« PreviousContinue »
In the midst of these exciting events, came the startling news that the rebel privateer Florida was on our coast, and had captured five vessels. War vessels were immediately sent in pursuit of this daring cruiser, which seemed to vie in the boldness of his movements with the presumptuous invaders that were pressing up to the very gates of the Capital.
General Wright, in pursuing Early, whose force it was pretty well understood was about twenty thousand men, crossed the Potomac at Edward's Ferry and advanced toward Leesburg, where Rickett's division, which had parted from the corps, to aid Wallace, joined it. Four days after, a portion of Crook's cavalry, under Duffie, captured a part of the rebel trains near Snicker's Gap. Crook, with the main body, coming up, was repulsed, and the following day Duffie was roughly handled by Breckenridge, at Island Ford, on the Shenandoah, losing three hundred men. As the enemy moved on toward Winchester, Averill near this place had an engagement with a rebel division, defeating it with heavy loss and capturing four guns. Crook and Averill now joined their forces, and Eariy, finding himself closely pressed by this large body of cavalry, rapidly concentrated a large force, which on the 24th fell with such fury on the Union cavalry, that it was compelled with severe loss to retreat, and recrossed the Potomac, leaving the southern shore in possession of the rebels, from Williamsport to Shepardstown. The latser occupied Martinsburg, and again commenced to tear up the Baltimore and Ohio railroad track, which had anffered so severely in every advance of the rebeis to the Potomac. Hunter had now got back with his shattered
and once more confronted his old enemy that chased him over the mountairs from Lynchburg. On the 30th McCausland with a body of cavalry recrossed the Potomac, and, moving
GANT'S INSTRUCTIONS TO HUNTER.
rapidly upon Chambersburg, demanded a ransom of half a. million of dollars from the inhabitants, which they refusing to pay, he fired the town, destroying a vast amount of property. Retreating toward Cumberland, the force was met and defeated by General Kelley, and scattered among the mountains of Western Virginia. The ebels now held the Shenandoah Valley, and evidently meait to hold it till the crops were harvested, for Early had made a requisition on the inhabitants for a large amount of grain.
Communications between Hunter, whose forces were concentrated on the Monocacy, and Grant at City Point, were very uncertain, and movements would often take place in the interim materially changing the aspect of affairs, so that orders given to day, might by the time they reached Hunter be such as Grant would not give. He, therefore, left City Point on the 4th to visit him, and see for himself what was best to be done. On reaching Hunter's head-quarters, and consulting with him, he gave him the following instructions:
" MONOCACY BRIDGE, Md., August 5, 1864--8 P. M. GENERAL :-Concentrate all your available force without delay in the vi. cinity of Harper's Ferry, leaving only such railroad guards and garrisons for public property as may be necessary. Use, in this concentrating, the railroads, if by doing so time can be saved. From Harper's Ferry, if it is found that the enemy has moved north of the Potomac în large forco, push north, following him and attacking him wherever found; follow him if driven south of the Potomac, as long as it is safe to do so.
If it is ascer tained that the enemy has but a small force north of the Potomac, then pushi south with the main force, detaching under a competent commander a snflicient force to look aiter the raiders, and drive them to their homes. In dietaching such a force, the brigade of cavalry now en route from Washington via Rockville may be taken into account.
There are now on their way to join you three other brigades of the best cavalry, numbering at least five thousand men and horses. These will be instructed, in the absence of further orders, to join you on the south side of the Potomac. One brigade will probably start to-morrow. In pushing up the Shenandoah Valley, where it is expected you will have to go first or last, it is desirable that nothing should be left to invite the enemy to return. Take all provisions, forage, and stock wanted for the use of your command : such as cannot be consumed destroy. It is not desirable that the buildings should be destroyed—they should rather be protected—but the people should be
SHERIDAN RELIEVES HUNTER,
informed that so long as an army can subsist among them, recurrences of these raids must be expected, and we are determined to stop them at all hazards.
Bear in mind the object is to drive the enemy south, and to do this you want to keep him always in sight. Be guided in your course by the course he takes.
Make your own arrangements for supplies of all kinds, giving regular vouchers for such as may be taken from loyal citizens in the country through which you march.
