« 上一頁繼續 »
ed by infantry, and forced to retire, with the loss of his artillery and trains.* Wilson's force having become divided, the portion under Kautz reached the camp, by hard riding, in advance of Wilson, who, taking a more southerly route, crossed the Nottoway River and came in safely a few days later. The whole force which escaped was thoroughly exhausted with hardships and fatigue, and the entire loss was estimated at less than 1,000 men. The damage, however, to the rebels, in this expedition, more than compensated, in Grant's opinion, for the losses sustained. It severed all connection by railroad with Richmond for several weeks.
A suspension of active operations in the army of the James River, after the ineffectual movements upon Petersburg, and the fact that Hunter's retreat by way of the Kanawha (p. 442), had laid open the Shenandoah Valley for raids into Maryland and Pennsylvania, induced the rebels to make a vigorous effort in that direction. The large amount of stores at Martinsburg furnished an incentive to the enemy's movement, though, doubtless, the prime objects of the expedition were, to gather in the ripening crops in the Valley, and, by threatening Washington, to
* Pollard's view of matters at this date is worth quoting:—" It was evident that the spirit of the North had commenced to stagger under this accumulation of disaster. Gold had already nearly touched 300. The uneasy whispers in Washington of another draft gave
new suggestions to popular discontent The
finances at Washington were becoming desperate. Mr. Chase, the secretary of the treasury, had peremptorily resigned. His last words of official counsel were, that nothing could save the finances but I series of military successes of undoubted magnitude "—"Third Year of the War," p. 276. Compare also, note from Swinton, on p. 443.
compel the reduction of Grant's force before Richmond. The movement was made with secrecy and skill, and as the force of the enemy numbered some 15,000 infantry and 5,000 cavalry, under one of the most active of the rebel leaders, Jubal Early, there was certainly a fair prospect of success.
Sigel was, at this time, in command of the defences of the Potomac in the vicinity of Harper's Ferry, Avith his headquarters at Martinsburg. On the enemy's approach, Sunday morning, July 3d, Sigel retreated across the Potomac at Shepardstown; and Gen. Weber, at Harper's Ferry, crossed the river and occupied Maryland Heights. The lower counties of the Valley were now at the mercy of the enemy, and they freely helped themselves to such supplies as they could lay hands on, while their force was brought up preparatory to making heavier demands upon the farmers and storekeepers of Maryland and Pennsylvania. On the 4th of July, a party of Mosby's guerrillas crossed the Potomac to Point of Rocks, and plundered the stores of that place. The next day a squad of the rebel cavalry made their appearance before Hagerstown, and on the 6th, Ransom, with McCausland's brigade, entered the place, and demanded $20,000 from the councilmen, which were paid to save the town from being burnt. Two days afterwards, the town was again pillaged by a party of raiders under Imboden.
Grant, anxious to check, as speedily as possible, this movement of the enemy, sent the 6th corps, and the 19th corps, which had just arrived from the Gulf department, to give efficient aid in the active operations at Washington and its vicinity, for the defence of the capital and the expulsion of the rebels. The president called for 12,000 militia from Pennsylvania, 12,000 from New York, and 5,000 from Massachusetts; and Gen. Couch, at Chambersburg, and Gen. L. Wallace at Baltimore, were busily occupied in organizing and fitting troops for the field. The stores and supplies at Frederick, against which the enemy moved on the 6th of July, were brought away by the railroad to Baltimore, and the city was evacuated by our troops, who fell back to a position a few miles distant, south of the Monocacy River, at the junction of the roads to Washington and Baltimore. Wallace, with Rickett's division, and his own command, the latter mostly new and undisciplined troops, pushed out promptly from Baltimore, and met the enemy in force on the Monocacy, near the crossing of the railroad bridge. This was on Saturday, the 9th of July, and the battle which resulted lasted from nine o'clock, A.m., to five, P.m. Our troops stood their ground well, and fought bravely during a long summer day; but the superior numbers of the enemy, and the heavy losses in killed and wounded, led to an entire defeat of Wallace's force, the remnant of which reached Ellicott's Mills the next morning. One advantage resulted in our favor, viz., the detaining of the enemy, and thereby enabling Wright to reach Washington with two divisions of the 6th corps, and the advance of the 19th corps, before him
The rebels were now, for the present, free to continue their depredations through the central portion of Maryland, an advantage which they availed themselves of to the utmost, exacting large contributions in the small towns and driving off liberal supplies of live stock from the farmers. The country from the Potomac as far north as Westminster, and east to the line of the Central Railroad, was freely pillaged; and the drift of the rebel movement being eastwardly, Couch, on the 9th of July, took possession of Hagerstown on their flank.
