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The Memoirs of General P. H. Sheridan, Vol. 1 by General Philip Henry Sheridan

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While Wilson was operating thus on the right, I had to cover with
Gregg's and Torbert's divisions the crossing of the army over the
Pamunkey River at and near Hanovertown. Torbert having recovered
from the illness which overtook him in the Wilderness, had now
returned to duty. The march to turn the enemy's right began on the
26th. Torbert and Gregg in advance, to secure the crossings of the
Pamunkey and demonstrate in such manner as to deceive the enemy as
much as possible in the movement, the two cavalry divisions being
supported by General D. A. Russell's division of the Sixth Corps.

To attain this end in the presence of an ever-watchful foe who had
just recently been reinforced in considerable numbers from Richmond
and further south--almost enough to make up the losses he had
sustained in the Wilderness and at Spottsylvania--required the most
vigorous and zealous work on the part of those to whom had been
allotted the task of carrying out the initial manoeuvres. Torbert
started for Taylor's ford on the Pamunkey with directions to
demonstrate heavily at that point till after dark, as if the crossing
was to be made there, and having thus impressed the enemy, he was to
leave a small guard, withdraw quietly, and march to Hanovertown ford,
where the real crossing was to be effected. Meanwhile Gregg marched
to Littlepage's crossing of the Pamunkey, with instructions to make
feints in the same manner as Torbert until after dark, when he was to
retire discreetly, leaving a small force to keep up the
demonstration, and then march rapidly to Hanovertown crossing, taking
with him the pontoon-bridge.

At the proper hour Russell took up the march and followed the
cavalry. The troops were in motion all night, undergoing the usual
delays incident to night marches, and, early on the morning of the
27th the crossing was made, Custer's brigade of Torbert's division
driving from the ford about one hundred of the enemy's cavalry, and
capturing between thirty and forty prisoners. The remainder of
Torbert's division followed this brigade and advanced to Hanovertown,
where General Gordon's brigade of Confederate cavalry was met.
Torbert attacked this force with Devin's brigade, while he sent
Custer to Hawe's Shop, from which point a road leading to the right
was taken that brought him in rear of the enemy's cavalry; when the
Confederates discovered this manoeuvre, they retired in the direction
of Hanover Court House. Pursuit continued as far as a little stream
called Crump's Creek, and here Torbert was halted, Gregg moving up on
his line meanwhile, and Russell encamping near the crossing of the
river. This completed our task of gaining a foothold south of the
Pamunkey, and on the 28th the main army crossed unharassed and took
up a position behind my line, extending south from the river, with
the Sixth Corps on the right across the Hanover Court House road at
Crump's Creek, the Second Corps on the left of the Sixth, and the
Fifth Corps about two miles in front of Hanovertown, its left
extending to the Tolopotomy.

There was now much uncertainty in General Grant's mind as to the
enemy's whereabouts, and there were received daily the most
conflicting statements as to the nature of Lee's movements. It
became necessary, therefore, to find out by an actual demonstration
what Lee was doing, and I was required to reconnoitre in the
direction of Mechanicsville. For this purpose I moved Gregg's
division out toward this town by way of Hawe's Shop, and when it had
gone about three-fourths of a mile beyond the Shop the enemy's
cavalry was discovered dismounted and disposed behind a temporary
breastwork of rails and logs.

This was the first occasion on which, since the battle of Yellow
Tavern, the Confederate troopers had confronted us in large numbers,
their mounted operations, like ours, having been dependent more or
less on the conditions that grew out of the movements in which Lee's
infantry had been engaged since the 14th of May.

On that date General Lee had foreshadowed his intention of using his
cavalry in connection with the manoeuvres of his infantry by issuing
an order himself, now that Stuart was dead, directing that the "three
divisions of cavalry serving with the army [Lee's] will constitute
separate commands, and will report directly to and receive orders
from the headquarters of the army." The order indicates that since
Stuart's death the Confederate cavalry had been re-organized into
three divisions, that were commanded respectively by General Wade
Hampton, General Fitzhugh Lee, and General W. H. F. Lee, the
additional division organization undoubtedly growing out of the fact,
that General M. C. Butler's brigade of about four thousand men had
joined recently from South Carolina.

When this force developed in Gregg's front, he attacked the moment
his troops could be dismounted; and the contest became one of
exceeding stubborness, for he found confronting him Hampton's and
Fitzhugh Lee's divisions, supported by what we then supposed to be a
brigade of infantry, but which, it has since been ascertained, was
Butler's brigade of mounted troops; part of them armed with
long-range rifles. The contest between the opposing forces was of
the severest character and continued till late in the evening. The
varying phases of the fight prompted me to reinforce Gregg as much as
possible, so I directed Custer's brigade to report to him, sending,
meanwhile, for the other two brigades of Torbert, but these were not
available at the time--on account of delays which occurred in
relieving them from the line at Crump's Creek--and did not get up
till the fight was over. As soon as Custer joined him, Gregg
vigorously assaulted the Confederate position along his whole front;
and notwithstanding the long-range rifles of the South Carolinians,
who were engaging in their first severe combat it appears, and fought
most desperately, he penetrated their barricades at several points.

