Слике страница

General Grant having determined to assault the enemy's lines before Spottsylvania Court House on the morning of the 12th, the second corps was selected to make the attempt on the left, and not long after midnight, favored by storm and darkness, was shifted from the extreme right to the left, to occupy a space between the corps of Wright and Burnside, commanded by the enemy's batteries, and from which consequently an advance would have to be made with the utmost celerity. At dawn, therefore, under cover of a thick mist, the second corps moved from its position and quietly approached the enemy's lines. Barlow's and Birney's divisions formed the first line, Gibbon's and Mott's the second. As they made their way over the rough and wooded intervening ground without being disMay covered, the enthusiasm of the men 12. rapidly rose, till finally they broke into a run, leaped the intrenchments with loud cheers, charged with the bayonet, and surrounded and made prisoners of an entire division, officers and men, including two generals, Major-General E. Johnson, commanding the division, and Brigadier-General G. H. Stewart, besides thirty or forty guns. The surprise was so complete that the officers were still at breakfast when the Federal troops came upon them.

This charge of Hancock's corps was followed by a heavy artillery fire from the whole line of Grant's army, which quickly moved up to support the second corps. The ninth corps pressed in on the extreme left and succeeded in join

ing its right to Hancock's left. The sixth and fifth corps became also actively engaged, and the contest raged along the whole line, notwithstanding the commencement of a heavy rain storm. About nine o'clock the enemy began to make efforts to recover the lost position, and made repeated desperate charges with this view on the second and ninth corps. For three hours the rebel columns continued to rush against Grant's lines, exposed to cross and enfilading fires of cannon and musketry. About noon they desisted from further attempts to recover their lost ground; but they could not be driven any farther, and the captured artillery they so covered with a fire of sharpshooters that the guns could not be carried off. Their right had been charged with great gallantry by Grant's right and centre, but their front was found to be impregnable, every approach to it being swept by artillery.

Early in the afternoon, with the view of turning the enemy's right, Grant began massing his troops against it. General Lee also massed troops on his right. Stubbornly the rebels resisted; and all afternoon and till nightfall the carnage went on. Neither the heavy rain nor the mire to which the battlefield had been changed, abated the fury of the combatants. When night fell the battle had lasted fourteen hours, and with a severity unsurpassed in the war. Each army had lost ten thousand men in killed and wounded. Of the large number of cannon captured, only eighteen were actually brought in.

the spade, as did also that of Genera Lee. There was some fighting on the extreme left in the latter part of the day, however, and General Meade narrowly escaped capture.

During the 15th, 16th, and 17th of May, both armies remained comparatively inactive, the late heavy rains having rendered the roads impassable. The troops also needed rest. The opportunity was taken to clear the camp of wounded; long trains of ambulances passed daily and nightly along the Fredericksburg road, and multitudes of the less seriously wounded marched slowly and painfully in the same direction. Very large reinforcements also came in, as well as supplies of commissary stores and ammunition. Rations were full; bands played in the evening, and news of successes in Georgia and elsewhere contributed to raise the spirits and improve the health of the men.

On the morning of Friday the 13th, it was discovered that the enemy, whose reduced numbers had made the contraction of their lines necessary, had withdrawn their right to a new position, which thus was hard at work fortifying. The ground they had abandoned was occupied by Grant's troops; but the continued heavy rains had rendered the ground impracticable for wagons and artillery. Both armies rested a little on Friday. Another attempt to turn the enemy's right was determined on, in the hope of another success like that which had attended Hancock with the second corps. Accordingly at nine o'clock in the evening of Friday, the march of the two corps on the Federal right was begun, and was continued all night, through mud ankledeep and in some places knee-deep, with the intention of placing them before morning opposite the enemy's right, and accomplishing another surprise; but the troops could not be got through the mud to their new position till too late. The line, as now established, stretched continuously at right angles across the Fredericksburg and Spottsylvania Court House road from the Ny to the Po-raid having caused some interruption to Hancock's corps on the right, Burnside's his supplies. He constructed also new on the right centre, Wright's on the left rifle-pits and abattis, and added to his centre, and Warren's on the left. About already almost impregnable fortifications eight o'clock Generals Grant and Meade around Spottsylvania Court House. removed their headquarters to Gaile's House, about two miles from Spottsylvania Court House, on the Fredericksburg road, and at about the centre of the line of the army. Field-works were commenced, and the army of General Grant went to work industriously with

General Lee's army also benefited much by the respite from incessant marching and fighting; he also had his wounded to care for, and his commissary department to attend to, Sheridan's

An attempt was made on the morning of the 18th to turn the enemy's May left. About five o'clock the three 18. corps in the right of Grant's army made the assault; the ninth corps also attacked. The whole line was so massed that the corps closely joined each other; but in

whatever direction the enemy were approached, an impenetrable abattis presented itself. By eleven o'clock the assault was abandoned and all the troops recalled to their original position. Corcoran's Irish Legion, a part of the late reinforcements from Washington, behaved well and lost heavily, but every effort to pierce the enemy's chain of earth-works and abattis was in vain. A loss of twelve hundred killed and wounded was sustained in this affair.