From the Monocacy the rebels mov< ed directly towards Washington. They marched by the direct route through Rockville, and onward to the vicinity of the capital, a considerable body making its appearance, on the 11th of July, in front of Fort Stevens, one of the series of works protecting Washington on the northern side. A brigade was sent to dislodge the advance of the enemy; a severe skirmish ensued, with considerable loss, and the rebels were put to rout near Silver Springs. That same night, July 12th, alarmed at the prospect of affairs, they began their retreat, and, loaded with booty, prepared to re-cross the Potomac in the vicinity of Poolesville.
"Learning the exact condition of affairs at Washington," says Grant, in his report, "I requested by telegraph, at 11.45 P.M., on the 12th, the assignment of Wright to the command of all the troops that could be made available to operate in the field against the enemy, and directed that he should get outside of the trenches with all the force Ch. XL]
he could, and push Early to the last moment. Gen. Wright commenced the
pursuit on the 13th of July;
on the 18th, the enemy was overtaken at Snicker's Ferry, on the Shenandoah, when a sharp skirmish occurred; and on the 20th, Gen. Averill encountered and defeated a portion of the rebel army at Winchester, capturing four pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners." Hunter was directed to remain in the Shenandoah Valley, and keep his troops between any force of the enemy and Washington, acting on the defensive as much as possible.
About the 25th of July, the rebels were again advancing upon Maryland and Virginia. Scattered parties began to cross the upper fords of the Potomac, and to renew their depredations. One of the most destructive of these incursions was that made upon Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, on the morning of July 30th. A body of raiders, 'under McCausland, some 500 in number, made a dash upon the town, and demanded immediately $500,000. If the money was not furnished at once, they declared they would set fire to and burn up everything. As it was of j course impossible to furnish such a sum on the instant, they proceeded, without a moment's delay, to inflict the threat
| ened vengeance. No time was given to remove private property, and barely enough for the citizens to save their families. The town was fired in different quarters, and over 250 of its houses consumed, including all the public buildings, stores, and hotels. About
! two-thirds of the place was thus con
I VOT,. IV.—57.
sumed. The pecuniary loss was estimated at over $1,000,000, a heavy disaster to a town of 6,000 inhabitants.
The occupation of Chambersburg and the conflagration were the work of but a few hours. Averill, with his cavalry, entered the place at noon, just as the enemy withdrew, and pursued them on the westerly road through McConnellsburg. The next day he followed them to the Potomac, at Hancock, where his jaded command prevented further pursuit. The destruction of Chambersburg, and other incursions across the Potomac, aroused greater activity. Kelly and Averill rendered important services in meeting and defeating the enemy at several points, and driving them, with diminished numbers, into the mountains of West Virginia.
Seeing that Petersburg was not to be taken by direct assault on our part the army was busily occupied in strengthening its lines, pushing forward entrenchments, and planting powerful batteries at convenient points, which kept up, at intervals, a destructive bombardment of the city. Our forces having been drawn in from the left for purposes of concentration, the enemy were free to repair the injuries to the Weldon Road, which was again put in working order. There were occasional reconnaissances, with skirmishing, during the greater part of the month of July, while a portion of both armies was withdrawn to the Potomac. The heat of the month, of unusual con tinuance without a respite, was intolerable, and was aggravated by the unin | tcrmitted drought The work in the trenches, meanwhile, was diligently
CHAMBERSBURG, PENN., BURNT.
kept up, while an extraordinary labor
was being: performed in the con1864. 5 ^ .
struction ot a mine leadmg to a
formidable fort of the enemy's, in front of Burnside's line, and about 2,000 yards southeast from Petersburg. The required length of the mine, to reach the point proposed, was about 500 feet. The work, in which many difficulties in the way of water, marshy grounds and quicksands had been overcome, was completed by the 25th of July, a month after its commencement, and some four tons of powder were placed in it ready for use.*
On the night of the 26th of July, the 2nd corps and two divisions of the cavalry corps, and Kautz;s cavalry, were crossed to the north bank of the James River, and joined the force which Butler had succeeded, on the 21st, in placing at Deep Bottom, and in connecting by pontoon bridges with Bermuda Hundred. On the 27th of July, the enemy was driven from his entrenched position, with the loss of four pieces of artillery. On the 28th, our lines were extended from Deep Bottom to Newmarket Road; but in getting this position the enemy attacked in heavy force. The fighting lasted for several hours, and resulted in considerable loss. The
* Lieut.-Col. Pleasants, of the 48th Pennsylvania, an experienced engineer, was the constructor of the mine. In its inception and always it was highly approved by Gen. Bumsidc; but at headquarters it was ridiculed rather than approved, and does not at any timo seem to have been looked on with favor. Gen. Meade, however, in an order, August 5th, speaks of "the valuable servk Js," "the skill displayed by Col. Pleasants," etc., and praises the devotion and steadiness of the men in prosecuting the work to its completion.