The most determined and obstinate efforts for success were now made
on both sides, as the position at Hawe's Shop had become of very
great importance on account of the designs of both Lee and Grant.
Lee wished to hold this ground while he manoeuvred his army to the
line of the Tolopotomy, where he could cover the roads to Richmond,
while Grant, though first sending me out merely to discover by a
strong reconnoissance the movements of the enemy, saw the value of
the place to cover his new base at the White House, and also to give
us possession of a direct road to Cold Harbor. Hawe's Shop remained
in our possession finally, for late in the evening Custer's brigade
was dismounted and formed in close column in rear of Gregg, and while
it assaulted through an opening near the centre of his line, the
other two brigades advanced and carried the temporary works. The
enemy's dead and many of his wounded fell into our hands; also a
considerable number of prisoners, from whom we learned that
Longstreet's and Ewell's corps were but four miles to the rear.

The battle was a decidedly severe one, the loss on each side being
heavy in proportion to the number of troops engaged. This fight took
place almost immediately in front of our infantry, which, during the
latter part of the contest, was busily occupied in throwing up
intrenchments. Late in the afternoon I reported to General Meade the
presence of the enemy's infantry, and likewise that Hampton's and
Fitzhugh Lee's divisions were in my front also, and asked, at the
same time; that some of our infantry, which was near at hand, be sent
to my assistance. I could not convince Meade that anything but the
enemy's horse was fighting us, however, and he declined to push out
the foot-troops, who were much wearied by night marches. It has been
ascertained since that Meade's conclusions were correct in so far as
they related to the enemy's infantry; but the five cavalry brigades
far outnumbered my three, and it is to be regretted that so much was
risked in holding a point that commanded the roads to Cold Harbor and
Meadow bridge, when there was at hand a preponderating number of
Union troops which might have been put into action. However, Gregg's
division and Custer's brigade were equal to the situation, all
unaided as they were till dark, when Torbert and Merritt came on the
ground. The contest not only gave us the crossroads, but also
removed our uncertainty regarding Lee's movements, clearly
demonstrating that his army was retiring by its right flank, so that
it might continue to interpose between Grant and the James River; as
well as cover the direct route to Richmond.

General Lee reported this battle to his Government as a Confederate
victory, but his despatch was sent early in the day, long before the
fight ended, and evidently he could not have known the final result
when he made the announcement, for the fight lasted until dark.
After dark, our own and the Confederate dead having been buried, I
withdrew, and moving to the rear of our infantry, marched all night
and till I reached the vicinity of Old Church, where I had been
instructed to keep a vigilant watch on the enemy with Gregg's and
Torbert's divisions. As soon as I had taken position at Old Church
my pickets were pushed out in the direction of Cold Harbor, and the
fact that the enemy was holding that point in some force was clearly
ascertained. But our occupation of Cold Harbor was of the utmost
importance; indeed, it was absolutely necessary that we should
possess it, to secure our communications with the White House, as
well as to cover the extension of our line to the left toward the
James River. Roads from Bethesda Church, Old Church, and the White
House centred at Cold Harbor, and from there many roads diverged also
toward different crossings of the Chickahominy, which were
indispensable to us.

The enemy too realized the importance of the place, for as soon as he
found himself compelled to take up the line of the Tolopotomy he
threw a body of troops into Cold Harbor by forced marches, and
followed it up by pushing a part of this force out on the Old Church
road as far as Matadequin Creek, where he established a line of
battle, arranging the front of it parallel to the road along the
south bank of the Pamunkey; this for the purpose of endangering our
trains as they moved back and forth between the army and the White

Meanwhile I had occupied Old Church and pushed pickets down toward
Cold Harbor. The outposts struck each other just north of Matadequin
Creek, and a spirited fight immediately took place. At first our
pickets were sorely pressed, but Torbert, who was already preparing
to make a reconnoissance, lost no time in reinforcing them on the
north side of the creek with Devin's brigade. The fight then became
general, both sides, dismounted, stubbornly contesting the ground.
Of the Confederates, General Butler's South Carolinians bore the
brunt of the fight, and, strongly posted as they were on the south
bank of the creek, held their ground with the same obstinacy they had
previously shown at Hawe's Shop. Finally, however, Torbert threw
Merritt's and Custer's brigades into the action, and the enemy
retired, we pursuing to within a mile and a half of Cold Harbor and
capturing a number of prisoners. Gregg's division took no part in
the actual fighting, but remained near Old Church observing the roads
on Torberts flanks, one leading toward Bethesda Church on his right,
the other to his left in the direction of the White House. This
latter road Gregg was particularly instructed to keep open, so as to
communicate with General W. F. Smith, who was then debarking his
corps at the White House, and on the morning of the 3ist this
general's advance was covered by a brigade which Gregg had sent him
for the purpose.

