Part 10 out of 16

efforts to regain the position he had lost. Troops were brought
up from his left and attacked Hancock furiously. Hancock was
forced to fall back: but he did so slowly, with his face to the
enemy, inflicting on him heavy loss, until behind the breastworks
he had captured. These he turned, facing them the other way, and
continued to hold. Wright was ordered up to reinforce Hancock,
and arrived by six o'clock. He was wounded soon after coming up
but did not relinquish the command of his corps, although the
fighting lasted until one o'clock the next morning. At eight
o'clock Warren was ordered up again, but was so slow in making
his dispositions that his orders were frequently repeated, and
with emphasis. At eleven o'clock I gave Meade written orders to
relieve Warren from his command if he failed to move promptly.
Hancock placed batteries on high ground in his rear, which he
used against the enemy, firing over the heads of his own troops.

Burnside accomplished but little on our left of a positive
nature, but negatively a great deal. He kept Lee from
reinforcing his centre from that quarter. If the 5th corps, or
rather if Warren, had been as prompt as Wright was with the 6th
corps, better results might have been obtained.

Lee massed heavily from his left flank on the broken point of
his line. Five times during the day he assaulted furiously, but
without dislodging our troops from their new position. His
losses must have been fearful. Sometimes the belligerents would
be separated by but a few feet. In one place a tree, eighteen
inches in diameter, was cut entirely down by musket balls. All
the trees between the lines were very much cut to pieces by
artillery and musketry. It was three o'clock next morning
before the fighting ceased. Some of our troops had then been
twenty hours under fire. In this engagement we did not lose a
single organization, not even a company. The enemy lost one
division with its commander, one brigade and one regiment, with
heavy losses elsewhere.(*30) Our losses were heavy, but, as
stated, no whole company was captured. At night Lee took a
position in rear of his former one, and by the following morning
he was strongly intrenched in it.

Warren's corps was now temporarily broken up, Cutler's division
sent to Wright, and Griffin's to Hancock. Meade ordered his
chief of staff, General Humphreys, to remain with Warren and the
remaining division, and authorized him to give it orders in his

During the day I was passing along the line from wing to wing
continuously. About the centre stood a house which proved to be
occupied by an old lady and her daughter. She showed such
unmistakable signs of being strongly Union that I stopped. She
said she had not seen a Union flag for so long a time that it
did her heart good to look upon it again. She said her husband
and son, being, Union men, had had to leave early in the war,
and were now somewhere in the Union army, if alive. She was
without food or nearly so, so I ordered rations issued to her,
and promised to find out if I could where the husband and son

There was no fighting on the 13th, further than a little
skirmishing between Mott's division and the enemy. I was afraid
that Lee might be moving out, and I did not want him to go
without my knowing it. The indications were that he was moving,
but it was found that he was only taking his new position back
from the salient that had been captured. Our dead were buried
this day. Mott's division was reduced to a brigade, and
assigned to Birney's division.

During this day I wrote to Washington recommending Sherman and
Meade (*31) for promotion to the grade of Major-General in the
regular army; Hancock for Brigadier-General; Wright, Gibbon and
Humphreys to be Major-Generals of Volunteers; and Upton and
Carroll to be Brigadiers. Upton had already been named as such,
but the appointment had to be confirmed by the Senate on the
nomination of the President.

The night of the 13th Warren and Wright were moved by the rear
to the left of Burnside. The night was very dark and it rained
heavily, the roads were so bad that the troops had to cut trees
and corduroy the road a part of the way, to get through. It was
midnight before they got to the point where they were to halt,
and daylight before the troops could be organized to advance to
their position in line. They gained their position in line,
however, without any fighting, except a little in Wright's
front. Here Upton had to contend for an elevation which we
wanted and which the enemy was not disposed to yield. Upton
first drove the enemy, and was then repulsed in turn. Ayres
coming to his support with his brigade (of Griffin's division,
Warren's corps), the position was secured and fortified. There
was no more battle during the 14th. This brought our line east
of the Court House and running north and south and facing west.

During the night of the 14th-15th Lee moved to cover this new
front. This left Hancock without an enemy confronting him. He
was brought to the rear of our new centre, ready to be moved in
any direction he might be wanted.

On the 15th news came from Butler and Averill. The former
reported the capture of the outer works at Drury's Bluff, on the
James River, and that his cavalry had cut the railroad and
telegraph south of Richmond on the Danville road: and the
latter, the destruction of a depot of supplies at Dublin, West
Virginia, and the breaking of New River Bridge on the Virginia
and Tennessee Railroad. The next day news came from Sherman and
Sheridan. Sherman had forced Johnston out of Dalton, Georgia,
and was following him south. The report from Sheridan embraced
his operations up to his passing the outer defences of
Richmond. The prospect must now have been dismal in Richmond.
The road and telegraph were cut between the capital and Lee. The
roads and wires were cut in every direction from the rebel
capital. Temporarily that city was cut off from all
communication with the outside except by courier. This
condition of affairs, however, was of but short duration.

I wrote Halleck:

May 16, 1864, 8 A.M.

Washington, D. C.:

We have had five days almost constant rain without any prospect
yet of it clearing up. The roads have now become so impassable
that ambulances with wounded men can no longer run between here
and Fredericksburg. All offensive operations necessarily cease
until we can have twenty-four hours of dry weather. The army is
in the best of spirits, and feel the greatest confidence of
ultimate success.
* * * * * * You can
assure the President and Secretary of War that the elements
alone have suspended hostilities, and that it is in no manner
due to weakness or exhaustion on our part.


The condition of the roads was such that nothing was done on the
17th. But that night Hancock and Wright were to make a night
march back to their old positions, and to make an assault at
four o'clock in the morning. Lee got troops back in time to
protect his old line, so the assault was unsuccessful. On this
day (18th) the news was almost as discouraging to us as it had
been two days before in the rebel capital. As stated above,
Hancock's and Wright's corps had made an unsuccessful assault.
News came that Sigel had been defeated at New Market, badly, and
was retreating down the valley. Not two hours before, I had sent
the inquiry to Halleck whether Sigel could not get to Staunton to
stop supplies coming from there to Lee. I asked at once that
Sigel might be relieved, and some one else put in his place.
Hunter's name was suggested, and I heartily approved. Further
news from Butler reported him driven from Drury's Bluff, but
still in possession of the Petersburg road. Banks had been
defeated in Louisiana, relieved, and Canby put in his place.
This change of commander was not on my suggestion. All this
news was very discouraging. All of it must have been known by
the enemy before it was by me. In fact, the good news (for the
enemy) must have been known to him at the moment I thought he
was in despair, and his anguish had been already relieved when
we were enjoying his supposed discomfiture, But this was no time
for repining. I immediately gave orders for a movement by the
left flank, on towards Richmond, to commence on the night of the
19th. I also asked Halleck to secure the cooperation of the navy
in changing our base of supplies from Fredericksburg to Port
Royal, on the Rappahannock.

Up to this time I had received no reinforcements, except six
thousand raw troops under Brigadier General Robert O. Tyler,
just arrived. They had not yet joined their command, Hancock's
corps, but were on our right. This corps had been brought to
the rear of the centre, ready to move in any direction. Lee,
probably suspecting some move on my part, and seeing our right
entirely abandoned, moved Ewell's corps about five o'clock in
the afternoon, with Early's as a reserve, to attack us in that
quarter. Tyler had come up from Fredericksburg, and had been
halted on the road to the right of our line, near Kitching's
brigade of Warren's corps. Tyler received the attack with his
raw troops, and they maintained their position, until
reinforced, in a manner worthy of veterans.

Hancock was in a position to reinforce speedily, and was the
soldier to do it without waiting to make dispositions. Birney
was thrown to Tyler's right and Crawford to his left, with
Gibbon as a reserve; and Ewell was whirled back speedily and
with heavy loss.

Warren had been ordered to get on Ewell's flank and in his rear,
to cut him off from his intrenchments. But his efforts were so
feeble that under the cover of night Ewell got back with only
the loss of a few hundred prisoners, besides his killed and
wounded. The army being engaged until after dark, I rescinded
the order for the march by our left flank that night.

As soon as it was discovered that the enemy were coming out to
attack, I naturally supposed they would detach a force to
destroy our trains. The withdrawal of Hancock from the right
uncovered one road from Spottsylvania to Fredericksburg over
which trains drew our supplies. This was guarded by a division
of colored troops, commanded by General Ferrero, belonging to
Burnside's corps. Ferrero was therefore promptly notified, and
ordered to throw his cavalry pickets out to the south and be
prepared to meet the enemy if he should come; if he had to
retreat to do so towards Fredericksburg. The enemy did detach
as expected, and captured twenty-five or thirty wagons which,
however, were soon retaken.

In consequence of the disasters that had befallen us in the past
few days, Lee could be reinforced largely, and I had no doubt he
would be. Beauregard had come up from the south with troops to
guard the Confederate capital when it was in danger. Butler
being driven back, most of the troops could be sent to Lee. Hoke
was no longer needed in North Carolina; and Sigel's troops having
gone back to Cedar Creek, whipped, many troops could be spared
from the valley.

The Wilderness and Spottsylvania battles convinced me that we
had more artillery than could ever be brought into action at any
one time. It occupied much of the road in marching, and taxed
the trains in bringing up forage. Artillery is very useful when
it can be brought into action, but it is a very burdensome luxury
where it cannot be used. Before leaving Spottsylvania,
therefore, I sent back to the defences of Washington over one
hundred pieces of artillery, with the horses and caissons. This
relieved the roads over which we were to march of more than two
hundred six-horse teams, and still left us more artillery than
could be advantageously used. In fact, before reaching the
James River I again reduced the artillery with the army largely.

I believed that, if one corps of the army was exposed on the
road to Richmond, and at a distance from the main army, Lee
would endeavor to attack the exposed corps before reinforcements
could come up; in which case the main army could follow Lee up
and attack him before he had time to intrench. So I issued the
following orders:

May 18, 1864.

Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Before daylight to-morrow morning I propose to draw Hancock and
Burnside from the position they now hold, and put Burnside to
the left of Wright. Wright and Burnside should then force their
way up as close to the enemy as they can get without a general
engagement, or with a general engagement if the enemy will come
out of their works to fight, and intrench. Hancock should march
and take up a position as if in support of the two left corps.
To-morrow night, at twelve or one o'clock, he will be moved
south-east with all his force and as much cavalry as can be
given to him, to get as far towards Richmond on the line of the
Fredericksburg Railroad as he can make, fighting the enemy in
whatever force he can find him. If the enemy make a general
move to meet this, they will be followed by the other three
corps of the army, and attacked, if possible, before time is
given to intrench.

Suitable directions will at once be given for all trains and
surplus artillery to conform to this movement.


On the 20th, Lee showing no signs of coming out of his lines,
orders were renewed for a left-flank movement, to commence after



We were now to operate in a different country from any we had
before seen in Virginia. The roads were wide and good, and the
country well cultivated. No men were seen except those bearing
arms, even the black man having been sent away. The country,
however, was new to us, and we had neither guides nor maps to
tell us where the roads were, or where they led to. Engineer
and staff officers were put to the dangerous duty of supplying
the place of both maps and guides. By reconnoitring they were
enabled to locate the roads in the vicinity of each army
corps. Our course was south, and we took all roads leading in
that direction which would not separate the army too widely.

Hancock who had the lead had marched easterly to Guiney's
Station, on the Fredericksburg Railroad, thence southerly to
Bowling Green and Milford. He was at Milford by the night of
the 21st. Here he met a detachment of Pickett's division coming
from Richmond to reinforce Lee. They were speedily driven away,
and several hundred captured. Warren followed on the morning of
the 21st, and reached Guiney's Station that night without
molestation. Burnside and Wright were retained at Spottsylvania
to keep up the appearance of an intended assault, and to hold
Lee, if possible, while Hancock and Warren should get start
enough to interpose between him and Richmond.

Lee had now a superb opportunity to take the initiative either
by attacking Wright and Burnside alone, or by following by the
Telegraph Road and striking Hancock's and Warren's corps, or
even Hancock's alone, before reinforcements could come up. But
he did not avail himself of either opportunity. He seemed
really to be misled as to my designs; but moved by his interior
line--the Telegraph Road--to make sure of keeping between his
capital and the Army of the Potomac. He never again had such an
opportunity of dealing a heavy blow.

The evening of the 21st Burnside, 9th corps, moved out followed
by Wright, 6th corps. Burnside was to take the Telegraph Road;
but finding Stanard's Ford, over the Po, fortified and guarded,
he turned east to the road taken by Hancock and Warren without
an attempt to dislodge the enemy. The night of the 21st I had
my headquarters near the 6th corps, at Guiney's Station, and the
enemy's cavalry was between us and Hancock. There was a slight
attack on Burnside's and Wright's corps as they moved out of
their lines; but it was easily repulsed. The object probably
was only to make sure that we were not leaving a force to follow
upon the rear of the Confederates.

By the morning of the 22d Burnside and Wright were at Guiney's
Station. Hancock's corps had now been marching and fighting
continuously for several days, not having had rest even at night
much of the time. They were, therefore, permitted to rest during
the 22d. But Warren was pushed to Harris's Store, directly west
of Milford, and connected with it by a good road, and Burnside
was sent to New Bethel Church. Wright's corps was still back at
Guiney's Station.

I issued the following order for the movement of the troops the
next day:

NEW BETHEL, VA., May 22, 1864

Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Direct corps commanders to hold their troops in readiness to
march at five A.M. to-morrow. At that hour each command will
send out cavalry and infantry on all roads to their front
leading south, and ascertain, if possible, where the enemy is.
If beyond the South Anna, the 5th and 6th corps will march to
the forks of the road, where one branch leads to Beaver Dam
Station, the other to Jericho Bridge, then south by roads
reaching the Anna, as near to and east of Hawkins Creek as they
can be found.

The 2d corps will move to Chesterfield Ford. The 9th corps will
be directed to move at the same time to Jericho Bridge. The map
only shows two roads for the four corps to march upon, but, no
doubt, by the use of plantation roads, and pressing in guides,
others can be found, to give one for each corps.

The troops will follow their respective reconnoitring parties.
The trains will be moved at the same time to Milford Station.

Headquarters will follow the 9th corps.


Warren's corps was moved from Harris's Store to Jericho Ford,
Wright's following. Warren arrived at the ford early in the
afternoon, and by five o'clock effected a crossing under the
protection of sharpshooters. The men had to wade in water up to
their waists. As soon as enough troops were over to guard the
ford, pontoons were laid and the artillery and the rest of the
troops crossed. The line formed was almost perpendicular to the
course of the river--Crawford on the left, next to the river,
Griffin in the centre, and Cutler on the right. Lee was found
intrenched along the front of their line. The whole of Hill's
corps was sent against Warren's right before it had got in
position. A brigade of Cutler's division was driven back, the
enemy following, but assistance coming up the enemy was in turn
driven back into his trenches with heavy loss in killed and
wounded, with about five hundred prisoners left in our hands. By
night Wright's corps was up ready to reinforce Warren.

On the 23d Hancock's corps was moved to the wooden bridge which
spans the North Anna River just west of where the Fredericksburg
Railroad crosses. It was near night when the troops arrived.
They found the bridge guarded, with troops intrenched, on the
north side. Hancock sent two brigades, Egan's and Pierce's, to
the right and left, and when properly disposed they charged
simultaneously. The bridge was carried quickly, the enemy
retreating over it so hastily that many were shoved into the
river, and some of them were drowned. Several hundred prisoners
were captured. The hour was so late that Hancock did not cross
until next morning.

Burnside's corps was moved by a middle road running between
those described above, and which strikes the North Anna at Ox
Ford, midway between Telegraph Road and Jericho Ford. The hour
of its arrival was too late to cross that night.

On the 24th Hancock's corps crossed to the south side of the
river without opposition, and formed line facing nearly west.
The railroad in rear was taken possession of and destroyed as
far as possible. Wright's corps crossed at Jericho early the
same day, and took position to the right of Warren's corps,
extending south of the Virginia Central Railroad. This road was
torn up for a considerable distance to the rear (west), the ties
burned, and the rails bent and twisted by heating them over the
burning ties. It was found, however, that Burnside's corps
could not cross at Ox Ford. Lee had taken a position with his
centre on the river at this point, with the two wings thrown
back, his line making an acute angle where it overlooked the

Before the exact position of the whole of Lee's line was
accurately known, I directed Hancock and Warren each to send a
brigade to Ox Ford by the south side of the river. They found
the enemy too strong to justify a serious attack. A third ford
was found between Ox Ford and Jericho. Burnside was directed to
cross a division over this ford, and to send one division to
Hancock. Crittenden was crossed by this newly-discovered ford,
and formed up the river to connect with Crawford's left. Potter
joined Hancock by way of the wooden bridge. Crittenden had a
severe engagement with some of Hill's corps on his crossing the
river, and lost heavily. When joined to Warren's corps he was
no further molested. Burnside still guarded Ox Ford from the
north side.

Lee now had his entire army south of the North Anna. Our lines
covered his front, with the six miles separating the two wings
guarded by but a single division. To get from one wing to the
other the river would have to be crossed twice. Lee could
reinforce any part of his line from all points of it in a very
short march; or could concentrate the whole of it wherever he
might choose to assault. We were, for the time, practically two
armies besieging.

Lee had been reinforced, and was being reinforced, largely.
About this time the very troops whose coming I had predicted,
had arrived or were coming in. Pickett with a full division
from Richmond was up; Hoke from North Carolina had come with a
brigade; and Breckinridge was there: in all probably not less
than fifteen thousand men. But he did not attempt to drive us
from the field.

On the 22d or 23d I received dispatches from Washington saying
that Sherman had taken Kingston, crossed the Etowah River and
was advancing into Georgia.

I was seated at the time on the porch of a fine plantation house
waiting for Burnside's corps to pass. Meade and his staff,
besides my own staff, were with me. The lady of the house, a
Mrs. Tyler, and an elderly lady, were present. Burnside seeing
us, came up on the porch, his big spurs and saber rattling as he
walked. He touched his hat politely to the ladies, and remarked
that he supposed they had never seen so many "live Yankees"
before in their lives. The elderly lady spoke up promptly
saying, "Oh yes, I have; many more." "Where?" said Burnside.
"In Richmond." Prisoners, of course, was understood.

I read my dispatch aloud, when it was received. This threw the
younger lady into tears. I found the information she had
received (and I suppose it was the information generally in
circulation through the South) was that Lee was driving us from
the State in the most demoralized condition and that in the
South-west our troops were but little better than prisoners of
war. Seeing our troops moving south was ocular proof that a
part of her information was incorrect, and she asked me if my
news from Sherman was true. I assured her that there was no
doubt about it. I left a guard to protect the house from
intrusion until the troops should have all passed, and assured
her that if her husband was in hiding she could bring him in and
he should be protected also. But I presume he was in the
Confederate army.

On the 25th I gave orders, through Halleck, to Hunter, who had
relieved Sigel, to move up the Valley of Virginia, cross over
the Blue Ridge to Charlottesville and go as far as Lynchburg if
possible, living upon the country and cutting the railroads and
canal as he went. After doing this he could find his way back
to his base, or join me.

On the same day news was received that Lee was falling back,on
Richmond. This proved not to be true. But we could do nothing
where we were unless Lee would assume the offensive. I
determined, therefore, to draw out of our present position and
make one more effort to get between him and Richmond. I had no
expectation now, however, of succeeding in this; but I did
expect to hold him far enough west to enable me to reach the
James River high up. Sheridan was now again with the Army of
the Potomac.

