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or the Secretary of War for throwing any embarrassment in the way of my vigorously prosecuting what appeared to be my duty. Indeed, since the promotion which placed me in command of all the armies, and in view of the great responsibility and the importance of success, I have been astonished at the readiness with which everything asked for has been yielded, without even an explanation being asked. Should my success be less than I desire and expect, the least I can say is, the fault is not with you.
Just before the Lieutenant-General received his appointment, Meade had sent a cavalry expedition under Kilpatrick around Lee's lines by way of Spottsylvania Court-house, striking the Virginia Central Railway at Beaver Dam and cutting communication by that route; crossing the South Anna River and breaking the Fredericksburg Railway in like manner; and approaching (March ist) within four miles of Richmond. Being forced to retreat down the Peninsula, Kilpatrick was met by an infantry support from Fortress Monroe again the headquarters of General Butler, who had been assigned, a few months before, to the command of a department including that region and North Carolina. Custer, with a small cavalry force, had meanwhile moved by Madison Court-house to within a short distance of Charlottesville.
The campaign proper was not to open so early as these movements seemed to portend. When May day came, Lee, with headquarters at Orange Court-house and his army behind strong defenses at Mine Run (near Chancellorsville), was still confronting Meade, whose headquarters were at Stevensburg and his army behind the Rapidan. The Army of the Potomac had been reorganized into three corps: the Second, Third, and Sixth, respectively commanded by Hancock, Warren, and Sedgwick. Major-Generals French, Sykes, and Newton had been relieved. The Ninth Corps, which Burnside had been gathering at Annapolis, marched through Washington on the 23d day of April to join Meade. The effective strength of the four corps was about one hundred thousand men.
To General Butler's command were added about ten thousand men from South Carolina - the Tenth Corps,
under Gillmore. This and the Eighteenth Corps, under W. F. Smith, constituted the Army of the James. With an available force of thirty thousand men, more or less, Butler was expected to operate with effect against Richmond from Fortress Monroe, simultaneously with Meade's advance from the Rapidan. Grant also sent forces under Sigel and others to break the railway line between Virginia and Tennessee.
Meade began his advance early in the morning of the 4th of May. Warren and Sedgwick crossed the Rapidan at Germanna Ford; the cavalry, now under Sheridan, and Hancock's corps forded at Ely's, nearer the enemy's position. Both wings, with the greater part of the trains, had crossed before night. Early next morning, while Sedgwick's left maintained communication with the river, Warren advanced to effect a junction with Hancock. To prevent this the enemy kept up a desperate and deadly fight all day in the tangled woods of the Wilderness. Burnside, guarding the railway, was ordered up. Marching more than thirty miles, crossing both the Rappahannock and the Rapidan, his men were at hand on the morning of the 6th. All through this day, too, the contest continued, with terrible losses and little gain of position on either side. During the night, however, the enemy retired behind his Mine Run intrenchments. *
Grant now determined to place his entire force between Lee's position and Richmond or draw him out of his stronghold. On the night of the 7th, Warren moved out by the most direct road towards Spottsylvania Court-house. Lee, discovering the movement and having a shorter line, reached that place before Warren. On the oth there was a good deal of artillery firing between the opposing armies without coming to close quarters. A severe calamity of the day was the death of Major-General John Sedgwick, instantly killed while giving personal attention to the management of one of his batteries. He was succeeded in command of the Sixth Corps by Major-General H. G. Wright. On the ioth there was a general assault on the enemy's lines, with some advantage gained by Hancock and Burnside. There was little firing on the next day, but on the 12th there was one of the severest battles of the campaign. At daylight Burnside attacked the enemy's left and center, driving the opposing forces a long distance by a brilliant bayonet charge, and capturing over three thousand prisoners. Warren took part in the general action, and Wright (Sixth Corps) in the afternoon came to the support of Hancock and Burnside. After very severe losses, on both sides, neither could claim a positive victory. †
* Losses in the “Wilderness": Union-killed, 2,246; wounded, 12,037. Confederate-killed, 1,630; wounded, 9,120.
† Losses at “Spottsylvania": Union-killed, 2,725; wounded, 13,416. Confederate-killed, 1,300; wounded, 6,700.
For the next six days there was no serious fighting. In another flanking movement, Warren, closely followed by Wright, reached the left bank of the North Anna River on the afternoon of the 23d. Hancock and Burnside were not far in the rear. The enemy was again ahead in the race, and in position on the other side of the river. Warren crossed at once without opposition, and when later attacked, he repulsed his assailants. Sheridan had meanwhile made a raid on Lee's communications, destroying supplies, defeating Stuart (who was mortally wounded) at Yellow Tavern; dashing through the outer line of works at Richmond; continuing from thence to Haxall's Landing, where he communicated with Butler, and returning to the North Anna camp on the 25th. Butler had occupied City Point and Bermuda Hundred on the 5th of May; paused one day to intrench; then attempted to break the railway line between Petersburg and Richmond. He had previously sent a large cavalry force under Kautz to destroy the railway communications southward of Petersburg, but this did not prevent the arrival of Beauregard and his command in season to combat Butler, who inflicted no serious damage on the railway. He had sent a smaller cavalry force to join Gillmore, who was menacing Richmond. During the night of the 13th-14th the first line of the Confederate works at Drewry's Bluff was carried, with but little loss; but it was speedily abandoned, and Butler was driven back within his intrenchments, between the James and the Appomattox, near their confluence. On the 22d Grant ordered W. F. Smith to join Meade with all of Butler's force available without endangering the possession of City Point and Bermuda Hundred.
Meade was withdrawn from the North Anna on the 26th. On the 30th the army reached Hanover Courthouse and the Cold Harbor road, where it found the enemy in an intrenched position on the left bank of the Chickahominy. An attack along the whole line was at once ordered, but gained no advantage. Sheridan seized a good position at Cold Harbor on the 31st, and held it until Wright and Smith came up — the latter having just completed his march from Bermuda Hundred. The two corps attacked and carried the works in their immediate front on the evening of the ist of June — Lee meanwhile attacking the other three corps and suffering a repulse. On the 2d, Grant ordered the entire army to be placed in position for a general assault the next morning. The battle of Cold Harbor, fought on the 3d of June, cost heavily in human life and gained nothing. The enemy at its close held his fortified lines unshaken. *
Here, near the scene of the battle of Gaines's Mill, with secure and convenient communications by way of the Pamunkey and York Rivers, Grant remained for several days. With the prompt co-operation he had expected elsewhere when issuing his orders at the beginning of the campaign, the Lieutenant-General would now have hoped to repeat his Vicksburg exploit by extending his lines north of Richmond to the James, cutting Lee's communications, and capturing his army.
* Losses at Cold Harbor": Union-killed, 1,840; wounded, 9,077. Confederate-killed, 900; wounded, 3,600.