Page images

September, 1864, being fifty days from the date of this call, a draft for troops to serve for one year shall be had in every town, township, ward of a city, precinct, or election district, or county not so subdivided, to fill the quota which shall be assigned to it under this call, or any part thereof which may be unfilled by volunteers on the said fifth day of September, 1864.

"In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

"Done at the City of Washington, this eighteenth day of July, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-four, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.

[L. S.]


"By the President: WILLIAM H. SEWARD, Secretary of State.”

Meantime, there was in progress a new attempt to carry the Petersburg defences by means of a mine, while a feint on the northern bank of the James should draw off the defenders of Petersburg. The line of Grant's army was twenty miles long, and by ostentatiously threatening the enemy from our right it was supposed he would weaken his own right at the point where the true assault, after the explosion of the mine, was to take place. The idea of the mine was due to LieutenantColonel Pleasants, of the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania, a regiment recruited mostly among the miners of that State. The point selected was the side of a ravine, surmounted by an earthwork, in front of Burnside's (Ninth) Corps, and the mine was pushed towards a formidable fort of the enemy, situated about two thousand yards from Petersburg. The distance to be mined was about five hundred feet, and the work was difficult. The mine was constructed in the usual method. The surface was carefully measured by triangulation, and the gallery was made in the usual shape, four and a half feet high, and about four feet wide at the bottom, sloping up to the top. A ventilating shaft was sunk near the entrance. The chamber of the mine was about twenty feet below the fort, and wings extended from it right and left, extending under the fort. In these were placed eight tons of powder, connected by a fuse which led out of the gallery. It required thirty days to complete this work. During its progress the Ninth Corps kept up an incessant skirmishing, for the purpose of concealing the movement. The plan of assault was to explode the mine, and immediately to open a terrific cannonading from every gun on the line. This concentrated fire would naturally unnerve the enemy somewhat, and, under its cover, a strong storming party would rush through the gap made by the explosion, and endeavor to carry the enemy's position beyond. In the rear of his first line, a hundred and fifty yards distant, was a very strong crest, which quite commanded the city of Petersburg. To gain this would gain the battle. But the intervening space was difficult and arduous, entanglements and abatis being planted near the fort, and the whole ground being swept by the enemy's artillery. Our own heavy guns had been brought up after much hard and dangerous labor through six weeks, and with much loss of valuable life among officers and men. They now numbered nearly one hundred pieces, some of which were eight-inch and some even heavier mortars.

The assault was fixed for the 30th of July, and preparations for it began by a feint on the right. Across the James at Deep Bottom,

Foster's Division of the Tenth Corps was intrenched, with a pontoon bridge in his rear, and protected by gunboats. On the 21st a second bridge had been thrown over at Strawberry Plains, and a brigade of the Nineteenth Corps crossed to hold it. These, with other demonstrations, induced the enemy to add Kershaw's Division to the other troops in front of Foster. On the 27th, the Second Corps left the extreme left of the army, and, followed by Sheridan and Kautz, crossed the James; and on the following day a line of battle was formed as follows, from right to left: Sheridan, Hancock, Foster. Foster demonstrated throughout the day, inflicting severe loss on the enemy. On Friday, the 29th, the feint was continued, and long trains of empty wagons were sent north of the river for display. These movements had the effect of causing Lee to send fifteen thousand more men to his left. On Friday evening, however, the Second Corps returned quietly to Petersburg amid an incessant and vindictive fire.

Soon after midnight of the 29th, the troops were in position. The Ninth Corps had been carefully arranged fronting the mine, to head the assault. The Eighteenth Corps was drawn off from the right of the Ninth, and massed in its rear. Mott's Division of the Second Corps was moved into the vacancy left by the Eighteenth, and the other divisions occupied adjoining positions, after arriving. The Tenth and the fraction of the Nineteenth Corps remained on the James and near Bermuda Hundred. The assaulting column, then, was the Ninth Corps, supported by the Eighteenth, with the Second in reserve on its right and the Fifth on the left. The whole force was closely massed, only the necessary garrisons lining the more distant intrenchments. The Ninth Corps was disposed with Ledlie's (First) Division in advance; Wilcox's (Second) and Potter's (Third) next in support, and Ferrero's (Fourth), the colored division, in the rear.

