The Memoirs of General P. H. Sheridan, v1
General Philip Henry Sheridan

Part 4 out of 6

and was quartered with me for the greater part of the time he was
obliged to await the successful conclusion of his sad mission. He
spent days, and even weeks, going about through the division giving
recitations before the camp-fires, and in improvised chapels, which
the men had constructed from refuse lumber and canvas. Suiting his
selections to the occasion, he never failed to excite intense
interest in the breasts of all present, and when circumstances
finally separated him from us, all felt that a debt of gratitude was
due him that could never be paid. The pleasure he gave, and the
confident feeling that was now arising from expected reinforcements,
was darkened, however, by one sad incident. Three men of my division
had deserted their colors at the beginning of the siege and made
their way north. They were soon arrested, and were brought back to
stand trial for the worst offense that can be committed by a soldier,
convicted of the crime, and ordered to be shot. To make the example
effective I paraded the whole division for the execution, and on the
13th of November, in the presence of their former comrades, the
culprits were sent, in accordance with the terms of their sentence,
to render their account to the Almighty. It was the saddest
spectacle I ever witnessed, but there could be no evasion, no
mitigation of the full letter of the law; its timely enforcement was
but justice to the brave spirits who had yet to fight the rebellion
to the end.

General Grant arrived at Chattanooga on October 23, and began at once
to carry out the plans that had been formed for opening the shorter
or river road to Bridgeport. This object was successfully
accomplished by the moving of Hooker's command to Rankin's and
Brown's ferries in concert with a force from the Army of the
Cumberland which was directed on the same points, so by the 27th of
October direct communication with our depots was established. The
four weeks which followed this cheering result were busy with the
work of refitting and preparing for offensive operations as soon as
General Sherman should reach us with his troops from West Tennessee.
During this period of activity the enemy committed the serious fault
of detaching Longstreet's corps--sending it to aid in the siege of
Knoxville in East Tennessee--an error which has no justification
whatever, unless it be based on the presumption that it was
absolutely necessary that Longstreet should ultimately rejoin Lee's
army in Virginia by way of Knoxville and Lynchburg, with a chance of
picking up Burnside en route. Thus depleted, Bragg still held
Missionary Ridge in strong force, but that part of his line which
extended across the intervening valley to the northerly point of.
Lookout Mountain was much attenuated.

By the 18th of November General Grant had issued instructions
covering his intended operations. They contemplated that Sherman's
column, which was arriving by the north bank of the Tennessee, should
cross the river on a pontoon bridge just below the mouth of
Chickamauga Creek and carry the northern extremity of Missionary
Ridge as far as the railroad tunnel; that the Army of the Cumberland-
-the centre--should co-operate with Sherman; and that Hooker with a
mixed command should continue to hold Lookout Valley and operate on
our extreme right as circumstances might warrant. Sherman crossed on
the 24th to perform his alloted part of the programme, but in the
meantime Grant becoming impressed with the idea that Bragg was
endeavoring to get away, ordered Thomas to make a strong
demonstration in his front, to determine the truth or falsity of the
information that had been received. This task fell to the Fourth
Corps, and at 12 o'clock on the 23d I was notified that Wood's
division would make a reconnoissance to an elevated point in its
front called Orchard Knob, and that I was to support it with my
division and prevent Wood's right flank from being turned by an
advance of the enemy on Moore's road or from the direction of
Rossville. For this duty I marched my division out of the works
about 2 p.m., and took up a position on Bushy Knob. Shortly after we
reached this point Wood's division passed my left flank on its
reconnoissance, and my command, moving in support of it, drove in the
enemy's picket-line. Wood's took possession of Orchard Knob easily,
and mine was halted on a low ridge to the right of the Knob, where I
was directed by General Thomas to cover my front by a strong line of
rifle-pits, and to put in position two batteries of the Fourth
regular artillery that had joined me from the Eleventh Corps. After
dark Wood began to feel uneasy about his right flank, for a gap
existed between it and my left, so I moved in closer to him, taking
up a line where I remained inactive till the 25th, but suffering some
inconvenience from the enemy's shells.

On the 24th General Sherman made an attack for the purpose of
carrying the north end of Missionary Ridge. His success was not
complete, although at the time it was reported throughout the army to
be so. It had the effect of disconcerting Bragg, however, and caused
him to strengthen his right by withdrawing troops from his left,
which circumstance led Hooker to advance on the northerly face of
Lookout Mountain. At first, with good glasses, we could plainly see
Hooker's troops driving the Confederates up the face of the mountain.
All were soon lost to view in the dense timber, but emerged again on
the open ground, across which the Confederates retreated at a lively
pace, followed by the pursuing line, which was led by a color-bearer,
who, far in advance, was bravely waving on his comrades. The
gallantry of this man elicited much enthusiasm among us all, but as
he was a considerable distance ahead of his comrades I expected to
see his rashness punished at any moment by death or capture. He
finally got quite near the retreating Confederates, when suddenly
they made a dash at him, but he was fully alive to such a move, and
ran back, apparently uninjured, to his friends. About this time a
small squad of men reached the top of Lookout and planted the Stars
and Stripes on its very crest. Just then a cloud settled down on the
mountain, and a heavy bank of fog obscured its whole face.

After the view was lost the sharp rattle of musketry continued some
time, but practically the fight had been already won by Hooker's men,
the enemy only holding on with a rear-guard to assure his retreat
across Chattanooga Valley to Missionary Ridge. Later we heard very
heavy cannonading, and fearing that Hooker was in trouble I sent a
staff-officer to find out whether he needed assistance, which I
thought could be given by a demonstration toward Rossville. The
officer soon returned with the report that Hooker was all right, that
the cannonading was only a part of a little rear-guard fight, two
sections of artillery making all the noise, the reverberations from
point to point in the adjacent mountains echoing and reechoing till
it seemed that at least fifty guns were engaged.

On the morning of the 25th of November Bragg's entire army was
holding only the line of Missionary Ridge, and our troops, being now
practically connected from Sherman to Hooker, confronted it with the
Army of the Cumberland in the centre--bowed out along the front of
Wood's division and mine. Early in the day Sherman, with great
determination and persistence, made an attempt to carry the high
ground near the tunnel, first gaining and then losing advantage, but
his attack was not crowned with the success anticipated. Meanwhile
Hooker and Palmer were swinging across Chattanooga Valley, using me
as a pivot for the purpose of crossing Missionary Ridge in the
neighborhood of Rossville. In the early part of the day I had driven
in the Confederate pickets in my front, so as to prolong my line of
battle on that of Wood, the necessity of continuing to refuse my
right having been obviated by the capture of Lookout Mountain and the
advance of Palmer.

About 2 o'clock orders came to carry the line at the foot of the
ridge, attacking at a signal of six guns. I had few changes or new
dispositions to make. Wagner's brigade, which was next to Wood's
division, was formed in double lines, and Harker's brigade took the
same formation on Wagner's right. Colonel F. T. Sherman's brigade
came on Harker's right, formed in a column of attack, with a front of
three regiments, he having nine. My whole front was covered with a
heavy line of skirmishers. These dispositions made, my right rested
a little distance south of Moore's road, my left joined Wood over
toward Orchard Knob, while my centre was opposite Thurman's house--
the headquarters of General Bragg--on Missionary Ridge. A small
stream of water ran parallel to my front, as far as which the ground
was covered by a thin patch of timber, and beyond the edge of the
timber was an open plain to the foot of Missionary Ridge, varying in
width from four to nine hundred yards. At the foot of the ridge was
the enemy's first line of rifle-pits; at a point midway up its face,
another line, incomplete; and on the crest was a third line, in which
Bragg had massed his artillery.

The enemy saw we were making dispositions for an attack, and in plain
view of my whole division he prepared himself for resistance,
marching regiments from his left flank with flying colors; and
filling up the spaces not already occupied in his intrenchments.
Seeing the enemy thus strengthening himself, it was plain that we
would have to act quickly if we expected to accomplish much, and I
already began to doubt the feasibility of our remaining in the first
line of rifle-pits when we should have carried them. I discussed the
order with Wagner, Harker, and Sherman, and they were similarly
impressed, so while anxiously awaiting the signal I sent Captain
Ransom of my staff to Granger, who was at Fort Wood, to ascertain if
we were to carry the first line or the ridge beyond. Shortly after
Ransom started the signal guns were fired, and I told my brigade
commanders to go for the ridge.

Placing myself in front of Harker's brigade, between the line of
battle and the skirmishers, accompanied by only an orderly so as not
to attract the enemy's fire, we moved out. Under a terrible storm of
shot and shell the line pressed forward steadily through the timber,
and as it emerged on the plain took the double-quick and with fixed
bayonets rushed at the enemy's first line. Not a shot was fired from
our line of battle, and as it gained on my skirmishers they melted
into and became one with it, and all three of my brigades went over
the rifle-pits simultaneously. They then lay down on the face of the
ridge, for a breathing-spell and for protection' from the terrible
fire, of canister and musketry pouring over us from the guns on the
crest. At the rifle-pits there had been little use for the bayonet,
for most of the Confederate troops, disconcerted by the sudden rush,
lay close in the ditch and surrendered, though some few fled up the
slope to the next line. The prisoners were directed to move out to
our rear, and as their intrenchments had now come under fire from the
crest, they went with alacrity, and without guard or escort, toward

After a short pause to get breath the ascent of the ridge began, and
I rode, into the ditch of the intrenchments to drive out a few
skulkers who were hiding there. Just at this time I was joined by
Captain Ransom, who, having returned from Granger, told me that we
were to carry only the line at the base, and that in coming back,
when he struck the left of the division, knowing this interpretation
of the order, he in his capacity as an aide-de-camp had directed
Wagner, who was up on the face of the ridge, to return, and that in
consequence Wagner was recalling his men to the base. I could not
bear to order the recall of troops now so gallantly climbing the hill
step by step, and believing we could take it, I immediately rode to
Wagner's brigade and directed it to resume the attack. In the
meantime Harker's and F. T. Sherman's troops were approaching the
partial line of works midway of the ridge, and as I returned to the
centre of their rear, they were being led by many stands of
regimental colors. There seemed to be a rivalry as to which color
should be farthest to the front; first one would go forward a few
feet, then another would come up to it, the color-bearers vying with
one another as to who should be foremost, until finally every
standard was planted on the intermediate works. The enemy's fire
from the crest during the ascent was terrific in the noise made, but
as it was plunging, it over-shot and had little effect on those above
the second line of pits, but was very uncomfortable for those below,
so I deemed it advisable to seek another place, and Wagner's brigade
having reassembled and again pressed up the ridge, I rode up the face
to join my troops.

As soon as the men saw me, they surged forward and went over the
works on the crest. The parapet of the intrenchment was too high for
my horse to jump, so, riding a short distance to the left, I entered
through a low place in the line. A few Confederates were found
inside, but they turned the butts of their muskets toward me in token
of surrender, for our men were now passing beyond them on both their

The right and right centre of my division gained the summit first,
they being partially sheltered by a depression in the face of the
ridge, the Confederates in their immediate front fleeing down the
southern face. When I crossed the rifle-pits on the top the
Confederates were still holding fast at Bragg's headquarters, and a
battery located there opened fire along the crest; making things most
uncomfortably hot. Seeing the danger to which I was exposed, for I
was mounted, Colonel Joseph Conrad, of the Fifteenth Missouri, ran up
and begged me to dismount. I accepted his excellent advice, and it
probably saved my life; but poor Conrad was punished for his
solicitude by being seriously wounded in the thigh at the moment he
was thus contributing to my safety.

