« PreviousContinue »
he made a reconnoissance against the Petersburg and Richmond railroad, destroying a portion of it after some fighting. On the ninth he telegraphed as follows:
"HEADQUARTERS NEAR BERMUDA LANDING, May 9, 1864. "Our operations may be summed up in a few words. With one thousand seven hundred cav
the Chickahominy, and have safely brought them to our present position. These were colored cavalry, and are now holding our advance pickets toward Richmond.
"General Kautz, with three thousand cavalry from Suffolk, on the same day with our movement up James river, forced the Blackwater, burned the railroad bridge at Stony creek, below Peterbsurg, cutting in two Beauregard's force at that point.
of Ewell's corps and twenty pieces of artillery. But the resistance was so obstinate that the advantage gained did not prove decisive. The thirteenth, fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth were consumed in manoeuvring and awaiting the arrival of reinforcements from Washington. Deeming it impracticable to make any further attack upon the enemy at Spottsylvania Court-house, orders were issued on the eighteenth with a view to a move-alry we have advanced up the Peninsula, forced ment to the North Anna, to commence at twelve o'clock on the night of the nineteenth. Late in the afternoon of the nineteenth Ewell's corps came out of its works on our extreme right flank; but the attack was promptly repulsed, with heavy loss. This delayed the movement to the North Anna until the night of the twentyfirst, when it was commenced. But the enemy again having the short line, and being in possession of the main roads, was enabled to reach the North Anna in advance of us, and took po- "We have landed here, intrenched ourselves, sition behind it. The Fifth corps reached the destroyed many miles of railroad, and got a poNorth Anna on the afternoon of the twenty-sition which, with proper supplies, we can hold third, closely followed by the Sixth corps. The out against the whole of Lee's army. I have Second and Ninth corps got up about the same ordered up the supplies. time, the Second holding the railroad bridge and the Ninth lying between that and Jericho ford. General Warren effected a crossing the same afternoon, and got into position without much opposition. Soon after getting into position he was violently attacked, but repulsed the enemy with great slaughter. On the twenty-fight. fifth General Sheridan rejoined the Army of the Potomac from the raid on which he started from Spottsylvania, having destroyed the depots at Beaver Dam and Ashland stations, four trains of cars, large supplies of rations, and many miles of railroad track; recaptured about four hundred of our men on their way to Richmond as prisoners of war; met and defeated the enemy's cavalry at Yellow Tavern; carried the first line of works around Richmond (but finding the second line too strong to be carried by assault), recrossed to the north bank of the Chickahominy at Meadow's Bridge, under heavy fire, and moved by a detour to Haxall's landing, on the James river, where he communicated with General Butler. This raid had the effect of drawing off the whole of the enemy's cavalry force, and making it comparatively easy to guard our
General Butler moved his main force up the James river, in pursuance of instructions, on the fourth of May, General Gillmore having joined with the Tenth corps. At the same time he sent a force of one thousand eight hundred cavalry, by way of West Point, to form a junction with him wherever he might get a foothold, and a force of three thousand cavalry, under General Kautz, from Suffolk, to operate against the road south of Petersburg and Richmond. On the fifth he occupied, without opposition, both City Point and Bermuda Hundred, his movement being a complete surprise. On the sixth he was in position with his main army, and commenced intrenching. On the seventh
Beauregard, with a large portion of his force, was left south by the cutting of the railroads by Kautz. That portion which reached Petersburg under Hill I have whipped to-day, killing and wounding many, and taking many prisoners, after a severe and well-contested
"General Grant will not be troubled with any further reinforcements to Lee from Beauregard's force.
"Hon. E. M. STANTON,
"BENJAMIN F. BUTLER,
"Secretary of War."
On the evening of the thirteenth and morning of the fourteenth he carried a portion of the enemy's first line of defence at Drury's Bluff, or Fort Darling, with small loss. The time thus consumed from the sixth lost to us the benefit of the surprise and capture of Richmond and Petersburg, enabling, as it did, Beauregard to collect his loose forces in North and South Carolina and bring them to the defence of those places. On the sixteenth the enemy attacked General Butler in his position in front of Drury's Bluff. He was forced back, or drew back, into his intrenchments between the forks of the James and Appomattox rivers, the enemy intrenching strongly in his front, thus covering his railroads, the city, and all that was valuable to him. His army, therefore, though in a position of great security, was as completely shut off from further operations directly against Richmond as if it had been in a bottle strongly corked. It required but a comparatively small force of the enemy to hold it there.
