State Highway Marker

State Highway Marker

Friday, April 3, 2015

Sheridan March 1865- The Last Campaign V

Sheridan's Grand March Across The Peninsula from the Pamunkey To the James.

 [Correspondence of the New York Tribune.]

Jones Landing, James River (Va.), March 20th.— daylight in the morning the valley of the Pamunkey was a scene of activity and preparation for the day's march, the cavalry hosts, in response to the trumpet calls, being gradually formed into line. Boon the variegated battle-flags of the regiments were streaming over the wooded hills that overlook the Old White House estate. General Custer's mounted veterans led the van, the winding horns of his buglers making the vernal woods resonant with their melodies.
The march was onward, mid stirring martial music, fluttering banners, the songs of Spring birds and the aromatic air of the bud. hug forest, through former scenes of conflict and disaster, to the historic banks of the James. Two days' march, with three days' rations in saddle-pouches and grain sacks, was expected to mingle the mounted heroes of the valley with their infantry comrades and compatriots of the Potomac and the James for the grand final conflict.
On the hill immediately overlooking the old White House estate on the road leading out to the New Kent and Charles City road, we passed the ruins of what had been a very old residence, on a very fine site. Nothing remained of the buildings except the brick chimneys and the ruins of a few old log out-houses. A decaying peach orchard, on the side of the hill toward the White House, the trees of which continue to blossom even in their old age, was completely overgrown with the cedar trees indigenous to the soil. From this place, on the hill, we had a fine view of the Pamunkey Valley below, and the wagon-train and the last of the troops gradually falling into line, and the last of the steamers, except one gunboat left as rear guard, winding down the deep, meandering Pamunkey.

Was most delightful, over a moist sandy road, for the most part spacious, winding over wooded hill and dale and cultivated plain, across rushing mill streams and babbling brooks. In passing through the variegated forest, particularly embellished by the green cedar and the red-berried laurel, and an occasional clump of rosebushes, red-berried, and containing a last year's bird's nest, by the roadside, I confess a disposition to loiter, and gather for those romantic humanitarians, Mrs. Rev. Dr. Hutter and Miss Louise Eglantine Claghorn, of Philadelphia, another bouquet of battle-field forest foliage to sell at a grand Sanitary Fair, as a present for the President or somebody else, for the benefit of our brave soldiers.
These attractions, together with those of an occasional neatly cut bank exposing primeval geological strata for examination, required a stoicism to resist them that I confess I was hardly master of. Once or twice I did fall out of line to gather a few specimens, botanical and geological, but I found it so difficult to regain my position again in Sheridan's lumbering cavalry that I made up my mind to resist the temptation to letter. It is about twenty miles from the White House across the Peninsula, to Wilcox's Landing, on the James river. This distance, except about a mile and a half on the West End, we made on the 24th, the column all getting into camp, within our lines, near Mrs. Wilcox's place before dark, without having seen or heard of an enemy. The country through which we passed has evidently once been one of the finest and most highly cultivated regions In the State, particularly from the Chickahominy to the James. We passed many fine plantations bearing unmistakable signs of former magnificence, but which now wore the appearance of being almost deserted. No gangs of slaves could be seen tilling them as in former days. We passed one church and one mill on the road, the latter on a fine stream of water, and both apparently in a good state of repair, but the occupation of both seemed to be gone. The grass was springing up in the gateway of the former, and the dust of many days apparently had settled upon the overshot water wheel of the latter.
At one place on the road, in New Kent county, we exchanged a magnificent war panorama for a single beautiful tableau— is, a good-looking lady came down to the gate with her pretty daughter and little son to see the column pass. They naturally took rather an artistic position, and showed by their manifestations that they had the intelligence to not be afraid of the Yankees, and to appreciate the glorious American Union for which they were fighting. These were about the only Caucasian women that we saw on the route.

We found the pontoon bridge all right across the Chickahominy, spanning two different channels, and guarded by a piece of our artillery and a portion of General Dodge's infantry. The historic Chickahominy was pretty high, and brought up in our minds many associations of the old Peninsular campaign and subsequent marches. At William Jordan's fine place, on the west bank of the Chickahominy, we were presented with another tableau on the hillside, near the road, this time on a larger scale and of another color, consisting of ebony old men and ebony women, old and young, and children of the same, here thrown in promiscuously, Yankee admirers and Union and Liberty appreciators.
The march to-day from Mrs. Wilcox's place, a mile and a half from James river, up along the Charles City road, via General Ord's headquarters, and his pontoon bridge to this place, was not so pleasant as that or yesterday, the road not being so good, etc., but was not without interest.
A grand inception was given to General Sheridan's braves by the Army of the James, on our entrance into General Ord's lines. The frowning, bristling battlements swarmed with his men, coming out to meet and welcome the recognized heroes of the valley.
The bands of the forts struck up stirring martial airs, which were responded to by the bands of the cavalry host. Old comrades recognized each other after long separation, and fell upon each other's shoulders and wept of sheer joy at the grand reunion.
The pontoon bridge across the James, through which the River Queen, the Margaret Washington and the George Steers had just passed, was soon swung into position, and the trampling host were seen winding down the hills on the north side, across the river, over the valleys, and up the hills on the south side of the James, where, at this writing, they are going into camp, for probably a two days stay , previous to further important operations.

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