« AnteriorContinuar »
day closed. The action was renewed next day, and the advantage remained with the enemy. General Sedgwick, meantime, had crossed the river and occupied the heights of Fredericksburg, but was driven from them and compelled to retreat on the night of the 4th. On the morning of the 5th a heavy rain-storm set in, and in the night of that day General Hooker withdrew his army to the north bank of the Rappahannock, having lost not far from eighteen thousand men in the movement.
Both armies remained inactive until the 9th of June, when it was discovered that the rebel forces under Lee were leaving their position near Fredericksburg and moving northwest, through the valley of the Shenandoah. On the 13th the rebel General Ewell, with a heavy force, attacked our advance post of seven thousand men at Winchester under General Milroy, and not only compelled him to retreat, but pursued him so closely as to convert his retreat into a rout; and on the 14th of June the rebel army began to cross the Potomac and advanced upon Hagerstown, Maryland, with the evident purpose of invading Pennsylvania. The movement created the most intense excitement throughout the country. President Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for one hundred thousand militia from the States most directly menaced, to serve for six months, and New York was summoned to send twenty thousand also. On the 27th the main body of the rebel army crossed the Potomac at Williamsport, and General Lee took up his head-quarters at Hagerstown. Meantime, as soon as the movement of the rebel forces from Fredericksburg was discovered, our army had broken up its encampment and marched northward, on a line nearly parallel with that of the enemy, and on the 27th, the same day that the rebels reached Hagerstown, the head-quarters of our army were at Frederick City—our whole force being thus interposed between the rebels and both Baltimore and Washington, and prepared to follow them into Pennsylvania. On that day General Hooker was relieved from command of the army, which was conferred upon General Meade, who at once ordered an ad
vance into Pennsylvania in the general direction of Harrisburg-towards which the enemy was rapidly advancing in force. On the 1st of July our advanced corps, the First and Eleventh, under Generals Reynolds and Howard, came in contact with the enemy, strongly posted near the town of Gettysburg, and, attacking at once, fought an indecisive battle; the enemy being so far superior in numbers as to compel General Howard, who was in command at the time, to fall back to Cemetery Hill and wait for re-enforcements. During the night all the corps of our army were concentrated and the next day posted around that point. The Eleventh Corps retained its position on the Cemetery ridge: the First Corps was on the right of the Eleventh, on a knoll, connecting with the ridge extending to the south and east, on which the Second Corps was placed. The right of the Twelfth Corps rested on a small stream. The Second and Third Corps were posted on the left of the Eleventh, on the prolongation of Cemetery ridge. The Fifth was held in reserve until the arrival of the Sixth, at 2 P. M. on the 2d, after a march of thirtytwo miles in seventeen hours, when the Fifth was ordered to the extreme left and the Sixth placed in reserve.
At about 3 o'clock the battle was opened by a tremendous onset of the enemy, whose troops were massed along a ridge a mile or so in our front, upon the Third Corps, which formed our extreme left, and which met the shock with heroic firmness, until it was supported by the Third and Fifth. General Sickles, who commanded the Third Corps, was severely wounded early in the action, and General Birney, who succeeded to the command, though urged to fall back, was enabled, by the help of the First and Sixth Corps, to hold his ground, and at about sunset the enemy retired in confusion. Another assault was made on our left during the evening, which was also repulsed. On the morning of the 3d, a spirited assault was made upon the right of our line, but without success; and at one P. M. the enemy opened an artillery fire upon our centre and left from one hundred and twenty-five guns, which continued for over two hours, without reply
from our side, when it was followed by a heavy assault of infantry, directed mainly against the Second Corps, and repelled with firmness and success by that corps, supported by Stannard's Brigade of the First Corps. This repulse of the centre terminated the battle. On the morning of the 4th, a reconnoissance showed that the enemy had withdrawn his left flank, maintaining his position in front of our left, with the apparent purpose of forming a new line of attack; but the next morning it was ascertained that he was in full retreat. The Sixth Corps, with all disposable cavalry, were at once sent in pursuit; but ascertaining that the enemy had availed himself of very strong passes which could be held by a small force, General Meade determined to pursue by a flank movement, and after burying the dead and succoring the wounded, the whole army was put in motion for the Potomac. On the 12th it arrived in front of the enemy, strongly posted on the heights in advance of Williamsport. The next day was devoted to an examination of the position; but on advancing for an attack on the 14th, it was discovered that the enemy had succeeded in crossing by the bridge at Falling Waters and the ford at Williamsport. The pursuit was continued still further, but the enemy, though greatly harassed and subjected to severe losses, succeeded in gaining the line of the Rapidan, and our forces again occupied their old position on the Rappahannock.
