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Creek at the river road crossing. It was intended. General
Hancock says, that General Barlow should attack near Fus-



270 THE VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN OF '64 AND '65.

sell's mill -with the greater portion of two divisions, when by
mere weight of numbers he would have broken through the
enemy's Une, which at that point was thinly held ; but that
he extended from Mott's right to the vicinity of Fussell's (a
distance, according to the maps, of nearly a mile and a half),
through thick woods, and about four o'clock assaulted with
only one brigade (of Gibbon's division), and made several
unsuccessful attempts upon the enemy's line ; that General
Barlow's personal example to the troops was all that could
be expected or desired from his well-known gallantry and
devotion to duty, but was of no avail. He adds that Gen-
eral Barlow's report reflects but little credit on the troops,
and attributes their failure to respond to the leading of their
commander, to the large number of new men among them,
and the small number of experienced officers left to com-
mand them.' To meet General Barlow's threatening move-
ment, the enemy weakened their right, opposite Birney,
to such an extent that he was able to seize a part of their
line with trifling loss, capturing four guns, but could get
no further. Gregg advanced well up the Charles City
road.

During the night the greater part of Birney's cominand
with Colonel Craig's brigade of Mott's division was massed
on the right, in the vicinity of Fussell's, and dispositions
were made for him to attack in the morning. Gibbon's
division, Smythe commanding, was massed on Birney's left.
Barlow's near the fork of the Darby and Long bridge roads,
and Mott's on the river-road. Birney was to find the enemy's
left the next morning, and turn it, er, failing in that, to at-
tack. Gregg was to cover the movement on the right. But
General Birney took so wide a circuit to his right between
the Darby and Charles City roads that it was near night be-

1 See the remarks of Gtcneral Gibbon, at the close of the previo^B chapter, upon
the loaa of offlcers and enlisted men in the division.



MOVEMENT TO THREATEN RICHMOND. 271

fore he reported that he had found the enemy's line, but
could not attack before morning.

Birney was ordered to attack on the 16th, and Gregg,
■with Miles's brigade of Barlow's division, to move up the
Charles City road to divert the enemy's force from Birney.

General Gregg advanced at an early hour to the vicinity of
White's tavern (seven miles from Eichmond), driving the
enemy's advanced force of cavalry before him, their com-
mander, General Chambliss, being killed. At ten o'clock
General Terry, with his division of Bimey's corps, and
Craig's brigade of Mott's division, together with a brigade of
colored troops commanded by Brigadier-General Birney,
advanced against the enemy's works above Fussell's mill,
and after a severe contest carried them, capturing three
colors and between 200 and 300 prisoners from Wilcox's and
Mahone's divisions. Colonel Craig, who had just returned
to the army from an absence on account of wounds received
during the campaign, was killed. The enemy soon retook
their line, Birney retaining only the advanced line of pits,
the picket line. The wooded character of the country pre-
vented personal examination by General Hancock, and it was
some hours before he was fully informed of the state of
afiEairs.

Early in the afternoon the enemy's cavalry, now in large
force and supported by infantry, advanced upon Gregg and
Miles and forced them back to and across Deep Creek.
Miles, with his brigade and Brooke's, formed on Bimey's
right. It was now fully ascertained that the information
upon which General Hancock had been sent to the north
side of the James was erroneous, but he was retained there
during the 17th, 18th, 19th, and 20th, until dark, keeping up
a threatening attitude with constant skirmishing, though
directed not to assault the enemy's works. On the night of
the 20th his command was withdrawn to their former posi-



272 THE VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN OF '64 AND '65.

tions before Petersburg and at Bermuda Hundred. General
Kautz held the left of the army during General Gregg's ab-
sence.

There was a sharp encounter on the afternoon of the 18th,
when the enemy left their works above Fussell's miU and
attacked Birney ; they were repulsed, General Miles on the
right aiding by an attack on their left flank.

The casualties of the command, according to the staternent
furnished me from the Adjutant-General's Office by Mr. J. W.
Kirkley, taken by him from the nominal lists of casualties,
were 321 killed, 1,840 wounded, 625 missing; total, 2,786.'
I have not found a statement of the Confederate casualties.
Among the severely wounded of the Second Corps, on the
15th, was Colonel Macy, Twentieth Massachusetts, who was
particularly mentioned by General Barlow for good conduct.
He had only returned to his command on the morning of the
15th, having been absent, owing to a wound received during
the campaign."