Torbert having pursued toward Cold Harbor the troops he fought at
Matadequin Creek, had taken up a position about a mile and a half
from that place, on the Old Church road. The morning of the 31st I
visited him to arrange for his further advance, intending thus to
anticipate an expected attack from Fitzhugh Lee, who was being
reinforced by infantry. I met Torbert at Custer's headquarters, and
found that the two had already been talking over a scheme to capture
Cold Harbor, and when their plan was laid before me it appeared so
plainly feasible that I fully endorsed it, at once giving directions
for its immediate execution, and ordering Gregg to come forward to
Torbert's support with such troops as he could spare from the duty
with which he had been charged.

Torbert moved out promptly, Merritt's brigade first, followed by
Custer's, on the direct road to Cold Harbor, while Devin's brigade
was detached, and marched by a left-hand road that would bring him in
on the right and rear of the enemy's line, which was posted in front
of the crossroads. Devin was unable to carry his part of the
programme farther than to reach the front of the Confederate right,
and as Merritt came into position to the right of the Old Church road
Torbert was obliged to place a part of Custer's brigade on Merritt's
left so as to connect with Devin. The whole division was now in
line, confronted by Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, supported by Clingman's
brigade from Hoke's division of infantry; and from the Confederate
breastworks, hastily constructed out of logs, rails, and earth, a
heavy fire was already being poured upon us that it seemed impossible
to withstand. None of Gregg's division had yet arrived, and so
stubborn was the enemy's resistance that I began to doubt our ability
to carry the place before reinforcements came up, but just then
Merritt reported that he could turn the enemy's left, and being
directed to execute his proposition, he carried it to a most
successful issue with the First and Second regular cavalry. Just as
these two regiments passed around the enemy's left and attacked his
rear, the remainder of the division assailed him in front. This
manoeuvre of Merritt's stampeded the Confederates, and the defenses
falling into our hands easily, we pushed ahead on the Bottom's bridge
road three-fourths of a mile beyond Cold Harbor.

Cold Harbor was now mine, but I was about nine miles away from our
nearest infantry, and had been able to bring up only Davies's brigade
of cavalry, which arrived after the fight. My isolated position
therefore made me a little uneasy. I felt convinced that the enemy
would attempt to regain the place, for it was of as much importance
to him as to us, and the presence of his infantry disclosed that he
fully appreciated this. My uneasiness increased as the day grew
late, for I had learned from prisoners that the balance of Hoke's
division was en route to Cold Harbor, and Kershaw near at hand,
interposing between the Union left near Bethesda Church and my
position. In view of this state of affairs, I notified General Meade
that I had taken Cold Harbor, but could not with safety to my command
hold it, and forthwith gave directions to withdraw during the night.
The last of my troops had scarcely pulled out, however, when I
received a despatch from Meade directing me to hold Cold Harbor at
every hazard. General Grant had expected that a severe battle would
have to be fought before we could obtain possession of the place; and
its capture by our cavalry not being anticipated, no preparation had
been made for its permanent occupancy. No time was to be lost,
therefore, if the advantages which possession of Cold Harbor gave us
were to be improved, so at the same hour that Meade ordered me to
hold the place at all hazards the Sixth Corps was started on a forced
march, by Grant's directions, to aid in that object, and on arrival
to relieve my cavalry.

The moment Meade's order was received, I directed a reoccupation of
Cold Harbor, and although a large portion of Torbert's command was
already well on its way back to the line we held on the morning of
the 31st, this force speedily retraced its steps, and re-entered the
place before daylight; both our departure and return having been
effected without the enemy being aware of our movements. We now
found that the temporary breastworks of rails and logs which the
Confederates had built were of incalculable benefit to us in
furnishing material with which to establish a line of defense, they
being made available by simply reversing them at some points, or at
others wholly reconstructing them to suit the circumstances of the
ground: The troops, without reserves, were then placed behind our
cover dismounted, boxes of ammunition distributed along the line, and
the order passed along that the place must be held. All this was
done in the darkness, and while we were working away at our cover the
enemy could be distinctly heard from our skirmish-line giving
commands and making preparations to attack.

Just after daylight on the 1st of June the Confederate infantry under
General Kershaw endeavored to drive us out, advancing against my
right from the Bethesda Church road. In his assault he was permitted
to come close up to our works, and when within short range such afire
was opened on him from our horse-artillery and repeating carbines
that he recoiled in confusion after the first onset; still, he seemed
determined to get the place, and after reorganizing, again attacked;
but the lesson of the first repulse was not without effect, and his
feeble effort proved wholly fruitless. After his second failure we
were left undisturbed, and at 9 A.M. I sent the following despatch to
army headquarters:

"Cold Harbor, Va., June 1, 1864--9 A.M.


"GENERAL: In obedience to your instructions I am holding Cold Harbor.
I have captured this morning more prisoners; they belong to three
different infantry brigades. The enemy assaulted the right of my
lines this morning, but were handsomely repulsed. I have been very
apprehensive, but General Wright is now coming up. I built slight
works for my men; the enemy came up to them, and were driven back.
General Wright has just arrived.

"Major-General Commanding."