On the morning of the 4th of July, the day celebrated throughout the country as the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, the President issued the following:
WASHINGTON, July 4, 10.30 a. M. The President announces to the country that news from the Army of the Potomac, up to 10 P. M. of the 3d, is such as to cover that army with the highest honor; to promise a great success to the cause of the Union, and to claim the condolence of all for the many gallant fallen; and that for this he especially desires that on this day, He, whose will, not ours, should ever be done, be everywhere remembered and reverenced with profoundest gratitude. A. LINCOLN.
The result of this battle-one of the severest and most
sanguinary of the war-was of the utmost importance. It drove the rebels back from their intended invasion of Pennsylvania and Maryland, and compelled them to evacuate the upper part of the Valley of the Shenandoah, leaving in our hands nearly fourteen thousand prisoners, and twenty-five thousand small arms collected on the battle-field. Our own losses were very severe, amounting to two thousand eight hundred and thirty-four killed, thirteen thousand seven hundred and nine wounded, and six thousand six hundred and forty-three missing-in all twenty-three thousand one hundred and eighty-six.
During the ensuing season, a piece of ground, seventeen and a half acres in extent, adjoining the town cemetery, and forming an important part of the battle-field, was purchased by the State of Pennsylvania, to be used as a national burying-ground for the loyal soldiers who fell in that great engagement. It was dedicated, with solemn and impressive ceremonies, on the 19th of November, 1863, the President and members of his Cabinet being in attendance, and a very large and imposing military display adding grace and dignity to the occasion. Hon. Edward Everett delivered the formal address, and President Lincoln made the following remarks :—
Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that We have come to dedicate a portion of that field as a final restingplace for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us, that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion; that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that
this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
The other great military achievement of the year was the capture of Port Hudson and Vicksburg, and the opening of the Mississippi River throughout its entire length to the commerce of the United States. General N. P. Banks, who succeeded General Butler in command of the military department of Louisiana, reached New Orleans, sustained by a formidable expedition from New York, and assumed command on the 15th of December, 1862, and at once took possession of Baton Rouge. On the 21st, an expedition under General W. T. Sherman started from Memphis, passed down the Mississippi to the mouth of the Yazoo, some ten miles above Vicksburg, and on the 26th ascended that river, landed, and commenced an attack upon the town from the rear. Severe fighting continued for three days, during which time our army pushed within two miles of the city; but on the 30th they were repulsed with heavy loss. On the 2d of January, General McClernand arrived and took command, and the attack upon Vicksburg was for the time abandoned as hopeless. The capture of Arkansas Post, however, relieved the failure in some degree. On February 2d, General Grant having been put in command, the attack upon Vicksburg was renewed. Various plans were undertaken, now to get in the rear of the place through bayous, and now to cut a canal across a bend of the Mis sissippi, and thus command the river above and below. All these failing, vessels were boldly run by the rebel batteries; and, on the 30th of April, General Grant crossed the river at Bruinsburg, sixty-five miles below Vicksburg, and immediately advanced upon Port Gibson, where he was opposed by the rebel General Bowen, who was defeated, with a loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, of one thousand five hundred men. At Grand Gulf, ten miles above Bruinsburg, the enemy had begun to erect strong fortifications. These had been fired upon by our gunboats a few days before, under cover of which the fleet had run past. Grant having