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402

ATTACK ON DREWRY'S BLUFF.

CHAPTER XVI.

THE ARMY OF THE POTOMAC BEFORE RICHMOND.

E left the Army of the Potomac within a few miles of
RICHMOND

Richmond, its advance light troops at Bottom's Bridge,
and the head-quarters of its commander at Cool Ar-
bor.

When Huger fled from Norfolk, and the Merrimack
was blown into fragments, the Confederate gun-boats
in the James River retired to Richmond, closely followed
by a flotilla of armed vessels under the command of
Commodore John Rodgers, whose flag-ship was the iron-

clad Galena. She was accompanied by the Monitor, Aroostook, Port Royal, and Naugatuck. They moved up the stream with great caution, for it was known that the Confederates had erected batteries on the shores at different points, and it was believed that guerrillas were abundant on the banks. From an armored look-out near the mast-head of the leading vessel, a vigilant watch for these was kept, but the squadron met with no serious impediment until it confronted a formidable battery on a bank nearly two hundred feet in height, called Drewry's Bluff, at a narrow place in the river, about eight miles from Richmond. Below this battery were two separate barriers, formed of spiles and sunken vessels, and the shores were lined with

AN ARMORED LOOK-OUT, 1 rifle-pits filled with sharp-shooters. The Galena anchored within six hundred yards of the battery, and

opened fire at near eight o'clock in the morning. An hour later

the Monitor ran above the Galena, but could not bring her guns 1862.

to bear upon the elevated battery, and fell back. A sharp fight was kept up until after eleven o'clock, when the ammunition of the Galena was nearly expended. Then the flotilla withdrew. Rodgers lost in this attack twenty-seven men, and a 100-pounder rifled cannon that burst on board the Naugatuck, and disabled her. The commander of the battery,

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1 From a sketch by J. H. Schele.

ARMY OF THE POTOMAC ON THE CHICKAHOMINY.

403

ne

Captain E. Farrand (once of the National Navy), reported his loss at fifteen. Rodgers fell back to City Point.'

The James and York rivers were now both offered as a highway for supplies for the Army of the Potomac, and General McClellan was left free to choose his base. He decided to continue it at the head of York until he should form a junction with McDowell's troops. The operations in the Shenandoah Valley, just recorded, speedily postponed that junction indéfinitely, for, as we have seen, McDowell was cessarily detained to fight Jackson and Ewell, and to watch an active foe beyond the Rapid

Rapid Anna River, who was then threatening Washington City.

The two great armies were now in close proximity before Richmond, with the sluggish marshbordered Chickahominy between them. Their first collisions occurred on the 23d and 24th of May: one near New Bridge, a short distance from Cool Arbor, where the Fourth Michigan Cavalry, under Colonel Woodbury, waded the river," and after a

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SITE OF NEW BRIDGE.?

4

1 The appearance of this fotiila in the James, simultaneously with the advance of McClellan toward the Chickahominy, produced the greatest consternation in Richmond, especially among the conspirators. "General Johnston is falling back from the Peninsula," wrote a niece of the chief conspirator to her mother, “and Uncle Jeff. thinks we had better go to a safer place than Richmond. . . He is miserable. He tries to be cheerful and bear up against such a continnation of troubles; but oh, I fear he cannot live long, if he does not get some rest and quiet!” In this state of mind, the conspirator seems to have sought refuge in a Christian sanctuary. “Uncle Jetf.," wrote the pitying niece," was confirmed last Tuesday, in St. Paul's Church, by Bishop Johns. He was baptized at homo in the morning before church."-Seo Pollard's Second Year of the War, page 31.

There was a general expectation that Richmond would be in the hands of McClellan within a few days. Every preparation was made by the Confederate authorities to abandon it. The “archives of the Government” were sent to Columbia, in South Carolina, and to Lynchburg. The railway tracks over the bridges were covered with plank, to facilitate the passage of artillery. Mr. Randolph, the “Secretary of War," said to an attendant and relative, “ You must go with my wife into the country, for to-morrow the enemy will be here." The Secretary of the Treasury had a special train, the stearn of the locomotive continually up, ready for flight, - A Rebel War Clerk's Diary, ii. 126.

Disgusted and alarmed by the trepidation of the conspirators, the Legislature of Virginia, then in session, passed resolutions (May 14) calling upon the so-called " Government of the Confederate States” to defend Richmond at all hazards, and resolved, with a clearness that deprived the trembling Confederates of every excuse but fear, that “the President be assured that whatever destruction or loss of property of the State or individuals shall thereby result, will be cheerfully submitted to.” This action was in accordance with the wishes of Johnston, and it is believed by his inspiration. But for this, the conspirators would have been seen in pale affright flying for personal safety to the Carolinas.