Wildly cheering, the men advanced along the ridge toward Bragg's
headquarters, and soon drove the Confederates from this last
position, capturing a number of prisoners, among them Breckenridge's
and Bates's adjutant-generals, and the battery that had made such
stout resistance on the crest-two guns which were named "Lady
Breckenridge" and "Lady Buckner" General Bragg himself having barely
time to escape before his headquarters were taken.

My whole division had now reached the summit, and Wagner and Harker--
the latter slightly wounded--joined me as I was standing in the
battery just secured. The enemy was rapidly retiring, and though
many of his troops, with disorganized wagon-trains and several pieces
of artillery, could be distinctly seen in much confusion about half a
mile distant in the valley below, yet he was covering them with a
pretty well organized line that continued to give us a desultory
fire. Seeing this, I at once directed Wagner and Harker to take up
the pursuit along Moore's road, which led to Chickamauga Station--
Bragg's depot of supply--and as they progressed, I pushed Sherman's
brigade along the road behind them. Wagner and Harker soon overtook
the rearguard, and a slight skirmish caused it to break, permitting
nine guns and a large number of wagons which were endeavoring to get
away in the stampede to fall into our hands.

About a mile and a half beyond Missionary Ridge, Moore's road passed
over a second ridge or high range of hills, and here the enemy had
determined to make a stand for that purpose, posting eight pieces of
artillery with such supporting force as he could rally. He was
immediately attacked by Harker and Wagner, but the position was
strong, the ridge being rugged and difficult of ascent, and after the
first onset our men recoiled. A staff-officer from Colonel Wood's
demi-brigade informing me at this juncture that that command was too
weak to carry the position in its front, I ordered the Fifteenth
Indiana and the Twenty-Sixth Ohio to advance to Wood's aid, and then
hastening to the front I found his men clinging to the face of the
ridge, contending stubbornly with the rear-guard of the enemy.
Directing Harker to put Opdyke's demi-brigade in on the right, I
informed Wagner that it was necessary to flank the enemy by carrying
the high bluff on our left where the ridge terminated, that I had
designated the Twenty-Sixth Ohio and Fifteenth Indiana for the work,
and that I wished him to join them.

It was now dusk, but the two regiments engaged in the flanking
movement pushed on to gain the bluff. Just as they reached the crest
of the ridge the moon rose from behind, enlarged by the refraction of
the atmosphere, and as the attacking column passed along the summit
it crossed the moon's disk and disclosed to us below a most
interesting panorama, every figure nearly being thrown out in full
relief. The enemy, now outflanked on left and right, abandoned his
ground, leaving us two pieces of artillery and a number of wagons.
After this ridge was captured I found that no other troops than mine
were pursuing the enemy, so I called a halt lest I might become too
much isolated. Having previously studied the topography of the
country thoroughly, I knew that if I pressed on my line of march
would carry me back to Chickamauga station, where we would be in rear
of the Confederates that had been fighting General Sherman, and that
there was a possibility of capturing them by such action; but I did
not feel warranted in marching there alone, so I rode back to
Missionary Ridge to ask for more troops, and upon arriving there I
found Granger in command, General Thomas having gone back to

Granger was at Braggy's late headquarters in bed. I informed him of
my situation and implored him to follow me up with the Army of the
Cumberland, but he declined, saying that he thought we had done well
enough. I still insisting, he told me finally to push on to the
crossing of Chickamauga Creek, and if I, encountered the enemy he
would order troops to my support. I returned to my division about
12 o'clock at night, got it under way, and reached the crossing,
about half a mile from the station, at 2 o'clock on the morning of
the 26th, and there found the bridge destroyed, but that the creek
was fordable. I did not encounter the enemy in any force, but feared
to go farther without assistance. This I thought I might bring up by
practicing a little deception, so I caused two regiments to simulate
an engagement by opening fire, hoping that this would alarm Granger
and oblige him to respond with troops, but my scheme failed. General
Granger afterward told me that he had heard the volleys, but
suspected their purpose, knowing that they were not occasioned by a
fight, since they were too regular in their delivery.

I was much disappointed that my pursuit had not been supported, for I
felt that great results were in store for us should the enemy be
vigorously followed. Had the troops under Granger's command been
pushed out with mine when Missionary Ridge was gained, we could have
reached Chickamauga Station by 12 o'clock the night of the 25th; or
had they been sent even later, when I called for them, we could have
got there by daylight and worked incalculable danger to the
Confederates, for the force that had confronted Sherman did not pass
Chickamauga Station in their retreat till after daylight on the
morning of the 26th.

My course in following so close was dictated by a thorough knowledge
of the topography of the country and a familiarity with its roads,
bypaths, and farm-houses, gained with the assistance of Mr.
Crutchfield; and sure my column was heading in the right direction,
though night had fallen I thought that an active pursuit would almost
certainly complete the destruction of Bragg's army. When General
Grant came by my bivouac at the crossing of Chickamauga Creek on the
26th, he realized what might have been accomplished had the
successful assault on Missionary Ridge been supplemented by vigorous
efforts on the part of some high officers, who were more interested
in gleaning that portion of the battle-field over which my command
had passed than in destroying a panic-stricken enemy.

Although it cannot be said that the result of the two days'
operations was reached by the methods which General Grant had
indicated in his instructions preceding the battle, yet the general
outcome was unquestionably due to his genius, for the manoeuvring of
Sherman's and Hooker's commands created the opportunity for Thomas's
corps of the Army of the Cumberland to carry the ridge at the centre.
In directing Sherman to attack the north end of the ridge, Grant
disconcerted Bragg--who was thus made to fear the loss of his depot
of supplies at Chickamauga Station--and compelled him to resist
stoutly; and stout resistance to Sherman meant the withdrawal of the
Confederates from Lookout Mountain. While this attack was in process
of execution advantage was taken of it by Hooker in a well-planned
and well-fought battle, but to my mind an unnecessary one, for our
possession of Lookout was the inevitable result that must follow from
Sherman's threatening attitude. The assault on Missionary Ridge by
Granger's and Palmer's corps was not premeditated by Grant, he
directing only the line at its base to be carried, but when this fell
into our hands the situation demanded our getting the one at the top

I took into the action an effective force of 6,000, and lost 123
officers and 1,181 men killed and wounded. These casualties speak
louder than words of the character of the fight, and plainly tell
where the enemy struggled most stubbornly for these figures comprise
one-third the casualties of the entire body of Union troops--
Sherman's and all included. My division captured 1,762 prisoners
and, in all, seventeen pieces of artillery. Six of these guns I
turned over with caissons complete; eleven were hauled off the field
and appropriated by an officer of high rank--General Hazen. I have
no disposition to renew the controversy which grew out of this
matter. At the time the occurrence took place I made the charge in a
plain official report, which was accepted as correct by the corps and
army commanders, from General Granger up to General Grant. General
Hazen took no notice of this report then, though well aware of its
existence. Nearly a quarter of a century later, however, he
endeavored to justify his retention of the guns by trying to show
that his brigade was the first to reach the crest of Missionary
Ridge, and that he was therefore entitled to them. This claim of
being the first to mount the ridge is made by other brigades than
Hazen's, with equal if not greater force, so the absurdity of his
deduction is apparent:

NOTE: In a book published by General Hazen in 1885, he endeavored to
show, by a number of letters from subordinate officers of his
command, written at his solicitation from fifteen to twenty years
after the occurrence, that his brigade was the first to mount
Missionary Ridge, and that it was entitled to possess these guns.
The doubtful character of testimony dimmed by the lapse of many years
has long been conceded, and I am content to let the controversy stand
the test of history, based on the conclusions of General Grant, as he
drew them from official reports made when the circumstances were
fresh in the minds of all.

General Grant says: "To Sheridan's prompt movement, the Army of the
Cumberland and the nation are indebted for the bulk of the capture of
prisoners, artillery, and small-arms that day. Except for his prompt
pursuit, so much in this way would not have been accomplished."

General Thomas says: "We captured all their cannon and ammunition
before they could be removed or destroyed. After halting a few
moments to reorganize the troops, who had become somewhat scattered
in the assault of the hill, General Sheridan pushed forward in
pursuit, and drove those in his front who had escaped capture across
Chickamauga Creek."

"When within ten yards of the crest, our men seemed to be thrown
forward as if by some powerful engine, and the old flag was planted
firmly and surely on the last line of works of the enemy, followed by
the men, taking one battery of artillery."

...."I pushed men up to the second line of works as fast as possible;
on and on, clear to the top, and over the ridge they went, to the
hollow beyond, killing and wounding numbers of the enemy as we
advanced, and leaving the rebel battery in our rear. We captured
great numbers of prisoners, and sent them to the rear without guards,
as we deemed the pursuit of the enemy of greater importance....
'I cannot give too much praise to Captain Powers, Company "H,"
Lieutenant Smith, Company "K," Lieutenant Gooding, Company "A," and
Second Lieutenant Moser, Company "G," for their assistance, and for
the gallant manner in which they encouraged their men up the side of
the mountain, and charging the enemy's works right up to the muzzles
of their guns.'"

...."The first on the enemy's works, and almost simultaneously, were
Lieutenant Clement, Company "A," Captain Stegner, Company "I,"
Captain Bacon, Company "G," and Captain Leffingwell, with some of
their men. The enemy was still in considerable force behind their
works; but, for some unaccountable reason, they either fled or
surrendered instantly upon the first few of our men reaching them--
not even trying to defend their battery, which was immediately
captured by Captain Stegner."

...."In connection with other regiments of this brigade, we assisted
in capturing several pieces of artillery, a number of caissons, and a
great quantity of small-arms."

...."At the house known as Bragg's headquarters, the enemy were
driven from three guns, which fell into our hands."

...."I ordered the command to storm the ridge, bringing up the
Fifteenth Indiana and Ninety-seventh Ohio, which had not yet been
engaged, although suffering from the enemy's artillery. The result
is a matter of history, as we gained the ridge, capturing artillery,
prisoners, and small-arms; to what amount, however, I do not know, as
we pushed on after the enemy as soon as I had re-formed the command.
....Captain Tinney, with his usual gallantry, dashed up the line with
the first troops, and with the aid of an orderly (George Dusenbury,
Fifteenth Indiana), turned the loaded gun of the enemy on his
retreating ranks."

...."Our captures amounted to prisoners not counted, representing
many different regiments; several pieces of artillery, and some

...."As the regiment reached the top of the ridge and swept for.
ward, the right passed through, without stopping to take possession,
the battery at General Bragg's headquarters that had fired so
venomously during the whole contest."

...."In passing to the front from Missionary Ridge, we saw several
pieces of artillery which had been abandoned by the enemy, though I
did not leave any one in charge of them."

...."I immediately organized my regiment, and while so doing
discovered a number of pieces of artillery in a ravine on my left. I
sent Lieutenant Stewart, of Company A, to see if these guns which the
enemy had abandoned could not be turned upon them. He returned and
reported them to be four ten-pound Parrotts and two brass Napoleons;
also that it would require a number of men to place them in position.
I ordered him to report the same to General Wagner, and ask
permission, but before receiving a reply was ordered by you to move
forward my regiment on the left of the Fifty-Eighth Indiana

...."My right and Colonel Sherman's left interlocked, so to speak, as
we approached the summit, and it was near this point that I saw the
first part of my line gain the crest. This was done by a few brave
men of my own and Colonel Sherman's command driving the enemy from
his intrenchments. The gap thus opened, our men rushed rapidly in,
and the enemy, loth to give up their position, still remained, firing
at my command toward the left, and the battery in front of the house
known as General Bragg's headquarters was still firing at the troops,
and was captured by our men while the gunners were still at their
...."We captured and sent to division and corps headquarters 503
prisoners and a large number of small-arms. In regard to the number
of pieces of artillery, it will probably be difficult to reconcile
the reports of my regimental commanders with the reports of other
regiments and brigades who fought so nobly with my own command, and
who alike are entitled to share the honors and glories of the day.
More anxious to follow the enemy than to appropriate trophies already
secured, we pushed to the front, while the place we occupied on
ascending the hill was soon occupied by other troops, who, I have
learned, claim the artillery as having fallen into their own hands.
It must therefore remain with the division and corps commanders, who
knew the relative position of each brigade and division, to accord to
each the trophies to which they are due.
...."From my personal observation I can claim a battery of six guns
captured by a portion of my brigade."

