Part 9 out of 16

by remaining near Harper's Ferry. Every mile he advanced also
gave us possession of stores on which Lee relied. Butler was to
advance by the James River, having Richmond and Petersburg as his

Before the advance commenced I visited Butler at Fort Monroe.
This was the first time I had ever met him. Before giving him
any order as to the part he was to play in the approaching
campaign I invited his views. They were very much such as I
intended to direct, and as I did direct (*24), in writing,
before leaving.

General W. F. Smith, who had been promoted to the rank of
major-general shortly after the battle of Chattanooga on my
recommendation, had not yet been confirmed. I found a decided
prejudice against his confirmation by a majority of the Senate,
but I insisted that his services had been such that he should be
rewarded. My wishes were now reluctantly complied with, and I
assigned him to the command of one of the corps under General
Butler. I was not long in finding out that the objections to
Smith's promotion were well founded.

In one of my early interviews with the President I expressed my
dissatisfaction with the little that had been accomplished by
the cavalry so far in the war, and the belief that it was
capable of accomplishing much more than it had done if under a
thorough leader. I said I wanted the very best man in the army
for that command. Halleck was present and spoke up, saying:
"How would Sheridan do?" I replied: "The very man I want."
The President said I could have anybody I wanted. Sheridan was
telegraphed for that day, and on his arrival was assigned to the
command of the cavalry corps with the Army of the Potomac. This
relieved General Alfred Pleasonton. It was not a reflection on
that officer, however, for I did not know but that he had been
as efficient as any other cavalry commander.

Banks in the Department of the Gulf was ordered to assemble all
the troops he had at New Orleans in time to join in the general
move, Mobile to be his objective.

At this time I was not entirely decided as to whether I should
move the Army of the Potomac by the right flank of the enemy, or
by his left. Each plan presented advantages. (*25) If by his
right--my left--the Potomac, Chesapeake Bay and tributaries
would furnish us an easy hauling distance of every position the
army could occupy from the Rapidan to the James River. But Lee
could, if he chose, detach or move his whole army north on a
line rather interior to the one I would have to take in
following. A movement by his left--our right--would obviate
this; but all that was done would have to be done with the
supplies and ammunition we started with. All idea of adopting
this latter plan was abandoned when the limited quantity of
supplies possible to take with us was considered. The country
over which we would have to pass was so exhausted of all food or
forage that we would be obliged to carry everything with us.

While these preparations were going on the enemy was not
entirely idle. In the West Forrest made a raid in West
Tennessee up to the northern border, capturing the garrison of
four or five hundred men at Union City, and followed it up by an
attack on Paducah, Kentucky, on the banks of the Ohio. While he
was able to enter the city he failed to capture the forts or any
part of the garrison. On the first intelligence of Forrest's
raid I telegraphed Sherman to send all his cavalry against him,
and not to let him get out of the trap he had put himself
into. Sherman had anticipated me by sending troops against him
before he got my order.

Forrest, however, fell back rapidly, and attacked the troops at
Fort Pillow, a station for the protection of the navigation of
the Mississippi River. The garrison consisted of a regiment of
colored troops, infantry, and a detachment of Tennessee
cavalry. These troops fought bravely, but were overpowered. I
will leave Forrest in his dispatches to tell what he did with

"The river was dyed," he says, "with the blood of the
slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was
upward of five hundred killed, but few of the officers
escaping. My loss was about twenty killed. It is hoped that
these facts will demonstrate to the Northern people that negro
soldiers cannot cope with Southerners." Subsequently Forrest
made a report in which he left out the part which shocks
humanity to read.

At the East, also, the rebels were busy. I had said to Halleck
that Plymouth and Washington, North Carolina, were unnecessary
to hold. It would be better to have the garrisons engaged there
added to Butler's command. If success attended our arms both
places, and others too, would fall into our hands naturally.
These places had been occupied by Federal troops before I took
command of the armies, and I knew that the Executive would be
reluctant to abandon them, and therefore explained my views; but
before my views were carried out the rebels captured the garrison
at Plymouth. I then ordered the abandonment of Washington, but
directed the holding of New Berne at all hazards. This was
essential because New Berne was a port into which blockade
runners could enter.

General Banks had gone on an expedition up the Red River long
before my promotion to general command. I had opposed the
movement strenuously, but acquiesced because it was the order of
my superior at the time. By direction of Halleck I had
reinforced Banks with a corps of about ten thousand men from
Sherman's command. This reinforcement was wanted back badly
before the forward movement commenced. But Banks had got so far
that it seemed best that he should take Shreveport on the Red
River, and turn over the line of that river to Steele, who
commanded in Arkansas, to hold instead of the line of the
Arkansas. Orders were given accordingly, and with the
expectation that the campaign would be ended in time for Banks
to return A. J. Smith's command to where it belonged and get
back to New Orleans himself in time to execute his part in the
general plan. But the expedition was a failure. Banks did not
get back in time to take part in the programme as laid down. Nor
was Smith returned until long after the movements of May, 1864,
had been begun. The services of forty thousand veteran troops,
over and above the number required to hold all that was
necessary in the Department of the Gulf, were thus paralyzed. It
is but just to Banks, however, to say that his expedition was
ordered from Washington and he was in no way responsible except
for the conduct of it. I make no criticism on this point. He
opposed the expedition.

By the 27th of April spring had so far advanced as to justify me
in fixing a day for the great move. On that day Burnside left
Annapolis to occupy Meade's position between Bull Run and the
Rappahannock. Meade was notified and directed to bring his
troops forward to his advance. On the following day Butler was
notified of my intended advance on the 4th of May, and he was
directed to move the night of the same day and get as far up the
James River as possible by daylight, and push on from there to
accomplish the task given him. He was also notified that
reinforcements were being collected in Washington City, which
would be forwarded to him should the enemy fall back into the
trenches at Richmond. The same day Sherman was directed to get
his forces up ready to advance on the 5th. Sigel was in
Winchester and was notified to move in conjunction with the

The criticism has been made by writers on the campaign from the
Rapidan to the James River that all the loss of life could have
been obviated by moving the army there on transports. Richmond
was fortified and intrenched so perfectly that one man inside to
defend was more than equal to five outside besieging or
assaulting. To get possession of Lee's army was the first great
object. With the capture of his army Richmond would necessarily
follow. It was better to fight him outside of his stronghold
than in it. If the Army of the Potomac had been moved bodily to
the James River by water Lee could have moved a part of his
forces back to Richmond, called Beauregard from the south to
reinforce it, and with the balance moved on to Washington. Then,
too, I ordered a move, simultaneous with that of the Army of the
Potomac, up the James River by a formidable army already
collected at the mouth of the river.

While my headquarters were at Culpeper, from the 26th of March
to the 4th of May, I generally visited Washington once a week to
confer with the Secretary of War and President. On the last
occasion, a few days before moving, a circumstance occurred
which came near postponing my part in the campaign altogether.
Colonel John S. Mosby had for a long time been commanding a
partisan corps, or regiment, which operated in the rear of the
Army of the Potomac. On my return to the field on this
occasion, as the train approached Warrenton Junction, a heavy
cloud of dust was seen to the east of the road as if made by a
body of cavalry on a charge. Arriving at the junction the train
was stopped and inquiries made as to the cause of the dust. There
was but one man at the station, and he informed us that Mosby had
crossed a few minutes before at full speed in pursuit of Federal
cavalry. Had he seen our train coming, no doubt he would have
let his prisoners escape to capture the train. I was on a
special train, if I remember correctly, without any guard.

Since the close of the war I have come to know Colonel Mosby
personally, and somewhat intimately. He is a different man
entirely from what I had supposed. He is slender, not tall,
wiry, and looks as if he could endure any amount of physical
exercise. He is able, and thoroughly honest and truthful. There
were probably but few men in the South who could have commanded
successfully a separate detachment in the rear of an opposing
army, and so near the border of hostilities, as long as he did
without losing his entire command.

On this same visit to Washington I had my last interview with
the President before reaching the James River. He had of course
become acquainted with the fact that a general movement had been
ordered all along the line, and seemed to think it a new feature
in war. I explained to him that it was necessary to have a great
number of troops to guard and hold the territory we had captured,
and to prevent incursions into the Northern States. These troops
could perform this service just as well by advancing as by
remaining still; and by advancing they would compel the enemy to
keep detachments to hold them back, or else lay his own territory
open to invasion. His answer was: "Oh, yes! I see that. As we
say out West, if a man can't skin he must hold a leg while
somebody else does."

There was a certain incident connected with the Wilderness
campaign of which it may not be out of place to speak; and to
avoid a digression further on I will mention it here.

A few days before my departure from Culpeper the Honorable E. B.
Washburne visited me there, and remained with my headquarters for
some distance south, through the battle in the Wilderness and, I
think, to Spottsylvania. He was accompanied by a Mr. Swinton,
whom he presented as a literary gentleman who wished to
accompany the army with a view of writing a history of the war
when it was over. He assured me--and I have no doubt Swinton
gave him the assurance--that he was not present as a
correspondent of the press. I expressed an entire willingness
to have him (Swinton) accompany the army, and would have allowed
him to do so as a correspondent, restricted, however, in the
character of the information he could give. We received
Richmond papers with about as much regularity as if there had
been no war, and knew that our papers were received with equal
regularity by the Confederates. It was desirable, therefore,
that correspondents should not be privileged spies of the enemy
within our lines.

Probably Mr. Swinton expected to be an invited guest at my
headquarters, and was disappointed that he was not asked to
become so. At all events he was not invited, and soon I found
that he was corresponding with some paper (I have now forgotten
which one), thus violating his word either expressed or
implied. He knew of the assurance Washburne had given as to the
character of his mission. I never saw the man from the day of
our introduction to the present that I recollect. He
accompanied us, however, for a time at least.

The second night after crossing the Rapidan (the night of the
5th of May) Colonel W. R. Rowley, of my staff, was acting as
night officer at my headquarters. A short time before midnight
I gave him verbal instructions for the night. Three days later
I read in a Richmond paper a verbatim report of these

A few nights still later (after the first, and possibly after
the second, day's fighting in the Wilderness) General Meade came
to my tent for consultation, bringing with him some of his staff
officers. Both his staff and mine retired to the camp-fire some
yards in front of the tent, thinking our conversation should be
private. There was a stump a little to one side, and between
the front of the tent and camp-fire. One of my staff, Colonel
T. S. Bowers, saw what he took to be a man seated on the ground
and leaning against the stump, listening to the conversation
between Meade and myself. He called the attention of Colonel
Rowley to it. The latter immediately took the man by the
shoulder and asked him, in language more forcible than polite,
what he was doing there. The man proved to be Swinton, the
"historian," and his replies to the question were evasive and
unsatisfactory, and he was warned against further eaves-dropping.

