« AnteriorContinuar »
the alarm now given must have been injurious rather than otherwise.
On the 16th, the Army of the Potomac being now well up in the vicinity of City Point, and the enemy having abandoned his works in front of our lines at Bermuda Hundred, Gen. Butler ordered an advance on the Richmond and Petersburg railroad, with a view to cut the communications between the two cities. After destroying two miles of the traok, however, this force (a portion of Gillmore's corps), was obliged to retire to its former position, the advance of Lee's army having now come up, on the way from its position at Cold Harbor, to tho rescue of Petersburg.
Meanwhile, on the 14th, Gen. Smith, with fifteen thousand men, including Wilde's colored division, had begun to move on Petersburg on the south, and Hancock was to follow as rapidly as possible with his corps. The city of Petersburg, on the south bank of the Appomattox river, is about twelve miles south-west from City Point, at the confluence of that river with the James. The two places are connected by railway, running along the left bank of the Appomattox—part of tho way at some distance from the river. The city is about twentyEix miles from Richmond, by railroad, and its position is strategically important with reference to the latter place, from the fact that three of the principal railroads running southward radiate from this point, leaving only the Danville railroad (not fully completed until since the commencement of the rebellion), as the only one southward connecting directly with Richmond, or available after the occupation of Petersburg. It was not without reason, therefore, that this place was regarded as substantially the key to the Rebel capital.
Gen. Smith appeared beforo the defenses of Petersburg on the morning of the 15th. The enemy's works had now been greatly strengthened, and were wall manned. Smith carried a line of works at Beatty's House, the colored troops leading the assault with great intrepidity, and driving the enemy from the rifle pits. Their gallantry was specially commended by their commanding general. There was a heavy fire of Rebel artillery, and the main lines of the enemy were obstinately held till the close of the day. At about half-past seven o'clock, in the evening, our forces attacked and succeeded in carrying the principal line of intrenchments, taking thirteen cannon, and over three hundred prisoners from the command of Beauregard. The line thus taken was two miles from the city. Hancock, through an unforeseen delay, having encamped for the night, on the 14th, a shortdistance from the James, did not get up until three o'clock in the morning of the 16th, when he formed his line of battle on Smith's left. At sunrise, before the Second Corps had thrown up any intrenchments, the enemy opened a terrific fire on our men, who were in an open field about five hundred yards from the Rebel batteries. Skirmishers were subsequently thrown out, and the batteries quieted, while the corps was intrenching itself. In the evening, a charge was made on the enemy's works, and one line carried, but the assailing party was unable to advance further. The Eighteenth Corps gained no decided advantage during the day.
The opportunity for the capture of Petersburg by surprise ended with the reconnoitering expedition under Kautz. There still remained, apparently, the chance for getting into the city before any considerable portion of Lee's army could come up. This was to have been attempted by tho corps of Smith and Hancock, on the 15th. As demonstrated by the movement under Gillmore to cut the Richmond and Petersburg railroad, on the 16th, Lee's army was close at hand on that day, and thereafter the whole power of the enemy, under Lee and Beauregard combined, was to be met, and once more in strongly intrenched positions. The loss of the twenty-four hours, between the mornings of the 15th and 16th, postponed the final result for many wearisome months, and greatly disheartened the many in whose anticipations Petersburg was already taken by shrewd strategy, and with little loss. Smith's corps was promptly on the ground, all that fateful day. Hancock's corps, also expected, was absent until the following morning. This is said, not in censure, but as a historical fact, which at the time was a source of popular regret, and which seems to be the hinging point of the new campaign now about to open.
The combined Armies of the Potomac and the James now assumed once more the attitude of what has been popularly, though inaccurately, termed a "siege." The Tenth Corps held its fortified position at Bermuda Hundred, on the north side of the Appomattox. The right of the Eighteenth Corps, in the position it had gained on the 15th, extended near that river. Our Navy forces commanded the mouth of that river, and the space intervening between these two corps was practically occupied. The Second Corps, as we have seen, had taken position on the immediate left of the Eighteenth, on the morning of the 16th. The Ninth Corps arrived on the left of the Second, in the evening of the same day, and made a successful charge, on the 17th, gaining a position deemed of special value, and taking two redoubts. The Fifth and Sixth Corps came into position on the 17th, still further to the left. All these forces were at once busily engaged in fortifying, with occasional skirmishes or assaults during several days following.