This was the appearance of the rude bridge and the locality when the writer sketched it, at the close of May, 1866.

• In dry weather this stream is fordable at all points, but rains render it almost impassable for cavalry and artillery. The average width of the river in that vicinity is between forty and ifty feet. Heavily timbered bottoms spread out from it, from half a mile to a mile in width, and in some places it is bordered by extensive

404

SKIRMISH AT ELLISON'S MILL.

smart skirmish captured thirty-seven of the Fifth Louisiana, then guarding that point, drove the remainder, and held the position. The other was at and near Mechanicsville, seven or eight miles from Richmond, when a part of McClellan's right wing was advancing toward the Chickahominy. At Ellison's Mill, about a mile from Mechanicsville, a part of Stoneman's

command, with Davison's brigade of Franklin's corps, encoun• May 23, teredo the Confederates in considerable force, infantry, cavalry, 1862.

and artillery. A brisk skirmish ensued, and at sunset the Confederates fell back to Mechanicsville, from which they were driven across the Chickahominy the next morning. On this ground a battle was fought a month later.

This bold dash was followed the next day by an inspiriting general order from McClellan, that indicated an immediate advance of the whole army on Richmond.' Every thing was ready for such movement. The troops were

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rested; the material necessary for building bridges for crossing the Chickahominy had been prepared; the weather was not very unfavorable, and nothing seemed to offer an excuse for an hour's delay. The Commander-in

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swamps, traversed by small streams, that are overflowed after rains. The river rises in the hill country northwest of Richmond, and is subject to a sudden increment of volume. With these features and condition, it formed a line of great difficulty between the contending armies.

1 The order was read in all the camps. It directed the troops as they advanced beyond the Chickahominy to prepare for battle at a moment's notice, and to be entirely unencumbered, with the exception of arnbulances ; to carry three days' rations in their haversacks, and to leave their knapsacks with the wagons, that were parked on the left bank of the stream. After giving such directiong, he told thein“ to bear in mind that the Army of the Potomac had never yet been checked," and directed the soldiers to “preserve in battle perfect coolness and confidence, the sure forerunners of success." This seemed almost like cruel irony to the worn soldiers, who were painfully conscious that Magruder, with 5,000 men, had “ checked" the Army of the Potomac for a whole month before Yorktown.

* This is a view of Ellison's Mill and the scene of the skirmish, and of a battle a little later, as it appeared when the writer sketched it, at the close of May, 1866. The Confederates were posted on the hills, on which the houses are seen beyond the stream, and the Nationals were on the heights near the Mill, up wbich the road to Gains's Mill passes.

3 Johnston had caused all the bridges across the Chickahoming to be destroyed. General Barnard, McClellan's Chief Engineer, says in his report (page 21), that " so far as engineering operations were concerned, tho army could have been thrown across the river as early as the 28th of May, when the Confederates near New Bridge could have been taken in the rear, and deprived of the power of making any formidable resistance to the passage of the right wing.” In a review of the Peninsula campaign, Barnard says, “No very extensive work was anticipated, as the bottom lands were quite dry, and no inundation had yet occurred, or was anticipated. General McClellan was not waiting for the bridges, but the bridges were waiting for General McClellan,"

IMMOBILITY OF THE ARMY.

405

1862

a

8

May 25

Chief had been promptly informed from Washington of the reasons and the necessity of countermanding the order for McDowell to move

a May 24, on from Fredericksburg to join him, and he had as usual sent back a complaining remonstrance, and charges of a withholding of troops from him. Nevertheless he issued that order of great promise. He had said to the Secretary of War, ten days before, “I will fight the enemy, whatever their force may be, with whatever force we may have;" and the Secretary could see no reasons for a change now in the General's resolution, for, so long as the Confederate force that kept McDowell back was withheld from Richmond, McClellan was comparatively as strong in power to fight his enemy as if McDowell was with him, and Jackson and Ewell were confronting that soldier on the Chickahominy instead of on the Shenandoah or Rappahannock. The fact that McDowell could not then re-enforce him, imposed upon McClellan the obvious duty of acting with uncommon vigor before his enemy could be strengthened, for his was an offensive and not a defensive movement.

