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WILD SPORT OF WARFARE.
211 and guns, and breastworks, of one of the strongest Rebel forts, mined by our troops, and blown into the air on the morning of July 30th, 1864.
There was a deep ravine in front, up in the side of which the mine had been worked. The mouth was still visible, half hidden by rank weeds. In spots the surface earth had caved, leaving chasms opening into the mine along its course. The mouth of the Rebel counter-mine was also visible, – a deep, dark, narrow cavern, supported by framework, in the lower side of the crater. Lying around were relics of the battle, bent and rusted bayonets, canteens, and fragments of shells. In front were the remains of wooden chevauic-de-frise, which had been literally shot to pieces. And all around were graves.
In the earthworks near by I saw a negro man and woman digging out bullets. They told me they got four cents a pound for them in Petersburg. It was hard work, but they made à living at it.
Riding southward along the Confederate line of works, we came to Fort Damnation, where the Rebels used to set up a flag-staff for our boys to fire at with a six-pound Parrott gun, making a wild sport of warfare. Opposite was Fort Hell, built by our troops, and named in compliment to its profane neighbor. The intrenched picket-lines between the two were not more than seventy-five yards apart; each connected with its fort by a covered way. These works were in an excellent state of preservation. Fort Hell especially, constructed with bomb-proofs and galleries wbich itforded the most ample protection to its garrison, was in as perfect a condition as when first completed. With a lighted torch I explored its magazine, a Tartarean cave, with deep dark chambers, and walls covered with a cold sweat.
All along in front of the Rebel defences extended the Federal breastworks, and it was interesting to trace the zigzag lines by which our troops had, slowly and persistently, by scientific steps, pushed their position ever nearer and nearer to the enemy's. Running round all, covered by an embankment, was Grant's army railroad.
Having driven southward along the Rebel lines to Fort Damnation, and there crossed over to Fort Hell, we now returned northward, riding along the Federal lines. A very good corduroy road, built by our army, took us through deserted villages of huts, where had been its recent winterquarters ; past abandoned plantations and ruined dwellings ; over a plain which had been covered with forests before the war, but where not a tree was now standing; and across the line of the Norfolk Railroad, of which not a sleeper or rail remained. We passed Fort Morton, confronting the “ crater”; and halted on a hill, in a pleasant little grove of broken and dismantled oaks. Here were the earthworks and bomb-proofs of Fort Stedman, the possession of which had cost more lives than any other point along the lines, not excepting the “crater.” Captured originally from the Rebels, retaken by them, and recaptured by us, it was the subject of incessant warfare.
At the Friend House, farther on, stationed on an eminence overlooking Petersburg, was the celebrated “ Petersburg Express,” — the great gun which used to send its iron messengers regularly into the city.
On the Friend Estate I saw, for the first time, evidences of reviving agriculture in this war-blasted region. A good crop of corn had been raised, and some five and thirty negro men and women were beginning the harvest. There was no white man about the place; but they told me they were working on their own account for a portion of the crop.
Returning to town by the City-Point Road, we set out again, in the afternoon, to visit the more distant fortifications beyond Forts Hell and Damnation. .
Driving out on the Boydton Plank Road to the Lead Works, we there left it on our right, and proceeded along a sandy track beside the Weldon Railroad where wagon-loads of North Carolina cotton, laboring through the sand, attested that the damage done to this railroad, in December of the previous year, by Warren's Corps, — which destroyed with conscien
A BEAUTIFUL BUT SILENT CITY.
tious thoroughness fifteen miles of the track, — had not yet been repaired.)
Passing the Rebel forts, I was struck with the peculiar construction of the Federal works. As we pushed farther and farther our advanced lines around the city, they became so extended that, to prevent raids on our rear, it was necessary to construct rear lines of defence. Our intrenchments accordingly took the form of a hook, doubled backward, and terminating in something like a barbed point.
Cities of deserted huts, built in the midst of a vast level plain, despoiled of its forests, showed where the winter-quarters of our more advanced corps had been, during this last great campaign.
Passing the winter-quarters of the Sixth Corps, we approached one of the most beautiful villages that ever were seen. It was sheltered by a grove of murmuring pines. An arched gateway admitted us to its silent streets. It was constructed entirely of pine saplings and logs. Even the neat sidewalks were composed of the same material. The huts — if those little dwellings, built in a unique and perfect style of architec. ture, may be called by that humble name — were furnished with bedrooms and mantel-pieces within, and plain columns and Auted pilasters without, all of rough pine. The plain columns were formed of single trunks, the Auted ones of clusters of saplings, — all with the bark on, of course. The walls were similarly constructed. The village was deserted, with the exception of a safeguard, consisting of half a dozen United States soldiers, stationed there to protect it from vandalism.
The gem of the place was the church. Its walls, pillars, pointed arches, and spire, one hundred feet high, were composed entirely of pines selected and arranged with surprising taste and skill. The pulpit was in keeping with the rest. Above it was the following inscription :
“Presented to the members of the Poplar Spring Church, 1 Pour months later I returned northward from the Carolinas by this road, and found that the bent rails had been straightened and replaced, in an exceedingly scaly condition.
by the 50th N. Y. V. Engineers. Capt. M. H. McGrath, architect."
The Poplar Spring Church, which formerly stood some. where in that vicinity, had been destroyed during the war; and this church had been left as a fitting legacy to its congregation by the soldiers who built it. The village had been the winter-quarters of the engineer corps.
Driving westward along the track of the army railroad, and past its termination, we struck across the open fields to the Federal signal-tower, lifting skyward its lofty open framework and dizzy platforms, in the midst of an extensive plain. To ascend a few stages of this breezy observatory, and see the sun go down behind the distant dim line of forests, while the evening shadows thickened upon the landscape, was a fit termination to the day's experience; and we returned with rapid wheels to the city.
LANDMARKS OF RECENT FAMOUS EVENTS. 215
JAMES RIVER AND FORTRESS MONROE.
The next day I proceeded to City Point by railroad, riding in an old patched-up car marked outside “U. S. Military R. R.," and furnished inside with pine benches for seats and boards nailed up in place of windows. There was nothing of interest on the road, which passed through a region of stumps and undergrowth, with scarce an inhabitant, save the few negro families that had taken up their abode in abandoned army huts. City Point itself was no less dull. Built on high and rolling ground, at the confluence of the Appomattox and the James, - a fine site for a village, - it had nothing to show but an ugly cluster of rough wooden buildings, such as spring up like fungus in the track of an army, and a long line of government warehouses by the river.
I took the first steamer for Richmond; returning thence, in a few days, down the James to Norfolk and Fortress Monroe. This voyage possesses an interest which can merely be hinted at in a description. You are gliding between shores rich with historical associations old and new. The mind goes back to the time when Captain John Smith, with the expedition of 1607, sailed op this stream, which they named in honor of their king. But you are diverted from those recollections by the landmarks of recent famous events :— the ruins of ironclads below Richmond; the wrecks of gunboats ; obstructions in the channel; Fort Darling, on a high bluff; every commanding eminence crowned by a redoubt; Dutch Gap Canal ; Deep Bottom; Butler's tower of observation; Malvern Hill, where the last battle of McClellan's retreat was fought, - a gentle elevation on the north bank, marked by a small house and clumps of trees; Harrison's Landing, - a long pier extending