On the twelfth General Kautz with his cavalry was started on a raid against the Danville railroad, which he struck at Coalfield, Powhatan, and Chola stations, destroying them, the railroad
REBELLION RECORD, 1862-65.
day, reached Cold Harbor, and held it until
track, two freight trains, and one locomotive, my's cavalry. General Sheridan, on the same together with large quantities of commissary and other stores; thence crossing to the South Side road, struck it at Wilson's, Wellsville, and Black and White stations, destroying the road and station-houses; thence he proceeded to City Point, which he reached on the eighteenth. On the eighteenth of April, and prior to the movement of General Butler, the enemy with a land force under General Hoke and an iron-clad ram, attacked Plymouth, N. C., commanded by General H. W. Wessels, and our gunboats there, and after severe fighting, the place was carried by assault and the entire garrison and armament captured. The gunboat Smithfield was sunk and the Miami disabled.
at 5 P. M., by the Sixth corps and the troops On the first day of June an attack was made under General Smith, the other corps being held in readiness to advance on the receipt of orders. This resulted in our carrying and holding the enemy's first line of works in front of the right of the Sixth corps and in front of General Smith. During the attack, the enemy made repeated assaults on each of the corps not engaged in the main attack, but were repulsed he made several assaults to regain what he had with heavy loss in every instance. That night lost in the day, but failed. The second was spent in getting troops into position for an attack on the third, On the third of June we again assaulted the enemy's works, in the hope of driving him from his position. In this attempt our loss was heavy, while that of the enemy, I have reason to believe, was compratively light. It was the only general attack The position at Bermuda Hundred was as made from the Rapidan to the James which did easy to defend as it was difficult to operate for our own losses. I would not be understood not inflict upon the enemy losses to compensate from against the enemy. I determined, there-as saying that all previous attacks resulted in fore, to bring from it all available forces, leaving only enough to secure what had been gained; and accordingly, on the twenty-second, I directed that they be sent forward, under command of Major-General W. F. Smith, to join the Army of the Potomac.
The army sent to operate against Richmond having hermetically sealed itself up at Bermuda Hundred, the enemy was enabled to bring the most if not all the reinforcements brought from the South by Beauregard against the Army of the Potomac. In addition to this reinforcement, a very considerable one, probably not less than fifteen thousand men, was obtained by calling in the scattered troops under Breckinridge from the western part of Virginia.
On the twenty-fourth of May, the Ninth Army Corps, commanded by Major-General A. E. Burnside, was assigned to the Army of the Potomac, and from this time forward constituted a portion of Major-General Meade's command.
Finding the enemy's position on the North Anna stronger than either of his previous ones, I withdrew on the night of the twenty-sixth to the north bank of the North Anna, and moved, via Hanoverton, to turn the enemy's position by his right.
victories to our arms, or accomplished as much
fences around Richmond, it was impossible by From the proximity of the enemy to his deany flank movement to interpose between him and the city. I was still in a condition to either move by his left flank and invest Richby his right flank to the south side of the James. mond from the north side, or continue my move While the former might have been better as a covering for Washington, yet a full survey of all the ground satisfied me that it would be impracticable to hold a line north and east of Generals Torbert and Merritt's divisions of burg railroad-a long, vulnerable line, which Richmond that would protect the Frederickscavalry, under Sheridan, and the Sixth corps would exhaust much of our strength to guard, led the advance; crossed the Pamunkey river and that would have to be protected to supply at Hanoverton after considerable fighting, and the army, and would leave open to the enemy on the twenty-eighth the two divisions of cav-all his lines of communication on the south side alry had a severe but successful engagement of the James. with the enemy at Hawes' shop. On the twenty-been to beat Lee's army north of Richmond if ninth and thirtieth we advanced, with heavy possible. Then, after destroying his lines of My idea, from the start, had skirmishing, to the Hanover Court-house and communication north of the James river, to Cold Harbor road, and developed the enemy's transfer the army to the south side and besiege position north of the Chickahominy. Late on Lee in Richmond, or follow him south if he the evening of the last day the enemy came out should retreat. After the battle of the Wilderand attacked our left, but was repulsed withness it was evident that the enemy deemed it of very considerable loss. diately ordered by General Meade along his whole army he then had. He acted purely on the An attack was imme- the first importance to run no risks with the line, which resulted in driving the enemy from defensive behind breast works, or feebly on the a part of his intrenched skirmish line, On the thirty-first General Wilson's division where, in case of repulse, he could easily retire offensive immediately in front of them, and of cavalry destroyed the railroad bridges over behind them. the South Anna river, after defeating the ene-life than I was willing to make, all could not be Without a greater sacrifice of
accomplished that I had designed north of
On the seventh, two divisions of cavalry, under General Sheridan, got off on the expedition against the Virginia Central railroad, with instructions to Hunter, whom I hoped he would meet near Charlottesville, to join his forces to Sheridan's, and after the work laid out for them was thoroughly done, to join the Army of the Potomac by the route laid down in Sheridan's instructions.