About 10 o'clock in the morning the Sixth Corps relieved Torbert and
Davies, having marched all night, and these two generals moving out
toward the Chickahominy covered the left of the infantry line till
Hancock's corps took their place in the afternoon. By this time
Gregg had joined me with his two brigades, and both Torbert and Gregg
were now marched to Prospect Church, from which point I moved them to
a position on the north side of the Chickahominy at Bottom's bridge.
Here the enemy's cavalry confronted us, occupying the south bank of
the stream, with artillery in position at the fords prepared to
dispute our passage; but it was not intended that we should cross; so
Gregg and Torbert lay quiet in camp at Bottom's bridge and at Old
Church without noteworthy event until the 6th of June.

As before related, Wilson's division struck the enemy's infantry as
well as W. H. F. Lee's cavalry near Ashland on the 1st of June, and
although Chapman destroyed the bridges over the South Anna, which was
his part of the programme, Wilson found it necessary to return to
Price's Store. From this point he continued to cover the right of
the Army of the Potomac, on the 2d of June driving the rear-guard of
the enemy from Hawe's Shop, the scene of the battle of May 28. The
same day he crossed Tolopotomy Creek, and passed around the enemy's
left flank so far that Lee thought his left was turned by a strong
force, and under cover of darkness withdrew from a menacing position
which he was holding in front of the Ninth Corps. This successful
manoeuvre completed, Wilson returned to Hawe's Shop, and on the 4th
went into camp at New Castle ferry, in anticipation of certain
operations of the Cavalry Corps, which were to take place while the
Army of the Potomac was crossing to the south side of the James.



By the 6th of June General Grant again determined to continue the
movement of the army by its left flank to the south bank of the James
River, his unsuccessful attack on the enemy's works near Cold Harbor
having demonstrated that Lee's position north of the Chickahominy
could not be carried by assault with results that would compensate
for the enormous loss of life which must follow; therefore a further
attempt to fight a decisive battle north of Richmond was abandoned.
In carrying the army to the James River the hazardous manoeuvres
would be hampered by many obstacles, such as the thick timber,
underbrush, and troublesome swamps to be met in crossing the
Chickahominy. Besides, Lee held an interior line, from which all the
direct roads to Richmond could be covered with his infantry, leaving
his cavalry free to confront our advance on the south bank of the
Chickahominy as far down as Jones's bridge, and thence around to
Charles City Court House. In view of these difficulties it became
necessary to draw off the bulk of the enemy's cavalry while the
movement to the James was in process of execution, and General Meade
determined to do this by requiring me to proceed with two divisions
as far as Charlottesville to destroy the railroad bridge over the
Rivanna River near that town, the railroad itself from the Rivanna to
Gordonsville, and, if practicable, from Gordonsville back toward
Hanover Junction also.

"June 5, 1864. 3.30 P. M.

"MAJOR-GENERAL SHERIDAN, Commanding Cavalry Corps.

"I am directed by the major-general commanding to furnish the
following instructions for your guidance in the execution of the duty
referred to in the order for movements and changes of position
to-night, a copy of which order accompanies this communication.

"With two divisions of your corps you will move on the morning of the
7th instant to Charlottesville and destroy the railroad bridge over
the Rivanna near that town; you will then thoroughly destroy the
railroad from that point to Gordonsville, and from Gordonsville
toward Hanover Junction, and to the latter point, if practicable.
The chief engineer, Major Duane, will furnish you a canvas
pontoon-train of eight boats. The chief quartermaster will supply you
with such tools, implements, and materials as you may require for the
destruction of the road. Upon the completion of this duty you will
rejoin this army.

"Major-General, Chief-of-Staff."

After Meade's instructions reached me they were somewhat modified by
General Grant, who on the same evening had received information that
General Hunter, commanding the troops in West Virginia, had reached
Staunton and engaged with advantage the Confederate commander,
General Jones, near that place. General Grant informed me orally
that he had directed Hunter to advance as far as Charlottesville,
that he expected me to unite with him there, and that the two
commands, after destroying the James River canal and the Virginia
Central road, were to join the Army of the Potomac in the manner
contemplated in my instructions from General Meade; and that in view
of what was anticipated, it would be well to break up as much of the
railroad as possible on my way westward. A copy of his letter to
Hunter comprised my written instructions. A junction with this
general was not contemplated when the expedition was first conceived,
but became an important though not the paramount object after the
reception of the later information. The diversion of the enemy's
cavalry from the south side of the Chickahominy was its main purpose,
for in the presence of such a force as Lee's contracted lines would
now permit him to concentrate behind the Chickahominy, the
difficulties of crossing that stream would be largely increased if he
also had at hand a strong body of horse, to gain the time necessary
for him to oppose the movement at the different crossings with masses
of his infantry.

The order calling for two divisions for the expedition, I decided to
take Gregg's and Torbert's, leaving Wilson's behind to continue with
the infantry in its march to the James and to receive instructions
directly from, the headquarters of the army. All my dismounted men
had been sent to the White House some days before, and they were
directed to report to Wilson as they could be provided with mounts.

"COLD HARBOR, VA., June 6, 1964.

"MAJOR-GENERAL D. HUNTER, Commanding Dept West Virginia.