The next I heard of Mr. Swinton was at Cold Harbor. General
Meade came to my headquarters saying that General Burnside had
arrested Swinton, who at some previous time had given great
offence, and had ordered him to be shot that afternoon. I
promptly ordered the prisoner to be released, but that he must
be expelled from the lines of the army not to return again on
pain of punishment.



The armies were now all ready to move for the accomplishment of
a single object. They were acting as a unit so far as such a
thing was possible over such a vast field. Lee, with the
capital of the Confederacy, was the main end to which all were
working. Johnston, with Atlanta, was an important obstacle in
the way of our accomplishing the result aimed at, and was
therefore almost an independent objective. It was of less
importance only because the capture of Johnston and his army
would not produce so immediate and decisive a result in closing
the rebellion as would the possession of Richmond, Lee and his
army. All other troops were employed exclusively in support of
these two movements. This was the plan; and I will now endeavor
to give, as concisely as I can, the method of its execution,
outlining first the operations of minor detached but
co-operative columns.

As stated before, Banks failed to accomplish what he had been
sent to do on the Red River, and eliminated the use of forty
thousand veterans whose cooperation in the grand campaign had
been expected--ten thousand with Sherman and thirty thousand
against Mobile.

Sigel's record is almost equally brief. He moved out, it is
true, according to programme; but just when I was hoping to hear
of good work being done in the valley I received instead the
following announcement from Halleck: "Sigel is in full retreat
on Strasburg. He will do nothing but run; never did anything
else." The enemy had intercepted him about New Market and
handled him roughly, leaving him short six guns, and some nine
hundred men out of his six thousand.

The plan had been for an advance of Sigel's forces in two
columns. Though the one under his immediate command failed
ingloriously the other proved more fortunate. Under Crook and
Averell his western column advanced from the Gauley in West
Virginia at the appointed time, and with more happy results.
They reached the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad at Dublin and
destroyed a depot of supplies, besides tearing up several miles
of road and burning the bridge over New River. Having
accomplished this they recrossed the Alleghanies to Meadow
Bluffs and there awaited further orders.

Butler embarked at Fort Monroe with all his command, except the
cavalry and some artillery which moved up the south bank of the
James River. His steamers moved first up Chesapeake Bay and
York River as if threatening the rear of Lee's army. At
midnight they turned back, and Butler by daylight was far up the
James River. He seized City Point and Bermuda Hundred early in
the day, without loss and, no doubt, very much to the surprise
of the enemy.

This was the accomplishment of the first step contemplated in my
instructions to Butler. He was to act from here, looking to
Richmond as his objective point. I had given him to understand
that I should aim to fight Lee between the Rapidan and Richmond
if he would stand; but should Lee fall back into Richmond I
would follow up and make a junction of the armies of the Potomac
and the James on the James River. He was directed to secure a
footing as far up the south side of the river as he could at as
early a date as possible.

Butler was in position by the 6th of May and had begun
intrenching, and on the 7th he sent out his cavalry from Suffolk
to cut the Weldon Railroad. He also sent out detachments to
destroy the railroad between Petersburg and Richmond, but no
great success attended these latter efforts. He made no great
effort to establish himself on that road and neglected to attack
Petersburg, which was almost defenceless. About the 11th he
advanced slowly until he reached the works at Drury's Bluff,
about half way between Bermuda Hundred and Richmond. In the
mean time Beauregard had been gathering reinforcements. On the
16th he attacked Butler with great vigor, and with such success
as to limit very materially the further usefulness of the Army
of the James as a distinct factor in the campaign. I afterward
ordered a portion of it to join the Army of the Potomac, leaving
a sufficient force with Butler to man his works, hold securely
the footing he had already gained and maintain a threatening
front toward the rear of the Confederate capital.

The position which General Butler had chosen between the two
rivers, the James and Appomattox, was one of great natural
strength, one where a large area of ground might be thoroughly
inclosed by means of a single intrenched line, and that a very
short one in comparison with the extent of territory which it
thoroughly protected. His right was protected by the James
River, his left by the Appomattox, and his rear by their
junction--the two streams uniting near by. The bends of the two
streams shortened the line that had been chosen for
intrenchments, while it increased the area which the line

Previous to ordering any troops from Butler I sent my chief
engineer, General Barnard, from the Army of the Potomac to that
of the James to inspect Butler's position and ascertain whether
I could again safely make an order for General Butler's movement
in co-operation with mine, now that I was getting so near
Richmond; or, if I could not, whether his position was strong
enough to justify me in withdrawing some of his troops and
having them brought round by water to White House to join me and
reinforce the Army of the Potomac. General Barnard reported the
position very strong for defensive purposes, and that I could do
the latter with great security; but that General Butler could not
move from where he was, in co-operation, to produce any effect.
He said that the general occupied a place between the James and
Appomattox rivers which was of great strength, and where with an
inferior force he could hold it for an indefinite length of time
against a superior; but that he could do nothing offensively. I
then asked him why Butler could not move out from his lines and
push across the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad to the rear and
on the south side of Richmond. He replied that it was
impracticable, because the enemy had substantially the same line
across the neck of land that General Butler had. He then took
out his pencil and drew a sketch of the locality, remarking that
the position was like a bottle and that Butler's line of
intrenchments across the neck represented the cork; that the
enemy had built an equally strong line immediately in front of
him across the neck; and it was therefore as if Butler was in a
bottle. He was perfectly safe against an attack; but, as
Barnard expressed it, the enemy had corked the bottle and with a
small force could hold the cork in its place. This struck me as
being very expressive of his position, particularly when I saw
the hasty sketch which General Barnard had drawn; and in making
my subsequent report I used that expression without adding
quotation marks, never thinking that anything had been said that
would attract attention--as this did, very much to the annoyance,
no doubt, of General Butler and, I know, very much to my own. I
found afterwards that this was mentioned in the notes of General
Badeau's book, which, when they were shown to me, I asked to have
stricken out; yet it was retained there, though against my

I make this statement here because, although I have often made
it before, it has never been in my power until now to place it
where it will correct history; and I desire to rectify all
injustice that I may have done to individuals, particularly to
officers who were gallantly serving their country during the
trying period of the war for the preservation of the Union.
General Butler certainly gave his very earnest support to the
war; and he gave his own best efforts personally to the
suppression of the rebellion.

The further operations of the Army of the James can best be
treated of in connection with those of the Army of the Potomac,
the two being so intimately associated and connected as to be
substantially one body in which the individuality of the
supporting wing is merged.

Before giving the reader a summary of Sherman's great Atlanta
campaign, which must conclude my description of the various
co-operative movements preparatory to proceeding with that of
the operations of the centre, I will briefly mention Sheridan's
first raid upon Lee's communications which, though an incident
of the operations on the main line and not specifically marked
out in the original plan, attained in its brilliant execution
and results all the proportions of an independent campaign. By
thus anticipating, in point of time, I will be able to more
perfectly observe the continuity of events occurring in my
immediate front when I shall have undertaken to describe our
advance from the Rapidan.

On the 8th of May, just after the battle of the Wilderness and
when we were moving on Spottsylvania I directed Sheridan
verbally to cut loose from the Army of the Potomac, pass around
the left of Lee's army and attack his cavalry: to cut the two
roads--one running west through Gordonsville, Charlottesville
and Lynchburg, the other to Richmond, and, when compelled to do
so for want of forage and rations, to move on to the James River
and draw these from Butler's supplies. This move took him past
the entire rear of Lee's army. These orders were also given in
writing through Meade.

The object of this move was three-fold. First, if successfully
executed, and it was, he would annoy the enemy by cutting his
line of supplies and telegraphic communications, and destroy or
get for his own use supplies in store in the rear and coming
up. Second, he would draw the enemy's cavalry after him, and
thus better protect our flanks, rear and trains than by
remaining with the army. Third, his absence would save the
trains drawing his forage and other supplies from
Fredericksburg, which had now become our base. He started at
daylight the next morning, and accomplished more than was
expected. It was sixteen days before he got back to the Army of
the Potomac.

The course Sheridan took was directly to Richmond. Before night
Stuart, commanding the Confederate cavalry, came on to the rear
of his command. But the advance kept on, crossed the North
Anna, and at Beaver Dam, a station on the Virginia Central
Railroad, recaptured four hundred Union prisoners on their way
to Richmond, destroyed the road and used and destroyed a large
amount of subsistence and medical stores.

Stuart, seeing that our cavalry was pushing towards Richmond,
abandoned the pursuit on the morning of the 10th and, by a
detour and an exhausting march, interposed between Sheridan and
Richmond at Yellow Tavern, only about six miles north of the
city. Sheridan destroyed the railroad and more supplies at
Ashland, and on the 11th arrived in Stuart's front. A severe
engagement ensued in which the losses were heavy on both sides,
but the rebels were beaten, their leader mortally wounded, and
some guns and many prisoners were captured.

Sheridan passed through the outer defences of Richmond, and
could, no doubt, have passed through the inner ones. But having
no supports near he could not have remained. After caring for
his wounded he struck for the James River below the city, to
communicate with Butler and to rest his men and horses as well
as to get food and forage for them.

He moved first between the Chickahominy and the James, but in
the morning (the 12th) he was stopped by batteries at
Mechanicsville. He then turned to cross to the north side of
the Chickahominy by Meadow Bridge. He found this barred, and
the defeated Confederate cavalry, reorganized, occupying the
opposite side. The panic created by his first entrance within
the outer works of Richmond having subsided troops were sent out
to attack his rear.

He was now in a perilous position, one from which but few
generals could have extricated themselves. The defences of
Richmond, manned, were to the right, the Chickahominy was to the
left with no bridge remaining and the opposite bank guarded, to
the rear was a force from Richmond. This force was attacked and
beaten by Wilson's and Gregg's divisions, while Sheridan turned
to the left with the remaining division and hastily built a
bridge over the Chickahominy under the fire of the enemy, forced
a crossing and soon dispersed the Confederates he found there.
The enemy was held back from the stream by the fire of the
troops not engaged in bridge building.

On the 13th Sheridan was at Bottom's Bridge, over the
Chickahominy. On the 14th he crossed this stream and on that
day went into camp on the James River at Haxall's Landing. He
at once put himself into communication with General Butler, who
directed all the supplies he wanted to be furnished.