On the tenth of June, General Butler sent a force of infantry under General Gillmore, and cavalry under General Kautz, to capture Petersburg if possible, and destroy the railroad and common bridges across the Appomattox. The cavalry carried the works on the south side, and penetrated well toward the town, but were forced to retire. General Gillmore finding the works which he approached very strong, and deeming an assault impracticable, returned to Bermuda Hundred without attempting one.
Attaching great importance to the possession of Petersburg, I sent back to Bermuda Hundred and City Point General Smith's command by This water, via the White House, to reach there in advance of the Army of the Potomac. was for the express purpose of securing Petersburg before the enemy, becoming aware of our intention, could reinforce the place.
The movement from Cold Harbor commenced
During three long years the Armies of the
It produced a morale which could only be over-
During the campaign of forty-three days,
"NEAR SPOTISYLVANIA COURT-HOUSE, VA.,
"The enemy are evidently relying for supplies greatly on such as are brought over the branch road running through Staunton. On the whole, therefore, I think it would be better for General Hunter to move in that direction; reach Staunton and Gordonsville or Charlottes
General Hunter immediately took up the offensive, and moving up the Shenandoah Valley, met the enemy on the fifth of June at Piedmont, and after a battle of ten hours routed and defeated him, capturing on the field of battle fifteen hundred men, three pieces of artillery, and three hundred stand of small-arms. On the eighth of the same month he formed a junction with Crook and Averell at Staunton, from which place he moved direct on Lynchburg, via Lexington, which place he reached and invested on the sixteenth day of June. Up to this time he was very successful, and but for the difficulty of taking with him sufficient ordnance stores over so long a march, through a hostile country, he would no doubt have captured that, to the enemy an important point. The destruction of the enemy's supplies and manufactories was very great. To meet this movement under General Hunter, General Lee sent a force, perhaps equal to a corps, a part of which reached Lynchburg a short time before Hunter. After some skirmishing on the seventeenth and eighteenth, General Hunter, owing to a want of ammunition to give battle, retired from before the place. Unfortunately, this want of ammunition left him no choice of route for his return but by way of Kanawha. This lost to us the use of his troops for several weeks from the defence of the North.
Had General Hunter moved by way of Charlottesville, instead of Lexington, as his instructions contemplated, he would have been in a position to have covered the Shenandoah Valley against the enemy, should the force he met have seemed to endanger it. If it did not, he would have been within easy distance of the James River Canal, on the main line of communication between Lynchburgh and the force sent for its defence. I have never taken exceptions to the operations of General Hunter, and am not now disposed to find fault with him, for I have no doubt he acted within what he conceived to be the spirit of his instructions and the interests of the service. The promptitude of his movements and his gallantry should entitle him to the commendation of his country.
To return to the Army of the Potomac: The Second corps commenced crossing the James river on the morning of the fourteenth, by ferry. boats, at Wilcox's landing. The laying of the pontoon bridge was completed about midnight of the fourteenth, and the crossing of the balance of the army was rapidly pushed forward by both bridge and ferry.
After the crossing had commenced, I proceeded by steamer to Bermuda Hundred, to give the necessary orders for the immediate capture of Petersburg.
The instructions to General Butler were verbal, and were for him to send General Smith immediately, that night, with all the troops he could give him, without sacrificing the position he then held. I told him that I would return at once to the Army of the Potomac, hasten its crossing, and throw it forward to Petersburg by divisions as rapidly as it could be done; that we could reinforce our armies more rapidly there than the enemy could bring troops against us. General Smith got off as directed, and confronted the enemy's pickets near Petersburg before daylight next morning, but for some reason that I have never been able to satisfactorily understand, did not get ready to assault his main lines until near sundown. Then, with a part of his command only, he made the assault, and carried the lines north-east of Petersburg, from the Appomattox river, for a distance of over two and a half miles, capturing fifteen pieces of artillery and three hundred prisoners. This was about seven P. M. Between the line thus captured and Petersburg there were no other works, and there was no evidence that the enemy had reinforced Petersburg with a single brigade from any source. The night was clear-the moon shining brightly-and favorable to further operations. General Hancock, with two divisions of the Second corps, reached General Smith just after dark, and offered the services of these troops as he (Smith) might wish, waving rank to the named commander, whom he naturally supposed knew best the position of affairs, and what to do with the troops. But instead of taking these troops, and pushing at once into Petersburg, he requested General Hancock to relieve a part of his line in the captured works, which was done before midnight.
By the time I arrived the next morning, the enemy was in force. An attack was ordered to be made at six o'clock that evening by the troops under Smith and the Second and Ninth corps. It required until that time for the Ninth corps to get up and into position. The attack was made as ordered, and the fighting continued with but little intermission until six o'clock the next morning, and resulted in our carrying the advance and some of the main works of the enemy to the right (our left) of those previously captured by General Smith, several pieces of artillery, and over four hundred prisoners.
