June 11th 1864 [cont’d]
On the 9th a body of Kautz’s Cavalry, about four thousand strong, made a sudden dash upon Petersburg by way of the Jerusalem plank road. They were met by a body of citizens militia who manned the works & repulsed them manfully & with heavy loss in two charges, reserving their fire until the Yankee cavalry were within forty paces. This changed their tactics & as we had but 170 (one hundred & seventy) men all told, it was an easy maer for them to flank breastworks & trenches of more than a mile in extent, so the gallant band of civilians were ordered to retreat. On came the enemy in double column, sabres drawn. Thundering down to the very outskirts of the City, they planted a cannon on a hill opposite the Water Works & prepared to shell the city. Their advance column already were across the bridge at the foot of the hill when a new feature was put on the whole affair by the opportune arrival of Graham’s Battery which reached Reservoir Hill, unlimbered, & with remarkable precision & rapidity threw a shower of shell into their midst. They paused, when suddenly, Dearing’s Cavalry Brigade, dismounted, charged them with a yell down the hill. This was more than they expected, for as yet they had seen none but militia. So wheeling, they started back up the Water work hill in confusion. Here they paused but seeing a part of their forces, with whom they expected to unite, retreating from the direction of Blandford Church road before Sturdevant’s Battery, they incontinently fled abandoning a handsome cannon & six horses on Jackson[‘s] old field about a mile from the Church. The gallant militia lost nine killed & many wounded, but inflicted a heavier loss on the enemy.
We took a few prisoners who say that the object of the expedition was the capture of Petersburg. We opine, in which God grant we may be mistaken, that it was a pioneer company sent out by Grant to feel the way for him, tho the troops were from Butler’s command. Grant, “butcher Grant” as his men call him, succeeded so well by swinging around from his base & infesting Vicksburg, cutting off its communications, that we think it more than likely that foiled as he has now been on the North side of the James, he will try the same tactics on the South side of the Appomatox, having Bermuda Hundred, the place at which Kautz’s party crossed as a base. Could Lee reach Petersburg in time to confront him? To do so certainly he ought to have a pontoon bridge or bridges at Drewry’s Bluff. O that we had peace! This constant anxiety & watching must tell on our men! How does Gen Lee support it? God’s blessing only & God’s strength enables him to bear up under. What a position does he occupy — the idol, the point of trust, of confidence & repose of thousands! How nobly has he won the confidence, the admiration of the nation, for I remember that when Gen Joe Johnston was wounded at Seven Pines & Lee in consequence took the head of the army himself, many persons both doubted his ability in the field & deplored his removal from the Cabinet. An excellent one to plan to lay out a campaign but with too little energy to carry it out, they even called him “old-stick-in-the-mud” & quoted the mishaps of the Western Va campaign against him! Should any one now dare to remember or to apply that soubriquet to him their heads would to a certainty be broken, if not by one of his men by a civilian. Such is [the] confidence & affectionate trust we all repose in him. “Marse Robert” can do any & all things. God grant that he may long be spared to us. He nullifies Bragg, Ransom, & a host of other incapables. Bragg is blamed for the loss of Staunton. Justly I dare say, he has lost us so much elsewhere that it would not be “Bragg, the Unlucky” were he now to fail. Let us hope that his evil genius may exhaust itself in that last ‘coup’ & that he may have no heavier misfortune in store for us.
Source: Edmondston, Catherine Ann Devereux, 1823-1875, Journal of a Secesh Lady: The Diary of Catherine Ann Devereux Edmondston 1860-1866. Crabtree, Beth G and Patton, James W., (Raleigh, NC: North Carolina Division of Archives and History, 1979).http://nc-historical-publications.stores.yahoo.net/478.html