...."My command captured Bragg's headquarters, house, and the six
guns which were near there; one of these I ordered turned upon the
enemy, which was done with effect."

...."The point at which the centre of my regiment reached the crest
was at the stable to the left of the house said to be Bragg's
headquarters, and immediately in front of the road which leads down
the southern slope of the ridge. One piece of the abandoned battery,
was to the left of this point, the remainder to the right, near by."

...."The position in which my regiment found itself was immediately
in front of a battery, which belched forth a stream of canister upon
us with terrible rapidity. In addition to this, the enemy, whenever
driven from other points, rallied around this battery, and defended
it with desperation. It cost a struggle to take it; but we finally
succeeded, and the colors of the Sixty-fifth Ohio were the first
planted upon the yet smoking guns. Captain Smith, of my regiment,
was placed in charge of the captured battery, which consisted of 5
guns, 3 caissons, and 17 horses."

...."Perceiving that the ridge across which my regiment extended was
commanded to the very crest by a battery in front, also by those to
right and left, I directed the men to pass up the gorges on either
side. About forty men, with Captain Parks and Lieutenant Stinger,
passed to the left, the balance to the right, and boldly charged on,
till, foremost with those of other regiments, they stood on the
strongest point of the enemy's works, masters alike of his guns and
position.... Captain Parks reports his skirmish-line to have charged
upon and captured one gun, that otherwise would have been hauled

...."The right of the regiment rested on the left of the road, where
it crossed the rebel fortification, leading up the hill toward
Bragg's headquarters. We took a right oblique direction through a
peach orchard until arriving at the woods and logs on the side of the
ridge, when I ordered the men to commence firing, which they did with
good effect, and continued it all the way up until the heights were
gained. At this point the left of the regiment was near the right of
the house, and I claim that my officers and men captured two large
brass pieces, literally punching the cannoniers from their guns.
Privates John Fregan and Jasper Patterson, from Company "A," rushed
down the hill, captured one caisson, with a cannonier and six horses,
and brought them back."

...."The regiment, without faltering, finally, at about 4.30 P.M.,
gained the enemy's works in conjunction with a party of the Thirty-
sixth Illinois, who were immediately on our right. The regiment, or
a portion of it, proceeded to the left, down the ridge, for nearly or
quite a quarter of a mile capturing three or four pieces of cannon,
driving the gunners from them."



The day after the battle of Missionary Ridge I was ordered in the
evening to return to Chattanooga, and from the limited supply of
stores to be had there outfit my command to march to the relief of
Knoxville, where General Burnside was still holding out against the
besieging forces of General Longstreet. When we left Murfreesboro'
in the preceding June, the men's knapsacks and extra clothing, as
well as all our camp equipage, had been left behind, and these
articles had not yet reached us, so we were poorly prepared for a
winter campaign in the mountains of East Tennessee. There was but
little clothing to be obtained in Chattanooga, and my command
received only a few overcoats and a small supply of India-rubber
ponchos. We could get no shoes, although we stood in great need of
them, for the extra pair with which each man had started out from
Murfreesboro' was now much the worse for wear. The necessity for
succoring Knoxville was urgent, however, so we speedily refitted as
thoroughly as was possible with the limited means at hand. My
division teams were in very fair condition in consequence of the
forage we had procured in the Sequatchie Valley, so I left the train
behind to bring up clothing when any should arrive in Chattanooga.

Under these circumstances, on the 29th of November the Fourth Corps
(Granger's) took up the line of march for Knoxville, my men carrying
in their haversacks four days' rations, depending for a further
supply of food on a small steamboat loaded with subsistence stores,
which was to proceed up the Tennessee River and keep abreast of the

Not far from Philadelphia, Tennessee, the columns of General
Sherman's army, which had kept a greater distance from the river than
Granger's corps, so as to be able to subsist on the country, came in
toward our right and the whole relieving force was directed on
Marysville, about fifteen miles southwest of Knoxville. We got to
Marysville December 5, and learned the same day that Longstreet had
shortly before attempted to take Knoxville by a desperate assault,
but signally failing, had raised the siege and retired toward Bean's
Station on the Rutledge, Rogersville, and Bristol road, leading to
Virginia. From Marysville General Sherman's troops returned to
Chattanooga, while Granger's corps continued on toward Knoxville, to
take part in the pursuit of Longstreet.

Burnside's army was deficient in subsistence, though not to the
extent that we had supposed before leaving Chattanooga. It had eaten
out the country in the immediate vicinity of Knoxville, however;
therefore my division did not cross the Holstein River, but was
required, in order to maintain itself, to proceed to the region of
the French Broad River. To this end I moved to Sevierville, and
making this village my headquarters, the division was spread out over
the French Broad country, between Big Pigeon and Little Pigeon
rivers, where we soon had all the mills in operation, grinding out
plenty of flour and meal. The whole region was rich in provender of
all kinds, and as the people with rare exceptions were
enthusiastically loyal, we in a little while got more than enough
food for ourselves, and by means of flatboats began sending the
surplus down the river to the troops at Knoxville.

The intense loyalty of this part of Tennessee exceeded that of any
other section I was in during the war. The people could not do too
much to aid the Union cause, and brought us an abundance of
everything needful. The women were especially loyal, and as many of
their sons and husbands, who had been compelled to "refugee" on
account of their loyal sentiments, returned with us, numbers of the
women went into ecstasies of joy when this part of the Union army
appeared among them. So long as we remained in the French Broad
region, we lived on the fat of the land, but unluckily our stay was
to be of short duration, for Longstreet's activity kept the
department commander in a state of constant alarm.

Soon after getting the mills well running, and when the shipment of
their surplus product down the river by flatboats had begun, I was
ordered to move to Knoxville, on account of demonstrations by
Longstreet from the direction of Blain's crossroads. On arriving at
Knoxville, an inspection of my command, showed that the shoes of many
of the men were entirely worn out, the poor fellows having been
obliged to protect their feet with a sort of moccasin, made from
their blankets or from such other material as they could procure.
About six hundred of the command were in this condition, plainly not
suitably shod to withstand the frequent storms of sleet and snow.
These men I left in Knoxville to await the arrival of my train, which
I now learned was en route from Chattanooga with shoes, overcoats,
and other clothing, and with the rest of the division proceeded to
Strawberry Plains, which we reached the latter part of December.

Mid-winter was now upon us, and the weather in this mountain region
of East Tennessee was very cold, snow often falling to the depth of
several inches. The thin and scanty clothing of the men afforded
little protection, and while in bivouac their only shelter was the
ponchos with which they had been provided before leaving Chattanooga;
there was not a tent in the command. Hence great suffering resulted,
which I anxiously hoped would be relieved shortly by the arrival of
my train with supplies. In the course of time the wagons reached
Knoxville, but my troops derived little comfort from this fact, for
the train was stopped by General Foster, who had succeeded Burnside
in command of the department, its contents distributed pro rata to
the different organizations of the entire army, and I received but a
small share. This was very disappointing, not to say exasperating,
but I could not complain of unfairness, for every command in the army
was suffering to the same extent as mine, and yet it did seem that a
little forethought and exertion on the part of some of the other
superior officers, whose transportation was in tolerable condition,
might have ameliorated the situation considerably. I sent the train
back at once for more clothing, and on its return, just before
reaching Knoxville, the quartermaster in charge, Captain Philip
Smith, filled the open spaces in the wagons between the bows and load
with fodder and hay, and by this clever stratagem passed it through
the town safe and undisturbed as a forage train. On Smith's arrival
we lost no time in issuing the clothing, and when it had passed into
the hands of the individual soldiers the danger of its appropriation
for general distribution, like the preceding invoice, was very

General Foster had decided by this time to move his troops to
Dandridge for the twofold purpose of threatening the enemy's left and
of getting into a locality where we could again gather subsistence
from the French Broad region. Accordingly we began an advance on the
15th of January, the cavalry having preceded us some time before.
The Twenty-third Corps and Wood's division of the Fourth Corps
crossed the Holstein River by a bridge that had been constructed at
Strawberry Plains. My division being higher up the stream, forded
it, the water very deep and bitter cold, being filled with slushy
ice. Marching by way of New Market, I reached Dandridge on the 17th,
and here on my arrival met General Sturgis, then commanding our
cavalry. He was on the eve of setting out to, "whip the enemy's
cavalry," as he said, and wanted me to go along and see him do it. I
declined, however, for being now the senior officer present, Foster,
Parke, and Granger having remained at Knoxville and Strawberry
Plains, their absence left me in command, and it was necessary that I
should make disposition of the infantry when it arrived. As there
were indications of a considerable force of the enemy on the
Russellville road I decided to place the troops in line of battle, so
as to be prepared for any emergency that might arise in the absence
of the senior officers, and I deemed it prudent to supervise
personally the encamping of the men. This disposition necessarily
required that some of the organizations should occupy very
disagreeable ground, but I soon got all satisfactorily posted with
the exception of General Willich, who expressed some discontent at
being placed beyond the shelter of the timber, but accepted the
situation cheerfully when its obvious necessity was pointed out to

Feeling that all was secure, I returned to my headquarters in the
village with the idea that we were safely established in ease of
attack, and that the men would now have a good rest if left
undisturbed; and plenty to eat, but hardly had I reached my own camp
when a staff-officer came post-haste from Sturgis with the
information that he was being driven back to my lines, despite the
confident invitation to me (in the morning) to go out and witness the
whipping which was to be given to the enemy's cavalry. Riding to the
front, I readily perceived that the information was correct, and I
had to send a brigade of infantry out to help Sturgis, thus relieving
him from a rather serious predicament. Indeed, the enemy was present
in pretty strong force, both cavalry and infantry, and from his
vicious attack on Sturgis it looked very much as though he intended
to bring on a general engagement.