While General Hancock was keeping the enemy occupied
on the north bank of the James, General Watrreli was with-
drawn from the Unes, the Ninth Corps extending its left to
occupy the place of the Fifth, and sent at four o'clock on the
morning of the 18th, by a route well away from the enemy's
lines, to seize and hold the Weldon Eailroad at the Globe
tavern, about four miles south of the outskirts of Petersburg.
As, he would need reinforcements, Mott's division was sent
back on the night of the 18th to relieve a part of the Ninth
Corps (now commanded by General Parke) in the intrench-
ments, so that it might be sent to reinforce the Fifth Corps.

On the night of the 14th and 15th, the Fifth Corps was re-



1 The casualties, jiccording to the Tabular Statement found in Badean^s volumeB,
are 1,498 killed and wounded, 515 miasinp: ; total, 2,013.

2 The effective force of infantry of the Army of the Potomac at this time was
83,684 ; q£ the Army of the Jamee, 18,449.



MOVEMENT TO THREATEN RICHMOND. 273

lieved by the Ninth in its intrenchments, and held ready to
move. On the 16th, General Meade, satisfied, from the re-
port of General Hancock, the observation of signal officers,
and other sources-.of information, that Lee had but three
infantry divisions in the Petersburg intrenchments, directed
General Warren to move by daylight of the 17th to the
Weldon Eailroad near the intersection of the Vaughan road
(about two miles from Petersburg), and if the enemy held
their intrenchments weakly in that vicinity to endeavor to
carry them and occupy the crest in the rear of their line op-
posite the line held by the Ninth and Eighteenth Ooi-ps.
Kautz was to move on his left flank. But General Grant, not
being altogether satisfied as to the disposition of the enemy,
preferred to wait for further developments, and the order was
suspended. On the next day ■ General Grant authorized
sending the Fifth Corps and some cavahy to destroy aa
much of the Weldon Eailroad as practicable, but not to as-
sault fortifications ; the movement to be rather a reconnois-
sance in force, during which General Warren might -take
advantage of any weakness of the enemy he discovered. In
certain contingencies he was to remain on the road. Gen-
eral Grant's despatch concluded : " I want, if possible, to
make such demonstrations as will force Lee to withdraw a
portion of his troops from the Valley, so that Sheridan can
strike a blow against the balance."

Accordingly General Warren was instructed, on the 17th,
to move the next morning at four o'clock, and make a lodg-
ment upon the Weldon BaUroad, near the Gurley house
(two miles south of the intersection of the Vaughan road), or
as near the enemy's lines as practicable, and destroy the road
as far south as possible. In addition to the destruction of
the road, he was to consider the movement a reconnoissance
in force, and take advantage of any weakness the enemy
might betray. A brigade of cavalry under Colonel Spear
13*



274 THE VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN OF '64 AND '05.

■was attached to his comcsand. In the course of General
Warren's operations on the 18th, it was determined to with-
draw General Mott's di-vision from Hancock in the night, to
take the place of a part of the Ninth Corps, and that General
Ord should extend his left, so that the two would enable
Willoox's, White's, and finally Potter's divisions to be sent
to {he left on the 19th to co-operate with General Warren.
T^iese three divisions of the Ninth Corps had altogether
about 6,000 men, but all these were not available. General
Warren moved as directed, taking possession of the Weldon
Kailroad at the Globe tavern (some three miles west of our
left), finding only Dearing's cavalry brigade to oppose him.
Griffin's division was formed along the road looking west,
and began its destruction. The day was oppressively hot
and close, as were those that followed, and a heavy rain fell
throughout the day. Ayres's division moved up the railroad
a mile or more from Griffin and to within half a mile of the
Vaughan road intersection, having Hayes's brigade on the,
light of the railroad, Dushane's Maryland brigade on his left
moving by a flank. Crawford moved up on Ayres's right,
his right in dense woods with close underbrush. A large
field of Indian corn in front of Crawford's leffc and Ayres's
right hid everything from their view. Cutler's division re-
mained in rear in support.

