I wanted to throw out some ideas and see what any of the readers who may have knowledge on the 1864 raid on Richmond, Virginia by Gen. Judson Kilkpatrick and Young Col. Ulric Dahlgren, the son of then famed Admiral Dahlgren and friend of Abraham Lincoln.
I live 35 or so miles from Stevensville, Va., a remote countryside area in King and Queen county, Virginia, which is located about 45-50 miles East of Richmond, Virginia. Here along a country Road on the late hour of 11:30 pm, on March 2, 1864, a cold, wet night with off and on rain and a few flakes of snow had fell and made it a most uncomfortable setting, a place where Col. Ulric Dahlgren and between 100 and 200 Union Calvary approached the intersection as they rode East on what today is named Hockley Neck road or state rt. 632. Col Dahlgren was escaping from a near disaster that had earlier occurred in the previously planned raid. A raid that had began on Feb. 28, with more than 4000 Yankee Calvary, at least one Cannon gun carriage and some 100 or so laborers, with pack animals carrying all sorts of tools, axes, shovels, picks, saws, pry bars, food, ammo, and pyrotechnic materials, and call these items and more were to be used to destroy railroads, bridges, break into prison buildings and to start fires. This group of well armed well selected men were planning to approach Richmond in a well planned manner in a two prong attack. General Kilpatrick with the majority of the men was to enter Richmond from the North, and Dahlgren with 460 men was to enter from the Southside in the area of Manchester, and as they had targets selected, they were to complete their work and reconnect at a designated time and place.
I must also note, as I place George A. Custer on my list of Yankee rotten Low lifes especially after what he did to many American indian women, and children, but in this story, he had a role as well. He was to create an feint from the North with Union infantry to create some additional confusion, and whether or not he attended the meeting with Lincoln and the others I do not know. I will also add, Judson Kilpatrick was known as a real ruthless human being, Dahlgren, who had lost part of one leg the year before was a angry soldier who wanted to do whatever he could to harm the Confederacy. So, here we have the likely 3 most notorious bunch of Yankee officers ever assembled, all they needed to complete the squad was to add William T. Sherman, Benjamin Butler,
Now, many books have been written, so I need not state all that occurred other than the following. The Confederates in Richmond thwarted the attacks Kilpatrick and his group escaped down to Yorktown, Va., Dahlgren was making his escape East through Hanover, King and Queen and was stopped by Confederate Home guard troops and Co. H, of The 9th. Virginia Calvary under Command of Captain Fox and Lt. James Pollard.
As I noted, Dahlgren was killed as he approached the Confederates who were across the roadway blocking any further advance, when the obviously bold Col. drew his revolver and ordered the Confederates to surrender, they then opened fire hitting Dahlgren with no less than 5 bullets, killing him and some others on the spot. Later in examining Dahlgren’s body, a young boy William Littlepage found a books and documents on the body of Col. Dahlgren, and gave them to a Mr. Edward Halbach, the boys school teacher as well as being a member of the Confederate home guard.
Mr. Halbach did not read the documents until daylight the next day. Once he read them, and he saw the importance, he quickly located a Captain Richard Bagby and gave them to him, after being read, the Confederate officers there had them sent to Richmond and given to General Fitzhugh Lee. Lee shared these with his Uncle General R.E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis. President Davis called a press meeting, providing the press with a copy of the documents, ( I am not sure how documents were copied in 1864, but several copies were made) officials
provided a copy to Washington, and to the U.S. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton as well as to Union General George Meade, a man Robert E. Lee respected.
Now, the papers, what did they say, and were they real or forged. ??
The papers as written gave detailed plans for the destruction and burning of Richmond, destroying railroads, releasing Union Prisoners at Belle Island, Libby prison and other Richmond prisoner of war camps and the capture and or killing of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his entire cabinet.
Meade had stated to Lee that he did not believe the papers were sanctioned by the U.S. Government, but privately told his wife he had reservations in so many words. In any event, Meade was not likely in the ” NEED TO KNOW GROUP ” IF LINCOLN DID AUTHORIZE KILPATRICK AND DAHLGREN TO CARRY OUT THESE GOALS WHEN THE SOLDIERS MET ON Feb. 4, 1864, WITH LINCOLN AT THE WHITE HOUSE ALONG WITH SECRETARY OF WAR EDWIN STANTON. THIS MEETING WAS RECORDED AND THIS IS NOT DEBATABLE, WHAT WAS SAID AT THAT MEETING WE DO NOT KNOW, BUT MANY HISTORIANS AGREE IT WAS TO CARRY OUT THE RAID AS THE PAPERS DETAILED, INCLUDING THE CAPTURE OF MURDER OF DAVIS AND AS MANY OF HIS CABINET MEMBERS THEY COULD LOCATE.
THE DAHLGREN PAPERS.
The following is a copy of the papers which were found on the person of Colonel Dahlgren, after he was killed, which excited such indignation among the Confederates, and the authenticity of which (though denied with such persistency) we shall establish beyond peradventure:
[Published in the Richmond, Virginia, Dispatch of March 5th, 1864.]
ADDRESS TO THE OFFICERS AND MEN.
