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A SAD CAMPAIGN.
earth works. Hence, the place was commanded by both parties, and, therefore, could be occupied by neither till the strong works on one or the other side were carried.
It was now very plain that the campaign had ended for the present, and a second one, of siege operations chiefly, was to commence.
It must be confessed that the sum total of this frightful campaign, of a month and a half, was anything but satisfactory. As Grant said, no material advantage had been gained. Nearly a hundred thousand men had disappeared in its progress, and now, at the end of the long marches and bloody battles, he found himself twice as far from Richmond as he was when on the Chickahominy. The distance, however, was a small matter—the obstacles that intervened between him and the coveted prize were well-nigh insurmcantable. Assault after assault, the determined character of which was attested by the ghastly piles of dead, had been made in vain, and that, too, while the works were incomplete and, comparatively, weakly garrisoned. But Lee's army was now well up, and, as at Spottsylvania and Cold Harbor, lay behind the strong works.
The prospect, at this time, was enough to discourage any heart less resolute than Grant's. He had failed, at the outset, in the effort to get a decisive battle out of Lee. That of the Wilderness was only a drawn one.
He had been repulsed at Spottsylvania with terrible loss. The same calamity had overtaken him at Cold Harbor. Sigel had failed in the Shenandoah Valley. Butler had twice lamentably failed in front of Bermuda Hundred. Smith and Gillmore had both failed; and to crown the climax, his last grand assault had failed, and the anxious inquiry arose, “What is next to be done?” Besides all this, those who had, at the outset, condemned the campaign across the country, now pointed to the result as the fulfillment of their prophecies.
Some of the English papers called him the great butcher, and the rebel press tauntingly asked why he did not take his array by transports to the James, instead of dragging it through rivers of blood across the country. It was said, and truly, that he could have put his army where it now was, without the loss of a ran, had he adopted McClellan's course. It was said, moreover, and with equal truth, that he had lost two to one of the enemy in this long and bloody march, and, sadder than all and incapable of contradiction, he had not won a single decisive battle, but on the contrary, from the Wilderness to Petersburg, had been repulsed in every attack.
This seemed a gloomy summing up of the campaign, and, at first sight, conclusive that it was wrong throughout. There could be, apparently, no dispute that he erred egregiously in not following McClellan's plan of operations against the rebel Capital. Yet, after events showed that such a conclusion was entirely false, and fully vindicated the wonderful sagacity and sound judgment of the LieutenantGeneral. He was not responsible for the condition in which two years of mismanagement had placed things. When Mc. Clellan undertook the Peninsula campaign, Richmond, from Hanover to Petersburs; was poorly fortified, so that when threatened on this long line, the Confederate Government was compelled to call in all its troops for the defense of its Capital. Hence, McClellan's declaration that Washington was best defended at Richmond, was true.
But matters were now reversed—the rebels, admonished of their danger in this direction, had, for the last two years, been erecting elaborate defenses, and guarding every point, so that there could be no strategy that did not involve hard fighting and terrible losses. Besides, the strength of the works around Richmond enabled a comparatively small force to hold the place, so that a portion of the army could
GRANT'S COURSE VINDICATED,
operate against Washington, or threaten Maryland and Pennsylvania by way of the Shenandoah Valley. This was actually done, and, as we said, after events abundantly vindicated the wisdom of Grant's course.
Granting that we lost nearly one hundred thousand men, from May to July, and Lee but fifty thousand, yet Grant received reinforcements to the full amount of his losses, and sat down before Petersburg with an army as large, in fact larger than the one with which he crossed the Rapidan, so that he was as strong as though, at the outset, he had transferred his army by water to Petersburg. Notwithstanding this, Lee was able to hold his works and yet dispatch twenty thousand men, under Early, to ravage the Shenandoah Valley, thunder at the very gates of the Capital, and sever its great line of communication with the North-in short, spread such ruin and consternation that, though the Nineteenth Corps opportunely arrived from New Orleans, Grant was compelled to detach one of his own veteran Corps to the defense of Washington.
Now, if the fifty thousand men strewing the fields and crowding the hospitals, along the track of Lee's
from the Wilderness to Petersburg, had been alive, to have swelled that twenty thousand, under Early, to seventy thousand men, what force would Grant have been compelled to send back to the National Capital ? In other words, if twenty thousand rebels required the presence there of two Corps, how many Corps would seventy thousand men have required ? The answer is very obvious. The whole army would have been recalled—the siege of Richmond raised, and the campaign have proved a failure.
Hence the course which Grant took was the only one that could bring success. True, it required frightful slaughter, but it was a saving of life in the end. Lee could not replenish his army as fast as we could ours.
HIS SOUND JUDGMENT.
Grant's perseverance in the course he marked out, was not, as many supposed, the result of obstinacy, but of sound judgment, which subsequent events fully confirmed. He had reduced Lee so that he could not dispatch sufficient troops up the Shenandoah Valley to make him loose his death-grip on Richmond, and had effected it in the only way possible.
DIFFICULTIES OF GRANT'S POSITION—HIS PLAN TO SEVER THE COMMUNICA
TIONS OF RICHMOND--SHERIDAN'S EXPEDITION_HUNTER'S-AVERILL'S AND CROOK's
S—THE ENEMY DEFEATED AT STAUNTON-HUNTER AT LYNCHBURG HIS DISASTROUS RETREAT-THE ENEMY IN POSSESSION OF THE SHENANDOAH VALLEY-WILSON'S EXPEDITION-DEFEAT OF THE SECOND AND SIXTH CORPS NEAR THE WELDON RAILROAD-A GLOOMY PROSPECT-OPERATIONS ALONG THE ATLANTIC COAST-CAPTURE OF THE WATER WITCH - FEDERAL OFFICERS PLACED UNDER FIRE AT CHARLESTON-MR. LINCOLN RENOMINATED FOR PRESIDENT-OPENING OF THE POLITICAL CAMPAIGN.
THE problem now left for Grant to solve, was one of the
most difficult ever presented to a Commander. As before remarked, every part of his great plan had failed, except the killing of a certain number of the enemy. Getting his army on the James was not accomplishing anything of moment, because it could have been placed there at any time by transports. Richmond was neither invested, nor even approached—at least, it was no nearer than Butler's Army of the James, as it was called, had been to it for a long time. To dig his way from five to twelve miles to the rebel Capital, was a process too long to be attempted until every other measure had failed.
In carrying out his siege operations, therefore, it was plain that the first step to be taken was to sever the communications which united Richmond with the other parts of the
The Peninsula was in our possession, but this only shut the rebel Capital off from the sea. There were four channels of communication, with the interior, which Grant did not