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enemy's fire. A portion of the Eighteenth Corps made a vigorous effort to silence the fire, and with some success. The position gained was, however, commanded by a redoubt in the enemy's second line, and it was relinquished. During the night, the enemy made the most persistent efforts to recover their lost line, but without success. Federal loss was over two thousand; that of the enemy considerably less, as he was covered by his works. The result of the day's fighting was the retention of Cold Harbor by the Union forces.
The Union line was now eight miles long, extending from Bethesda Church to Cold Harbor, and, by reason of the march of Wright and the accession of Smith, was formed as follows, from right to left: Hancock, Burnside, Warren, Smith, Wright. Cold Harbor, the left extremity, was simply an old house, the tavern at the junction of roads leading to the White House on the east, Dispatch Station and Bottom Bridge on the south, Richmond via Gaines's Mill on the west, and Hanovertown and Newcastle on the north. The possession of the road thence to White House was indispensable to Grant. Bethesda Church, the right of the line, was also an old structure, on the road from Hanovertown to Shady Grove, not far from the latter. On the right, in the afternoon of the 1st, there was a forward movement of Gibbon and Potter, with a view to cover an intended withdrawal of the Second Corps from right to left, to follow the footsteps of the Sixth, already gone to extend our flank in that direction. The result was a rally of the rebels in force, and a determined attack, towards evening, on our whole line, as soon as the two divisions had fallen back.
Grant now determined to make the attempt to push Lee across the Chickahominy, and secure a place to ford the stream, and it was with this object that the Union left had been prolonged by shifting the Second Corps to that quarter of the field. The new disposition was completed by noon of Thursday, the 2d; but, owing to a heavy rainstorm, the attack was postponed until the following morning. Heavy skirmishing continued during the 2d, without material advantage to either side. Lee, suspecting this movement, had posted his troops to meet the anticipated attack. His right was held by Breckinridge's and Mahone's Divisions of Hill's Corps; his centre by Kershaw's, Field's, and Hoke's Divisions of Anderson's Corps; and his left by Ewell's Corps, all of which were protected by strong intrenchments. The rain having ceased, at four o'clock on the morning of Friday, June 3d, the assault was made. Our line was well massed and compact, moving as follows, from right to left: Burnside, Warren, Smith, Wright, Hancock, reaching from Tolopatomoy Creek to and across the road from Cold Harbor to the Chickahominy. The ground was varied, along the line, with wood-lands, swamps, and open, our left being on a position a little elevated, and the rebel line lying in a strip of woods and covering the series of roads parallel to the river, of which particular description has before been given. Promptly at the hour appointed, the skirmishers advanced, and very quickly the whole line was wrapped in the fire and smoke of terrific battle. Although the struggle lasted five hours, the first ten minutes decided its fate. In that first rush of advance, ten minutes of time carried our whole front close up against a
line of works, which we were unable to break through, or, breaking through, were unable to hold.
In Hancock's Corps, Gibbon had the right, with Barlow on the left, Birney being in reserve. The two divisions of Gibbon and Barlow dashed gallantly forward, across wood-lands and underbrush, and, again emerging into an open space swept by shot and shell, passed straight up the acclivity on which the enemy had concentrated their men and artillery, as being the stronghold of their line. The impetuosity of the charge, not checked even by the terrible slaughter, carried the men over the breast works of a salient on Breckinridge's left, where they captured three guns. But, General Finnegan, re-enforcing the enemy at this moment, drove Hancock's troops out, recaptured the guns, and took some prisoners from Owen's Brigade, Gibbon's Division. Not until the splendid attack of Hancock's Corps had been made was he aware of the supreme importance of the position thus carried and lost, which had been the key-point of the battle of Gaines's Mills, two years before. This position is a bald hill, named Watts's Hill, dominating the whole battle-ground, and covering the angle of the Dispatch road. Along this ridge the enemy's works formed a salient, and in front of it was a sunken road. Of this road Hancock got possession, and the brigades of Miles and Brooks actually struck and carried the work directly on the salient. Had the Union troops held this point, they would have had a position whence the entire of the enemy's line might have been enfiladed.
