Union General Phil Sheridan reports to General Grant on March, 1865, operations in the Shenandoah Valley and Central Virginia. Sheridan reports the destruction of railroad bridges around Staunton.
Lieut. Gen. U. S. GRANT,
Cmdg. Armies of the United States:
Friday, March 10, 1865.
In my last dispatch, dated Waynesborough, I gave a brief account of the defeat of Gen. Early by Custer's division. The same night this division was pushed across the Blue Ridge, and entered Charlottesville at 2 p.m. the next day. The mayor of the city and the principal inhabitants came out and delivered up the keys of the public buildings. I had to remain at Charlottesville two days; this time was consumed in bringing over from Waynesborough our ammunition and pontoon trains. The mud was horrible beyond description and the rain incessant. The two divisions were during this time occupied in destroying the two large iron bridges--one over the Rivanna River, the other over Moore's Creek, near Charlottesville--and the railroad for a distance of eight miles in the direction of Lynchburg.
On the 6th of March I sent the First Cavalry Division, Gen. Devin commanding, To Scottsville, on the James River, with directions to send out light parties through the country and destroy all merchant mills, factories, and bridges on the Rivanna River, these parties to join the division at Scottsville. The division then proceeded along the canal to Duguidsville, fifteen miles from Lynchburg, destroying every lock and in many places the bank of the canal. At Duguidsville we hoped to secure the bridge, to let us cross the river, as our pontoons were useless on account of the high water. In this, however, we were foiled, as both this bridge and the bridge at Hardwicksville were burned by the enemy upon our approach. Gen. Merritt accompanied this division. The Third Division started at the same time from Charlottesville and proceeded down the Lynchburg railroad to Amherst Court-House, destroying every bridge on the road and in many places miles of the track. The bridges on this road were numerous, and some of them 500 in length. Finding I could not cross the James, I concentrated at New Market, and determined to return along the canal and still further destroy it, in the direction of Richmond. We arrived here to-night and will destroy the canal as far as Goochland to-morrow. I will then move on to the Central road and continue its destruction, and will then strike the Fredericksburg railroad and destroy it.
We have found great abundance in this country for our men and animals; in fact, the canal has been the great feeder of Richmond. At the Rockfish River the bank of the canal was cut, and at New Market, where the dam is across the James, the guard lock was destroyed and the James River let into the canal, carrying away the banks and washing out the bottom of the canal. The dam across the James at this point was also partially destroyed. After finishing the Fredericksburg road I will join you, unless otherwise directed. Send forage and rations to the White House, also pontoons, in case I have to go around that far. I have had no opposition; everybody is bewildered by our movements. I have had no news of any kind since I left, the latest Richmond paper was of the 4th, but contained nothing.
I omitted to mention that the bridges on the railroad from Swoope's Depot, on the other side of Staunton, to Charlottesville were utterly destroyed, also all bridges for a distance of ten miles on the Gordonsville railroad.
The weather has been very bad indeed; raining hard every day, with the exception of four days, since we started. My wagons have, from the state of the roads, detained me. Up to the present time we have captured 14 pieces of artillery--11 at Waynesborough and 3 at Charlottesville. The party that I sent back from Waynesborough started with six pieces, but they were obliged to destroy two of the six for want of animals. The remaining nine pieces were thoroughly destroyed. We have captured, up to the present time, 12 canal-boats laden with supplies, ammunition, rations, medical stores, &c.
I cannot speak in too high terms of Gen.'s Merritt, Custer, and Devin, and the officers and men of their commands; they have waded through mud and water during this continuous rain, and are all in fine spirits and health.
Commodore Hollins, of the rebel navy, was shot near Gordonsville while attempting to make his escape from our advance in that direction.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
P. H. SHERIDAN,
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 918-919, Broadfoot Publishing Company, Wilmington, NC, 1997.