The following address to the officers and men of the command was written on a sheet of paper having in printed letters on the upper corner, “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
PAGE 541 The Kilpatrick- Dahlgren Raid Against Richmond.
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 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 executing, 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.
SPECIAL ORDERS AND INSTRUCTIONS.
The following special orders were written on a similar sheet of paper, and on detached slips, the whole disclosing the diabolical plans of the leaders of the expedition:
Guides- Pioneers with oakum, turpentine, and torpedoes)- Signal Officer- Quartermaster- Commissary- Picket.
Scouts and pickets- men in rebel uniform.
These will remain on the north bank and move down with the force on the south bank, not getting ahead of them; and if the communication can be kept up without giving alarm, it must be
Pages from the Southern Historical Society
526 Southern Historical Society Papers.
North Carolina, also bore himself well, and gave assistance; while
the artillery behaved admirably. I cannot close my report without
expressing my appreciation of the conduct of Colonel Bradley T.
Johnson and his gallant command. With a mere handful of men he
met the enemy at Beaver Dam, and never lost sight of him until he
had passed Tunstall’s Station, hanging on his rear, striking him con-
stantly, and displaying throughout the very highest qualities of a
soldier. He is admirably fitted for the cavalry service, and I trust
that it will not be deemed an interference on my part to urge, as em-
phatically as I can, his promotion.
Captain Lowndes, Lieutenant Hampton and Dr. Taylor, of my
staff, accompanied me, and rendered me great assistance. I have
the honor to be,
Very respectfully yours,
Wade Hampton, Major- General.
Major McClellan, Acting Adjuta?it- General.
When the attack on Kilpatrick was made, Dahlgren, who had been
repulsed by the local troops in a feeble attack made on the city, was
camped either on the Brooke turnpike or the Telegraph road. He
had a body of picked men with him, and his object was, in case
Richmond was taken, to free the Federal prisoners, to destroy the
city, and to assassinate our authorities. Having failed in his assault,
and hearing the attack on Kilpatrick, he immediately sought safety in
flight. With a portion of his command he crossed the Pamunkey, was
attacked the same night by a few furloughed men of the Ninth Vir-
ginia Cavalry, under direction of Captain Fox and Lieutenant Pol-
lard, together with a small detachment of the Home Guard of the
county, was killed, and most of his men were captured. Upon his
person were found the papers which proved the execrable and atro-
cious nature of his enterprise. As the authenticity of these papers
has been denied, it may not be out of place for me to state here what
I know regarding them. As already stated, I followed Kilpatrick
when he retreated, and I halted on the night of the 2d March near
the house of Dr. Braxton, and not far from that of Mr. Lewis Wash-
ington. I remained during the night at the house of the former, and
moving off at a very early hour the next morning, I met Mr. Wash-
ington, who asked me if I had seen a courier who was in search of
me. Replying to him in the negative, he informed me that this
The Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid Against Richmond. 527
courier had stayed at his house the night previous, and had exhibited
to him the note-book of Dahlgren, in which he read the diabolical
plan, which was subsequently made public. The details of this plan,
as stated to me by Mr. Washington, were precisely similar to those
published; so, unless the parties who killed Dahlgren, or the courier
who bore the dispatches on to Richmond, not finding me, wrote the
orders and memoranda in the captured note-book — a supposition
entirely incredible — there can be no shadow of a doubt but that
Dahlgren was the originator of the plot to burn and sack Richmond,
to assassinate the President of the Southern Confederacy, and that,
though not as successful as Booth in his attempt on the life of the
Federal President, he deserves as fully as the latter the execration of
all honorable men.
Kilpatrick having recruited at Yorktown, moved out, as if to at-
tempt to force a passage through my lines in order to rejoin the
Federal army. Anticipating a movement of this sort, I had concen-
trated my command near Fredericksburg, and was prepared to meet
him on more equal terms than at our last encounter. To prevent his
crossing the river below me, I had the wharves at Urbanna destroyed.
When he found that he could not cross there, and that my command
was in position to dispute his passage, he returned to Yorktown, and
placing his cavalry on steamers, he transported them safely but in-
gloriously to Washington. Colonel Bradley T. Johnson, with a small
body of cavalry, co-operated with me during these movements against
the enemy, and rendered most efficient service.
The following extract from “General Orders No. 10, Headquar-
ters, Department of Richmond, March 8th, 1864,” conveys the
thanks of Major-General Elzey, commanding, to my command :
” The Major-General Commanding begs leave to tender to Major-
General Hampton and his command his sincere thanks for their co-
operation in following up the enemy, and their gallant assault upon
his camp at Atlee’s Station on Tuesday night, in which the enemy’s
entire force was stampeded and completely routed, leaving in the
hands of General Hampton many prisoners and horses.
By command of
(Signed) T. O. Chestney,
Acting Adjutant- General.
PAGE 542 Southern Historical Society Papers.
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 (one mile below Belle Isle), 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 their 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.
The Signal officer must be prepared to communicate at night by rockets, and in other things pertaining to his department.
The Quartermasters and Commissaries must be on the lookout for their departments and see that there are no delays on their account. The engineer officer will follow to survey the road as we pass over it, &c.
