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rèenforced to the utmost, suddenly, unexpectedly, upon Sherman, as he struggled through the gloomy forests and treacherous quicksands of eastern Georgia, or the flooded swamps of South Carolina. Had Lee's effective force (by his muster-rolls, 64,000 men—but suppose the number available for such a campaign but 50,000), swelled by such réenforcements as IIardee, Beauregard, Wheeler, and IIoke, might have afforded him, been hurled upon Sherman, as he confidently approached Savannah, Columbia, or Fayetteville, it is indeed possible that the blow—so closely resembling that dealt to Cornwallis at Yorktown by Washington and Rochambeau—might have been effectively countered (as theirs was not) by the hurried movement southward by water of corps after corps of the Army of the Potomac ; yet the necessity of stopping Sherman's career was so indubitably manifest and vital that it seems strange that every thing was not staked on a throw where success would have kindled new hope in so many sinking hearts, while defeat could only have been what inaction was ruin. But any suggestion of the abandonment of the Confederate capital was met with such a deafening clamor by the Richmond journals —by which it was pronounced synonymous with surrender at discretion— that Davis and Lee must have been strong men indeed to have chosen to defy it. It does not appear, however, that they ever seriously inclined to an expedient which, even if desperate, was neither so hopeless nor so mortifying as that to which they were actually driven in their grudging, eleventh-hour attempt to recruit their wasted ranks by freeing and
arming such slaves (only) as were deemed fit for military service. Had they met Lincoln's first Proclamation of Freedom to such slaves (only) as were not then within his jurisdiction, by an unqualified liberation of every slave in the South and a proffer of a homestead to each of them who would shoulder his musket and help achieve the independence of the Confederacy, it is by no means unlikely that their daring would have been crowned with success; since the passions of their adherents had, by this time, been so thoroughly aroused that they would have welcomed any resort that promised them a triumph over the detested “Yankees'; while the Blacks must have realized that Emancipation, immediate and absolute, at the hands of those who had power not only to decree but to enforce, was preferable to the limited, contingent, as yet unsubstantial, freedom promised by the Federal Executive. Unmeasured vituperation of President Lincoln's edict as unwarranted, outrageous, and designed to whet the assassin's knife for the throats of the mothers and sisters of the heroes who had hurled back his armies from the banks of the James and the Tennessee, would have sweetened its bitterness to the Southern Whites, without being especially obnoxious to the emancipated Blacks. But, after having so fiercely reprobated emancipation as essentially a wrong to both races, utterly unjustified by any conceivable exigency of war, and denounced the enlistment on our side of Black soldiers as at once a crime, a futility, and a confession of defeat, and after having mercilessly ridiculed the suggestion that negro slaves could ever be transformed into effective soldiers, the Rebel attempt to replenish with Blacks the thinned ranks of their armies—hitherto largely swelled by appeals to the intense prejudice of the lowest Whites against ‘Nigger Equality’—was a most palpable and damaging confession that the knell of the Confederacy had sounded.
A single expedition, under Warren, was sent out' from Meade's left to destroy the Weldon railroad farther southward, and thus prevent its use by the enemy in transporting supplies from North Carolina nearly up to our lines; whence they were wagoned around our left to Lee's camps. This expedition, consisting of Warren's (5th) corps, Mott's division of the 2d, and Gregg's mounted division, moved down the railroad so far as the Meherrin; across which to Hicksford the few Rebels encountered were driven, while the road was effectually destroyed down to that point—some 20 miles. Hicksford had been fortified, and was strongly held by the enemy; while our troops, having started with but four days' rations, were constrained to hasten their return. No considerable loss was suffered, nor (otherwise than in destroying the railroad) inflicted.
The withdrawal of most of our naval force from the James, to participate in the operations against Wilmington, tempted the authorities in Richmond again to try their luck upon the water. Their three ironclads—the Virginia, Fredericksburg, and Richmond—with five wooden steamers, and three torpedo-boats, dropped 'silently down from the city under cover of darkness, passing Fort
Brady at midnight, responding to its * Dec. 7, 1864. * Jan. 23, 1865.
fire, and dismounting a 100-pounder in its battery; then passing out of its range, and breaking the chain in front of the obstructions placed in the channel by Gen. Butler at the lower end of Dutch gap, so that the Fredericksburg passed through;while the Richmond, Virginia, and Drewry, attempting to follow, grounded: the last-named, being immovable, was abandoned by her crew at daylight, and soon blown up by a shell from one of our batteries; while the Virginia received a 300-pound bolt from a monitor which killed 5 of her crew. Firing was continued on both sides throughout the day; and at night the Rebel fleet—all but the Drewry—drew back to Richmond. The next effort on our side was made—probably with intent mainly to develop the strength with which the Rebel lines confronting ours were still held—on the old beaten and bloody track; the 5th and 2d corps, with Gregg's cavalry, pushing out' from our left to Reams's station, and thence to Dinwiddie C. H.: the 5th corps being directed to turn the Rebel right, while the 2d assailed it in front. The two corps having taken position on the Rebel flankSmythe's division and McAllister's brigade of Mott's having gallantly repulsed the enemy's attempt to turn the right of the former—Gregg's cavalry were drawn back from Dinwiddie C. H. to Warren's left, which, under Crawford, was now" thrown forward to Dabney's mill, whence he drove a Rebel force under Gen. Pe. gram, who was killed. By this time, the enemy had sent a strong force around our left, to strike it in flank and rear, after the Stonewall Jack son fashion. Gregg's cavalry was first assailed by this force, and pushed back to Hatcher's run ; Ayres's division, which was hurrying up to the support of Crawford, was next stricken in flank while marching, and pushed back; when the blow fell on . Crawford, who was likewise driven, with heavy loss. Following up their success quite too eagerly, the Confederates now attacked Humphreys's (2d) corps, which had had time to intrench, and which promptly sent them to the right about. The loss in this affair on our side was nearly 2,000; that of the Rebels was about 1,000. The ground taken by the 2d corps was held, and our left thus permanently extended to IIatcher's run.