The Sixth and Eighteenth Corps at the same time emulated the de termined courage of the Second, but with no better results. Charg ing through the underbrush and across the open, they were received by the murderous enfilading fire with which all our most advanced brigades found their daring repaid. The assault of the Sixth Corps was made with the utmost vigor, and succeeded in carrying the first line of rebel rifle-pits along its entire front, and got up within two hundred and fifty yards of the main works. Smith's Corps, connecting on the right with the Sixth, had advanced in conjunction with it; but the left division, that of Martindale, who led the attack in heavy, deep columns, got disarranged, and was repulsed. Smith made three different attacks to relieve Martindale, but his last supports did not get up in time to allow him to hold on. The effect of this repulse on the left of Smith had a disastrous effect on the position of Wright. It uncovered the right flank of the Sixth and exposed Ricketts's Division, which was stoutly holding the advanced position, to a savage fire on the prolongation of its line. For a long time, these latter hung obstinately to their conquests, which, at length, were wrung from them, and they were forced back with great loss. But here, as on the left, our men held and intrenched a position considerably in advance of the starting-point, close up to the enemy's works. The Fifth and Ninth Corps on the extreme right pushed out their skirmish lines and kept up a cannonade. The weight of the battle was, however, driven against the position of Anderson and Breckinridge's left.
In many respects the battle was a repetition of that of the 12th of
May at Spottsylvania Court-House. While he kept up a threatening attitude along the whole line, Grant massed a very heavy force and hurled it again and again with tremenduous violence against a single point. Seven times the persistent valor of the Sixth Corps carried the men with indomitable force against the right centre of the enemy, and seven times the strength of the rebel position defied the efforts of the assaulting columns. Nevertheless, our whole line was advanced close to the enemy-within fifty yards for a great portion of it-and, on the extreme left, one brigade was reported to be but fifteen yards from the enemy. Both armies kept close to their breast works, the exposure of a figure above the intrenchments, at that narrow distance, being fatal. Under such circumstances, when the Federal troops advanced, the concealed Confederate marksmen cut them down in wide swathes stretching far across the field. At Spottsylvania and Cold Harbor the Confederates were more completely behind breast works than at any previous battle of the war. Hence their small comparative loss. The battle raged with great violence until half-past ten o'clock A. M., just five hours. Among the Confederate killed in this battle were Brigadier-General Doles, of Georgia; Colonel L. M. Keitt, of South Carolina, formerly a member of the United States House of Representatives, and Colonel Edwin Willis, of Georgia, a late graduate of West Point. The Union loss in these terrible assaults was estimated at about seven thousand. The enemy reported theirs at one thousand.
Saturday, the 4th, was spent by the Union troops in intrenching. In exposed positions, this work could only be carried on at night, the enemy's sharpshooters being very busy, and pursuing men and officers with fatal dexterity of fire. Our own marksmen retorted wherever practicable, and desultory skirmishing resounded along the line all through the day. To appreciate the situation of the parties, it must be remembered that the hostile lines were separated, for long extents, only by distances varying from fifty to one hundred and fifty yards. The position of the corps remained substantially as on Friday. During the night of the 5th, Grant retired his right wing about two miles, placing it behind a swamp which protected its front and flank. On the same evening he sent a communication to General Lee, proposing that, when the armies were not actually engaged, either party might, upon notification to the other, succor its wounded and bury its dead. Lee replied that he preferred that the party desiring to remove its wounded and inter its dead should do so through a flag of truce. The care of the wounded and dead was accordingly effected by this
The battle of Friday was one of the most terrible of the war up to that time. The movements of the preceding days had drawn our lines close in front of the Chickahominy, and reduced the military problem to the forcing of the passage of that river-a problem which, if solved in our favor, would decide whether Richmond could be carried by a coup de main, if a decisive victory should attend our arms, or whether operations would settle down to a siege in form. The great struggle did not result in a success. Probably no action so important in its character was ever crowded into so brief a space of time-ten terrible
minutes in the early dawn developed on the part of the enemy such strength both of position and force, as to carry conviction that any victory that could be here achieved would be purchased at too great a cost. All that matchless valor directed by consummate skill could do, was done, but it was in vain.