General Bearing had reported to General Beauregard the
appearance of some force on the raih-oad, and General Heth,
with Davis's and Walker's brigades, was sent to his support.
Moving out by the Vaughan road, about two o'clock General
Heth made a sudden attack on Ayres's left, caught the
Maryland brigade unawares, and drove it back. Ayres, to
prevent his line of battle being taken in flank, drew it back,
but then advancing, drove the enemy from the ground,
Crawford's left, Lyle's brigade, was partly engaged. War-
ren's loss was 544 killed and wounded, 392 missing— total,



MOVEMENT TO THREATEN RICHMOND. 27t)

936. General Warren says the enemy's loss must have ex-
ceeded ours ; he left his dead and ■wounded on the ground.

On the morning of the 19th, General Bragg of Cutler's
division was sent with his brigade to the right of Crawford,
to support him and establish connection by a skirmish line
■with the pickets of the Ninth Corps. There was great diffi-
culty in doing this, the whole face of the country being
covered with dense woods and underbrush, the wood-roads or
cart-tracks through which were unknown to any of our troops.
The line was probably imperfectly formed, but at best would
constitute a very imperfect guard against an active enemy,
acquainted in detail ■with the woods, which, at the distance
of twenty paces, effectually screened everything from sight.

Upon learning from General Beauregard that the Fifth
Corps or a part of it was on the Weldon Bailroad, General
Lee sent Mahone's and Lee's divisions back to Petersburg.
In the course of the day Willcox's di^vision, then White's,
and later in the afternoon. Potter's, were sent to General
Warren.

General A. P. Hill, with Davis's and Walker's brigades
under General Heth, and Weisiger's, Colquitt's, and Cling-
man's under General Mahone, with Lee's cavalry and Peg-
ram's batteries, moved to the Vaughan road intersection.
Heth was to attack Ayres, while Mahone, familiar with the
woods, was to move concealed by it, some distance beyond
Crawford's right, break through Bragg's skirmish line, and
take Bragg and Crawford in rear. About half-past four in
the afternoon General Mahone with his command formed
in columns of fours, broke through Bragg's skirmish line,
faced to the right, and swept rapidly do^wn toward General
Warren's right flank, taking all Crawford's skirmish line and
part of his line of battle in rear. His skirmish line fell
back in the greatest confusion, and, in doing so, masked the
fire of his line of battle, and forced it to fall back, together



276 THE VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN OF '64 AND '65.

with a part of the right of General Ajre&'s division. Heth
at the same time opened on Ayres's centre and left ; General
"Warren, reforming the parts of Ayres's and Crawford's divi-
sions that were broken, brought them forward again and
regained the ground temporarily lost, taking some prisoners
and two flags. General* Willcox was ordered up to attack ;
and White's division was formed facing to the right, and
engaging Colquitt's brigade, drove it back and captured
some prisoners. Mahone's command fell back rapidly in
great confusion to their intrenchments, carrying with them
the parts of Warren's command disorganized by the attack
on their rear in the woods, and a large portion of the pickets.

Heth made repeated attempts to drive Ayres back, but
failed. General Beauregard, telegraphing General Lee, said
Colquitt and Clingman in advancing .through thick under-
growth lost their organization and were ordered to their
camps to rally them. Mahone's brigade was also ordered
into the lines. Heth's two brigades remained.

General Warren's casualties were 382 killed and wounded,
2,518 missing, of which 1,805 were from Crawford's divi-
sion. General Hayes, of Ayres's division, was among the
captured. The enemy's loss, General Warren says, must
have been heavy in killed and wounded. General Cling-
man was among the latter.

The necessity of remaining stationary, even a single day,
in a dense wood like that in which the greater part of Gen-
eral Warren's troops were posted, subjects a command to
having some, part of it taken suddenly in flank or rear,
broken, thrown into confusion, and many of them captured.'

1 General Warren was directed toward night on the ISfch, if his contingent ob-
jects could not be accomplished that night, to intrench as close up to the enemy^s
works as he could get ; he was informed that he would be reinforced by the Ninth
Corps the next day ; on the 19th he was instructed to maintain his hold on the
railroad, at all hazards, and, if practicable, extend to connect with the Ninth
Corps ; he was also to push the enemy back nearer their own lines. These wcra



MOVEMENT TO THREATEN RICHMOND. 277

Satisfied that the enemy would renew their eiforts to drive
him from the railroad, General Warren on the 20th selected
a position on it a mile or two in rear of his line of battle on
the 19th, chiefly in open ground, and favorable for the use
of artillery, and intrenched so as to have a considerable in-
fantry reserve.

On the 21st General Lee, finding our forces had been with-
drawn from the north side of the James, directed Field to
send two of his brigades to Petersburg, and General Hamp-
ton to bring over his cavalry division (now comman(i-ed by
General Butler). Wilcox's division, in whole or in part, had
already been moved to Petersburg.

On the morning of the 21st, General A. P. Hill, with his
own corps, part of Hoke's division with Lee's cavalry, at-
tacked Warren, opening with thirty guns on his front and
right flank, and at ten o'clock assaulting them, but was
everywhere repulsed. Later Mahone attempted an assault
on the left flank, but the artillery broke his infantry before
it came under musketry fire. In the assault. General War-
ren says. General Hagood's brigade being nearly surrounded
close in on our works, every one thought they had surren-
dered, and ceased firing, but when our troops advanced to
bring them in their officers commenced firing. In the
mixed condition of his men and the enemy s, his line could
not fire, and many of the enemy escaped. However he cap-
tured 517 officers and men and six flags, the larger part from
Hagood's brigade.

The enemy's loss in killed and wounded must have been se-
vere, as General Warren says 211 of their dead were buried
by his troops. General Sanders of Mahone's division was
among their killed. Warren's own loss was 301 killed,

too many conditions to impose upon him on ground of the character he was operat*
ing in. Informed of the general object he was to accomplish, everything else BB
far as passible should have been left to his judgmeat.



278 THE VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN OF 64 AND '65.

wounded, and missing. Colonel Dushane, commanding the
Maryland brigade, a gallant officer, was killed, General Cut-
ler ■wounded.

General Warren says the heat of the first day was excessive,
and many fell out of the ranis, who were counted among the
missing. An oppressive, warm rain fell all the time, making
the side roads and fields almost impassable for artillery.

The cavalry under General Spear were active in watching
the left flank and rear ; Steadman's brigade took part in the
repulse of the enemy on the 21st.

No further attempts upon General Warren's position were
made. The intrenohments were now extended by the Ninth
Corps from the Jerusalem plank-road to unite with General
Warren's on the Weldon Eailroad.

The extension of our left to the Weldon Eailroad at the
Globe tavern would not prevent the enemy from using that
road as a line of supply up to a point within a day's hauling
by wagon to Petersburg. By destroying the road as far
down as Rowanty Creek, about thirteen miles beyond War-
ren's left, they would be obliged to haul by wagon from
Stony Creek Depot to Dinwiddie Court House, and thence
by the Boydton plank-road to Petersburg, a distance of thirty
miles at least. It was determined, therefore, to destroy the
railroad as far as Eowanty Creek, and on the 22d, General
Hancock with his First and 'Second Divisions and Gregg's
cavalry was charged with this work,' and set about it at once,
Gregg looking out for the enemy on the roads leading to the
railroad from the left and to Hancock's rear.'' By the night

1 Hifl Third Division, Mott'a, held the Intrenchments at and in the vicinity of
the JernsST^m planlc-road.

3 General fiancock says of hiB return march from Deep Bottom, that it was one
of the most fatiguing and difQcult performed by the troops during the campaign,
owing to the wretched condition of the roads. The men arrived in camp greatly
exhausted early in the morning of the Slst, After a very brief rest they were or-
dered to the Strong bouse, and then, in the afternoon, to the Q-urley hoase, iu rear
of General Warren^s position.



MOVEMENT TO THREATEN RICHMOND. 279

of the 24th they had accomplished the work as far as Ma-
lone's cross-road, about three miles south of Eeams's Sta-
tion, and had still about five miles of the road to destroy.
The two divisions were held at Keams's Station during the
night.

But the Weldon Eailroad was deemed to be too important
as a line of supply to the Confederate forces to admit of this
destruction without an attempt to prevent it, and General
A. P. Hill ' was assigned to this task, having with him the
larger part of his own corps, together with Anderson's bri-
gade of Longstreet's corps, and General Hampton with his
two cavalry divisions.

About dark of the 24th signal officers reported that there
were large bodies of the enemy's infantry, estimated at 8,00ff or
10,000, passing south from their intrenchments by the Hali-
fax and Vaughan roads. Both General Hancock and General
Warren were advised of this, and that these troops were most
probably directed against General Hancock. In the morning
of the 25th, General Hancock ascertained that the enemy's
cavalry was in force on his left, supported by infantry.

The intrenchments at Beams's S cation were slight, and had
been hastily thrown up by troops sent to Wilson's relief in
June. They ran along the railroad about twelve hundred
yards, having a return about eight hundred or one thousand
yards long at each end, the returns being nearly at right
angles with the railroad. This direction of the returns sub-
jected the troops in them to a reverse artillery fire. The
Second Division, commanded by General Gibbon, occupied
the left half of these intrenchments ; the First Division, com-
manded by General Miles, occupied the right half,

1 Hiira infantry was McQowan'a, Lane*s, and Scales's brigades of Wilcox's divi-
sion, Anderson's brigade of Field's division, and Cock's and McRae's brigades of
Heth's division, and two brigades of Mahone's division. General Wilcox was
first on the ground, and made the preliminary attacks with his own brigades and
Anderson's brigade.



280 THE VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN OF '64 AND '65.

About two P.M. General Wilcox made two spirited attacks
on Miles's front, both of which were quickly repulsed.
About this time General Hancock received a despatch from
General Meade informing him that Mott was directed (about
half -past one o'clock) to send him all his available force (about
1,800 men) down the plank-road, taking a battery with it ;
and as the railroad could not be further destroyed at pres-
ent, he might be governed by his own judgment as to with-
drawing his command to his former position, or remaining
where he was. To this General Hancock replied that, al-
though there was no necessity for his remaining there
longer, since the presence of the enemy prevented further
destruction of the railroad, and although it was more impor-
tant that he should join Warren than remain there, yet he
was then too closely engaged with the enemy to withdraw,
but that he would do so at night. fAt two, or half-past two.
General Meade ordered General Willcox's division to move
down the plank-road to General Hancock's support. Gen-
eral Meade notified General Hancock of this, saying all he
apprehended was that the enemy might be able to interpose
between him and Warren, and some more of Warren's forces
were held ready for contingencies. It was this apprehen=
sion, no doubt, that induced him to send General Willcox
by the plank-road instead of by the railroad. But by the
plank-road his march was twelve miles long (about the same
length as that of Mott's troops), whereas had he gone by the
raih'oad, which continued open until five o'clock, he would
have had not more than five miles to march, would have got
to Hancock by half-past four or five, and managing his
movement skilfully, might have taken a part of the enemy's
force in fiank or rear.

Meanwhile Hill was preparing his forces for attack, which
he began at five o'clock with a heavy artillery-fire that did
little actual daruago (that is, caused few casualties), but had



MOVEMENT TO I'HREATEN RICHMOND. 281

the effect of sliaking a portion of the command exposed to
its reverse fire. The shelling continued about fifteen min-
utes, -when General Heth and General Wilcox, with Cook's
and Lane's, McKae's and Scales's brigades, Anderson's and
part of MoGowan's brigades supporting, assaulted a part of
General Miles's front, and, just at the time when a few min-
utes' longer resistance would have repulsed the enemy (who
were thrown into a good deal of disorder by the severity of
the fire they received, and the obstacles in the way of their
advance), a part of the l^e, composed of troops recently
raised, gave way in confusion. A smaU reserve brigade of
the Second Division was ordered forward to fill the gap, but
could neither be made to go forward nor to fire. McKnight's
battery was turned on the opening with good effect, but the
enemy, running along under cover of the rifle-pits, captured
the battery. Murphy's brigade of the Second Division on
the left of the break was driven back, and two more batteries
fell into the hands of the enemy, alter having been served
with marked gallantry, and after losing a large proportion of
officers, men, and horses. General Hancock ordered Gib-
bon's division to retake the position and the guns, but his
troops responded feebly to the order, and fell back on re-
ceiving a slight fire ; being now exposed to attack in reverse
and on the flank they were obliged to occupy the reverse
side of their breastworks. The moment was a critical one,
and General Hancock says, would have ended still more
disastrously but for the steadiness of a part of the First
Division, and the flne conduct of its commander, General
Miles,' who succeeded in rallying a small force of the Sixty-
first New York, and forming a line at right angles with the
breastworks, swept off the enemy, and retook McKnight's
guns and a considerable portion of his own line. An at-



1 The bistorlan must, in justice, add, — and the bearing of General Hancock him-
aelt



282 THE VIRGINIA CAMPAIGN OF '64 AND '65.

tempt was made to get some of Gibbon's troops to assist in
this operation, but their commanders reported that they
cotdd not be got to advance. Hampton with his dismounted



Online LibraryJohn Howard BrownCampaigns of the civil war → online text (page 23 of 39)