Sheridan had left the Army of the Potomac at Spottsylvania, but
did not know where either this or Lee's army was now. Great
caution therefore had to be exercised in getting back. On the
17th, after resting his command for three days, he started on
his return. He moved by the way of White House. The bridge
over the Pamunkey had been burned by the enemy, but a new one
was speedily improvised and the cavalry crossed over it. On the
22d he was at Aylett's on the Matapony, where he learned the
position of the two armies. On the 24th he joined us on the
march from North Anna to Cold Harbor, in the vicinity of

Sheridan in this memorable raid passed entirely around Lee's
army: encountered his cavalry in four engagements, and defeated
them in all; recaptured four hundred Union prisoners and killed
and captured many of the enemy; destroyed and used many supplies
and munitions of war; destroyed miles of railroad and telegraph,
and freed us from annoyance by the cavalry of the enemy for more
than two weeks.



After separating from Sherman in Cincinnati I went on to
Washington, as already stated, while he returned to Nashville to
assume the duties of his new command. His military division was
now composed of four departments and embraced all the territory
west of the Alleghany Mountains and east of the Mississippi
River, together with the State of Arkansas in the
trans-Mississippi. The most easterly of these was the
Department of the Ohio, General Schofield commanding; the next
was the Department of the Cumberland, General Thomas commanding;
the third the Department of the Tennessee, General McPherson
commanding; and General Steele still commanded the
trans-Mississippi, or Department of Arkansas. The last-named
department was so far away that Sherman could not communicate
with it very readily after starting on his spring campaign, and
it was therefore soon transferred from his military division to
that of the Gulf, where General Canby, who had relieved General
Banks, was in command.

The movements of the armies, as I have stated in a former
chapter, were to be simultaneous, I fixing the day to start when
the season should be far enough advanced, it was hoped, for the
roads to be in a condition for the troops to march.

General Sherman at once set himself to work preparing for the
task which was assigned him to accomplish in the spring
campaign. McPherson lay at Huntsville with about twenty-four
thousand men, guarding those points of Tennessee which were
regarded as most worth holding; Thomas, with over sixty thousand
men of the Army of the Cumberland, was at Chattanooga; and
Schofield, with about fourteen thousand men, was at Knoxville.
With these three armies, numbering about one hundred thousand
men in all, Sherman was to move on the day fixed for the general
advance, with a view of destroying Johnston's army and capturing
Atlanta. He visited each of these commands to inform himself as
to their condition, and it was found to be, speaking generally,

One of the first matters to turn his attention to was that of
getting, before the time arrived for starting, an accumulation
of supplies forward to Chattanooga, sufficiently large to
warrant a movement. He found, when he got to that place, that
the trains over the single-track railroad, which was frequently
interrupted for a day or two at a time, were only sufficient to
meet the daily wants of the troops without bringing forward any
surplus of any kind. He found, however, that trains were being
used to transport all the beef cattle, horses for the cavalry,
and even teams that were being brought to the front. He at once
changed all this, and required beef cattle, teams, cavalry
horses, and everything that could travel, even the troops, to be
marched, and used the road exclusively for transporting
supplies. In this way he was able to accumulate an abundance
before the time finally fixed upon for the move, the 4th of May.

As I have said already, Johnston was at Dalton, which was nearly
one-fourth of the way between Chattanooga and Atlanta. The
country is mountainous all the way to Atlanta, abounding in
mountain streams, some of them of considerable volume. Dalton
is on ground where water drains towards Atlanta and into one of
the main streams rising north-east from there and flowing
south-west--this being the general direction which all the main
streams of that section take, with smaller tributaries entering
into them. Johnston had been preparing himself for this
campaign during the entire winter. The best positions for
defence had been selected all the way from Dalton back to
Atlanta, and very strongly intrenched; so that, as he might be
forced to fall back from one position, he would have another to
fall into in his rear. His position at Dalton was so very
strongly intrenched that no doubt he expected, or at least
hoped, to hold Sherman there and prevent him from getting any
further. With a less skilful general, and one disposed to take
no risks, I have no doubt that he would have succeeded.

Sherman's plan was to start Schofield, who was farthest back, a
few days in advance from Knoxville, having him move on the
direct road to Dalton. Thomas was to move out to Ringgold. It
had been Sherman's intention to cross McPherson over the
Tennessee River at Huntsville or Decatur, and move him south
from there so as to have him come into the road running from
Chattanooga to Atlanta a good distance to the rear of the point
Johnston was occupying; but when that was contemplated it was
hoped that McPherson alone would have troops enough to cope with
Johnston, if the latter should move against him while unsupported
by the balance of the army. In this he was disappointed. Two of
McPherson's veteran divisions had re-enlisted on the express
provision that they were to have a furlough. This furlough had
not yet expired, and they were not back.

Then, again, Sherman had lent Banks two divisions under A. J.
Smith, the winter before, to co-operate with the
trans-Mississippi forces, and this with the express pledge that
they should be back by a time specified, so as to be prepared
for this very campaign. It is hardly necessary to say they were
not returned. That department continued to absorb troops to no
purpose to the end of the war. This left McPherson so weak that
the part of the plan above indicated had to be changed. He was
therefore brought up to Chattanooga and moved from there on a
road to the right of Thomas--the two coming together about
Dalton. The three armies were abreast, all ready to start
promptly on time.

Sherman soon found that Dalton was so strongly fortified that it
was useless to make any attempt to carry it by assault; and even
to carry it by regular approaches was impracticable. There was
a narrowing up in the mountain, between the National and
Confederate armies, through which a stream, a wagon road and a
railroad ran. Besides, the stream had been dammed so that the
valley was a lake. Through this gorge the troops would have to
pass. McPherson was therefore sent around by the right, to come
out by the way of Snake Creek Gap into the rear of the enemy.
This was a surprise to Johnston, and about the 13th he decided
to abandon his position at Dalton.

On the 15th there was very hard fighting about Resaca; but our
cavalry having been sent around to the right got near the road
in the enemy's rear. Again Johnston fell back, our army
pursuing. The pursuit was continued to Kingston, which was
reached on the 19th with very little fighting, except that
Newton's division overtook the rear of Johnston's army and
engaged it. Sherman was now obliged to halt for the purpose of
bringing up his railroad trains. He was depending upon the
railroad for all of his supplies, and as of course the railroad
was wholly destroyed as Johnston fell back, it had to be
rebuilt. This work was pushed forward night and day, and caused
much less delay than most persons would naturally expect in a
mountainous country where there were so many bridges to be

The campaign to Atlanta was managed with the most consummate
skill, the enemy being flanked out of one position after another
all the way there. It is true this was not accomplished without
a good deal of fighting--some of it very hard fighting, rising
to the dignity of very important battles--neither were single
positions gained in a day. On the contrary, weeks were spent at
some; and about Atlanta more than a month was consumed.

It was the 23d of May before the road was finished up to the
rear of Sherman's army and the pursuit renewed. This pursuit
brought him up to the vicinity of Allatoona. This place was very
strongly intrenched, and naturally a very defensible position. An
assault upon it was not thought of, but preparations were made to
flank the enemy out of it. This was done by sending a large
force around our right, by the way of Dallas, to reach the rear
of the enemy. Before reaching there, however, they found the
enemy fortified in their way, and there resulted hard fighting
for about a week at a place called New Hope Church. On the left
our troops also were fortified, and as close up to the enemy as
they could get. They kept working still farther around to the
left toward the railroad. This was the case more particularly
with the cavalry. By the 4th of June Johnston found that he was
being hemmed in so rapidly that he drew off and Allatoona was
left in our possession.

Allatoona, being an important place, was strongly intrenched for
occupation by our troops before advancing farther, and made a
secondary base of supplies. The railroad was finished up to
that point, the intrenchments completed, storehouses provided
for food, and the army got in readiness for a further advance.
The rains, however, were falling in such torrents that it was
impossible to move the army by the side roads which they would
have to move upon in order to turn Johnston out of his new

While Sherman's army lay here, General F. P. Blair returned to
it, bringing with him the two divisions of veterans who had been
on furlough.

Johnston had fallen back to Marietta and Kenesaw Mountain, where
strong intrenchments awaited him. At this latter place our
troops made an assault upon the enemy's lines after having got
their own lines up close to him, and failed, sustaining
considerable loss. But during the progress of the battle
Schofield was gaining ground to the left; and the cavalry on his
left were gaining still more toward the enemy's rear. These
operations were completed by the 3d of July, when it was found
that Johnston had evacuated the place. He was pursued at
once. Sherman had made every preparation to abandon the
railroad, leaving a strong guard in his intrenchments. He had
intended, moving out with twenty days' rations and plenty of
ammunition, to come in on the railroad again at the
Chattahoochee River. Johnston frustrated this plan by himself
starting back as above stated. This time he fell back to the

About the 5th of July he was besieged again, Sherman getting
easy possession of the Chattahoochee River both above and below
him. The enemy was again flanked out of his position, or so
frightened by flanking movements that on the night of the 9th he
fell back across the river.

Here Johnston made a stand until the 17th, when Sherman's old
tactics prevailed again and the final movement toward Atlanta
began. Johnston was now relieved of the command, and Hood
superseded him.

Johnston's tactics in this campaign do not seem to have met with
much favor, either in the eyes of the administration at Richmond,
or of the people of that section of the South in which he was
commanding. The very fact of a change of commanders being
ordered under such circumstances was an indication of a change
of policy, and that now they would become the aggressors--the
very thing our troops wanted.

For my own part, I think that Johnston's tactics were right.
Anything that could have prolonged the war a year beyond the
time that it did finally close, would probably have exhausted
the North to such an extent that they might then have abandoned
the contest and agreed to a separation.

Atlanta was very strongly intrenched all the way around in a
circle about a mile and a half outside of the city. In addition
to this, there were advanced intrenchments which had to be taken
before a close siege could be commenced.

Sure enough, as indicated by the change of commanders, the enemy
was about to assume the offensive. On the 20th he came out and
attacked the Army of the Cumberland most furiously. Hooker's
corps, and Newton's and Johnson's divisions were the principal
ones engaged in this contest, which lasted more than an hour;
but the Confederates were then forced to fall back inside their
main lines. The losses were quite heavy on both sides. On this
day General Gresham, since our Postmaster-General, was very badly
wounded. During the night Hood abandoned his outer lines, and
our troops were advanced. The investment had not been
relinquished for a moment during the day.

