Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant [Volume Two]
Ulysses S. Grant

Part 3 out of 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I wrote Halleck:

May 16, 1864, 8 A.M.

Washington, D. C.:

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 18, 1864.

Commanding Army of the Potomac.

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

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

NEW BETHEL, VA., May 22, 1864

Commanding Army of the Potomac.

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

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

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

Headquarters will follow the 9th corps.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commanding A. P.

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

6.40 P.M., May 30, 1864.

Commanding A. P.

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commanding A. P.

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

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

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


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

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

So I wrote the following:

COLD HARBOR, VA., June 5, 1864.

Commanding Confederate Army.

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


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

COLD HARBOR, VA., June 6, 1864.

Commanding Army of N. Va.

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


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

COLD HARBOR, VA, June 6, 1864.

Commanding Army, N. Va.

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


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

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

Commanding Army of N. Va.

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

On the 11th I wrote:

COLD HARBOR, VA., June 11, 1864.

Commanding Department of Va. and N. C.

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

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

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

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

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



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