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for a leave of absence was met with the suggestion that he should return to the North for the winter, and, with the aid of his military prestige and personal popularity, should raise a new corps, to be composed entirely of veterans, with which he might take the field upon the renewal of hostilities in the spring. It was not a part of Grant's private purposes, however, that this body of troops should join the Army of the Potomac. His plan was that, as soon as Sheridan with his magnificent cavalry should leave the Valley of Virginia to go south and attach himself to Sherman's column pushing up along the coast, Hancock should assume command of all the troops in the Middle Military Division, to be in readiness to move up the valley against Lee or to cut off the Confederate retreat to Lynchburg, should that be attempted. The idea of having either Meade or Hancock, preferably the former, in command of the Middle Military Division, while the other of these officers remained in command of the Army of the Potomac, was one which Grant had long cherished. We have seen (page 242) that on the 25th of July Grant telegraphed to President Lincoln, suggesting that Meade be placed in command of the Middle Division, and that the Army of the Potomac be given to Hancock. Again, on the nth of October, in connection with the recommendation that Sheridan be sent to Missouri, Grant telegraphed Secretary Stanton: "Place Meade where Sheridan is and put Hancock in command of the Army of the Potomac." To the lieutenant general, in this frame of mind, Hancock's application for temporary relief from service in the field came as a favorable opportunity for so arranging affairs that Hancock should take the Middle Division, while Meade remained in command of the Army of the Potomac, from which, under the circumstances, he could scarcely be removed without hardship.
In carrying out the foregoing views Hancock was relieved from the command of the Second Corps, which he turned over to Major-General Andrew A. Humphreys on the 26th of November. In his order taking leave of the corps Hancock said: "The gallant bearing of the intrepid officers and men of the Second Corps on the bloodiest fields of the war; the dauntless valor displayed by them in many brilliant assaults on the enemy's strongest positions; the great number of colors, guns, and prisoners, and other trophies of war captured by them in many desperate combats; their unswerving devotion to duty and heroic constancy under all the dangers and hardships which such campaigns entail— have won for them an imperishable renown and the grateful admiration of their countrymen. The story of the Second Corps will live in history, and to its officers and men will be ascribed the honor of having served their country with unsurpassed fidelity and courage. Conscious that whatever military honor has fallen to me during my association with the Second Corps has been won by the gallantry of the officers and soldiers I have commanded, I feel that in parting from them I am severing the strongest ties of my military life."
The recruiting part of Secretary Stanton's plan did not prove a success. So far as the soldiers in the field were disposed to re-enlist at all, it was generally with their own regiments that they elected to serve, while among those who had left the front and returned to civil life the inducements presented by States and towns, in the mad competition of higher and still higher bounties, made the offers of the United States Government seem poor and mean indeed. Hence it came about that the recruiting for the new corps went on but slowly from December to February. In the latter month Hancock, foreseeing the speedy opening of another campaign, was already beginning to move for his own return to the Army of the Potomac, when he received an intimation of Grant's purposes regarding him. These were to the effect that, inasmuch as Sheridan was about ready to leave the valley on his great raid southward to join Sherman, Hancock should proceed to Winchester and take command of all the remaining troops available for field service in the four departments constituting the Middle Division. Grant's own statement of his objects is as follows: "It was my expectation at the time that in the final operations Hancock should move either up the valley or else east of the Blue Ridge to Lynchburg, the idea being to make the spring campaign the close of the war. I expected—with Sherman coming up from the south, Meade south of Petersburg and around Richmond, and Thomas's command in Tennessee, with depots of supplies established in the eastern part of that State—to move from the direction of Washington or the valley toward Lynchburg; we would then have Lee so surrounded that his supplies would be cut off entirely, making it impossible for him to support his army."—Grant's Memoirs, vol. ii, 342, 343.
It will be seen that of the projected operations of the opening spring, Hancock's advance on Lynchburg was to be the substantive part.
It is too well known to need recital here, how, almost on a momentary impulse, another plan was substituted for this, and the war came to an end with a tremendous rush which not even the most sanguine had anticipated. Hancock, proceeding to Winchester, relieved Sheridan there on the 26th of February. The next morning the great cavalryman started southward with the splendid corps which had won such renown in the valley, which up to the time of Sheridan's appearance there had been known to the country only as the Valley of Humiliation. Finding the bridges along his projected route generally destroyed and the rivers swollen high by weeks of rain, Sheridan availed himself of the discretion invested in him to come up on Grant's left at Petersburg. His powerful cavalry corps having thus unexpectedly become available, Grant determined to utilize it in a movement around Lee's right directed upon the White Oak road, though still only as a step toward its passage south to join Sherman according to the original plan.
But the first stages of the expedition brought about a momentous change of purpose to which no one contributed so much as the great cavalryman himself, who was most reluctant to leave the Army of the Potomac when a blow was to be struck. Largely in consequence of his representations, Grant determined to use the cavalry for all it was worth in the movement against the Southside Railroad. Then came the desperate fighting of the 31st of March, which made it manifest that the beginning of the end had come, and that Lee's army, not Johnston's, was to be dealt with. On the 1st of April Sheridan and Warren, advancing upon Five Forks, won there a victory which to the sorely depleted Confederate forces was simply fatal. As the news of the day's triumph flashed along the Petersburg lines the Union army felt in its soul that the time had come when the frowning works which had so long held it at bay must fall before one tremendous assault. In the early morning of the 2d of April, the Sixth, Ninth, and Twenty-fourth Corps leaped their intrenchments and broke through the enemy's line at