During the night of the 21st Hood moved out again, passing by
our left flank, which was then in motion to get a position
farther in rear of him, and a desperate battle ensued, which
lasted most of the day of the 22d. At first the battle went
very much in favor of the Confederates, our troops being
somewhat surprised. While our troops were advancing they were
struck in flank, and their flank was enveloped. But they had
become too thorough veterans to be thrown into irreparable
confusion by an unexpected attack when off their guard, and soon
they were in order and engaging the enemy, with the advantage now
of knowing where their antagonist was. The field of battle
continued to expand until it embraced about seven miles of
ground. Finally, however, and before night, the enemy was
driven back into the city (*26).

It was during this battle that McPherson, while passing from one
column to another, was instantly killed. In his death the army
lost one of its ablest, purest and best generals.

Garrard had been sent out with his cavalry to get upon the
railroad east of Atlanta and to cut it in the direction of
Augusta. He was successful in this, and returned about the time
of the battle. Rousseau had also come up from Tennessee with a
small division of cavalry, having crossed the Tennessee River
about Decatur and made a raid into Alabama. Finally, when hard
pressed, he had come in, striking the railroad in rear of
Sherman, and reported to him about this time.

The battle of the 22d is usually known as the Battle of Atlanta,
although the city did not fall into our hands until the 2d of
September. Preparations went on, as before, to flank the enemy
out of his position. The work was tedious, and the lines that
had to be maintained were very long. Our troops were gradually
worked around to the east until they struck the road between
Decatur and Atlanta. These lines were strongly fortified, as
were those to the north and west of the city--all as close up to
the enemy's lines as practicable--in order to hold them with the
smallest possible number of men, the design being to detach an
army to move by our right and try to get upon the railroad down
south of Atlanta.

On the 27th the movement by the right flank commenced. On the
28th the enemy struck our right flank, General Logan commanding,
with great vigor. Logan intrenched himself hastily, and by that
means was enabled to resist all assaults and inflict a great
deal of damage upon the enemy. These assaults were continued to
the middle of the afternoon, and resumed once or twice still
later in the day. The enemy's losses in these unsuccessful
assaults were fearful.

During that evening the enemy in Logan's front withdrew into the
town. This now left Sherman's army close up to the Confederate
lines, extending from a point directly east of the city around
by the north and west of it for a distance of fully ten miles;
the whole of this line being intrenched, and made stronger every
day they remained there.

In the latter part of July Sherman sent Stoneman to destroy the
railroads to the south, about Macon. He was then to go east
and, if possible, release our prisoners about Andersonville.
There were painful stories current at the time about the great
hardships these prisoners had to endure in the way of general
bad treatment, in the way in which they were housed, and in the
way in which they were fed. Great sympathy was felt for them;
and it was thought that even if they could be turned loose upon
the country it would be a great relief to them. But the attempt
proved a failure. McCook, who commanded a small brigade, was
first reported to have been captured; but he got back, having
inflicted a good deal of damage upon the enemy. He had also
taken some prisoners; but encountering afterwards a largely
superior force of the enemy he was obliged to drop his prisoners
and get back as best he could with what men he had left. He had
lost several hundred men out of his small command. On the 4th
of August Colonel Adams, commanding a little brigade of about a
thousand men, returned reporting Stoneman and all but himself as
lost. I myself had heard around Richmond of the capture of
Stoneman, and had sent Sherman word, which he received. The
rumor was confirmed there, also, from other sources. A few days
after Colonel Adams's return Colonel Capron also got in with a
small detachment and confirmed the report of the capture of
Stoneman with something less than a thousand men.

It seems that Stoneman, finding the escape of all his force was
impossible, had made arrangements for the escape of two
divisions. He covered the movement of these divisions to the
rear with a force of about seven hundred men, and at length
surrendered himself and this detachment to the commanding
Confederate. In this raid, however, much damage was inflicted
upon the enemy by the destruction of cars, locomotives, army
wagons, manufactories of military supplies, etc.

On the 4th and 5th Sherman endeavored to get upon the railroad
to our right, where Schofield was in command, but these attempts
failed utterly. General Palmer was charged with being the cause
of this failure, to a great extent, by both General Sherman and
General Schofield; but I am not prepared to say this, although a
question seems to have arisen with Palmer as to whether Schofield
had any right to command him. If he did raise this question
while an action was going on, that act alone was exceedingly

About the same time Wheeler got upon our railroad north of
Resaca and destroyed it nearly up to Dalton. This cut Sherman
off from communication with the North for several days. Sherman
responded to this attack on his lines of communication by
directing one upon theirs.

Kilpatrick started on the night of the 18th of August to reach
the Macon road about Jonesboro. He succeeded in doing so,
passed entirely around the Confederate lines of Atlanta, and was
back again in his former position on our left by the 22d. These
little affairs, however, contributed but very little to the
grand result. They annoyed, it is true, but any damage thus
done to a railroad by any cavalry expedition is soon repaired.

Sherman made preparations for a repetition of his tactics; that
is, for a flank movement with as large a force as could be got
together to some point in the enemy's rear. Sherman commenced
this last movement on the 25th of August, and on the 1st of
September was well up towards the railroad twenty miles south of
Atlanta. Here he found Hardee intrenched, ready to meet him. A
battle ensued, but he was unable to drive Hardee away before
night set in. Under cover of the night, however, Hardee left of
his own accord. That night Hood blew up his military works, such
as he thought would be valuable in our hands, and decamped.

The next morning at daylight General H. W. Slocum, who was
commanding north of the city, moved in and took possession of
Atlanta, and notified Sherman. Sherman then moved deliberately
back, taking three days to reach the city, and occupied a line
extending from Decatur on the left to Atlanta in the centre,
with his troops extending out of the city for some distance to
the right.

The campaign had lasted about four months, and was one of the
most memorable in history. There was but little if anything in
the whole campaign, now that it is over, to criticise at all,
and nothing to criticise severely. It was creditable alike to
the general who commanded and the army which had executed it.
Sherman had on this campaign some bright, wide-awake division
and brigade commanders whose alertness added a host to the
efficiency of his command.

The troops now went to work to make themselves comfortable, and
to enjoy a little rest after their arduous campaign. The city
of Atlanta was turned into a military base. The citizens were
all compelled to leave. Sherman also very wisely prohibited the
assembling of the army of sutlers and traders who always follow
in the wake of an army in the field, if permitted to do so, from
trading with the citizens and getting the money of the soldiers
for articles of but little use to them, and for which they are
made to pay most exorbitant prices. He limited the number of
these traders to one for each of his three armies.

The news of Sherman's success reached the North instantaneously,
and set the country all aglow. This was the first great
political campaign for the Republicans in their canvass of
1864. It was followed later by Sheridan's campaign in the
Shenandoah Valley; and these two campaigns probably had more
effect in settling the election of the following November than
all the speeches, all the bonfires, and all the parading with
banners and bands of music in the North.



Soon after midnight, May 3d-4th, the Army of the Potomac moved
out from its position north Rapidan, to start upon that
memorable campaign, destined to result in the capture of the
Confederate capital and the army defending it. This was not to
be accomplished, however, without as desperate fighting as the
world has ever witnessed; not to be consummated in a day, a
week, a month, single season. The losses inflicted, and
endured, were destined to be severe; but the armies now
confronting each other had already been in deadly conflict for a
period of three years, with immense losses in killed, by death
from sickness, captured and wounded; and neither had made any
real progress accomplishing the final end. It is true the
Confederates had, so far, held their capital, and they claimed
this to be their sole object. But previously they had boldly
proclaimed their intention to capture Philadelphia, New York,
and the National Capital, and had made several attempts to do
so, and once or twice had come fearfully near making their boast
good--too near for complacent contemplation by the loyal North.
They had also come near losing their own capital on at least one
occasion. So here was a stand-off. The campaign now begun was
destined to result in heavier losses, to both armies, in a given
time, than any previously suffered; but the carnage was to be
limited to a single year, and to accomplish all that had been
anticipated or desired at the beginning in that time. We had to
have hard fighting to achieve this. The two armies had been
confronting each other so long, without any decisive result,
that they hardly knew which could whip.

Ten days' rations, with a supply of forage and ammunition were
taken in wagons. Beef cattle were driven with the trains, and
butchered as wanted. Three days rations in addition, in
haversacks, and fifty rounds of cartridges, were carried on the
person of each soldier.

The country over which the army had to operate, from the Rapidan
to the crossing of the James River, is rather flat, and is cut by
numerous streams which make their way to the Chesapeake Bay. The
crossings of these streams by the army were generally made not
far above tide-water, and where they formed a considerable obstacle
to the rapid advance of troops even when the enemy did not
appear in opposition. The country roads were narrow and poor.
Most of the country is covered with a dense forest, in places,
like the Wilderness and along the Chickahominy, almost
impenetrable even for infantry except along the roads. All
bridges were naturally destroyed before the National troops came
to them.

The Army of the Potomac was composed of three infantry and one
cavalry corps, commanded respectively by Generals W. S. Hancock,
G. K. Warren, (*27) John Sedgwick and P. H. Sheridan. The
artillery was commanded by General Henry J. Hunt. This arm was
in such abundance that the fourth of it could not be used to
advantage in such a country as we were destined to pass
through. The surplus was much in the way, taking up as it did
so much of the narrow and bad roads, and consuming so much of
the forage and other stores brought up by the trains.

The 5th corps, General Warren commanding, was in advance on the
right, and marched directly for Germania Ford, preceded by one
division of cavalry, under General J. H. Wilson. General
Sedgwick followed Warren with the 6th corps. Germania Ford was
nine or ten miles below the right of Lee's line. Hancock, with
the 2d corps, moved by another road, farther east, directly upon
Ely's Ford, six miles below Germania, preceded by Gregg's
division of cavalry, and followed by the artillery. Torbert's
division of cavalry was left north of the Rapidan, for the time,
to picket the river and prevent the enemy from crossing and
getting into our rear. The cavalry seized the two crossings
before daylight, drove the enemy's pickets guarding them away,
and by six o'clock A.M. had the pontoons laid ready for the
crossing of the infantry and artillery. This was undoubtedly a
surprise to Lee. The fact that the movement was unopposed
proves this.

Burnside, with the 9th corps, was left back at Warrenton,
guarding the railroad from Bull Run forward to preserve control
of it in case our crossing the Rapidan should be long delayed.
He was instructed, however, to advance at once on receiving
notice that the army had crossed; and a dispatch was sent to him
a little after one P.M. giving the information that our crossing
had been successful.