General Grant, now satisfied that direct attempts on the enemy's position were too costly to be continued, put other measures in train. On Wednesday night, General Torbert, with a force of cavalry, was sent to Guinney's Station, on the Fredericksburg and Richmond Railroad, about ten miles southeast of Spottsylvania Court House, and destroyed buildings, supplies, telegraph apparatus, etc., and on Thursday the 19th a portion of the right of Grant's army was quietly moved to the left, preliminary to a grand movement of the entire force. Meanwhile both camps were unusually quiet, and the opposing lines of skirmishers ceased to fire upon each other; friendly conversation was even ventured upon, and tobacco and coffee were exMay changed as well as jests. A little past noon, however, General Ewell marched a part of his corps over the Ny River, passed the Federal right, and about five o'clock got in the rear of the Federal right flank, on the Fredericksburg road, on which trains of wagons with ammunition and commissary stores were passing. Fortunately General Tyler's


division of heavy artillery, lately arrived from Washington, was at hand, and the enemy's progress was bravely arrested, though Tyler's troops were mostly for the first time under fire. When the whole of his division arrived on the ground, the enemy were soon driven from the road into the woods, and reinforcements coming up, Ewell's force recrossed the Ny and retreated to their camp.

The movement toward Guinney's Station of Torbert's division of cavalry, spoken of above, was followed on Friday night by that of the second corps, which, as before stated, had been moved to the Federal left. The fifth corps followed. on Saturday morning at ten o'clock; the sixth and ninth corps then also broke camp, and the entire army left the vicinity of Spottsylvania Court House. The movement had been anticipated by the enemy, and it soon became apparent that General Lee also had left his position and was moving as fast as possible toward Hanover Court House. Grant pushed his army forward at a rapid rate, and on Monday at two in the afternoon reached the North Anna, the second corps at Taylor's Bridge, the fifth at Jericho Ford. The bridge was commanded at its entrance by a redan, and its flank swept by artillery in field-works on the opposite bank, as well as by infantry in rifle-pits. A broad, open space, which an assaulting column would have to cross under fire, intervened between the redan and the Federal troops. About six o'clock the second corps prepared to assault. Birney's

division was placed in the advance, supported by Barlow's and Gibbon's diviMay sions, Tyler's division being held in 23. reserve. In face of a galling fire from artillery and rifles, Birney's division rushed on the works and carried them at the point of the bayonet. A part of the second corps was immediately thrown across the river by the bridge, to menace the retreating enemy-a part of McLaw's division of Longstreet's corps. Only a portion of Hancock's corps crossed that night. A part of the fifth corps had crossed the river several hours before, at Jericho Ford, wading through the water waist deep; pontoons also had been thrown across, and preparations made to intrench, when, about five o'clock, the enemy, who had been bringing up forces from points lower down on the river, attacked furiously with musketry and artillery, but were finally compelled to retire. The Federal loss at the bridge and at the ford was about one thousand men, that of the enemy not so great, probably, in killed and wounded, but greater in prisoners, of which they lost several hundred. On the 24th, in spite of considerable further opposition from the enemy, the entire army had crossed the North Anna. On the morning of Wednesday the 25th, all the troops were in good position, and during the day General Sheridan with his cavalry rejoined the army. Reconnoissances now showed that the enemy were strongly posted within two miles of Grant's lines. The ground they occupied was in the form of a triangle, with the apex approaching the North

Anna between Taylor's Bridge and Jericho Ford. The position, naturally strong, was so fortified with elaborate intrenchments, to which others were being rapidly added, that it soon became evident an attempt to carry it by assault would prove disastrous in the extreme. General Grant's determination was soon taken. He decided to recross the North Anna and march eastward. The swelling of the stream from the recent rains made it advisable to carry out this design without delay. To cover the movement, a demonstration was made on Thursday on the enemy's left, while the third division of Sheridan's cavalry moved up the Virginia Central Railroad and began to tear up the track. In the evening the sixth corps quietly withdrew to the north bank of the river, followed by the other corps in quick succession, and marched toward the Pamunkey, the rear protected by General Hancock, a strong line of skirmishers being left to lull suspicion.

At nine o'clock on the morning of Friday the 27th, Sheridan's cavalry took possession of Hanover Ferry, and Hanovertown on the south side of the Pamunkey, fifteen miles northeast of Richmond and sixteen miles from White House, which was now to become the base of the army, and toward which transports, with army supplies were already on their way. The whole army followed during the 28th, and on the 29th had crossed the Pamunkey. A portion of General Lee's army had in the mean time occupied Hanover Court House, whence his lines extended south

« ПретходнаНастави »