« AnteriorContinuar »
effort of Grant had been to turn the enemy's right. It was now determined to reverse the operation, and, if possible, to throw the enemy off his guard; the more so that the ground was more favorable for manoeuvring on our right than on our left. In accordance with this determination a new disposition of troops was made during Tuesday night, and the line was formed Wednesday morning, the 18th, from right to left, as follows: Wright, Hancock, Burnside, Warren. The right and right centre, Wright and Hancock, were to attack. It was hoped by this means to surprise the enemy, as our movements of the past week-refusing our right constantly, and massing on the leftseemed to indicate a fixed purpose on the part of Meade of turning the rebel right. The enemy, however, divined the intention, and were already perfectly prepared. When Hancock advanced he found them in an impregnable position. Hancock pushed through two outer lines of rifle-pits, which had been abandoned in apparent haste to draw him on, but presently struck an extremely strong line of breast works, with abatis in front, and very heavily armed with artillery. The position could only have been carried by an immense loss of life, if it could have been carried at all. The order for assault was, accordingly, at ten o'clock A. M. countermanded. A nearer view of the position it was intended to assail convinced the commanding general that it could not be carried. If it could be gained by hard fighting, he was not the man to flinch on that account; but success seemed hopeless.
General Grant, finding it impossible to force the enemy's front, once more determined to move by his left. On Wednesday night a cavalry force under General Torbert entered Guinney's Station, a point on the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroads, about ten miles in a direct line southeasterly from Spottsylvania, across the Po, and consequently on the right and rear of the enemy's position. cavalry destroyed the buildings and supplies, the telegraph apparatus, &c. This was only the precursor of a general movement in that direction. On Thursday a portion of the right began to move towards the left, and dispositions were in progress to carry out the whole movement, when an unexpected interruption took place. Ewell,* noticing the movement of our troops from the right, moved a part of his corps to thwart it. The division of Rhodes having the advance, crossed the Ny River, and reached the Fredericksburg wagon-road in the rear of our right flank, where he captured ambulances and a subsistence train within three-quarters of a mile of the head-quarters of Generals Meade and Grant. The only troops we had on the ground at the time were Tyler's Division of heavy artillery, which had lately been brought from Washington. Three divisions, one each of the
* Richard Stoddard Ewell was born in the District of Columbia about 1820, and graduated at West Point in 1840. He was brevetted captain for gallantry in the Mexican war, subsequently saw considerable service in the West, and at the outbreak of the civil war resigned his commission and entered the rebel army, of which he was appointed a brigadier-general. He was subsequently promoted to be a major-general, and took command of a corps in the Army of Virginia. He lost a leg at the second battle of Bull
Run, and did not resume his command until after the battle of Gettysburg. He participated in the invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania in 1868, distinguished himself at Gettysburg, and during the campaign of 1864-'65 commanded one of the three corps of Lee's army. On April 6th, 1865, his corps was disastrously routed by Sheridan, west of Burkesville, and he himself captured. He was subsequently confined in Fort Warren, but after some months released.
Second, Fifth, and Sixth Corps, were sent to his support. Tyler met the attack near the woods, where the enemy had formed in a single line, with skirmishers in front. He felt some apprehension at the result of the encounter, as his troops were raw and had never been employed in open field-fighting. But when once fairly under fire they showed a degree of courage and audacity which surprised the rebels not less than their commander. No sooner did they see the enemy, than, regardless of the devices which older troops would have taken to screen themselves in a close encounter in the woods, they fired a volley and followed it up by an impetuous charge, which sent the rebels quickly towards their camp. The honors of the repulse of the enemy, whose boldly-conceived movement might, under different circumstances, have produced disastrous results, rested with Tyler's heavy artillery division, and partly also with Birney's Division of the Second Corps, and Crawford's of the Fifth, which formed line, enabling Tyler to withdraw, after driving the enemy for several miles and clearing the valley of the Ny.
The grand movement, which had been delayed by this attack, recommenced on the night of Friday, the 20th, when Torbert's Cavalry left Guinney's Station, on the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad, and pushed on to Bowling Green, fifteen miles southeast of Spottsylvania, and thence to Milford Station, hoping to capture Lee's stores; but they had been already removed. At midnight of Friday, the Second Corps followed the cavalry, striking Massaponax Church about four o'clock, Guinney's Station on Saturday morning, and finally Bowling Green-reaching the latter point, after a march of about twenty miles, by nightfall of Saturday. The weather was fine but warm, and the roads good. Proceeding from Bowling Green, the Second Corps next struck the Mattapony at Milford's Bridge, five miles south, crossed the river, and formed line in a commanding position about a mile from the bridge. Here, a few hundred rebel cavalry dashed against Barlow's Division while forming, but discovering in season they were about to capture a Tartar, wheeled and escaped with safety. The enemy's infantry was in strong force in front. During the day of Sunday, the 22d, the corps marched forward and held the ground for a mile or two from the Mattapony. Milford Station is about forty miles from Richmond.
At ten o'clock on Saturday morning, Warren's Fifth Corps broke camp and followed the Second, encountering cavalry, like its predecessor, near Guinney's. The Sixth and Ninth followed the Fifth, bringing up the rear, and, on Saturday, the whole army had left Spottsylvania. Our advance found everywhere that the movement had been anticipated; stores had been removed, and Lee's main army taken from our path. All the corps had more or less skirmishing-that in the rear being at one time quite lively, but no damage or delay was caused. The advance was conducted in a bold and confident style, the corps striking out, with, occasionally, long gaps intervening, causing no little trepidation in some quarters, lest a part of our force should be cut off by an attack of the enemy, while it marched by the flank.
By Sunday the column began to consolidate, and a sort of line was formed, facing westerly, the Second Corps holding the left at Milford Station, and the Fifth the right at Guinney's, with the centre in the direction of Bowling Green. It was already clear to Grant that the enemy was preceding him in the direction of Hanover Court-House, and the whole army on Monday pushed forward at a rapid rate, and reached the North Anna River in the neighborhood of Jericho Mills. The Second and Fifth Corps were in the advance, the latter at the right of the Second. Hancock rushed at the enemy's strong position, after briefly reconnoitring its strength, his troops gallantly charging the enemy, while our batteries played into their works. The battle was very severe; but, with a loss of about three hundred men, Hancock succeeded in forcing the position. Meanwhile, Warren's Fifth Corps had already crossed higher up, without much difficulty, but were soon attacked with fury and vehemence. Secretary Stanton's dispatch from General Grant says that Warren “ was attacked with great vehemence. I have never heard more rapid or massive firing, either of artillery or musketry. The attack resulted in a destructive repulse of the enemy. At the position attacked by Hancock the rebels were intrenched, and in considerable force, between the creek he had crossed and the river, and made a pertinacious resistance to his onset; but before dark he had forced them from their works and driven them across the stream." By night, the Second and Fifth Corps were both across the river, and the Ninth and Sixth held the thither side. On Tuesday the whole army was across.
Lee had even on Friday night suspected Grant's movement. He knew the impregnability of his own position. He knew that the Federal advance on his works had been abandoned without serious attack, and when Ewell's attack on the Federal lines discovered the absence of Hancock, Grant's plan was demonstrated. At midnight of the 20th two corps of the rebel army were already on the way to head off Grant, while the third remained on the ground and attacked the Federal Sixth on Saturday morning. The route of Lee was much shorter and more direct to the same point than that of Grant. He accordingly sent a flying body to harass the troops of Grant, while Ewell and Longstreet passed over the Telegraph road, and A. P. Hill farther to the west, over the Negro Foot road, and when our troops reached the North Anna River, Longstreet and Ewell had been in position twenty-four hours.
Tuesday, the 24th, was passed in getting the army into position on the south of the North Anna. Port Royal, on the Rappahannock, became the new base of supplies, and head-quarters were at Jericho Mills.
On Wednesday noon, the 25th, the line rested as follows, from right to left: Wright's Sixth Corps, Warren's Fifth, Burnside's Ninth, Hancock's Second. Wright's Corps was held rather in the rear, covering Jericho Ford. Hancock's extreme left touched on the railroad, and was but very little advanced from the river. Between our right and left the enemy was found in strong force opposite our centre, with his left a little thrown back. Our own line extended about four miles. The
reconnoissances of the day showed that the enemy's line lay northwest of Sexton's Junction, in the general form of a V. The apex, or his centre, stretched towards the North Anna, his right wing resting on the formidable marsh known as Bull Swamp, through which the creek of that name empties into the North Anna, and extending across the Fredericksburg Railroad, protecting it and covering the junction. His left wing ran along Little River, crossing the Virginia Central, and protecting it also at Sexton's Junction. The salient, an obtuse angle, was pushed out towards Ox Ford, confronting Burnside. Hancock's Corps lay pretty nearly parallel with the enemy's right. This position, naturally strong, appeared to be fortified with extensive and elaborate intrenchments, to which the enemy was busily adding others. The whole position looked formidable, and the enemy did not yield to the slight pressure of our reconnoissance.