The country was heavily wooded at all the points of crossing,
particularly on the south side of the river. The battle-field
from the crossing of the Rapidan until the final movement from
the Wilderness toward Spottsylvania was of the same character.
There were some clearings and small farms within what might be
termed the battle-field; but generally the country was covered
with a dense forest. The roads were narrow and bad. All the
conditions were favorable for defensive operations.

There are two roads, good for that part of Virginia, running
from Orange Court House to the battle-field. The most southerly
of these roads is known as the Orange Court House Plank Road, the
northern one as the Orange Turnpike. There are also roads from
east of the battle-field running to Spottsylvania Court House,
one from Chancellorsville, branching at Aldrich's; the western
branch going by Piney Branch Church, Alsop's, thence by the
Brock Road to Spottsylvania; the east branch goes by Gates's,
thence to Spottsylvania. The Brock Road runs from Germania Ford
through the battle-field and on to the Court House. As
Spottsylvania is approached the country is cut up with numerous
roads, some going to the town direct, and others crossing so as
to connect the farms with roads going there.

Lee's headquarters were at Orange Court House. From there to
Fredericksburg he had the use of the two roads above described
running nearly parallel to the Wilderness. This gave him
unusual facilities, for that country, for concentrating his
forces to his right. These roads strike the road from Germania
Ford in the Wilderness.

As soon as the crossing of the infantry was assured, the cavalry
pushed forward, Wilson's division by Wilderness Tavern to
Parker's store, on the Orange Plank Road; Gregg to the left
towards Chancellorsville. Warren followed Wilson and reached
the Wilderness Tavern by noon, took position there and
intrenched. Sedgwick followed Warren. He was across the river
and in camp on the south bank, on the right of Warren, by
sundown. Hancock, with the 2d corps, moved parallel with Warren
and camped about six miles east of him. Before night all the
troops, and by the evening of the 5th the trains of more than
four thousand wagons, were safely on the south side of the river.

There never was a corps better organized than was the
quartermaster's corps with the Army of the Potomac in 1864. With
a wagon-train that would have extended from the Rapidan to
Richmond, stretched along in single file and separated as the
teams necessarily would be when moving, we could still carry
only three days' forage and about ten to twelve days' rations,
besides a supply of ammunition. To overcome all difficulties,
the chief quartermaster, General Rufus Ingalls, had marked on
each wagon the corps badge with the division color and the
number of the brigade. At a glance, the particular brigade to
which any wagon belonged could be told. The wagons were also
marked to note the contents: if ammunition, whether for
artillery or infantry; if forage, whether grain or hay; if
rations, whether, bread, pork, beans, rice, sugar, coffee or
whatever it might be. Empty wagons were never allowed to follow
the army or stay in camp. As soon as a wagon was empty it would
return to the base of supply for a load of precisely the same
article that had been taken from it. Empty trains were obliged
to leave the road free for loaded ones. Arriving near the army
they would be parked in fields nearest to the brigades they
belonged to. Issues, except of ammunition, were made at night
in all cases. By this system the hauling of forage for the
supply train was almost wholly dispensed with. They consumed
theirs at the depots.

I left Culpeper Court House after all the troops had been put in
motion, and passing rapidly to the front, crossed the Rapidan in
advance of Sedgwick's corps; and established headquarters for
the afternoon and night in a deserted house near the river.

Orders had been given, long before this movement began, to cut
down the baggage of officers and men to the lowest point
possible. Notwithstanding this I saw scattered along the road
from Culpeper to Germania Ford wagon-loads of new blankets and
overcoats, thrown away by the troops to lighten their knapsacks;
an improvidence I had never witnessed before.

Lee, while his pickets and signal corps must have discovered at
a very early hour on the morning of the 4th of May, that the
Army of the Potomac was moving, evidently did not learn until
about one o'clock in the afternoon by what route we would
confront his army. This I judge from the fact that at 1.15
P.M., an hour and a quarter after Warren had reached Old
Wilderness Tavern, our officers took off rebel signals which,
when translated, were seen to be an order to his troops to
occupy their intrenchments at Mine Run.

Here at night dispatches were received announcing that Sherman,
Butler and Crook had moved according to programme.

On discovering the advance of the Army of the Potomac, Lee
ordered Hill, Ewell and Longstreet, each commanding corps, to
move to the right to attack us, Hill on the Orange Plank Road,
Longstreet to follow on the same road. Longstreet was at this
time--middle of the afternoon--at Gordonsville, twenty or more
miles away. Ewell was ordered by the Orange Pike. He was near
by and arrived some four miles east of Mine Run before
bivouacking for the night.

My orders were given through General Meade for an early advance
on the morning of the 5th. Warren was to move to Parker's
store, and Wilson's cavalry--then at Parker's store--to move on
to Craig's meeting-house. Sedgwick followed Warren, closing in
on his right. The Army of the Potomac was facing to the west,
though our advance was made to the south, except when facing the
enemy. Hancock was to move south-westward to join on the left of
Warren, his left to reach to Shady Grove Church.

At six o'clock, before reaching Parker's store, Warren
discovered the enemy. He sent word back to this effect, and was
ordered to halt and prepare to meet and attack him. Wright, with
his division of Sedgwick's corps, was ordered, by any road he
could find, to join on to Warren's right, and Getty with his
division, also of Sedgwick's corps, was ordered to move rapidly
by Warren's rear and get on his left. This was the speediest
way to reinforce Warren who was confronting the enemy on both
the Orange plank and turnpike roads.

Burnside had moved promptly on the 4th, on receiving word that
the Army of the Potomac had safely crossed the Rapidan. By
making a night march, although some of his troops had to march
forty miles to reach the river, he was crossing with the head of
his column early on the morning of the 5th. Meade moved his
headquarters on to Old Wilderness Tavern, four miles south of
the river, as soon as it was light enough to see the road. I
remained to hasten Burnside's crossing and to put him in
position. Burnside at this time was not under Meade's command,
and was his senior in rank. Getting information of the
proximity of the enemy, I informed Meade, and without waiting to
see Burnside, at once moved forward my headquarters to where
Meade was.

It was my plan then, as it was on all other occasions, to take
the initiative whenever the enemy could be drawn from his
intrenchments if we were not intrenched ourselves. Warren had
not yet reached the point where he was to halt, when he
discovered the enemy near by. Neither party had any advantage
of position. Warren was, therefore, ordered to attack as soon
as he could prepare for it. At nine o'clock Hancock was ordered
to come up to the support of Getty. He himself arrived at
Getty's front about noon, but his troops were yet far in the
rear. Getty was directed to hold his position at all hazards
until relieved. About this hour Warren was ready, and attacked
with favorable though not decisive results. Getty was somewhat
isolated from Warren and was in a precarious condition for a
time. Wilson, with his division of cavalry, was farther south,
and was cut off from the rest of the army. At two o'clock
Hancock's troops began to arrive, and immediately he was ordered
to join Getty and attack the enemy. But the heavy timber and
narrow roads prevented him from getting into position for attack
as promptly as he generally did when receiving such orders. At
four o'clock he again received his orders to attack, and General
Getty received orders from Meade a few minutes later to attack
whether Hancock was ready or not. He met the enemy under Heth
within a few hundred yards.

Hancock immediately sent two divisions, commanded by Birney and
Mott, and later two brigades, Carroll's and Owen's, to the
support of Getty. This was timely and saved Getty. During the
battle Getty and Carroll were wounded, but remained on the
field. One of Birney's most gallant brigade commanders
--Alexander Hays--was killed.

I had been at West Point with Hays for three years, and had
served with him through the Mexican war, a portion of the time
in the same regiment. He was a most gallant officer, ready to
lead his command wherever ordered. With him it was "Come,
boys," not "Go."

Wadsworth's division and Baxter's brigade of the 2d division
were sent to reinforce Hancock and Getty; but the density of the
intervening forest was such that, there being no road to march
upon, they did not get up with the head of column until night,
and bivouacked where they were without getting into position.

During the afternoon Sheridan sent Gregg's division of cavalry
to Todd's Tavern in search of Wilson. This was fortunate. He
found Wilson engaged with a superior force under General Rosser,
supported by infantry, and falling back before it. Together they
were strong enough to turn the tables upon the enemy and
themselves become aggressive. They soon drove the rebel cavalry
back beyond Corbin's Bridge.

Fighting between Hancock and Hill continued until night put a
close to it. Neither side made any special progress.

After the close of the battle of the 5th of May my orders were
given for the following morning. We knew Longstreet with 12,000
men was on his way to join Hill's right, near the Brock Road, and
might arrive during the night. I was anxious that the rebels
should not take the initiative in the morning, and therefore
ordered Hancock to make an assault at 4.30 o'clock. Meade asked
to have the hour changed to six. Deferring to his wishes as far
as I was willing, the order was modified and five was fixed as
the hour to move.

Hancock had now fully one-half of the Army of the Potomac.
Wadsworth with his division, which had arrived the night before,
lay in a line perpendicular to that held by Hill, and to the
right of Hancock. He was directed to move at the same time, and
to attack Hill's left.

Burnside, who was coming up with two divisions, was directed to
get in between Warren and Wadsworth, and attack as soon as he
could get in position to do so. Sedgwick and Warren were to
make attacks in their front, to detain as many of the enemy as
they could and to take advantage of any attempt to reinforce
Hill from that quarter. Burnside was ordered if he should
succeed in breaking the enemy's centre, to swing around to the
left and envelop the right of Lee's army. Hancock was informed
of all the movements ordered.

Burnside had three divisions, but one of them--a colored
division--was sent to guard the wagon train, and he did not see
it again until July.

Lee was evidently very anxious that there should be no battle on
his right until Longstreet got up. This is evident from the fact
that notwithstanding the early hour at which I had ordered the
assault, both for the purpose of being the attacking party and
to strike before Longstreet got up, Lee was ahead in his assault
on our right. His purpose was evident, but he failed.

Hancock was ready to advance by the hour named, but learning in
time that Longstreet was moving a part of his corps by the
Catharpin Road, thus threatening his left flank, sent a division
of infantry, commanded by General Barlow, with all his artillery,
to cover the approaches by which Longstreet was expected. This
disposition was made in time to attack as ordered. Hancock
moved by the left of the Orange Plank Road, and Wadsworth by the
right of it. The fighting was desperate for about an hour, when
the enemy began to break up in great confusion.