The time for lighting the fuse was half-past three o'clock on the morning of Saturday, the 30th. At that hour the troops were all prepared, and alive with excitement. An hour passed, and there was no explosion. The fuse had gone out in the damp gallery. Again it was lighted by some bold soldier. The sun had already risen, when, forty minutes past four, a heaving and trembling of the earth was followed by a terrific explosion, and huge clods of earth, with all the contents of the doomed fort, guns, caissons, and limbers, and the regiment who manned them, were flung into the air. To the myriad of astonished spectators it resembled a great fountain. Poised for a moment, the mighty column then descended with a resounding thud, and the swaying, quaking, and trembling of the adjacent earth were over. A yawning crater, one hundred feet and more in length, with half as great width, and a depth of twenty feet, with heaps of ruins, was left where once stood a six-gun fort and its camp equipage, and two hundred men. Instantly upon the explosion, a gun broke out from our line, then another, and soon a hundred cannon, from every eminence along the line, joined in a fire which exceeded in intensity even that of Malvern Hill and Gettysburg. The enemy responded with prompt energy, and their entire line added its thunder of artillery and musketry to our own. The alacrity with which the enemy rallied to his task from the sudden

shock, and the steadiness with which he turned his fire to the storming party, in spite of the tremendous shelling with which the Union batteries endeavored to disconcert him and distract his attention, showed that he was in a measure prepared for what had happened.

Meantime, Ledlie's Division was already in front of its intrenchments, with Marshall's (Second) Brigade in advance, and Bartlett's (First) Brigade in the rear. On the left of Ledlie was Hartranft's Brigade of Wilcox's Division, and, on his right, Griffin's Brigade of Potter's Division. The Second Brigade was delayed by some mistake, but soon, with a wild, enthusiastic cheer, leaped to their work, and, rushing across the deadly plain, under hot fire, stumbled down into the horrible breach which the mine had made. The supporting brigades spread out and enveloped the flanking rifle-pits, captured two hundred prisoners, and sent them to the rear. The Fourteenth New York Heavy Artillery were first to enter the gap, amid the wreck of the fort and the upturned earth, with the mangled bodies and dissevered limbs of its occupants protruding here and there from the disordered, fallen debris. The dense cloud of dust still rolled over the place, thickened by the heavy smoke of battle, which had now shrouded the whole field from view. Here an unfortunate delay took place. Instead of pressing right on for the object beyond, some of the men were set at digging out two of the six cannon of the fort; others threw up hasty breast works against the tempest of shot and shell which already swept the place from the enemy's second line, and began reversing the slope of the intrenchments and extending them. Others exhumed the struggling garrison, such as were living, and carried back the prisoners to our lines, where now ammunition carts and ambulances were hurrying to

and fro.

The time spent in trying to intrench to protect a storming column, enabled the enemy to get the range with fearful precision from the commanding works, and a most terrific fire was poured in upon men digging among the ruins of the fort. At length, after an anxious and fatal delay, the Ninth Corps was re-formed, and, with Ledlie in the centre, Potter on the right, and Wilcox on the left, under cover of the fire of the two guns, began the charge. On they went with a will, struggling over obstacles, Marshall's Brigade again leading, and Bartlett's pressing on their heels. At every step the fire of the enemy from front and either flank concentrated with greater fury on them, and, from the thickly-studded defences of Cemetery Hill, from redoubt and redan, salient and curtain, ploughed up their ranks with bloody slaughter. The charge was checked on the side of the crest, there was a halt, and finally, the whole line, wavering under terrible odds, recoiled to the fort.

[ocr errors]

The colored division of Ferrero, left as a forlorn hope, was then sent forward, but, after a gallant charge, recoiled, as the others had done, and plunged headlong into the nearest fort for shelter behind the debris. Upon this latter point was now concentrated a very feu d'enfer, disor ganizing the shattered remains of the first three divisions of the Ninth, many of whose most gallant officers and men were already stretched on the plain. The influx of the Fourth Division, driven back in great

rout, redoubled the confusion, and to all minds it was evident that the day was lost.

It was now only the question how best to save the troops. This matter they were left to decide for themselves. The Fifth and the Eighteenth Corps were under brisk fire, and had suffered considerable loss. A division of the Eighteenth, with Turner's Division of the Tenth, had demonstrated on the right (the latter even gaining the crater, and the slope beyond), in useless attempts to distract the attention of the enemy. He directed his fire straight upon the dismantled fort, now a mere slaughter-pen, in which huddled the fragmentary brigades of the Ninth Corps, hoping for relief from their comrades, who lay two hundred yards distant in their intrenchments. Now squads of men began the work of retreating. But this was a perilous undertaking. The enemy kept a deadly cross-fire on every rod of the space which intervened between the fort and our lines. In spite of this, the disorderly movement was kept up. About noon, a general retreat was ordered. A considerable part of the survivors of the assault had crossed towards the rear. And now the men in the fort, who had preferred the chances of honorable death in repelling the enemy to those of the perilous retreat, had discharged nearly all their ammunition. Left unsupported by the rest of the army, a final charge of the enemy, about two o'clock, captured them. Among the captured were General Bartlett and most of his staff. By the middle of the afternoon the bloody day was done. Our loss was in round numbers about four thousand men, of whom the majority were wounded. The loss of the enemy was about one thousand two hundred men, of whom a fifth were prisoners. It is conjectured that nearly two hundred men were destroyed by the mine.

On Sunday, the 31st, a flag of truce was sent for permission to bury the dead. This, on account of an informality, was not granted until Monday, thirty-six hours after the close of the fight. Immediately on the expiration of the time granted, the enemy again opened fiercely with his guns.


Sigel's Movement in the Valley.-Hunter Supersedes Sigel, and Defeats the Rebels near Staunton.-Occupation of Lexington.-Lynchburg.-Early sent to the Valley.Retreat of Hunter through Western Virginia.-Advance of Early down the Valley and Invasion of Maryland.-Defeat of Wallace.-Washington Threatened.-Arrival of Sixth Corps and Retreat of Early.-Various Encounters iu the Valley.-Hunter Superseded by Sheridan.

THAT portion of the grand combined attack on Richmond, which consisted of a movement up the Valley of the Shenandoah upon Lynchburg, was confided to General Sigel. This movement, in connection with that of Grant in front and that of Butler on the south, was designed to close the door of retreat upon Lee, and shut him up in Richmond with his communications severed. The enemy's force in the valley was composed of the commands of Echols, Imboden, and

Breckinridge, Imboden having the advance. In the early part of May the latter general was driven up the valley by Sigel, towards Newmarket, where a concentration of the rebel troops took place. On May 15th, Sigel encountered their combined forces at Reed's Hill, near Mount Jackson, and suffered a severe repulse, losing a number of guns and prisoners. He retreated upon Strasburg, and soon after was relieved by General Hunter.

Travelling without pause from Washington to Cedar Creek, General Hunter assumed command of the beaten army, which he found demoralized to a degree that could scarcely be exceeded. Nearly two thousand of its infantry were without shoes. About one thousand had thrown away their arms in their flight, and had to be rearmed. He received re-enforcements, and advanced upon Staunton, the enemy falling back before him, and on June 6th inflicted a severe defeat upon the rebel General Jones, near Staunton, capturing fifteen hundred prisoners and three guns. On the 8th of June, when Grant was about crossing the James, Hunter occupied Staunton, where he was joined by Averill, who had been operating in Southwestern Virginia, on the line of the Lynchburg and East Tennessee Railroad, and by General Crook, who had also been raiding upon the railroads. A demonstration was made towards Waynesboro' by a cavalry force, which was repulsed by Imboden. At Staunton several millions worth of public property was destroyed, and on the 10th the whole force, about sixteen thousand strong, advanced by two roads, forming a junction several miles northeast of Lexington, and forty miles from Lynchburg. Lexington was held by McCausland, with special orders to make the defence good until re-enforcements arrived from Richmond. He made the stand accordingly; but, finding the town directly under the guns of Hunter's infantry advance; and that he was being flanked by Averill's Cavalry, who had forded the river higher up, McCausland finally fell back.

Hunter advanced very slowly, throwing cavalry out to the right and left, in demonstrations against the railroad connections of the enemy. Upon reaching Lexington he awaited the expected co-operation of Sheridan in the direction of Gordonsville, which, as has been previously stated, came to naught. Not hearing from Sheridan, he then pressed on to Lynchburg, destroying railroads and bridges by the way; but upon arriving before the city, he found it too strongly fortified to be assaulted with any prospect of success. An attempt on the 18th satisfied him of the impossibility of capturing the place with his limited force. Lee now prepared to avail himself of his interior lines to throw an overpowering force into the valley, crush Hunter, and then demonstrate towards Maryland and Washington. His position at Petersburg and Richmond was so well secured that he could easily spare a whole corps for this object, and still from behind his powerful earthworks confront the Army of the Potomac.

Ewell's Corps was selected, and with Breckinridge's command and two brigades from Hill's Corps, the whole commanded by Early, proceeded about the middle of June towards the valley. The enemy had signal officers upon every hill around, and knew all Hunter's move

« PreviousContinue »