On the 26th I informed the government at Washington of the
position of the two armies; of the reinforcements the enemy had
received; of the move I proposed to make (*32); and directed
that our base of supplies should be shifted to White House, on
the Pamunkey. The wagon train and guards moved directly from
Port Royal to White House. Supplies moved around by water,
guarded by the navy. Orders had previously been sent, through
Halleck, for Butler to send Smith's corps to White House. This
order was repeated on the 25th, with directions that they should
be landed on the north side of the Pamunkey, and marched until
they joined the Army of the Potomac.

It was a delicate move to get the right wing of the Army of the
Potomac from its position south of the North Anna in the
presence of the enemy. To accomplish it, I issued the following

QUARLES' MILLS, VA., May 25, 1864.

Commanding A. P.

Direct Generals Warren and Wright to withdraw all their teams
and artillery, not in position, to the north side of the river
to-morrow. Send that belonging to General Wright's corps as far
on the road to Hanover Town as it can go, without attracting
attention to the fact. Send with it Wright's best division or
division under his ablest commander. Have their places filled
up in the line so if possible the enemy will not notice their
withdrawal. Send the cavalry to-morrow afternoon, or as much of
it as you may deem necessary, to watch and seize, if they can,
Littlepage's Bridge and Taylor's Ford, and to remain on one or
other side of the river at these points until the infantry and
artillery all pass. As soon as it is dark to-morrow night start
the division which you withdraw first from Wright's corps to make
a forced march to Hanover Town, taking with them no teams to
impede their march. At the same time this division starts
commence withdrawing all of the 5th and 6th corps from the south
side of the river, and march them for the same place. The two
divisions of the 9th corps not now with Hancock, may be moved
down the north bank of the river where they will be handy to
support Hancock if necessary, or will be that much on their road
to follow the 5th and 6th corps. Hancock should hold his command
in readiness to follow as soon as the way is clear for him.
To-morrow it will leave nothing for him to do, but as soon as he
can he should get all his teams and spare artillery on the road
or roads which he will have to take. As soon as the troops
reach Hanover Town they should get possession of all the
crossings they can in that neighborhood. I think it would be
well to make a heavy cavalry demonstration on the enemy's left,
to-morrow afternoon, also.


Wilson's division of cavalry was brought up from the left and
moved by our right south to Little River. Here he manoeuvred to
give the impression that we were going to attack the left flank
of Lee's army.

Under cover of night our right wing was withdrawn to the north
side of the river, Lee being completely deceived by Wilson's
feint. On the afternoon of the 26th Sheridan moved, sending
Gregg's and Torbert's cavalry to Taylor's and Littlepage's fords
towards Hanover. As soon as it was dark both divisions moved
quietly to Hanover Ferry, leaving small guards behind to keep up
the impression that crossings were to be attempted in the
morning. Sheridan was followed by a division of infantry under
General Russell. On the morning of the 27th the crossing was
effected with but little loss, the enemy losing thirty or forty,
taken prisoners. Thus a position was secured south of the

Russell stopped at the crossing while the cavalry pushed on to
Hanover Town. Here Barringer's, formerly Gordon's, brigade of
rebel cavalry was encountered, but it was speedily driven away.

Warren's and Wright's corps were moved by the rear of Burnside's
and Hancock's corps. When out of the way these latter corps
followed, leaving pickets confronting the enemy. Wilson's
cavalry followed last, watching all the fords until everything
had recrossed; then taking up the pontoons and destroying other
bridges, became the rear-guard.

Two roads were traversed by the troops in this move. The one
nearest to and north of the North Anna and Pamunkey was taken by
Wright, followed by Hancock. Warren, followed by Burnside, moved
by a road farther north, and longer. The trains moved by a road
still farther north, and had to travel a still greater
distance. All the troops that had crossed the Pamunkey on the
morning of the 27th remained quiet during the rest of the day,
while the troops north of that stream marched to reach the
crossing that had been secured for them.

Lee had evidently been deceived by our movement from North Anna;
for on the morning of the 27th he telegraphed to Richmond:
"Enemy crossed to north side, and cavalry and infantry crossed
at Hanover Town." The troops that had then crossed left his
front the night of the 25th.

The country we were now in was a difficult one to move troops
over. The streams were numerous, deep and sluggish, sometimes
spreading out into swamps grown up with impenetrable growths of
trees and underbrush. The banks were generally low and marshy,
making the streams difficult to approach except where there were
roads and bridges.

Hanover Town is about twenty miles from Richmond. There are two
roads leading there; the most direct and shortest one crossing
the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge, near the Virginia Central
Railroad, the second going by New and Old Cold Harbor. A few
miles out from Hanover Town there is a third road by way of
Mechanicsville to Richmond. New Cold Harbor was important to us
because while there we both covered the roads back to White House
(where our supplies came from), and the roads south-east over
which we would have to pass to get to the James River below the
Richmond defences.

On the morning of the 28th the army made an early start, and by
noon all had crossed except Burnside's corps. This was left on
the north side temporarily to guard the large wagon train. A
line was at once formed extending south from the river, Wright's
corps on the right, Hancock's in the centre, and Warren's on the
left, ready to meet the enemy if he should come.

At the same time Sheridan was directed to reconnoitre towards
Mechanicsville to find Lee's position. At Hawes' Shop, just
where the middle road leaves the direct road to Richmond, he
encountered the Confederate cavalry dismounted and partially
intrenched. Gregg attacked with his division, but was unable to
move the enemy. In the evening Custer came up with a brigade.
The attack was now renewed, the cavalry dismounting and charging
as infantry. This time the assault was successful, both sides
losing a considerable number of men. But our troops had to bury
the dead, and found that more Confederate than Union soldiers had
been killed. The position was easily held, because our infantry
was near.

On the 29th a reconnoissance was made in force, to find the
position of Lee. Wright's corps pushed to Hanover Court
House. Hancock's corps pushed toward Totopotomoy Creek;
Warren's corps to the left on the Shady Grove Church Road, while
Burnside was held in reserve. Our advance was pushed forward
three miles on the left with but little fighting. There was now
an appearance of a movement past our left flank, and Sheridan was
sent to meet it.

On the 30th Hancock moved to the Totopotomoy, where he found the
enemy strongly fortified. Wright was moved to the right of
Hancock's corps, and Burnside was brought forward and crossed,
taking position to the left of Hancock. Warren moved up near
Huntley Corners on the Shady Grove Church Road. There was some
skirmishing along the centre, and in the evening Early attacked
Warren with some vigor, driving him back at first, and
threatening to turn our left flank. As the best means of
reinforcing the left, Hancock was ordered to attack in his
front. He carried and held the rifle-pits. While this was
going on Warren got his men up, repulsed Early, and drove him
more than a mile.

On this day I wrote to Halleck ordering all the pontoons in
Washington to be sent to City Point.

In the evening news was received of the arrival of Smith with
his corps at White House. I notified Meade, in writing, as

6.40 P.M., May 30, 1864.

Commanding A. P.

General Smith will debark his force at the White House tonight
and start up the south bank of the Pamunkey at an early hour,
probably at 3 A.M. in the morning. It is not improbable that
the enemy, being aware of Smith's movement, will be feeling to
get on our left flank for the purpose of cutting him off, or by
a dash to crush him and get back before we are aware of it.
Sheridan ought to be notified to watch the enemy's movements
well out towards Cold Harbor, and also on the Mechanicsville
road. Wright should be got well massed on Hancock's right, so
that, if it becomes necessary, he can take the place of the
latter readily whilst troops are being thrown east of the
Totopotomoy if necessary.

I want Sheridan to send a cavalry force of at least half a
brigade, if not a whole brigade, at 5 A.M. in the morning, to
communicate with Smith and to return with him. I will send
orders for Smith by the messenger you send to Sheridan with his


I also notified Smith of his danger, and the precautions that
would be taken to protect him.

The night of the 30th Lee's position was substantially from
Atlee's Station on the Virginia Central Railroad south and east
to the vicinity of Cold Harbor. Ours was: The left of Warren's
corps was on the Shady Grove Road, extending to the
Mechanicsville Road and about three miles south of the
Totopotomoy. Burnside to his right, then Hancock, and Wright on
the extreme right, extending towards Hanover Court House, six
miles south-east of it. Sheridan with two divisions of cavalry
was watching our left front towards Cold Harbor. Wilson with
his division on our right was sent to get on the Virginia
Central Railroad and destroy it as far back as possible. He got
possession of Hanover Court House the next day after a skirmish
with Young's cavalry brigade. The enemy attacked Sheridan's
pickets, but reinforcements were sent up and the attack was
speedily repulsed and the enemy followed some distance towards
Cold Harbor.



On the 31st Sheridan advanced to near Old Cold Harbor. He found
it intrenched and occupied by cavalry and infantry. A hard fight
ensued but the place was carried. The enemy well knew the
importance of Cold Harbor to us, and seemed determined that we
should not hold it. He returned with such a large force that
Sheridan was about withdrawing without making any effort to hold
it against such odds; but about the time he commenced the
evacuation he received orders to hold the place at all hazards,
until reinforcements could be sent to him. He speedily turned
the rebel works to face against them and placed his men in
position for defence. Night came on before the enemy was ready
for assault.

Wright's corps was ordered early in the evening to march
directly to Cold Harbor passing by the rear of the army. It was
expected to arrive by daylight or before; but the night was dark
and the distance great, so that it was nine o'clock the 1st of
June before it reached its destination. Before the arrival of
Wright the enemy had made two assaults on Sheridan, both of
which were repulsed with heavy loss to the enemy. Wright's
corps coming up, there was no further assault on Cold Harbor.

Smith, who was coming up from White House, was also directed to
march directly to Cold Harbor, and was expected early on the
morning of the 1st of June; but by some blunder the order which
reached Smith directed him to Newcastle instead of Cold
Harbor. Through this blunder Smith did not reach his
destination until three o'clock in the afternoon, and then with
tired and worn-out men from their long and dusty march. He
landed twelve thousand five hundred men from Butler's command,
but a division was left at White House temporarily and many men
had fallen out of ranks in their long march.

Before the removal of Wright's corps from our right, after dark
on the 31st, the two lines, Federal and Confederate, were so
close together at that point that either side could detect
directly any movement made by the other. Finding at daylight
that Wright had left his front, Lee evidently divined that he
had gone to our left. At all events, soon after light on the
1st of June Anderson, who commanded the corps on Lee's left, was
seen moving along Warren's front. Warren was ordered to attack
him vigorously in flank, while Wright was directed to move out
and get on his front. Warren fired his artillery at the enemy;
but lost so much time in making ready that the enemy got by, and
at three o'clock he reported the enemy was strongly intrenched in
his front, and besides his lines were so long that he had no mass
of troops to move with. He seemed to have forgotten that lines
in rear of an army hold themselves while their defenders are
fighting in their front. Wright reconnoitred some distance to
his front: but the enemy finding Old Cold Harbor already taken
had halted and fortified some distance west.

By six o'clock in the afternoon Wright and Smith were ready to
make an assault. In front of both the ground was clear for
several hundred yards and then became wooded. Both charged
across this open space and into the wood, capturing and holding
the first line of rifle-pits of the enemy, and also capturing
seven or eight hundred prisoners.

While this was going on, the enemy charged Warren three separate
times with vigor, but were repulsed each time with loss. There
was no officer more capable, nor one more prompt in acting, than
Warren when the enemy forced him to it. There was also an attack
upon Hancock's and Burnside's corps at the same time; but it was
feeble and probably only intended to relieve Anderson who was
being pressed by Wright and Smith.

During the night the enemy made frequent attacks with the view
of dispossessing us of the important position we had gained, but
without effecting their object.

Hancock was moved from his place in line during the night and
ordered to the left of Wright. I expected to take the offensive
on the morning of the 2d, but the night was so dark, the heat and
dust so excessive and the roads so intricate and hard to keep,
that the head of column only reached Old Cold Harbor at six
o'clock, but was in position at 7.30 A.M. Preparations were
made for an attack in the afternoon, but did not take place
until the next morning. Warren's corps was moved to the left to
connect with Smith: Hancock's corps was got into position to the
left of Wright's, and Burnside was moved to Bethesda Church in
reserve. While Warren and Burnside were making these changes the
enemy came out several times and attacked them, capturing several
hundred prisoners. The attacks were repulsed, but not followed
up as they should have been. I was so annoyed at this that I
directed Meade to instruct his corps commanders that they should
seize all such opportunities when they occurred, and not wait for
orders, all of our manoeuvres being made for the very purpose of
getting the enemy out of his cover.

On this day Wilson returned from his raid upon the Virginia
Central Railroad, having damaged it considerably. But, like
ourselves, the rebels had become experts in repairing such
damage. Sherman, in his memoirs, relates an anecdote of his
campaign to Atlanta that well illustrates this point. The rebel
cavalry lurking in his rear to burn bridges and obstruct his
communications had become so disgusted at hearing trains go
whistling by within a few hours after a bridge had been burned,
that they proposed to try blowing up some of the tunnels. One
of them said, "No use, boys, Old Sherman carries duplicate
tunnels with him, and will replace them as fast as you can blow
them up; better save your powder."

Sheridan was engaged reconnoitring the banks of the
Chickahominy, to find crossings and the condition of the
roads. He reported favorably.

During the night Lee moved his left up to make his line
correspond to ours. His lines extended now from the Totopotomoy
to New Cold Harbor. Mine from Bethesda Church by Old Cold Harbor
to the Chickahominy, with a division of cavalry guarding our
right. An assault was ordered for the 3d, to be made mainly by
the corps of Hancock, Wright and Smith; but Warren and Burnside
were to support it by threatening Lee's left, and to attack with
great earnestness if he should either reinforce more threatened
points by drawing from that quarter or if a favorable
opportunity should present itself.

The corps commanders were to select the points in their
respective fronts where they would make their assaults. The
move was to commence at half-past four in the morning. Hancock
sent Barlow and Gibbon forward at the appointed hour, with
Birney as a reserve. Barlow pushed forward with great vigor,
under a heavy fire of both artillery and musketry, through
thickets and swamps. Notwithstanding all the resistance of the
enemy and the natural obstructions to overcome, he carried a
position occupied by the enemy outside their main line where the
road makes a deep cut through a bank affording as good a shelter
for troops as if it had been made for that purpose. Three
pieces of artillery had been captured here, and several hundred
prisoners. The guns were immediately turned against the men who
had just been using them. No (*33) assistance coming to him, he
(Barlow) intrenched under fire and continued to hold his
place. Gibbon was not so fortunate in his front. He found the
ground over which he had to pass cut up with deep ravines, and a
morass difficult to cross. But his men struggled on until some
of them got up to the very parapet covering the enemy. Gibbon
gained ground much nearer the enemy than that which he left, and
here he intrenched and held fast.

Wright's corps moving in two lines captured the outer rifle-pits
in their front, but accomplished nothing more. Smith's corps
also gained the outer rifle-pits in its front. The ground over
which this corps (18th) had to move was the most exposed of any
over which charges were made. An open plain intervened between
the contending forces at this point, which was exposed both to a
direct and a cross fire. Smith, however, finding a ravine
running towards his front, sufficiently deep to protect men in
it from cross fire, and somewhat from a direct fire, put
Martindale's division in it, and with Brooks supporting him on
the left and Devens on the right succeeded in gaining the
outer--probably picket--rifle-pits. Warren and Burnside also
advanced and gained ground--which brought the whole army on one

This assault cost us heavily and probably without benefit to
compensate: but the enemy was not cheered by the occurrence
sufficiently to induce him to take the offensive. In fact,
nowhere after the battle of the Wilderness did Lee show any
disposition to leave his defences far behind him.

Fighting was substantially over by half-past seven in the
morning. At eleven o'clock I started to visit all the corps
commanders to see for myself the different positions gained and
to get their opinion of the practicability of doing anything
more in their respective fronts.

Hancock gave the opinion that in his front the enemy was too
strong to make any further assault promise success. Wright
thought he could gain the lines of the enemy, but it would
require the cooperation of Hancock's and Smith's corps. Smith
thought a lodgment possible, but was not sanguine: Burnside
thought something could be done in his front, but Warren
differed. I concluded, therefore to make no more assaults, and
a little after twelve directed in the following letter that all
offensive action should cease.

COLD HARBOR, June 3, 1864.-12.30 P.M.

Commanding A. P.

The opinion of corps commanders not being sanguine of success in
case an assault is ordered, you may direct a suspension of
farther advance for the present. Hold our most advanced
positions and strengthen them. Whilst on the defensive our line
may be contracted from the right if practicable.

Reconnoissances should be made in front of every corps and
advances made to advantageous positions by regular approaches.
To aid the expedition under General Hunter it is necessary that
we should detain all the army now with Lee until the former gets
well on his way to Lynchburg. To do this effectually it will be
better to keep the enemy out of the intrenchments of Richmond
than to have them go back there.

Wright and Hancock should be ready to assault in case the enemy
should break through General Smith's lines, and all should be
ready to resist an assault.


The remainder of the day was spent in strengthening the line we
now held. By night we were as strong against Lee as he was
against us.

During the night the enemy quitted our right front, abandoning
some of their wounded, and without burying their dead. These we
were able to care for. But there were many dead and wounded men
between the lines of the contending forces, which were now close
together, who could not be cared for without a cessation of

So I wrote the following:

COLD HARBOR, VA., June 5, 1864.

Commanding Confederate Army.

It is reported to me that there are wounded men, probably of
both armies, now lying exposed and suffering between the lines
occupied respectively by the two armies. Humanity would dictate
that some provision should be made to provide against such
hardships. I would propose, therefore, that hereafter, when no
battle is raging, either party be authorized to send to any
point between the pickets or skirmish lines, unarmed men bearing
litters to pick up their dead or wounded, without being fired
upon by the other party. Any other method, equally fair to both
parties, you may propose for meeting the end desired will be
accepted by me.


Lee replied that he feared such an arrangement would lead to
misunderstanding, and proposed that in future, when either party
wished to remove their dead and wounded, a flag of truce be
sent. I answered this immediately by saying:

COLD HARBOR, VA., June 6, 1864.

Commanding Army of N. Va.

Your communication of yesterday's date is received. I will
send immediately, as you propose, to collect the dead and
wounded between the lines of the two armies, and will also
instruct that you be allowed to do the same. I propose that the
time for doing this be between the hours of 12 M. and 3 P.M.
to-day. I will direct all parties going out to bear a white
flag, and not to attempt to go beyond where we have dead or
wounded, and not beyond or on ground occupied by your troops.


Lee's response was that he could not consent to the burial of
the dead and removal of the wounded in the way I proposed, but
when either party desired such permission it should be asked for
by flag of truce and he had directed that any parties I may have
sent out, as mentioned in my letter, to be turned back. I

COLD HARBOR, VA, June 6, 1864.

Commanding Army, N. Va.

The knowledge that wounded men are now suffering from want of
attention, between the two armies, compels me to ask a
suspension of hostilities for sufficient time to collect them
in, say two hours. Permit me to say that the hours you may fix
upon for this will be agreeable to me, and the same privilege
will be extended to such parties as you may wish to send out on
the same duty without further application.


Lee acceded to this; but delays in transmitting the
correspondence brought it to the 7th of June--forty-eight hours
after it commenced--before parties were got out to collect the
men left upon the field. In the meantime all but two of the
wounded had died. And I wrote to Lee:

COLD HARBOR, VA., June 7, 1864.
10.30 A.M.

Commanding Army of N. Va.

I regret that your note of seven P.M. yesterday should have been
received at the nearest corps headquarters, to where it was
delivered, after the hour which had been given for the removal
of the dead and wounded had expired; 10.45 P.M. was the hour at
which it was received at corps headquarters, and between eleven
and twelve it reached my headquarters. As a consequence, it was
not understood by the troops of this army that there was a
cessation of hostilities for the purpose of collecting the dead
and wounded, and none were collected. Two officers and six men
of the 8th and 25th North Carolina Regts., who were out in
search of the bodies of officers of their respective regiments,
were captured and brought into our lines, owing to this want of
understanding. I regret this, but will state that as soon as I
learned the fact, I directed that they should not be held as
prisoners, but must be returned to their commands. These
officers and men having been carelessly brought through our
lines to the rear have not determined whether they will be sent
back the way they came, or whether they will be sent by some
other route.

Regretting that all my efforts for alleviating the sufferings of
wounded men left upon the battle-field have been rendered
nugatory, I remain, &c.,


I have always regretted that the last assault at Cold Harbor was
ever made. I might say the same thing of the assault of the 22d
of May, 1863, at Vicksburg. At Cold Harbor no advantage
whatever was gained to compensate for the heavy loss we
sustained. Indeed, the advantages other than those of relative
losses, were on the Confederate side. Before that, the Army of
Northern Virginia seemed to have acquired a wholesome regard for
the courage, endurance, and soldierly qualities generally of the
Army of the Potomac. They no longer wanted to fight them "one
Confederate to five Yanks." Indeed, they seemed to have given
up any idea of gaining any advantage of their antagonist in the
open field. They had come to much prefer breastworks in their
front to the Army of the Potomac. This charge seemed to revive
their hopes temporarily; but it was of short duration. The
effect upon the Army of the Potomac was the reverse. When we
reached the James River, however, all effects of the battle of
Cold Harbor seemed to have disappeared.

There was more justification for the assault at Vicksburg. We
were in a Southern climate, at the beginning of the hot
season. The Army of the Tennessee had won five successive
victories over the garrison of Vicksburg in the three preceding
weeks. They had driven a portion of that army from Port Gibson
with considerable loss, after having flanked them out of their
stronghold at Grand Gulf. They had attacked another portion of
the same army at Raymond, more than fifty miles farther in the
interior of the State, and driven them back into Jackson with
great loss in killed, wounded, captured and missing, besides
loss of large and small arms: they had captured the capital of
the State of Mississippi, with a large amount of materials of
war and manufactures. Only a few days before, they had beaten
the enemy then penned up in the town first at Champion's Hill,
next at Big Black River Bridge, inflicting upon him a loss of
fifteen thousand or more men (including those cut off from
returning) besides large losses in arms and ammunition. The
Army of the Tennessee had come to believe that they could beat
their antagonist under any circumstances. There was no telling
how long a regular siege might last. As I have stated, it was
the beginning of the hot season in a Southern climate. There
was no telling what the casualties might be among Northern
troops working and living in trenches, drinking surface water
filtered through rich vegetation, under a tropical sun. If
Vicksburg could have been carried in May, it would not only have
saved the army the risk it ran of a greater danger than from the
bullets of the enemy, but it would have given us a splendid
army, well equipped and officered, to operate elsewhere with.
These are reasons justifying the assault. The only benefit we
gained--and it was a slight one for so great a sacrifice--was
that the men worked cheerfully in the trenches after that, being
satisfied with digging the enemy out. Had the assault not been
made, I have no doubt that the majority of those engaged in the
siege of Vicksburg would have believed that had we assaulted it
would have proven successful, and would have saved life, health
and comfort.



Lee's position was now so near Richmond, and the intervening
swamps of the Chickahominy so great an obstacle to the movement
of troops in the face of an enemy, that I determined to make my
next left flank move carry the Army of the Potomac south of the
James River. (*34) Preparations for this were promptly
commenced. The move was a hazardous one to make: the
Chickahominy River, with its marshy and heavily timbered
approaches, had to be crossed; all the bridges over it east of
Lee were destroyed; the enemy had a shorter line and better
roads to travel on to confront me in crossing; more than fifty
miles intervened between me and Butler, by the roads I should
have to travel, with both the James and the Chickahominy
unbridged to cross; and last, the Army of the Potomac had to be
got out of a position but a few hundred yards from the enemy at
the widest place. Lee, if he did not choose to follow me,
might, with his shorter distance to travel and his bridges over
the Chickahominy and the James, move rapidly on Butler and crush
him before the army with me could come to his relief. Then too
he might spare troops enough to send against Hunter who was
approaching Lynchburg, living upon the country he passed
through, and without ammunition further than what he carried
with him.

But the move had to be made, and I relied upon Lee's not seeing
my danger as I saw it. Besides we had armies on both sides of
the James River and not far from the Confederate capital. I
knew that its safety would be a matter of the first
consideration with the executive, legislative and judicial
branches of the so-called Confederate government, if it was not
with the military commanders. But I took all the precaution I
knew of to guard against all dangers.

Sheridan was sent with two divisions, to communicate with Hunter
and to break up the Virginia Central Railroad and the James River
Canal, on the 7th of June, taking instructions to Hunter to come
back with him (*35). Hunter was also informed by way of
Washington and the Valley that Sheridan was on the way to meet
him. The canal and Central Road, and the regions penetrated by
them, were of vast importance to the enemy, furnishing and
carrying a large per cent. of all the supplies for the Army of
Northern Virginia and the people of Richmond. Before Sheridan
got off on the 7th news was received from Hunter reporting his
advance to Staunton and successful engagement with the enemy
near that place on the 5th, in which the Confederate commander,
W. S. Jones, was killed. On the 4th of June the enemy having
withdrawn his left corps, Burnside on our right was moved up
between Warren and Smith. On the 5th Birney returned to
Hancock, which extended his left now to the Chickahominy, and
Warren was withdrawn to Cold Harbor. Wright was directed to
send two divisions to the left to extend down the banks of that
stream to Bottom's Bridge. The cavalry extended still farther
east to Jones's Bridge.

On the 7th Abercrombie--who was in command at White House, and
who had been in command at our base of supplies in all the
changes made from the start--was ordered to take up the iron
from the York River Railroad and put it on boats, and to be in
readiness to move by water to City Point.

On the 8th Meade was directed to fortify a line down the bank
overlooking the Chickahominy, under cover of which the army
could move.

On the 9th Abercrombie was directed to send all organized troops
arriving at White House, without debarking from their transports,
to report to Butler. Halleck was at this time instructed to send
all reinforcements to City Point.

On the 11th I wrote:

COLD HARBOR, VA., June 11, 1864.

Commanding Department of Va. and N. C.

The movement to transfer this army to the south side of the
James River will commence after dark to-morrow night. Col.
Comstock, of my staff, was sent specially to ascertain what was
necessary to make your position secure in the interval during
which the enemy might use most of his force against you, and
also, to ascertain what point on the river we should reach to
effect a crossing if it should not be practicable to reach this
side of the river at Bermuda Hundred. Colonel Comstock has not
yet returned, so that I cannot make instructions as definite as
I would wish, but the time between this and Sunday night being
so short in which to get word to you, I must do the best I
can. Colonel Dent goes to the Chickahominy to take to you the
18th corps. The corps will leave its position in the trenches
as early in the evening, tomorrow, as possible, and make a
forced march to Cole's Landing or Ferry, where it should reach
by ten A.M. the following morning. This corps numbers now
15,300 men. They take with them neither wagons nor artillery;
these latter marching with the balance of the army to the James
River. The remainder of the army will cross the Chickahominy at
Long Bridge and at Jones's, and strike the river at the most
practicable crossing below City Point.

I directed several days ago that all reinforcements for the army
should be sent to you. I am not advised of the number that may
have gone, but suppose you have received from six to ten
thousand. General Smith will also reach you as soon as the
enemy could, going by the way of Richmond.

The balance of the force will not be more than one day behind,
unless detained by the whole of Lee's army, in which case you
will be strong enough.

I wish you would direct the proper staff officers, your
chief-engineer and your chief-quartermaster, to commence at once
the collection of all the means in their reach for crossing the
army on its arrival. If there is a point below City Point where
a pontoon bridge can be thrown, have it laid.

Expecting the arrival of the 18th corps by Monday night, if you
deem it practicable from the force you have to seize and hold
Petersburg, you may prepare to start, on the arrival of troops
to hold your present lines. I do not want Petersburg visited,
however, unless it is held, nor an attempt to take it, unless
you feel a reasonable degree of confidence of success. If you
should go there, I think troops should take nothing with them
except what they can carry, depending upon supplies being sent
after the place is secured. If Colonel Dent should not succeed
in securing the requisite amount of transportation for the 18th
corps before reaching you, please have the balance supplied.


P. S.--On reflection I will send the 18th corps by way of White
House. The distance which they will have to march will be
enough shorter to enable them to reach you about the same time,
and the uncertainty of navigation on the Chickahominy will be


COLD HARBOR, VA., June 11,1864.

Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Colonel Comstock, who visited the James River for the purpose of
ascertaining the best point below Bermuda Hundred to which to
march the army has not yet returned. It is now getting so late,
however, that all preparations may be made for the move to-morrow
night without waiting longer.

The movement will be made as heretofore agreed upon, that is,
the 18th corps make a rapid march with the infantry alone, their
wagons and artillery accompanying the balance of the army to
Cole's Landing or Ferry, and there embark for City Point, losing
no time for rest until they reach the latter point.

The 5th corps will seize Long Bridge and move out on the Long
Bridge Road to its junction with Quaker Road, or until stopped
by the enemy.

The other three corps will follow in such order as you may
direct, one of them crossing at Long Bridge, and two at Jones's
Bridge. After the crossing is effected, the most practicable
roads will be taken to reach about Fort Powhattan. Of course,
this is supposing the enemy makes no opposition to our
advance. The 5th corps, after securing the passage of the
balance of the army, will join or follow in rear of the corps
which crosses the same bridge with themselves. The wagon trains
should be kept well east of the troops, and if a crossing can be
found, or made lower down than Jones's they should take it.


P. S.--In view of the long march to reach Cole's Landing, and
the uncertainty of being able to embark a large number of men
there, the direction of the 18th corps may be changed to White
House. They should be directed to load up transports, and start
them as fast as loaded without waiting for the whole corps or
even whole divisions to go together.


About this time word was received (through the Richmond papers
of the 11th) that Crook and Averell had united and were moving
east. This, with the news of Hunter's successful engagement
near Staunton, was no doubt known to Lee before it was to me.
Then Sheridan leaving with two divisions of cavalry, looked
indeed threatening, both to Lee's communications and supplies.
Much of his cavalry was sent after Sheridan, and Early with
Ewell's entire corps was sent to the Valley. Supplies were
growing scarce in Richmond, and the sources from which to draw
them were in our hands. People from outside began to pour into
Richmond to help eat up the little on hand. Consternation
reigned there.

On the 12th Smith was ordered to move at night to White House,
not to stop until he reached there, and to take boats at once
for City Point, leaving his trains and artillery to move by land.

Soon after dark some of the cavalry at Long Bridge effected a
crossing by wading and floundering through the water and mud,
leaving their horses behind, and drove away the cavalry
pickets. A pontoon bridge was speedily thrown across, over
which the remainder of the army soon passed and pushed out for a
mile or two to watch and detain any advance that might be made
from the other side. Warren followed the cavalry, and by the
morning of the 13th had his whole corps over. Hancock followed
Warren. Burnside took the road to Jones's Bridge, followed by
Wright. Ferrero's division, with the wagon train, moved farther
east, by Window Shades and Cole's Ferry, our rear being covered
by cavalry.

It was known that the enemy had some gunboats at Richmond. These
might run down at night and inflict great damage upon us before
they could be sunk or captured by our navy. General Butler had,
in advance, loaded some vessels with stone ready to be sunk so as
to obstruct the channel in an emergency. On the 13th I sent
orders to have these sunk as high up the river as we could guard
them, and prevent their removal by the enemy.

As soon as Warren's corps was over the Chickahominy it marched
out and joined the cavalry in holding the roads from Richmond
while the army passed. No attempt was made by the enemy to
impede our march, however, but Warren and Wilson reported the
enemy strongly fortified in their front. By the evening of the
13th Hancock's corps was at Charles City Court House on the
James River. Burnside's and Wright's corps were on the
Chickahominy, and crossed during the night, Warren's corps and
the cavalry still covering the army. The material for a pontoon
bridge was already at hand and the work of laying it was
commenced immediately, under the superintendence of
Brigadier-General Benham, commanding the engineer brigade. On
the evening of the 14th the crossing commenced, Hancock in
advance, using both the bridge and boats.

When the Wilderness campaign commenced the Army of the Potomac,
including Burnside's--which was a separate command until the
24th of May when it was incorporated with the main
army--numbered about 116,000 men. During the progress of the
campaign about 40,000 reinforcements were received. At the
crossing of the James River June 14th-15th the army numbered
about 115,000. Besides the ordinary losses incident to a
campaign of six weeks' nearly constant fighting or skirmishing,
about one-half of the artillery was sent back to Washington, and
many men were discharged by reason of the expiration of their
term of service.* In estimating our strength every enlisted man
and every commissioned officer present is included, no matter
how employed; in bands, sick in field hospitals, hospital
attendants, company cooks and all. Operating in an enemy's
country, and being supplied always from a distant base, large
detachments had at all times to be sent from the front, not only
to guard the base of supplies and the roads to it, but all the
roads leading to our flanks and rear. We were also operating in
a country unknown to us, and without competent guides or maps
showing the roads accurately.

The manner of estimating numbers in the two armies differs
materially. In the Confederate army often only bayonets are
taken into account, never, I believe, do they estimate more than
are handling the guns of the artillery and armed with muskets
(*36) or carbines. Generally the latter are far enough away to
be excluded from the count in any one field. Officers and
details of enlisted men are not included. In the Northern
armies the estimate is most liberal, taking in all connected
with the army and drawing pay.

Estimated in the same manner as ours, Lee had not less than
80,000 men at the start. His reinforcements were about equal to
ours during the campaign, deducting the discharged men and those
sent back. He was on the defensive, and in a country in which
every stream, every road, every obstacle to the movement of
troops and every natural defence was familiar to him and his
army. The citizens were all friendly to him and his cause, and
could and did furnish him with accurate reports of our every
move. Rear guards were not necessary for him, and having always
a railroad at his back, large wagon trains were not required. All
circumstances considered we did not have any advantage in

General Lee, who had led the Army of Northern Virginia in all
these contests, was a very highly estimated man in the
Confederate army and States, and filled also a very high place
in the estimation of the people and press of the Northern
States. His praise was sounded throughout the entire North
after every action he was engaged in: the number of his forces
was always lowered and that of the National forces
exaggerated. He was a large, austere man, and I judge difficult
of approach to his subordinates. To be extolled by the entire
press of the South after every engagement, and by a portion of
the press North with equal vehemence, was calculated to give him
the entire confidence of his troops and to make him feared by his
antagonists. It was not an uncommon thing for my staff-officers
to hear from Eastern officers, "Well, Grant has never met Bobby
Lee yet." There were good and true officers who believe now
that the Army of Northern Virginia was superior to the Army of
the Potomac man to man. I do not believe so, except as the
advantages spoken of above made them so. Before the end I
believe the difference was the other way. The Army of Northern
Virginia became despondent and saw the end. It did not please
them. The National army saw the same thing, and were encouraged
by it.

The advance of the Army of the Potomac reached the James on the
14th of June. Preparations were at once commenced for laying
the pontoon bridges and crossing the river. As already stated,
I had previously ordered General Butler to have two vessels
loaded with stone and carried up the river to a point above that
occupied by our gunboats, where the channel was narrow, and sunk
there so as to obstruct the passage and prevent Confederate
gunboats from coming down the river. Butler had had these boats
filled and put in position, but had not had them sunk before my
arrival. I ordered this done, and also directed that he should
turn over all material and boats not then in use in the river to
be used in ferrying the troops across.

I then, on the 14th, took a steamer and ran up to Bermuda
Hundred to see General Butler for the purpose of directing a
movement against Petersburg, while our troops of the Army of the
Potomac were crossing.

I had sent General W. F. Smith back from Cold Harbor by the way
of White House, thence on steamers to City Point for the purpose
of giving General Butler more troops with which to accomplish
this result. General Butler was ordered to send Smith with his
troops reinforced, as far as that could be conveniently done,
from other parts of the Army of the James. He gave Smith about
six thousand reinforcements, including some twenty-five hundred
cavalry under Kautz, and about thirty-five hundred colored
infantry under Hinks.

The distance which Smith had to move to reach the enemy's lines
was about six miles, and the Confederate advance line of works
was but two miles outside of Petersburg. Smith was to move
under cover of night, up close to the enemy's works, and assault
as soon as he could after daylight. I believed then, and still
believe, that Petersburg could have been easily captured at that
time. It only had about 2,500 men in the defences besides some
irregular troops, consisting of citizens and employees in the
city who took up arms in case of emergency. Smith started as
proposed, but his advance encountered a rebel force intrenched
between City Point and their lines outside of Petersburg. This
position he carried, with some loss to the enemy; but there was
so much delay that it was daylight before his troops really got
off from there. While there I informed General Butler that
Hancock's corps would cross the river and move to Petersburg to
support Smith in case the latter was successful, and that I
could reinforce there more rapidly than Lee could reinforce from
his position.

I returned down the river to where the troops of the Army of the
Potomac now were, communicated to General Meade, in writing, the
directions I had given to General Butler and directed him
(Meade) to cross Hancock's corps over under cover of night, and
push them forward in the morning to Petersburg; halting them,
however, at a designated point until they could hear from
Smith. I also informed General Meade that I had ordered rations
from Bermuda Hundred for Hancock's corps, and desired him to
issue them speedily, and to lose no more time than was
absolutely necessary. The rations did not reach him, however,
and Hancock, while he got all his corps over during the night,
remained until half-past ten in the hope of receiving them. He
then moved without them, and on the road received a note from
General W. F. Smith, asking him to come on. This seems to be
the first information that General Hancock had received of the
fact that he was to go to Petersburg, or that anything
particular was expected of him. Otherwise he would have been
there by four o'clock in the afternoon.

Smith arrived in front of the enemy's lines early in the
forenoon of the 15th, and spent the day until after seven
o'clock in the evening in reconnoitering what appeared to be
empty works. The enemy's line consisted of redans occupying
commanding positions, with rifle-pits connecting them. To the
east side of Petersburg, from the Appomattox back, there were
thirteen of these redans extending a distance of several miles,
probably three. If they had been properly manned they could
have held out against any force that could have attacked them,
at least until reinforcements could have got up from the north
of Richmond.

Smith assaulted with the colored troops, and with success. By
nine o'clock at night he was in possession of five of these
redans and, of course, of the connecting lines of rifle-pits.
All of them contained artillery, which fell into our hands.
Hancock came up and proposed to take any part assigned to him;
and Smith asked him to relieve his men who were in the trenches.

Next morning, the 16th, Hancock himself was in command, and
captured another redan. Meade came up in the afternoon and
succeeded Hancock, who had to be relieved, temporarily, from the
command of his corps on account of the breaking out afresh of the
wound he had received at Gettysburg. During the day Meade
assaulted and carried one more redan to his right and two to his
left. In all this we lost very heavily. The works were not
strongly manned, but they all had guns in them which fell into
our hands, together with the men who were handling them in the
effort to repel these assaults.

Up to this time Beauregard, who had commanded south of Richmond,
had received no reinforcements, except Hoke's division from
Drury's Bluff,(*37) which had arrived on the morning of the
16th; though he had urged the authorities very strongly to send
them, believing, as he did, that Petersburg would be a valuable
prize which we might seek.

During the 17th the fighting was very severe and the losses
heavy; and at night our troops occupied about the same position
they had occupied in the morning, except that they held a redan
which had been captured by Potter during the day. During the
night, however, Beauregard fell back to the line which had been
already selected, and commenced fortifying it. Our troops
advanced on the 18th to the line which he had abandoned, and
found that the Confederate loss had been very severe, many of
the enemy's dead still remaining in the ditches and in front of

Colonel J. L. Chamberlain, of the 20th Maine, was wounded on the
18th. He was gallantly leading his brigade at the time, as he
had been in the habit of doing in all the engagements in which
he had previously been engaged. He had several times been
recommended for a brigadier-generalcy for gallant and
meritorious conduct. On this occasion, however, I promoted him
on the spot, and forwarded a copy of my order to the War
Department, asking that my act might be confirmed and
Chamberlain's name sent to the Senate for confirmation without
any delay. This was done, and at last a gallant and meritorious
officer received partial justice at the hands of his government,
which he had served so faithfully and so well.

If General Hancock's orders of the 15th had been communicated to
him, that officer, with his usual promptness, would undoubtedly
have been upon the ground around Petersburg as early as four
o'clock in the afternoon of the 15th. The days were long and it
would have given him considerable time before night. I do not
think there is any doubt that Petersburg itself could have been
carried without much loss; or, at least, if protected by inner
detached works, that a line could have been established very
much in rear of the one then occupied by the enemy. This would
have given us control of both the Weldon and South Side
railroads. This would also have saved an immense amount of hard
fighting which had to be done from the 15th to the 18th, and
would have given us greatly the advantage in the long siege
which ensued.

I now ordered the troops to be put under cover and allowed some
of the rest which they had so long needed. They remained quiet,
except that there was more or less firing every day, until the
22d, when General Meade ordered an advance towards the Weldon
Railroad. We were very anxious to get to that road, and even
round to the South Side Railroad if possible.

Meade moved Hancock's corps, now commanded by Birney, to the
left, with a view to at least force the enemy to stay within the
limits of his own line. General Wright, with the 6th corps, was
ordered by a road farther south, to march directly for the
Weldon road. The enemy passed in between these two corps and
attacked vigorously, and with very serious results to the
National troops, who were then withdrawn from their advanced

The Army of the Potomac was given the investment of Petersburg,
while the Army of the James held Bermuda Hundred and all the
ground we possessed north of the James River. The 9th corps,
Burnside's, was placed upon the right at Petersburg; the 5th,
Warren's, next; the 2d, Birney's, next; then the 6th, Wright's,
broken off to the left and south. Thus began the siege of



On the 7th of June, while at Cold Harbor, I had as already
indicated sent Sheridan with two divisions of cavalry to destroy
as much as he could of the Virginia Central Railroad. General
Hunter had been operating up the Shenandoah Valley with some
success, having fought a battle near Staunton where he captured
a great many prisoners, besides killing and wounding a good many
men. After the battle he formed a junction at Staunton with
Averell and Crook, who had come up from the Kanawha, or Gauley
River. It was supposed, therefore, that General Hunter would be
about Charlottesville, Virginia, by the time Sheridan could get
there, doing on the way the damage that he was sent to do.

I gave Sheridan instructions to have Hunter, in case he should
meet him about Charlottesville, join and return with him to the
Army of the Potomac. Lee, hearing of Hunter's success in the
valley, started Breckinridge out for its defence at once.
Learning later of Sheridan's going with two divisions, he also
sent Hampton with two divisions of cavalry, his own and
Fitz-Hugh Lee's.

Sheridan moved to the north side of the North Anna to get out
west, and learned of the movement of these troops to the south
side of the same stream almost as soon as they had started. He
pushed on to get to Trevilian Station to commence his
destruction at that point. On the night of the 10th he
bivouacked some six or seven miles east of Trevilian, while
Fitz-Hugh Lee was the same night at Trevilian Station and
Hampton but a few miles away.

During the night Hampton ordered an advance on Sheridan, hoping,
no doubt, to surprise and very badly cripple him. Sheridan,
however, by a counter move sent Custer on a rapid march to get
between the two divisions of the enemy and into their rear. This
he did successfully, so that at daylight, when the assault was
made, the enemy found himself at the same time resisted in front
and attacked in rear, and broke in some confusion. The losses
were probably very light on both sides in killed and wounded,
but Sheridan got away with some five hundred prisoners and sent
them to City Point.

During that day, the 11th, Sheridan moved into Trevilian
Station, and the following day proceeded to tear up the road
east and west. There was considerable fighting during the whole
of the day, but the work of destruction went on. In the
meantime, at night, the enemy had taken possession of the
crossing which Sheridan had proposed to take to go north when he
left Trevilian. Sheridan learned, however, from some of the
prisoners he had captured here, that General Hunter was about
Lynchburg, and therefore that there was no use of his going on
to Charlottesville with a view to meet him.

Sheridan started back during the night of the 12th, and made his
way north and farther east, coming around by the north side of
White House, and arriving there on the 21st. Here he found an
abundance of forage for his animals, food for his men, and
security while resting. He had been obliged to leave about
ninety of his own men in the field-hospital which he had
established near Trevilian, and these necessarily fell into the
hands of the enemy.

White House up to this time had been a depot; but now that our
troops were all on the James River, it was no longer wanted as a
store of supplies. Sheridan was, therefore, directed to break it
up; which he did on the 22d of June, bringing the garrison and an
immense wagon train with him. All these were over the James
River by the 26th of the month, and Sheridan ready to follow.

In the meantime Meade had sent Wilson's division on a raid to
destroy the Weldon and South Side roads. Now that Sheridan was
safe and Hampton free to return to Richmond with his cavalry,
Wilson's position became precarious. Meade therefore, on the
27th, ordered Sheridan over the river to make a demonstration in
favor of Wilson. Wilson got back, though not without severe
loss, having struck both roads, but the damage done was soon

After these events comparative quiet reigned about Petersburg
until late in July. The time, however, was spent in
strengthening the intrenchments and making our position
generally more secure against a sudden attack. In the meantime
I had to look after other portions of my command, where things
had not been going on so favorably, always, as I could have

General Hunter who had been appointed to succeed Sigel in the
Shenandoah Valley immediately took up the offensive. He met the
enemy on the 5th of June at Piedmont, and defeated him. On the
8th he formed a junction with Crook and Averell at Staunton,
from which place he moved direct on Lynchburg, via Lexington,
which he reached and invested on the 16th. Up to this time he
was very successful; and but for the difficulty of taking with
him sufficient ordnance stores over so long a march, through a
hostile country, he would, no doubt, have captured Lynchburg.
The destruction of the enemy's supplies and manufactories had
been very great. To meet this movement under General Hunter,
General Lee sent Early with his corps, a part of which reached
Lynchburg before Hunter. After some skirmishing on the 17th and
18th, General Hunter, owing to a want of ammunition to give
battle, retired from before the place. Unfortunately, this want
of ammunition left him no choice of route for his return but by
the way of the Gauley and Kanawha rivers, thence up the Ohio
River, returning to Harper's Ferry by way of the Baltimore and
Ohio Railroad. A long time was consumed in making this
movement. Meantime the valley was left open to Early's troops,
and others in that quarter; and Washington also was uncovered.
Early took advantage of this condition of affairs and moved on

In the absence of Hunter, General Lew Wallace, with headquarters
at Baltimore, commanded the department in which the Shenandoah
lay. His surplus of troops with which to move against the enemy
was small in number. Most of these were raw and, consequently,
very much inferior to our veterans and to the veterans which
Early had with him; but the situation of Washington was
precarious, and Wallace moved with commendable promptitude to
meet the enemy at the Monocacy. He could hardly have expected
to defeat him badly, but he hoped to cripple and delay him until
Washington could be put into a state of preparation for his
reception. I had previously ordered General Meade to send a
division to Baltimore for the purpose of adding to the defences
of Washington, and he had sent Ricketts's division of the 6th
corps (Wright's), which arrived in Baltimore on the 8th of
July. Finding that Wallace had gone to the front with his
command, Ricketts immediately took the cars and followed him to
the Monocacy with his entire division. They met the enemy and,
as might have been expected, were defeated; but they succeeded
in stopping him for the day on which the battle took place. The
next morning Early started on his march to the capital of the
Nation, arriving before it on the 11th.

Learning of the gravity of the situation I had directed General
Meade to also order Wright with the rest of his corps directly
to Washington for the relief of that place, and the latter
reached there the very day that Early arrived before it. The
19th corps, which had been stationed in Louisiana, having been
ordered up to reinforce the armies about Richmond, had about
this time arrived at Fortress Monroe, on their way to join us. I
diverted them from that point to Washington, which place they
reached, almost simultaneously with Wright, on the 11th. The
19th corps was commanded by Major-General Emory.

Early made his reconnoissance with a view of attacking on the
following morning, the 12th; but the next morning he found our
intrenchments, which were very strong, fully manned. He at once
commenced to retreat, Wright following. There is no telling how
much this result was contributed to by General Lew Wallace's
leading what might well be considered almost a forlorn hope. If
Early had been but one day earlier he might have entered the
capital before the arrival of the reinforcements I had sent.
Whether the delay caused by the battle amounted to a day or not,
General Wallace contributed on this occasion, by the defeat of
the troops under him a greater benefit to the cause than often
falls to the lot of a commander of an equal force to render by
means of a victory.

Farther west also the troubles were threatening. Some time
before, Forrest had met Sturgis in command of some of our
cavalry in Mississippi and handled him very roughly, gaining a
very great victory over him. This left Forrest free to go
almost where he pleased, and to cut the roads in rear of Sherman
who was then advancing. Sherman was abundantly able to look
after the army that he was immediately with, and all of his
military division so long as he could communicate with it; but
it was my place to see that he had the means with which to hold
his rear. Two divisions under A. J. Smith had been sent to
Banks in Louisiana some months before. Sherman ordered these
back, with directions to attack Forrest. Smith met and defeated
him very badly. I then directed that Smith should hang to
Forrest and not let him go; and to prevent by all means his
getting upon the Memphis and Nashville Railroad. Sherman had
anticipated me in this matter, and given the same orders in
substance; but receiving my directions for this order to Smith,
he repeated it.

On the 25th of June General Burnside had commenced running a
mine from about the centre of his front under the Confederate
works confronting him. He was induced to do this by Colonel
Pleasants, of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, whose regiment was
mostly composed of miners, and who was himself a practical
miner. Burnside had submitted the scheme to Meade and myself,
and we both approved of it, as a means of keeping the men
occupied. His position was very favorable for carrying on this
work, but not so favorable for the operations to follow its
completion. The position of the two lines at that point were
only about a hundred yards apart with a comparatively deep
ravine intervening. In the bottom of this ravine the work
commenced. The position was unfavorable in this particular:
that the enemy's line at that point was re-entering, so that its
front was commanded by their own lines both to the right and
left. Then, too, the ground was sloping upward back of the
Confederate line for a considerable distance, and it was
presumable that the enemy had, at least, a detached work on this
highest point. The work progressed, and on the 23d of July the
mine was finished ready for charging; but I had this work of
charging deferred until we were ready for it.

On the 17th of July several deserters came in and said that
there was great consternation in Richmond, and that Lee was
coming out to make an attack upon us the object being to put us
on the defensive so that he might detach troops to go to Georgia
where the army Sherman was operating against was said to be in
great trouble. I put the army commanders, Meade and Butler, on
the lookout, but the attack was not made.

I concluded, then, a few days later, to do something in the way
of offensive movement myself, having in view something of the
same object that Lee had had. Wright's and Emory's corps were
in Washington, and with this reduction of my force Lee might
very readily have spared some troops from the defences to send
West. I had other objects in view, however, besides keeping Lee
where he was. The mine was constructed and ready to be exploded,
and I wanted to take that occasion to carry Petersburg if I
could. It was the object, therefore, to get as many of Lee's
troops away from the south side of the James River as
possible. Accordingly, on the 26th, we commenced a movement
with Hancock's corps and Sheridan's cavalry to the north side by
the way of Deep Bottom, where Butler had a pontoon bridge laid.
The plan, in the main, was to let the cavalry cut loose and,
joining with Kautz's cavalry of the Army of the James, get by
Lee's lines and destroy as much as they could of the Virginia
Central Railroad, while, in the mean time, the infantry was to
move out so as to protect their rear and cover their retreat
back when they should have got through with their work. We were
successful in drawing the enemy's troops to the north side of the
James as I expected. The mine was ordered to be charged, and the
morning of the 30th of July was the time fixed for its
explosion. I gave Meade minute orders (*38) on the 24th
directing how I wanted the assault conducted, which orders he
amplified into general instructions for the guidance of the
troops that were to be engaged.

Meade's instructions, which I, of course, approved most
heartily, were all that I can see now was necessary. The only
further precaution which he could have taken, and which he could
not foresee, would have been to have different men to execute

The gallery to the mine was over five hundred feet long from
where it entered the ground to the point where it was under the
enemy's works, and with a cross gallery of something over eighty
feet running under their lines. Eight chambers had been left,
requiring a ton of powder each to charge them. All was ready by
the time I had prescribed; and on the 29th Hancock and Sheridan
were brought back near the James River with their troops. Under
cover of night they started to recross the bridge at Deep Bottom,
and to march directly for that part of our lines in front of the

Warren was to hold his line of intrenchments with a sufficient
number of men and concentrate the balance on the right next to
Burnside's corps, while Ord, now commanding the 18th corps,
temporarily under Meade, was to form in the rear of Burnside to
support him when he went in. All were to clear off the parapets
and the _abatis_ in their front so as to leave the space as open
as possible, and be able to charge the moment the mine had been
sprung and Burnside had taken possession. Burnside's corps was
not to stop in the crater at all but push on to the top of the
hill, supported on the right and left by Ord's and Warren's

Warren and Ord fulfilled their instructions perfectly so far as
making ready was concerned. Burnside seemed to have paid no
attention whatever to the instructions, and left all the
obstruction in his own front for his troops to get over in the
best way they could. The four divisions of his corps were
commanded by Generals Potter, Willcox, Ledlie and Ferrero. The
last was a colored division; and Burnside selected it to make
the assault. Meade interfered with this. Burnside then took
Ledlie's division--a worse selection than the first could have
been. In fact, Potter and Willcox were the only division
commanders Burnside had who were equal to the occasion. Ledlie
besides being otherwise inefficient, proved also to possess
disqualification less common among soldiers.

There was some delay about the explosion of the mine so that it
did not go off until about five o'clock in the morning. When it
did explode it was very successful, making a crater twenty feet
deep and something like a hundred feet in length. Instantly one
hundred and ten cannon and fifty mortars, which had been placed
in the most commanding positions covering the ground to the
right and left of where the troops were to enter the enemy's
lines, commenced playing. Ledlie's division marched into the
crater immediately on the explosion, but most of the men stopped
there in the absence of any one to give directions; their
commander having found some safe retreat to get into before they
started. There was some delay on the left and right in
advancing, but some of the troops did get in and turn to the
right and left, carrying the rifle-pits as I expected they would

There had been great consternation in Petersburg, as we were
well aware, about a rumored mine that we were going to
explode. They knew we were mining, and they had failed to cut
our mine off by countermining, though Beauregard had taken the
precaution to run up a line of intrenchments to the rear of that
part of their line fronting where they could see that our men
were at work. We had learned through deserters who had come in
that the people had very wild rumors about what was going on on
our side. They said that we had undermined the whole of
Petersburg; that they were resting upon a slumbering volcano and
did not know at what moment they might expect an eruption. I
somewhat based my calculations upon this state of feeling, and
expected that when the mine was exploded the troops to the right
and left would flee in all directions, and that our troops, if
they moved promptly, could get in and strengthen themselves
before the enemy had come to a realization of the true
situation. It was just as I expected it would be. We could see
the men running without any apparent object except to get away.
It was half an hour before musketry firing, to amount to
anything, was opened upon our men in the crater. It was an hour
before the enemy got artillery up to play upon them; and it was
nine o'clock before Lee got up reinforcements from his right to
join in expelling our troops.

The effort was a stupendous failure. It cost us about four
thousand men, mostly, however, captured; and all due to
inefficiency on the part of the corps commander and the
incompetency of the division commander who was sent to lead the

After being fully assured of the failure of the mine, and
finding that most of that part of Lee's army which had been
drawn north of the James River were still there, I gave Meade
directions to send a corps of infantry and the cavalry next
morning, before Lee could get his forces back, to destroy
fifteen or twenty miles of the Weldon Railroad. But misfortunes
never come singly. I learned during that same afternoon that
Wright's pursuit of Early was feeble because of the constant and
contrary orders he had been receiving from Washington, while I
was cut off from immediate communication by reason of our cable
across Chesapeake Bay being broken. Early, however, was not
aware of the fact that Wright was not pursuing until he had
reached Strasburg. Finding that he was not pursued he turned
back to Winchester, where Crook was stationed with a small
force, and drove him out. He then pushed north until he had
reached the Potomac, then he sent McCausland across to
Chambersburg, Pa., to destroy that town. Chambersburg was a
purely defenceless town with no garrison whatever, and no
fortifications; yet McCausland, under Early's orders, burned the
place and left about three hundred families houseless. This
occurred on the 30th of July. I rescinded my orders for the
troops to go out to destroy the Weldon Railroad, and directed
them to embark for Washington City. After burning Chambersburg
McCausland retreated, pursued by our cavalry, towards
Cumberland. They were met and defeated by General Kelley and
driven into Virginia.

The Shenandoah Valley was very important to the Confederates,
because it was the principal storehouse they now had for feeding
their armies about Richmond. It was well known that they would
make a desperate struggle to maintain it. It had been the
source of a great deal of trouble to us heretofore to guard that
outlet to the north, partly because of the incompetency of some
of the commanders, but chiefly because of interference from

It seemed to be the policy of General Halleck and Secretary
Stanton to keep any force sent there, in pursuit of the invading
army, moving right and left so as to keep between the enemy and
our capital; and, generally speaking, they pursued this policy
until all knowledge of the whereabouts of the enemy was lost.
They were left, therefore, free to supply themselves with
horses, beef cattle, and such provisions as they could carry
away from Western Maryland and Pennsylvania. I determined to
put a stop to this. I started Sheridan at once for that field
of operation, and on the following day sent another division of
his cavalry.

I had previously asked to have Sheridan assigned to that
command, but Mr. Stanton objected, on the ground that he was too
young for so important a command. On the 1st of August when I
sent reinforcements for the protection of Washington, I sent the
following orders:


August 1, 1864, 11.30 A.M.

Washington D. C.

I am sending General Sheridan for temporary duty whilst the
enemy is being expelled from the border. Unless General Hunter
is in the field in person, I want Sheridan put in command of all
the troops in the field, with instructions to put himself south
of the enemy and follow him to the death. Wherever the enemy
goes let our troops go also. Once started up the valley they
ought to be followed until we get possession of the Virginia
Central Railroad. If General Hunter is in the field, give
Sheridan direct command of the 6th corps and cavalry division.
All the cavalry, I presume, will reach Washington in the course
of to-morrow.


The President in some way or other got to see this dispatch of
mine directing certain instructions to be given to the
commanders in the field, operating against Early, and sent me
the following very characteristic dispatch:

WASHINGTON, D. C., August 3, 1864.

Cypher. 6 P.M.,

City Point, Va.


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