OR, Ser. I, Vol. XXXIII, pp. 177-180

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O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXIII [S# 60]

FEBRUARY 28-MARCH 4, 1864.--Kilpatrick's expedition against Richmond, Va.
No. 1.--Reports of Maj. Gen. George G. Meade, U.S. Army, commanding Army of the Potomac.

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
April 16, 1864.

Col. E. D. TOWNSEND,
Assistant Adjutant-General, Washington, D.C.:

COLONEL: I inclose herewith, for the information of the honorable Secretary of War, a letter and inclosures received from General Robert E. Lee, commanding Army of Northern Virginia, with my reply thereto.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

«12 R R--VOL XXXIII» <ar60_178>

[Inclosure No. 1.]

HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
April 1, 1864.

Maj. Gen. GEORGE G. MEADE,
Commanding Army of the Potomac:

GENERAL: I am instructed to bring to your notice two papers found upon the body of Col. U. Dahlgren, who was killed while commanding a part of the Federal cavalry during the late expedition of General Kilpatrick.(*) To enable you to understand the subject fully I have the honor to inclose photographic copies of the papers referred to, one of which is an address to his officers and men, bearing the official signature of Colonel Dahlgren, and the other, not signed, contains more detailed explanations of the purpose of the expedition and more specific instructions as to its execution. In the former this passage occurs:

We hope to release the prisoners from Belle Island first, and having seen them fairly started, we will cross the James River into Richmond, destroying the bridges after us and exhorting the released prisoners to destroy and burn the hateful city; and do not allow the rebel leader Davis and his traitorous crew to escape. The prisoners must render great assistance, as you cannot leave your ranks too far or become too much scattered, or you will be lost.

Among the instructions contained in the second paper are the following:

The bridges once secured, and the prisoners loose and over the river, the bridges will be secured and the city destroyed. The men must keep together and well in hand, and once in the city it must be destroyed and Jeff. Davis and cabinet killed. Pioneers will go along with combustible material.

In obedience to my instructions I beg leave respectfully to inquire whether the designs and instructions of Colonel Dahlgren, as set forth in these papers, particularly those contained in the above extracts, were authorized by the United States Government or by his superior officers, and also whether they have the sanction and approval of those authorities.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,
General.

[Sub-inclosure No 1.]

HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS,
-------- -------, 1864.

Officers and Men:

You have been selected from brigades and regiments as a picked command to attempt a desperate undertaking--an undertaking which, if successful, will write your names on the hearts of your countrymen in letters that can never be erased, and which will cause the prayers of our fellow-soldiers now confined in loathsome prisons to follow you and yours wherever you may go. We hope to release the prisoners from Belle Island first, and having seen them fairly started, we will cross the James River into Richmond, destroying the bridges after us and exhorting the released prisoners to destroy and burn the hateful city; and do not allow the rebel leader Davis and his traitorous crew to escape. The prisoners must render great assistance, as you cannot leave your ranks too far <ar60_179> or become too much scattered, or you will be lost. Do not allow any personal gain to lead you off, which would only bring you to an ignominious death at the hands of citizens. Keep well together and obey orders strictly and all will be well; but on no account scatter too far, for in union there is strength. With strict obedience to orders and fearlessness in the execution you will be sure to succeed. We will join the main force on the other side of the city, or perhaps meet them inside. Many of you may fall; but if there is any man here not willing to sacrifice his life in such a great and glorious undertaking, or who does not feel capable of meeting the enemy in such a desperate fight as will follow, let him step out, and he may go hence to the arms of his sweetheart and read of the braves who swept through the city of Richmond. We want no man who cannot feel sure of success in such a holy cause. We will have a desperate fight, but stand up to it when it does come and all will be well. Ask the blessing of the Almighty and do not fear the enemy.

U. DAHLGREN,
Colonel, Commanding.

[Sub-inclosure No. 2.]

HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS,
------ ------, 1864.

Guides, pioneers (with oakum, turpentine, and torpedoes), signal officer, quartermaster, commissary, scouts, and picked men in rebel uniform. Men will remain on the north bank and move down with the force on south bank, not getting ahead of them, and if the communication can be kept up without giving an alarm it must be done; but everything depends upon a surprise, and no one must be allowed to pass ahead of the column. Information must be gathered in regard to the crossings of the river, so that should we be repulsed on the south side we will know where to recross at the nearest point. All mills must be burned and the canal destroyed; and also everything which can be used by the rebels must be destroyed, including the boats on the river. Should a ferry-boat be seized and can be worked, have it moved down. Keep the force on the south side posted of any important movement of the enemy, and in case of danger some of the scouts must swim the river and bring us information. As we approach the city the party must take great care that they do not get ahead of the other party on the south side, and must conceal themselves and watch our movements. We will try and secure the bridge to the city, 1 mile below Belle Island, and release the prisoners at the same time. If we do not succeed they must then dash down, and we will try and carry the bridge from each side. When necessary, the men must be filed through the woods and along the river bank. The bridges once secured, and the prisoners loose and over the river, the bridges will be secured and the city destroyed. The men must keep together and well in hand, and once in the city it must be destroyed and Jeff. Davis and cabinet killed. Pioneers will go along with combustible material. The officer must use his discretion about the time of assisting us. Horses and cattle which we do not need immediately must be shot rather than left. Everything on the canal and elsewhere of service to the rebels must be destroyed. As General Custer may follow me, be careful not to give a false alarm. <ar60_180>

[Inclosure No. 2.]

HDQRS. ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
April
17, 1864.

General ROBERT E. LEE,  Comdg. Army of Northern Virginia:

GENERAL: I received on the 15th instant, per flag of truce, your communication of the 1st instant, transmitting photographic copies of two documents alleged to have been found upon the body of Col. U. Dahlgren, and inquiring "whether the designs and instructions of Colonel Dahlgren, as set forth in these papers, particularly those contained in the above extracts, were authorized by the United States Government or by his superior officers, and also whether they have the sanction and approval of these authorities." In reply I have to state that neither the United States Government, myself, nor General Kilpatrick authorized, sanctioned, or approved the burning of the city of Richmond and the killing of Mr. Davis and cabinet, nor any other act not required by military necessity and in accordance with the usages of war.

In confirmation of this statement I inclose a letter from General Kilpatrick, and have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,

GEO. G. MEADE,
Major-General.

 

[Sub-inclosure.]

HEADQUARTERS THIRD DIVISION, CAVALRY CORPS,

April 16, 1864.

Brig. Gen. S. WILLIAMS,  A. A. G., Army of the Potomac:

GENERAL: In accordance with instructions from headquarters Army of the Potomac, I have carefully examined officers and men who accompanied Colonel Dahlgren on his late expedition.

All testify that he published no address whatever to his command, nor did he give any instructions, much less of the character as set forth in the photographic copies of two papers alleged to have been found upon the person of Colonel Dahlgren and forwarded by General Robert E. Lee, commanding Army of Northern Virginia. Colonel Dahlgren, one hour before we separated at my headquarters, handed me an address that he intended to read to his command. That paper was indorsed in red ink, "Approved," over my official signature. The photographic papers referred to are true copies of the papers approved by me, save so far as they speak of "exhorting the prisoners to destroy and burn the hateful city and kill the traitor Davis and his cabinet," and in this, that they do not contain the indorsement referred to as having been placed by me on Colonel Dahlgren's papers. Colonel Dahlgren received no orders from me to pillage, burn, or kill, nor were any such instructions given me by my superiors.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

J. KILPATRICK,
Brigadier-General Volunteers.

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