On Thursday head-quarters were at Quarles's Ford. Reconnoissances again went on, but showed nothing new. The strength of the rebel army, with the morass on the right and the river on the left, with its centre dangerously inserted between the two fords, and threatening to penetrate our own centre, was again obvious. In case of a battle, the rapidity with which troops could be thrown back and forth from flank to flank, as occasion required, was no less obvious. The position was skilfully chosen, and, it would seem, threatened our security, as well as provided for its own.
A glance at the position sufficed to show that it was almost impreg nable, and once more the movement to the left commenced. To make this movement, it was necessary to recross the North Anna, which was swelling from the recent rains, and no time was to be lost. With a vigilant enemy on his rear, the task was not easy. To cover the movement, a demonstration was made during Thursday, the 26th, on the enemy's works, and the cavalry set to burning the track of the Virginia Central Railroad. Under cover of this attack, on Thursday evening, the Sixth Corps quietly and swiftly withdrew to the north branch of the river, followed by the other corps in quick succession, and moved out easterly for the Pamunkey. Hancock protected the rear, and, meanwhile, a strong skirmish line was left in front, to engage the enemy's attention and disarm suspicion. At 9 o'clock on Friday morning, Torbert's First and Gregg's Second Division of Sheridan's Cavalry took possession of Hanover Ferry and Hanovertown, finding there only a rebel vedette. General Torbert captured seventy-five cavalry, including six officers. The First Division of the Sixth Corps arrived at 10 A. M., and the rest of the column closely followed. On the morning of the 27th, while our army moved down the north side of the Pamunkey, Breckinridge's Division was sent to move down on the south side of the stream, to Hanover Court-House, to act as a corps of observation; and a brigade of cavalry was sent still farther on, on the Piping Tree road. Hanovertown is on the Pamunkey, fifteen miles northeast of Richmond, nine miles in an air line from Hanover CourtHouse, and sixteen from White House, on the same river. But the exceedingly tortuous nature of the river makes the two latter distances very much greater by river and somewhat greater by road. It
was at once evident that the familiar spot known as White House was henceforth to be our base of supplies. Thirteen miles east of White House is West Point, where the Mattapony and Pamunkey form, by their confluence, the York River. The distance by the winding stream is much greater. A railroad connects the two points.
In the afternoon of Friday, General Meade's head-quarters were at Mongohick Church, situated at the cross-roads on Mehixen Creek, in King William County, ten miles north of Hanovertown. On Saturday morning, the 28th, our troops had obtained complete possession of Hanovertown and the neighboring region, having marched probably twenty-five miles, in the heat and dust, since Thursday night. On Sunday, the 29th, the whole army was successfully across the Pamunkey, and fronted southwest, about three miles from the river. The corps moved cautiously forward, and an attack from Lee was expected. None such was made, however, and the only firing came from reconnoitring parties far in the front. Reconnoissances were made from each corps, followed up by a gradual advance. It appeared that the enemy was in force half a dozen miles distant from our lines, across Tolopatomoy Creek, with his extreme right holding Shady Grove and Mechanicsville, his right centre in front of Atler's Station on the Virginia Central, and his left still persistently covering Hanover CourtHouse. Trains now began to run to and from White House, and dispositions were made for battle.
Original Plan of Campaign.-Butler's Expedition up the James.-Movement on Petersburg. Fort Darling.-Repulse of the Union Forces.-Attack by Beauregard.Beauregard Re-enforces Lee.-Smith sent to Support Grant.
THE campaign of General Grant upon his appointment as LieutenantGeneral to the chief command of all the armies of the United States, comprised a simultaneous movement by the army under Sherman in Tennessee, by that under Sigel in the Valley of the Shenandoah, and another under Butler, which was to land at City Point on the James River, and destroy the Petersburg Railroad connection with Richmond, thus preventing Beauregard, who commanded on the south side of the James, from going to re-enforce Lee. This expedition, consisting of the Eighteenth Corps, Major-General W. F. Smith, known as Baldy Smith, and the Tenth Corps, Major-General Gillmore, was embarked on transports at Yorktown and Gloucester Point. Demonstrations of an advance up York River were made to deceive the enemy, and then the whole proceeded up the James. This movement, made on the same day as that on which Meade's army crossed the Rapidan, took the enemy somewhat by surprise. There was no attempt at City Point or elsewhere to dispute the landing, which was described in the official telegram as follows: