Official Records-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXIII [S# 60]
UNION CORRESPONDENCE, ORDERS, AND RETURNS RELATING TO OPERATIONS IN NORTH CAROLINA, VIRGINIA, WEST VIRGINIA, MARYLAND, AND PENNSYLVANIA, FROM JANUARY 1 TO APRIL 30, 1864.--#9
HEADQUARTERS EIGHTEENTH ARMY CORPS,
Fortress Monroe, February 5, 1864.
Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War :
SIR: I send inclosed for your perusal the information I have acquired of the enemy’s forces and dispositions about Richmond. The letter commencing “Dear Sir,” on the first page, is a cipher letter to me from a lady in Richmond, with whom I am in correspondence. The bearer of the letter brought me a private token, showing that he was to be trusted. There are not now in Lee’s army or about Richmond 30,000 men. I can get no co-operation from Sedgwick. Forty thousand men on the south side of the James would be sufficient for the object of taking and permanently holding Richmond. The roads have been good up to to-day. You will see that the prisoners are to be sent away to Georgia. Now, or never, is the time to strike. On Sunday I shall make a dash with 6,000 inch, all I have that can possibly be spared. If we win, it will pay the cost; if we fail, it will at least be in an attempt to do our duty and rescue our friends. New Berne is relieved, and, I believe, permanently.
I have marked this “Private and immediate,” so that it shall at once come into your hands.
Respectfully, your obedient servant,
BENJ. F. BUTLER,
JANUARY 30, 1864.
DEAR SIR: It is intended to remove to Georgia very soon all the Federal prisoners; butchers and bakers to go at once. They are already notified and selected. Quaker [a Union man whom I know.--B. F. B.] knows this to be true. Are building batteries on the Danville road.
This from Quaker: Beware of new and rash council! Beware! This I send you by direction of all your friends. No attempt should be made with less than 30,000 cavalry, from 10,000 to 15,000 infantry to support them, amounting in all to 40,000 or 45,000 troops. Do not underrate their strength and desperation. Forces could probably be called into action in from five to ten days; 25,000, mostly artillery. Hoke’s and Kemper’s brigades gone to North Carolina; Pickett’s in or about Petersburg. Three regiments of cavalry disbanded by General Lee for want of horses. Morgan is applying for 1,000 choice men for a raid.
FEBRUARY 4, 1864.
GENERAL. Well, my boy, where did you get that letter from? Miss Van Lew gave it to me. I stayed for a week with Miss Van Lew before I came away. Miss Lizzie said she wanted to send you a letter, and I said I would bring it. Miss Lizzie said you would take care of me. I left there last Saturday night. Miss Lizzie told me what to tell you.
GENERAL. Well, what did she tell you to say? You need have no fear here.
She told me to tell you of the situation of the army. Mr. Palmer got all the information he could for you. Lee has got about 25,000 men; there are about 15,000 men at Petersburg. The City Battalion and two companies (Maryland companies) are at Richmond, and about 1,800 or 2,000 at Chaffin’s and Drewry’s Bluffs. Mr. Palmer said there were two brigades gone to North Carolina about a week before I left. He found out, though, just before I came away, that one of them had stopped at Petersburg. The two brigades that went were Hoke’s and Kemper’s. He thought that what available force could be got into Richmond in four or five days was from 25,000 to 30,000 men. He said to say to you that Richmond could be taken easier now than at any other time since the war began. He thought that it would take about 10,000 cavalry and 30,000 infantry.
GENERAL. Miss Van Lew says something in her letter about Quaker.
There is a man there goes by the name of Quaker. That is not his name, but he says he does not wish any one to know his name; he does not wish to be known by any other name. They are sending off the Federal prisoners to Georgia. Mr. Palmer said he had understood that Lee was there in Richmond in secret session there; but he said that was not reliable. Lee has about 25,000 available men. Miss Van Lew said not to undervalue Lee’s force. Quaker said his plan to take Richmond would be to make a feint on Petersburg; let Meade engage Lee on the Rappahannock; send 200 or 300 men and land them at the White House on the other side of Richmond, so as to attract attention; then have 10,000 cavalry to go up in the evening, and then rush into Richmond the next morning, <ar60_521>
GENERAL. How did you get through?
Mr. Holmes got a man to bring me to guide me. He paid him $1,000 in Confederate money, and he brought me to the Chickahominy and left me there. He fooled me. I came across the river. I got a boat. I don’t think there are any men on the Chickahominy, or only a few cavalry. There are none nearer than Lee’s army. At Chaffin’s farm there is about a regiment. He told me to tell you that Drewry’s Bluff is the strongest point; he said you must come around Richmond on the other side. Morgan is applying for 1,000 men. The papers say he is going to make a raid into Kentucky. I don’t believe that, though, for if he was the papers would not say so. Miss Van Lew said that all the women ought to be kept from passing from Baltimore to Richmond. She said they did a great deal of harm. She also said that there was a Mrs. Graves who carried a mail through to Portsmouth. She hoped you would catch her. The last time she brought a mail into Portsmouth she came in a wagon selling corn.