The pioneers must be prepared to construct a bridge or destroy one. They must have plenty of oakum and turpentine for burning, which will be rolled in soaked balls and given to the men to burn when we get in the city. Torpedoes will only be used by the pioneers for destroying the main bridges, &c. They must be prepared to destroy railroads. Men will branch off to the right with a few pioneers and destroy the bridges and railroads south of Richmond, and then join us at the city. They must be well prepared with
PAGE 543 The Kilpatrick- Dahlgren Raid Against Richmond.
torpedoes, &c. The line of Falling Creek is probably the best to work along, or, as they approach the city, Goode’s Creek, so that no reinforcements can come up on any cars. No one must be allowed to pass ahead for fear of communicating news. Rejoin the command with all haste, and , if cut off, cross the river above Richmond and rejoin us. Men will stop at Bellona Arsenal and totally destroy it, and anything else but hospitals; then follow on and rejoin the command at Richmond with all haste, and, if cut off, cross the river and rejoin us. As General Custer may follow me, be careful and not give a false alarm.
PROGRAMME OF THE ROUTE AND WORK.
The following is an exact copy of a paper written in lead pencil, which appears to have been a private memorandum of the programme, which Dahlgren had made to enable him to keep his work clearly in mind.
Saturday- Leave camp at dark (6 P.M.); cross Ely’s Ford at 10 P. M.
Twenty miles- Cross North Anna at 4 A. M. Sunday; feed and water one hour.
Three miles- Frederick’s Hall Station, 6 A. M., destroy arty. 8 A. M.
Twenty miles- Near James river, 2 P. M. Sunday; feed and water one and a half hours.
Thirty miles to RICHMOND- March towards Kilpatrick for one hour and then as soon as dark cross the river, reaching Richmond early in the morning. (Monday.)
One squadron remains on north side, and one squadron to cut the railroad bridge at Falling Creek, and join at Richmond- eighty-three miles.
General Kilpatrick- cross at 1 A. M. Sunday- ten miles.
Pass river 5 A. M. (resistance.)
Childsburg- fourteen miles 8 A. M.
Resistance at North Anna- three miles.
Railroad bridges at South Anna- twenty- six miles- 2 P. M.
Destroy bridges- Pass the South Anna and feed until after dark- then Signal each other- After dark move down to Richmond, and be in front of the city at daybreak.
RETURN- In Richmond during the day- feed and water men outside.
PAGE 544 Southern historical Society Papers.
Be over the Pamunkey at daybreak- feed and water, and then cross the Rappahannock at night, (Tuesday night), when they must be on the lookout.
Spies should be sent on Friday morning early, and be ready to cut.
AUTHENTICITY OF THE DAHLGREN PAPERS.
The publication of the “Dahlgren Papers” excited, of course, the deepest indignation on the part of the Confederates, and the atrocious sentiments and purposes they revealed were denounced in no measured terms by the Confederate press. The answer of the Northern papers was a charge that the papers were “forged by the Rebels,” and that no such documents were found on the person of Colonel Dahlgren. That this charge should be made by a partisan press amid the bitter passions of the war is not to be wondered at.
But Rear- Admiral Dahlgren, in a memoir of his son, published in 1872, distinctly and emphatically reiterates it, and gives what he deems conclusive proof of his charge.
We are willing that the whole case should go into our records and be judged by the future historian, and we cheerfully quote as follows all that Rear- Admiral Dahlgren says bearing on the question of the authenticity of these papers. We quote from an article written by Mrs. Dahlgren, but have verified the quotations by reference to the book [pp. 226, 227,228, 229, 233, 234, 235] now before us.
“After the news had reached Richmond that Colonel Dahlgren had fallen, and that the handful of men with him had been dispersed or captured, it was bruited about that the purpose of the expedition was solely to destroy Richmond, and to slay the chief of the rebellion. The publication of orders asserted to have been found on the person of Colonel Dahlgren followed in a few days, and on Monday the body of the gallant youth was disinterred and brought to Richmond where it was exposed to public view at the depot of the York River railroad. nothing better was permitted to the precious remains, than a common pine box, the coarse shirt and pantaloons of a rebel soldier, with an ordinary camp blanket for a shroud. When the gaze of the tiger- horde had been sated the body disappeared from public view. it was doomed to concealment in some nameless spot, and it was denied to the repeated requests of his
PAGE 545 The Kilpatrick- Dahlgren Raid Against Richmond.
father and the United States Government. It was to justify these ruthless acts that the announcement already mentioned had been spread about in regard to the orders alleged to have been found on Colonel Dahlgren after he fell, which were said to have directed the death of the insurgent president and the destruction of Richmond. The document alleged to have been found upon the person of Colonel Dahlgren is utterly discredited by the fact that the signature attached to it cannot possibly be his own, because it is not his name- a letter is misplaced and the real name Dahlgren is spelled Dahlgren; hence it is undeniable that the paper is not only spurious, but is a forgery. Evidence almost as positive is to be found in the writing of the Christian prefix of the signature. The document is signed ‘U. Dahlgren,’ whereas Colonel Dahlgren invariably signed himself ‘Ulric Dahlgren,’ never with the bare initial of the first name. Among all the letters of his writing which can be collected not an instance to the contrary occurs, down to the last that he ever wrote, just before starting for Richmond. It is entirely certain that no such orders were ever issued by Colonel Dahlgren. All that he gave were verbal, as might have been expected under the circumstances, and in no case intimated in the least degree the intention conveyed the obnoxious passages of the spurious order.