Under such circumstances I deemed it advisable that the responsible
commanders of the army should be present, and so informed them. My
communication brought Parke and Granger to the front without delay,
but Foster could not come, since the hardships of the winter had
reopened an old wound received during the Mexican War, and brought on
much suffering. By the time Parke and Granger arrived, however, the
enemy, who it turned out was only making a strong demonstration to
learn the object of our movement on Dandridge, seemed satisfied with
the results of his reconnoissance, and began falling back toward
Bull's Gap. Meanwhile Parke and Granger concluded that Dandridge was
an untenable point, and hence decided to withdraw a part of the army
to Strawberry Plains; and the question of supplies again coming up,
it was determined to send the Fourth Corps to the south side of the
French Broad to obtain subsistence, provided we could bridge the
river so that men could get across the deep and icy stream without

I agreed to undertake the construction of a bridge on condition that
each division should send to the ford twenty-five wagons with which
to make it. This being acceded to, Harker's brigade began the work
next morning at a favorable point a few miles down the river. As my
quota of wagons arrived, they were drawn into the stream one after
another by the wheel team, six men in each wagon, and as they
successively reached the other side of the channel the mules were
unhitched, the pole of each wagon run under thre hind axle of the one
just in front, and the tailboards used so as to span the slight space
between them. The plan worked well as long as the material lasted,
but no other wagons than my twenty-five coming on the ground, the
work stopped when the bridge was only half constructed. Informed of
the delay and its cause, in sheer desperation I finished the bridge
by taking from my own division all the wagons needed to make up the

It was late in the afternoon when the work was finished, and I began
putting over one of my brigades; but in the midst of its crossing
word came that Longstreet's army was moving to attack us, which
caused an abandonment of the foraging project, and orders quickly
followed to retire to Strawberry Plains, the retrograde movement to
begin forthwith. I sent to headquarters information of the plight I
was in--baggage and supplies on the bank and wagons in the stream--
begged to know what was to become of them if we were to hurry off at
a moment's notice, and suggested that the movement be delayed until I
could recover my transportation. Receiving in reply no assurances
that I should be relieved from my dilemma--and, in fact, nothing
satisfactory--I determined to take upon myself the responsibility of
remaining on the ground long enough to get my wagons out of the
river; so I sent out a heavy force to watch for the enemy, and with
the remainder of the command went to work to break up the bridge.
Before daylight next morning I had recovered everything without
interference by Longstreet, who, it was afterward ascertained, was
preparing to move east toward Lynchburg instead of marching to attack
us; the small demonstration against Dandridge, being made simply to
deceive us as to his ultimate object. I marched to Strawberry Plains
unmolested, and by taking the route over Bay's Mountain, a shorter
one than that followed by the main body of our troops, reached the
point of rendezvous as soon as the most of the army, for the road it
followed was not only longer, but badly cut up by trains that had
recently passed over it.

Shortly after getting into camp, the beef contractor came in and
reported that a detachment of the enemy's cavalry had captured my
herd of beef cattle. This caused me much chagrin at first, but the
commissary of my division soon put in an appearance, and assured me
that the loss would not be very disastrous to us nor of much benefit
to the enemy, since the cattle were so poor and weak that they could
not be driven off. A reconnoissance in force verified the
Commissary's statement. From its inability to travel, the herd,
after all efforts to carry it off had proved ineffectual, had been
abandoned by its captors.

After the troops from Chattanooga arrived in the vicinity of
Knoxville and General Sherman had returned to Chattanooga, the
operations in East Tennessee constituted a series of blunders,
lasting through the entire winter; a state of affairs doubtless due,
in the main, to the fact that the command of the troops was so
frequently changed. Constant shifting of responsibility from one to
another ensued from the date that General Sherman, after assuring
himself that Knoxville was safe, devolved the command on Burnside.
It had already been intimated to Burnside that he was to be relieved,
and in consequence he was inactive and apathetic, confining his
operations to an aimless expedition whose advance extended only as
far as Blain's crossroads, whence it was soon withdrawn. Meanwhile
General Foster had superseded Burnside, but physical disabilities
rendered him incapable of remaining in the field, and then the chief
authority devolved on Parke. By this time the transmission of power
seemed almost a disease; at any rate it was catching, so, while we
were en route to Dandridge, Parke transferred the command to Granger.
The latter next unloaded it on me, and there is no telling what the
final outcome would have been had I not entered a protest against a
further continuance of the practice, which remonstrance brought
Granger to the front at Dandridge.

While the events just narrated were taking place, General Grant had
made a visit to Knoxville--about the last of December--and arranged
to open the railroad between there and Chattanooga, with a view to
supplying the troops in East Tennessee by rail in the future, instead
of through Cumberland Gap by a tedious line of wagon-trains. In
pursuance of his plan the railroad had already been opened to Loudon,
but here much delay occurred on account of the long time it took to
rebuild the bridge over the Tennessee. Therefore supplies were still
very scarce, and as our animals were now dying in numbers from
starvation, and the men were still on short allowance, it became
necessary that some of the troops east of Knoxville should get nearer
to their depot, and also be in a position to take part in the coming
Georgia campaign, or render assistance to General Thomas, should
General Johnston (who had succeeded in command of the Confederate
army) make any demonstration against Chattanooga. Hence my division
was ordered to take station at Loudon, Tennessee, and I must confess
that we took the road for that point with few regrets, for a general
disgust prevailed regarding our useless marches during the winter.

At this time my faithful scout Card and his younger brother left me,
with the determination, as I have heretofore related, to avenge their
brother's death. No persuasion could induce Card to remain longer,
for knowing that my division's next operation would be toward
Atlanta, and being ignorant of the country below Dalton, he
recognized and insisted that his services would then become
practically valueless.

At Loudon, where we arrived January 27, supplies were more plentiful,
and as our tents and extra clothing reached us there in a few days,
every one grew contented and happy. Here a number of my regiments,
whose terms of service were about to expire, went through the process
of "veteranizing," and, notwithstanding the trials and hardships of
the preceding nine months, they re-enlisted almost to a man.

When everything was set in motion toward recuperating and refitting
my troops, I availed myself of the opportunity during a lull that
then existed to take a short leave of absence--a privilege I had not
indulged in since entering the service in 1853. This leave I spent
in the North with much benefit to my physical condition, for I was
much run down by fatiguing service, and not a little troubled by
intense pain which I at times still suffered from my experience in
the unfortunate hand-car incident on the Cumberland Mountains the
previous July. I returned from leave the latter part of March,
rejoining my division with the expectation that the campaign in that
section would begin as early as April.

On the 12th of March, 1864, General Grant was assigned to the command
of the armies of the United States, as general-in-chief. He was
already in Washington, whither he had gone to receive his commission
as lieutenant-general. Shortly after his arrival there, he commenced
to rearrange the different commands in the army to suit the plans
which he intended to enter upon in the spring, and out of this grew a
change in my career. Many jealousies and much ill-feeling, the
outgrowth of former campaigns, existed among officers of high grade
in the Army of the Potomac in the winter of 1864, and several general
officers were to be sent elsewhere in consequence. Among these,
General Alfred Pleasonton was to be relieved from the command of the
cavalry, General Grant having expressed to the President
dissatisfaction that so little had hitherto been accomplished by that
arm of the service, and I was selected as chief of the cavalry corps
of the Army of the Potomac, receiving on the night of the 23d of
March from General Thomas at Chattanooga the following telegram:

"MARCH 23, 1864.

"Lieutenant-General Grant directs that Major-General Sheridan
immediately repair to Washington and report to the Adjutant-General
of the Army.

Major-General, Chief-of-Staff."

I was not informed of the purpose for which I was to proceed to
Washington, but I conjectured that it meant a severing of my
relations with the Second Division, Fourth Army Corps. I at once set
about obeying the order, and as but little preparation was necessary,
I started for Chattanooga the next day, without taking any formal
leave of the troops I had so long commanded. I could not do it; the
bond existing between them and me had grown to such depth of
attachment that I feared to trust my emotions in any formal parting
from a body of soldiers who, from our mutual devotion, had long
before lost their official designation, and by general consent within
and without the command were called "Sheridan's Division." When I
took the train at the station the whole command was collected on the
hill-sides around to see me off. They had assembled spontaneously,
officers and men, and as the cars moved out for Chattanooga they
waved me farewell with demonstrations of affection.

A parting from such friends was indeed to be regretted. They had
never given me any trouble, nor done anything that could bring aught
but honor to themselves. I had confidence in them, and I believe
they had in me. They were ever steady, whether in victory or in
misfortune, and as I tried always to be with them, to put them into
the hottest fire if good could be gained, or save them from
unnecessary loss, as occasion required, they amply repaid all my care
and anxiety, courageously and readily meeting all demands in every
emergency that arose.

In Kentucky, nearly two years before, my lot had been cast with about
half of the twenty-five regiments of infantry that I was just
leaving, the rest joining me after Chickamauga. It was practically a
new arm of the service to me, for although I was an infantry officer,
yet the only large command which up to that time I had controlled was
composed of cavalry, and most of my experience had been gained in
this arm of the service. I had to study hard to be able to master
all the needs of such a force, to feed and clothe it and guard all
its interests. When undertaking these responsibilities I felt that
if I met them faithfully, recompense would surely come through the
hearty response that soldiers always make to conscientious exertion
on the part of their superiors, and not only that more could be
gained in that way than from the use of any species of influence, but
that the reward would be quicker. Therefore I always tried to look
after their comfort personally; selected their camps, and provided
abundantly for their subsistence, and the road they opened for me
shows that my work was not in vain. I regretted deeply to have to
leave such soldiers, and felt that they were sorry I was going, and
even now I could not, if I would, retain other than the warmest
sentiments of esteem and the tenderest affection for the officers and
men of "Sheridan's Division," Army of the Cumberland.

On reaching Chattanooga I learned from General Thomas the purpose for
which I had been ordered to Washington. I was to be assigned to the
command of the Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The
information staggered me at first, for I knew well the great
responsibilities of such a position; moreover, I was but slightly
acquainted with military operations in Virginia, and then, too, the
higher officers of the Army of the Potomac were little known to me,
so at the moment I felt loth to undergo the trials of the new
position. Indeed, I knew not a soul in Washington except General
Grant and General Halleck, and them but slightly, and no one in
General Meade's army, from the commanding general down, except a few
officers in the lower grades, hardly any of whom I had seen since
graduating at the Military Academy.

Thus it is not much to be wondered at that General Thomas's
communication momentarily upset me. But there was no help for it, so
after reflecting on the matter a little I concluded to make the best
of the situation. As in Virginia I should be operating in a field
with which I was wholly unfamiliar, and among so many who were
strangers, it seemed to me that it would be advisable to have, as a
chief staff-officer, one who had had service in the East, if an
available man could be found. In weighing all these considerations
in my mind, I fixed upon Captain James W. Forsyth, of the Eighteenth
Infantry, then in the regular brigade at Chattanooga--a dear friend
of mine, who had served in the Army of the Potomac, in the Peninsula
and Antietam campaigns. He at once expressed a desire to accept a
position on my staff, and having obtained by the next day the
necessary authority, he and I started for Washington, accompanied by
Lieutenant T. W. C. Moore, one of my aides, leaving behind Lieutenant
M. V. Sheridan, my other aide, to forward our horses as soon as they
should be sent down to Chattanooga from Loudon, after which he was to
join me.



Accompanied by Captain Forsyth and Lieutenant Moore, I arrived in
Washington on the morning of April, 4, 1864, and stopped at Willard's
Hotel, where, staying temporarily, were many officers of the Army of
the Potomac en route to their commands from leave at the North.
Among all these, however, I was an entire stranger, and I cannot now
recall that I met a single individual whom I had ever before known.

With very little delay after reaching my hotel I made my way to
General Halleck's headquarters and reported to that officer, having
learned in the meantime that General Grant was absent from the city.
General Halleck talked to me for a few minutes, outlining briefly the
nature and duties of my new command, and the general military
situation in Virginia. When he had finished all he had to say about
these matters, he took me to the office of the Secretary of War, to
present me to Mr. Stanton. During the ceremony of introduction, I
could feel that Mr. Stanton was eying me closely and searchingly,
endeavoring to form some estimate of one about whom he knew
absolutely nothing, and whose career probably had never been called
to his attention until General Grant decided to order me East, after
my name had been suggested by General Halleck in an interview the two
generals had with Mr. Lincoln. I was rather young in appearance--
looking even under than over thirty-three years--but five feet five
inches in height, and thin almost to emaciation, weighing only one
hundred and fifteen pounds. If I had ever possessed any self-
assertion in manner or speech, it certainly vanished in the presence
of the imperious Secretary, whose name at the time was the synonym of
all that was cold and formal. I never learned what Mr. Stanton's
first impressions of me were, and his guarded and rather calculating
manner gave at this time no intimation that they were either
favorable or unfavorable, but his frequent commendation in after
years indicated that I gained his goodwill before the close of the
war, if not when I first came to his notice; and a more intimate
association convinced me that the cold and cruel characteristics
popularly ascribed to him were more mythical than real.

