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Resuming the narrative of the Virginia campaign which left Meade at Cold Harbor and Hunter moving toward Lynchburg - it must be said that affairs down to the close of August were not in a condition to afford relief to the public anxiety. After his repulse at Cold Harbor, Grant resumed the plan first contemplated — in which Butler's part had failed — that of taking Petersburg and approaching Richmond from the south. Hunter's movement had caused the withdrawal of a considerable force from Lee, and that detachment was expected to be kept busy at a distance while Meade's army crossed the James. Hancock passed over by ferryboats at Wilcox's Landing on the morning of the 14th of June, and by midnight a pontoon bridge was completed for the remainder of the army. W. F. Smith had orders which were expected to secure prompt possession of Petersburg. He arrived with his corps before the city on the 15th at daylight, but made no attempt on the slight defenses in his front until near sunset, when he easily carried the lines northward of the town, and again paused. The hours of that night, as of the day just closing, were precious to the enemy, who swarmed in Smith's front next morning. Two days of fighting left no hope of gaining the place except by protracted siege.
Hunter appeared before Lynchburg on the 16th of June. He had inflicted much damage on the enemy, destroying manufactories, supplies, and other property on his way up the valley. Part of the forces sent to oppose him had reached Lynchburg before his arrival, and owing to the difficulties of transportation on the route he had taken, he found himself short of ammunition. After skirmishing for two days, he retired in haste into the valley of the Kanawha, and it was some weeks before his men returned within the range of effective service. Butler made another attempt to break the railway between Petersburg and Richmond; but Wright, who was ordered to support him, found on the 17th that Butler had been driven back. Sheridan, on a cavalry expedition, intended to assist Hunter, defeated a cavalry force at Trevillian Station on the 11th, and next day, after destroying the railway between that place and Louisa Courthouse, started for Gordonsville. A short distance from that place he encountered an intrenched infantry force too strong to be attacked, and withdrew without having communicated with Hunter, or learned his situation. On his way back to Meade's lines, Sheridan reached White House just in time to prevent the army depot there from falling into the hands of the enemy; beat the cavalry sent to capture the place, and fought his way through to the main army, arriving on the 25th. The cavalry divisions of Wilson and Kautz (of Butler's army) near the same time made raiding excursions southward, on the Weldon, Southside and Danville roads, destroying many miles of railway, but getting roughly handled in some of their encounters with Wade Hampton's cavalry and his infantry support. Meanwhile, Meade's lines were extended on the south and west of Petersburg. A railway track was laid from City Point, now the depot of supplies for both Meade and Butler, around to the rear of the Petersburg lines. Here, with only an occasional brush, the long, hot summer days wore monotonously on till past the middle of July.
It was otherwise in the region left uncovered by Hunter when he turned aside into the Kanawha Valley with the twenty thousand men who had marched with him from Staunton. General Early, who had defended Lynchburg, was now at liberty to move down the Shenandoah Valley, and did so in strong force. Sigel, guarding Martinsburg, was stampeded, taking refuge on Maryland Heights, near Harper's Ferry. On the 2d of July, Early reached the Potomac, destroyed some miles of the Baltimore and Ohio Railway track, and created almost as great a panic in Maryland and Pennsylvania as Lee had done by his invasion the year before.
General Lew Wallace at Baltimore gathered what troops he could and proceeded to Frederick, interposing a meager array - chiefly of hundred-days' men and raw volunteers — between Early and the cities of Baltimore and Washington. Wallace had about three thousand men, to whom were presently joined part of Ricketts's division of the Sixth Corps (Wright's). Retiring across the Monocacy on the 8th, he took position on the line of that stream. Early approached next morning from Frederick, with his greatly superior numbers, and with an artillery force which included sixteen Napoleon guns. Wallace, by keeping the enemy in check until late in the afternoon, gained a day's time that was precious. A detachment of Early's cavalry struck the railway east of Baltimore on the morning of the roth, and his main army moved directly toward Washington, his advance reaching Rockville in the evening. His forces were next day well up and within six or eight miles of the capital. He appeared before Fort Stevens, out the
Seventh-street road, early on the morning of the 12th, but he had arrived too late.
As soon as Early's advance down the valley was known, Grant ordered Hunter to send his troops with all possible dispatch to Harper's Ferry – which, it was soon evident, would not be in season to avail for the emergency. From Petersburg Grant sent one of Wright's divisions to Baltimore, and the other two, with the entire Nineteenth Corps (A. J. Smith's), to Washington, their advance arriving on the ith. It was but a rear guard that the men of the Sixth Corps assailed and routed in front of Fort Stevens next day. Early's main force, already in rapid retreat, was pursued up the valley. Grant having soon recalled Wright, leaving the care of the valley to Hunter, the enemy again moved down the valley, and on July 30th a fying force crossed into Pennsylvania, burned Chambersburg, and then retired towards Cumberland.
Evidently more thorough measures were needed in that quarter. The task was intrusted to Sheridan, in command of all the forces operating against Early. Four brigades were added to Sheridan's cavalry, and orders were given with the intent of putting a final end to troublesome campaigns in the valley.
At Petersburg a mine, which had been for some time in preparation, was exploded on the 30th of July, making a wide breach in the enemy's works in front of Burnside, to part of whose corps was assigned the duty of turning the opportunity to account. The order was not effectually executed, and the failure, attended with heavy losses, was disheartening to the army and depress
ing to the people, even beyond what was due to a minor incident of the siege.
In Georgia, Sherman had passed many days before Kenesaw Mountain, where Johnston took position upon retreating from New Hope Church on the 4th of June. During an engagement on the 14th, General Polk was killed by a shell while making observations from a distant height. On the 27th an assault on Johnston's lines was repulsed with a loss (in killed and wounded) of three thousand men.
Sherman then made another Aanking movement (July 2d), and the enemy retired without serious damage to the Chattahoochee River. Sherman, establishing his headquarters at Marietta, sent Schofield over the river above, compelling Johnston to abandon his defenses at the main bridge, and to withdraw his rear guard (on the 11th) to the other side. At this juncture Johnston was relieved of his command, giving place to the more impetuous and dashing Hood.
Rousseau, with two thousand cavalry, had meanwhile gone on a raiding tour around Atlanta, making havoc with its communications in all directions, and returning to camp on the 22d. Ere this date, Thomas had joined Schofield across the river on the left, and McPherson had pushed eastward to the Augusta railway. The main army, being now over and concentrating, menaced Atlanta from the northeast, Thomas crossing Peach-tree Creek on the 19th. Next day Hood made a furious assault on the lines of Howard, Hooker, and Palmer, but was defeated after a stubborn conflict. On the 22d, Hood, who had retired within his strong fortifications nearer the city, made another sally while