網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

lowing March, results of importance might have been achieved; but the troops under Hancock's command were far too few for such an enterprise.

Hancock got off, as usual, in good time, and, pushing rapidly forward, carried the crossing of Hatcher's Run by the Vaughan road, Egan's division in advance, with the loss of about fifty men; and then, with both his divisions, Gregg's cavalry on his left, made for the Boydton road, where he nearly succeeded in capturing a wagon train. At Burgess's Mill, where the Boydton road crosses Hatcher's Run above its great bend, the enemy were found in position with artillery. After a sharp contest, the Confederates were driven across the Run, whereupon the bulk of Mott's division was sent out the White Oak road to the left, to be in readiness for continuing a movement toward the railroad. At this juncture a message was received from headquarters directing a halt, and a few minutes later Generals Grant and Meade came upon the ground bringing news of the failure of Parke's movement, and also the intelligence that Crawford's division of the Fifth Corps was across the Run and working its way up the west side. Hancock was directed to extend his line to the right to connect with Crawford and to suspend his own movement.

It will readily be seen that by these orders the whole expedition was practically given up. Parke, finding the enemy's works complete to Hatcher's Run, was resting in front of them, with instructions not to attack. Beyond the Run were only Crawford's division, hugging the west bank of the stream, and Hancock's two divisions—one at Burgess's Mill, one advanced out the White Oak road— with Gregg's cavalry partly on the left with Mott, partly in rear to ward off the enemy's cavalry, which had already got in upon the Boydton road farther down, and were sending their shells up the road to meet and cross shells now pouring in upon the plain at Burgess's from across the Run, and also from adown the White Oak road beyond Mott. The situation was in no way a pleasing one, nor was there anything about it which was promising. The Union force thus detached was confessedly too small to advance toward the railroad, while its presence there invited the audacious attempts of the enemy upon its flank and rear. It was certain, from what was known of Lee's army, that the day would not pass without a repetition of those attacks through woods and swamps, which had so often brought disaster to our outlying forces.

After surveying the ground for a while, during the course of which General Grant exposed himself in a remarkably daring manner to the fire of the enemy, which was now poured unremittingly into the narrow space occupied by our troops, Grant and Meade rode away, bidding Hancock hold on until morning and then withdraw. The reasons which actuated the commander in chief in putting an end to the expedition are thus stated by Badeau:

"The rebels were evidently in force north of the Creek with strong defenses. Their intrenched line extended far beyond the point at which it had been supposed to turn to the north, and when the National army advanced, Lee had simply moved out and occupied the works already prepared. The contemplated movement was thus impracticable. The rebel position could perhaps be carried, but only with extreme difficulty and loss of life—a loss which the advantage to be gained would not compensate, while in the event of repulse disaster might be grave, stretched out as the army was, with its flanks six miles apart, and the creek dividing Warren's corps. Any serious rebuff or loss was especially to be deprecated at this crisis. The presidential election was only ten days off, and the enemies of the nation at the North were certain to exaggerate every mishap. Success at the polls was just now even more important than a victory in the field, and it would have been most unwise to risk greatly on this occasion. Accordingly, when Grant returned from the bridge, he gave orders to suspend the movement. Hancock was directed to hold his position till the following morning, then withdraw by the same road along which he had advanced."

Thus, so far as the plans of Grant or the orders to Hancock were concerned, the Boydton road expedition was at an end. Nothing more was to be attempted. The expeditionary column was to rest until morning, and then withdraw. But the Confederates willed otherwise, and the Second Corps was yet to have a little fighting for its marching. Guided by the sound impulse which always actuated the leaders of the Army of Northern Virginia whenever the Army of the Potomac moved against their flanks, General Heth, who commanded this end of Lee's line, was already in motion to issue from his works and, taking advantage of the strange and bewildering country, to deliver a heavy blow upon our adventurous column. Every brigade that could be called in for the purpose was drawn down to the edge of Hatcher's Run with a view to cross and strike Hancock on his right flank. This movement, so often successful, was to fail here, and to fail with loss and disaster; but it would have been fourfold a failure had Crawford pushed his division up the Run with vigor. Hours had elapsed since he crossed the stream, and yet nothing had been seen or heard of him, although the distance was short. Every effort to communicate with Crawford himself by feeling out and backward from our right had come to nothing. In fact, that officer had lost direction in the wooded swamps, and, on encountering a few score of the enemy's skirmishers,* had halted and

* " Fifty or seventy-five sharpshooters," says General Heth.

« 上一頁繼續 »