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River to take on board the troops, and that night they were quietly brought down to Hampton Roads. The ascent of the James River was to commence at daybreak, the fleet consisting of the transports, preceded by a number of gun boats and monitors. Some detention occurred, but at eight o'clock, all preliminaries were arranged, and the expedition began the ascent of the river. The object in view was the occupation of the neck of land at City Point, on the right bank, where the Appomatto x empties into the James, a position about twenty miles from Richmond and ten from Petersburg, consequently threatening both places, and within easy striking distance of the important line of railroad communication between the two places.*
On the way up the river, there were only two points at which opposition might be expected, viz., at Wilson's Landing, at a bend of the stream on the left bank, about thirty-five miles below Richmond, and at Fort Powhatan, at the next turn on the right. At neither of these places, nor at City Point, was any opposition offered by the rebels. The surprise was complete. The troops were landed without difficulty, and, before the next morning, had secured the
* Gen. Grant's language, in regard to the expected co-operation of Butler, is worth quoting :—" My first object being to break the military power of the rebellion and capture the enemy's important strongholds, made me desirous that Gen. Butler should succeed in his movement against Richmond, as that would tend more than any thing else, unless it were the capture of Lee"s army, to accomplish this desired result in the East. It was well understood, both by Gens. Butler and Meade, before starting on the campaign, that it w as my intention to put both their armies south of the James River, in case of failure to destroy Lee wiihout i'.."—^rant's " Report," p. 10.
station at City Point, and a most desirable foothold in the triangular district of Bermuda Hundred, a neck of land formed by the sinuous course of the James and Appomattox Rivers. An entrenchment was effected readily on the west, which, with the gun boats on the flanks, completed the defences of the position thus acquired.
On the 7th of May, Butler made a reconnaissance against the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad, and, after a severe contest with a body of the rebels in position covering that road from Walthal Junction north to Chester Station, he succeded in destroying a portion of it. On the 9th, Butler sent a dispatch to Washington, summing up his operations thus far, and, as we shall see, by and by, giving too sanguine a view of his success over Beauregard *
As previously stated, the Army of the Potomac pressed on in pursuit of Lee toward Spottsylvania Court House, on the night of May 7th, and the next day, Sunday the 8th, found that the rebels had anticipated them and were already in position. Longstreet's column by a forced march had gained the advantage, and barred further progress. A severe contest ensued on Sunday morning, May 8th, on the Brock Road, from Todd's Tavern, at a clearing near Alsop's farm, in which the enemy, in force, were encountered by the brigades of Bartlett and Robinson, with heavy loss to their commands, Robinson being severely wounded. At
* In a number of pages devoted to this point, Mr. Swinton sharply criticises Gen. Grant's plan and purpose, so far as he can understand what the commander in chief expected Butler to do.—" Army of the Peiomac," pp. 462-464.
BERMUDA HUNDRED OCCUPIED.
this juncture. Warren was compelled to rally his troops in person; the other portions of his corps were brought up under Gens. Crawford and Cutler, who had succeeded Wadsworth, and the fighting was continued until evening without being able to drive the rebels entirely from their entrenched position. The operations of the day left them in possession of Spottsylvania Court House. Lee, in fact, had succeeded in placing his army across Grant's line of march; and having made Spottsylvania Ridge a bulwark of defence, he was able, for twelve days, to hold our army in check and compel a further bloody delay in the advance upon Richmond.
On Monday, May 9th, the Army of the Potomac confronted the enemy, Longstreet and Ewell occupying the formidable ridge before Spottsylvania Court House. There was some cannonading as well as some skirmishing during the forenoon, but no general battle. The rebel sharpshooters were very active, and one distinguished victim fell a prey to their deadly aim. This was Gen. Sedgwick, who was not only one of the most gallant officers in the service, but was also beloved by the whole army. He was in the front of the extreme right of his corps, superintending the posting of some guns, when a ball pierced his face just below the left eye, and he fell dead instantly. Gen. H. G. Wright succeeded to the command of the 6th corps. Towards evening, Grant ordered another advance on the enemy, and on the same day dispatched Sheridan on a raid against the rebel line of communication with Richmond. Haucock held the right of our
line, Warren the centre, and Wright the left. Birney's and Gibbon's divisions of Hancock's corps, followed by Carroll's brigade, crossed the Po and met the enemy, when some severe fighting occurred, attended by heavy losses. An attack was also made on a portion of Burnside's corps on the left, but it was I repulsed with great spirit.
The next day, May 10th, the army j | of Grant occupied substantially the same position as on the previous day. His line stretched about six miles on the northerly bank of the Po, and took the general form of a crescent, the wings being thrown forward. The conflict began, early in the morning, with heavy j discharges of artillery, which were kept up all the forenoon. A vigorous attack was made upon Lee's centre, aud Out j troops fought most gallantly, but not with the success which was expected. The rebels checked our advance, and turning the right across the Po, compelled the withdrawal of Barlow's division of Hancock's corps, at that point, to the east bank. The coolness and steadiness of our men on this occasion saved them from a great disaster. Toward the close of the day, an energetic assault was made by the troops of the 2d and 5th corps, upon a hill held by the enemy in front of Warren's line; but it met with a very bloody repulse. On the left of Warren, an assault, made just at evening, by Upton's brigade of the 6th corps, met with better success. The enemy's works were scaled, the first line of rifle-pits captured, and more !I
than 1,000 prisoners taken, with several guns. This advance, however, was not sustained, and the night, as
always before, closed on a hard-fought but indecisive field. Our loss had been not less than 10,000 men; but the rebels, it was thought, had suffered quite as severely as the Army of the Potomac. Gen. Rice, of the 5th corps, and Gen. Stevenson, of the 9th corps, both brave and valuable officers, were among the killed.
It was evident, from the tenacity and skill with which Lee offered resistance to Grant's advance, that he was not prepared to stake his fortunes upon a single great battle. Continuous fighting, within lines of defence, was his policy, and he meant, in this way, to contest every inch of ground between Grant and Richmond. The commander in chief of our armies was not, however, one to be readily turned aside from any work he had undertaken. Although the loss of life and limb had been fearful, even terrible, to contemplate, still Grant faltered not; and firmly bent on the object of his campaign, he was fully determined, at whatever cost, to continue the struggle. This resolution was expressed in terse and pointed terms at the close of a dispatch, sent to the secretary of war, on Wednesday morning, May 11th :—" We have now ended," he wrote, "the sixth day of very heavy fighting. The result, to this time, is much in our favor. Our losses have been heavy, as well as those of
the enemy. I think the enemy's must be greater. We have taken over 5,000 prisoners in battle, while he has taken from us but few except stragglers. I propose to fiqht it out on this line if U takes all .mmmerP
Wednesday passed in some slight
skirmishing and in reconnoitring with reference to movements the next day. During the night, Hancock's corps was> shifted from his position on the right to the left, occupying the ground between Gens. Wright and Burnside. On Thurs day, May 12th, at dawn of day, amid a dense mist and fog, the 2d corps moved upon the enemy's lines. Barlow's division in front, followed by those of Birney, Gibbon and Mott, gallantly dashed over the intervening ground, and took the rebels completely by surprise. With loud cheers, our men leaped over the hostile entrenchments, and in a few moments captured the whole of Johnson's division and part of Early's, some 3,000 in number, together with two rebel generals, E. Johnson and G. H. Stuart, and between thirty and forty cannon. The second line of rifle-pits was immediately stormed, and, after a stubborn resistance, wrested from the enemy. The action now became general, and the heavy cannonading, all along the line, was answered with spirit by Lee's army. Burnside's and Wright's troops joined in the conflict, while Warren occupied the enemy in front. Roused to the danger, the enemy made repeated attempts to re-occupy the lost works, but were repulsed with heavy slaughter by our batteries and the musketry of the infantry; an advantage which the foe, in turn, maintained in front, where they were strongly posted. The contest for the works captured in the morning was continued through the day. Burnside, on the extreme left, was engaged in the afternoon, in a stubborn and bloody encounter with the enemy, in which he
held hia ground, though unable to push the flanking movement of the day further in that direction. Rain began to fall at noon, but tht- bloody fray went on, and was continued while daylight lasted. The dead and wounded lay thickly strewn along the ground, and, after fourteen hours of deadly struggle, night put an end to the battle of May 12thi Grant's dispatch, the same evening, spoke in high terms of our successes during the day, and at the same time said; "the enemy are obstinate, and seem to have found the last ditch." *
Sheridan, whose starting upon a special service against the rebel communications with Richmond was noted above (p. 430); entered upon his work with all the fire and vigor which characterized his movements as head of the cavalry of our army. His plan was to cut off the enemy's supplies in his rear, and, traversing the Peninsula, to penetrate the defences of the rebel capital. The expedition having set out, May 9th, n.oved towards Fredericksburg, and then, by a southerly course, on the road to Childsford, on the border of the county, turning the enemy's right, and at evening, without opposition, crossing the North Anna at Anderson's Bridge. This brought the advance, Custer's brigade of Merritt's division, within striking distance of the Virginia Central Railroad, at the neighboring
* "The sixth day of heavy fighting had been ended. Grant had been foiled; but his obstinacy was apparently untouched, and the fierce and brutal consumption of human life, another element of his generalship, and which had already obtained for him with his soldiers the sobriquet of 'the butcher,' was still to continue He telegraphed to Washington,' I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.'"—Pollard's '"Third Year of the Wtv " p. 265.
station, Beaver Dam. During that night, Sheridan destroyed the depot, at that place, a vast amount of stores, the railroad track for about ten miles, and recaptured some 400 of our men on' their way as prisoners to Richmond and its horrible jails. •
The next morning, May 10th, Sheridan resumed operations, crossing the South Anna at Grand Squirrel Bridge, and went into camp about daylight. On the 11th, he captured Ashland Station, destroyed there, besides public stores and buildings, six miles of railroad, embracing six culverts, two trestle bridges, and the telegraph wire. The I same morning—to use the words of a dispatch—"he resumed the march on Richmond. He found the rebel Gen. J. E. B. Stuart, with his cavalry, concentrated at Yellow Tavern, immedi-. ately attacked him, and, after an obstinate contest, gained possession of the turnpike, capturing two pieces of artil- I lery, and driving his forces back toward Ashland, and across the north fork of the Chickahominy. At the same time a party charged down the Brock Road, and captured the first line of the enemy's works around Richmond. During the night, Sheridan marched the whole of his command between the first and second line of the enemy's works on the bluffs overlooking the line of the Virginia Central Railroad and the Meckanicsville Turnpike. After demonstrating around the works, and finding them very strong, he gave up the intention of assaulting, and determined to recross the Chickahominy at Meadow Bridge. It had been partially destroy ed by the enemy,