Page images
PDF
EPUB

Everything now, in Grant's judgment, favorably. Grant determined not to looked favorable to the defeat of the extend his line any further, but to rerebels and the capture of Petersburg inforce Sheridan with a corps of inand Richmond, if the proper effort fantry, and thus enable him to cut loose were promptly made. On the 29th of and turn the rebel right flank; with the March, he communicated with Sheridan, other corps an assault was to be made directing him not to cut loose for the on Lee's lines. The result of the ofcontemplated raid just at present. “I fensive effort of the enemy a week be. now feel,” he said, “like ending the fore, when they assaulted Fort Steadman, matter, if it is possible to do so, before particularly favored this.

Their en going back. I do not want you, there. trenched picket line captured by oui fore, to cut loose and go after the troops at that time threw the lines ocenemy's roads at present. In the morn- cupied by the belligerents so close toing push around the enemy, if you can, gether at some points, that it was but a and get on to his right rear. The moment's run from one to the other. movements of the enemy's cavalry may, Preparations were at once made to reof course, modify your action. We will lieve Humphreys's corps, to report to act all together as one army here until it Sheridan; but the condition of the is seen what can be done with the roads prevented immediate movement. enemy.” From Wednesday night, the On the 31st of March, Warren was 29th, till Friday morning, March 31st, pressing his entire corps upon the rebel the rain fell in torrents, so as to render entrenched line on the White Oak road. it almost impossible to move any Lee ordered an attack in force on War- . wheeled vehicle, except by means of ren, .which was made with great spirit, corduroy roads. Sheridan, however, and division after division was driven during the 30th, advanced from Din. back, until, on reaching Griffin's force, widdie Court House toward Five Forks, the troops were rallied and the assault where he found the enemy in force. repelled. A division of the 2d corps Warren advanced and extended his line was immediately sent to Warren's supacross the Boydton plank road to near port, the enemy driven back with the White Oak road, with a view of heavy loss, and possession of the White getting across the latter ; but, finding Oak road gained. Sheridan advanced,

the enemy strong in his front and with a portion of his cavalry got

and extending beyond his left, possession of the Five Forks; but the was directed to hold on where he was enemy, after the affair with the 5th and fortify. Humphreys drove the corps, reinforced the rebel cavalry, deenemy from his front into his main line fending that point with infantry, and on the Hatcher, near Burgess's Mills. forced Sheridan back toward DinOrd, Wright and Parke made examina- widdie Court House. Here, as Grant tions in their fronts to determine the admiringly says, “Sheridan displayed feasibility of an assault on the enemy's great generalship. Instead of retreatlines; and the two latter reported ing with his whole command on the

1865.

[ocr errors]

CH. XX.]

BATTLE OF FIVE FORKS.

531

gress slow.”

1865.

main army, to tell the story of su- number of colors and guns. Our loss perior forces encountered, he deployed was reported as comparatively small, his cavalry on foot, leaving only viz., a few hundred cavalry, and 634 mounted men enough to take charge of infantry killed and wounded. the horses. This compelled the enemy Grant, somewhat apprehensive lest to deploy over a vast extent of wood the rebels might desert their lines dur and broken country, and made his pro- ing the night, and by falling upon "

Sheridan before aid could reach him, Sheridan informed Grant of the posi- drive him from his position and open tion of affairs, and that he was falling the way for the retreat of Lee's back slowly on Dinwiddie Court House. army, sent Miles's division of McKenzie's cavalry and a division of the corps of Humphreys to reinforce the 5th corps were immediately ordered Sheridan. A bombardment was also to Sheridan's assistance, and Meade hav- ordered of all the guns in the Petersing reported that Humphreys' could burg lines, which, beginning at nighthold the position on the Boydton road, fall of the 1st of April, was kept up and that the other divisions of the till four o'clock the next morning, Sun3d corps could go to Sheridan, they day, April 2d. An assault speedily folwere so ordered at once. This was on lowed, from the Appomattox to Hatchthe morning of the 1st of April, and er's Run, by the troops of Parke, Sheridan, now reinforced, assaulted the Wright, and Ord. Wright penetrated rebel troops and drove them back on the rebel lines with his whole corps, Five Forks, which was held by them sweeping everything before him, and in force. This battle illustrated the capturing inany guns and several thousuperior strategy and tactics of Sheri- sand prisoners. He was closely followdan. By the skilful use of his cavalry, ed by two divisions of Ord's command, as a mask to cover the manæuvring of until he met Ord's other divisions, the infantry, he made his arrangements which had succeeded in forcing the so as to assault the rebels with tremen- enemy's lines near Hatcher's Run. dous effect; and by nightfall, the routed Wright and Ord immediately swung enemy fled westward from Five Forks, to the right and closed all of the pursued for many miles by our ca. enemy on that side of them in Petersvalry.* Between 5,000 and 6,000 burg, while Humphrey's pushed for prisoners were taken, and a large ward with two divisions and joined

