Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 28.djvu/327
Gen. P. G. T. Beawjnr.l. 321
enemy had not General H.igood been halted there at that most op- portune hour. * * * He and his command were justly looked upon as the saviors of Petersburg upon that occasion."
Hut the crisis had not yet passed. It was for three days yet in the power of General Butler, by a determined advance, to brush the handful of Confederates from his path and march into Petersburg. His strength and position were now, however, fully developed by the Confederates, and before day on the morning of the 8th, General Pickett. at Petersburg, ordered the force at Walthall Junction to withdraw into the Northern lines, on the south side of Swift Creek, nearer to the city.
An advance party of Hagood's Brigade held the field at Walthall until the morning of the Qth, when Butler again advanced,, but now with his whole army. By midday he had it in position before the Swift Creek line. These were ordinary breastworks, and were now held by the brigades of Bushrod Johnson, some 1,100 strong, Hagood, rt-inforced by the arrival of his remaining regiments, to 2,400 officers and men, and Colonel McCanthen's 5ist North Carolina Regiment, unattached, probably less than 500 strong, making in all something like 4,000 infantry. There were eighteen pieces of field artillery, being the batteries of Owens, Payne, Hancken and Marten. Twenty- two men of Johnson's Brigade were detailed to work, under Captain Marten, the heavy guns of Fort Clifton, situated near the debouch- ment of Swift creek into the Appomattox, and controlling the navi- gation of that river.
BUTLER'S TWO BLUNDERS.
Upon the deployment of Butler's army in front of the Swift Creek line, a rapid artillery engagement ensued, together with severe in- fantry skirmishing, the latter continuing well into the night. Co-in- cident with his advance, five gunboats attacked Fort Clifton, and after three hours' fighting, retired, with the loss of one of their number. With this ended the opportunity at this time of taking Petersburg by a couf> de main. The next day Beauregard had ar- rived with sufficient troops from the southward to make it safe from assault.
On the loth all was quiet along the Swift Creek front, but General Ransom, with Birton's and Grade's brigades, and perhaps some other troops from the Richmond garrison, assailed Butler's rear, near Chester Station, witli some, but not decisive, success. It is