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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/137

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Closing Scenes of the War about Richmond. 129

[From the New Orleans, La., Picayune, October 1-11, 1903.]


Retreat of Custis Lee's Division and the Battle of Sailor's


By Captain McHENRY HOWARD, of Baltimore, Assistant Inspector General, C. S. A., General Custis Lee's Division.

Between 10 and n o'clock Saturday night, April i, 1865, just as I was falling asleep on the lines in front of Chaffin's Bluff, on the north side of the James river, a faint red glare illuminated the tent, followed by a low muttering like distant thunder.

The night was very dark and cloudy, the atmosphere damp and heavy, and at another time I might have found it hard to determine whether the sound was the distant roll of musketry or the rumbling of an approaching storm, but under the circumstance there was no difficulty in attributing it to the right cause.

Flash after flash shone through the canvas, and the muttering presently became almost continuous, although very little louder.

There was something particularly awful in these half-suppressed, but deadly, signs of a far-off struggle, when contrasted with the perfect tranquility immediately around us.

Dressing ourselves and mounting the works, we watched and listened for half an hour, but the battle was across the James, and away over to our right all remained quiet along our part of the lines; and the " Richmond defenses " soon came to the conclusion that so far it was no affair of theirs, and like true soldiers went to sleep as fast as they could to make the most of their present exemption.

Sunday morning was cloudless and lovely, and everything con- tinuing quiet in our front and not the slightest intimation of any change in the condition of affairs being received at division head- quarters, I saw no reason why I should not ride to Richmond for the purpose of attending church. On reaching the city, I was not a little astonished to find it in great commotion. Fields' Division, which had formed the left of the line of three divisions on the north side of the James had been withdrawn and marched through town early in the morning, being called away in haste to re-enforce the