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Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/141

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Closing Scenes of the War about Richmond. 133

strange that from the creaking of wagons and noise of removing guns, of which there were about twenty along our front (not to speak of some twenty-four mortars and twenty heavy pieces at Chaffin's, etc., all of which latter were abandoned), the enemy did not get an intimation of what we were about.

Besides, either from the proverbial carelessness of soldiers, or from accident, every now and then a hut or pile of brush at the bluff, or in the woods in the rear, would blaze up, throwing a lurid glare far and wide; and although a staff officer galloped from spot to spot and endeavored to impress upon the men the imminent danger of drawing the enemy's fire, it was impossible to keep those fires down.

Shortly after midnight all was ready for the final and delicate operation of withdrawing the troops.

Fields' Division, as before explained, had been already taken away and there were now but two divisions on the north side of the James except the cavalry, of the movements of which I am wholly ignorant Custis Lee's command included, and stretched one mile from Chaffin's Bluff, and was there joined by Kershaw's, which ex- tended away to the left.

Kershaw had already moved out, and marching diagonally from the line and across our rear, had passed the river at Wilton Bridge.

Custis Lee's command now took up the movement, commencing on the left. Generally the companies were marched by the right or left of companies to the rear, and there converging to form their re- spective battalions, then in turn concentrated still further to the rear into brigades, which finally formed the division line of march.

The pickets were left out with orders to withdraw just before day and rapidly overtake the main body. To the relief of all, no notice seemed to be taken of our movement by the enemy; it would have produced a fearful scene of confusion had his batteries been opened upon us at such a time.

The different columns united with tolerable regularity, and the command followed the route in the rear of Kershaw, across Wilton bridge, some two miles back of Chaffin's.

The wagon-train meanwhile had passed through Richmond to cross one of the upper fords and meet the troops somewhere about Farmville. We never saw it again.

By daylight we had made several miles on the Amelia Courthouse road. In the early gray of morning, while the command was rest- ing for a few minutes, a sudden bright light drew the attention of