Imágenes de páginas

was not to be driven from his position. And again a flank movement was decided upon, this time south of the James River. But this movement was much more difficult than those from Spotsylvania and the North Anna, and Grant would not move until his preparations were complete. The result was that we lay for nine days where we had fought.

While we lay at Cold Harbor, as when we had been at Spotsylvania, the principal topic of conversation was the losses of the army. The discussion has never ceased. There are still many persons who bitterly accuse Grant of butchery in this campaign. As a matter of fact, Grant lost fewer men in his successful effort to take Richmond and end the During this time the opposing lines were war than his predecessors lost in making very close together, and on our side the the same attempt and failing. An official troops made regular siege approaches to the table showing the aggregate of the losses rebel works. The days passed quietly, with sustained by the armies of McDowell, Mcno fighting except an occasional rattle of Clellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, Meade, musketry and now and then a cannon shot. Butler, and Ord, in the effort to capture the There was frequently a scare on the line, Confederate capital, is here published. It for the enemy was so near that in the dark shows exactly what Richmond cost us from our men often thought he was coming out to May 24, 1861, when McDowell crossed the attack; but it never amounted to anything. Potomac into Virginia, to Lee's surrender at As a rule, everything was quiet except the Appomattox; and it proves that Grant in picket firing, which could not be prevented eleven months secured the prize with less loss when the men were so close together. The than his predecessors suffered in failing only time when this ceased was during the to win it after a struggle of three truces to bury the dead.




Sustained in action by the Army of Northeastern Virginia, the Army of the Potomac, and the Army of Virginia, under command of Generals McDowell, McClellan, Pope, Burnside, Hooker, and Meade, from May 24, 1861, to May 4, 1864, and the Army of the Potomac (Meade) and the Army of the James (Butler and Ord), constituting the armies operating against Richmond under General Grant, from May 5, 1864, to April 9, 1865:

[blocks in formation]

*This is the first complete table ever published of the losses of the armies named; but the comparison was first suggested in the New York "Sun" and other newspapers, some years ago, by Leslie J. Perry, of the War Records Commission.- EDITOR.


The second:


November 10, 1864.


While we were encamped at Cold Harbor, General Meade was very much disturbed by a letter published in a Cincinnati paper saying that, after the battle of the Wilderness, he counseled retreat, a course which would have destroyed the nation, but which Grant prohibited. This was entirely untrue. Meade had not shown any weakness since moving from Culpeper, nor once intimated doubt as to the successful issue of the campaign. Nor had he intimated that any other plan or line would be more likely to win. The correspondent who was responsible was with us, and Meade ordered that, as a punishment, he should be paraded through the lines and MAJOR-GENERAL A. P. HOVEY, afterward expelled from the army. This was done on June 8th, the correspondent being led through the army on horseback by the provost-marshal guard. On his back and breast were tacked placards inscribed, "Libeler of the Press."

If indiscreet newspaper men publish information too near the truth, counteract its effect by publishing other paragraphs calculated to mislead the enemy, such as Sherman's army has been much reinforced, especially in the cavalry, and he will soon move several columns in circuit, so as to catch Hood's army;" "Sherman's destination is not Charleston, but Selma, where he will meet an army from the Gulf," etc.

It was not often, considering the conditions, that correspondents got into trouble in the army. As a rule they were discreet. Besides this case of Meade, I remember now only one other in which I was actively interested; that was a few months later, after I had returned to the Department. Mr. Stanton was annoyed by a telegram which had been published about Sherman's movements, and ordered me to send it to the General, so that we might know how much truth there was in it. I wired him as follows:




So I telegraphed to Indianapolis, to General A. P. Hovey, who was stationed there:

WAR DEPARTMENT, November 10, 1864.


In compliance with the request of Major-General tain what persons furnished the information respecting Sherman, the Secretary of War directs that you ascerSherman's alleged movement, published in the Indianapolis "Journal" of the 8th inst. You will arrest them and send them under guard to such point in the Depart

ment of the Cumberland as Major-General Thomas may prefer, where they will be employed in hard labor upon the fortifications until General Sherman shall otherwise order.