When the interview with the Secretary was over, I proceeded with
General Halleck to the White House to pay my respects to the
President. Mr. Lincoln received me very cordially, offering both his
hands, and saying that he hoped I would fulfill the expectations of
General Grant in the new command I was about to undertake, adding
that thus far the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac had not done all
it might have done, and wound up our short conversation by quoting
that stale interrogation so prevalent during the early years of the
war, "Who ever saw a dead cavalryman?" His manner did not impress
me, however, that in asking the question he had meant anything beyond
a jest, and I parted from the President convinced that he did not
believe all that the query implied.

After taking leave I separated from General Halleck, and on returning
to my hotel found there an order from the War Department assigning me
to the command of the Cavalry Corps, Army of the Potomac. The next
morning, April 5, as I took the cars for the headquarters of the Army
of the Potomac, General Grant, who had returned to Washington the
previous night from a visit to his family, came aboard the train on
his way to Culpeper Court House, and on the journey down I learned
among other things that he had wisely determined to continue
personally in the field, associating himself with General Meade's
army; where he could supervise its movements directly, and at the
same time escape the annoyances which, should he remain in
Washington, would surely arise from solicitude for the safety of the
Capital while the campaign was in progress. When we reached Brandy
Station, I left the train and reported to General Meade, who told me
that the headquarters of the Cavalry Corps were some distance back
from the Station, and indicated the general locations of the
different divisions of the corps, also giving me, in the short time I
remained with him, much information regarding their composition.

I reached the Cavalry Corps headquarters on the evening of April 5,
1864, and the next morning issued orders assuming command. General
Pleasonton had but recently been relieved, and many of his staff-
officers were still on duty at the headquarters awaiting the arrival
of the permanent commander. I resolved to retain the most of these
officers on my staff, and although they were all unknown to me when I
decided on this course, yet I never had reason to regret it, nor to
question the selections made by my predecessor.

The corps consisted of three cavalry divisions and twelve batteries
of horse artillery. Brigadier-General A. T. A. Torbert was in
command of the First Division, which was composed of three brigades;
Brigadier-General D. McM. Gregg, of the Second, consisting of two
brigades; and Brigadier-General J. H. Wilson was afterward assigned
to command the Third, also comprising two brigades: Captain Robinson,
a veteran soldier of the Mexican war, was chief of artillery, and as
such had a general supervision of that arm, though the batteries,
either as units or in sections, were assigned to the different
divisions in campaign.

Each one of my division commanders was a soldier by profession.
Torbert graduated from the Military Academy in 1855, and was
commissioned in the infantry, in which arm he saw much service on the
frontier, in Florida, and on the Utah expedition. At the beginning
of hostilities in April, 1861, he was made a colonel of New Jersey
volunteers, and from that position was promoted in the fall of 1862
to be a brigadier-general, thereafter commanding a brigade of
infantry in the Army of the Potomac till, in the redistribution of
generals, after Grant came to the East, he was assigned to the First
Cavalry Division.

Gregg graduated in 1855 also, and was appointed to the First
Dragoons, with which regiment, up to the breaking out of the war, he
saw frontier service extending from Fort Union, New Mexico, through
to the Pacific coast, and up into Oregon and Washington Territories,
where I knew him slightly. In the fall of 1861 he became colonel of
the Eighth Pennsylvania Cavalry, and a year later was made a
brigadier-general. He then succeeded to the command of a division of
cavalry, and continued in that position till the close of his
service, at times temporarily commanding the Cavalry Corps. He was
the only division commander I had whose experience had been almost
exclusively derived from the cavalry arm.

Wilson graduated in 1860 in the Topographical Engineers, and was
first assigned to duty in Oregon, where he remained till July, 1861.
In the fall of that year his active service in the war began, and he
rose from one position to another, in the East and West, till, while
on General Grant's staff, he was made a brigadier-general in the fall
of 1863 in reward for services performed during the Vicksburg
campaign and for engineer duty at Chattanooga preceding the battle of
Missionary Ridge. At my request he was selected to command the Third
Division. General Grant thought highly of him, and, expecting much
from his active mental and physical ability, readily assented to
assign him in place of General Kilpatrick. The only other general
officers in the corps were Brigadier-General Wesley Merritt,
Brigadier-General George A. Custer, and Brigadier-General Henry E.
Davies, each commanding a brigade.

In a few days after my arrival at Brandy Station I reviewed my new
command, which consisted of about twelve thousand officers and men,
with the same number of horses in passable trim. Many of the general
officers of the army were present at the review, among them Generals
Meade, Hancock, and Sedgwick. Sedgwick being an old dragoon, came to
renew his former associations with mounted troops, and to encourage
me, as he jestingly said, because of the traditional prejudices the
cavalrymen were supposed to hold against being commanded by an
infantry officer. The corps presented a fine appearance at the
review, and so far as the health and equipment of the men were
concerned the showing was good and satisfactory; but the horses were
thin and very much worn down by excessive and, it seemed to me,
unnecessary picket duty, for the cavalry picket-line almost
completely encircled the infantry and artillery camps of the army,
covering a distance, on a continuous line, of nearly sixty miles,
with hardly a mounted Confederate confronting it at any point. From
the very beginning of the war the enemy had shown more wisdom
respecting his cavalry than we. Instead of wasting its strength by a
policy of disintegration he, at an early day, had organized his
mounted force into compact masses, and plainly made it a favorite;
and, as usual, he was now husbanding the strength of his horses by
keeping them to the rear, so that in the spring he could bring them
out in good condition for the impending campaign.

Before and at the review I took in this situation, and determined to
remedy it if possible; so in due time I sought an interview with
General Meade and informed him that, as the effectiveness of my
command rested mainly on the strength of its horses, I thought the
duty it was then performing was both burdensome and wasteful. I also
gave him my idea as to what the cavalry should do, the main purport
of which was that it ought to be kept concentrated to fight the
enemy's cavalry. Heretofore, the commander of the Cavalry Corps had
been, virtually, but an adjunct at army headquarters--a sort of chief
of cavalry--and my proposition seemed to stagger General Meade not a
little. I knew that it would be difficult to overcome the recognized
custom of using the cavalry for the protection of trains and the
establishment of cordons around the infantry corps, and so far
subordinating its operations to the movements of the main army that
in name only was it a corps at all, but still I thought it my duty to

At first General Meade would hardly listen to my proposition, for he
was filled with the prejudices that, from the beginning of the war,
had pervaded the army regarding the importance and usefulness of
cavalry, General Scott then predicting that the contest would be
settled by artillery, and thereafter refusing the services of
regiment after regiment of mounted troops. General Meade deemed
cavalry fit for little more than guard and picket duty, and wanted to
know what would protect the transportation trains and artillery
reserve, cover the front of moving infantry columns, and secure his
flanks from intrusion, if my policy were pursued. I told him that if
he would let me use the cavalry as I contemplated, he need have
little solicitude in these respects, for, with a mass of ten thousand
mounted men, it was my belief that I could make it so lively for the
enemy's cavalry that, so far as attacks from it were concerned, the
flanks and rear of the Army of the Potomac would require little or no
defense, and claimed, further, that moving columns of infantry should
take care of their own fronts. I also told him that it was my object
to defeat the enemy's cavalry in a general combat, if possible, and
by such a result establish a feeling of confidence in my own troops
that would enable us after awhile to march where we pleased, for the
purpose of breaking General Lee's communications and destroying the
resources from which his army was supplied.

The idea as here outlined was contrary to Meade's convictions, for
though at different times since he commanded the Army of the Potomac
considerable bodies of the cavalry had been massed for some special
occasion, yet he had never agreed to the plan as a permanency, and
could not be bent to it now. He gave little encouragement,
therefore, to what I proposed, yet the conversation was immediately
beneficial in one way, for when I laid before him the true condition
of the cavalry, he promptly relieved it from much of the arduous and
harassing picket service it was performing, thus giving me about two
weeks in which to nurse the horses before the campaign opened.

The interview also disclosed the fact that the cavalry commander
should be, according to General Meade's views, at his headquarters
practically as one of his staff, through whom he would give detailed
directions as, in his judgment, occasion required. Meade's ideas and
mine being so widely divergent, disagreements arose between us later
during the battles of the Wilderness, which lack of concord ended in
some concessions on his part after the movement toward Spottsylvania
Court House began, and although I doubt that his convictions were
ever wholly changed, yet from that date on, in the organization of
the Army of the Potomac, the cavalry corps became more of a compact
body, with the same privileges and responsibilities that attached to
the other corps--conditions that never actually existed before.

On the 4th of May the Army of the Potomac moved against Lee, who was
occupying a defensive position on the south bank of the Rapidan.
After detailing the various detachments which I was obliged to supply
for escorts and other mounted duty, I crossed the river with an
effective force of about 10,000 troopers. In the interval succeeding
my assignment to the command of the cavalry, I had taken the pains to
study carefully the topography of the country in eastern Virginia,
and felt convinced that, under the policy Meade intended I should
follow, there would be little opportunity for mounted troops to
acquit themselves well in a region so thickly wooded, and traversed
by so many almost parallel streams; but conscious that he would be
compelled sooner or later either to change his mind or partially give
way to the pressure of events, I entered on the campaign with the
loyal determination to aid zealously in all its plans.

General Lee's army was located in its winter quarters behind
intrenchments that lay along the Rapidan for a distance of about
twenty miles; extending from Barnett's to Morton's ford. The fords
below Morton's were watched by a few small detachments of Confederate
cavalry, the main body of which, however, was encamped below
Hamilton's crossing, where it could draw supplies from the rich
country along the Rappahannock. Only a few brigades of Lee's
infantry guarded the works along the river, the bulk of it being so
situated that it could be thrown to either flank toward which the
Union troops approached.

General Grant adopted the plan of moving by his left flank, with the
purpose of compelling Lee to come out from behind his intrenchments
along Mine Run and fight on equal terms. Grant knew well the
character of country through which he would have to pass, but he was
confident that the difficulties of operation in the thickly wooded
region of the Wilderness would be counterbalanced by the facility
with which his position would enable him to secure a new base; and by
the fact that as he would thus cover Washington, there would be
little or no necessity for the authorities there to detach from his
force at some inopportune moment for the protection of that city.

In the move forward two divisions of my cavalry took the advance,
Gregg crossing the Rapidan at Ely's ford and Wilson at Germania ford.
Torbert's division remained in the rear to cover the trains and
reserve artillery, holding from Rapidan Station to Culpeper, and
thence through Stevensburg to the Rappahannock River. Gregg crossed
the Rapidan before daylight, in advance of the Second Corps, and when
the latter reached Ely's ford, he pushed on to Chancellorsville;
Wilson preceded the Fifth Corps to Germania ford, and when it reached
the river he made the crossing and moved rapidly by Wilderness
Tavern, as far as Parker's Store, from which point he sent a heavy
reconnoissance toward Mine Run, the rest of his division bivouacking
in a strong position. I myself proceeded to Chancellorsville and
fixed my headquarters at that place, whereon the 5th I was joined by
Torbert's division.

