Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 12.djvu/300

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

290 Southern Historical Society Papers.

was called to endure a strain upon nerve, heart and brain that in the long lapse of years can never be forgotten.

On the 5th May the Seventeenth Virginia regiment was under Hoke in front of Newbern, N. C, right resting on the Neuse River, forming a part of our line then investing that place. When our position was revealed, by the careless firing of a picket upon a passing fishing smack, we were treated to a vigorous shelling by the enemy's gun- boats. This made a lasting impression upon our memories, as we had to lie down and take it without a return shot, and with the chance of being impaled by pines, whose tops every now and then, taken off by a ten-inch shell, dropped with a crash in our midst. General Hoke's polite request for a surrender not being complied with, he would have followed by an assault of the town in force, but for the vigorous opening of that memorable campaign by Grant and Butler, and he was reluctantly compelled to make a forced retrograde move- ment to Kingston, and from thence via Weldon for Petersburg and Richmond. The morning of the loth found us on the cars with the Thirtieth Virginia, the rest of our brigade having preceded us. We were delayed by forest fires that burnt the ties and spread the rails in many places. We were again delayed between Weldon and Pe- tersburg by burnt bridges and torn up track, the work of Kautz and his raiders, causing a march of nine miles at one point before reach- ing Petersburg. On our arrival, to our dismay we found that three regiments of our brigade. General Corse and staff, were near Rich- mond, and General Butler in between. To my military readers this forced orphanage of a whole regiment from its military head and family will be understood as being anything but pleasant. We wanted to fight under our own commanders and by the side of our old and tried comrades.

But to the old Seventeenth, who knew no home but the regimental camp (their homes being during the four years of the war in the en- emy's lines), a few words of explanation was all that was necessary to take in the situation. Reporting to General Wise, then in command of Petersburg, we were ordered into camp across the Appomattox, for which point the men took up the line of march with that cheerful hope of the future, the " devil me care air " and swinging step pecu- liar to the old ragged battalions of that period.

About I o'clock at night I was aroused from a sound sleep by a courier with a characteristic order from General Wise, on a slip of ragged paper, viz : " Hold your regiment in readiness to move at any moment, in any direction, at a double-quick." A soft rain was falling