Horace Greeley.

The American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 online

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needed. Sedgwick was ordered to
move at 5 A. M. ; but the enemy were
upon him a quarter before; attempt-
ing to turn our right flank, which was
held by Gten. Wright's division, with
Gen. Seymour's provisional division
still nearer the Bapidan. This air
tack, twice repeated during the fore-
noon, but not resolutely (being a feint
to mask the real attack on Hancock),
was repulsed, and our line advanced
a few hundred yards to a more fav(nv
able position.

At 8 A. M., our whole front was
assailed, and again two hours later,
as if the enemy were feeling for a
weak point. Then, efforts were made,
as before, to push in between our
several corps and their divisions ; and
at length to strike with crushing force



* Friday, Kay 6.



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GEN. WADSWORTH KILLBlD — SEYMOUR CAPTURED. 569



on one wing and then the other;
and this proved the more successful
maneuver. It was evident that the
Kebels, in their perfect knowledge of
the country, and in the facility of
moving their foi^ces from left to right
and back again in the rear of their
defenses and fighting line, thus thor-
oughly screened from observation on
our part, possessed Bdvantages ftilly
counterbalancing their deficiency in
numbers.

On out left, Gen. Hancock had
moved out, at 5 a, m., and had pushed
forward, fighting, crowding back Hill
and taking many prisoners, nearly two
miles, across the Brock road, on his
way to Parker's Aoro. Here he was
stopped by the arrival of Longstreet ;
"who, after a brief lull, charged in
turn, throwing otrr front into confu-
sion, and requiring the presence of
part of Bumside's men to restore and
steady it ; when Longstreet in turn
was pressed back, falling severely
wounded — ^itwas said by a fire from
his own men. Again a desperate at-
tack by the enemy hore back the front
of the 2d corps to its intrenched line
and abatis along the Brock road;
near which, but farther to the right,
Gen. James S. Wadsworth, gallantly
struggling to st6m the adverse tide,
was shot through the head and mor-
tally wounded; as Gen. Alex. Hays
had been the day before.

But, another lull now occurring,
our front was straightened and
strengthened : Gen. Bumside's corps
having been thrown in between Han-
cock and Warren, so. as to give our
line the full strength of our infantry.
Hardly had this been done when the
now united corps of Hill and Long-
street fell ftiriously upon our left and
left center, pushing them back, and,



striking heavily on Stevenson's divi-
sion of Bumside's corps, drove it back
and rushed through the gap. Han-
cock promptly sent Col. Carroll, with
the 8d brigade of his 2d division, to
strike the advancing foe in fiank,
which was admirably done : the ene-
my being driven back with heavy
loss, and our troops regaining their
former position.

Thus ended the battle on our left ;
but, the enemy, massing swiftly and
heavily on our right,after our Generals
supposed the day's fighting o ver,struck
again, under Gordon, juat before dark,
at that flank ; surprising and routing
Truman Seymour's and then Shaler's
brigade, taking nearly 4,000 prison-
ers, including Seymour himselfc For
a moment, it seemed that our army,
or at least its right wing, was expos-
ed to rout ; but Q^n. Sedgwick ex-
erted himself to restore his lines, and
succeeded: the enemy making off
with most of their prisoners in tri-
umph. Li fact, this charge had been
made at so late an hour that no far-
ther success than was achieved could
wisely have been aimed at. Our ar-
my rested, after the second day's
bloody struggle, substantially on the
ground held by it at the beginning.

Early next morning, some guns
(which had just been posted on our
right) opened ; but there was no re-
ply ; then our skirmishers advanced,
but were met by skirmishers only;
and it was soon evident that Lee had
intrenched his whole front, and was
willing to receive an attack behind
his works, but not inclined to advance
again and make one. And, as fight-
ing in this labyrinth was nowise
Grant^s choice, but Lee's wholly, and
as the latter did not invite a persist-
ence in it, Grant resolved to resume



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670



THB AKEBIOAN CONFLICT.



Ilis march ; and accordingly put his
columns in motion southward, aiming
to clear the Wilderness and concen-
trate his army on the high, open
ground around Spottsylvania C. H.
The only serious conflict this day was
an indecisive one near Todd's store,
between four brigades of our cavalry
and a like force of J. E. B. Stuart's,
with a loss about 250 on either side.
As Stuart attacked, and failed to
achieve any advantage, Sheridan
daimed the result as a triumph.

Our losses in this terrible struggle
in the Wilderness were nearly 20,000
men, of whom some 6,000 were taken
prisoners. Our loss in officers was
heavy. The country's salvation
claimed no nobler sacrifice than that
of Gen. James S. Wads worth, of New
York. Bom to affluence and social
distinction, already past the age of
military service, he had volunteered
in 1861, under the impulse of a sense
of duty alone. As an aid of Gen.
McDowell, he was conspicuously use-
ful at Bull Run ; accustomed to every
luxury, he had courted, ever since,
the hardships and perils of the field ;
made the Eepublican candidate for
Governor in 1862 by an overwhelming
majority, he could not have failed to
be elected, could those have voted
who, like himself, were absent fi:om
the State at the call of their country ;
and, though he peremptorily declined,
his fellow citizens, had he lived,
would have insisted on electing him
Governor in 1864. Thousands of
the unnamed and unknown have
evinced as fervid and pure a patriot-
ism, but no one surrendered more for
his country's sake, or gave his life
more joyfolly for her deliverance,
than did James S. Wadsworth.



Among our wounded in this con-
test were Gens. Hancock (ali^Uf),
Getty, Gregg, Owen, Bartlett, Webb,
and CarrolL

Of the Bebel killed, the most con-
spicuous were Maj.-G^n. Sam. Jones
and Brig.-Gen. Albert G. Jenkins.
Amon^ their wounded were Gena.
Longstreet (disabled for months), Staf*
ford (mortally), Pickett, P^ram, and
Hunter. Doubtless, their aggregate
losses were much less than ours, es-
pecially in prisoners ; but they were
nevertheless severe, as they were es-
timated by themselves at 8,000.



Warren, starting at 9 p. k. of the
7th, preceded by cavalry, emeiged"
from the Wilderness at Alsop's farm,
where the Brock road crosses the
little river Po ; but he had been de-
tained by the obstruction of his roads
by the enemy, and by the cavab7
fight in his front, so that Longstreet's
corps had arrived before him, and
taken post across the little river Ny,
with his guns planted on the ridge
beyond, to sweep our columns as thej
advanced. After a mutual cannonr
ade, Eobinson's overmatched division
was advanced to the assault, but re-
pulsed; Eobinson being severely
wounded. Later in the day, when
part of the 6th corps had come np,
the assault was renewed, GriflSn's
division taking part ; when the ene-
my were driven back, with a loss of
1,500. Ours was judged to be less.

Miles's brigade of Hancock's coq)s
was attacked this day at Corbyn's
bridge, but beat off its assailants.
Wilson, with our advance cavalry,
penetrated to Spottsylvania Coort
House ; but, being unsupported, w«»
compelled to retire.



» Sunday, Kaj 8.



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FIGHTING AT SPO TTSTLVANIA 0. H.



671



Next day," our anny cleared the
Wilderness and was concentrated
around Spottsylvanjji Court House,
now held by Hill and Ewell : War-
ren in the center, Hancock on the
right, Sedgwick on the left. While
placing his guns, and bantering some
of his men, who winced at the sing-
ing of Rebel bullets, Gen, Sedgwick
was struck in the face by a sharp-
shooter's missile, and fell instantly
dead. He was a native and citizen
of Connecticut, a bachelor of 40, a
thorough soldier, greatly beloved for
his social qualities by all who knew
him. Gen. Wm. H. Morris, of New-
York, was severely wounded this day.
G^n. HL G. Wright next day suc-
ceeded to the command of the 6th
corps, and Gen. Bumside came into
position on our left ; when our batte-
ries opened on the enemy's position,
and charges on his rifle-pits were
made by Barlow's and by Gibbon's
divisions, in front of the 2d and 5th
corps, bringing on a general engage-
ment. We finally attempted to turn
the enemy's left flank, but failed;
Barlow's division, which had ad-
vanced across the Po, being ordered
to return, was fiercely attacked on
its retreat, and at one time in danger
of destruction, but finally extricated
-with some loss, including a gun.
Several charges on our part were re-
pulsed with loss — Brig.-Gens. J. C.
!Rice and T. G. Stevenson being
among our kiUed. Late in the after-
noon, a most gallant charge was
made from our left by Wright's 1st
division, Col. Upton, and 3d, Gen.
I>, A. Russell, who rushed over the
first line of Bebel defenses and took
900 prisoners, beside several guns,
^Betich, for want of proper support.



they were obliged at dark to aban-
don. The day closed with no decisive
success; our aggregate loss having
been severe; the enemy's — ^because
of their position — probably much
less.

Gen. Grant dispatched next morn-
ing to the War Department the fol-
lowing pithy but rather roseate bul-
letin:

^* HbADQUABTBRS IK THE FlELD, )

"Majll, 1864— 8 a.m. f
" "We have now ended the sixth day of

very heavy fighting. The result, to this

time, is much in our favor.

''*' Our losses have been heavy, as well as

those of the enemy. I think the loss of the

enemy must be greater.
" We have taken over 5,000 prisoners by

battle, whilst he has taken from us but few,

except stragglers.

"1 PB0PO8B TO PIOHT IT OUT ON THIS
LOTB, IF IT TAKES ALL SUMMEB.

" U. 8. Grant, Lieut -Gen. Ck>mmand-
ing the Armies of the United States."

This day was spent in reconnoiter.
ing, skirmishing, and getting ready
for the morrow. The afternoon was
rainy. Hancock, at nightfall, was or-
dered to leave at midnight his posi-
tion fronting Hill, and move silently
to the left, taking post between
Wright and Bumside, so as to be
ready for work early in the morning.

When morning came, the rain had
given place to a fog of exceeding
density, under cover of which, Han-
cock sternly advanced, in two lines ;
Barlow's and Bimey's divisions form-
ing the first; Gibbon's and Mott's
the second. Before them was a sa-
lient angle of earthworks, held by
Edward Johnson's division of Sw-
ell's corps. Swiftly, noiselessly sweep-
ing over the rugged, di£3cult, thick-
ly wooded intervening space — some
1,200 yards — ^Barlow's and Bimey's
divisions dashed, with a thundering
cheer, over the front and flank of the



'May 9.



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THE AMEKIOAN CONFLICT.




BTOTtBTLYAKtk OOITBT UOUBX.



enemy's works, surprising and over-
whelming the Rebels in their trench-
es, and capturing Johnson, with most
of his division ; also Brig.-Gen. Geo.
H. Stewart^* and part of two bri-
gades; also 30 guns. The number
of prisoners secured and sent to the
rear was over 3,000.

Hancock wrote in pencil to Grant :
" I have captiired from 30 to 40 guns.
I have finished up Johnson, and sm
going into Early." He had in fact,
though he did not know it, all but
captuired Lee himself and had n^Eu*ly
cut the Rebel army in two. But the
surprise was now over, and the rally
of the Rebels was prompt and vigor-



ous. Their case was desperate — ^for de-
feat now was annihilation — and they
fought with invincible ardor and reso-
lution. Grant had ftilly prepared for
the emergency ; Wright's (6th) corps
hurried up to the aid of Hanooc^
and Warren and Bumside charged
promptly and bravely on our right ;
but the enemy's position here was so
strong that he held it and at the same
time dispatched aid to his endangered
right. Charge followed chai^ in
quick succession, and the mntual c&^
nage was fearfuL Seeing that no im-
pression was made by onr attacb
along the enemy's unshaken front,
they were intermitted, while CntleA



" Stewart was an old army friend of Han-
eodc, whb, when the former was brought before
bun as a prisoner, held out his hand, cordially
inquiringrr "How are you, Stewart?" The latter
haughtily replied, "I am Gen. Stewart, of the



Confederate Army, and, under the cUcomataaoe^
I decline to take your hand." " And under a^y
other droomstanoes, General, I should not Itfra
offered it,'* was the prompt aod fit re^Kmae of

the victor.



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MORE FIGHTING AT SPOTT SYLVANIA 0. H.



573



and GriflSn's diyisions were detached
from Warren and sent to the aid of
Hancock, who BtiH held fast to the
captured work, but could not go be-
yond it ; while Lee made five Bucces-
sive and desperate assaults on him,
with intent to hurl him back; the
men fighting hand-to-hand, with their
respective fiags often planted on op-
posite sides of the same breastwork.
These assaults were all repelled with
frightful carnage ; but Hancock was
imable to advance, as he had expect-
ed to do, and ultimately got off but
20 of the captured guns. Eain set in
again at noon ; but the fighting con-
tinued till near midnight, when it was
terminated by Lee's desisting and
leaving Hancock in possession of
his hard- won prize; but that was
the extent of our advantage, which
had cost us several thousand men,
and the enemy almost as many. Lee
fortified and held a line immediately
in fi^nt of Hancock ; so that the ene-
iny's general position proved as in-
vulnerable as ever.

Here ensued several days of ma-
neuvering, marching and counter-
marching, in quest of a weak point
in the enemy's defenses; but none
TVas found : an assault being delivered
on the 18th, by Gibbon's and Bar-
low^s divisions, supported by Bimey's
and Tyler's, nearly in front of the
work liiey had so gallantly carried on
the 12th; but they were stopped by
formidable abatis, and repulsed, los-
ing heavily.

Next afternoon, observing or sus-
pecting that our army was gradually
moving to the left, with intent to fiank
and pass him, Lee threw forward E w-
ell against our weakened right, held
by Tyler's division of foot artillerists



recently drawn from the defenses of
Washington, by whom he was gal-
lantly repulsed and driven off, though
not without serious loss on our side.
The reckless fighting of the artille-
rists — ^mainly veterans in service, but
new to the field — excited general ad-
miration, but cost blood. The 2d
and 6th corps hurrying to their aid,
Ewell's men were run off and scat-
tered in the woods, on our left, where
several hundreds of them were himted
up and taken prisoners. Somewhat
delayed by this sally, our army, mov-
ing by the left, resumed, next night,**
its march to Bichmond.

Gen. Meade reports his losses up
to this time at 39,791 ; to which some-
thing must be added for the losses
of Bumside's corps before it was
formally incorporated with the Army
of the Potomac. If we assume that
half these fell in the Wilderness, our
losses around Spottsylvania C. H.
were scarcely less than 20,000 men.
The Bebels, holding a ridge, gener-
ally fighting on the defensive and be-
hind breastworks, had suffered con-
siderably less, but still quite heavily.
Among their officers killed were
Gens. Daniels, Perrin, and J. M.
Jones.

In the Wilderness, our army had
cut loose from its original base north
of the Rapidan. It had since estab-
lished a new one at Fredericksburg,
to which its wounded were sent, and
where they were met by officers,
nurses, and other employes of the
Sanitary and Christian Associations,
with the amplest and most thought-
ftil provision for the mitigation
of their sufferings. As it moved
down toward Bichmond, new bases
were established at Port Royal and



* May 20-21.



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674



THE AMERICAN CONFLICT.



then at White House ; so that, whUe
there was doubtless much suffering
from privation as well as from
woxinds, it was always within a short
distance of posts to which abtmdant
supplies were forwarded from Wash-
ington and from the great commer-
cial cities, under the efficient direc-
tion of Gen. Eufus Ingalls, its chief
Quartermaster.



On emerging from the Wilderness,
Gen. Sheridan^ with the better part
of our cavalry, led by Merritt, Wil-
son, and Gregg, was dispatched" on
a raid toward Richmond. Crossing
next day the North Anna, Sheridan
carried the Beaverdam station on
the Virginia Central, destroying the
track, three trains of cars, a million
and a half of rations, and liberating
400 Union prisoners captured in the
Wilderness and now on their" way to
Richmond. Stuart's cavalry here
overtook and assailed his flaiik and
rear, but to little purpose. Crossing
the South Anna at Ground Squirrel
bridge, Sheridan captured Ashland
Station at daylight;" breaking up
the railroad, destroying a train and a
large quantity of stores. He then re-
sumed his march to Richmond.

Stuart had meantime passed him and
massed his cavalry at Yellow Tavern,
a few miles north of Richmond, where
he proposed to stop the raid. A spir-
ited fight ensued, wherein Stuart was
mortally wounded (as was Brig.-Gen.
J. B. Gordon) and his force driven
off the turnpike toward Ashland,
leaving the road to Richmond open.
Sheridan pressed down it; Custer
carrying the outer line of defenses
and taHng 100 prisoners. But Rich-
mond was no longer to be taken on a



gallop, and our assault was repulsed ;
Sheridan crossing the Chickahominy
at Meadow bridge, beating off at-
tacks both front and rear, burning the
railroad bridge, and moving to Hax-
all's;** where he rested three days,
and then, moving by White House
and Hanover C. H., rejoined the
Army of the Potomac.



Q^n. Butler, commanding at For-
tress Monroe, had beenreenforced in
pursuance of a programme suggested
by him and concurred in by Gen.
Grant: Gen. W. F, Smithes (18th)
corps and Gen. Gillmore's (10th)
corps (from South Carolina) having
been sent him, raising our effective
strength in his department to some
40,000 men, of whom perhaps 30,000
were disposable. Having sent** a
small force on steamboats up the York
to White House, to move out and
menace Richmond so as to draw the
enemy's attention to that quarter, the
day after Gillmore's arrival his real
movement commenced," in coopera-
tion with General Grant's, and with
others. Embarking his infantry and
artillery, 25,000 strong, Gen. Butler
proceeded up James river, while Gen.
Kautz, with 3,000 cavjJry, moved
out from Suffolk, crossing tiie Black-
water and cutting the Weldon road at
Stony creek ; CoL R-West, with 1,500
more troopers, simultaneously advan-
cing from Williamsburg up the north
bank of the James. The armed trans-
ports moved up the James by night,
the unarmed foUowingnext day,** pio-
neered by the iron-clads and odier
naval forces under Admiral Lee.
Wilson's wharf. Fort Powhattan, and
City Point, were seized without re-
sistance ; 10,000 men being at once



Uajd.



2£ay 11.



Ma7l4



'MayL



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BUTLER MENACES PETEESBUBa AND RICHMOND. 575



pnslied forward to possess and secure
the peninsula between the James and
the Appomattox, known as Bermuda
Hundreds. Next day, Gen. Smith
moved out toward the raikoad from
Richmond to Petersburg, but failed
to strike it. On the 7th, Gen. Smith,
with his own and part of Gillmore's
corps, struck the raiboad near Port
Walthall junction, and commenced
destroying it ; having to fight D. H.
Hill, but with advantage to our side ;
while Col. West's cavalry, having
forded the Chickahominy, arrived
opposite City Point. After breaking
up the railroad for some distance,
Gen. Butler, misled by advices from
Washington that Gen. Lee was beat-
en and in foil retreat on Eichmond
— ^which would have brought him
down suddenly in overwhelming force
on this army — drew back within his
intrenchments, which he was engaged
in strengthening for the apprehended
emergency. The fact that his two
corps commanders did not cordially
cooperate, while Gillmore did not
execute his orders so promptly and
vigorously as he deemed fit, somewhat
increased the inevitable perplexities
of the commander's critical position.
Had Butler been directed to move
at once on Petersburg, he could
hardly have failed to capture that
city — ^there being no considerable
Kebel force then in lower Virginia —
and might have been enabled to hold
it ; separating, for a time, the Rebel
capital and Lee's army from the
South proper. But, the first astoun-
ding news of his movement up the
James summoned Beauregard by
telegraph from Charleston, with all
the forces that could be scraped fit)m
that region — now relieved of all ap-



prehension by Gillmore's withdraw-
al. When, therefore, the first reso-
lute effort was made " to cut the rail-
road, some portion either of the North
or South Carolina forces had already
arrived ; and, when it was renewed,"
the enemy had been materially
strengthen'ed. Still, the advantage
of numbers was clearly on our side ;
and the enemy was forced to uncover
the raiboad, which was destroyed for
some distance; our troops pressing
southward to Swift creek, three miles
from Petersburg. But now, deceived
by fresh, joyftd, but hardly truthful,
Washington advices, Butler turned
his face northward, to participate in
the expected speedy capture of Rich-
mond ; pushing his lines gradually up
to Proctor's creek, whence the enemy
withdrew** to an intrenched line be-
hind it, which Gen. Gillmore flanked,
and which was to have been assault-
ed ; but our troops had been so dis-
persed that the requisite force was
not at hand; so the attack was de-
ferred till next morning. ••

But Beaur^ard — whom Butler
supposed still at or below Peters-
burg, unable to get up — was on
hand, with a formidable force, and
intent on making himself disagree-
able. A dense fog shrouded every
thing, when, before daylight, our
sleeping soldiers on the front were
startled by a grand crash of ardllery
and musketry. Our forces had been
so disposed that there was over a
mUe of open country between our
right and the James, merely picketed
by 150 cavalry; and Beauregard,
having made careftil observations be- .
fore dark, attempted at once to as-
sault in front, to turn this flank, and
to strike heavily our left with a divi-



' May 7.



'May 9.



' May 13.



■•May 16.



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676



THE AMERICAN CONFLICT.



sion under Gen. Whiting, which he
had left on the Petersburg side of the
gap in the railroad.

The attempt to turn our right was
at first a decided success. Heck-
man's brigade, here posted, was sur-
prised and overwhehned. The ene-
my gained the rear of this flank, and
was carrying all before him, when he
met the 112th New York — one of
three Gillmore regiments which But-
ler had fortunately sent to Smith as
a support to his long, thin line. Join-
' ed on the instant by the 9th Maine,
this regiment held the road-junction
which the enemy were pressing on to
seize, and stubbornly refosed to move.
The Eebel commander, disconcerted
by this unexpected resistance, and
reluctant to advance in the fog to
unknown and incalculable perils, de-
sisted and withdrew.

The front of Smith's line, held by
the divisions of Brooks and Weitzel,
was impetuously assailed ; but Smith,
having found a quantity of tel^raph
wire lying idle, had resolved to make
a precautionary use of it, by direct-
ing his men to stretch it tightly along
their front, winding it occasionally
around a tree or stump, at a height
of two or three feet from the ground.
The assaulting enemy, rushing blindly
upon this in their charge, pitched
headlong over it, and were shot or
bayoneted ere they could regain their
feet Their attack in front was thus re-
pulsed — the assailants recoiling with
loss.

Beauregard thereupon renewed his
effort to turn our right; sending. a
large force, and directing it to make
a farther detour; which was done,
and Smith thereby compelled to fall
back.



Whiting, who was to have struck
Gillmore on our left, failed, for some
reason, to do so; hence, Gillmore
stood in idle expectancy, until Smith
drew back, when he did likewise.
We had lost in this collision about
4,000 men ; the Eebels at least 3,000.
Beauregard cautiously followed up,
and erected a line of works across the
peninsulainfrontof ours; sothatG^u



Online LibraryHorace GreeleyThe American conflict: a history of the great rebellion in the United States of America, 1860-'64 → online text (page 82 of 113)