Wright on the left. Parke succeeded * Sheridan, for reasons given in his report, relieved in carrying the main line of the rebels, Warren of command of the 5th corps at the close of the battle. Sheridan's statements are, that, Warren capturing guns and prisoners, but on was slow in his movements, not disposed to follow out reaching the inner cordon of works, the command promptly, etc. Warren, on the other hand, has defended himself in his published “ Account was unable to force them. of the Fifth Army Corps at the Battle of Five Forks." We need not enter into the merits of the question. around Petersburg, a portion of the

On reaching the lines immediately Swinton is of opinion that Sheridan's “reasons are wholly inadequate to justify that officer s cɔnduct.” corps of Ord, under Gen. Gibbon, be

1865.

gan an attack on the two strong, en ting sixteen miles between them and closed works, named Forts Gregg and Petersburg.* Alexander. By a gallant and resolute Richmond was taken possession of charge, they carried these forts, the by our forces, under Gen. Weitzel, most salient and commanding south of early on Monday morning, April 3d. the city, and thus materially shortened The rebels bad blown up all they could, the line of investiment necessary for the vessels in the river, the taking it. The enemy south of Hatch-bridges, etc.; they also set fire er's Run retreated westward to Suther to the tobacco warehouses, and the land's Station, where they were over- flames spreading rapidly, notwithstandtaken by Miles's division. A severe ing the efforts of our men to extinguish engagement ensued, and lasted until them, laid the entire business portion both the right and left flanks of the re- of the city in ashes. President Lincoln bels were threatened by the approach visited Richmond the next day, in comof Sheridan, who was moving from pany with Admiral Porter; and throughFord's Station towards Petersburg, and out the country great rejoicings took a division sent by Gen. Meade from the place, and numerous patriotic addresses front of Petersburg, when they broke were made. In this connection, we in the utmost confusion, leaving in the may quote a paragraph or two from hands of our troops their guns and a Vice-president Johnson's speech at Wash. large number of prisoners. This por ington, on the receipt of the news, & tion of the rebel force retreated by the speech which at the time was regarded main road along the Appomattox River. as of no moment, but which, in view

The rebel commander, well aware of the calamity that soon after fell upon that he could no longer resist Grant's the country, assumed an importance assaults, sent a message to Jeff. Davis, proportionate to the unlooked for elethis Sunday morning, April 2d, while vation of Andrew Johnson to the prehe was at St. Paul's Church, Richmond, sidency. After remarking that old stating that the time had come when Andrew Jackson would hang up as Petersburg and Richmond must be evacuated. Silently, in the darkness

*“When in the gray dawn of Monday, April 3d, the of the night, the rebel troops, having skirmishers advanced from the lines before Petersburg, left Petersburg, marched along the the city was found to be evacuated. At the same time

the Union force on the lines confronting Richmond from north bank of the Appomattox, north the north side of the James was startled by a clamorward to Chesterfield Court House, mid-ous uproar, and the sky was seen to be lit up with a

lurid glare. Surmising the meaning of this direful way between Peterslıurg and the rebel blazon, Gen. Weitzel threw forward a cavalry party capital. Here they were joined by the that, entering the city without let, planted its guidons other troops from Bermuda Hundred on the capitol. Thus Richmond fell! Marvellous as

had been the one year's defence of the confederate and Richmond, and Lee's whole army, capital, its fall was not less strange. Occupied, not now not much more than 25,000 in captured, Richmond, to gain which such hecatombs of

lives had been sacrificed, was at length given up by the number, pushed eagerly forward, and civil authorities to a body of forty troopers !"-Świnby the next morr. ng succeeded in put- ton’s “ Army of the Potomac,” p. 606.

Ch. XX.]

DAVIS'S LAST PROCLAMATION.

533

high as Haman such traitors as these a proclamation, April 5th, in which he whose rebellion was now broken up, he tried to put the best face he could on went on to say:

“Humble as I am, matters in the “Confederacy.” Among when you ask me what I would do, my other things he said—it was his last reply is, I would arrest them; I would chance—“we have now entered upon a try them; I would convict them, and I new phase of the struggle. Relieved would hang them. As humble as I am from the necessity of guarding particnand have been, I have pursued but one lar points, our army will be free to undeviating course. All that I have— move from point to point to strike the life, limb, and property—have been put enemy in detail far from his base. Le at the disposal of the country in this us but will it and we are free. Ani. great struggle. I have been in camp, mated by that confidence in spirit and I have been in the field, I have been fortitude which never yet failed me, I everywhere where this great rebellion announce to you, fellow.countrymen, was; I have pursued it until I believe that it is my purpose to maintain your I can now see its termination.

