網頁圖片
PDF
[graphic][merged small]

ades of Birney's division, who swept over the plain on the double-quick, disregarding the heavy fire of its defenders, swarmed over the parapet, and drove out the garrison, capturing 30, with a total loss of 150. Repeated efforts by the enemy to burn the bridge during the ensuing night were baffled; and in the morning it was discovered that they had retreated; when Hancock quietly crossed and established himself on the south side; as Wright, following Warren, had done at Jericho ford the night before.

The passage of the river thus seemed to be triumphantly and cheaply effected; but the appearance was delusive. The river was barely fordable at different points, with high, rocky banks; and Lee had chosen a strong position, with both flanks drawn back; his right covered by marshes; his left resting on Little river; his front on the North Anna narrow and strong; our army being situated much as his was

at Gettysburg, when Meade was able to throw divisions and corps from right to left to breast a coming shock, or strike a return blow, in half the time that Lee required to countervail the movement. So, when Burnside, approaching the river half way between our right and left wings, attempted to cross, his advance division (Crittenden's) was promptly repelled with heavy loss; and when "Warren attempted to connect with Burnside by pushing Crawford's division down the south bank of the river, he in turn was assailed in overwhelming force, and was with difficulty extricated. Grant paused and pondered, and studied and planned; but Lee'6 position was absolutely invulnerable, or only to be wrested from good soldiers with an enormous disparity of force, and by a frightful sacrifice of life. After deliberate and careful reconnoissances, continued throughout two days, an assault was forborne, and our army, cautiously with

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

drawing at nightfall" from the enemy's front, riicrossed the river unassailed, and, after pushing well east to avoid another charge on the flank of its long columns while extended in movement, again turned southward and took the road to Richmond: the 6th corps in advance, followed in succession hy the 5th, 9th, and 2d: Hancock not starting till next morning; when Sheridan, with our cavalry in the advance, was, after a march of 22 miles, approaching the PamunkeyatHanovertown. Wright's corps crossed directly, and took post to cover the fords; Warren's and Burnside's were over the next morning;" Hancock crossed almost four miles higher; so that our whole army was south of the Pamunkey without loss, and in unobstructed communication with its new base at White House.

Lee had, as usual, a much shorter road, and was already in position on our new front; his array facing north-eastward, covering both railroads as well as the road to Richmond, and rendering it hazardous, if not impossible, to cross the Chickahominy on his right so as to interpose between him and the Confederate capital. Grant had 6hown at the North Anna his aversion to sacrificing the lives of his men when there was a practicable alternative; but now it seemed that the great object of the campaign positively required a disregard of the advantages of position possessed by the enemy. A spirited fight" at Hawes's shop, on our front, wherein Sheridan, with the brigades of Davies, Gregg, and Custer, met and worsted the Rebel troopers under Fitzhugh Lee and Hampton— our loss being 400, and the enemy's "May 26. "May 28.

800—doubtless stimulated the general eagerness for battle. A reconnoissance in force along our front was accordingly made; developing the enemy's position across Tolopotomy creek, with its right on the Mechanicsville pike, near Bethesda church, where Col. Hardin's brigade of Reserves, Crawford's division, was struck " on its flank by Rhodes's division of E well's corps, and hurried back to the Shady Grove road; where Crawford, bringing up the remainder of the Reserves and Kitching's brigade (of Warren's corps), repulsed Rhodes, and established our left on the Mechanicsville pike. Meantime, Hancock, on our right, had been stopped, after heavy skirmishing, at the Tolopotomy, finding the enemy in his front too strong and too well covered by defenses and a swamp; while Burnside had come into position on his left, and Wright on his right. Reconnoissances showed the enemy's position so unassailable in front that no course seemed open but an attempt to flank its right, crossing the Chickahominy opposite or just below Cold Haebob; a focus of roads which Sheridan had seized," after a brief skirmish, and on which the. 6th corps, moving in the rear from our right to our left, was immediately directed; reaching it next day—just before Gen. W. F. Smith, with 10,000 men detached from Butler's army, and brought around by steamboats to White House, came up and took post on its right; and the two were met here by orders from Meade to advance and repel the enemy in their front, with a view to forcing a passage of the Chickahominy.

"May 29. "May 31.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][graphic][merged small]

The attack was made at 4p.m.: the enemy of course posted in a wood, which concealed their strength, facing a level, open field, across which our men advanced with great spirit under a heavy fire, carrying a good part of the enemy's advanced line of rifletrenches and taking 600 prisoners. Their second line, however, was far stronger and more firmly held; and night fell with the Rebels still fully in its possession: our advance holding and bivouacking on the ground it had gained, at a cost of 2,000 killed and wounded. For Longstreet's corps, which had confronted our right the day before, had been moved rapidly to our left, parallel with Wright's movement, and was here facing us before the Chickahominy, as it had just been on the Tolopotomy, with a little less advantage of position but the same spirit and reso

lution; so that (as Lincoln once remarked to McClellan) the chief obstacle had been shifted, not surmounted, by our movement to the left. Nevertheless, Hancock was now called down from our right to the left of Wright; Warren was directed to extend his left so as to connect with Smith; while Eurnside was to withdraw entirely from the front and mass on the right and rear of Warren.

These flank movements, in the presence of a vigilant and resolute enemy, may not often prove so disastrous as Rosecran3 found them at the Chickamauga, but they are alwap critical. Burnside, attempting to obey this order in broad daylight," his movement was of course detected by the foe in his front, who sharply followed up his skirmishers covering the operation, taking some of them

[ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors]

prisoners, and, striking "Warren's left, cut off and captured 400 more; arresting Warren's extension to the left, by compelling him to look to the safety of his corps. But new dispositions were made, and Grant and Meade, now at Cold Harbor, resolved that the Rebel lines should be forced on the morrow."