“Nothing of the kind was received by the officers or privates of the command, even to the time when Richmond was in view, and it is highly improbable that they would have been uninformed of any important purpose of the expedition when they were supposed to be on the verge of action. Lieutenant Bartley, the Signal officer of the column, in a published letter December 29th, 1864, after giving an account of the treatment received when a prisoner, says:
” ‘All this brutal punishment was inflicted upon us, according to the statement of the Confederate prison officials, on account of those papers said to have been found on the body of Colonel Dahlgren at the time he was killed. But the name of COLONEL Dahlgren can never be injured buy any slander or forgery that can be concocted by all the enemies of our country. His deeds speak for themselves. His career with Sigel, Burnside, Hooker, Meade and Kilpatrick, together with his exploits at Fredericksburg, Beverley Ford, Chambersburg and in front of RICHMOND, will live when the name of the last traitor in the land is forgotten.
” ‘I pronounce those papers a base forgery, and will give some of my reasons for so doing. I was with the expedition in the capacity of Signal officer, and was the only staff officer with him. I had
PAGE 546 Southern Historical Society Papers.
charge of all the material for destroying bridges, blowing up locks, aqueducts, etc. I knew all his plans, what he intended to do and how he intended doing it, and I know that I never received any such instructions as those papers are said to contain. I also heard all the orders and instructions given to the balance of the officers of the command. Men cannot carry out orders they know nothing of. The Colonel’s instructions were, that if we were successful in entering the city, to take no life except in combat; to keep all prisoners safely guarded, but to treat them with respect; liberate all the Union prisoners, destroy the public buildings and government stores, and leave the city by way of the Peninsula.'”
Now, we have no harsh word for the father, who, in deep affliction at his sad fate, is defending the memory of a gifted and gallant son, and we pass by without comment many of the bitter things in the above quotation, and the still more bitter things in Rear- Admiral Dahlgren’s book. But we shall show by the most incontrovertible proofs that these papers were not “forgeries,” but were taken, in the exact form in which they were taken, in the exact form in which they were afterwards published, from the person of the fallen chieftain.
The question at once arises: If these papers were forgeries, who forged them?
We first introduce a witness who was our college- mate at the University of Virginia in 1858- 9, whom we knew afterwards as an earnest Christian, and then as a useful minister of the Gospel, and for whom we can vouch as every way worthy of credence. We refer to Mr. Edward W. Halbach, whose sworn affidavit was published years ago, and has never been impeached, and we give his statement in full as follows:
STATEMENT OF EDWARD W. HALBACH IN RELATION TO “THE DAHLGREN PAPERS.”
“In the summer of 1863, I, Edward W. Halbach, was living at Stevensville, in King & Queen county, VIRGINIA. I had already been exempted from military service on account of the condition of my health, and was now exempt as a schoolmaster having the requisite number of pupils. But feeling it my duty to do what I could to encounter the raids of the enemy, I determined to form a company of my pupils between the ages of thirteen and seventeen years. My commission and papers prove that the company was formed, and accepted by the President for “Local Defence” A member of this
PAGE 547 The Kilpatrick- Dahlgren Raid Against Richmond.
company, thirteen years of age at the time, captured the notorious ‘Dahlgren Papers.’ The name of this boy is William Littlepage.
“Littlepage and myself were at Stevensville when the rangers passed that place on their way to the appointed place of ambush. Being determined to participate in the affair, we set off on foot, having no horses to ride, and reached the rendezvous a little after dark. The Yankees came up in a few hours, and were fired on. Immediately after this fire, and while it was still doubtful whether the enemy would summon up courage enough to advance again, in a word, before any once lese ventured to do so, Littlepage ran out into the road, and finding a ‘dead Yankee’ there, proceeded to search his pockets to see, as he said, if he might not be fortunate enough to find a watch. The little fellow wanted to own a watch, and, as the Yankees had robbed me, his teacher, of a gold watch a short time before, I suppose he concluded that there would be no harm in his taking a watch from a ‘dead Yankee’ but his teacher always discouraged any feelings of this kind in his pupils. Littlepage failed to secure the prize by not looking in the overcoat pockets, and the watch (for there was really one) was found afterwards by lieutenant Hart. But in searching the pockets of the inner garments, Littlepage did find a cigar- case, a memorandum- box, etc.
“When the Yankees had been driven back and thrown into a panic by the suddenness of our fire and the darkness of the night, a Confederate lieutenant, whom the enemy had captured at Frederick’s Hall, embraced the opportunity presented to make his escape, and actually succeeded in getting over to our side.
“We could, by this time, hear the enemy galloping rapidly over the field, and arrangements were soon made to prevent their possible escape. Our force determined to go down the road towards King & Queen Courthouse, and barricade it.