General Hovey never found the man, however.


By the morning of the 12th of June, Grant was ready for his last flank movement of the campaign. Our army at that time, including Sheridan's cavalry, consisted of approximately 115,000 fighting men. The plan for moving this great body was as fol

Following, copied from evening papers, is sent for lows: The Eighteenth Corps was to move to

your information :

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

White House without baggage or artillery, and there embark for City Point. The Fifth Corps was to cross the Chickahominy at Long Bridge, and take up position to secure the passage of the remainder of the army, after which it was to cover the rear. Second, Sixth, and Ninth Corps were to cross in two columns at Long Bridge and Jones's Bridge.


The Fifth Corps having prepared the way, Sherman sent back two characteristic de- the whole army left the lines about Cold spatches. The first ran:



November 10, 1864.

Despatch of 9th read. Can't you send to Indianapolis and catch that fool, and have him sent to me to work on the forts? All well.



Harbor on schedule time, just as soon after nightfall on the 12th as its movements would be concealed from the observation of the enemy. It was in drawing orders for such complicated movements as these, along different roads and by different crossings, that the ability of General Humphreys, the chief of staff, was displayed. Everything went

perfectly from the start. That evening at seven o'clock, when I reached Moody's, four miles from Long Bridge, Warren's (the Fifth) corps was moving rapidly past us. Our cavalry advance, under General Wilson, who had also been transferred to the East, had previously taken Long Bridge and laid a pontoon bridge in readiness for its crossing, so that by nine o'clock that evening the Fifth Corps was south of the Chickahominy, well out toward and covering the approaches from Richmond. All day on the 13th, the army was hurrying toward the James. By night the Sixth Corps had reached the river, and the rest of the troops were on the march between there and the Chickahominy, which

was our rear.

When I reached the James, early the next day (the 14th), large numbers of men were hard at work on the pontoon bridge and its approaches, by which it was intended that the artillery and trains should be crossed. It was a pretty heavy job to corduroy the marsh, which was fully half a mile wide and quite deep. The bridge of itself was unprecedented in military annals, except perhaps by that of Xerxes, being nearly 700 yards long.

All day on the 14th, everything went like a miracle. The pontoon bridge was finished at two A.M. on the 15th, and the cavalry of Wilson's leading brigade, followed by the artillery trains, instantly began crossing. By ten o'clock that day, Hancock's corps had been ferried over, and he was off toward Petersburg to support Smith, who had taken the Eighteenth Corps around by water from White House, and had been ordered to attack Petersburg that morning. All the news we had that night at City Point, where headquarters had been set up, was that Smith had assaulted and carried the principal line of the enemy before Petersburg.

The next morning early I was off for the heights southeast of the town. Smith's success appeared to be of the most important kind. He had carried heights which were defended by very formidable works. He thought, and indeed we all thought for the moment, that his success gave us perfect command of the city and railroad. I went over the conquered lines with General Grant and the engineer officers, and they all agreed that the works were of the very strongest kind; more difficult even to take than Missionary Ridge, at Chattanooga.

General Smith told us that the negro troops fought magnificently, the hardest

fighting being done by them. The forts they stormed were, I think, the worst of all. After the affair was over, General Smith went to thank them, and tell them he was He said proud of their courage and dash. they had no superiors as soldiers, and that hereafter he should send them into a difficult place as readily as the best white troops. They captured six out of the sixteen cannon which he took.

It soon appeared, however, that Smith was far from having captured points which commanded Petersburg. His success had but little effect in determining the final result. He had stopped his advance a few minutes and a considerable space too soon, because, as he subsequently alleged, it was too dark and his men were too much fatigued for further operations, and he feared Lee had already reinforced the town.

On June 16th, the day after Smith's attack, more of the troops arrived before Petersburg. General Meade also arrived on the ground, and the job of capturing Petersburg was now taken up in earnest by the whole Army of the Potomac. It was no longer a mere matter of advancing eighty or one hundred rods, as on the night previous, for meanwhile the enemy had been largely and rapidly reinforced. Much time and many thousands of valuable lives were to be expended in getting possession of this vital point, which had really been in our grasp on the evening of the 15th. That afternoon commenced a series of assaults on the works of the enemy. The fighting lasted all night, the moonlight being very clear. Our loss in these attacks was heavy.