I believed then, and see no reason to change that opinion now,
that if the country had been such that Hancock and his command
could have seen the confusion and panic in the lines of the
enemy, it would have been taken advantage of so effectually that
Lee would not have made another stand outside of his Richmond

Gibbon commanded Hancock's left, and was ordered to attack, but
was not able to accomplish much.

On the morning of the 6th Sheridan was sent to connect with
Hancock's left and attack the enemy's cavalry who were trying to
get on our left and rear. He met them at the intersection of the
Furnace and Brock roads and at Todd's Tavern, and defeated them
at both places. Later he was attacked, and again the enemy was

Hancock heard the firing between Sheridan and Stuart, and
thinking the enemy coming by that road, still further reinforced
his position guarding the entrance to the Brock Road. Another
incident happened during the day to further induce Hancock to
weaken his attacking column. Word reached him that troops were
seen moving towards him from the direction of Todd's Tavern, and
Brooke's brigade was detached to meet this new enemy; but the
troops approaching proved to be several hundred convalescents
coming from Chancellorsville, by the road Hancock had advanced
upon, to join their respective commands. At 6.50 o'clock A.M.,
Burnside, who had passed Wilderness Tavern at six o'clock, was
ordered to send a division to the support of Hancock, but to
continue with the remainder of his command in the execution of
his previous order. The difficulty of making a way through the
dense forests prevented Burnside from getting up in time to be
of any service on the forenoon of the sixth.

Hancock followed Hill's retreating forces, in the morning, a
mile or more. He maintained this position until, along in the
afternoon, Longstreet came upon him. The retreating column of
Hill meeting reinforcements that had not yet been engaged,
became encouraged and returned with them. They were enabled,
from the density of the forest, to approach within a few hundred
yards of our advance before being discovered. Falling upon a
brigade of Hancock's corps thrown to the advance, they swept it
away almost instantly. The enemy followed up his advantage and
soon came upon Mott's division, which fell back in great
confusion. Hancock made dispositions to hold his advanced
position, but after holding it for a time, fell back into the
position that he had held in the morning, which was strongly
intrenched. In this engagement the intrepid Wadsworth while
trying to rally his men was mortally wounded and fell into the
hands of the enemy. The enemy followed up, but made no
immediate attack.

The Confederate General Jenkins was killed and Longstreet
seriously wounded in this engagement. Longstreet had to leave
the field, not to resume command for many weeks. His loss was a
severe one to Lee, and compensated in a great measure for the
mishap, or misapprehensions, which had fallen to our lot during
the day.

After Longstreet's removal from the field Lee took command of
his right in person. He was not able, however, to rally his men
to attack Hancock's position, and withdrew from our front for the
purpose of reforming. Hancock sent a brigade to clear his front
of all remnants that might be left of Longstreet's or Hill's
commands. This brigade having been formed at right angles to
the intrenchments held by Hancock's command, swept down the
whole length of them from left to right. A brigade of the enemy
was encountered in this move; but it broke and disappeared
without a contest.

Firing was continued after this, but with less fury. Burnside
had not yet been able to get up to render any assistance. But
it was now only about nine in the morning, and he was getting
into position on Hancock's right.

At 4.15 in the afternoon Lee attacked our left. His line moved
up to within a hundred yards of ours and opened a heavy fire.
This status was maintained for about half an hour. Then a part
of Mott's division and Ward's brigade of Birney's division gave
way and retired in disorder. The enemy under R. H. Anderson
took advantage of this and pushed through our line, planting
their flags on a part of the intrenchments not on fire. But
owing to the efforts of Hancock, their success was but
temporary. Carroll, of Gibbon's division, moved at a double
quick with his brigade and drove back the enemy, inflicting
great loss. Fighting had continued from five in the morning
sometimes along the whole line, at other times only in places.
The ground fought over had varied in width, but averaged
three-quarters of a mile. The killed, and many of the severely
wounded, of both armies, lay within this belt where it was
impossible to reach them. The woods were set on fire by the
bursting shells, and the conflagration raged. The wounded who
had not strength to move themselves were either suffocated or
burned to death. Finally the fire communicated with our
breastworks, in places. Being constructed of wood, they burned
with great fury. But the battle still raged, our men firing
through the flames until it became too hot to remain longer.

Lee was now in distress. His men were in confusion, and his
personal efforts failed to restore order. These facts, however,
were learned subsequently, or we would have taken advantage of
his condition and no doubt gained a decisive success. His
troops were withdrawn now, but I revoked the order, which I had
given previously to this assault, for Hancock to attack, because
his troops had exhausted their ammunition and did not have time
to replenish from the train, which was at some distance.

Burnside, Sedgwick, and Warren had all kept up an assault during
all this time; but their efforts had no other effect than to
prevent the enemy from reinforcing his right from the troops in
their front.

I had, on the 5th, ordered all the bridges over the Rapidan to
be taken up except one at Germania Ford.

The troops on Sedgwick's right had been sent to inforce our
left. This left our right in danger of being turned, and us of
being cut off from all present base of supplies. Sedgwick had
refused his right and intrenched it for protection against
attack. But late in the afternoon of the 6th Early came out
from his lines in considerable force and got in upon Sedgwick's
right, notwithstanding the precautions taken, and created
considerable confusion. Early captured several hundred
prisoners, among them two general officers. The defence,
however, was vigorous; and night coming on, the enemy was thrown
into as much confusion as our troops, engaged, were. Early says
in his Memoirs that if we had discovered the confusion in his
lines we might have brought fresh troops to his great
discomfort. Many officers, who had not been attacked by Early,
continued coming to my headquarters even after Sedgwick had
rectified his lines a little farther to the rear, with news of
the disaster, fully impressed with the idea that the enemy was
pushing on and would soon be upon me.

During the night all of Lee's army withdrew within their
intrenchments. On the morning of the 7th General Custer drove
the enemy's cavalry from Catharpin Furnace to Todd's Tavern.
Pickets and skirmishers were sent along our entire front to find
the position of the enemy. Some went as far as a mile and a half
before finding him. But Lee showed no disposition to come out of
his Works. There was no battle during the day, and but little
firing except in Warren's front; he being directed about noon to
make a reconnoissance in force. This drew some sharp firing, but
there was no attempt on the part of Lee to drive him back. This
ended the Battle of the Wilderness.



More desperate fighting has not been witnessed on this continent
than that of the 5th and 6th of May. Our victory consisted in
having successfully crossed a formidable stream, almost in the
face of an enemy, and in getting the army together as a unit.
We gained an advantage on the morning of the 6th, which, if it
had been followed up, must have proven very decisive. In the
evening the enemy gained an advantage; but was speedily
repulsed. As we stood at the close, the two armies were
relatively in about the same condition to meet each other as
when the river divided them. But the fact of having safely
crossed was a victory.

Our losses in the Wilderness were very severe. Those of the
Confederates must have been even more so; but I have no means of
speaking with accuracy upon this point. The Germania Ford bridge
was transferred to Ely's Ford to facilitate the transportation of
the wounded to Washington.

It may be as well here as elsewhere to state two things
connected with all movements of the Army of the Potomac: first,
in every change of position or halt for the night, whether
confronting the enemy or not, the moment arms were stacked the
men intrenched themselves. For this purpose they would build up
piles of logs or rails if they could be found in their front, and
dig a ditch, throwing the dirt forward on the timber. Thus the
digging they did counted in making a depression to stand in, and
increased the elevation in front of them. It was wonderful how
quickly they could in this way construct defences of
considerable strength. When a halt was made with the view of
assaulting the enemy, or in his presence, these would be
strengthened or their positions changed under the direction of
engineer officers. The second was, the use made of the
telegraph and signal corps. Nothing could be more complete than
the organization and discipline of this body of brave and
intelligent men. Insulated wires--insulated so that they would
transmit messages in a storm, on the ground or under water--were
wound upon reels, making about two hundred pounds weight of wire
to each reel. Two men and one mule were detailed to each
reel. The pack-saddle on which this was carried was provided
with a rack like a sawbuck placed crosswise of the saddle, and
raised above it so that the reel, with its wire, would revolve
freely. There was a wagon, supplied with a telegraph operator,
battery and telegraph instruments for each division, each corps,
each army, and one for my headquarters. There were wagons also
loaded with light poles, about the size and length of a wall
tent pole, supplied with an iron spike in one end, used to hold
the wires up when laid, so that wagons and artillery would not
run over them. The mules thus loaded were assigned to brigades,
and always kept with the command they were assigned to. The
operators were also assigned to particular headquarters, and
never changed except by special orders.

The moment the troops were put in position to go into camp all
the men connected with this branch of service would proceed to
put up their wires. A mule loaded with a coil of wire would be
led to the rear of the nearest flank of the brigade he belonged
to, and would be led in a line parallel thereto, while one man
would hold an end of the wire and uncoil it as the mule was led
off. When he had walked the length of the wire the whole of it
would be on the ground. This would be done in rear of every
brigade at the same time. The ends of all the wires would then
be joined, making a continuous wire in the rear of the whole
army. The men, attached to brigades or divisions, would all
commence at once raising the wires with their telegraph poles.
This was done by making a loop in the wire and putting it over
the spike and raising the pole to a perpendicular position. At
intervals the wire would be attached to trees, or some other
permanent object, so that one pole was sufficient at a place. In
the absence of such a support two poles would have to be used, at
intervals, placed at an angle so as to hold the wire firm in its
place. While this was being done the telegraph wagons would
take their positions near where the headquarters they belonged
to were to be established, and would connect with the wire.
Thus, in a few minutes longer time than it took a mule to walk
the length of its coil, telegraphic communication would be
effected between all the headquarters of the army. No orders
ever had to be given to establish the telegraph.

The signal service was used on the march. The men composing
this corps were assigned to specified commands. When movements
were made, they would go in advance, or on the flanks, and seize
upon high points of ground giving a commanding view of the
country, if cleared, or would climb tall trees on the highest
points if not cleared, and would denote, by signals, the
positions of different parts of our own army, and often the
movements of the enemy. They would also take off the signals of
the enemy and transmit them. It would sometimes take too long a
time to make translations of intercepted dispatches for us to
receive any benefit from them. But sometimes they gave useful

On the afternoon of the 7th I received news from Washington
announcing that Sherman had probably attacked Johnston that day,
and that Butler had reached City Point safely and taken it by
surprise on the 5th. I had given orders for a movement by the
left flank, fearing that Lee might move rapidly to Richmond to
crush Butler before I could get there.

My order for this movement was as follows:

May 7, 1864, 6.30 A.M.

