Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 25.djvu/14

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10 Sniilln I'll Historical Sn<;'rfi/

General Lee was at that time confronted by Grant at the Rapidan. General W. H. C. Whiting was placed in command of the defences of Petersburg, embracing the line of heavy fixed batteries supported by two small local battalions, about 150 militia, one Georgia battalion, and our brigade of infantry.

General Beauregard took his position with about 8,000 effective men at Drewry's Bluff, and all these forces were confronted by But- ler's Army of the James, entrenched at City Point and at Cobb's in Hewlett's Neck. On the i4th of May, 1864, he presented his plan of strategy to the War Department, at the head of which then were Mr. Seddon and General Bragg. Lee had about 45,000 effective forces; Beauregard about 15,000; and the plan he presented was for Lee to fall back upon the outer defences of Richmond and send to him, Beauregard, 15,000 reinforcements, making, with his own, 30,000 men with which to attack and conquer Butler, gain City Point, cross the James, and attack Grant's on the left and rear, whilst Lee should attack him in front. Thus Grant would have been cut off from the James below Richmond, Petersburg would have been relieved, and Grant's force of about 120,000 then could have been assailed front, flank and rear by 60,000 men under the two choicest generals of the Confederate army. This plan, unfortunately, was rejected by the President, and immediately thereafter General Bragg sent to General Whiting an order saying that General Lee was pressed very hard by Grant, and needed all the reinforcements which could be forwarded to him to save Richmond; and the defence of the cap- ital being much more important than that of Petersburg, he was ordered with all despatch to report with all his available forces at Richmond. This order was submitted to me, his second in com- mand, by General Whiting, for my opinion as to its execution. It was signed by General Bragg officially. I read it with care, and unequivocally gave the opinion that it should not be obeyed, for the reason that to abandon Petersburg was to abandon Drewry's Bluff, and to abandon the latter was to abandon Richmond. General Whiting declared that that was his own opinion, and ordered me at once to make the best preparation for the defence of Petersburg to the last extremity in my power. I state these facts because it has been denied that General Bragg ever issued such an order. It was read and considered by another besides General Whiting and myself. In two hours from the time it was received, and whilst I was issuing orders for the defence of Petersburg, General Whiting again sent for me to wait on him at his quarters. The moment I reported he