Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

ished like light snowflakes of the night under the morning sun. Fremont's drooping banner, which had futtered aloft for three months, was now promptly hauled down by his own command. Just at this time, too, as if in chorus, Farragut and Sherman electrified the country by brilliant victories on sea and land.

#

Early in August, Admiral Farragut, with a fleet of eighteen vessels, four of which were ironclad, appeared before the defenses at the entrance of Mobile Bay. Fort Morgan, on the mainland at the right of the eastern channel, was the first object of attack. General Canby, in command at New Orleans, had sent five thousand men under Granger to the rear of Fort Gaines, on the left of the same channel. The unarmored ships, lashed together in pairs the Brooklyn and the Octorora taking the lead, followed by the flagship Hartford and the Metacomet,- moved early in the morning of August 5th. The ironclads had already crossed the bar. One of these, the Tecumseh (Commander Craven), when within a mile of Fort Morgan opened fire, which was soon responded to from the fort, and directly all available guns on both sides were brought into play. The Brooklyn, on which and the Hartford the fort guns were chiefly trained, began firing grape when near enough, dispersing the gunners from the batteries not protected; and almost at the same moment the Tecumseh, three hundred yards ahead, struck a torpedo, which exploded under her turret, letting in a rush of water which sunk her so quickly that of her one hundred and thirty men, only seventeen escaped. Her commander was among the lost. Regardless of the demonstrated danger, the

other vessels Farragut at the mast-head of the Hartford - continued their advance. Inside the harbor the enemy had the formidable ram Tennessee (commanded by Buchanan) and three gunboats, which presently came into action. One of these was captured after an hour's combat; another, badly injured, was run ashore and burnt; and the third escaped. The Tennessee was at length seen bearing for the Hartford, and was closed in upon by Farragut's ironclads and strongest wooden vessels. The combat ended in the surrender of Buchanan, himself severely wounded and his vessel disabled. Fort Powell, on the western channel. was evacuated and blown up by the enemy the ensuing night. Fort Gaines, on Dauphin Island, between the two entrances of the harbor, was shelled with effect next day, and being invested by Granger's force in his rear, its commander surrendered fort and garrison on the 7th. Two days later, Granger crossed over to the mainland, in rear of Fort Morgan. The siege lasted until the 23d, when the fort was surrendered with its 104 guns and 1,464 men. Thus full control of the passage into the bay was gained, definitely closing the last but one (Wilmington) of the chief Southern ports in which blockade-running had prospered.

The last week of August was a busy one with Sherman in Georgia. Leaving Slocum's corps within strong fortifications to protect the passage of the Chattahoochie, he skillfully used the rest of his army, by swinging it around to the west and south of Atlanta, to draw out and defeat part of Hood's army, to get possession of his chief lines of railway communication, and to force him to the alternative of evacuating the city or of speedily surrendering it with his entire army. Before daylight on the ist of September, Hood began destroying his stores and magazines, the explosions of the latter being heard by Sherman twenty miles away. An evacuation of the city was believed to be preparing, and its accomplishment was known on the 4th. Sherman thereupon gathered his army around Atlanta, where they encamped on the 7th, with headquarters in the city.

The capture of Atlanta was an event of which everybody could understand the importance. It was not more lightly appreciated in Richmond than in Washington.

There were soon to be, also, brilliant successes farther north. In the Shenandoah valley, military operations were unimportant for more than a month after General Sheridan took the command there. General Early occupied a strong position at Opequan Creek, in front of Winchester. Sheridan was at Berryville, only a few miles eastward, liable at any time to be attacked, but, with all his impetuosity of character, not eager to bring on a battle at once. Two additional divisions of cavalry, Torbert's and Wilson's, from Meade's army, joined Sheridan in August. While he was studying and preparing for the work before him, several skirmishes, in which his men were usually victorious, helped to pass the time. Grant visited him at headquarters about the middle of September, and found the General's plans so well matured and so promising as to leave no occasion for other instructions than the simple verbal order: “Go in."

In the morning of the 19th, Sheridan attacked the

a

enemy at the crossing of the Opequan, and after a fierce and destructive battle, which lasted until 5 o'clock in the evening, Early was dislodged from every intrenchment quite up to Winchester, and his army put to utter rout, with the loss of five guns, three thousand prisoners, and nearly as many killed or wounded. Sheridan's losses were large, the killed and wounded in the Nineteenth Corps alone — which suffered the most severely

being nearly two thousand.* At Fisher's Hill, a few miles beyond Strasburg, Early rallied his forces in a strong position, where he was again attacked on the 20th by Sheridan, and again signally defeated with heavy losses. Continuing his flight through Harrisonburg and Staunton, pursued by Sheridan with unremitting ardor, Early withdrew his sadly reduced army through the gaps of the Blue Ridge. The upper valley, so long the great source of subsistence for Lee's army, was now thoroughly incapacitated by the victors for a continuance of this service. Sheridan then returned to Strasburg, where he advantageously posted his army on Cedar Creek.

Unused to such defeats, Early was ill content to accept the humiliation without another trial. Reinforcements were sent him, and his wits and energies were bent to the task of driving Sheridan out of the valley. A cavalry collision on the 9th of October resulted badly for the Confederate assailants. Early's next movement was in full force, more than a week later, while Sheridan in person was at Winchester, twenty miles distant. Crossing the mountain spur between the forks of the Shenandoah on the 18th, and fording the stream which flows at its northern base, Early advanced on the morning of the 19th, curtained by the thick fogs, and by surprise turned the left flank of the army at Cedar Creek, capturing the batteries in that quarter, and putting the entire command to rout. Its hurried and confused flight towards Winchester was arrested between Middletownı and Newtown, where Sheridan, who, on news of the disaster, had ridden with all possible speed towards Strasburg, readjusted the lines, infused his own spirit into the ranks, and repulsed the fresh onset soon made by Early. In his turn, Sheridan promptly attacked the enemy with wonted vigor. Early's forces were beaten back with severe loss, and his guns captured, as well as his trains and the spoils he had taken that day. * He was pursued next day as far as Mount Jackson. For the last time Sheridan sent Early “whirling up the valley,” which was now effectually and finally cleared.

* Losses : Union-killed, 697; wounded, 3,983. Confederatekilled, 226; wounded, 1,567.

* Losses : Union-killed, 644; wounded, 3,430. Confederatekilled, 320; wounded, 1,540.

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »