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run, to oppose his northward march. A division of the
Fifth corps was then moved to the left to strengthen
Hancock, but most of its regiments lost their way in the
intricacies of the forest roads in that region. The Fed-
eral line was not well established, and its left was
broken into fragments in the bewildering forest. Heth
promptly met Hancock's flank movement with one of
his own. He sent Mahone's division westward, across
the run, and, hurrying them into the gap that had been
left between the Fifth and Second corps, fiercely attacked
Hancock's right, while Hampton's cavalry fell on his
left. Hancock's superior force enabled him to repulse
these attacks and re-establish his lines, but Hill captured
six of his guns and 700 prisoners.

During the succeeding night. Grant withdrew his
unsuccessful movement, after a loss of 1,761 men, and
left Hill in possession of the field of contention. In his
final report, after describing the movement to where the
battle of Hatcher's Run took place, Grant wrote:

At this point we were six miles from the Southside railroad, which
I had hoped, by this movement, to reach and hold. But finding
that we had not reached the end of the enemy's fortifications, and
no place presenting itself for a successful assault by which he
might be doubled up and shortened, I determined to withdraw to
within our fortified lines. Orders were given accordingly. Imme-
diately upon receiving a report that General Warren had connected
with General Hancock, I returned to my headquarters. Soon after
dark the enemy moved out across Hatcher's run, in the gap between
Generals Hancock, and Warren, which was not closed as reported,
and made a desperate attack on General Hancock's right and rear.
General Hancock immediately faced his corps to meet it, and after
a bloody combat drove the enemy within his works, and withdrew
that night to his old position.

On this same October 27th, Grant ordered Butler to
make a demonstration north of the James, on the
defenses of Richmond on the Williamsburg road and on
the York River railroad, to the west of Fair Oaks and
Seven Pines. Grant reports that •' ' in the former he was
unsuccessful ; in the latter he succeeded in carrying a
work which was afterward abandoned, and his forces
withdrawn to their former position." Butler had
attempted to steal into Richmond by way of the con-
cealed roads through the White Oak swamp, but Long-
street, who had just returned to his command, not only
drove him back, but inflicted upon him a loss of more
than 1,000 men.


"From this time forward," says Grant in his report,
"the operations in front of Petersburg and Richmond,
until the spring campaign of 1865, were confined to the
defense and extension of our lines and to offensive
movements for crippling the enemy's lines of commu-
nication and to prevent his detaching any considerable
force to send South. By the 7th of February (1865),
our lines were extended to Hatcher's run, and the Wel-
don railroad had been destroyed to Hicksf ord. ' ' In De-
cember, Grant recalled the Sixth corps from the Shen-
andoah valley to his army, when Lee at once brought the
Second corps, from the same region, to the trenches at
Petersburg. Sheridan's big army of 56,000 men had
neither cut the Virginia Central railway at Staunton,
Charlottesville or Gordonsville, nor had it captured Lee's
base of supplies at Lynchburg, having been held in the
valley by Early, who had inflicted upon him a loss of

Dr. Henry Alexander White, in his every way admir-
able Life of Lee, says of the army of Northern Vir-
ginia, at this time :

Winter poured down its snows and its sleet upon I,(ee's shelterless
men in the trenches. Some of them burrowed into the earth. Most
of them shivered over the feeble fires kept burning along the lines.
Scanty and thin were the garments of these heroes. Most of them
were clad in mere rags. Gaunt famine oppressed them every hour.
One quarter of a pound of rancid bacon and a little meal was the daily
portion assigned to each man by the rules of the war department.
But even this allowance failed when the railroads broke down and
left the bacon and the flour and the meal piled up beside the tracks
in Georgia and the Carolinas. One-sixth of this daily ration was
the allotment for a considerable time, and very often the supply of
bacon failed entirely. At the close of the year (1864) Grant had
110,000 men. Lee had 66,000 on his rolls, but this included men on
detached duty, leaving him barely 40,000 soldiers to defend the
trenches that were then stretched out 40 miles in length from the
Chickahominy to Hatcher's run. With dauntless hearts these gaunt-
faced men endured the almost ceaseless fire of Grant's mortar bat-
teries. The frozen fingers of Lee's army of sharpshooters clutched
the musket barrel with an aim so steady that Grant's men scarcely
ever lifted their heads from their bomb proofs.

On the sth of February, Grant again sent a large
force to his left to capture Lee's defenses on Hatcher's
run. This was driven back by three divisions of Confed-
erates, and the Federal line of the Fifth corps was brokSn
by a charge of Gen. C. A. Evans' division. During this
engagement, the brave Gen. John Pegram, who com-
manded at Rich mountain in Jtily, 1861, was killed.


Lee's small force fought, with its usual vigor and obsti-
nacy, during the severe weather of the three days and '
nights of this second Hatcher's Run engagement. Lee
wrote of them: "Under these circumstances, heightened
by assaults and fire of the enemy, some of the men had
been without meat for three days, and all were suffering
from reduced rations and scant clothing, exposed to bat-
tle, cold, hail and sleet. . . . The physical strength of
the men, if their courage survives, must fail under this
treatment. ' '

Environed by defeats in every direction, except in the
immediate neighborhood of Richmond, and seeing the
Federal armies closing in upon this last stronghold of
the Confederacy, President Davis, grasping the last
straw offering relief, on the 6th of February, 1865,
appointed General Lee commander-in-chief of all the
Confederate armies. In his first general order, after
reluctantly accepting this added responsibility, Lee said,
in substance: "Deeply impressed with the difficulties
and responsibilities of the situation, and humbly invok-
ing the guidance of the Almighty God, I rely for success
upon the courage and fortitude of the army, sustained by
the patriotism and firmness of the people ; confident that
their united efforts, under the blessing of Heaven, will
secure peace and independence. " In a second order on
the 14th, he said of his soldiers: "The choice between
war and abject submission is before them. To such a
proposal, brave men, with arms in their hands, can have
but one answer. They cannot barter manhood for
peace, nor the right of self-government for life or prop-
erty. But justice to them requires a sterner admonition
to those who have abandoned their comrades in the hour
of peril. ' '

At this crisis the homes of those beyond the confines of
Virginia, which heretofore had not felt the presence of
the enemy, were being overrun with ruthless destruc-
tion, as by Sherman's march from-Atlanta to the sea, and
the wanton damages of scattered bodies of Federal
soldiers. Large numbers of absentees were unable to
return to their commands, and Lee's army was being
d&pleted by constant desertions. He appealed to these
sorely tried men to come back, offering pardon ; adding,
"Our resources, wisely and vigorously employed, are
ample; and with a brave army, sustained by a deter-


mined and united people, success, with God's assistance,
cannot be doubted."

The urgent need for recruits to Lee's army brought to
the front the question of employing negro slaves as sol-
diers. During the secret discussion of this matter, in the
Confederate Congress, Lee, in reply to a letter from
one of its members, wrote on the i8th of February:
"1 think the measure not only expedient, but necessary.
The enemy will certainly use them against tis if he can
get possession of them. ... I believe we should provide
resources for a protracted struggle — not merely for a
battle or campaign. ... In my opinion, the negroes,
under proper circumstances, will make efficient soldiers.
... I think those who are employed should be freed.
It would be neither just nor wise, in my opinion, to re-
quire them to serve as slaves. ' '

On the 19th of February, when Sherman's great and
victorious army was driving Johnston's back to the vicin-
ity of Charlotte, Lee wrote: "It is necessary to bring
out all our strength, and, I fear, to unite our armies, as
separately they do not seem to be able to make head
against the enemy. . . . Provisions must be accumulated
in Virginia, and every man in all the States must be
brought off. I fear it may be necessary to abandon all
our cities, and preparations should be made for this con-
tingency." On the 25th he wrote an earnest letter to
Governor Vance, of North Carolina, in reference to
desertions from his army and the causes that induced
them, concluding: "I think our sorely tried people could
be induced to make one more effort to bear their suffer-
ing a little longer, and regain some of the spirit that
marked the first two years of the war."

At a conference between President Davis and General
Lee, early in March, 1865, it was decided that Lee
should march his army to Danville, and there, joining to
it the 18,000 under Johnston, give battle, in North Car-
olina, to Sherman's 90,000, before Grant could reach him.
Before doing this, Lee proposed to check Grant's efforts
at extending his left toward the Southside railroad, lead-
ing to Danville, by assaulting Fort Stedman near the
center of Grant's line of works near the Appomattox,
and almost immediately in front of the famous Crater.
On the zsth of March, Lee placed the remnant of the
Second corps, now under command of Gen. John B. Gor-



don, in front of the Blanford suburb of Petersburg, with
its left resting in reserve. At the word of command,
just before the dawning of the day, Gordon's men leaped
over their intrenchments, rushed across the 150 yards
between these and Fort Stedman, and captured that and
three adjacent batteries. The attack had been delayed
by the tardiness of Longstreet's supporting detachment,
and the plan of assault was but half carried out on the
approach of full daylight. Gordon tried, in vain, to cap-
ture the forts on his right and left, as his efforts were not
seconded by the advance of his supporting forces. Day-
light enabled the Federal batteries, from a commanding
position, to rake Gordon's lines, and Federal infantry
were pushed forward in overwhelming numbers to
attack him. After inflicting a loss of 2,000 upon Grant,
and suffering one of 3,000 in his own command, Gordon
was compelled to retire. Grant reports that, after this
repulse, "General Meade at once ordered the other corps
to advance and feel the enemy in their respective fronts.
Pushing forward, they captured and held the enemy's
strongly intrenched picket line, in front of the Second
and Sixth corps, and captured 834 prisoners. The enemy
made desperate attempts to retake this line, but without
success. Our loss in front of these was 52 killed, 864
wounded, and 207 missing."
Writing of this period. Grant says, in his final report:

I had spent days of anxiety lest each morning should bring the
report that the enemy had retreated the night before. I was firmly
convinced that Sherman's crossing the Roanoke would be the signal
for Lee to leave. With Johnston and him combined, a long, tedious
and expensive campaign, consuming most of the summer, might
become necessary. By moving out I would put the army in better
condition for pursuit, and would at least, by the destruction of the
Danville road, retard the concentration of the two armies of Lee and
Johnston, and cause the enemy to abandon much material that he
might otherwise save. I therefore determined not to delay the
movement ordered.

On the night of the 27th, three divisions of the Twenty-
fourth and Twenty-fifth corps, preceded by McKenzie's
cavalry, took up the line of march, and was in position,
near Hatcher's run, on the morning of the 29th. The
Fifth corps moved at 3 a. m. of that day, the Second at
9. Sheridan's cavalry reached Dinwiddle Court House
the night of the 29th, and the left of the infantry advance
extended to the Quaker road, near its junction with the


Boydton plank road, and Grant now had an unbroken
-line from the Appomattox to Dinwiddle Court House.
He now had, in his immediate command, 124,700 men,
13,000 of whom were well mounted cavalry. To oppose
these, Lee had about 45,000, less than 5,000 of whom
were cavalry, under Fitz Lee, mounted on mere
skeletons of poorly-fed horses. So far. Grant's move-
ment had met with but little opposition, but Hill held,
threateningly, his line in front of the position that had
been gained. Lee quickly transferred his cavalry and
Pickett's division from his left to his right, and at the
close of March 30th, with 10,000 infantry and cavalry,
under Pickett, Lee's right menaced Grant's advance at
Five Forks. The next morning, Lee, in person, led three
brigades from his right and drove Warren's corps behind
Gravelly run. Pickett forced Sheridan back to Dinwid-
dle Court House, but, finding Federal infantry in sup-
port, he withdrew to Five Forks, where, detached from
support, Sheridan's cavalry and Warren's corps, overlap-
ping his flanks, fell upon and routed him on the ist of

On the morning of the 2d of April, the Federal Sixth
corps broke through Lee's attenuated line, four miles
southwest of Petersburg. In an attempt to recover that
captured line, the brave and impetuous A. P. Hill lost
his life, and Lee lost one of the ablest of his corps lieu-
tenants. A fierce contention was kept up all along thfe
lines, the Confederates continuing to fight, in broken
masses, with desperate courage. Heavy blows were
inflicted upon Grant's solid lines, but numbers at last
won, and the enemy gained the rear of Lee's lines on his
right. Riding back toward Petersburg from this disaster,
General Lee remarked to one of his aides, "This is a sad
business. Colonel. " And soon after, he added, "It has
happened as I told them at Richmond it would happen.
The line has been stretched until it is broken. " As he
continued slowly riding to his rear, the shells from th6
advancing batteries of the enemy began to burst about
him. An eye-witness of the scene writes : ' ' He turned
his head over his right shoulder, his cheeks became
flushed, and a sudden flash of the eye showed with what
reluctance he retired before the flre directed upon him.
No other course was left him, however, and he contin-
ued to ride slowly toward his inner line — a low earth-


work in the suburbs of the city — where a small force was
drawn up, still ardent, hopeful, defiant, and saluting the
shells, now bursting above them, with cheers and laugh-
ter. It was plain that the fighting spirit of his ragged
troops remained unbroken; and the shout of welcome
with which they received him, indicated their unwaver-
ing confidence in him, despite the untoward condition of

That Sunday night, the 2d of April, 1865, under cover
of darkness, Lee evacuated Petersburg and turned the
head of his army, along both banks of the Appomattox,
to Amelia Court House, on the line of the Richmond &
Danville railroad, which the officials of the Confederate
government had passed over, late in the day, after Gen-
eral Lee had telegraphed to President Davis, when in
church at Richmond, near the middle of the day, that
his lines were broken and he must evacuate Petersburg.
The forces in front of Richmond, under Ewell, were
called in and marched across the James, by two roads,
also toward Amelia Court House, after unwisely setting
fire to the storehouses of Richmond and destroying, in
conflagration, a large part of the city which for four
long years army after army of invaders had tried in
vain to capture.

The cheerfulness with which a veteran soldier accepts
whatever the fortunes of war may bring him, was
well illustrated by Lee's soldiers in the beginning of this,
their last march. One of their comrades writes of
them: "In excellent spirits, probably froni the highly
agreeable contrast of the budding April woods with the
squalid trenches, and the long, unfelt joy of an unfet-
tered march through the fields of spring. General Lee
shared this hopeful feeling in a very remarkable degree.
His expression was animated and buoyant ; his seat in
the saddle erect and commanding, and he seemed to
look forward to assured success in the critical movement
which he had now undertakeii. ' '



VERY serious damage was inflicted on the Confeder-
ates in Virginia in the last of December, 1864, by
the raid, or expedition, of Gen. George Stoneman,
of the Federal army, from east Tennessee into
southwest Virginia, mainly for the purpose of destroying
the salt works at Saltville, from which not only the State
of Virginia and the Confederate armies, but also adjacent
States of the Confederacy, drew their supplies of salt ; the
lead mines and works on New river, in Wythe county,
from which the Confederacy obtained the larger propor-
tion of its supply of lead for its ordnance department,
and the numerous niter works in operation in that part
of Virginia. The further object of this expedition was
to drive away the Confederate cavalry that was winter-
ing in east Tennessee and Virginia, not far from the
Virginia line, and at the same time to damage, as much
as possible, the Virginia & East Tennessee railroad,
extending from Lynchburg to Bristol, from which large
supplies of food and forage were sent to the army of
Northern Virginia.

Leaving Knoxville, December 10, 1864, General Gil-
lem's command united with Stoneman 's, which had
advanced from Cumberland gap, near Bean's Station, east
Tennessee, on the 12 th, and had a skirmish with the out-
posts of Gen. Basil Duke near Rogersville ; then an action
with his advance at Kingsport, Tenn., on the 13th, defeat-
ing Duke and driving his command toward Bristol, near
which place, at Papertown, on the 14th, Stoneman at-
tacked Vaughn's Tennessee brigade, of the Confederate
army, which was guarding the railroad and the main
turnpike road leading into the southwestern part of the
Great valley of Virginia, and forced him back toward
Abingdon. Another skirmish took place on the 15th near
that place, and another near Glade Spring, as Vaughn, in
falling back, resisted the advance of the Federal raid.



Gen. J. C. Breckinridge, in command of the Confeder-
ate forces in southwest Virginia, having been duly
advised of the movements of Stoneman's command,
promptly made every effort to collect his scattered men
to meet them ; but in that inclement season it was impos-
sible to get them together at so short a notice. Witch-
er's regiment of cavalry was nearly loo miles away, in
and near Mercer county, across the mountains to the
northeast. A small body of militia, under General Pres-
ton, occupied the earthworks that defended the salt works
at Saltville.

Pushing forward with great energy, and having at his
command some 5,500 men, nearly twice as many as
Breckinridge could get together, Stoneman drove
Vaughn's and Duke's commands before him, and press-
ing on passed Glade Spring, paying no attention to the
Confederate force at Saltville, until he was delayed, by
an action at Marion, on the i6th, but only for a short
time, as his superior force enabled him to flank Breck-
inridge's command and compel the larger portion of it to
retreat southward toward North Carolina. Riding
rapidly still further up the valley, Stoneman was again
opposed, in a skirmish at Mt. Airy, on the 17th and i8th.
Detaching a portion of his command from Marion to
destroy the lead works, by way of the Rye valley, he sent
another portion on to Wytheville, where it destroyed a
number of warehouses filled with army supplies, burning
•a church that had been used for this purpose, and destroy-
ing the railway bridges and stations for a few miles
northeastward of Wytheville.

Having accomplished so much in the way of damaging
the Confederacy, Stoneman retired to the vicinity of
Glade Spring, and on the 20th and 21st drove away the
small force at the salt works and greatly damaged that im-
portant and indispensable salt-making establishment.
On the 22d he retired from Saltville. Burbridge's portion
of his command then returned westward, by the way of
Pound gap, on the 27th-, to Catlettsburg, at the mouth of
the Big Sandy in Kentucky, and Gillem's command
returned to Knoxville on the 29th, reporting that it had
marched 461 miles during this expedition, in intensely
cold and inclement weather.

The damage inflicted upon southwest Virginia by this
Federal raid, in the destruction of railway and turnpike


bridges, railway stations and warehouses, iron works,
woolen mills, lead works, and army supplies of all kinds,
was very injurious to the Confederacy, greatly crippling
its defensive power in that region, and was also a serious >
blow to the army of Northern Virginia by depriving it
of supplies from that great storehouse of agricultural
wealth. But the damage inflicted was by no means as
great as was claimed by the Federal officers, in command
of the expedition, in their official reports. Much of it
was soon repaired, and the lead and salt works were again
quickly put in operation and the railway trains to running.

Instances of heroism and fidelity to the Confederate
cause in these days of extremity were not wanting. Colo-
nel Witcher marched his command 90 miles in twenty- five
hours, and reached Marion in time to aid in forcing the
enemy to retire, although he was greatly inferior in num-
bers. Maj. J. Stoddard Johnston, General Breckinridge's
adjutant-generalj^who was at Wytheville without any force,
collected six or eight men and held the enemy at bay
for two hours, by establishing a picket post, to which they
sent in a flag of truce and demanded an unconditional
surrender. He agreed, but required a half hour in which
to withdraw his troops. The terms were declined, but
by his ruse he gained an hour and a half of time, and
then left with his four men, having in the meantime saved
a considerable quantity of stores by sending them east-
ward on the railroad. He continued to picket with his
handful of men, and kept up communication with Gen-
eral Lee by telegraph, and probably by his bold doings
prevented the enemy from advancing further. Adjt.-
Gen. H. T. Stanton, of the Confederate army, reported
that when the Federal forces came to opposite the lead
works on New river, and found the ferryboat was on the
other side, they offered $500 to any one who would bring
it over ; but no one was mercenary enough to respond.
They only reached the lead works by having a few bold
troopers swim their horses across the deep river.

On the 2d of January, 1865, General Early had a confer-
ence with Gen. R. E. Lee, at Richmond, in reference to the
difficulties that confronted him in the Shenandoah valley,
the lower portion of which was still held by a large army
under Sheridan, while but the fragments of an army,
chiefly of broken down cavalry, remained in his com-
mand. Lee told Early that he was left in the Valley to


create the impression that his force was much larger than
it really was, and he instructed him to put on a bold front
and do the best he could in holding Sheridan at bay.

In consequence of a great drought, during the summer
of 1864, the corn crop in the Valley was a short one, and
Sheridan had destroyed much of the crops of small grain
and hay. This scarcity of subsistence compelled Early to
send Fitz Lee's two brigades of cavalry and part of his
artillery to General Lee at Petersburg, and King's bat-
talion of artillery to southwest Virginia. Subsequent
withdrawals left Early's army consisting of two small
brigades, less than a full regiment in numbers, of Whar-
ton's infantry division, Nelson's battalion of artillery,

Online LibraryClement Anselm EvansConfederate military history; a library of Confederate States history → online text (page 52 of 153)