The next day (the 17th) another attack was made at Petersburg. It was long persisted in, but Meade found that his men were so worn out with marching, fighting, and digging that they must have rest, and so laid off until noon of the 18th, when, all of the army being up, a general assault was ordered. Nothing important was gained, and General Grant directed that no more assaults should be made. He said that after this he should manoeuver to get possession of Petersburg.


During all this period, from Cold Harbor to Petersburg, we knew nothing of Lee. In making the disposition for this great and successful movement a far more brilliant evolution than McClellan's "change of base," two years before, over the same

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

roads almost-an eye was had, of course, to deceiving Lee as to the ultimate direction of the army. The design succeeded beyond Grant's most sanguine hopes. As soon, on the morning of the 13th, as the Confederate chieftain discovered our withdrawal, he moved his army across the Chickahominy in hot haste, flinging it between his capital and the foe supposed to be advancing on a new line between the James and Chickahominy. He held and fortified a line from White Oak Swamp to Malvern Hill, and he remained stock still for four days, wondering what had become of Grant.

He had been completely deceived, and could not be made to believe by Beauregard, on the 15th, 16th, and 17th, that Grant's whole army had turned up before Petersburg. His troops, as we know now, did not cross the James, to go to the relief of Beauregard, until the 17th. He was caught napping, and but for mistakes by subordinates in carrying out Grant's plans, Lee's cause would have been lost. In the operations from the night of the 12th, when Grant changed his line and base, with an army of 115,000 men and all its vast trains and artillery, crossing a wide and deep river on a temporary bridge, until June 18th, when at last Lee awoke to the situation, General Beauregard shines out on the Confederate side far more brilliantly than the general-inchief. He unquestionably saved Petersburg, and probably (for the time) the Confederacy itself; but for him, Lee had at that time lost the game.


Grant had decided against a further direct attack on the works of Petersburg, but he was by no means idle. He sent out expeditions to break up the railroads leading into the town. He began extending his lines around to the south and southwest, so as to make the investment as complete as possible. Batteries were put in place, weak spots in the fortifications were felt for, and regular siege works were begun. Indeed, by July 1st, the general opinion seemed to be that the only way we should ever gain Petersburg would be by a systematic siege.


cock had a bitter controversy about the responsibility for the failure. Butler and Baldy "Smith were deep in a controversial correspondence, and Meade and Warren were so at loggerheads that Meade notified Warren on the 20th that he must either ask to be relieved as corps commander or he (Meade) would prefer charges against him. It seemed as if Meade grew more unpopular every day after we reached Petersburg. Finally, the difficulties between him and his subordinates became so serious that a change in the commander of the Army of the Potomac seemed probable. Grant had great confidence in Meade, and was much attached to him personally; but the almost universal dislike of Meade which prevailed among officers of every rank who came in contact with him, and the difficulty of doing business with him, felt by every one except Grant himself, so greatly impaired his capacity for usefulness, and rendered success under his command so doubtful, that Grant seemed to be coming to the conviction that he must be relieved.

I had long known Meade to be a man of the worst possible temper, especially toward his subordinates. I think he had not a friend in the whole army. No man, no matter what his business or his service, approached him without being insulted in one way or another; and his own staff officers did not dare to speak to him unless first spoken to, for fear of either sneers or curses. The latter, however, I had never heard him indulge in very violently; but he was said to apply them often without occasion and without reason.

At the same time as far

as I was able to ascertain his generals had lost their confidence in him as a commander. His orders for the last series of assaults upon Petersburg, in which we lost 10,000 men without gaining any decisive advantage, were, in effect, that he had found it impracticable to secure the coöperation of corps commanders, and that, therefore, each one was to attack on his own account and do the best he could by himself. consequence was that each gained some advantage of position, but each exhausted his own strength in so doing; while for the want of a general purpose and a general commander to direct and concentrate the whole, it all amounted to nothing but heavy loss to ourselves.


