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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/138

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130 Southern Historical Society Papers.

south side, where heavy fighting, it was stated, had been and was still going on. Matters were reported to be in a critical condition there, but there were also cheering rumors that Joe Johnston had eluded Sherman and was within a few hours' march of Grant's left flank, and many were buoyant with the expectation that the day would witness a repetition of the scenes of 1862.

The panic in St. Paul's Church, when one after another the prin- cipal officers of the government and other leading men were myste- riously summoned away in the middle of the service, has been often described. Many persons simultaneously left the church, and for a time there was great confusion among those who remained, but order was presently restored, and, being communion Sunday, the services were brought to a conclusion without further interruption and with usual solemnity.

By the way, it so happened that the'disorder was at its height just before the time for taking up the usual collection, and I afterwards read an account of a Northern correspondent which related how the rector, recognizing the impending end of all things, with happy presence of mind, seized the occasion for reaping a last harvest from his scattering congregation.

At 2 o'clock the Spotswood Hotel and General Swell's head- quarters, corner of Franklin and Seventh streets, were points of greatest interest, and here large crowds blocked the pavements, eagerly discussing the rumors which hourly became more exciting and took more definite shape. It seemed certain that there had been heavy fighting the day before on the extreme right, in which the Confederates had been unable to withstand the attack of over- whelming numbers. I saw one of General Pickett's staff officers, who, reaching Richmond by railroad, after passing all the way around by Barksville Junction, reported that General's command as cut off and in a critical situation, and it was ascertained that the firing which we had listened to the night before was an attack irade on the cen- tre of our line, halfway between Petersburg and Chaffin's, where, owing to Pickett's Division having been drawn off to reinforce the extreme right, the works were defended by less than a skirmish line.

This attack had resulted in the capture of the works; a gap was thus made in our centre, through which the Federals poured their troops and massed them, preparatory to sweeping the entire line. It had been reported early in the day that General Ewell had re- ceived orders from General Lee to prepare to evacuate Richmond, and the story had been twenty times repeated and denied. By 4