"General Sheridan leaves here to-morrow morning with instructions to
proceed to Charlottesville, Va., and to commence there the
destruction of the Virginia Central railroad, destroying this way as
much as possible. The complete destruction of this road and of the
canal on James River is of great importance to us. According to the
instructions I sent to General Halleck for your guidance, you will
proceed to Lynchburg and commence there. It would be of great value
to us to get possession of Lynchburg for a single day. But that
point is of so much importance to the enemy, that in attempting to
get it such resistance may be met as to defeat your getting into the
road or canal at all. I see, in looking over the letter to General
Halleck on the subject of your instructions, that it rather indicates
that your route should be from Staunton via Charlottesville. If you
have so understood it, you will be doing just what I want. The
direction I would now give is, that if this letter reaches you in the
valley between Staunton and Lynchburg, you immediately turn east by
the most practicable road until you strike the Lynchburg branch of
the Virginia Central road. From there move eastward along the line
of the road, destroying it completely and thoroughly, until you join
General Sheridan. After the work laid out for General Sheridan and
yourself is thoroughly done, proceed to join the Army of the Potomac
by the route laid out in General Sheridan's instructions. If any
portion of your force, especially your cavalry, is needed back in
your department, you are authorized to send it back. If on receipt
of this you should be near to Lynchburg and deem it practicable to
reach that point, you will exercise your judgment about going there.
If you should be on the railroad between Charlottesville and
Lynchburg, it may be practicable to detach a cavalry force to destroy
the canal. Lose no opportunity to destroy the canal.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."

Owing to the hard service of the preceding month we had lost many
horses, so the number of dismounted men was large; and my strength
had also been much reduced by killed and wounded during the same
period of activity. The effective mounted force of my two divisions
was therefore much diminished, they mustering only about six thousand
officers and men when concentrated on June 6 at New Castle ferry.
Here they were provided with three days' rations, intended to last
five days, and with two days' grain for the horses. The rations and
forty rounds of ammunition per man were to be carried on the persons
of the troopers, the grain on the pommel of the saddle, and the
reserve ammunition in wagons. One medical wagon and eight ambulances
were also furnished, and one wagon was authorized for each division
and brigade headquarters; enough canvas-covered boats for a small
pontoon-bridge were also provided.

My instructions permitting latitude in the route I should take, I
decided to march along the north bank of the North Anna River, cross
that stream at Carpenter's ford, strike the Virginia Central railroad
at Trevillian Station, destroy it toward Louisa Court House, march
past Gordonsville, strike the railroad again at Cobham's Station, and
destroy it thence to Charlottesville as we proceeded west. The
success of the last part of this programme would of course depend on
the location of General Hunter when I should arrive in the region
where it would be practicable for us to communicate with each other.

From my camp at New Castle ferry we crossed the Pamunkey, marched
between Aylett's and Dunkirk on the Mattapony River, and on the 8th
of June encamped at Polecat Station. The next day we resumed the
march along the North Anna--our advance guard skirmishing with a few
mounted men of the enemy, who proved to be irregulars--and bivouacked
on Northeast Creek, near Young's Mills. This day I learned from some
of these irregulars whom we made prisoners that Breckenridge's
division of infantry, en route to the Shenandoah Valley by way of
Gordonsville, was passing slowly up the railroad parallel to me, and
that the enemy's cavalry had left its position on the south side of
the Chickahominy, and was marching on the old Richmond and
Gordonsville road toward Gordonsville, under command of General Wade
Hampton, the information being confirmed by a scouting party sent out
to cut the telegraph wires along the railroad in the night.
Breckenridge had been ordered back to the valley by General Lee as
soon as he heard of Hunter's victory near Staunton, but now that my
expedition had been discovered, the movement of Breckenridge's troops
on the railroad was being timed to correspond with the marches of my
command till Hampton could get more nearly parallel with me.

On the 10th we resumed the march, passing by Twyman's store, crossing
the North Anna at Carpenter's ford and encamping on the road leading
along the south fork of the North Anna to Trevillian Station. During
the evening and night of the Loth the boldness of the enemy's
scouting parties, with which we had been coming into collision more
or less every day, perceptibly increased, thus indicating the
presence of a large force, and evidencing that his shorter line of
march had enabled him to bring to my front a strong body of cavalry,
although it started from Lee's army nearly two days later than I did
from Grant's. The arrival of this body also permitted Breckenridge
to pass on to Gordonsville, and from there to interpose between
General Hunter and me at either Charlottesville or Waynesboro' as
circumstances might determine.

On the night of the Loth General Hampton's division camped about
three miles northwest of Trevillian, at a place called Green Spring
Valley and Fitzhugh Lee's division not far from Louisa Court House,
some six miles east of Trevillian. Learning that I was at
Carpenter's ford, Hampton marched his division by way of Trevillian
Station toward Clayton's store, on the road from Trevillian to
Carpenter's ford, intending to attack me at Clayton's. Fitzhugh
Lee's division was to join Hampton at Clayton's store from Louisa
Court House; but on the morning of the 11th the two generals were
separated by several miles.