U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General. Major General D. HUNTER."
The troops were immediately put in motion, and the advance reached Halltown that night. Grant, however, had no intention of leaving Hunter in command of the Department. He felt that he needed a different kind of a manone who would require no instructions, and no watching; and, though he speaks in as delicate a manner as possible of Hunter's removal, saying, that in “his conversation with him the latter expressed his willingness to be relieved from command,” yet that conversation was evidently of a character to leave no room for choice, for two days before Grant left City Point, he sent on Sheridan to report to Halleck, for the sole purpose of taking Hunter's place. Carrying out this purpose, he immediately telegraphed to Washington to have Sheridan come on by the morning train, to assume command of all the forces designed to operate against Early. He arrived on the morning of the 8th, and had a consultation with the Lieutenant-General in relation to military matters in that section, after which the latter returned to City Point.
On the 11th, the Middle Department, the Departments of West Virginia, Washington, and Susquehanna were constituted into the “Middle Military Division,” and Major General Sheridan was assigned to temporary command of the same, and the Shenandoah Valley, the scene of so many disasters was to enter on a new history.
The army around Petersburg this month, parched with heat, and suffering for want of water, lay comparatively quiet.
The month closed, however, with another desperate attempt to carry Petersburg by assault. A part of Butler's army had been thrown across the James River, on the north side, so that Grant's lines extended at this time over twenty miles. A strong fort crowned an eminence in front of Burnside's Corps, (the Ninth,) which it was thought, if once carried, would let the assaulting columns into the very heart of the enemy's works. It was, therefore, determined to undermine this and blow it up, and in the terror and confusion of the explosion, to charge through, and take the rebel works in flank and rear.
The mine that was to lift it, like an earthquake, from its firm foundations, was commenced at the distance of five hundred feet, in the sides of a ravine. It was said ihat the plan originated with Lieutenant-Colonel Pleasants, of the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania regiment, which was composed chiefly of miners.
A gallery like one leading to a coal mine, was constructed about four and a half feet Ligh, and four feet wide, ending at a point directly under the fort, and twenty feet below it. When, as ascertained by actca scientific measurement, this subterranean arch-way got directly bencatli the fort, two wings were sent out, to the right and left, extending under the entire structure. It was a work of great labor, but, ist the latter part of the month, was finished, and eight tons or powder placed in the subterranean gallery to which was attached a fuse that led outside.
The plan was to have assaulting columns, which in the confusion of the explosion and under cover of a horrible fire of nearly a hundred pieces of artillery, would open simultane- . ous with the explosion, rush in and occupy a crest beyond, that completely commanded the enemy's defenses.
The 30th was fixed for the explosion of the mine. To give however a greater chance of success, Grant determined
to make a strong demonstration against the enemy, on the north side of the James, as though he .contemplated an advance on Richmond in that direction, and thus draw off the rebel force from the real point of attack. In carrying out this plan, Grant says, “that on the night of the 26th 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 27th, the enemy was driven from his intrenched position, with the loss of four pieces of artillery. On the 28th, our lines were extended from Deep Bottom to New Market road, but in getting this position were attacked by the enemy in heavy force. The fighting lasted for several hours, resulting in considerable loss to both sides. The first object of inis move having failed, by reason of the very large force thrown there by the enemy, I determined to take advantage of the diversion made, by assaulting Petersburg before he could get his force back there. One division of the Second Corps was withdrawn on the night of the 28th, and moved during the night to the rear of the Eightteenth Corps, to relieve that Corps in the line, that it might be foot-loose in the assault to be made. The other two divisions of the Second Corps and Sheridan's cavalry were crossed over on the night of the 29th, and moved in front of Petersburg."
The 30th being, as before stated, fixed upon for the explosion of the mine, a little after midnight, on the 29th, the Ninth Corps, which was to make the assault, was drawn up and closely massed in front of it, to rush in the moment it took place. Half-past three o'clock in the morning was the hour.fixed upon for lighting the train, and as it approached, the troops were greatly excited. But three o'clock passed, and all remained quiet as before. The waiting troops looked on each other in mute inquiry, and the gunners standing