Before the army had recovered from its long march from Cold Harbor and the failure to capture the town, there was an unusual amount of controversy going on among the The first week of July, the subject came officers. Smith was being berated gener- to pretty full discussion at Grant's headally for failing to complete his attack on quarters, on occasion of a correspondence June 15th, and subsequently he and Han- between Meade and Wilson. The Richmond

deserter came in on the morning of the 4th, and said that it was reported in the enemy's camp that Ewell had gone into Maryland with his entire corps. Another twenty-four hours, and Meade told me that he was at last convinced that Early and his troops had gone down the Valley. In fact, Early had been gone three weeks. He left Lee's army near Cold Harbor on the morning of the 13th of June, when we were on the march to the James. Hunter's defeat of Jones

"Examiner" had charged Wilson's command with stealing, not only negroes and horses, but silver plate and clothing, on a raid he had just made against the Danville and Southside railroads; and Meade, taking up the statement of the "Examiner" for truth, read Wilson a lecture, and called on him for explanations. Wilson denied the charge, and said he hoped Meade would not condemn his command because its operations had excited the ire of the public enemy. Meade replied that Wilson's explanation near Staunton had forced Lee to divide his was satisfactory; but this correspondence started a conversation in which Grant expressed himself quite frankly as to the general trouble with Meade and his fear that it would become necessary to relieve him. In that event, he said it would be necessary to put Hancock in command.

About the only pleasant incident which relieved all this disputing was a visit the President made us on June 21st. As soon as he arrived, he wanted to visit the lines before Petersburg. General Grant, Admiral Lee, myself, and several others went with him. I remember that, as we passed along the lines, Mr. Lincoln's high hat was brushed off by the branch of a tree. There were a dozen young officers whose duty it was to get it and give it back to the President; but Admiral Lee was off his horse before any of these young chaps, and recovered the hat for the President. Admiral Lee must have been forty-five or fifty years old. It was his agility that impressed me so much.

As we came back, we passed through the division of colored troops which had so greatly distinguished itself under Smith on the 15th. They were drawn up in double lines on each side of the road, and welcomed the President with hearty shouts. It was a memorable thing to behold him whose fortune it was to represent the principle of emancipation, passing bareheaded through the enthusiastic ranks of those negroes armed to defend the integrity of the nation.


In the first days of July, we began to get inquiries at City Point from Washington concerning the whereabouts of the Confederate Generals Early and Ewell. It was reported in the capital, our despatches said, that they were moving down the Shenandoah Valley. We seemed to have pretty good evidence that Early was with Lee, defending Petersburg, and so I wired the Secretary on July 3d. The next day we felt less positive. A

army, in order to stop Hunter's dangerous advance on Lynchburg.

On the 6th, General Grant was convinced that Washington was the objective. The raid threatened was sufficiently serious to compel the sending of troops to its defence, and a body of men immediately embarked. Three days later, I started myself to Washington, in order to keep Grant informed of what was going on. When I arrived, I found both Washington and Baltimore in a state of great excitement; and both cities filled with people who had fled from the enemy. The damage to private property done by the invaders was said to have been almost beyond calculation. Mills, workshops, and factories of every sort were reported destroyed, and from twenty-five to fifty miles of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad torn up.

During my first day in town (July 11th), all sorts of rumors came in. General Lew Wallace, in command at Baltimore, sent us word that a large force of the enemy had been seen that morning near Baltimore. The Confederate generals were said to have dined together at Rockville a day or two before. The houses of Governor Bradford and Francis P. Blair, Sr., and his son Montgomery, the Postmaster-General, were reported burned. We could see from Washington clouds of dust in several quarters around the city which we believed to be raised by bodies of hostile cavalry. There was some sharp skirmishing that day, too, on the Tennallytown road, as well as later in front of Fort Stevens, and at night the telegraph operators at the latter place reported a considerable number of camp-fires visible in front of them.

I found that the Washington authorities had utilized every man in town for defense. Some fifteen hundred employees of the quartermaster's department had been armed and sent out; the veteran reserves about Washington and Alexandria had likewise been sent to the front. General Augur, commanding the defenses of Washington, had also

« AnteriorContinuar »