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the artillery that had been with Early having gone to
Richmond. Early located remnants of his war-worn cav-
alry in small camps in Piedmont, in the Valley, and in the
Appalachia, far out to the front, to the east, northeast,
north and northwest, where forage could be had for
their horses, and where they could prevent incursions of
the enemy and give Early intelligence of any forward
movements. Signal stations were located and telegraphs
put in order connecting these cavalry camps with head-
quarters at Staunton.



FOILED in his attempts to turn Lee's flank south of
the James by the capture of Petersburg, through
Beauregard's brave resistance for four days
against his repeated assaults, Grant drew back
and commenced throwing up formidable lines of
in'trenchments, all along his front, during the night of
June 1 8th and the following Sunday. Lee's army, fac-
ing to the eastward, was as busily occupied in throwing
up equally strong defensive works, preparing to hold
Petersburg as the key to the defenses of Richmond, in
obedience to the Confederate authorities, although Lee
himself would have preferred to draw Grant farther
into the interior, away from his tidewater base and
fortress, where he could have maneuvered against him
in the open country and amid Nature's great fortifications,
which so abound among the mountains of Virginia.

At this time, Beauregard's left rested on the navigable
Appomattox, about one mile north of east from Peters-
burg, where the Appomattox turns northward, for five
miles, to the vicinity of Port Walthall, and thence east-
ward, for about four miles, to City Point, where that
river enters the James. On his right, Anderson, with
the First corps, extended the Confederate line for some
three miles to the southward, in front of Petersburg,
crossing the Norfolk & Petersburg railroad in the vicin-
ity of the Jerusalem plank road, thence westward, for
some two miles; the Third corps, under A. P. Hill,
extended the Confederate right, on the south of Peters-
burg, to the Weldon & Petersburg railroad. Pickett's
division took up the line on the west side of the Appo-
mattox and extended it north to the James, at the big
bend opposite Dutch gap. The fortifications on the
north of the James, from Chaffin's bluff northward, along
the front of Richmond, were held by batteries and by
local troops, in command of Lieut. -Gen. R. S. Ewell.



Subsequently the Confederate works were extended to
the southwest of Petersburg for more than lo miles, to
beyond Hatcher's run, until Lee's line of defensive
works, consisting of forts and redoubts connected by
breastworks and strengthened by all means known to
the art of war, extended for nearly 40 miles.

The Federal fortifications, commencing on the river
road north of the James, in front of the Confederate lines,
extended for four miles to the south, to Fort Brady,
above Dutch gap ; then were resumed, opposite the big
bend of the J ames, and extended across the neck of the
Bermuda Hundred peninsula, for nearly four miles, to
the big bend of the Appomattox; then again resumed,
upon the south side of that river and along its eastern
side, and extended for over four miles, by redoubts and
detached works, to the City Point railroad, on the bank
of the Appomattox, and were thence prolonged, for 15;
miles or more, around the front of Petersburg, to beyond
Hatcher's run, .frequently as double lines. South of
these main defensive works, a line of formidable intrench-
ments protected the rear of the besieging army ; while
numerous forts, connected by heavy breastworks^
extended across the City Point peninsula, making ah
enclosed camp for the base of supplies and the head-
quarters of the Federal army.

Grant "rested his men," as he had promised, with thfe
vigorous use of intrenching tools, until near the end of
June, constructing works far more formidable than thosp
opposing him, and making such preparations as are only
made when a great fortress is to be taken by protracted
and regular siege operations. Within these well-fortified
lines Grant collected more than 107,000 men, most of
them veterans of the armies of the Potomac and of the
James. To oppose these, Lee had, in his 40-mile line,
for the defense of Richmond and Petersburg, some 54,000
men, the remaining veterans of the army of Northern
Virginia, and of the department of North Carolina and
Southern Virginia, Beauregard's army. Grant's supplies
easily reached him by water, up the broad navigable
James to City Point. Lee drew his, mainly from the
South, by three railroads that met at Petersburg and
were thence continued by single line to Richmond. The
first Federal assault cut the roads leading to City Point "
and Norfolk.