Meanwhile, General Meade had crossed the Rapidan and established his
headquarters not far from Germania ford. From that point he was in
direct communication with Wilson, whose original instructions from me
carried him only as far as Parker's Store, but it being found, during
the night of the 4th, that the enemy was apparently unacquainted with
the occurrences of the day, Meade directed Wilson to advance in the
direction of Craig's Meeting House; leaving one regiment to hold
Parker's Store. Wilson with the second brigade encountered Rosser's
brigade of cavalry just beyond the Meeting House, and drove it back
rapidly a distance of about two miles, holding it there till noon,
while his first brigade was halted on the north side of Robinson's
Run near the junction of the Catharpen and Parker's Store roads.

Up to this time Wilson had heard nothing of the approach of the Fifth
Corps, and the situation becoming threatening, he withdrew the second
brigade to the position occupied by the first, but scarcely had he
done so when he learned that at an early hour in the forenoon the
enemy's infantry had appeared in his rear at Parker's Store and cut
off his communication with General Meade. Surprised at this, he
determined to withdraw to Todd's Tavern, but before his resolution
could be put into execution the Confederates attacked him with a
heavy force, and at the same time began pushing troops down the
Catharpen road. Wilson was now in a perplexing situation, sandwiched
between the Confederates who had cut him off in the rear at Parker's
store and those occupying the Catharpen road, but he extricated his
command by passing it around the latter force, and reached Todd's
Tavern by crossing the Po River at Corbin's bridge. General Meade
discovering that the enemy had interposed at Parker's store between
Wilson and the Fifth Corps, sent me word to go to Wilson's relief,
and this was the first intimation I received that Wilson had been
pushed out so far, but, surmising that he would retire in the
direction of Todd's Tavern I immediately despatched Gregg's division
there to his relief. Just beyond Todd's Tavern Gregg met Wilson, who
was now being followed by the enemy's cavalry. The pursuing force
was soon checked, and then driven back to Shady Grove Church, while
Wilson's troops fell in behind Gregg's line, somewhat the worse for
their morning's adventure.

When the Army of the Potomac commenced crossing the Rapidan on the
4th, General J. E. B. Stuart, commanding the Confederate cavalry,
began concentrating his command on the right of Lee's infantry,
bringing it from Hamilton's crossing and other points where it had
been wintering. Stuart's force at this date was a little more than
eight thousand men, organized in two divisions, commanded by Generals
Wade Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee. Hampton's division was composed of
three brigades, commanded by Generals Cordon, Young, and Rosser;
Fitzhugh Lee's division comprised three brigades also, Generals W. H.
F. Lee, Lomax, and Wickham commanding them.

Information of this concentration, and of the additional fact that
the enemy's cavalry about Hamilton's crossing was all being drawn in,
reached me on the 5th, which obviated all necessity for my moving on
that point as I intended at the onset of the campaign. The
responsibility for the safety of our trains and of the left flank of
the army still continued, however, so I made such dispositions of my
troops as to secure these objects by holding the line of the Brock
road beyond the Furnaces, and thence around to Todd's Tavern and
Piney Branch Church. On the 6th, through some false information,
General Meade became alarmed about his left flank, and sent me the
following note:

"May 6, 1864.--1 o'clock P. M.
"Commanding Cavalry Corps

"Your despatch of 11.45 a.m., received. General Hancock has been
heavily pressed, and his left turned. The major-general commanding
thinks that you had better draw in your cavalry, so as to secure the
protection of the trains. The order requiring an escort for the
wagons to-night has been rescinded.

"Major-General, Chief-of-Staff."

On the morning of the 6th Custer's and Devin's brigades had been
severely engaged at the Furnaces before I received the above note.
They had been most successful in repulsing the enemy's attacks,
however, and I felt that the line taken up could be held; but the
despatch from General Humphreys was alarming, so I drew all the
cavalry close in toward Chancellorsville. It was found later that
Hancock's left had not been turned, and the points thus abandoned had
to be regained at a heavy cost in killed and wounded, to both the
cavalry and the infantry.

On the 7th of May, under directions from headquarters, Army of the
Potomac, the trains were put in motion to go into park at Piney
Branch Church, in anticipation of the movement that was about to be
made for the possession of Spottsylvania Court House. I felt
confident that the order to move the trains there had been given
without a full understanding of the situation, for Piney Branch
Church was now held by the enemy, a condition which had resulted from
the order withdrawing the cavalry on account of the supposed disaster
to Hancock's left the day before; but I thought the best way to
remedy matters was to hold the trains in the vicinity of Aldrich's
till the ground on which it was intended to park them should be

This led to the battle of Todd's Tavern, a spirited fight for the
possession of the crossroads at that point, participated in by the
enemy's cavalry and Gregg's division, and two brigades of Torbert's
division, the latter commanded by Merritt, as Torbert became very ill
on the 6th, and had to be sent to the rear. To gain the objective
point--the crossroads--I directed Gregg to assail the enemy on the
Catharpen road with Irvin Gregg's brigade and drive him over Corbin's
bridge, while Merritt attacked him with the Reserve brigade on the
Spottsylvania road in conjunction with Davies's brigade of Gregg's
division, which was to be put in on the Piney Branch Church road, and
unite with Merritt's left. Davies's and Irvin Gregg's brigades on my
right and left flanks met with some resistance, yet not enough to
deter them from, executing their orders. In front of Merritt the
enemy held on more stubbornly, however, and there ensued an
exceedingly severe and, at times, fluctuating fight. Finally the
Confederates gave way, and we pursued them almost to Spottsylvania
Court House; but deeming it prudent to recall the pursuers about
dark, I encamped Gregg's and Merritt's divisions in the open fields
to the east of Todd's Tavern.

During the preceding three days the infantry corps of the army had
been engaged in the various conflicts known as the battles of the
Wilderness. The success of the Union troops in those battles had not
been all that was desired, and General Grant now felt that it was
necessary to throw himself on Lee's communications if possible, while
preserving his own intact by prolonging the movement to the left.
Therefore, on the evening of the 7th he determined to shift his whole
army toward Spottsylvania Court House, and initiated the movement by
a night march of the infantry to Todd's Tavern. In view of what was
contemplated, I gave orders to Gregg and Merritt to move at daylight
on the morning of the 8th, for the purpose of gaining possession of
Snell's bridge over the Po River, the former by the crossing at
Corbin's bridge and the latter by the Block House. I also directed
Wilson, who was at Alsop's house, to take possession of Spottsylvania
as early as possible on the morning of the 8th, and then move into
position at Snell's bridge conjointly with the other two divisions.
Wilson's orders remained as I had issued them, so he moved
accordingly and got possession of Spottsylvania, driving the enemy's
cavalry a mile beyond, as will be seen by the following despatch sent
me at 9 A. M. of the 8th:


"Have run the enemy's cavalry a mile from Spottsylvania Court House;
have charged them, and drove them through the village; am fighting
now with a considerable force, supposed to be Lee's division.
Everything all right.

"Brigadier-General Commanding.

During the night of the 7th General Meade arrived at Todd's Tavern
and modified the orders I had given Gregg and Merritt, directing
Gregg simply to hold Corbin's bridge, and Merritt to move out in
front of the infantry column marching on the Spottsylvania road.
Merritt proceeded to obey, but in advancing, our cavalry and infantry
became intermingled in the darkness, and much confusion and delay was
the consequence. I had not been duly advised of these changes in
Gregg's and Merritt's orders, and for a time I had fears for the
safety of Wilson, but, while he was preparing to move on to form his
junction with Gregg and Merritt at Snell's bridge, the advance of
Anderson (who was now commanding Longstreet's corps) appeared on the
scene and drove him from Spottsylvania.

Had Gregg and Merritt been permitted to proceed as they were
originally instructed, it is doubtful whether the battles fought at
Spottsylvania would have occurred, for these two divisions would have
encountered the enemy at the Pa River, and so delayed his march as to
enable our infantry to reach Spottsylvania first, and thus force Lee
to take up a line behind the Po. I had directed Wilson to move from
the left by "the Gate" through Spottsylvania to Snell's bridge, while
Gregg and Merritt were to advance to the same point by Shady Grove
and the Block House. There was nothing to prevent at least a partial
success of these operations; that is to say, the concentration of the
three divisions in front of Snell's bridge, even if we could not
actually have gained it. But both that important point and the
bridge on the Block House road were utterly ignored, and Lee's
approach to Spottsylvania left entirely unobstructed, while three
divisions of cavalry remained practically ineffective by reason of
disjointed and irregular instructions.

On the morning of the 8th, when I found that such orders had been
given, I made some strong remonstrances against the course that had
been pursued, but it was then too late to carry out the combinations
I had projected the night before, so I proceeded to join Merritt on
the Spottsylvania road. On reaching Merritt I found General Warren
making complaint that the cavalry were obstructing his infantry
column, so I drew Merritt off the road, and the leading division of
the Fifth Corps pushed up to the front. It got into line about 11
o'clock, and advanced to take the village, but it did not go very far
before it struck Anderson's corps, and was hurled back with heavy
loss. This ended all endeavor to take Spottsylvania that day.

A little before noon General Meade sent for me, and when I reached
his headquarters I found that his peppery temper had got the better
of his good judgment, he showing a disposition to be unjust, laying
blame here and there for the blunders that had been committed. He
was particularly severe on the cavalry, saying, among other things,
that it had impeded the march of the Fifth Corps by occupying the
Spottsylvania road. I replied that if this were true, he himself had
ordered it there without my knowledge. I also told him that he had
broken up my combinations, exposed Wilson's division to disaster, and
kept Gregg unnecessarily idle, and further, repelled his insinuations
by saying that such disjointed operations as he had been requiring of
the cavalry for the last four days would render the corps inefficient
and useless before long. Meade was very much irritated, and I was
none the less so. One word brought on another, until, finally, I
told him that I could whip Stuart if he (Meade) would only let me,
but since he insisted on giving the cavalry directions without
consulting or even notifying me, he could henceforth command the
Cavalry Corps himself--that I would not give it another order.

The acrimonious interview ended with this remark, and after I left
him he went to General Grant's headquarters and repeated the
conversation to him, mentioning that I had said that I could whip
Stuart. At this General Grant remarked: "Did he say so? Then let him
go out and do it." This intimation was immediately acted upon by
General Meade, and a little later the following order came to me:

"May 8th, 1864 1 P. M.

"Commanding Cavalry Corps.

"The major-general commanding directs you to immediately concentrate
your available mounted force, and with your ammunition trains and
such supply trains as are filled (exclusive of ambulances) proceed
against the enemy's cavalry, and when your supplies are exhausted,
proceed via New Market and Green Bay to Haxall's Landing on the James
River, there communicating with General Butler, procuring supplies
and return to this army. Your dismounted men will be left with the
train here.

"Major-General, Chief-of-staff."

As soon as the above order was received I issued instructions for the
concentration of the three divisions of cavalry at Aldrich's to
prepare for the contemplated expedition. Three days' rations for the
men were distributed, and half rations of grain for one day were
doled out for the horses. I sent for Gregg, Merritt, and Wilson and
communicated the order to them, saying at the same time, "We are
going out to fight Stuart's cavalry in consequence of a suggestion
from me; we will give him a fair, square fight; we are strong, and I
know we can beat him, and in view of my recent representations to
General Meade I shall expect nothing but success." I also indicated
to my division commanders the line of march I should take--moving in
one column around the right flank of Lee's army to get in its rear--
and stated at the same time that it was my intention to fight Stuart
wherever he presented himself, and if possible go through to Haxall's
Landing; but that if Stuart should successfully interpose between us
and that point we would swing back to the Army of the Potomac by
passing around the enemy's left flank by way of Gordonsville. At
first the proposition seemed to surprise the division commanders
somewhat, for hitherto even the boldest, mounted expeditions had been
confined to a hurried ride through the enemy's country, without
purpose of fighting more than enough to escape in case of
molestation, and here and there to destroy a bridge. Our move would
be a challenge to Stuart for a cavalry duel behind Lee's lines, in
his own country, but the advantages which it was reasonable to
anticipate from the plan being quickly perceived, each division
commander entered into its support unhesitatingly, and at once set
about preparing for the march next day.