At daylight of the 11th my march, to Trevillian Station was resumed
on the direct road to that point, and engaging the enemy's pickets
and advanced parties soon after setting out, we began to drive them
in. Torbert had the lead with Merritt's and Devin's brigades, and as
he pressed back the pickets he came upon the enemy posted behind a
line of barricades in dense timber about three miles from Trevillian.
Meanwhile Custer's brigade had been sent from where we bivouacked, by
a wood road found on our left, to destroy Trevillian Station. In
following this road Custer got to the rear of Hampton's division,
having passed between its right flank and Fitzhugh Lee's division,
which was at the time marching on the road leading from Louisa Court
House to Clayton's store to unite with Hampton.

Custer, the moment he found himself in Hampton's rear, charged the
led horses, wagons, and caissons found there, getting hold of a vast
number of each, and also of the station itself. The stampede and
havoc wrought by Custer in Hampton's rear compelled him to turn
Rosser's brigade in that direction, and while it attacked Custer on
one side, Fitzhugh Lee's division, which had followed Custer toward
Trevillian, attacked him on the other. There then ensued a desperate
struggle for the possession of the captured property, resulting
finally in its being retaken by the enemy. Indeed, the great number
of horses and vehicles could not be kept on the limited space within
Custer's line, which now formed almost a complete circle; and while
he was endeavoring to remove them to a secure place they, together
with Custer's headquarters wagon and four of his caissons, fell into
the hands of their original owners.

As soon as the firing told that Custer had struck the enemy's rear, I
directed Torbert to press the line in front of Merritt and Devin,
aided by one brigade of Gregg's division on their left, Gregg's other
brigade in the meantime attacking Fitzhugh Lee on the Louisa Court
House road. The effect of this was to force Hampton back, and his
division was so hard pushed that a portion of it was driven pell-mell
into Custer's lines, leaving there about five hundred prisoners. The
rest of Hampton's men did not rally till they got some distance west
of Trevillian, while, in the meantime, Gregg had driven Fitzhugh Lee
toward Louisa Court House so far that many miles now intervened
between the two Confederate divisions, precluding their union until
about noon the next day, when Fitzhugh Lee effected the junction
after a circuitous march in the night. The defeat of Hampton at the
point where he had determined to resist my further advance, and his
retreat westward, gave me undisturbed possession of the station; and
after destroying the railroad to some extent toward Gordonsville, I
went into camp.

From prisoners taken during the day, I gathered that General Hunter,
instead of coming toward Charlottesville, as I had reason to expect,
both from the instructions given me and the directions sent him by
General Grant, was in the neighborhood of Lexington--apparently
moving on Lynchburg--and that Breckenridge was at Gordonsville and
Charlottesville. I also heard, from the same source, that Ewell's
corps was on its way to Lynchburg, but this intelligence proved
afterward to be incorrect, for these troops, commanded by General
Early, did not leave Richmond till two days later.

There was no doubt as to the information about Hunter's general
location, however. He was marching toward Lynchburg, away from
instead of toward me, thus making the junction of our commands beyond
all reasonable probability. So in view of this, I made up my mind to
abandon that part of the scheme, and to return by leisurely marches,
which would keep Hampton's cavalry away from Lee while Grant was
crossing the James River. I was still further influenced to this
course by the burden which was thrown on me in the large number of
wounded--there being about five hundred cases of my own--and the five
hundred prisoners that I would probably be forced to abandon, should
I proceed farther. Besides, the recent battle had reduced my supply
of ammunition to a very small amount--not more than enough for one
more respectable engagement; and as the chances were that I would
have to fight a great deal before I could reach Hunter, now that the
enemy's cavalry and Breckenridge's infantry were between us, the
risks of the undertaking seemed too great to warrant it.

The morning of June 12 Gregg's division commenced destroying the
railroad to Louisa Court House, and continued the work during the
day, breaking it pretty effectually. While Gregg was thus occupied,
I directed Torbert to make a reconnoissance up the Gordonsville road,
to secure a by-road leading over Mallory's ford, on the North Anna,
to the Catharpen road, as I purposed following that route to
Spottsylvania Court House on my return, and thence via Bowling Green
and Dunkirk to the White House. About a mile beyond Trevillian the
Gordonsville road fork--the left fork leading to Charlottesville--and
about a mile beyond the fork Hampton had taken up and strongly
intrenched a line across both roads, being reinforced by Fitzhugh
Lee, who, as before related, had joined him about noon by a
roundabout march. Torbert soon hotly engaged this line, and by the
impetuosity of his first attack, gained some advantage; but the
appearance of Fitzhugh Lee's troops on the right, and Hampton's
strong resistance in front, rendered futile all efforts to carry the
position; and, although I brought up one of Gregg's brigades to
Torbert's assistance, yet the by-road I coveted was still held by the
enemy when night closed in.

This engagement, like that off the day before around Trevillian, was
mostly fought dismounted by both sides, as had also been the earlier
fights of the cavalry during the summer in the Wilderness, at Todd's
Tavern, Hawe's Shop, and Matadequin Creek. Indeed, they could hardly
have been fought otherwise than on foot, as there was little chance
for mounted fighting in eastern Virginia, the dense woods, the
armament of both parties, and the practice of barricading making it
impracticable to use the sabre with anything like a large force; and
so with the exception of Yellow Tavern the dismounted method
prevailed in almost every engagement.