Grant's first movement was to cut the road leading
south to Weldon, that he might extend the strong
arm of his fortifications westward, across that road, and
hold it from Lee's use. On the 21st of June, he sent his
Second and Sixth corps southward, across the Jerusalem
plank road, which ran from Petersburg south, between
the Norfolk and the Weldon railroads, and directed
these to take position, on the left of his Fifth corps,
thus, by a great wheel of his left, hoping to flank
Lee's right south of Petersburg. The battle line, when
formed, was composed of the Fifth corps on the right,
the Second in the center, and the Sixth on the left. This
formidable line of attack was extended still farther to
the left, by 6,000 cavalry, under Wilson, designed to
strike the railway still farther to the south and then
sweep up to the northward. Lee, in person, was at his
right, on the morning of the 2 2d, when the Federal col-
umns advanced to his front. Three of A. P. Hill's bri-
gades were moved southward to meet the Federal col-
umns, the movement of which was not in concert, and
the Confederates discovered a wide gap between the
Sixth and the Second corps. Into this, Mahone led Hill's
brigades, through the pine forests, and fell, in fierce
assault, on the left, flank of the Second corps, driving it
back in confusion, behind defensive works, with a loss
of 1,700 men and four guns.

The next day the Sixth corps renewed the attempt to
reach the railroad, when it was driven back with a loss
of 500. Wilson's cavalry reached the railroad, at Reams'
Station, nine miles south of Petersburg, on the 2 2d, and,
after breaking the track, moved westward to the South-
side railroad, where, on the 23d, after a vigorous attack
on the division of W. H. F. Lee, it was driven back,
and on the 24th, retreated toward Petersburg, having
been turned back from Staunton river bridge by the local
militia, closely followed by Lee. Hampton, whohad hurried
southward from his victory over Sheridan at Trevilian's,
joined Lee in the pursuit. Reaching Reams' Station,
Wilson found Mahone across his track, with two bri-
gades of infantry, while Lee was closely pressing his
rear. Thus assailed, his troops were routed, leaving
behind them, not only a long supply train and thirteen
guns, but loads of plunder robbed from private houses,
and a thousand negro slaves taken from Virginia planta-


tions. Wilson's raid had been one of pillage, and he well
merited the punishment he received at Reams' Station.

Early's Valley campaign and his advance on Washing-
ton, brought confusion to Grant's plans, in the early part
of July, as narrated in the preceding chapter, and com-
pelled him to organize a large force, under Sheridan, to
look after Early, while he continued to hold his well-for-
tified lines and intrenched camps on the James and on
the Appomattox.

During all the month of July, Grant's great army was
busy throwing up parallels and driving mines in advanc-
ing upon Petersburg. In front of the Blandford ceme-
tery, to the northeast of that city, there was a salient in
the Confederate line known as Elliott's. At that point,
the Federal lines, under Burnside, were but a hundred
yards away, and in their rear was a deep ravine, from
which Pennsylvania miners drove a main gallery, for 510
feet, under Burnside's works, the intervening space, and
to well under the Elliott salient in the Confederate line:
From this main gallery lateral ones were extended,
right and left, and in these works were placed 8,000
pounds of powder, and the appliances for its explosion
under Confederate works and the guns of Pegram's
and Elliott's batteries. Grant proposed to spring this
mine and thus blow open a way, through the Confeder-
ate intrenchments, by which he could send three of his
corps, nearly half of his army, and capture Petersburg
from Lee. The preparations for this peculiar kind of
strategy by one who was always desiring open-field
fighting, were all complete on the 28th of July.

On the 27th of July, Grant sent Sheridan's cavalry,
and Hancock with the Second corps, across to the north
side of the James, to attack the Confederate works at
ChafSn's bluif, hoping to there break through and cap-
ture Richmond, or, at least, to create a diversion that
would draw a large portion of Lee's army to the north of
the James, and thus help to secure success for Burnside's
attack, after the explosion of his mine. Crossing the
river at Deep Bottom, Hancock drove back Kershaw's
division and captured four pieces of his artillery, but on
following up his success he encountered an intrenched line
of battle, which brought him to a stand. On the 29th,
Lee hurried cavalry and five divisions of infantry over
the James, to aid in keeping back Hancock, leaving


Pickett between the Appomattox and the James, and but
three divisions in the defenses of Petersburg, with but
13,000 men of all arms, to receive Burnside's assault
on the morning of the 30th.

