command, who said that the enemy were our own men falling back. Capt. Allen continued to fire after they had  captured the fort, until he was flanked; he then fell back to the third redoubt from the fort, with Lieut. Winder, who had hauled two howitzers by hand some three hundred yards, under fire of the enemy, and put them in position in the third redoubt; and there Capt. Allen and Lieut. Winder, with less than one hundred men, with two small howitzers, one twenty-four pound siege piece and a lot of smoothbore muskets; and Capt. Jones a little farther back, in another redoubt, with but a handful of men and two pieces of artillery, check the triumphant advance of the enemy for nearly an hour, when that portion of the battalion on duty at Signal Hill, and a portion of Johnson's Tennessee brigade, came to our assistance; but had we not held the position, all of these would have been cut off and probably captured.
And now Mr. Editor, since there are some very wise and officious persons, who are so desirous of giving this battalion all the blame for the fall of Fort Harrison, when there was only 35 men of it there, and some of those were taken at the guns, when, too, the enemy admit that our artillery fire was very destructive, I desire that those will tell who checked the advance of the enemy and kept them from coming to and capturing the Bluff while our gunboats were below, and having command of our lower pontoon bridge, as their papers falsely state they do.
And I would further state that late in the evening, when reinforcements came, General Pickett's men were charged the enemy cut off the two redoubts next to Fort Harrison, that a portion of our battalion joined them and were among the foremost in the charge, as some of General Pickett's men can testify.
But some may say, that after remaining silent so long, we might have remained so in reply, we have to say, that several communications have been sent to a certain paper in Richmond, called, by some, the soldier's friend, and neither have been heard from; not even from an official list of casualties- and we feel that we have a right to demand that justice which, though tardy, is sweet to those who having done their duty feel they deserve it.


-The Sentinel(Richmond), October 13, 1864

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Fall of Fort Harrison- Part One

NPS map of portion Richmond National Battlefield Park

The Union moves north of the James River in the early fall of 1864 led to the capture of the Confederate Fort Harrison on the 28th of September, 1864. Fort Harrison is probably know to most people in New Kent at the main component of the Richmond National Battlefield Park in eastern Henrico. The fort has another connection to New Kent than that of simple proximity however. The Pamunkey Artillery, also know as Jone's Company, Heavy Artillery as well as a few other names, was an artillery regiment raised in New Kent. Battery sized, this unit operated not field artillery, but the heavier pieces used to defend fortified positions.

What follows is a "letter to the editor" written to the Richmond Sentinel in October 1864 by a Confederate soldier describing the roles of the various artillery companies in the unsuccessful defense of the fort.

                                 CHAFFIN'S BLUFF,
                                October 8th, 1864

I have heard so much, for the last few days, about what part this battalion acted in the engagement near here, on the 29th of September last, I feel that justice should be done, if possible. For about ten days before the 29th, over one hundred and fifty of our battalion had been detailed to throw up works at "Signal Hill," about two mile below here. On the morning of the advance of the enemy, the few remaining men were ordered to proceed out to our line of fortifications between here and "Signal Hill." Very soon after the enemy appeared in front of "Fort Harrison." A small portion of the Goochland Artillery were in the fort; Capt. Allen, with a small portion of the Lunenburg Artillery, was to the right in a small redoubt; Lieut. Winder, with two small howitzers, was to his right; Capt. Jones, with a portion of the Pamunkey Artillery, to his right. When the enemy entered Fort Harrison, Captain Allen was forced with his few men, to join Lieut. Winder. They then for several hours kept the enemy in check until about ten o'clock, when Captain A. received a painful wound in the right hand. Shortly after, other troops came to their assistance. Then the enemy were completely checked. Lieut. Col. J.M. Ellerson, had left the Bluff early in the morning for Fort Harrison, where they were all taken prisoners by the rapid advance of the enemy. All testify to the bravery of Captain Allen and Lieutenant Winder, during the whole engagement. They had but a few men, until our other men joined them from Signal Hill, but they disposed them to the best advantage. I hope before long the case can be made to all, that what few men we had here should not be blamed for the fall of Fort Harrison. If our battalion had not been scattered so much, the enemy would never have occupied any of the works. I am happy to say the small portion of the works the enemy occupy does them no material service towards their "on to Richmond." Hoping some abler pen may take this matter in hand, I will say no more for the present.


-The Sentinel(Richmond), October 12, 1864