Clement Anselm Evans.

Confederate military history; a library of Confederate States history online

. (page 45 of 153)
Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 45 of 153)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

but when they were made they were unsuccessful, though attended
with considerable loss. The rebel works in his front were very
strong, and finally, at about i o'clock, the chief portion of his troops
were withdrawn from his lines and brought to the support of Wright.
It was then intended to attempt a grand assault, with a very power-
ful column under Wright, at about 5 o'clock ; but when the men were
brought up, they were so tired from the long day's work, and the
chances of success were so much short of certainty, that General
Wright advised General Meade to postpone the attempt, and accord-
ingly the obstinate battle was allowed to pause here. The results of
the day are, that we have crowded the enemy out of some of his
most important positions. . . . Our troops rest to-night upon the
ground they have so victoriously fought for.

At 8 next morning. May 13th, Dana telegraphed again:

Lee abandoned his position during the night — ^whether to occupy
a new one in the vicinity or to make a thorough retreat is not deter-
mined. . . . Though our army is greatly fatigued, from the enor-
mous efforts of yesterday, the news of Lee's departure inspires the
men with fresh energy. The whole force will soon be in motion, but
the heavy rain of the last thirty-six hours renders the roads very
diflSculffor wagons and artillery. . . . The proportion of severely


•wounded is greater than either of the previous days' fighting. This
was owing to the great use made of artillery.

At 6 in the afternoon of the same day, he dispatched :
The impression that Lee had started on his retreat, which prevailed
at the date of my dispatch this morning, is not confirmed. Our skir-
mishers have found the rebels along the whole line, and the conclu-
sion now is, that the retrograde movement of last night was made
to correct their position after the loss of the key-points taken from
them yesterday, and they are still before us in force. Of course we
cannot determine, without a battle, whether their whole army is still
here, and nothing has been done to-day to provoke one. It has been
necessary to rest the men, and accordingly we have ever5rwhere stood
upon the defensive.

He then claimed that, in changing his lines, Lee had
uncovered the roads leading southward along his right,
and that Grant had ordered Meade to withdraw Warren
from the right and Wright from the center, around to the
left, turn Lee's flank, and force him to move southward.

On the evening of the 12th, that ever-to-be-remembered
day of fearful carnage, the sad news came to Lee of the
death of Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart, the "Jeb"
Stuart of the Confederacy and of history, who had fallen,
the day before, at the Yellow tavern, a few miles to the
north of Richmond, in repulsing an attempt of Sheridan
to capture that city. Fully occupied with the enemy in
his front, Lee waited until the quiet of the 20th before
officially announcing to his army the great loss he had
sustained, a loss only second, in its far-reaching conse-
quences, to that of "Stonewall" Jackson. In his tribute
to this grand leader of his cavalry corps, he said :

Among the gallant soldiers who have fallen in this war. General
Stuart was second to none in valor, in zeal, and in unflinching devo-
tion to his country. His achievements form a conspicuous part of
the history of this army, with which his name and services will for-
ever be associated. To military capacity of a high order and to the
nobler virtues of the soldier, he added the brighter graces of a pure
life, guided and sustained by the Christian's faith and hope. The
mysterious hand of an all- wise God has removed him from the scene
of his usefulness and fame. His grateful countrymen will mourn
his loss and cherish his memory. To his comrades in arms he has
left the proud recollection of his deeds and the inspiring influence of
his example.

Notwithstanding Grant's recorded assertion, "I never
maneuver," he spent from the 13th to the i8th of May
in front of Lee, maneuvering and waiting for reinforce-
ments, until he had rested his "tired" men, and 25,000
fresh troops were added to his numbers. On the 14th,
at 7 : 10 of the morning, his dispatch read:


The very heavy rains of the last forty-eight hours have made it
impossible to move trains of artillery. Two corps were moved, last
flight, from our right to the left, with orders to attack at 4 a. m.,
but owing to the difficulties of the roads, have not fully got into
position. This, with the continued bad weather, may prevent offen-
sive operations today.

The next morning he again telegraphed :

The very heavy rains of the last three days have rendered the
roads so impassable that little will be done until there is a change in
the weather, unless the enemy should attack, which they have exhib-
ited but little inclination to do for the last week. I believe it would
be better to strengfthen the corps here, with all reinforcements com-
ing, than to have them formed into separate commands.