* Feb. 6.
The Rebels in Northern Virginia evinced the greater activity during the Winter. Aside from sundry inconsiderable but annoying dashes through our lines at several points, by the alert, ubiquitous guerrilla, Moseby, Gen. Rosser, with a mounted force, slipped across the main range of the Alleghanies into West Virginia; surprising Beverly, Randolph county; which was held by a garrison of 700, who were caught’ sound asleep, with pickets only 300 yards from their camp; 400 of them made prisoners, the residue dispersed, and much spoil secured in the shape of horses, commissary's and quartermaster’s stores. All that could be carried off in their haste was taken; the residue destroyed.
Lt. McNiel, with a squad of Rebel cavalry, dashed into Cumberland, Md., about 3 A.M.;" seizing Maj.Gens. Kelley and Crook in their beds, mounting them on horses, and hurry
ing them off to Richmond. The loss was small; but the impunity with which it was inflicted argued extreme looseness and inefficiency in the picketing and guarding of our lines. Of course, such an enterprise was not attempted without preconcert with traitors on our side. Gen. Sheridan, still in command in the Valley, was instructed by Gen. Grant to open the campaign of 1865 in Virginia by a magnificent and daring cavalry raid aimed at Lynchburg and the Rebel communications generally, but with liberty to Sheridan to move southward until he reenforced Sherman—still deficient in cavalry—if that should seem advisable. Sheridan left" Winchester with 10,000 men—all mounted—and moved so rapidly as to save the bridge at Mount Crawford across the middle fork of the Shenandoah; passing through Staunton,” and hurling himself on Early, who had made a stand in his intrenchments at Waynesboro’, at the head of some 2,500 men; who were almost instantly routed, with a loss of 1,600 prisoners, 11 guns, 17 flags, and 200 loaded wagons. In fact, there was little left of Early's force but Early himself. The prisoners were sent to Winchester, guarded by 1,500 men; while Sheridan, destroying the railroads, proceeded to Charlottesville;’ which succumbed without a blow: and here he spent two days destroying Rebel dépôts, manufactories, bridges, &c. By this time, Lynchburg had taken the alarm, and was too strong for his depleted force: so, dividing it, he struck for the James: one of his two columns destroying the canal from Scottsville to New
* Jan. 11. * Feb. 21. * Feb. 27.
* March 2. * March 3,
market, while the other tore up the Lynchburg railroad so far west as Amherst C. H.; thence crossing the country to Newmarket and uniting with the former. Attempts to surprise and seize bridges over the James at Duguidsville, Hardwicksville, &c., so as to cross and come in on Grant's left, were all baffled by the vigilance of the enemy; while heavy rains had so swollen that river that Sherman's pontoons would not reach across it: so he was compelled to choose between returning to Winchester and passing behind Lee's army to White House and thence to Grant's right. He wisely chose the latter; following and destroying the canal to Columbia,” where he rested a day, sending scouts with advices to Grant; thence moving easterly, destroying bridges and railroads, across the Annas to the Pamunkey, and down the right bank of that stream to White House;” where four days were given to most needed rest and recuperation; when he moved down to the James, crossed it at Jones's landing, and reported to Grant in front of Petersburg on the 27th—just in time. Gen. Lee—foreseeing clearly the speedy downfall of the Confederate cause unless averted by a prompt concentration of its remaining forces and a telling blow delivered thereby on some one of our encircling armies, which were now palpably crushing out the life of the Rebellion—resolved to anticipate Grant's initiative by an attack on his lines before Petersburg and Richmond. This attack was made on Fort Steedman, nearly east of Petersburg, where its success would have cut our army in two,
and probably compelled a hasty concentration to recover our lines and works; thereby opening a door for the unassailed withdrawal of the Rebel army southward by the most direct route, to unite with that of Johnston and thus overpower Sherman. It was delivered by Gordon with two divisions: all that was disposable of the Rebel Army of Wir. ginia being collected just behind the assaulting column and held in hand as a Support. Gordon charged at daybreak;" his men rushing instantly across the narrow space that here separated the confronting lines, and pouring into Fort Steedman, which was held by the 14th N. Y. artillery, who were completely surprised and overwhelmed; part of them fleeing for their lives, while the residue were made prisoners. The guns were deserted without a struggle, and immediately turned by their captors on the adjacent works, whereof three batteries were abandoned by the Union troops and seized by the enemy. Here their triumph ended. Their assault on Fort Haskell, next to Fort Steedman on the left, was but feebly made and easily repulsed; they failed to press forward and seize the crest of the ridge behind the forts, thus cutting our army in two; the 20,000 men whom Lee had massed in their rear to support the assault either were not promptly ordered forward or failed to respond: so that their initial success had only isolated them, a comparative handful in the midst of an army of foes. In short, it was the Mine explosion repeated with the parts reversed. For, when our soldiers had recovered from their aston
* March 10,
* March 19.
* March 25.