cause with my whole heart and soul; I am in favor of leniency; but in my that I will never consent to abandon opinion, evil doers should be punished. to the enemy one foot of the soil of any Treason is the highest crime known in one of the states of the Confederacy; that the catalogue of crimes; and for him Virginia—noble state—whose ancient that is guilty of it—for him that is renown has been eclipsed by her still willing to lift his impious hand against more glorious recent history; whose the authority of the nation—I would bosom has been bared to receive the say death is too easy a punishment. main shock of this war; 'whose sous My notion is that treason must be made and daughters have exhibited heroism odious, that traitors must be punished so sublime as to render her illustrious and impoverished, their social power in all time to come; that Virginia, with broken; that they must be made to the help of the people and by the blessfeel the penalty of their crimes.” ing of Providence, shall be held and de

Jeff. Davis, with such escort as he fended, and no peace ever be made with could obtain, took his departure from the infamous invaders of her territory. Richmond at the earliest possible hour If, by the stress of numbers, we should after receiving Lee's message, on that ever be compelled to a temporary witheventful Sunday morning, and purpos-drawal from her limits, or those of any ing, if we may believe his foolish boast- other border state, again and again will ing, (p. 504) to set up the rebel gov- we return, until the baffled and exernment in some safer place. He also hausted enemy shall abandon in des carried with him all the money that pair his endless and impossible task of could be got out of the Richmond banks, making slaves of a people resolved to and whatever else his hasty flight would be free.'* permit.

* The fugitive arch rebel, we may here mention, atDavis, on reaching Danville, issued / tempted to escape by way of the rea-coast. A reward

1865.

As for Gen. Lee, he seems to have man that Lee would probably strive to thought that there was yet a chance of reach Danville; he also said: “If you escape

for him, and so there can possibly do so, push on from where might have been had not Grant, you are, and let us see if we cannot fully master of the situation, displayed finish the job with Lee's and Johnston's such activity and energy as to reduce armies. Whether it will be better for him, in a few days, to the necessity of you to strike for Greensborough, or surrender. Grant knew that Lee must nearer to Danville, you will be better retreat, or yield, and was prepared for able to judge when you receive this. immediate pursuit in the former case. Rebel armies now are the only strategic Sheridan pushed for the Danville Road, points to strike at.” keeping near the Appomattox, followed On the morning of Thursday, April by Meade, with the 2d and 6th corps; 6th, it was discovered that Lee had left while Ord moved for Burkesville, fifty- Amelia Court House, and was moving eight miles from Richmond, and the west of Jettersville, in the direction of most important point for the enemy to Danville. It was his only hope now secure, it he could, on the South Side to enter upon a race of thirty-five miles or Lyuchburg Road; the 9th corps west to Farmville, where, if he reached stretched along that road behind him. it in time, he could cross the AppomatOn Tuesday, April 4th, Sheridan struck tox once more, and then, by destroying the Danville Road near Jettersville, the bridges after him, escape into the where he learned that Lee had reached mountains beyond Lynchburg. Sheridan Amelia Court House, thirty-eight miles moved with his cavalry to strike Lee's west of Richmond.* Sheridan entrench flank, followed by the 6th corps, while ed himself, and awaited the arrival of the 2d and 5th corps pressed hard after, Meade.. Ord reached Burkesville on forcing him to abandon several hun the evening of the 5th of April. On dred wagons and several pieces of arthe same day, Grant sent word to Sher. tillery. Ord advanced from Burkes

ville towards Farmville, sending two of $100,000 was offered for his arrest, and the hunt regiments of infantry, and a squadron was exceedingly active in consequence. He was finally of cavalry, under Gen. T. Read, to reach caught by a portion of Wilson's cavalry, under. Col. and destroy the bridges. This advance Pritchard, at Irwinsville, Wilkinson County, Ga., together with his family and a small number of attend met the head of Lee's column near ants. This was on the morning of May 10th. Davis Farmville, and heroically attacked it in was brought prisoner to Fortress Monroe, and placed the effort to detain the rebel force until in close confinement.

* A dire anguish, as Swinton terms it, here befell the main body should come up. Read Lee. He had ordered, it seems, supplies to meet him lost his life on this occasion, and his and his army at Amelia Court House ; but they had command was. overpowered; but the been carried on to Richmond, and burned along with the other stores in that city. One might call this a sort end had in view was attained; the of deserved retribution ; at any rate, Lee lost heart, movements of the enemy were delayed ; and with good reason, at the prospect of protracting and Ord had time to arrive with the the contest with a hungry, half-starved army, against the large and abuj dantly supplied force under Grant. | Army of the James. Whereupon the

« PreviousContinue »