The next morning he dispatched :

We have had five days of almost constant rain without any prospect
yet of its clearing up. All offensive operations necessarily cease until
we can have twenty-four hours of dry weather. The army is in the
best of spirits and feels the greatest confidence in ultimate suc-
cess. . . . The promptness with which you have forwarded rein-
forcements will contribute greatly to diminishing our mortality list
and insuring a complete victory. You can assure the President
and secretary of war, that the elements alone have suspended hos-
tilities, and that it is in no manner due to weakness or exhaustion
on our part.

An attack was made by Grant on the morning of May
1 8th, with his Second and Sixth corps, in another attempt
to break Lee's center. Advancing to Lee's new line,
which had excluded the great salient, these 12,000 Fed-
erals were broken, in retreat, by the heavy fire of twenty-
nine of Lee's guns, before they came within rifle range.
In like manner Burnside's simultaneous attack on Lee's
right was similarly repulsed. Grant could find no weak
point for breaking through, so he drew back, farther to his
left, and sought for a third road to Richmond. On the
next day, the 19th, Lee sent Ewell around Grant's right,
to ascertain what he was doing. In this movement Ewell
was repulsed, with a loss of 900 men, but he had detained
Grant another day in front of Spottsylvania Court House
and inflicted a severer loss than he himself suffered, as
Grant confessed.

On the afternoon of May 19th, Grant wrote: "I shall
make a flank movement early in the morning, and try to
reach Bowling Green and Milf ord station, ' ' and wished his
base, in that event, changed to Port Royal. At 10 p. m.,
of the same day, he again wrote: "The enemy came out
on our right, late this afternoon, and attacked, but were
driven back until some time since dark. Not knowing


their exact position, and the danger our trains at Freder-
icksburg will be in if we move, I shall -not make the
move designated for to-night, until their designs are fully-
developed. " On the 2oth he reported that his casualties
of the previous day were 196 killed, 1,090 wounded, and
240 missing.

When Grant began his forward movement, on the 4th
of May, he not only ordered Butler forward, but also
directed Sigel, in the Shenandoah valley, to make a sim-
ultaneous advance to capture Staunton and break Lee's
communications with the Shenandoah valley, with the
6,500 men and 28 guns in his command. Apprised of this
movement, Lee ordered Gen. John C. Breckinridge to
collect at Staunton the infantry and cavalry outposts
that had wintered in the mountains west of the Great val-
ley, and had called upon the governor of Virginia to add
to these the cadets from the Virginia military institute,
and with these march down the valley to meet this new
irruption. Breckinridge had some 4,500 men, including
Gen. John Daniel Imboden's cavalry and McLaughlin's
artillery company with eight guns. These met Sigel at New
Market, on the 15 th of May, and completely routed him,
capturing six guns and nearly 900 prisoners. Breckin-
ridge's infantry made a front attack, aided by the artil-
lery, while Imboden fell on Sigel 's flank. The mere
boys from the institute fought like veterans in this, their
first engagement. Halleck telegraphed to Grant, on the
17th: "Sigel is in full retreat on Strasburg. He will do
nothing but run. Never did anything else. " The day
before, Grant received the unwelcome news that the
"army of the James," under Gen. Ben Butler, from which
he expected so much assistance, and which he was long-
ing to join, had been successfully repulsed from a position
it had gained on the railroad between Richmond and
Petersburg, and driven back into the angle between the
James and the Appomattox, where, as Grant says in his
official report, "his army, therefore, though in a position
of great security, was as completely shut off from further
operations directly against Richmond, as if it had been
in a bottle strongly corked, "



