網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

tion, he wisely determined not to force the position, but bivouacked about a mile in front of Hancock, and in the morning moved off to Spottsylvania by the next most convenient route. By noon of the 9th, Early having disappeared, Mott's division and Burton's brigade of heavy artillery were left to hold the Catharpin road, and the remaining troops were dispatched toward Spottsylvania. On the way down it occurred to Generals Grant and Meade that, instead of the three divisions of the Second Corps, then available, being sent straight on, they should be thrown across the Po River to get upon the road by which Lee himself had retreated, and, moving down this, should try to come into the Confederate left and rear. This was accordingly done after six o'clock in the afternoon of the 9th. Hancock's command, crossing the Po by extemporized bridges, moved forward on the Shady Grove road until it reached Block House bridge, where this road crosses the Po, which here takes a long turn southward. Owing to the distance and the density of the woods, Hancock was only able by dark to get his skirmishers up to the bridge. And here, in the space between Glady Run on the south and the Po on the north and east, the troops rested for the night. Engineering details were, however, actively employed in making secure the communications with the north bank of the river. The morning of the Ioth of May found three divisions of the Second Corps across the Po, threatening Lee's left flank and rear, Barlow's division being formed to face eastward on the Block House and Shady Grove Church road, just where that road crosses the river, to run into the Confederate rear. Active preparations were at once begun to press the movement vigorously, and Brooke's brigade had already been thrown across the Po half way between the bridge and the mouth of Glady Run when intelligence was received that General Meade proposed to assault the Confederates' Spottsylvania line upon Warren's front at five o'clock; and that Hancock was to bring down two of his divisions, leaving one division only across the Po. It is clear that, if two thirds of Hancock's force were to be withdrawn from the position occupied during the preceding night, the remaining third should have gone with them, since a division left alone on the south bank of the river would be exposed to altogether unnecessary danger. Hancock, however, obeyed his instructions and proceeded with two divisions to join the Fifth Corps, leaving Barlow's fine, strong division confronting Block House bridge. While Meade and Hancock were reconnoitering the position to be assaulted, intelligence from Barlow regarding the threatened advance upon him caused Meade so much anxiety that he requested Hancock to return immediately and to withdraw that division to the north bank. When Hancock arrived the situation was already critical. Heth's Confederate division with a battalion of artillery had crossed Glady Run and was advancing upon Barlow. The two forces were not very unequally matched, the advantage in point of numbers being somewhat in favor of the Confederates; and Barlow and his men would not have been at all unwilling to have it out with the enemy then and there. But a defeat to our troops in such a situation, far from the rest of the army and with the river behind them, would have meant something very like destruction. Consequently peremptory orders were given Barlow to withdraw. This was, however, by no means an easy matter. The two bodies were heavily skirmishing with each other at the time, and retiring in the face of the enemy was a critical operation. Hancock had caused the north bank of the river to be lined with artillery, and now proceeded to withdraw Barlow's first line behind his second. It was a manoeuvre in which the slightest slip or misadventure might be fatal; and the two generals with their staffs threw themselves upon the line, to direct the troops and watch every step of the movement. Brooke's and Brown's (late Frank's) brigades, which had by this time become fully engaged, fell back with the utmost precision and firmness. The enemy were pressing on rapidly, and the firing was furious; but these two gallant bodies of veterans bore themselves with perfect coolness, reaching the position assigned them without haste or disorder. Again the movement by successive lines was cleanly carried out.

At last Miles's and Smyth's brigades were formed upon the crest next the river, while Brooke's and Brown's brigades, with Arnold's battery (all the rest of the artillery having by this time been sent across), prepared to fall back upon them. At this point the enemy, now fully up and resolute not to be balked of their prey, fell upon Brooke and Brown with the greatest fury. The situation was at this time fearfully complicated by the fact that the woods which for some distance lay between us and the river were on fire in several places, here smoldering and filling the air with choking masses, there blazing with fury. Through this inferno of smoke and flame the troops had to pass before they could reach the bridges and the river bank. Yet with such an enemy before and such an enemy behind, Brooke's and Brown's men showed neither fear nor haste. Every regiment stood in its place, as one man, facing the foe, until the word was given, and then, letting go all together, made their way swiftly but steadily backward. Only one misfortune occurred in this movement. As Arnold's battery, after firing to the last instant, limbered up and dashed to the rear, the horses attached to one of the guns became frightened by the flame and smoke around them, and, swerving aside, lodged the piece between two trees. The gun was found to be so firmly held that it could only have been extricated by cutting down the trees; and, as the Confederates were close behind and the supporting troops were in full retreat, it became necessary to abandon it to the enemy. This was the first gun belonging to the Second Corps or in position along its line of battle which had ever been captured during actions in which the corps had lost twenty-five thousand men. Brown's and Brooke's brigades having gained the river, and the north bank being crowned by a powerful artillery, the Confederates made no further attempt to molest Barlow's division, and the crossing was effected. So ended the battle of Po River. But this was not to be the end of Hancock's day. After the withdrawal of Barlow's division Hancock proceeded to the point where Warren's assault was to be delivered. Upon his arrival he found that Warren had made his attack upon a position of tremendous natural strength with troops of his own corps and with Webb's and Carroll's brigades from the Second, and had been driven back with heavy loss. Meade, who was in personal direction, was not satisfied, and ordered Hancock to renew the assault with his own two divisions on the ground. This was done about seven o'clock; but the troops did not behave with their accustomed vigor, and were easily thrown off. At another point along the Confederate line an attack was about this time made of a very different character. A column commanded by Colo

« 上一頁繼續 »