Open main menu

Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 31.djvu/38

This page needs to be proofread.


30 Southern Historical Society Papers.

of Richmond was inevitable; and desperate diseases require desper- ate remedies. General Gordon conceived the bold and hazardous plan of surprising the enemy, piercing their lines in front of Hare's Hill, cutting off the troops between Fort Stedman and the Appo- mattox river, and by thus getting in their rear, to compel them to cross over to the left bank of that river or be captured. Thus hav- ing opened the way to City Point, the Confederate cavalry, which had been brought up and held in readiness to act, was to dash upon City Point, capture General Grant, destroy the immense supplies stored there for the use of the army, and make a raid around the rear of the Federal army. If the way was opened for the cavalry, the enemy in their line between Fort Stedman and the extreme left was to be assailed at various points by the Confederate troops in front of them. General Gordon was to attack them on the exposed right, flank and rear, with the hope of compelling them to abandon the siege of Petersburg and withdraw to the north side of James river.

The conception was worthy of Stonewall Jackson and reflects the highest credit on General Gordon, and, if his force had been suffi- cient to carry the enemy's second line, would have proved a grand success.

This was the last charge made by Confederate soldiers on an en- trenched position of the enemy, and while the results expected were not realized, it showed that the soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia still had plenty of fight in them and could be relied on to do all that mortal men could do.

After the failure of Gordon's movement we all felt that our cause was hopeless, and within ten days thereafter we marched out of the earthworks we had held so long against such overwhelming odds, and a few days after laid down our arms at Appomattox.

The storming of Fort Stedman was a mere episode in the siege of Petersburg and is scarcely mentioned in history, or only spoken of in official reports as an " unsuccessful attempt to carry the Fed- eral lines near Fort Stedman, which was repulsed with great loss."

It was, in fact, one of the boldest movements made during the war; and for coolness and gallantry on the part of the soldiers en- gaged in it was not surpassed by any affair of the war between the

States.

Very truly yours,

JAMES A. WALKER.