The expedition which resulted in the battle of Yellow Tavern and the
death of General Stuart started from the vicinity of Aldrich's toward
Fredericksburg early on the morning of May 9, 1864, marching on the
plank-road, Merritt's division leading. When the column reached
Tabernacle Church it headed almost due east to the telegraph road,
and thence down that highway to Thornburg, and from that point
through Childsburg to Anderson's crossing of the North Anna River, it
being my desire to put my command south of that stream if possible,
where it could procure forage before it should be compelled to fight.
The corps moved at a walk, three divisions on the same road, making a
column nearly thirteen miles in length, and marched around the right
flank of the enemy unsuspected until my rear guard had passed
Massaponax Church. Although the column was very long, I preferred to
move it all on one road rather than to attempt combinations for
carrying the divisions to any given point by different routes.
Unless the separate commands in an expedition of this nature are very
prompt in movement, and each fully equal to overcoming at once any
obstacle it may meet, combinations rarely work out as expected;
besides, an engagement was at all times imminent, hence it was
specially necessary to keep the whole force well together.

As soon as the Ny, Po, and Ta rivers were crossed, each of which
streams would have afforded an excellent defensive line to the enemy,
all anxiety as to our passing around Lee's army was removed, and our
ability to cross the North Anna placed beyond doubt. Meanwhile
General Stuart had discovered what we were about, and he set his
cavalry in motion, sending General Fitzhugh Lee to follow and attack
my rear on the Childsburg road, Stuart himself marching by way of
Davenport's bridge, on the North Anna, toward Beaver Dam Station,
near which place his whole command was directed to unite the next

My column having passed the Ta River, Stuart attacked its rear with
considerable vigor, in the hope that he could delay my whole force
long enough to permit him to get at least a part of his command in my
front; but this scheme was frustrated by Davies's brigade, which I
directed to fight as a rear-guard, holding on at one position and
then at another along the line of march just enough to deter the
enemy from a too rapid advance. Davies performed this responsible
and trying duty with tact and good judgment, following the main
column steadily as it progressed to the south, and never once
permitting Fitzhugh Lee's advance to encroach far enough to compel a
halt of my main body. About dark Merritt's division crossed the
North Anna at Anderson's ford, while Gregg and Wilson encamped on the
north side, having engaged the enemy, who still hung on my rear up to
a late hour at night.

After Merritt's division passed the river, Custer's brigade proceeded
on to Beaver Dam Station to cut the Virginia Central railroad.
Before reaching the station he met a small force of the enemy, but
this he speedily drove off, recapturing from it about four hundred
Union prisoners, who had been taken recently in the Wilderness and
were being conducted to Richmond. Custer also destroyed the station,
two locomotives, three trains of cars, ninety wagons, from eight to
ten miles of railroad and telegraph lines, some two hundred thousand
pounds of bacon and other supplies, amounting in all to about a
million and a half of rations, and nearly all they medical stores of
General Lee's army, which had been moved from Orange Court House
either because Lee wished to have them directly in his rear or
because he contemplated falling back to the North Anna.

On the morning of the 10th Gregg and Wilson, while crossing the North
Anna, were again attacked, but were covered by the division on the
south side of the stream; the passage was effected without much loss,
notwithstanding the approach of Stuart on the south bank from the
direction of Davenport's bridge. The possession of Beaver Dam gave
us an important point, as it opened a way toward Richmond by the
Negro-foot road. It also enabled us to obtain forage for our well-
nigh famished animals, and to prepare for fighting the enemy, who, I
felt sure, would endeavor to interpose between my column and

Stuart had hardly united his troops near Beaver Dam when he realized
that concentrating there was a mistake, so he began making
dispositions for remedying his error, and while we leisurely took the
Negro-foot toad toward Richmond, he changed his tactics and hauled
off from my rear, urging his horses to the death in order to get in
between Richmond and my column. This he effected about 10 o'clock on
the morning of the 11th, concentrating at Yellow Tavern, six miles
from the city, on the Brook turnpike. His change of tactics left my
march on the 10th practically unmolested, and we quietly encamped
that night on the south bank of the South Anna, near Ground Squirrel
Bridge. Here we procured an abundance of forage, and as the distance
traveled that day had been only fifteen to eighteen miles, men and
horses were able to obtain a good rest during the night.

At 2 o'clock in the morning, May 11, Davies's brigade of Gregg's
division marched for Ashland to cut the Fredericksburg railroad.
Arriving there before the head of the enemy's column, which had to
pass through this same place to reach Yellow Tavern, Davies drove out
a small force occupying the town, burnt a train of cars and a
locomotive, destroyed the railroad for some distance, and rejoined
the main column at Allen's Station on the Fredericksburg and Richmond
railroad. From Allen's Station the whole command moved on Yellow
Tavern, Merritt in the lead, Wilson following, and Gregg in the rear.

The appearance of Davies's brigade at Ashland in the morning had had
the effect of further mystifying the enemy as to my intentions; and
while he held it incumbent to place himself between me and Richmond,
yet he was still so uncertain of my movements that he committed the
same fault that he did the first day, when he divided his force and
sent a part to follow me on the Childsburg road. He now divided his
command again, sending a portion to hang upon my rear, while he
proceeded with the rest to Yellow Tavern. This separation not only
materially weakened the force which might have been thrown across my
line of march, but it also enabled me to attack with almost my entire
corps, while occupying the pursuers with a small rearguard.

By forced marches General Stuart succeeded in reaching Yellow Tavern
ahead of me on May 11; and the presence of, his troops, on the
Ashland and Richmond road becoming known to Merritt as he was
approaching the Brook turnpike, this general pressed forward at once
to the attack. Pushing his division to the front, he soon got
possession of the turnpike and drove the enemy back several hundred
yards to the east of it. This success had the effect of throwing the
head of my column to the east of the pike, and I quickly brought up
Wilson and one of Gregg's brigades to take advantage of the situation
by forming a line of battle on that side or the road. Meanwhile the
enemy, desperate but still confident, poured in a heavy fire from his
line and from a battery which enfiladed the Brook road, and made
Yellow Tavern an uncomfortably hot place. Gibbs's and Devin's
brigades, however, held fast there, while Custer, supported by
Chapman's brigade, attacked the enemy's left and battery in a mounted

Custer's charge, with Chapman on his flank and the rest of Wilson's
division sustaining him, was brilliantly executed. Beginning at a
walk, he increased his gait to a trot, and then at full speed rushed
at the enemy. At the same moment the dismounted troops along my
whole front moved forward, and as Custer went through the battery,
capturing two of the guns with their cannoneers and breaking up the
enemy's left, Gibbs and Devin drove his centre and right from the
field. Gregg meanwhile, with equal success, charged the force in his
rear-Gordon's brigadeand the engagement ended by giving us complete
control of the road to Richmond. We captured a number of prisoners,
and the casualties on both sides were quite severe, General Stuart
himself falling mortally wounded, and General James B. Gordon, one of
his brigade commanders, being killed.

After Custer's charge, the Confederate cavalry was badly broken up,
the main portion of it being driven in a rout toward Ashland and a
small part in the direction of Richmond, which latter force finally
rejoined Fitzhugh Lee near Mechanicsville. A reconnoitring party
being now sent up the Brook turnpike toward the city, dashed across
the South Fork of the Chickahominy, drove a small force from the
enemy's exterior intrenchments and went within them. I followed this
party, and after a little exploration found between the two lines of
works a country road that led across to the pike which runs from
Mechanicsville to Richmond. I thought we could go around within the
outer line of works by this country road across to the Mechanicsville
pike on the south side of the Chickahominy, and encamp the next night
at Fair Oaks; so I determined to make the movement after dark, being
influenced in this to some extent by reports received during the
afternoon from colored people, to the effect that General B. F.
Butler's army had reached a small stream on the south side of the
James, about four miles south of Richmond. If I could succeed in
getting through by this road, not only would I have a shorter line of
march to Haxall's landing, but there was also a possibility that I
could help Butler somewhat by joining him so near Richmond.
Therefore, after making the wounded as comfortable as possible, we
commenced the march about 11 o'clock on the night of the 1lth, and
massed the command on the plateau south of the Meadow bridge near
daylight on the 12th.

The enemy, anticipating that I would march by this route, had planted
torpedoes along it, and many of these exploded as the column passed
over them, killing several horses and wounding a few men, but beyond
this we met with no molestation. The torpedoes were loaded shells
planted on each side of the road, and so connected by wires attached
to friction-tubes in the shells, that when a horse's hoof struck a
wire the shell was exploded by the jerk on the improvised lanyard.
After the loss of several horses and the wounding of some of the men
by these torpedoes, I gave directions to have them removed, if
practicable, so about twenty-five of the prisoners were brought up
and made to get down on their knees, feel for the wires in the
darkness, follow them up and unearth the shells. The prisoners
reported the owner of one of the neighboring houses to be the
principal person who had engaged in planting these shells, and I
therefore directed that some of them be carried and placed in the
cellar of his house, arranged to explode if the enemy's column came
that way, while he and his family were brought off as prisoners and
held till after daylight.

Meanwhile the most intense excitement prevailed in Richmond. The
Confederates, supposing that their capital was my objective point,
were straining every effort to put it in a state of defense, and had
collected between four and five thousand irregular troops, under
General Bragg, besides bringing up three brigades of infantry from
the force confronting General Butler south of the James River, the
alarm being intensified by the retreat, after the defeat at Yellow
Tavern, of Stuart's cavalry, now under General Fitzhugh Lee, by way
of Ashland to Mechanicsville, on the north side of the Chickahominy,
for falling back in that direction, left me between them and

Our march during the night of the 11th was very tedious, on account
of the extreme darkness and frequent showers of rain; but at daylight
on the 12th the head of my column, under Wilson, reached the
Mechanicsville pike. Here Wilson, encountering the enemy's works and
batteries manned by General Bragg's troops, endeavored to pass. In
this he failed, and as soon as I was notified that it was
impracticable to reach Fair Oaks by passing between the works and the
Chickahominy, Custer's brigade was directed to make the crossing to
the north side of the Chickahominy, at the Meadow bridge. Custer
moved rapidly for the bridge, but found it destroyed, and that the
enemy's cavalry was posted on the north side, in front of
Mechanicsville. When this information came back, I ordered Merritt
to take his whole division and repair the bridge, instructing him
that the crossing must be made at all hazards; for, in view of an
impending attack by the enemy's infantry in Richmond, it was
necessary that I should have the bridge as a means of egress in case
of serious disaster.

All the time that Merritt was occupied in this important duty, the
enemy gave great annoyance to the working party by sweeping the
bridge with a section of artillery and a fire from the supporting
troops, so a small force was thrown across to drive them away. When
Merritt had passed two regiments over, they attacked, but were
repulsed. The work on the, bridge continued, however, not-
withstanding this discomfiture; and when it was finished, Merritt
crossed nearly all his division, dismounted, and again attacked the
enemy, this time carrying the line, of temporary breastworks, built
with logs and rails, and pursuing his broken troops toward Gaines's

While Merritt was engaged in this affair, the Confederates advanced
from behind their works at Richmond, and attacked Wilson and Gregg.
Wilson's troops were driven back in some confusion at first; but
Gregg, in anticipation of attack, had hidden a heavy line of
dismounted men in a bushy ravine on his front, and when the enemy
marched upon it, with much display and under the eye of the President
of the Confederacy, this concealed line opened a destructive fire
with repeating carbines; and at the same time the batteries of horse-
artillery, under Captain Robinson, joining in the contest, belched
forth shot and shell with fatal effect. The galling fire caused the
enemy to falter, and while still wavering Wilson rallied his men, and
turning some of them against the right flank of the Confederates,
broke their line, and compelled them to withdraw for security behind
the heavy works thrown up for the defense of the city in 1862.