But McClellan seems not to have acted with the vigor that was expected, and the President evidently feared he would not, for, at about the time when the commander issued the order indicating a general advance, Mr. Lincoln, filled with just apprehensions for the safety of the capital, because of the movements in the Shenandoah Valley, telegraphed to him, saying—“I think the time is near when you must either attack Richmond, or give up the job and come to the defense of Washington.” On the following day

c May 26. he informed McClellan of the successful retreat of Banks, and asked him if he could not cut the railway between Richmond and Fredericksburg; and also what impression he had of the intrenched works for the defense of Richmond. The General replied that he did not think the Richmond works formidable, and that he had cut the Virginia Central railway in three places.' He also assured the President that he was “quietly closing in upon the enemy, preparatory to the last struggle,” but thought it necessary to secure his flanks against “the greatly superior forces” in front of him.

For several days afterward, operations on the flank of the great army made the sum of its action. That army, fully prepared for an instant forward movement, and eager to perform it, not only lay passive, but was dangerously severed by the fickle Chickahominy,' whose power for mischief, when fed by rains, the commander was constantly setting forth. Instead of moving his whole force upon the works, which he did not consider formidable, he thought it best only to order a part of General Fitz-John Porter's corps (the Fifth) to Hanover Court-House, to secure his menaced right flank, and keep the way open for McDowell to join him. This detachment moved by way of Mecnanicsville, at three o'clock on the morning of the 27th, General W. H. Emory in the advance, with the Fifth and Sixth Regular Cavalry, and Benson's horse battery. These were followed by General Morell's division, composed of the brigades of Generals Martindale, But

1 This was done by cavalry under Stoneman.

? “I have two corps [Kuyes's and Heintzelinan's] across the Chickahominy, within six miles of Richmond; the others on this side (left) at other crossings within same distance, and ready to cross when bridges are conipleted."-McClellan's dispatch to the President, May 25, 1862.

406

SKIRMISH NEAR HANOVER COURT-HOUSE.

FITZ-JOHIN PORTER.

2

terfield, and McQuade, with Berdan's sharp-shooters, and three batteries under Captain Griffin. Colonel G. K. Warren, with his provisional brigade,'

moved along another road toward the same point, and for the same purpose.

After marching fourteen miles through mud, caused by a heavy shower in the morning, and meeting a little resistance, Emory came upon the Confederates in force at noon, two miles from the Court-House, and was brought to a halt by the fire of artillery. He was speedily joined by the Twenty-fifth New York and Berdan's sharp-shooters, when a battleline was formed, and skirmishing was kept up until the arrival of General

Butterfield, with four of his regiments, when a quick and furious charge was made upon the Confederates, which routed them after a contest of an hour, with a loss of one of their guns, captured by the Seventeenth New York. They were hotly pursued some distance, and in the mean time Martindale, with a part of his brigade, pushed on to Peake's Station, on the Virginia Central railway, encountered a Confederate force there, and drove it toward Ashland, upon the Richmond and Fredericksburg railroad, not far from the birthplace of Henry Clay.

While moving with a part of his brigade toward Hanover Court-House, after this exploit, Martindale was attacked by a superior force that came up by railway from Richmond. He maintained his ground for an hour with great gallantry, until re-enforced by Porter, who was at the Court-House. On hearing of the attack on his rear, Porter at once faced his column about, recalled the cavalry sent in pursuit of the routed Confederates, and sent the Thirteenth and fourteenth New York, with Griffin's battery, directly to Martindale's assistance. The Ninth Massachusetts and Sixty-second Pennsylvania were sent to take the Confederates on the left flank, while Butterfield, with the Eighty-third Pennsylvania and Sixteenth Michigan, hastened through the woods still farther to the left of the foe. Warren, who had been delayed in repairing bridges, now came up, when the Confederates, outnumbered, fell rapidly back, keenly pursued. They lost seven hundred and

. thirty of their men made prisoners, and left two hundred dead on the field. They also lost one howitzer, a caisson, many small arms, two railway trains, and their camp at Hanover Court-House.* The National loss was three

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1 This was composer of the Fifth and Thirteenth New York, First Connecticut artillery, acting as Infantry, Sixth Pennsylvania cavalry, and Weedon's Rhode Island Battery.

? Twelfth and Seventeenth New York, Eighty-third Pennsylvania, and Sixteenth Michigan,

3 The Second Maine, the Twenty-fifth and a portion of the Forty-fourth New York, and a section of Martin's battery.

- The troops thus smitten were of the division of General L. O'B. Branch, composed chiefly of men from North Carolina and Georgia. These had been ordered to Virginia after Branch's defeat at New Berne, by Burnside.

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