Thus had passed six weeks of great activity, of constant marching or fighting, of severe losses, and of apparently indecisive results. But Lee, for the first time, had thus far been kept exclusively on the defensive. The country had hoped, under the generalship of Grant, an early capture of Richmond, with the destruction of Lee's grand army. There was a feeling of uncomplaining, and mostly unexpressed, disappointment. The President, trusting the well-tested military qualities of the Lieutenant-General, confident in the valor of our soldiers, instant in providing that the necessary reinforcements and supplies should not be lacking, had less sanguine expectations, at the outset of this movement, and an unshaken faith always in the great cause, and in the strong hand to which the guidance of our armies had been specially intrusted. He felt this no less with the army at bay before Petersburg, than when it defiantly crossed the Rapidan. And, in truth, this campaign was the one which, tardily though the result may be thought to have appeared, yet actually turned the crisis of the war.
The Campaign in Georgia.—From Chattanooga to Marietta.—Early Movements of Sherman and Thomas.—Capture of Dalton.—Battle of Resacca.—Retreat of Johnston.—Slight Engagements.—Occupation of Kingston.—Destruction of Rebel Works at Rome.—Advance to Cassville.—Battle near Dallas and Powder Spring.—Occupation of Acworth and Big Shanty.—Attempts on Sherman's line of Communications.—Kencsaw Mountain.—Battle of Nickojnck Creek.—Pause at Marietta.—Louisiana and Arkansas.—Another Invasion of Kentucky.—Movements of the Navy.
On the promotion of Gen. Grant to the chief command of all the armies of the United States, the direction and control of the main army of the West, at and beyond Chattanooga, devolved upon Maj.-Gen. William T. Sherman. This officer had borne a conspicuous part in most of the military movements of Grant in the West, from the field of Shiloh, on which his services were invaluable, to the movement from Port Gibson, ending in the siege and capture of Vicksburg; and, at a later period, had succeeded him as commander of the Army of the Tennessee, on the consolidation of the Western armies under Grant, after the capture of Chattanooga. The grand army now placed under command of Sherman, originally comprised the Army of the Tennessee, to the command of which Maj.Gen. James B. McPherson succeeded; the Army of the Cumberland, under Maj.-Gen. George H. Thomas; and the Army of the Ohio, under Maj.-Gen. John M. Schofield. This army was strengthened, in preparation for a campaign into Georgia, by the addition of the Twentieth Army Corps, under Maj.-Gen. Joseph Hooker, comprisingthc consolidated Eleventh and Twelfth Corps, transferred from the East, and attached to the Army of the Cumberland; and by troops newly raised in several Western States. A large cavalry force had also been gathered and well equipped, under Gens. Stoneman, Rousseau, Garrard, Kilpatrick, and others. In numbers, organization. and condition, this army was hardly surpassed by any as yet brought into the field during the war.
After the capture of Lookout Mountain and Mission Ridge, near the close of November, giving entire security to the communications of the army, previously threatened, no material advance southward had been attempted during the winter. The close of February, 1864, found Sherman returned, with the portion of the army then under his command, to Vicksburg, after a bold movement eastward from that place to Meridian, occupying three weeks. For the want of successful cooperation on the part of the cavalry force which was to sustain him, or from other causes, his purpose, whatever it may have been, was substantially defeated, and it was now his first work to return with dispatch to the main army. This he successfully accomplished. Meanwhile, on the 21st of February, a force under Gen. Palmer had been advanced by Grant to Ringgold, eighteen miles south of Chattanooga, permanently occupying that place. Tunnel Hill having been taken on the 26th, after severe skirmishing, Thomas moved, on the 1st of March, toward Dalton, a town situated about twenty miles south-east from Ringgold, at the point where the East Tennessee railroad crosses the Georgia State road, as well as the point of junction of that branch of the railroad extending to Chattanooga with the former road. As this advance was manifestly cooperative with that of Sherman eastward from Vicksburg toward Alabama, the abandonment of the latter expedition was speedily followed by the withdrawal of Thomas from beyond Tunnel Hill to Ringgold, which was accomplished on the 7th of March. The Army of the Ohio, in the command of which Gen. Schofield had succeeded Gen. Foster, had been, during the winter, in East Tennessee, but advanced to take part in the concentrated movement into Georgia, which was now to be made by the grand army of Sherman.
The primary objective point of the campaign, in regard to which, and other military plans, Grant made a visit to Chattanooga, after assuming the duties of general-in-chief at Washington, was Atlanta. This was one of the most thriving cities in Georgia prior to the war, being a prominent point in tho