The losses at Mallory's Crossroads were very heavy on both sides.
The character of the fighting, together with the day's results,
demonstrated that it was impossible to make the passage of the North
Anna at Mallory's ford without venturing another battle the next day.
This would consume the little ammunition left, and though we might
gain the road, yet the possibility of having no ammunition whatever
to get back with was too great a hazard, so I gave orders to withdraw
during the night of the 12th. We retired along the same road by
which we had come, taking with us the prisoners, and all of our
wounded who could be moved. Those who could not be transported, some
ninety in number, and all the Confederate wounded in my hands, were
left at Trevillian in hospitals, under charge of one of our surgeons,
with plenty of medical and other stores.

We recrossed the North Anna at Carpenter's ford the following
morning, and halting there, unsaddled and turned the horses out to
graze, for they were nearly famished, having had neither food nor
water during the preceding forty-eight hours. Late in the afternoon
we saddled up and proceeded to Twyman's Store, while General
Hampton's main body moved down the south bank of the North Anna, with
the purpose of intervening between me and the Army of the Potomac, in
the hope of preventing my return to it; but his movements took no
definite shape beyond watching me, however, till several days later,
near St. Mary's Church, when I was crossing the peninsula to the
James River.

On the 14th the march was continued, and we reached the Catharpen
road, upon which it was originally intended to move if we had been
able to cross at Mallory's ford, and this conducted me to Shady Grove
Church. The next day we passed over the battle-field of
Spottsylvania Court House. The marks of the recent conflicts about
there were visible on every hand, and in the neighboring houses were
found many Union and Confederate wounded, who had been too severely
hurt to be removed from the field-hospitals at the time of the
battles. Such of our wounded as were able to travel were brought

On the 16th I marched from Edge Hill on the Ta River through Bowling
Green to Dr. Butler's, on the north side of the Mattapony. When I
arrived here I was unable to ascertain the position of the Army of
the Potomac, and was uncertain whether or not the base at the White
House had been discontinued. I had heard nothing from the army for
nine days except rumors through Southern sources, and under these
circumstances did not like to venture between the Mattapony and
Pamunkey rivers, embarrassed as I was with some four hundred wounded,
five hundred prisoners, and about two thousand negroes that had
joined my column in the hope of obtaining their freedom. I therefore
determined to push down the north bank of the Mattapony far enough to
enable me to send these impediments directly to West Point, where I
anticipated finding some of our gunboats and transports, that could
carry all to the North. Following this plan, we proceeded through
Walkerton to King and Queen Court House, and bivouacked in its
vicinity the night of the 18th. Next day I learned that the depot at
the White House had not yet been broken up entirely, and that
supplies were in store for me there; so after sending the wounded,
prisoners, and negroes to West Point under an escort of two
regiments, I turned back to Dunkirk, on the Mattapony, and crossed to
the south side at a place where the stream was narrow enough to
bridge with my pontoon-boats.

In returning from Trevillian, as the most of our wounded were hauled
in old buggies, carts, and such other vehicles as could be made
available in the absence of a sufficient number of ambulances, the
suffering was intense, the heat of the season and dusty roads adding
much to the discomfort. Each day we halted many times to dress the
wounds of the injured and to refresh them as much as possible, but
our means for mitigating their distress were limited. The fortitude
and cheerfulness of the poor fellows under such conditions were
remarkable, for no word of complaint was heard. The Confederate
prisoners and colored people being on foot, our marches were
necessarily made short, and with frequent halts also, but they too
suffered considerably from the heat and dust, though at times the
prisoners were relieved by being mounted on the horses of some of our
regiments, the owners meantime marching on foot. Where all the
colored people came from and what started them was inexplicable, but
they began joining us just before we reached Trevillian--men, women,
and children with bundles of all sorts containing their few worldly
goods, and the number increased from day to day until they arrived at
West Point. Probably not one of the poor things had the remotest
idea, when he set out, as to where he would finally land, but to a
man they followed the Yankees in full faith that they would lead to
freedom, no matter what road they took.

On the morning of the 20th, at an early hour, we resumed our march,
and as the column proceeded sounds of artillery were heard in the
direction of the White House, which fact caused us to quicken the
pace. We had not gone far when despatches from General Abercrombie,
commanding some fragmentary organizations at the White House,
notified me that the place was about to be attacked. I had
previously sent an advance party with orders to move swiftly toward
the cannonading and report to me by couriers the actual condition of
affairs. From this party I soon learned that there was no occasion
to push our jaded animals, since the crisis, if there had been one,
was over and the enemy repulsed, so the increased gait was reduced to
a leisurely march that took us late in the afternoon to the north
bank of the Pamunkey, opposite Abercrombie's camp. When I got to the
river the enemy was holding the bluffs surrounding the White House
farm, having made no effort to penetrate General Abercrombie's line
or do him other hurt than to throw a few shells among the teamsters
there congregated.