“But, as before mentioned, myself and the only member of my company I had with me, were on foot, and unable to keep up with the horsemen. It was therefore decided that the prisoners whom we had captured should be left in my charge. in the confusion, however, all the prisoners had been carried off by others, save the one claiming to be a Confederate officer, which he afterwards proved to be- and a gallant one at that. But, under the circumstances, I felt compelled to treat him as an enemy, until time should prove him a friend.
“Wishing to find a place of safety, and feeling that it would be hazardous for so small. a party to take any of the public roads (for
PAGE 548 Southern historical Society Papers.
we knew not how many more Yankees there were, nor in what direction they might come), I decided to go into the woods a short distance, and there spend the night. My party consisted of myself, Littlepage, the ‘lieutenant,’ and several other gentlemen of King & Queen county. We walked into the woods about a quarter of a mile, and sat down.
“Up to this time, we had not even an intimation of the name and rank of the officer commanding the enemy. In fact, we felt no curiosity to know. All we cared for was to punish as severely as possible the raiders with whom we were contending. We knew that one man was killed, but knew not who he was. We were just getting our places for the night, and wrapping up with blankets, garments, etc., such as we had, for the ground was freezing, and we dared not make a fire, when Littlepage pulled out a cigar- case, and said: ‘Mr. Halbach, will you have a cigar?’ ‘No, said I; ‘but where did you get cigars these hard times?’ He replied that he had got them out of the pocket of the Yankee who had been killed, and that he had also taken from the same man a memorandum book and some papers. ‘Well,’ said I, ‘William, you must give me the papers, and you may keep the cigar- case.
“Littlepage then remarked that the dead Yankee had a wooden leg. Here the lieutenant, greatly agitated, exclaimed: ‘How do you know he has a wooden leg?’
“‘I know he has,’ replied Littlepage, ‘because I caught hold of it and tried to pull it off.’
“‘There!’ replied the lieutenant, ‘you have killed Colonel Dahlgren, who was in command of the enemy. His men were devoted to him, and I would advise you all to take care of yourselves now, for if the Yankees catch you with anything belonging to him, they will certainly hang us all to the nearest tree.’
“Of course it was impossible for us to learn the contents of the papers, without making a light to read them by, or waiting till the next morning. We did the latter; and, as soon as day broke, the papers were read, and found to contain every line and every word as afterwards copied into the Richmond newspapers Dahlgren’s name was signed to one or more of the papers, and also written on the inside of the front cover of his memorandum- book. Here the date of purchase, I suppose, was added. The book had been written with a degree of haste clearly indicated by the frequent interlineation and corrections, but the orders referred to had also been re- written on a separate sheet of paper; and, as thus copied, were published to the
PAGE 549 The Kilpatrick- Dahlgren Raid Against Richmond.
world. Some of the papers were found loose in Dahlgren’s pockets, others were between the leaves of the memorandum- book.
“The papers thus brought to light were preserved by myself in the continual presence of witnesses of unquestionable veracity, until about two o’clock in the afternoon of the day after their capture; at which time myself and party met Lieutenant Pollard, who, up to this time, knew nothing in the world of the existence of the Dahlgren Papers. At his request, I let him read the papers; after doing which he requested me to let him carry them to Richmond. At first, I refused, for I thought that I knew what to do with them quite as well as any one else. But I was finally induced by my friends, against my will, to surrender the papers to Lieutenant Pollard, mainly in consideration oft he fact that they would reach Richmond much sooner through him than through a semi- weekly mail. The papers which were thus handed over to the Confederate Government- I state it again- were correctly copied by the Richmond newspapers.
“A thousand and one falsehoods have been told about this affair- by our own men as well as by the Yankees. Some of our own men were actuated by motives of selfishness and ambition to claim, each one for himself, the whole credit of the affair; when in fact, the credit belongs to no particular individual, but collectively, to the whole of our party. We were a strange medley of regulars, raw troops, old farmers, preachers, schoolboys, etc. But I believe that all present did their duty, only to find that all the credit was afterwards claimed, with a considerable degree of success among the ignorant, by those who were not present.
“The credit of the command of our party belongs alone to Captain Fox, than whom there was no more chivalric spirit in either army. In making this statement, I am actuated only by a desire to do justice to the memory of one who was too unassuming to sound his own trumpet. I am also told, by soldiers, that Lieutenant Pollard deserves a considerable degree of credit for the part he played in following and harassing the enemy up to the time they took the right fork of the road near Butler’s Tavern.
“You are, of course, aware of the fact that the enemy has always denied the authenticity of the Dahlgren Papers, and declared them to be forgeries. To prove the utter absurdity and falsehood of such a charge, I submit the following:
“1. The papers were taken by Littlepage from the person of a man whose name he had never heard. It was a dark night, and the
PAGE 550 Southern historical Society Papers.
captor, with the aid of the noon- day sun, could not write at all. I afterwards taught him to write a little in my school.
“There question occurs: Can a boy who cannot write at all, write such papers, and sign to them an unknown name? If they had been forged by any one else, would they have been placed in the hands of a child? Could any one else have forged an unknown and unheard of name?