ON the night of May 20, 1864, Hancock led Grant's
third southward movement, far to the eastward of
Lee's position at Spottsylvania Court House, and
followed the road along the line of the Richmond
& Fredericksburg railroad toward Richmond, his advance
reaching Milford station during the night of the 21st.
Grant's losses, since he crossed the Rapidan, on May 4th,
had been over 37,000; half of these in the Wilderness
battles and the other half in those of Spottsylvania Court
House. Lee had lost about one-third of that number.
Dana states that the Federal losses were "a little over
33,000," and that when Grant "expressed great regret at
the loss of so many men," Meade remarked: "Well,
General, we can't do these little tricks without losses. "
Apprised, by his scouts, of Grant's movement, Lee
dispatched Ewell, whom he accompanied, at noon of the
2 1 St, from the right of his position at Spottsylvania Court
House across the country to Mud tavern and on the Tele-
graph or old stage road from Washington via Fredericks-
burg to Richmond as far as Dickinson's mill, where he
encamped that night, nearer to Hanover Junction than
was Grant's advance at Milford station, although Dana
was of the opinion that Grant had slipped away without
Lee's knowledge.

On the morning of the 2 2d, Grant telegraphed, from
Guiney's station, the position of his advance, and ordered
the transfer of his depot of supplies from near Aquia
creek to Port Royal on the Rappahannock. During the
forenoon of that day, Lee and Ewell reached Hanover
Junction, having crossed the North Anna at the Tele-
graph road bridge ; Anderson, with the First corps, fol-
lowed at midday, and Hill, with the Third corps, crossed,
at the same place, on the morning of the 23d, when Lee's
whole army took position on the south bank of the North
Anna, covering the roads leading to Richmond and the
junction of the Virginia Central and Richmond, Freder-



icksburg & Potomac railroads, thus controlling two rail-
ways to his base of supplies at Richmond and one to his
other base at Staunton, and to a connection with Lynch-
burg. By this timely and well-executed movement,
Lee had again, without loss or interruption, anticipated
Grant's progressive, but indirect, "on to Richmond," and
placed himself directly across the roads the latter desired
to follow to the Confederate capital. Dana says, "Now,
for the first time, Lee blocked our southward march;"
a remarkable assertion, in view of the bloody stoppage
in the Wilderness, which had diverted Grant toward
Spottsylvania, far to the eastward, to find a new road to

Breckinridge, coming from the valley, after his defeat
of Sigel at New Market, and Pickett, from toward Rich-
mond, with 9,000 men, awaited Lee at Hanover Junction.
Thus concentrated and reinforced, the army of Northern
Virginia was quickly posted in one of the best defensive
positions it had ever occupied ; with its sturdy First corps
in the center, across the Telegraph road ; its flanking and
fighting Second corps on the right, across the railway to
Fredericksburg and extending to the North Anna, where
that river runs southward in front of the Cedar farm
bridge ; and its gallant Third corps on the extreme left,
extending to the road that crosses the Ox ford of the
North Anna, and covering the eastward approaches to
the line of the Virginia Central railroad. Pickett and
Breckinridge were held in reserve, in the rear of the
center, near Hanover Junction.

The march of the Federal army, on the 23d, was much
embarrassed by ignorance of the country and the incor-
rect and misleading maps used as guides; but by i p. m. ,
its Sixth corps, in the advance, reached the vicinity of
the North Anna, at the Telegraph bridge, and, later in
the afternoon, forced Lee's First corps guard across that
bridge, and, without much opposition, secured a foothold
on the south bank of the river and soon crossed over a
large force, which, later in the day, repulsed a vigorous
attack by Anderson. Grant's Second corps soon followed
his Fifth and took position on its right, covering the Tele-
graph bridge and road, and later, his Ninth corps ex-
tended this line, on the south bank of the river, to a junc-
tion with his Fifth corps, which, with the Sixth, he had
detached from his direct line of march, at Harris' shop.


and sent to the right, to Jerichaford, a few miles above
the crossing of the Telegraph road, where it succeeded,
late in the day, in making a crossing and falling upon
Lee's left. Forcing back the Third corps for some dis-
tance, the Federals advanced and established a line, to the
southwest, across the Virginia Central railroad, about a
mile northwest from Anderson's station, and, with its
right returned, covering the roads leading to the rear.
This bold and well-executed, aggressive movement not
only cut Lee's line of communication westward and threat-
ened the turning of his left, but gave great confidence to
the Federal arms and an eager anticipation of victory. At
6 p. m., Hill sent Wilcox's division to drive the Federals
back, but without success ; for they had not only seized, but
had at once fairly well fortified the line they had secured.
The opposing forces spent the night in throwing up lines
of defensive works. Early the next morning, Lee rode
to his left and sharply rebuked his lieutenant for having
allowed Warren to cross the South Anna and secure a
position that cut his line of communication with the great
storehouse of the Valley, saying to him: "Why did you
not do as Jackson would have done — thrown your whole
force upon these people and driven them back?"