Commanding A. P.

Make all preparations during the day for a night march to take
position at Spottsylvania C. H. with one army corps, at Todd's
Tavern with one, and another near the intersection of the Piney
Branch and Spottsylvania road with the road from Alsop's to Old
Court House. If this move is made the trains should be thrown
forward early in the morning to the Ny River.

I think it would be advisable in making the change to leave
Hancock where he is until Warren passes him. He could then
follow and become the right of the new line. Burnside will move
to Piney Branch Church. Sedgwick can move along the pike to
Chancellorsville and on to his destination. Burnside will move
on the plank road to the intersection of it with the Orange and
Fredericksburg plank road, then follow Sedgwick to his place of

All vehicles should be got out of hearing of the enemy before
the troops move, and then move off quietly.

It is more than probable that the enemy concentrate for a heavy
attack on Hancock this afternoon. In case they do we must be
prepared to resist them, and follow up any success we may gain,
with our whole force. Such a result would necessarily modify
these instructions.

All the hospitals should be moved to-day to Chancellorsville.


During the 7th Sheridan had a fight with the rebel cavalry at
Todd's Tavern, but routed them, thus opening the way for the
troops that were to go by that route at night. Soon after dark
Warren withdrew from the front of the enemy, and was soon
followed by Sedgwick. Warren's march carried him immediately
behind the works where Hancock's command lay on the Brock
Road. With my staff and a small escort of cavalry I preceded
the troops. Meade with his staff accompanied me. The greatest
enthusiasm was manifested by Hancock's men as we passed by. No
doubt it was inspired by the fact that the movement was south.
It indicated to them that they had passed through the "beginning
of the end" in the battle just fought. The cheering was so lusty
that the enemy must have taken it for a night attack. At all
events it drew from him a furious fusillade of artillery and
musketry, plainly heard but not felt by us.

Meade and I rode in advance. We had passed but a little way
beyond our left when the road forked. We looked to see, if we
could, which road Sheridan had taken with his cavalry during the
day. It seemed to be the right-hand one, and accordingly we took
it. We had not gone far, however, when Colonel C. B. Comstock,
of my staff, with the instinct of the engineer, suspecting that
we were on a road that would lead us into the lines of the
enemy, if he, too, should be moving, dashed by at a rapid gallop
and all alone. In a few minutes he returned and reported that
Lee was moving, and that the road we were on would bring us into
his lines in a short distance. We returned to the forks of the
road, left a man to indicate the right road to the head of
Warren's column when it should come up, and continued our
journey to Todd's Tavern, where we arrived after midnight.

My object in moving to Spottsylvania was two-fold: first, I did
not want Lee to get back to Richmond in time to attempt to crush
Butler before I could get there; second, I wanted to get between
his army and Richmond if possible; and, if not, to draw him into
the open field. But Lee, by accident, beat us to
Spottsylvania. Our wagon trains had been ordered easterly of
the roads the troops were to march upon before the movement
commenced. Lee interpreted this as a semi-retreat of the Army
of the Potomac to Fredericksburg, and so informed his
government. Accordingly he ordered Longstreet's corps--now
commanded by Anderson--to move in the morning (the 8th) to
Spottsylvania. But the woods being still on fire, Anderson
could not go into bivouac, and marched directly on to his
destination that night. By this accident Lee got possession of
Spottsylvania. It is impossible to say now what would have been
the result if Lee's orders had been obeyed as given; but it is
certain that we would have been in Spottsylvania, and between
him and his capital. My belief is that there would have been a
race between the two armies to see which could reach Richmond
first, and the Army of the Potomac would have had the shorter
line. Thus, twice since crossing the Rapidan we came near
closing the campaign, so far as battles were concerned, from the
Rapidan to the James River or Richmond. The first failure was
caused by our not following up the success gained over Hill's
corps on the morning of the 6th, as before described: the
second, when fires caused by that battle drove Anderson to make
a march during the night of the 7th-8th which he was ordered to
commence on the morning of the 8th. But accident often decides
the fate of battle.

Sheridan's cavalry had had considerable fighting during the
afternoon of the 7th, lasting at Todd's Tavern until after
night, with the field his at the close. He issued the necessary
orders for seizing Spottsylvania and holding the bridge over the
Po River, which Lee's troops would have to cross to get to
Spottsylvania. But Meade changed Sheridan's orders to
Merritt--who was holding the bridge--on his arrival at Todd's
Tavern, and thereby left the road free for Anderson when he came
up. Wilson, who was ordered to seize the town, did so, with his
division of cavalry; but he could not hold it against the
Confederate corps which had not been detained at the crossing of
the Po, as it would have been but for the unfortunate change in
Merritt's orders. Had he been permitted to execute the orders
Sheridan gave him, he would have been guarding with two brigades
of cavalry the bridge over the Po River which Anderson had to
cross, and must have detained him long enough to enable Warren
to reinforce Wilson and hold the town.

Anderson soon intrenched himself--if indeed the intrenchments
were not already made--immediately across Warren's front. Warren
was not aware of his presence, but probably supposed it was the
cavalry which Merritt had engaged earlier in the day. He
assaulted at once, but was repulsed. He soon organized his men,
as they were not pursued by the enemy, and made a second attack,
this time with his whole corps. This time he succeeded in
gaining a position immediately in the enemy's front, where he
intrenched. His right and left divisions--the former
Crawford's, the latter Wadsworth's, now commanded by
Cutler--drove the enemy back some distance.

At this time my headquarters had been advanced to Piney Branch
Church. I was anxious to crush Anderson before Lee could get a
force to his support. To this end Sedgwick who was at Piney
Branch Church, was ordered to Warren's support. Hancock, who
was at Todd's Tavern, was notified of Warren's engagement, and
was directed to be in readiness to come up. Burnside, who was
with the wagon trains at Aldrich's on our extreme left, received
the same instructions. Sedgwick was slow in getting up for some
reason--probably unavoidable, because he was never at fault when
serious work was to be done--so that it was near night before the
combined forces were ready to attack. Even then all of
Sedgwick's command did not get into the engagement. Warren led
the last assault, one division at a time, and of course it

Warren's difficulty was twofold: when he received an order to
do anything, it would at once occur to his mind how all the
balance of the army should be engaged so as properly to
co-operate with him. His ideas were generally good, but he
would forget that the person giving him orders had thought of
others at the time he had of him. In like manner, when he did
get ready to execute an order, after giving most intelligent
instructions to division commanders, he would go in with one
division, holding the others in reserve until he could
superintend their movements in person also, forgetting that
division commanders could execute an order without his
presence. His difficulty was constitutional and beyond his
control. He was an officer of superior ability, quick
perceptions, and personal courage to accomplish anything that
could be done with a small command.

Lee had ordered Hill's corps--now commanded by Early--to move by
the very road we had marched upon. This shows that even early in
the morning of the 8th Lee had not yet become acquainted with my
move, but still thought that the Army of the Potomac had gone to
Fredericksburg. Indeed, he informed the authorities at Richmond
he had possession of Spottsylvania and was on my flank. Anderson
was in possession of Spottsylvania, through no foresight of Lee,
however. Early only found that he had been following us when he
ran against Hancock at Todd's Tavern. His coming detained
Hancock from the battle-field of Spottsylvania for that day; but
he, in like manner, kept Early back and forced him to move by
another route.

Had I ordered the movement for the night of the 7th by my left
flank, it would have put Hancock in the lead. It would also
have given us an hour or earlier start. It took all that time
for Warren to get the head of his column to the left of Hancock
after he had got his troops out of their line confronting the
enemy. This hour, and Hancock's capacity to use his whole force
when necessary, would, no doubt, have enabled him to crush
Anderson before he could be reinforced. But the movement made
was tactical. It kept the troops in mass against a possible
assault by the enemy. Our left occupied its intrenchments while
the two corps to the right passed. If an attack had been made by
the enemy he would have found the 2d corps in position,
fortified, and, practically, the 5th and 6th corps in position
as reserves, until his entire front was passed. By a left flank
movement the army would have been scattered while still passing
the front of the enemy, and before the extreme right had got by
it would have been very much exposed. Then, too, I had not yet
learned the special qualifications of the different corps
commanders. At that time my judgment was that Warren was the
man I would suggest to succeed Meade should anything happen to
that gallant soldier to take him from the field. As I have
before said, Warren was a gallant soldier, an able man; and he
was beside thoroughly imbued with the solemnity and importance
of the duty he had to perform.



The Mattapony River is formed by the junction of the Mat, the
Ta, the Po and the Ny rivers, the last being the northernmost of
the four. It takes its rise about a mile south and a little east
of the Wilderness Tavern. The Po rises south-west of the place,
but farther away. Spottsylvania is on the ridge dividing these
two streams, and where they are but a few miles apart. The
Brock Road reaches Spottsylvania without crossing either of
these streams. Lee's army coming up by the Catharpin Road, had
to cross the Po at Wooden Bridge. Warren and Hancock came by
the Brock Road. Sedgwick crossed the Ny at Catharpin Furnace.
Burnside coming by Aldrich's to Gates's house, had to cross the
Ny near the enemy. He found pickets at the bridge, but they
were soon driven off by a brigade of Willcox's division, and the
stream was crossed. This brigade was furiously attacked; but the
remainder of the division coming up, they were enabled to hold
their position, and soon fortified it.

About the time I received the news of this attack, word came
from Hancock that Early had left his front. He had been forced
over to the Catharpin Road, crossing the Po at Corbin's and
again at Wooden Bridge. These are the bridges Sheridan had
given orders to his cavalry to occupy on the 8th, while one
division should occupy Spottsylvania. These movements of the
enemy gave me the idea that Lee was about to make the attempt to
get to, or towards, Fredericksburg to cut off my supplies. I
made arrangements to attack his right and get between him and
Richmond if he should try to execute this design. If he had any
such intention it was abandoned as soon as Burnside was
established south of the Ny.

The Po and the Ny are narrow little streams, but deep, with
abrupt banks, and bordered by heavily wooded and marshy
bottoms--at the time we were there--and difficult to cross
except where bridged. The country about was generally heavily
timbered, but with occasional clearings. It was a much better
country to conduct a defensive campaign in than an offensive one.