“2. The papers were handed to me immediately after their capture, in the presence of gentlemen of undoubted integrity and veracity, before whom I can prove that the papers not only were not, but could not have been, altered or interpolated by myself. These gentlemen were with me every moment of the time between my receiving the papers and my delivering them to Lieutenant Pollard.
“3. If Lieutenant Pollard had made any alterations in the papers, these would have been detected by every one who read the papers before they were given to him, and afterwards read them in the newspapers. But all agree that they were correctly copied. in short, human testimony cannot establish any fact more fully than the fact that Colonel Ulric Dahlgren was the author of the ‘Dahlgren Papers.
“With regard to the part taken by myself in this affair, I lay no claim to any credit. I do not write this version of the affair to gain notoriety. I have made it a rule not to mention my own name, except in cases where I found that false impressions were being made upon the public mind. You know very well that my being Littlepage’s captain entitled me to claim the capture of the papers for myself. But this I have never done. And, even when called upon by General Fitz. lee to give my affidavit to the authenticity of the papers, I wrote him word that Littlepage was the captor of them. In his letter to Lieutenant Pollard, which was forwarded to me, he asked: ‘Who is Captain Halbach?’ I replied, for myself, that I was nothing more than the humble captain of a company of school- boys, and that if I deserved any credit, it was only so much as he might choose to give me for preserving the papers, when advised to destroy them, to avid being captured with them in my possession, which, I was told, would result in the hanging of our little party.
“I have never given the information herein continued before, because I had hoped that it would be given to the public by others, and I give it now, because I regard it as a duty to do so. My own course, after the killing of Dahlgren, was as follows: I joined those
PAGE 551 The Kilpatrick- Dahlgren Raid Against Richmond.
who agreed to bury him decently in a coffin, and in compliance with a promise made to a scout by the name of Hogan, I prepared a neat little head- board with my own hands, to mark his grave. This was not put up, because the messenger from Mr. Davis for the body of Dahlgren arrived while we were taking it out of the ground where it had been hastily buried.”
Sworn Statement of Dr. R. H. Bagby
We had hoped to add to the above statement of Mr. Halbach that of Rev. Richard Hugh Bagby, D. D., who commanded the Home Guard on the occasion, who was stationed within a few feet of Colonel Dahlgren when he was killed, and who told us (in the course of a very minute and vivid description of the affair) that he heard of the papers soon after they were taken from Dahlgren’s body; that he read them the next morning before there was any opportunity for any one to alter them, and that the publications in the Richmond papers were correct copies of the originals.
Dr. Bagby wrote out his statement for Hon. A. H. Stephens, and the distinguished Georgian told us not long before his death that he remembered distinctly the statement, and would try to find it among his papers, but he died before sending it and we have not yet been able to recover it.
Dr. Bagby also promised to write out his narrative and to procure affidavits as to the authenticity of the Dahlgren papers from others who were present, in response to a request made through us by General R. E. Lee, who said that while he had ever had the slightest doubt of the authenticity of the papers, he wished to furnish in his “History of the Army of Northern Virginia,” which he was purposing to write, the most indisputable proofs that the papers were genuine, and not forgeries.
But, alas! Dr. Richard Hugh Bagby- one of the truest, bravest, purest, noblest specimens of the Christian gentlemen, and the able minister of the gospel whom we ever knew- died before he had prepared his paper, and General R. E. Lee “crossed over the river” before he had done more than collect the material for a book whose lightest statement the world would have received with implicit credence. But this missing evidence is not a “missing link” in our chain which we will show to be complete and perfect.
Mr. Halbach’s sworn statement shows beyond all civil that he delivered the papers to Lieutenant Pollard just as they were taken from Dahlgren’s person; that there was no alteration, and that the publication in the Richmond papers was correct.
PAGE 552 Southern Historical Society Papers.
Statement of general R. L. T. Beale
If our readers will turn to Vol. 3, SOUTHERN HISTORICAL SOCIETY PAPERS, pp. 219- 221, and read the paper of that gallant soldier, and high- toned gentleman, General R. L. T. Beale, then Colonel of the Ninth Virginia cavalry, he will find that he states that Lieutenant Pollard brought the papers to him together with a memorandum- book, found also in Colonel Dahlgren’s pocket, in which nearly all of the papers had been copied; that after reading them he forwarded the papers to Richmond and retained the memorandum- book; that the publication in Richmond corresponded precisely to both the papers and the memorandum book, and that after the authenciticity of the papers was disputed he forwarded the memorandum- book to Richmond as corroborative proof.
And now we will introduce as our next witness General Fitzhugh Lee at present, the distinguished Governor- elect of Virginia), who is as well known for his fairness during the war to “our friends, the enemy,” and for his chivalrous and kindly feeling since towards those who fought on the other side, as for his gallant and skilful services for the land and cause he loved so well.
We give in full a letter written by General Lee to the Historical Magazine, New York, and published in that Magazine in 1870:
THE DEATH OF COLONEL DAHLGREN.
* * * * In compliance with your request, and solely because it seems to be an unprejudiced one, I transmit my recollections of Colonel Dahlgren’s raid, that they may be placed within the reach of those “who respect the truth for its own sake.”
February, 1864, found General Lee’s army wintering along the line of the Rapidan, in Orange county, Virginia. General Meade’s opposing army was in winter quarters, in Culpeper county, on the line of the Rappahannock.
During the latter part of that month, General Kilpatrick, a cavalry division commander of the latter, essayed a coup de main upon Richmond, the “objective point” of his commander- in- chief. Colonel Dahlgren was a subordinate officer on that expedition. Kilpatrick’s idea was, secretly leaving his army, to clear General lee’s right flank well, and, by forced march, with picked men and horses, appear before the western defences of Richmond, and enter its back door without even knocking. Combined with his movement was a diversion made by General Custer around General Lee’s left flank, which drew after it, as was intended, what cavalry General Lee had at that time with his army.
PAGE 553 The Kilpatrick- Dahlgren Raid Against Richmond.
Kilpatrick’s route and the progress made on it were known in Richmond, so that when he arrived at the outer line of defences, quite a number of people were there to welcome him. I was in the city at the time, in person only (a portion of my cavalry being with the army, and a portion off, wintering in the interior of the State, where forage was more abundant), and rode out to the line of fortifications, witnessing Kilpatrick’s departure after a brief stay, and a few shots fired from his artillery. There was no cavalry to pursue him with; and his return march, as far as I know, was unmolested. Colonel Ulric Dahlgren’s command was detached from the main body under Kilpatrick, with the intention, it was presumed, of crossing James river some distance above Richmond, releasing the Federal prisoners at Belle Isle, and, by entering Richmond from the south or Petersburg side, form again a junction with Kilpatrick. James river was high; and without attempting its passage, Colonel Dahlgren moved down its north bank, doubtless with the expectation of finding and uniting with Kilpatrick in Richmond. The latter, however, had left him and his small force to take care of themselves. It resolved itself then into a case of suave qui peut. Dividing into smaller parties, to facilitate their escape, Dahlgren, at the head of one of them, attempted to return through King & Queen county, but was killed, as far as I know and believe, at the point and in the manner described in the minute statement of Edward W. Halbach, of Stevensville, in that county. His statement can be found upon page 504 in the Lost Cause.
I was still in Richmond, when, on the second morning after Colonel Dahlgren’s death, Lieutenant James Pollard, of the Ninth VIRGINIA cavalry, brought me some papers and an artificial leg, which he said had been taken from the body of one of the officers of the enemy named Dahlgren, and who had been killed in King & Queen county. Pollard was one of my officers accidentally in that vicinity at the time, and hence brought the papers first to me. upon ascertaining their contents, I immediately took them to Mr. Davis. Admitted to his private office, I found no one but Mr. Benjamin, a member of his Cabinet, with him. The papers were handed him, and he read them aloud in our presence, making no comment save a laughing remark, when he came to the sentence, “Jeff. Davis and Cabinet must be killed on the spot,” “That means you, Mr. Benjamin.” By Mr. Davis’s directions, I then carried them to General Cooper, the Adjutant- General of the army, to be filed in his office. I never saw them but once afterwards, when I took them out of the
PAGE 554 Southern Historical Society Papers.
Adjutant- General’s office to see if copies of them, which had appeared in the Richmond papers, were correct, and immediately returned them again. The artificial leg was given to some army surgeons, to be used as a model. Colonel Dahlgren’s body was brought to Richmond and buried, I heard, somewhere near the York River railroad depot; but by whom, or by whose order, I don’t know, nor have I ever heard anything more about it.
And now to sum up: It is the universal belief of the Southern people that when General Kilpatrick and Colonel Dahlgren attempted their coup de main upon Richmond, in 1864, it was done with a view, whilst holding the city temporarily, to release the Federal prisoners; to “destroy and burn the hateful city.” and to kill Jeff. Davis and Cabinet on the spot.” Richmond at that time was filled with refugee ladies and children, whose husbands and parents were away in the armies, and the South was naturally filled with indignation at the expose of the object of the expedition. To use a trite expression- “put the shoe on the other foot”- let the North imagine General Early’s body to be found in the vicinity of Washington, when his forces retired from there in July of the same year, with orders upon it, to his troops, to “destroy and burn the hateful city,” “kill Abe Lincoln and Cabinet on the spot”- “exhorting” long pent- up prisoners, with long pent- up revengeful feelings, to do it. I ask, would his remains be taken up tenderly and interred in the Congressional burying- ground, and his memory be cherished as a “murdered martyred hero?” The best men of the North now, in their cooler moments, may try to disabuse their minds of such an idea; but it is a fact that any officer who could, at that time, have informed the Northern public that he had captured and destroyed Richmond and killed “Jeff. Davis and Cabinet on the Spot,” the Presidency of the united States would have been but meagre compensation for him in the hearts of the masses of the people.
Personally, as a man educated to be a soldier, I deplore Colonel Ulric Dahlgren’s sad fate. He was a young man, full of hope, of undoubted pluck, and inspired with hatred of “rebels.” Fired by ambition, and longing to be at the head of “the braves who swept through the city of Richmond,” his courage and enthusiasm overflowed, and his naturally generous feelings were drowned. his memoranda and address to his troops were probably based upon the general instructions to the whole command.