His left having been forced back, Lee shortened his
line by retiring his center, until it was nearly in the form
of a right-angled triangle, with the right angle opposite
Quarles' mill, or the Ox ford. The left, under Hill, was
extended northeast and Southwest, from the North Anna,
across the Virginia Central railroad to Little river, facing
the Fifth and Sixth Federal corps. The First and Second
corps were extended southeast to near Hanover Junction,
and thence eastward and southward in a salient.

Lee's new disposition of his army cut Grant's army into
two parts. Finding himself in this predicament, after
several unsuccessful attempts to break Lee's lines. Grant
dispatched to Halleck, from Quarles' mills, on May 26th :

To make a direct attack from either wing would cause a slaughter
of our men that even success would not justify. To turn the enemy
by his right, between the two Annas, is impossible, on account of
the swamp upon which his right rests. To turn him by his left,
leaves Little river, New Found river and South Anna river, all of
them streams presenting considerable obstacles to the movement of
an army, to be crossed. I have determined, therefore, to turn the
enemy's right, by crossing at or near Hanovertown, thus crossing all
these streams at once, and leave us still where we can draw supplies.


He then stated, that during the preceding- night he had
withdrawn the teams and artillery from his right, across
the river, and moved them down in the rear of his left,
and would commence "a forced march for Hanovertown
to seize and hold the crossing. " So he withdrew from
Lee's front, on the night of the 26th, and sought another
road to Richmond, farther to the southeast. General Lee,
having been taken seriously ill, was unable to fall upon
Grant on the north side of the North Anna, as he fully
intended to do.

Grant had utterly failed to accomplish his purpose, after
crossing the North Anna, as was confessed by his lame
statement as to the position of Lee's army, and by his with-
drawal during the night of the 26th. The remarkable
conclusion of his dispatch, of that day northward, is :

Lee's army is really whipped. The prisoners we have show it,
and the action of his army shows it unmistakably. A battle with
them outside of intrenchments cannot be had. Our men feel that
they have gained the morale over the enemy and attack with confi-
dence. I may be mistaken, but I feel that our success over Lee's
army is already insured. The promptness and rapidity with which
you have forwarded reinforcements Have contributed to the feeling
of confidence inspired in our men and to break down that of the enemy.
We are destroying all the rails we can on the Central and Fredericks-
burg roads. I want to leave a gap in the roads north of Richmond so
big that to get a single track they will have to import rails from

Not quite sure of the future, after having broken so
many promises as to a direct march on Richmond, Grant
added a postscript: "Even if a crossing is not efEected at
Hanovertown, it will probably be necessary for us to move
down the Pamunkey until a crossing is effected;" and
advised that his base of supplies should be changed to
the White House, the very place where McClellan had
his, when Lee met him in front of Richmond about a
year before this time.

It is interesting to recur to Grant's previous dispatches
from the North Anna. On the morning of the 24th of
May, after Lee had shortened his lines and well-punctu-
ated them all along with artillery, Grant wrote: "The
enemy have fallen back from North Anna; we are in
pursuit. Negroes who have come in state that Lee is
falling back to Richmond. If this is the case, Butler's
forces win all be wanted where they are. ' ' At noon of the
next day he wrote: "The enemy are evidently making
a determined stand between the two Annas. It would


probably take us two days to get in position for a general
attack or to turn their position, as may prove best. Send
Butler's forces to White House, to land on north side and
march up to join this army. ... If Hunter can possibly
get to Charlottesville and Lynchburg, he should do so,
living on the country. The railroads and canals should
be destroyed, beyond possibility of repair for weeks.
Completing this, he should find his way back to his orig-
inal base, or from about Gordonsville, join this army. ' '
At the same hour Dana wrote: "If a promising chance
offers, General Grant will fight, of course ; otherwise, he
will maneuver without attacking. Our forces are strongly
intrenched and perfectly safe, even if Lee should attempt
to push his whole army upon either division of ours."
He concluded a dispatch of the morning of the 26th,
after telling of Grant's new movement, in these words :
"One of the most important results of the campaign, so
far, is the entire change which has taken place in the
feeling of the armies. Rebels have lost all confidence and
are already morally defeated. This army has learned to
believe that it is sure of victory. Even our oflBicers have
ceased to regard Lee as an invincible military genius.
On the part of the rebels this change is evinced, not
only by their not attacking, even when circumstances
seemed to invite it, but by the unanimous statement of
prisoners taken from them. Rely upon it, the end is
near, as well as sure;" this, after confessing, the day
before, to disasters from Confederate attacks.



AS soon as apprised of Grant's withdrawal from the
North Anna, on the 27th of May, Lee ordered
the Second corps, now temporarily under Early,
to march southward, between the two railways,
then cross the Central at Atlee's, and take position cover-
ing the roads to Richmond from the Hanovertown cross-
ing of the Pamunkey, which he was confident Grant
would now seek. The First corps followed, by the par-
allel Telegraph road. The next day, after a march of
thirty hours, in which 24 miles of road were covered,
these corps were in line of battle between the Totopot-
omoy and the Chickahominy, covering the roads lead-
ing to Richmond that Grant was now seeking. Fitz
Lee's cavalry withstood the Federal advance until the
entire army of Northern Virginia was in position, in the
afternoon of the 28th, having a severe engagement with
the Federal cavalry at Haws' shop, north of the Totopot-

From the north side of the Totopotomoy, from Hund-
ley's comer, Grant sent dispatch to Halleck, May 30th,
sajring :

There seems to be some prospect of Lee making a stand north of
the Chickahominy, his right near Shady Grove. I have heard noth-
ing yet of Smith's troops reaching White House. If I can get up to
attack, will not await his arrival. I wish you would send all the
pontoon bridging you can to City Point to have it ready in case it is

He was evidently now anticipating defeat in front of
Richmond, and that he would need pontoons by which
to escape to Butler on the south side of the James, even
after a fresh corps, under Smith, should reach his right.
On the morning of the 31st, from Haws' shop. Grant
reported: "The enemy came out on our left last even-
ing and attacked. ... To relieve General Warren, who
was on our left, speedily. General Meade ordered an
attack by the balance of our line. General Hancock



was the only one who received the order in time to
make the attack before dark. He drove the enemy from
his intrenched skirmish line, and still holds it. ' '

Lee now asked that his army might be reinforced with
that of Beauregard from south of the James. These two
armies held the interior defensive line, while Grant and
Butler held the exterior offensive one. Beauregard, in
turn, urged the Confederate authorities to send him part
of Lee's army, that he might fall upon and capture But-
ler, while Lee held Grant in check, and that he could
then come north of the James and join Lee in forcing
Grant to a surrender. Lee did not approve of this sug-
gestion, and again urged that Beauregard should come to
aid him in continuous battle against Grant. Beauregard,
persistent in his determination, telegraphed to Rich-
mond: "War department must determine when and
what troops to order from here. " Lee's prompt response
was: "If you cannot determine what troops you can
spare, the department cannot. The result of your delay
will be disaster. Butler's troops will be with Grant
to-morrow. ' '

On the ist of June, Grant made an attack, late in the
afternoon, from his left, with the Sixth corps and the
corps under Smith, holding Warren, Burnside and Han-
cock in position to advance, all along his lines, to his
right. Attacking at about s p. m. , and continuing until
after dark, he forced back Lee's front lines, under his
initial attack, but finding a second line which commanded
the one captured, he made no further progress, but re-
pulsed several counterstrokes. During the night of
that day he withdrew his right and moved it to his left,
beyond the road leading to Cold Harbor, extending his
right to defend his own flank in the same direction, now
resting his right on the famous Turkey hill, from which
McClellan had been routed, after a desperate struggle, in
the first battle of Cold Harbor, in 1862.

The intense heat of the June days of lowland Virginia,
intensified by the clouds of dust raised by every move-
ment, and the want of drinkable water, brought suffering
and weariness upon both the contending armies. To these
there were added for Lee's men the pangs of hunger. A
credible witness, in the artillery, states that his com-

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 45 of 153)