The results of the attack on Cold Harbor made it evident that the rebel position could not be carried by a direct attack in front, and a repetition of the flank movement to the left was determined upon; but as it was necessary to rest the men and to prepare a new base, Grant remained ten days without any further attempt to advance. The time was spent, however, in busy preparation to march for the James and then cross to join Butler. The enemy was, meanwhile, constantly on the alert, and made repeated attacks on either wing, while he kept pace with the gradual extension of Grant's line, always appearing in force as the Union left crept out towards the east. On Friday, the 10th, the railroad which had just been laid down between the army and White House was taken up, and the rails put on board barges. On Saturday the enemy roughly handled McIntosh's Cavalry on our right flank, while the main cavalry force made demonstrations on the route between Richmond and Washington. On the night of Sunday, June 12th, the army was at length put in motion for the James River, intending to cross the Chickahominy by three bridges, which occur in the following order: Bottom Bridge, Long Bridge, six miles farther east, and Jones's Bridge, twelve miles from Bottom Bridge. The enemy held the river as far as Bottom Bridge, where he was intrenched. Wright and Burnside, on breaking camp, marched for Jones's Bridge, crossed the river and mored rapidly for Charles City Court-House, nine miles from the bridge and within one of the James. At the same time, Hancock and Warren crossed at Long Bridge and marched for Wilcox's Wharf, on the James, twelve miles due south, and a little west of Charles City. Smith's Corps returned via White House, in transports, to Fortress Monroe and Bermuda Hundred, where Butler was intrenched with the Tenth Corps. General Butler had carefully prepared pontoons for the crossing. At three o'clock on Sunday afternoon, Meade's head-quarters were moved from Cold Harbor south of Summit Station, near Long Bridge, and at six the next morning, head-quarters were in the saddle on the march.
The whole movement was conducted with great success. The men moved cautiously from their intrenchments, which, for miles, as we have already said, lay under the enemy's guns. And only a few shells thrown at the rear, as it moved off, betokened that the enemy had taken the alarm. All night and all day Monday, the troops moved forward, with hardly more skirmishing or impediment than that of their first march from Culpepper to Chancellorsville. On Monday evening, the advance had reached Wilcox's Landing, where also head-quarters Before noon of Tuesday, our forces were all up, having made their movement in perfect security, and the only fighting being a little cavalry skirmishing at its close. On Tuesday, the 14th, the crossing was commenced, our army was transferred to the south side of the James, and the change in position fully consummated. The little
opposition made to the movement by Lee was ascribed to the want of stout artillery horses necessary for field service. Of the whole movement, a dispatch from head-quarters to the War Department says: "Our forces drew out from within fifty yards of the enemy's intrenchments at Cold Harbor, made a flank movement of about fiftyfive miles march, crossing the Chickahominy and James Rivers, the latter two thousand feet wide and eighty-four feet deep at the point of crossing, and surprised the enemy's rear at Petersburg."
Grant was now exactly on the opposite side of Richmond from that at which he began his campaign. The Federal gunboats and transports planted Butler at Bermuda Hundred, at the very outset of the campaign, with the express purpose of effecting a diversion on the south of Richmond, while Grant made the main attack from the north. It is obvious, therefore, that while the army maintained the character it had already acquired for indomitable perseverance, Grant only resorted to this manœuvre because his original plan had not fulfilled expectations. He began from this moment, to all intents and purposes, a fresh campaign. Few generals and few troops would have persisted in this dogged and determined struggle.
Advance on Petersburg.-Position of the City.-Assault and Capture of Earthworks and Guns.-Assault of Saturday, June 18th.-Repulse.-Aspect of the Campaign.
On the morning of Wednesday, June 15th, the Eighteenth Corps, which arrived at Bermuda Hundred on the evening of the 14th, from Fortress Monroe, started for Petersburg. A pontoon bridge had been thrown across the Appomatox, at Point of Rocks, over which Kautz's Cavalry crossed, followed by Brooks's and Martindale's Infantry Divisions. The skirmishers of the enemy were encountered on the City Point road, along which the advance was made. At Harrison's Creek, the enemy held a line of rifle-trenches with two field-pieces, from which the head of the column suffered a good deal. Brooks's Division coming up, however, they hastily retired behind a temporary line of earthworks, about two miles from Petersburg, leaving their guns in the hands of the Union troops. In front of this new line, the latter were now drawn up in line of battle, Martindale holding the right, Brooks the centre, and Hinks the left. Towards sunset, the line charged with great determination and vigor, in the face of a hot artillery fire, carrying the earthworks with sixteen guns and three hundred prisoners. The Federal loss was about five hundred. After the battle, the Second Corps arrived, too late, however, to render the success decisive, and by the next morning the Ninth Corps was on the ground. Meantime, Kautz had moved to the left and attacked the enemy's works on the Norfolk and Petersburg Railroad, but, finding them too strong, he retired after a smart skirmish. The Federal attack upon Petersburg had been sustained by the local forces, the main rebel army having not yet arrived.