The conception of the expedition, I have heard since the war, originated
PAGE 555 The Kilpatrick- Dahlgren Raid Against Richmond.
in General Kilpatrick’s brain. It furnishes the best specimen of cavalry marching, upon the Federal side, I know of during the war, for great celerity with proper relief to men and horses; but it showed upon the part of somebody a most culpable want of knowledge of data upon which to base such a movement. I know no time during the war, when Richmond, with its admirable circumvallating defences, forewarned or not, could have been taken by a division of cavalry.
Accompanying this you will find a correct copy of the memoranda found upon Colonel Dahlgren’s body, and a copy of my letter to General Cooper, transmitting his note- book. A true copy of the original of his address to his troop can be found upon page 502 of the Lost Cause.
I have only to add, in conclusion, that what appeared in the Richmond papers of that period, as the “Dahlgren Papers,” was correctly taken from the papers I carried in person to Mr. Davis; and that those papers were not added to or changed in the minutest particular, before they came into my possession, as far as I know and believe, and that, from all the facts in my possession, I have every reason to believe they were taken from the body of Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, and came to me without any alteration of any kind.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Dahlgren Paper authenticity
For many years a debate has waged over the authenticity of the Dahlgren Papers. Part of the mystery stems from the fact that the papers have not survived and appear to have been intentionally destroyed by Union Secretary of War Edwin Stanton in 1865. The papers were among a collection of important Confederate documents transferred to Washington after the surrender of Robert E. Lee‘s Army of Northern Virginia. Stanton ordered Francis Lieber to remove the Dahlgren Papers from the Confederate files and deliver them to him personally. He then presumably destroyed them as they have not been seen since.
Surviving records include transcripts of the documents, which were published in several newspapers, photographs of them that were provided by Lee to Union general George Meade for investigation, and a lithograph based on the photographs that was made in Europe where Confederate agents circulated the document to stir up sympathy for their cause. Unfortunately the destruction of the records by Stanton has prevented their examination in modern times and restricted historical knowledge of them to the surviving copies and examinations conducted between March 5, 1864 and November 1865 when Stanton seized the papers.
A leading proponent of the forgery allegation was Admiral John A. Dahlgren, Ulric’s father, who spent the rest of his life trying to clear his son’s name. The senior Dahlgren based his argument against their authenticity on a European lithograph of the orders in which his son’s name was misspelled “Dalhgren.” The source of this error was discovered after the Admiral’s death by former Confederate general Jubal A. Early, who discovered the source of the error while studying the photographs. The lithographer, working from the photographs, mistook the “l” for an “h” and transposed the two due to ink marks that bled through from the other side of the paper.
After the controversy surrounding the documents developed, Union Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, who authorized the Dahlgren raid, was questioned by General Meade about the photographs sent by Lee. Kilpatrick indicated to Meade that the papers were indeed authentic as he had seen them when conferring with Dahlgren, but claimed that the Confederates had altered them to include the assassination order. Meade officially replied to Lee 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,” placing the blame solely on Dahlgren. Privately however, Meade confided to his wife that “Kilpatrick’s reputation, and collateral evidence in my possession, rather go against this theory” that Dahlgren alone devised the conspiracy.
In addition to Meade’s private beliefs, the papers’ authenticity is corroborated by statements from Bureau of Military Information officers John McEntee, who accompanied Dahlgren on the raid and thus saw the papers, and John Babcock. It is further noted that the custody of the papers from their discovery by Littlepage on March 2 to their delivery to Davis on March 4 is well documented. The short period of time between their transfer from Littlepage to Davis reduces the time in which a skilled forger could be found.
Though the papers have long been disputed, recent scholarship by historians including Stephen W. Sears and Edward Steers, Jr. has tended to favor their authenticity, though few who believe in their authenticity contend they were written by anyone other than Dahlgren himself.
One theory about the Lincoln Assassination holds that the Dahlgren Papers’ discovery instigated the chain of events ending in John Wilkes Booth‘s murder of Abraham Lincoln the next year. Steers, in his history of the assassination Blood on the Moon, traces the assassination conspiracy’s origins to this event. Though they offer a different theory of the assassination that is bitterly at odds with Steers’ interpretation, Ray Neff and Leonard Guttridge also agree on the Dahlgren affair’s role. Sears summarizes the relationship between Dahlgren and Booth as follows:
- “Judson Kilpatrick, Ulric Dahlgren, and their probable patron Edwin Stanton set out to engineer the death of the Confederacy’s president; the legacy spawned out of the utter failure of their effort may have included the death of their own president”
- So, Who believes that the Dahlgren papers were authentic.
Historians and scholars tend to believe the papers were authentic. Author and Abraham Lincoln researcher Edward Steers Jr., author of “Blood on the Moon”, believes the orders authentic. He traces the actions of John Wilkes Booth directly to the Dahlgren papers saying “Judson Kilpatrick, Ulric Dahlgren and their probable patron Edwin Stanton set out to engineer the death of the Confederacy’s president, the legacy spawned out of the utter failure of their effort may have included the death of their own president.”
Many, many, others too numerous to list here believe this, and when you look into many statements made by Lincoln, and others before the event, it makes Lincoln look very culpable, now you check this all out and let’s hear your findings.