By noon of the 9th the position of the two armies was as
follows: Lee occupied a semicircle facing north, north-west and
north-east, inclosing the town. Anderson was on his left
extending to the Po, Ewell came next, then Early. Warren
occupied our right, covering the Brock and other roads
converging at Spottsylvania; Sedgwick was to his left and
Burnside on our extreme left. Hancock was yet back at Todd's
Tavern, but as soon as it was known that Early had left
Hancock's front the latter was ordered up to Warren's right. He
formed a line with three divisions on the hill overlooking the Po
early in the afternoon, and was ordered to cross the Po and get
on the enemy's flank. The fourth division of Hancock's corps,
Mott commanding, was left at Todd's when the corps first came
up; but in the afternoon it was brought up and placed to the
left of Sedgwick's--now Wright's--6th corps. In the morning
General Sedgwick had been killed near the right of his
intrenchments by rebel sharpshooters. His loss was a severe one
to the Army of the Potomac and to the Nation. General H. G.
Wright succeeded him in the command of his corps.

Hancock was now, nine P.M. of the 9th of May, across the left
flank of Lee's army, but separated from it, and also from the
remainder of Meade's army, by the Po River. But for the
lateness of the hour and the darkness of the night he would
have attempted to cross the river again at Wooden Bridge, thus
bringing himself on the same side with both friend and foe.

The Po at the points where Hancock's corps crossed runs nearly
due east. Just below his lower crossing--the troops crossed at
three points--it turns due south, and after passing under Wooden
Bridge soon resumes a more easterly direction. During the night
this corps built three bridges over the Po; but these were in

The position assumed by Hancock's corps forced Lee to reinforce
his left during the night. Accordingly on the morning of the
10th, when Hancock renewed his effort to get over the Po to his
front, he found himself confronted by some of Early's command,
which had been brought from the extreme right of the enemy
during the night. He succeeded in effecting a crossing with one
brigade, however, but finding the enemy intrenched in his front,
no more were crossed.

Hancock reconnoitred his front on the morning of the 10th, with
the view of forcing a crossing, if it was found that an
advantage could be gained. The enemy was found strongly
intrenched on the high ground overlooking the river, and
commanding the Wooden Bridge with artillery. Anderson's left
rested on the Po, where it turns south; therefore, for Hancock
to cross over--although it would bring him to the same side of
the stream with the rest of the army--would still farther
isolate him from it. The stream would have to be crossed twice
in the face of the enemy to unite with the main body. The idea
of crossing was therefore abandoned.

Lee had weakened the other parts of his line to meet this
movement of Hancock's, and I determined to take advantage of
it. Accordingly in the morning, orders were issued for an
attack in the afternoon on the centre by Warren's and Wright's
corps, Hancock to command all the attacking force. Two of his
divisions were brought to the north side of the Po. Gibbon was
placed to the right of Warren, and Birney in his rear as a
reserve. Barlow's division was left south of the stream, and
Mott of the same corps was still to the left of Wright's
corps. Burnside was ordered to reconnoitre his front in force,
and, if an opportunity presented, to attack with vigor. The
enemy seeing Barlow's division isolated from the rest of the
army, came out and attacked with fury. Barlow repulsed the
assault with great slaughter, and with considerable loss to
himself. But the enemy reorganized and renewed the assault.
Birney was now moved to the high ground overlooking the river
crossings built by our troops, and covered the crossings. The
second assault was repulsed, again with severe loss to the
enemy, and Barlow was withdrawn without further molestation.
General T. G. Stevenson was killed in this move.

Between the lines, where Warren's assault was to take place,
there was a ravine grown up with large trees and underbrush,
making it almost impenetrable by man. The slopes on both sides
were also covered with a heavy growth of timber. Warren, before
noon, reconnoitred his front twice, the first time with one and
the second with two divisions. He was repulsed on both
occasions, but gained such information of the ground as to
induce him to report recommending the assault.

Wright also reconnoitred his front and gained a considerably
advanced position from the one he started from. He then
organized a storming party, consisting of twelve regiments, and
assigned Colonel Emory Upton, of the 121st New York Volunteers,
to the command of it. About four o'clock in the afternoon the
assault was ordered, Warren's and Wright's corps, with Mott's
division of Hancock's corps, to move simultaneously. The
movement was prompt, and in a few minutes the fiercest of
struggles began. The battle-field was so densely covered with
forest that but little could be seen, by any one person, as to
the progress made. Meade and I occupied the best position we
could get, in rear of Warren.

Warren was repulsed with heavy loss, General J. C. Rice being
among the killed. He was not followed, however, by the enemy,
and was thereby enabled to reorganize his command as soon as
covered from the guns of the enemy. To the left our success was
decided, but the advantage was lost by the feeble action of
Mott. Upton with his assaulting party pushed forward and
crossed the enemy's intrenchments. Turning to the right and
left he captured several guns and some hundreds of prisoners.
Mott was ordered to his assistance but failed utterly. So much
time was lost in trying to get up the troops which were in the
right position to reinforce, that I ordered Upton to withdraw;
but the officers and men of his command were so averse to giving
up the advantage they had gained that I withdrew the order. To
relieve them, I ordered a renewal of the assault. By this time
Hancock, who had gone with Birney's division to relieve Barlow,
had returned, bringing the division with him. His corps was now
joined with Warren's and Wright's in this last assault. It was
gallantly made, many men getting up to, and over, the works of
the enemy; but they were not able to hold them. At night they
were withdrawn. Upton brought his prisoners with him, but the
guns he had captured he was obliged to abandon. Upton had
gained an important advantage, but a lack in others of the
spirit and dash possessed by him lost it to us. Before leaving
Washington I had been authorized to promote officers on the
field for special acts of gallantry. By this authority I
conferred the rank of brigadier-general upon Upton on the spot,
and this act was confirmed by the President. Upton had been
badly wounded in this fight.

Burnside on the left had got up to within a few hundred yards of
Spottsylvania Court House, completely turning Lee's right. He
was not aware of the importance of the advantage he had gained,
and I, being with the troops where the heavy fighting was, did
not know of it at the time. He had gained his position with but
little fighting, and almost without loss. Burnside's position
now separated him widely from Wright's corps, the corps nearest
to him. At night he was ordered to join on to this. This
brought him back about a mile, and lost to us an important
advantage. I attach no blame to Burnside for this, but I do to
myself for not having had a staff officer with him to report to
me his position.

The enemy had not dared to come out of his line at any point to
follow up his advantage, except in the single instance of his
attack on Barlow. Then he was twice repulsed with heavy loss,
though he had an entire corps against two brigades. Barlow took
up his bridges in the presence of this force.

On the 11th there was no battle and but little firing; none
except by Mott who made a reconnoissance to ascertain if there
was a weak point in the enemy's line.

I wrote the following letter to General Halleck:

May 11, 1864--8.3O A.M.

MAJOR-GENERAL HALLECK, Chief of Staff of the Army, Washington,
D. C.

We have now ended the 6th day of very hard fighting. The result
up to this time is much in our favor. But our losses have been
heavy as well as those of the enemy. We have lost to this time
eleven general officers killed, wounded and missing, and
probably twenty thousand men. I think the loss of the enemy
must be greater--we having taken over four thousand prisoners in
battle, whilst he has taken from us but few except a few
stragglers. I am now sending back to Belle Plain all my wagons
for a fresh supply of provisions and ammunition, and purpose to
fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.

The arrival of reinforcements here will be very encouraging to
the men, and I hope they will be sent as fast as possible, and
in as great numbers. My object in having them sent to Belle
Plain was to use them as an escort to our supply trains. If it
is more convenient to send them out by train to march from the
railroad to Belle Plain or Fredericksburg, send them so.

I am satisfied the enemy are very shaky, and are only kept up to
the mark by the greatest exertions on the part of their officers,
and by keeping them intrenched in every position they take.

Up to this time there is no indication of any portion of Lee's
army being detached for the defence of Richmond.


And also, I received information, through the War Department,
from General Butler that his cavalry under Kautz had cut the
railroad south of Petersburg, separating Beauregard from
Richmond, and had whipped Hill, killing, wounding and capturing
many. Also that he was intrenched, and could maintain
himself. On this same day came news from Sheridan to the effect
that he had destroyed ten miles of the railroad and telegraph
between Lee and Richmond, one and a half million rations, and
most of the medical stores for his army.

On the 8th I had directed Sheridan verbally to cut loose from
the Army of the Potomac and pass around the left of Lee's army
and attack his cavalry and communications, which was
successfully executed in the manner I have already described.



In the reconnoissance made by Mott on the 11th, a salient was
discovered at the right centre. I determined that an assault
should be made at that point. (*28) Accordingly in the afternoon
Hancock was ordered to move his command by the rear of Warren and
Wright, under cover of night, to Wright's left, and there form it
for an assault at four o'clock the next morning. The night was
dark, it rained heavily, and the road was difficult, so that it
was midnight when he reached the point where he was to halt. It
took most of the night to get the men in position for their
advance in the morning. The men got but little rest. Burnside
was ordered to attack (*29) on the left of the salient at the
same hour. I sent two of my staff officers to impress upon him
the importance of pushing forward vigorously. Hancock was
notified of this. Warren and Wright were ordered to hold
themselves in readiness to join in the assault if circumstances
made it advisable. I occupied a central position most
convenient for receiving information from all points. Hancock
put Barlow on his left, in double column, and Birney to his
right. Mott followed Birney, and Gibbon was held in reserve.

The morning of the 12th opened foggy, delaying the start more
than half an hour.

The ground over which Hancock had to pass to reach the enemy,
was ascending and heavily wooded to within two or three hundred
yards of the enemy's intrenchments. In front of Birney there
was also a marsh to cross. But, notwithstanding all these
difficulties, the troops pushed on in quick time without firing
a gun, and when within four or five hundred yards of the enemy's
line broke out in loud cheers, and with a rush went up to and
over the breastworks. Barlow and Birney entered almost
simultaneously. Here a desperate hand-to-hand conflict took
place. The men of the two sides were too close together to
fire, but used their guns as clubs. The hand conflict was soon
over. Hancock's corps captured some four thousand prisoners
among them a division and a brigade commander twenty or more
guns with their horses, caissons, and ammunition, several
thousand stand of arms, and many colors. Hancock, as soon as
the hand-to-hand conflict was over, turned the guns of the enemy
against him and advanced inside the rebel lines. About six
o'clock I ordered Warren's corps to the support of Hancock's.
Burnside, on the left, had advanced up east of the salient to
the very parapet of the enemy. Potter, commanding one of his
divisions, got over but was not able to remain there. However,
he inflicted a heavy loss upon the enemy; but not without loss
in return.

This victory was important, and one that Lee could not afford to
leave us in full possession of. He made the most strenuous


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