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Richmond, and the contest was to be renewed on the same terms as before. On the 29th Barlow moved out for a reconnoissance of the Totopotomoy, and after dispersing some cavalry, reached Swift Creek, a tributary of the Totopotomoy, where he found breastworks fully manned. As Barlow reported that the enemy could not easily be dislodged, Birney and Gibbon were brought forward, and formed on his right and left respectively. The other corps were by this time well up. On the 30th, Brooke's brigade, supported by Owen's, moved against the enemy's line of skirmish pits and carried them in handsome style. These were immediately converted into cover for our own men. The Confederate position was found to be exceedingly strong, its front covered by the course of the Totopotomoy, much of the ground being marsh. The artillery was brought up and a great part of it placed along the ridge. After a hot duel at unusually short range, Colonel Tidball succeeded in silencing the enemy; but as no opening appeared which promised success in an assault, General Hancock was directed not to press matters, it being understood that other corps were to attempt to turn the enemy's position. At a little after seven in the evening, however, General Hancock was informed by General Meade that Warren, on the extreme left, at Bethesda Church, had been violently attacked; and he was directed “as soon as he could find a suitable place" to assault, with a view to relieving the pressure on the Fifth Corps. Such an exigency was one well suited to bring out Hancock's peculiar style of commanding troops and obeying orders. With incredible celerity Barlow's division was launched at the enemy—corps, division, and brigade commanders co-operating to make the action prompt and, if possible, successful. In less than thirty minutes from the receipt of the first order another arrived, directing Hancock to cease the attack; but Brooke's brigade had already carried the advanced line of breastworks. Darkness came on, and operations were suspended. On the morning of the 31st Hancock resumed his efforts to force the passage of the Totopotomoy. Birney was sent forward on the right, crossed Swift Run, and, by a neat dash, carried the intrenched skirmish line across the Richmond road. Gibbon and Barlow then pushed close up to the enemy's works at all points; but the position was found everywhere too strong to afford a reasonable prospect of successful assault. The remainder of the day was spent in incessant and heavy skirmishing. The other corps having met in general no better fortune, Grant again determined to retire from his direct advance toward Richmond, and throw his army with all speed toward Cold Harbor. The losses of the Second Corps on the North
Anna and the Totopotomoy had been 259 killed, 1,132 wounded, 260 missing; total, 1,651. During the latter days of May it was decided to break up the division of heavy artillery under General Tyler. The Second and Seventh New York were sent to the First Division; the First Massachusetts and First Maine to the Third Division. A new brigade, the Fourth, was formed in Gibbon's division, under command of General Tyler, consisting of the Eighth New York Heavy Artillery and the Corcoran Legion. Owing to the large re-enforcements received during the month, as stated, the Corps aggregate on the 31st of May showed an increase to 53,831. But of these the “present for duty,” owing to the tremendous losses of the month, amounted to only one half—namely, 26,900.
WHILE Grant was engaged with the enemy upon the line of the Totopotomoy a powerful re-enforcement was approaching his left flank from the Army of the James. Butler's campaign had proved a costly failure; and the better part of his army, about sixteen thousand strong, under General W. F. Smith, had been directed to embark on transports at City Point and to land at White House on the Pamunkey. Grant's plan for the 1st of June was that Sheridan should seize Cold Harbor with the cavalry, and be there supported by the Sixth Corps from the Army of the Potomac and by Smith's Eighteenth Corps from the Army of the James. Sheridan carried out his part with vigor, holding Cold Harbor against repeated attempts to dislodge him by both cavalry and infantry in superior numbers until the Sixth Corps came up and made the position secure. The Eighteenth arrived later, and at six o'clock a battle was fought with varying fortune and heavy losses, but on the whole successfully for the Union arms. Portions of the enemy's intrenched lines were carried and prisoners taken. The two corps under Wright and Smith having occupied Cold Harbor, and even gained considerable advantages in spite of an unexpectedly large concentration of hostile forces, Hancock was dispatched in haste to join them. General Meade's order was unusually urgent. In it he wrote: “You must make every exertion to move promptly, and reach Cold Harbor as soon as possible. At that point you will take position to re-enforce Wright upon his left, which it is desired to extend to the Chickahominy. Every confidence is felt that your gallant corps of veterans will move with vigor and endure the necessary fatigue.” So much is rarely expressed in orders from headquarters, and Hancock took it in earnest. Meade's hope was that the corps would arrive at Cold Harbor by daybreak and immediately go into action. This plan, in spite of the tremendous demands it made upon the men, would have been carried out but for the misdirection given to the column by an officer of Meade's staff, who undertook to conduct it by a short cut through a wood road. After moving for some distance, the road was found to narrow gradually, until finally the guns were caught between the trees. In the darkness much confusion arose throughout the column, and the troops became mixed to a degree which made it difficult to straighten them out again. The