The two armies held much of the ground covered by McClellan's right, under Fitz-John Porter, prior to Lee's bold advance, nearly two years before: Gaines's mill being directly in the rear of the Confederate center; while Sheridan's cavalry patrolled the roads in our rear leading to our base at White House, covered our left and observed the Chickahominy eastward of Richmond. "Wilson, with his cavalry division, watched our right flank. Burnside was still on "Warren's right and rear; Smith, "Wright, and Hancock stretched farther and farther to the left. In our front, Lee not only had a very good position naturally, but he knew how to make the most of its advantages— the single point in which (but it is a vital one) his admirers can justify their claim for him of a rare military genius. No other American has ever Bo thoroughly appreciated and so readily seized the enormous advantage which the increased range, precision; and efficiency given to musketry by rifling, have insured to the defensive, when wielded by a commander who knows how speedily a trench may be dug and a slight breastwork thrown up which will stop ninetenths of the bullets that would otherwise draw blood. The lessons of Bunker Hill and New Orleans, impressive as they were, must have been

trebly so had our countrymen been armed with the Enfield rifle or Springfield musket of to-day.

At sunrise, or a little before, the assault was made" along our whole front—bravely, firmly, swiftly made; and as swiftly repulsed with terrible slaughter. On our left, Barlow's division of Hancock's corps gained a transitory advantage; dislodging the enemy from their position in a sunken road, taking three guns and several hundred prisoners. But his second line failed to advance promptly to the support of the first, against which the enemy rallied in overwhelming force, retaking their defenses, hurling Barlow back, but not to the lines from which he started. He fell back a few yards only, and covered his front so quickly that the enemy could not dislodge him.

Gibbon,charging on Barlow's right, was checked by a swamp, which separated his command: part of which gained the Rebel works nevertheless; Col. McMahon planting his colors on their intrenchments a moment before he fell mortally wounded. No part of the Rebel works was held; but part of Gibbon's men also covered themselves so close to the enemy's lines that, while the Rebels dared not come out to capture them, they could not get away, save by crawling off under cover of fog or thick darkness.

"Wright's and Smith's assaults were less determined—at all events, less sanguinary—than Hancock's; and Warren, having a long line to hold, was content to hold it. Burnside swung two of his divisions around to flank the enemy's left, which he hotly engaged, and must have worsted had

[ocr errors][merged small]

the battle along our front been protracted. But that could not be. Twenty minutes after the first shot was fired, fully 10,000 of our men were stretched writhing on the sod, or still and calm in death; while the enemy's loss was probably little more than 1,000. And when, some hours later, orders were sent by Gen. Meade to each corps commander to renew the assault at once, without regard to any other, the men simply and unanimously refused to obey it. They knew that success was hopeless, and the attempt to gain it murderous: hence they refused to be sacrificed to no purpose.

Our total loss at and around Cold Harbor was 13,153; of whom 1,705 were killed, 9,042 wounded, and 2,406 missing. Among the killed were acting Brigadiers P. A. Porter," Lewis O. Morris, and F. F. Wead; all of New York. Cols. Edward Pye, 95th N. Y., O. H. Morris, 66th N. Y., J. C. Drake, 112th N. Y., John McConihe, 169th N. Y., Edwin Schall, 51st Pa., and F. A. Haskell, 36th Wise. Brig.Gen. B. O. Tyler was among the severely wounded. Brig.-Gen. Doles was the only Rebel officer of note reported as killed. Col. Lawrence M. Keitt, formerly a conspicuous M. C. from South Carolina, had fallen the day before.

Our army had suffered terribly in this battle; but it had lost blood only. The fighting closed with our

M CoL Peter A Porter, of Niagara Falls, son of Gen. Peter B. Porter, who served with honor in the War of 1812, and was Secretary of War under J. Q. Adams. Col. Porter, in the prime of life, and in the enjoyment of every thing calculated to make life desirable, volunteered from a sense of duty; saying his country had done so much • for him that he could not hesitate to do all in his power for her in her hour of peril. When nomi

front advanced on several pointa and forced back on none; but Lee, overestimating the effects of our repulse on the morale of our men, and seeing that our hastily constructed intrenchments directly before his lines were but slight, hazarded a night attack" on our front, but was repulsed at every point, and soon desisted. Next day, a partial assault was made on our left; but this also was easily repulsed. Meantime, our army was gradually moving to its left, by the successive withdrawals of Burnside and of Warren; when another night attack was made" on our right, again held by Burnside, but without success. And now an armistice of two hours was arranged, during which the wounded lying between the armies were removed and the dead buried.

Next day," our left was extended to the Chickahominy, finding the enemy in force opposite Sumner's and Bottom's bridges; while Sheridan was dispatched with two divisions of cavalry around Lee's left, to tear up the Virginia Central railroad in his rear, which he did: crossing the Pamunkey at Aylett's, breaking the Fredericksburg road at Chesterfield station, and thence pushing over the North Anna by Chilesburg and Mount Pleasant, over the upper branches of the North Anna," striking the Central railroad at Trevilian's, routing a body of Rebel horse, under Wade Hampton, that interfered with his operations, and breaking up the

nated in 1803 as Union candidate for Secretary of State, ho responded that his neighbors had intrusted him with the lives of their sons, and he could not leave them while the War lasted. Ho was but one among thousands animated by like motives; but none ever volunteered from purer impulses, or served with more unselfish devotion, than Peter A. Porter. "June 4. "June 6. "Juno 1. «* June 10.

« 上一頁繼續 »