Meade was reluctant to spring his mine without hav-
ing the steady Hancock behind Bumside, so Grant
recalled the half of the Second corps, gave up the idea of
a direct movement on Richmond, and reinforced Bum-
side, as Meade desired. Sheridan's cavalry was also
brought back, to create a demonstration on Lee's right,
and so, by threatening his wings, divert attention from
the intended assault on his center.

In his official report of 1865, Grant thus describes this
battle of the Crater :

On the morning of the 30th, between 4 and 5 o'clock, the
mine was sprung, blowing up a battery and most of a regfiment, and
the advance of the assaulting column, formed by the Ninth corps,
immediately took possession of the crater made by the explosion
and the line for some distance to the right and left of it, and a
detached line in front of it, but for some cause failed to advance
promptly to the ridge beyond. Had they done this, I have every
reason to believe that Petersburg would have fallen. Other troops
were immediately pushed forward, but the time consumed in get-
ting them up enabled the enemy to rally from his surprise (which
had been complete) and get forces to this point for its defense. The
captured line thus held, being untenable and of no advantage to us,
the troops were withdrawn, but not without heavy loss. Thus ter-
minated in disaster what promised to be the most successful assault
of the campaign.

This explosion partially destroyed Elliott's brigade and
opened a wide gap into Petersburg, without a single
Confederate soldier present to contest the passage of
Burnside through to the rear of Lee's lines. More than
one hundred and sixty Federal guns concentrated their
fire on the Confederate works, to the right and left of
this breach, to engage attention while Burnside made his
assault. This terrific explosion, for the time being, nat-
urally terrified the nearby men of both armies, and
twenty minutes passed before Burnside's leading bri-
gade advanced, cautiously, up the slope of the crater and
took shelter in its yawning opening, which was 135 feet
in length and 30 feet in depth. The commanding hill of
Blanford cemetery, within the Confederate lines, was
just in front of the assaulting column and undefended ;
but Burnside's men lingered within the crater and failed
to move on to this point of vantage. Another brigade


of the assaulting column followed, and that also took
shelter in the great pit, and there an entire Federal
division remained, as a confused mass, which its officers
tried in vain to move forward, in face of the scattering
fire that the Confederate infantry, now rushing in from
all directions, poured into the crater.

Haskell's battery, the one nearest at hand on the plank
road, was speedily moved forward and its fire was added
to that of the musketry. Hamilton Chamberlayne,
though sick in a near hospital, hastened to reinforce
Haskell with his guns, while Wright and Langhorne,
from the left, screened by a small body of pines, raked
with canister, from their position in a salient, the
ground between the crater and the Federal line of
intrenchments, across which Burnside must send rein-
forcements. Grant's artillery showered shot and shell
upon these Confederate batteries, but they stood bravely
to their work. Burnside sent two more divisions to push
forward the hesitating assault, but most of the men of
these found refuge in the swarming mass that already
nearly filled the bottom of the crater. Meade, watching
from the rear, and learning, on demand, from Burnside
the cause of this delay, excitedly asked: "Do you mean
to say your officers and men will not obey your orders to
advance?" Burnside wrote reply: "I mean to say that
it is very hard to advance to the crest. ' '

At 8 o'clock a negro division was sent forward to march
over the white Federal soldiers in the crater. These
quickly sought refuge in the adjacent, unoccupied Con-
federate rifle-pits. A division of the Tenth corps was
now added to the assaulting column, which, encouraged
by the power of numbers, was bracing itself for an
advance to the Cemetery hill. At this juncture of affairs.
General Lee, from beyond the Appomattox, arrived and
took charge of the defense. Two of Hill's brigades were
drawn from his right, and Mahone promptly ordered
these to cover the breach ; Pegram's battery came for-
ward to join the combat; through the covered way, which
led from the plank road to the ravine in front of the cra-
ter, Weisiger's brigade, of Mahone's division, rushed to
the brink of the crater. The negro division fled from
the rifle-pits, at sight of the charging Virginians, and
leaped into the crater, followed by most of the other
Federal troops that had ventured beyond it.


Wright's Georgia brigade soon came to the aid of
Weisiger, and by about midday the Confederate line was
re-established by the capture of its broken works. Vol-
leys were poured into the crater, until the mass of Fed-
eral soldiers, there entrapped, surrendered at discretion.
Grant had brought 65,000 of his soldiers to this grand
assault, which, through the lack of audacious courage in
his officers and men, brought to him not only failure, but
a loss of nearly 5,000 of his soldiers. A howl of despair
arose in every portion of the North. Gold went up to
$2.80 for a dollar, as compared with greenbacks. The
New York Herald advised that an embassy should be
sent to the Confederate government, "to see if this
dreadful war cannot be ended in a mutually satisfactory
treaty of peace. ' '

Early in August, Grant sent Sheridan, with the Sixth
corps of infantry and Torbert's and Wilson's divisions of
cavalry, to the Shenandoah valley to look after the
troublesome Early. To meet these, and aid his lieu-
tenant, Lee dispatched Fitz Lee's division of cav-
alry and Kershaw's division of infantry from his First
corps, in the same direction. Believing, from informa-
tion received, that Lee had sent three divisions of his
army away from Petersburg, thus greatly weakening his
defensive force, Grant decided, on the 13th of August,
"to threaten Richmond from the north side of the James,
to prevent his sending troops away, and, if possible, to
draw back those sent." That night he moved the Sec-
ond corps and Gregg's division of cavalry from the army
of the Potomac, and the Tenth corps from Butler's army
of the James, to the north of the river, and the next day
these assaulted the Confederate lines in front of Rich-
mond, only to be repulsed, with the loss of 1,000 men;
although Grant claims to have captured six pieces of
artillery, several hundred prisoners, and to have detained
troops that were under marching orders to Early. Gen.
F. A. Walker writes of this movement : ' 'It should be
frankly confessed that the troops on our side engaged,
behaved with little spirit. . . . When it is added that
the two brigades most in fault were the Irish brigade and
that which had been -so long and so gloriously com-
manded by Brooke, it will appear to what a condition the
army had been reduced by three months of desperate


Having drawn a portion of Lee's army north of the
James, Grant, on the i8th, sent Warren, with the Fifth
corps, to his left, to capture the Weldon railroad and attack
Lee's right. Following the plank road southward to the
Globe tavern, on the railroad south of Petersburg, War-
ren then turned northward, along the railway, toward
Petersburg, until Heth's division of Hill's corps struck
his exposed left flank and captured nearly a thousand of
his men. The next day, A. P. Hill confronted Warren
with two divisions, assailing his left with Heth's, while
Mahone's fell on his right. Warren, after a loss of 2,900
men, threw up works and assumed the defensive. Hill
attacked him again, on the 21st, but was repulsed with
considerable loss.

During this affair between Hill and Warren, Grant with-
drew Hancock and Gregg from the north side of the James,
and, on the 21st, sent these to Reams' Station, south of
Petersburg and beyond Warren's division, to tear up the
track of the railway, in the meantime holding some old
Confederate works at the station. To interfere with this
destructive work, Lee sent A. P. Hill, with eight brigades
of infantry, preceded by Hampton's division of cavalry.
On the 24th these attacked Hancock. Pegram's artillery
secured a position which took Hancock's lines in both re-
verse and enfilade, with eight guns at very short range.
This unexpected and rapid fire opened the way for a
charge, by Heth's division, when the larger portion of
Hancock's men took a panic and broke in flight, leaving
their works, 9 guns, 12 flags, over 3,000 muskets, and
2,150 prisoners, in Hill's hands, with a loss to him of but
720 men. It was an unheard-of thing for the veteran sol-
diery of Hancock to be thus discomfited, and they were
only saved from utter rout by the desperate fighting of a
small number of steadfast men, led by Hancock in person.
Walker, in his Life of that great soldier, attributed this
defeat to "the weakened spirit of our (Hancock's) men,"

Hancock had seen his troops fail in their attempts to carry the in-
trenched, positions of the enemy, but he had never before had the
mortification of seeing them driven, and his lines and guns taken,
as on this occasion ; and never before had he seen his men fail to
respond, to the utmost, when he called upon them, personally, for a
supreme effort; nor had he ever before ridden toward an enemy,
followed by a beggarly array of a few hundred stragglers, who had
been gathered together and pushed toward the enemy. He could no
longer conceal from himself that his once mighty corps retained but


the shadow of its former strength and vigor. ... "I do not care to
die," cried Hancock, "but I pray God I may never leave this field."
The agony of that day never passed away from the proud soldier.

Grant's only mention of this affair in his final report is :
"On the 24th, the Second corps and Gregg's division of
cavalry, while at Reams' Station destroying the railroad,
were attacked, and after desperate fighting a part of our
line gave way and five pieces of artillery fell into the
hands of the enemy. ' '

The various combats between the two opposing armies
at Petersburg, during the month of August, resulted in
a loss of about 8,000 men to Grant and 2,000 to Lee.
Grant persistently continued his attacks on Lee's flanks,
but mainly on his right, his object being to so extend
his left to the westward as to capture and hold Lee's
lines of communication with the South. In his report.
Grant writes: "By the 12th of September a branch rail-
road was completed from the City Point & Peters-
burg railroad to the Weldon road, enabling us to supply
without difficulty, in all weather, the army in front of
Petersburg. The extension of our lines across the Wel-
don railroad compelled the enemy to so extend his that it
seemed he could have but few troops north of the James
for the defense of Richmond. ' ' This railway extension
was between two lines of formidable intrenchments,
safely guarding it from attack.

After reaching the conclusion just mentioned. Grant,
on the night of September 28th, sent the Tenth corps,
under Bimey, and the Eighteenth corps, under Ord, to
the north of the James, by the way of Deep Bottom (a
way by which he had already so many times sent expe-
ditions for the same purpose), to attack the "few troops"
which he supposed Lee now had at Chaffin's farm, or
Fort Harrison, for the defense of his right, resting on
the James. The Federal attack was made on the morn-
ing of the 29th, as Grant reports, "carrying the very
strong fortifications and intrenchments below Chaffin's
farm, known as Fort .Harrison, capturing fifteen pieces of
artillery and the New Market road and intrenchments.
This success was followed up by a gallant attack on Fort
Gilmer, immediately in front of the Chaffin's farm fortifi-
cations, in which we were repulsed with heavy loss.
Kautz's cavalry was pushed forward on the road to the
right of this, supported by infantry, and reached the


enemy's inner line, but was unable to get further. The
position captured from the enemy was so threatening to
Richmond that I determined to hold it. The enemy made
several desperate attempts to dislodge us, all of which
were unsuccessful, and for which he paid dearly."
Grant's loss in this affair was 2,300 men.

Supposing that Lee's right at Petersburg had been
■weakened in meeting the attack north of the James,
Meade, on the 30th of September, sent four divisions to
attack Lee's right, at Poplar Spring church. Hill met
the flank of these with two divisions and forced them
back, with a loss of over 2,000 men. Parke, command-
ing the Ninth corps, attributed this disaster to "the
large amount of raw material in the ranks [that] has
greatly diminished the efficiency of the corps. ' '

On the 7th of October, Lee attacked Kautz's cavalry,
north of the James, and, as Grant reports, "drove it back
with heavy loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners, and
the loss of all the artillery — eight or nine pieces. This
lie followed by an 'attack on our intrenched infantry line,
but was repulsed with severe slaughter." On the 13th,
Butler essayed to drive the Confederates from his front,
-where they were constructing some new defensive works,
but he was driven back with heavy loss.

On the 27th of October, it was said to strengthen Lin-
coln's prospects in the near-at-hand presidential election
with the report of a victory. Grant sent a column, con-
sisting of 3,000 cavalry and 32,000 infantry, to turn
Lee's right at Hatcher's run, 14 miles to the south-
Tvest of Petersburg. His plan of engagement pro-
vided that Hancock should march westward, following
.the Vaughn road across Hatcher's run, and place him-
self across the Boydton plank road. He was then to
march northward, recross Hatcher's run and the Southside
railroad in the rear of Lee's right. Gregg's cavalry and
•the Fifth and Ninth corps were moved to the Federal
left to support Hancock. In the morning the Ninth
■corps attacked the extreme right of Lee's intrenchments,
to engage attention while Hancock made his flanking
.movement. Finding Lee's men ready for the attack, the
Ninth corps halted and threw up breastworks for its pro-
•tection. Hancock reached his assigned position, across
:the Boydton plank road, but when he would advance he
-found Hill standing ready, on the northern bank of the


Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 51 of 153)