The Order Was Given to Forward, and We “Forwarded.”

One soldier’s account of the Bermuda Hundred Campaign was published in the Wilmington Journal on June 2, 1864.


HEADQ’RS BEAUREGARD’S ARMY,

Near Drewry’s Bluff,

May 25th, 1864.

Messrs. Editors:

   As our Regiment (the 51st NC) was made up in the Cape Fear District, a few lines relative to its whereabouts and conditions may not in these perilous times be uninteresting to the most of your readers.

   About the 1st of May we received orders to leave our pleasant camp at Petersburg and report to Gen. Clingman, who was in command at Black Water. As a “reb’s” dry goods are soon packed up, we were on the way in a short time. Arriving at Ivor, a station on the Norfolk road, near the Black Water, we found Gen. Clingman (old dad,) as the boys call him, armed and equipped according to Hardee – that is to say, spurs on, Sumpter (his war horse) saddled, and that same old hat peculiarly adjusted, which indicates something rough ahead. Soon orders came as they always do in such times, and “let the cat out of the wallet.” Our faces being turned toward the Black Water, the order was given to forward, and we “forwarded.” The next day found us in the once flourishing village of Suffolk, where we spent quite a pleasant day with the ladies; they seemed to be glad to see the “ragged rebs,” and gave us some painful accounts of the conduct of negro troops. I will say “en passant” that the ladies of Suffolk – and, by the way, they are not a few – are the prettiest I have yet met in the Old Dominion, and although so long at the mercy of a hated foe, are still “true blue” to the Confederacy. To any worthy young gentleman wishing to engage in the business of matrimony, I can cheerfully recommend the ladies of Suffolk. Try them, and I will go a Confed dollar you find them OK.

   Having failed after repeated efforts to draw the Yankees out of their strong works some three miles beyond the village, and our General gaining what information he desired as to their strength, we left for Ivor, reaching there next day about 12 o’clock, with blistered feet and empty stomachs. This trip was called by high officials a reconnoisance [sic] in force, but the boys say it was a forced reconnoisance [sic], as they were marched 20 miles in one day through mud and water knee deep.

   The country between Ivor and Suffolk is fine for farming purposes. There are many very large plantations, and some of the finest and largest apple and peach orchards I ever saw. Strange to say you invariably find a widow at these orchards: reason why, “the deponent saith not.”

   Well, we had scarcely time to rest ourselves at Ivor, before news came, that the deuce was to pay at Petersburg, that Beast Butler with the congregated world had landed at Bermuda Hundreds, City Point, and every where else in the vicinity, and we were marching in every direction. This rather got us, as we knew we had but a small force, but concluded to “roll in if we got squeezed,” so we mounted the train, it tooted, and we were “off on the wars again.”

   On our arrival at Petersburg, we found every body heels upwards. I beg the ladies’ pardon, they were alright, heads up, and greeted us with many hearty cheers. The “new issue” was out en masse, with uncle Jeff’s harness on, ready to meet the foe in deadly combat. The few old troops present were given a position, after which we calmly awaited the onset of the Beast. Contrary to all expectations it was discovered on the following morning that he was approaching the city on the North side by way of Swift Creek. Here he was met by Col. Graham of the 25th S. C. Regiment, and brough to a stand still.

   Only two companies of our Regiment, E and F, were engaged in the fighting immediately around Petersburg. They were like an old acquaintance of mine when I once heard asked if he belonged to the Church, he replied yes, “I have belonged to the Baptist Church off and on for fourteen years.” So with these two companies, we fought a Regiment off and on during one whole night, and we had the fortune after the rout of the enemy at Drewry’s Bluff, of getting hold of a diary kept by one of the regiments, in which we found their loss to be sixty killed and wounded – Our loss, one man in Company F.

   Butler finding the climate rather warm for comfort on Swift Creek (as we were pitching into him both day and night) very prudently retreated under the cover of night and took himself and crew to his den near Bermuda Hundreds. We, by this time having collected a respectable army of veteran troops, put after him. We first met his skirmishers near out entrenchments at Drewry’s Bluff, from which time until the ever memorable 16th, skirmishing on both sides was carried on with a high hand and heavy loss. On the evening of the 15th orders came around for everything to be in readiness. Gen. Beauregard had said that the enemy must be routed, and that was enough.—At the dawn of the day, the rattle of musketry is heard on our extreme left—the enemy’s right. Nearer down the line is heard the cheering of our boys, as they successfully charge and carry the enemy’s works. Still nearer, and to the end, brigade after brigade and regiment after regiment have charged, routing the enemy at all points. Evening found us victors, and in full possession of the field. In their hasty flight they left any amount of baggage, ordnance and commissary stores, besides arms and quite a number of spades and shovels, which we are putting to good use. Our loss was heavy, as we had in some instances to charge them from three different sets of works, but the victory was complete. The loss in our regiment was 150, including some officers, killed, wounded and missing. We followed up the Beast and now have him penned up in the narrow strip of land between the Appomattox and James Rivers. We are gradually tightening the reins on him, and he must soon take the back track, cross over on the peninsula, or fight us. Everything is comparatively quiet today. Should anything important turn up I will try and let you know it,

Yours,

“WILL”

Copyright © 2021/2022 by Kirk Ward. All rights reserved.

 

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