George Sharpe writes Union General George Meade with intelligence on January, 1865, conditions in Confederate Richmond. Among other things, Sharpe remarks on the importance to the capital of supplies such as lead arriving on the railroad from Staunton.
Maj. Gen. GEORGE G. MEADE,
Cmdg. Army of the Potomac:
JANUARY 13, 1865.
Our men came in last eight from the Chickahominy, where they had met an agent who left Richmond yesterday. He attempted to come out day before yesterday, but was obliged to return on account of the imperative orders which have been issued to allow no one, white or black, to come in or out of the city. The only road that he could leave on yesterday was the Brook turnpike, running northwardly and nearly parallel with the Central railroad; ingress and egress on no other was permitted. Our agent was thus obliged to walk over thirty-five miles, and then cross the Chickahominy in a boat. It would seem that these extraordinary regulations were made for the purpose of preventing information going out of the real condition of the city, which is daily becoming worse. Gold has risen to seventy for one. Flour, according to the grade, is sold at from $600 to $800 a barrel; beef, salt, and all other articles steadily advancing. One of our correspondents, an engineer on the Danville railroad, sends word that on that road eight trains a day have been run each day lately. He says that within the past two weeks transportation has been provided over the road for 16,000 men from Gen. Lee's army. It is understood that it is intended to convey Hoke's division, Kershaw's division, and the brigades lately sent from Early's corps to Wilmington. He sends some facts as to the number of men that could be transported in a train and the number of trains that carried them, in order to show that his information of the number sent south is correct. He adds that there are now forty-five engines on that road, fifteen of which are not in use, that cars and other transportation have been taken from the Petersburg railroad and engines have been withdrawn from the Central and added to the Danville. By the last freshest the Danville and Greensborough Railroad is very badly damaged between these two points. It was a matter of rumor that fifteen days would be required to put the road in repair. The superintendent of another railroad leading out of Richmond, whose name and position are known to the commanding general, says that perhaps it may be repaired in ten days, but that probably fifteen will be required. The army have been put upon half rations. One of our correspondents says, "Evacuation is upon everyone's lips. Commissary stores are very low;" and our other friends in Richmond send us word that evacuation is not only a matter of talk, but a matter of earnest. Early is in the neighborhood of Staunton with one division of infantry and about 2,000 cavalry. On the account of the failure in the supply of lead, the rebels are thrown back to the resources of that kind which come over the Central road, and out friends say that if the road was destroyed near Staunton the supply would be completely broken up. The information before communicated in regard to railroad supplies is renewed as follows, namely: That the railroad companies in the South have contracted for block tin, zinc, and other necessaries of like nature to be sent to them in some way through Norfolk; it is understood that the supplies are to come from a firm or firms in Philadelphia; that the negotiation is to be perfected by the exchange of cotton, which is to go down the Blackwater in small boats. This information comes from a different source from that by which it was formerly received. Great depression is said to exist everywhere in Richmond. As a specimen of it the following is given: At a meeting of the board of directors of the railroad company, of which one of our friends is superintendent and was present, the president of the road, being the father of Gen. Breckinridge's acting assistant adjutant-general, came in and met his son there. The first question was, "What is the news?" to which the officer replied, "Damned bad. If Sherman cannot be stopped, there is an end to the business." Our friends quite naturally send us word that the Union sentiment is largely on the gain.
GEO. H. SHARPE.
Bibliographic Information : Letter Reproduced from The War of The Rebellion: Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Series 1, Volume 46, Serial No. 96, Pages 114-115, Broadfoot Publishing Company, Wilmington, NC, 1997.