The Fifth corps having got up, the attacks were renewed and persisted in with great vigor
on the seventeenth and eighteenth, but only resulted in forcing the enemy to an interior line, from which he could not be dislodged. The advantages in position gained by us were very great. The army then proceeded to envelop Petersburg toward the Southside railroad, as far as possible without attacking fortifications.
On the sixth the enemy, to reinforce Petersburg, withdrew from a part of his intrenchment in front of Bermuda Hundred, expecting, no doubt, to get troops from north of the James to take the place of those withdrawn before we could discover it. General Butler, taking the advantage of this, at once moved a force on the railroad between Petersburg and Richmond. As soon as I was apprised of the advantage thus gained, to retain it I ordered two divisions of the Sixth corps, General, Wright commanding, that were embarking at Wilcox's landing, under orders for City Point, to report to General Butler, at Bermuda Hundred, of which General Butler was notified, and the importance of holding a position in advance of his present line urged upon him.
About two o'clock in the afternoon General Butler was forced back to the line the enemy had withdrawn from in the morning. General Wright, with his two divisions, joined General Butler on the forenoon of the seventeenth, the latter still holding with a strong picket-line the enemy's works. But instead of putting these divisions into the enemy's works to hold them, he permitted them to halt and rest some distance in the rear of his own line. Between four and five o'clock in the afternoon the enemy attacked and drove in his pickets and reoccupied his old line.
On the night of the twentieth and morning of the twenty-first a lodgement was effected by General Butler, with one brigade of infantry, on the north bank of the James, at Deep Bottom, and connected the pontoon bridge with Bermuda Hundred.
On the nineteenth, General Sheridan, on his return from his expedition against the Virginia Central railroad, arrived at the White House just as the enemy's cavalry was about to attack it, and compelled it to retire. The result of this expedition was that General Sheridan met the enemy's cavalry near Trevillian Station, on the morning of the eleventh of June, whom he attacked, and after an obstinate contest drove from the field in complete rout. He left his dead and nearly all his wounded in our hands, and about four hundred prisoners and several hundred horses. On the twelfth he destroyed the railroad from Trevillian Station to Louisa Court-house. This occupied until three o'clock P. M., when he advanced in the direction of Gordonsville. He found the enemy reinforced by infantry, behind well-constructed rifle-pits, about five miles from the latter place, and too strong to successfully assault. On the extreme right, however, his reserve brigade carried the enemy's works twice, and was twice driven therefrom by infantry. Night closed the con
test. Not having sufficient ammunition to continue the engagement, and his animals being without forage (the country furnishing but inferior grazing), and hearing nothing from General Hunter, he withdrew his command to the north side of the North Anna, and commenced his return march, reaching White House at the time before stated. After breaking up the depot at that place, he moved to the James river, which he reached safely after heavy fighting. He commenced crossing on the twentyfifth, near Fort Powhatan, without further molestation, and rejoined the Army of the Potomac.
On the twenty-second, General Wilson, with his own division of cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, and General Kautz's division of cavalry of the Army of the James, moved against the enemy's railroads south of Richmond. Striking the Weldon railroad at Ream's station, destroying the depot and several miles of the road and the Southside road, about fifteen miles from Petersburg, to near Nottoway station, where he met and defeated a force of the enemy's cavalry, he reached Burkesville station on the afternoon of the twenty-third, and from there destroyed the Danville railroad to Roanoke bridge, a distance of twenty-five miles, where he found the enemy in force, and in a position from which he could not dislodge him. He then commenced his return march, and on the twenty-eighth met the enemy's cavalry in force at the Weldon railroad crossing of Stony creek, where he had a severe but not decisive engagement. Thence he made a détour from his left, with a view of reaching Reams' station (supposing it to be in our possession). At this place he was met by the enemy's cavalry, supported by infantry, and forced to retire, with the loss of his artillery and trains. In this last encounter, General Kautz, with a part of his command, became separated, and made his way into our lines. General Wilson, with the remainder of his force, succeeded in crossing the Nottoway river and coming in safely on our left and rear. The damage to the enemy in this expedition more than compensated for the losses we sustained. It severed all connection by railroad with Richmond for several weeks.
With a view of cutting the enemy's railroad from near Richmond to the Anna rivers, and making him wary of the situation of his army in the Shenandoah, and, in the event of failure in this, to take advantage of his necessary withdrawal of troops from Petersburg, to explode a mine that had been prepared in front of the Ninth corps and assault the enemy's lines at that place, on the night of the twenty-sixth of July the Second corps and two divisions of the cavalry corps and Kautz's cavalry were crossed to the north bank of the James river, and joined the force General Butler had there. On the twenty-seventh the enemy was driven from his intrenched position, with the loss of four pieces of artillery. On the twenty-eighth our lines were extended from Deep Bottom to New Mar