Imágenes de páginas
PDF

BUT LER MEN A C ES PETER SBU R G AND RICHMON. D. 575

pushed forward to possess and secure the peninsula between the James and the Appomattox, known as Bermuda Hundreds. Next day, Gen. Smith moved out toward the railroad from Tichmond to Petersburg, but failed to strike it. On the 7th, Gen. Smith, with his own and part of Gillmore's corps, struck the railroad near Port Walthall junction, and commenced destroying it; having to fight D. II. Hill, but with advantage to our side; while Col. West’s cavalry, having forded the Chickahominy, arrived opposite City Point. After breaking up the railroad for some distance, Gen. Butler, misled by advices from Washington that Gen. Lee was beaten and in full retreat on Richmond —which would have brought him down suddenly in overwhelming force on this army—drew back within his intrenchments, which he was engaged in strengthening for the apprehended emergency. The fact that his two corps commanders did not cordially cooperate, while Gillmore did not execute his orders so promptly and vigorously as he deemed fit, somewhat increased the inevitable perplexities of the commander's critical position.

IIad Butler been directed to move at once on Petersburg, he could liardly have failed to capture that city—there being no considerable IRebel force then in lower Virginia– and might have been enabled to hold it; separating, for a time, the Rebel capital and Lee's army from the South proper. But, the first astounding news of his movement up the James summoned Beauregard by telegraph from Charleston, with all the forces that could be scraped from that region—now relieved of all ap

prehension by Gillmore's withdrawal. When, therefore, the first resolute effort was made * to cut the railroad, some portion either of the North or South Carolina forces had already arrived; and, when it was renewed,” the enemy had been materially strengthened. Still, the advantage of numbers was clearly on our side; and the enemy was forced to uncover the railroad, which was destroyed for some distance; our troops pressing southward to Swift creek, three miles from Petersburg. But now, deceived by fresh, joyful, but hardly truthful, Washington advices, Butler turned his face northward, to participate in the expected speedy capture of Richmond; pushing his lines gradually up to Proctor's creek, whence the enemy withdrew “to an intrenched line behind it, which Gen. Gillmore flanked, and which was to have been assaulted; but our troops had been so dispersed that the requisite force was not at hand; so the attack was deferred till next morning.” But Beauregard — whom Butler supposed still at or below Petersburg, unable to get up —was on hand, with a formidable force, and intent on making himself disagreeable. A dense fog shrouded every thing, when, before daylight, our sleeping soldiers on the front were startled by a grand crash of artillery and musketry. Our forces had been so disposed that there was over a mile of open country between our right and the James, merely picketed by 150 cavalry; and I3eauregard, having made careful observations be

; fore dark, attempted at once to as

sault in front, to turn this flank, and to strike heavily our left with a divi

* May 7. 28 May 9.

[ocr errors]

in under Gen. Whiting, which he d left on the Petersburg side of the p in the railroad. The attempt to turn our right was

first a decided success. IIeckun's brigade, here posted, was surised and overwhelmed. The enegained the rear of this flank, and s carrying all before him, when he st the 112th New York—one of ree Gillmore regiments which Buthad fortunately sent to Smith as upport to his long, thin line. Joinon the instant by the 9th Maine, is regiment held the road-junction lich the enemy were pressing on to ze, and stubbornly refused to move. e Rebel commander, disconcerted

this unexpected resistance, and uctant to advance in the fog to known and incalculable perils, deted and withdrew. The front of Smith's line, held by 2 divisions of Brooks and Weitzel, is impetuously assailed; but Smith, ving found a quantity of telegraph relying idle, had resolved to make precautionary use of it, by direct; his men to stretch it tightly along ir front, winding it occasionally jund a tree or stump, at a height two or three feet from the ground. eassaulting enemy, rushing blindly on this in their charge, pitched adlong over it, and were shot or yoneted ere they could regain their t. Their attack in front was thus relsed—the assailants recoiling with S. Beauregard thereupon renewed his rt to turn our right; sending a ge force, and directing it to make 'arther detour; which was done, | Smith thereby compelled to fall k.

Whiting, who was to have struck Gillmore on our left, failed, for some reason, to do so; hence, Gillmore stood in idle expectancy, until Smith drew back, when he did likewise. We had lost in this collision about 4,000 men; the Rebels at least 3,000. Beauregard cautiously followed up, and erected a line of works across the peninsulain front of ours; so that Gen. Butler wrote to Gen. Grant that he was “bottled up:” a remark that the Lieutenant-General, rather inconsiderately, adopts in his report of the campaign. So long as our navy and transports held undisputed possession of the rivers, enabling Butler to launch his troops in any direction but directly northward, the remark had but little pertinence or force; as the unobstructed and ready withdrawal,” soon afterward, of Smith's corps to réenforce the Army of the Potomac, sufficiently proves. When that detachment was required, Butler was on the point of striking that determined blow at Petersburg which should have been his first, and, but for misinformation as to Lee's discomfiture, probably would have been successful.

There was further fighting along Gen. Butler's front, on the 18th, 19th, 20th, and 21st, with considerable loss on each side; but without decisive results. Gen. Terry's line was forced back on the 20th, but röestablished next day. And Gen. Kautz, who had been sent on a cavalry raid to cut the railroads leading southward and westward from Petersburg, acting with caution, achieved but a moderate success; cutting the Danville road at Coalfield, Powhattan, and Chula, but

failing to destroy the iron bridge at

* May 30–31.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Matoax, which was strongly guarded. He did a little harm also to the Lynchburg and Weldon road; making his way circuitously but safely thence” to City Point. Meantime, our fleet had had a difficult and dangerous task in fishing the James for torpedoes; by one of which, the small gunboat Com. Jones had been utterly destroyed,” and 50 of its crew killed or wounded. The gunboats Shoshonee and Brewster were likewise destroyed by explosions, but not of torpedoes.

Gen. Grant's flanking advance from Spottsylvania to the North Anna was admirably planned and executed without loss—a single blow aimed by IIill at the front of Wright's (6th) corps, just before it started” to cover the movement, being easily repelled. I3ut, as our movement was easily detected from the higher ground held by Lee, and as his position covered the direct and best road leading straight to Tichmond, compelling Grant to make a considerable detour eastward and move by inferior roads, it was inevitable on our part that, on approaching” the North Anna, near the crossing of the Fredericksburg railroad, our army should find its old antagonist planted across that stream, in an admirable position, cowering the Central road (on which Breckinridge, having beaten Sigel in the Valley, was now hurrying down to röenforce Lee), and prepared to dispute resolutely its farther advance.

Warren, on our right, crossed that afternoon at Jericho ford, the enemy being in slender force in his immediate presence; but they were very soon strengthened, and an attack in

[ocr errors]

front, on Griffin's division, made at 5 P. M. by Wilcox's and Heth's divisions (six brigades) of Hill's corps, but promptly and effectually repulsed with loss to the enemy; who thereupon sent Brown, with three brigades, to turn our right. This maneuver was well executed; the blow falling on Cutler's division while getting into position, crushing in his left, and throwing the whole into confusion. Pressing swiftly to their right, the charging column struck the right of Griffin's division, which was saved by refusing that flank, while Bartlett's brigade was hurried forward to its support. In making this advance, the 83d Pennsylvania, Lt.-Col. McCoy, swept closely past the flank of Brown's column, when McCoy instantly wheeled his forward companies into line, and gave a volley, which, delivered at close quarters on the flank and rear of the Rebel column, threw it into utter disorder and rout: one of McCoy's men seizing Drown by the collar and dragging him into our lines, while nearly 1,000 of his men were gathered up as prisoners. Our loss here was but 350, and the enemy's attack was completely foiled. Warren established and intrenched his lines without farther resistance. Gen. Hancock struck the North Anna at the Chesterfield bridge, a mile above the Fredericksburg railroad, where he was confronted by McLaws's division of Longstreet’s corps, mainly across the river, but holding an ugly fortification or bridgehead on this side ; which, at 6 P. M., after a vigorous fire from three sections of artillery, was stormed and carried by Pierce's and Egan's brig

* May ii. * May 6. vol. II.-37

* May 21. * May 23.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

les of Birney’s division, who swept wer the plain on the double-quick, sregarding the heavy fire of its denders, swarmed over the parapet, nd drove out the garrison, capturing 0, with a total loss of 150. Repeatl efforts by the enemy to burn the ridge during the ensuing night were affled; and in the morning it was scovered that they had retreated; hen Hancock quietly crossed and tablished himself on the south side; Wright, following Warren, had one at Jericho ford the night before. The passage of the river thus emed to be triumphantly and heaply effected; but the appearance as delusive. The river was barely ordable at different points, with gh, rocky banks; and Lee had hosen a strong position, with both anks drawn back; his right cov‘ed by marshes; his left resting h Little river; his front on the orth Anna narrow and strong; our 'my being situated much as his was

[ocr errors]

at Gettysburg, when Meade was able to throw divisions and corps from right to left to breast a coming shock, or strike a return blow, in half the time that Lee required to countervail the movement. So, when Burnside, approaching the river half way between our right and left wings, attempted to cross, his advance division . (Crittenden's) was promptly repelled with heavy loss; and when Warren attempted to connect with Burnside by pushing Crawford's division down the south bank of the river, he in turn was assailed in overwhelming force, and was with difficulty extricated. Grant paused and pondered, and studied and planned; but Lee's position was absolutely invulnerable, or only to be wrested from good soldiers with an enormous disparity of force, and by a frightful sacrifice of life. After deliberate and careful reconnoissances, continued throughout two days, an assault was for

borne, and our army, cautiously with

[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]
[graphic]

FLANK Mov EMENT

drawing at nightfall” from the enemy's front, récrossed the river unassailed, and, after pushing well east to avoid another charge on the flank of its long columns while extended in movement, again turned southward and took the road to Richmond: the 6th corps in advance, followed in succession by the 5th, 9th, and 2d : Hancock not starting till next morning; when Sheridan, with our cavalry in the advance, was, after a march of 22 miles, approaching the Pamunkey at Hanovertown. Wright's corps crossed directly, and took post to cover the fords; Warren's and Burnside's were over the next morning;” Hancock crossed almost four miles higher; so that our whole army was south of the Pamunkey without loss, and in unobstructed communication with its new base at White IIouse. Lee had, as usual, a much shorter road, and was already in position on our new front; his army facing north-eastward, covering both railroads as well as the road to IRichmond, and rendering it hazardous, if not impossible, to cross the Chickahominy on his right so as to interpose between him and the Confederate capital. Grant had shown at the North Anna his aversion to sacrificing the lives of his men when there was a practicable alternative; but now it seemed that the great object of the campaign positively required a disregard of the advantages of position possessed by the enemy. A spirited fight” at IIawes's shop, on our front, wherein Sheridan, with the brigades of Davies, Gregg, and Custer, met and worsted the Rebel troopers under Fitzhugh Lee and Hampton— our loss being 400, and the enemy's

[ocr errors]

800—doubtless stimulated the general eagerness for battle. A reconnoissance in force along our front was accordingly made; developing the enemy's position across Tolopotomy creek, with its right on the Mechanicsville pike, near Bethesda church, where Col. IIardin's brigade of Reserves, Crawford's division, was struck " on its flank by Rhodes's division of Ewell's corps, and hurried back to the Shady Grove road; where Crawford, bringing up the remainder of the Reserves and Kitching's brigade (of Warren's corps), repulsed Rhodes, and established our left on the Mechanicsville pike. Meantime, IIancock, on our right, had been stopped, after heavy skirmishing, at the Tolopotomy, finding the enemy in his front too strong and too well covered by defenses and a swamp; while Burnside had come into position on his left, and Wright on his right. Reconnoissances showed the enemy's position so unassailable in front that no course seemed open but an attempt to flank its right, crossing the Chickahominy opposite or just below Cold HARBOR; a focus of roads which Sheridan had seized,” after a brief skirmish, and on which the 6th corps, moving in the rear from our right to our left, was immediately directed ; reaching it next day—just before Gen. W. F. Smith, with 10,000 men detached from Butler's army, and brought around by steaniboats to White IIouse, came up and took post on its right; and the two were met here by orders from Meade to advance and repel the enemy in their front, with a view to forcing a passage of the Chickahominy.

* May 26. *7 May 2s.

*May 28, P. M. *May 29. * May 31,

« AnteriorContinuar »