effect, however, of these movements was to induce Lee to withdraw, on the 28th and 29th of July, some 15,000 or 20,000 men from Petersburg to the defence of Richmond, in the direction of Malvern Hill. Grant thereupon determined to take advantage of the diversion thus made, by an assault upon Petersburg, before Lee conld get his force back there. He accordingly withdrew one division of the 2d corps, on the night of the 28th of July, and moved it during the night to the rear of the 18th corps, in order to relieve that corps in the line, with reference to the assault to be made. The other two divisions of the 2d corps and Sheridan's cavalry were crossed over on the night of the 29th of July, and moved in front of Petersburg.
Everything was now in readiness, and it was determined to try the effect of blowing up the mine, which contained some four-tons of powder, and of an assault immediately thereafter. The troops forming the assaulting column were notified that the explosion would take place between three and four o'clock on the morning of July 30th, and they were required to be fully prepared to move forward at a moment's warning. They were to sweep the hostile line, right and left, and then seize upon the crest beyond, known as ''Cemetery Hill," which commanded and would secure the fall of Petersburg. At 4.42 in the morning, just as the dawn was beginning to light up the scene, the mine exploded. "A solid mass of earth, through which the exploding powder blazed like lightning playing in a bank of clouds, arose slowly some
200 feet in the air, and, hanging visibly for a few seconds, it subsided, and a heavy cloud of black smoke floated off.*'* Immediately the artillery opened along the whole line, and the assaulting column, under Gen. Ledlie, advanced to the charge. On reaching the site of the fort, there was found a huge crater, 150 feet long, sixty feet wide, and about twenty-five feet deep. Here the column sought shelter, instead of instantly dashing forward and securing the ridge above alluded to. This could, at that time, have been readily done, for the rebels were paralyzed, and so remained for more than half an hour. Recovering, however, from their surprise, they took prompt measures to prevent our success, and by forming their infantry in a ravine to the right, and planting their artillery on both the right and left of the crater, they succeeded in repulsing the various efforts made by our troops for an advance. "It was now seven A.m.," says Swinton, in a rather highly colored account of the "mine fiasco," as he calls it, "more than two hours after Ledlie occupied the crater, yet he made no advance himself, and obstructed the efforts of other officers. In this state of facts, the more troops that were thrown in, the worse was the confusion; yet Gen. Burnside threw forward the black division to essay an assault. Passing beyond the crater, the colored troops made an advance towards the crest, when, encountering a fire of artillery and infantry,
* In this fearful explosion, not only huge masses of earth, mingled with cannon, caissons, and camp equipage were thrown up, but there were also mingled with these the bodies and limbs of more than 200 men wno were on gamson duty in the fort
they retired in great disorder through the troops in the crater, and back to the original lines. After the repulse of the colored division, all semblance of offensive efforts ceased; blacks and whites tumbled pell-mell into the hollow of the exploded earthworks—a slaughter pen, in which shells and bombs, raining from the enemy's lines, did fearful havoc. Failing to advance, it soon proved almost equally difficult to retreat, though parties of tens and twenties, crawling out, ran back as best they could. The enemy then made a sally towards the crater, but was repulsed. A second assault, however, shook the disjointed structure of the hapless mass, which, without head or direction, obeyed the instinct of sduve qui pent. Above 4,000 were killed or captured."*
Grant's statement, in his report, is brief and expressive:—" On the morning of the 30th of July, between four and five o'clock, the mine was sprung, blowing up a battery and most of a regiment, and the advance of the assaulting column, formed of the 9th corps, immediately took possession of the crater made by the explosion, and the line for some distance to the right and left of it, and a detached line in front of it,
* Swinton's "Army of the Potomac," p. 523. This writer is very severe in his criticism, and attributes the failure of the assault to the fact that, not the best picked men were chosen for this duty, but a portion of the 9th corps, under Burnside, a corps which he estimates as anything but the elite of the army. As au offset to this, the reader will find it profitable to consult Woodbury's "Burnside and the KinOi Army Oorpt," chapters v. and vi., pp. 418-462, in which there is a full account of the mine, and of the inquiry and invea. tigation resulting from the disaster on the 30th of July. Woodbury's narrative places Gen. Meade's conduct in no enviable light.