By destroying the Meadow bridge and impeding my column on the
Mechanicsville, pike, the enemy thought to corner us completely, for
he still maintained the force in Gregg's rear that had pressed it the
day before; but the repulse of his infantry ended all his hopes of
doing us any serious damage on the limited ground between the
defenses of Richmond and the Chickahominy. He felt certain that on
account of the recent heavy rains we could not cross the Chickahominy
except by the Meadow bridge, and it also seemed clear to him that we
could not pass between the river and his intrenchments; therefore he
hoped to ruin us, or at least compel us to return by the same route
we had taken in coming, in which case we would run into Gordon's
brigade, but the signal repulse of Bragg's infantry dispelled these

Even had it not been our good fortune to defeat him, we could have
crossed the Chickahominy if necessary at several points that were
discovered by scouting parties which, while the engagement was going
on, I had sent out to look up fords. This means of getting out from
the circumscribed plateau I did not wish to use, however, unless
there was no alternative, for I wished to demonstrate to the Cavalry
Corps the impossibility of the enemy's destroying or capturing so
large a body of mounted troops.

The chances of seriously injuring, us were more favorable to the
enemy this time than ever they were afterward, for with the troops
from Richmond, comprising three brigades of veterans and about five
thousand irregulars on my front and right flank, with Gordon's
cavalry in the rear, and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry on my left flank,
holding the Chickahominy and Meadow bridge, I was apparently hemmed
in on every side, but relying on the celerity with which mounted
troops could be moved, I felt perfectly confident that the seemingly
perilous situation could be relieved under circumstances even worse
than those then surrounding us. Therefore, instead of endeavoring to
get away without a fight, I concluded that there would be little
difficulty in withdrawing, even should I be beaten, and none whatever
if I defeated the enemy.

In accordance with this view I accepted battle; and the complete
repulse of the enemy's infantry, which assailed us from his
intrenchments, and of Gordon's cavalry, which pressed Gregg on the
Brook road, ended the contest in our favor. The rest of the day we
remained on the battle-field undisturbed, and our time was spent in
collecting the wounded, burying the dead, grazing the horses, and
reading the Richmond journals, two small newsboys with commendable
enterprise having come within our lines from the Confederate capital
to sell their papers. They were sharp youngsters, and having come
well supplied, they did a thrifty business. When their stock in
trade was all disposed of they wished to return, but they were so
intelligent and observant that I thought their mission involved other
purposes than the mere sale of newspapers, so they were held till we
crossed the Chickahominy and then turned loose.

After Merritt had crossed the Chickahominy and reached
Mechanicsville, I sent him orders to push on to Gaines's Mills. Near
the latter place he fell in with the enemy's cavalry again, and
sending me word, about 4 o'clock in the afternoon I crossed the
Chickahominy with Wilson and Gregg, but when we overtook Merritt he
had already brushed the Confederates away, and my whole command went
into camp between Walnut Grove and Gaines's Mills.

The main purposes of the expedition had now been executed. They were
"to break up General Lee's railroad communications, destroy such
depots of supplies as could be found in his rear, and to defeat
General Stuart's cavalry." Many miles of the Virginia Central and of
the, Richmond and Fredericksburg railroads were broken up, and
several of the bridges on each burnt. At Beaver Dam, Ashland, and
other places, about two millions of rations had been captured and
destroyed. The most important of all, however, was the defeat of
Stuart. Since the beginning of the war this general had
distinguished himself by his management of the Confederate mounted
force. Under him the cavalry of Lee's army had been nurtured, and
had acquired such prestige that it thought itself well-nigh
invincible; indeed, in the early years of the war it had proved to be
so. This was now dispelled by the successful march we had made in
Lee's rear; and the discomfiture of Stuart at Yellow Tavern had
inflicted a blow from which entire recovery was impossible.

In its effect on the Confederate cause the defeat of Stuart was most
disheartening, but his death was even a greater calamity, as is
evidenced by the words of a Confederate writer (Cooke), who says:
"Stuart could be ill spared at this critical moment, and General Lee
was plunged into the deepest melancholy at the intelligence of his
death. When it reached him he retired from those around him, and
remained for some time communing with his own heart and memory. When
one of his staff entered and spoke of Stuart, General Lee said: 'I
can scarcely think of him without weeping.'"

From the camp near Gaines's Mills I resumed the march to Haxall's
Landing, the point on the James River contemplated in my instructions
where I was to obtain supplies from General Butler. We got to the
James on the 14th with all our wounded and a large number of
prisoners, and camped between Haxall's and Shirley. The prisoners,
as well as the captured guns, were turned over to General Butler's
provost-marshal, and our wounded were quickly and kindly cared for by
his surgeons. Ample supplies, also, in the way of forage and
rations, were furnished us by General Butler, and the work of
refitting for our return to the Army of the Potomac was vigorously
pushed. By the 17th all was ready, and having learned by scouting
parties sent in the direction of Richmond and as far as Newmarket
that the enemy's cavalry was returning to Lee's army I started that
evening on my return march, crossing the Chickahominy at Jones's
bridge, and bivouacking on the 19th near Baltimore crossroads.

My uncertainty of what had happened to the Army of the Potomac in our
absence, and as to where I should find it, made our getting back a
problem somewhat difficult of solution, particularly as I knew that
reinforcements for Lee had come up from the south to Richmond, and
that most likely some of these troops were being held at different
points on the route to intercept my column. Therefore I determined
to pass the Pamunkey River at the White House, and sent to Fort
Monroe for a pontoon-bridge on which to make the crossing. While
waiting for the pontoons I ordered Custer to proceed with his brigade
to Hanover Station, to destroy the railroad bridge over the South
Anna, a little beyond that place; at the same time I sent Gregg and
Wilson to Cold Harbor, to demonstrate in the direction of Richmond as
far as Mechanicsville, so as to cover Custer's movements. Merritt,
with the remaining brigades of his division, holding fast at
Baltimore crossroads to await events.

After Gregg and Custer had gone, it was discovered that the railroad
bridge over the Pamunkey, near the White House, had been destroyed
but partially--the cross-ties and stringers being burned in places
only--and that it was practicable to repair it sufficiently to carry
us over. In view of this information General Merritt's two brigades
were at once put on the duty of reconstructing the bridge. By
sending mounted parties through the surrounding country, each man of
which would bring in a board or a plank, Merritt soon accumulated
enough lumber for the flooring, and in one day the bridge was made
practicable. On the 22d Gregg, Wilson, and Custer returned. The
latter had gone on his expedition as far as Hanover Station,
destroyed some commissary stores there, and burned two trestle
bridges over Hanover Creek. This done, he deemed it prudent to
retire to Hanovertown. The next morning he again marched to Hanover
Station, and there ascertained that a strong force of the enemy,
consisting of infantry, cavalry, and artillery, was posted at the
South Anna bridges. These troops had gone there from Richmond en
route to reinforce Lee. In the face of this impediment Custer's
mission could not be executed fully, so he returned to Baltimore

The whole command was drawn in by noon of the 22d, and that day it
crossed the Pamunkey by Merritt's reconstructed bridge, marching to
Ayletts, on the Mattapony River, the same night. Here I learned from
citizens, and from prisoners taken during the day by scouting parties
sent toward Hanover Court House, that Lee had been, forced from his
position near Spottsylvania Court House and compelled to retire to
the line of the North Anna. I then determined to rejoin the Army of
the Potomac at the earliest moment, which I did by making for
Chesterfield Station, where I reported to General Meade on the 24th
of May.

Our return to Chesterfield ended the first independent expedition the
Cavalry Corps had undertaken since coming under my command, and our
success was commended highly by Generals Grant and Meade, both
realizing that our operations in the rear of Lee had disconcerted and
alarmed that general so much as to aid materially in forcing his
retrograde march, and both acknowledged that, by drawing off the
enemy's cavalry during the past fortnight, we had enabled them to
move the Army of the Potomac and its enormous trains without
molestation in the manoeuvres that had carried it to the North Anna.
Then, too, great quantities of provisions and munitions of war had
been destroyed--stores that the enemy had accumulated at sub-depots
from strained resources and by difficult means; the railroads that
connected Lee with Richmond broken, the most successful cavalry
leader of the South killed, and in addition to all this there had
been inflicted on the Confederate mounted troops the most thorough
defeat that had yet befallen them in Virginia.

When the expedition set out the Confederate authorities in Richmond
were impressed, and indeed convinced, that my designs contemplated
the capture of that city, and notwithstanding the loss they sustained
in the defeat and death of Stuart, and their repulse the succeeding
day, they drew much comfort from the fact that I had not entered
their capital. Some Confederate writers have continued to hold this
theory and conviction since the war. In this view they were and are
in error. When Stuart was defeated the main purpose of my
instructions had been carried out, and my thoughts then turned to
joining General Butler to get supplies. I believed that I could do
this by cutting across to the Mechanicsville pike and Fair Oaks on
the south side of the Chickahominy, but the failure of Wilson's
column to get possession of the outwork which commanded the pike
necessitated my crossing at Meadow bridge, and then moving by
Mechanicsville and Gaines's Mills instead of by the shorter route.
Moreover, my information regarding General Butler's position was
incorrect, so that even had I been successful in getting to Fair Oaks
by the direct road I should still have gained nothing thereby, for I
should still have been obliged to continue down the James River to



When I rejoined the Army of the Potomac, near Chesterfield Station,
the heavy battles around Spottsylvania had been fought, and the
complicated manoeuvres by which the whole Union force was swung
across the North Anna were in process of execution. In conjunction
with these manoeuvres Wilson's division was sent to the right flank
of the army, where he made a reconnoissance south of the North Anna
as far as Little River, crossing the former stream near Jericho
Mills. Wilson was to operate from day to day on that flank as it
swung to the south, covering to New Castle ferry each advance of the
infantry and the fords left behind on the march. From the 26th to
the 30th these duties kept Wilson constantly occupied, and also
necessitated a considerable dispersion of his force, but by the 31st
he was enabled to get all his division together again, and crossing
to the south side of the Pamunkey at New Castle ferry, he advanced
toward Hanover Court House. Near Dr Pride's house he encountered a
division of the enemy's cavalry under General W. H. F. Lee, and drove
it back across Mechamp's Creek, thus opening communication with the
right of our infantry resting near Phillips's Mills. Just as this
had been done, a little before dark, Wilson received an order from
General Meade directing him to push on toward Richmond until he
encountered the Confederates in such strength that he could no longer
successfully contend against them, and in compliance with this order
occupied Hanover Court House that same day. Resuming his march at
daylight on June 1, he went ahead on the Ashland road while sending
Chapman's brigade up the south bank of the South Anna to destroy the
bridges on that stream. Chapman having succeeded in this work,
Wilson re-united his whole command and endeavored to hold Ashland,
but finding the Confederate cavalry and infantry there in strong
force, he was obliged to withdraw to Dr. Price's house. Here he
learned that the army had gone to the left toward Cold Harbor, so on
the 2d of June he moved to Hawe's Shop.

While Wilson was operating thus on the right, I had to cover with


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