Next day Gregg's division crossed the Pamunkey dismounted, and
Torbert's crossed mounted. As soon as the troops were over, Gregg,
supported by Merritt's brigade, moved out on the road to Tunstall's
Station to attack Hampton, posted an the west side of Black Creek,
Custer's brigade meanwhile moving, mounted, on the road to
Cumberland, and Devin's in like manner on the one to Baltimore
crossroads. This offer of battle was not accepted, however, and
Hampton withdrew from my front, retiring behind the Chickahominy,
where his communications with Lee would be more secure.

While at the White House I received orders to break up that depot
wholly, and also instructions to move the trains which the Army of
the Potomac had left there across the peninsula to the pontoon-bridge
at Deep Bottom on the James River. These trains amounted to hundreds
of wagons and other vehicles, and knowing full well the dangers which
would attend the difficult problem of getting them over to
Petersburg, I decided to start them with as little delay as
circumstances would permit, and the morning of the 22d sent Torbert's
division ahead to secure Jones's bridge on the Chickahominy, so that
the wagons could be crossed at that point. The trains followed
Torbert, while Gregg's division marched by a road parallel to the one
on which the wagons were moving, and on their right flank, as they
needed to be covered and protected in that direction only.

The enemy made no effort to attack us while we were moving the trains
that day, and the wagons were all safely parked for the night on the
south side of the Chickahominy, guarded by General Getty, who had
relieved Abercrombie from command of the infantry fragments before we
started off from the White House.

To secure the crossing at Jones's bridge, Torbert had pushed Devin's
brigade out on the Long Bridge road, on the side of the Chickahominy
where, on the morning of the 23d, he was attacked by Chambliss's
brigade of W. H. F. Lee's division. Devin was driven in some little
distance, but being reinforced by Getty with six companies of colored
troops, he quickly turned the tables on Chambliss and re-established
his picket-posts. From this affair I learned that Chambliss's brigade
was the advance of the Confederate cavalry corps, while Hampton
discovered from it that we were already in possession of the Jones's
bridge crossing of the Chickahominy; and as he was too late to
challenge our passage of the stream at this point he contented
himself with taking up a position that night so as to cover the roads
leading from Long Bridge to Westover, with the purpose of preventing
the trains from following the river road to the pontoon-bridge at
Deep Bottom.

My instructions required me to cross the trains over the James River
on this pontoon-bridge if practicable, and to reach it I should be
obliged to march through Charles City Court House, and then by
Harrison's Landing and Malvern Hill, the latter point being held by
the enemy. In fact, he held all the ground between Long Bridge on
the Chickahominy and the pontoon-bridge except the Tete de pont at
the crossing. Notwithstanding this I concluded to make the attempt,
for all the delays of ferrying the command and trains would be
avoided if we got through to the bridge; and with this object in view
I moved Torbert's division out on the Charles City road to conduct
the wagons. Just beyond Charles City Court House Torbert encountered
Lomax's brigade, which he drove across Herring Creek on the road to
Westover Church; and reporting the affair to me, I surmised, from the
presence of this force in my front, that Hampton would endeavor to
penetrate to the long column of wagons, so I ordered them to go into
park near Wilcox's landing, and instructed Gregg, whose division had
been marching in the morning along the road leading from Jones's
bridge to St. Mary's Church for the purpose of covering the exposed
flank of the train, to hold fast near the church without fail till
all the transportation had passed Charles City Court House.

Meanwhile, General Hampton, who had conjectured that I would try to
get the train across the James by the pontoon-bridge at Deep Bottom,
began concentrating all his troops except Lomax's brigade, which was
to confront the head of my column on the river road, in the vicinity
of Nance's Shop. This was discovered by Gregg at an early hour, and
divining this purpose he had prepared to meet it by constructing
hasty cover for his men before receiving my instructions. About 4
o'clock in the afternoon Hampton got his force in hand, and with
Fitzhugh Lee's division assailed the whole front of Gregg's line, and
his left flank with Chambliss's and Geary's brigades. For two hours
he continued to attack, but made little impression on Gregg--gain at
one point being counterbalanced by failure at another. Because of
the evident strength of Hampton, Gregg had placed all his troops in
line of battle from the first, and on discovery of the enemy's
superior numbers sent message after message to me concerning the
situation, but the messengers never arrived, being either killed or
captured, and I remained in total ignorance till dark of the strait
his division was in.

Toward night it became clear to Gregg that he could maintain the
unequal contest no longer, and he then decided to retreat, but not
until convinced that the time won had enabled all the trains to pass
Charles City Court House in safety. When he had got all his led
horses fairly on the way, and such of the wounded as could be
transported, he retired by his right flank-in some confusion, it is
true, but stubbornly resisting to Hopewell Church, where Hampton
ceased to press him.

Gregg's losses were heavy, and he was forced to abandon his dead and
most seriously wounded, but the creditable stand made ensured the
safety of the train, the last wagon of which was now parked at
Wilcox's Landing. His steady, unflinching determination to gain time
for the wagons to get beyond the point of danger was characteristic
of the man, and this was the third occasion on which he had exhibited
a high order of capacity and sound judgment since coming under my
command. The firmness and coolness with which he always met the
responsibilities of a dangerous place were particularly strong points
in Gregg's make-up, and he possessed so much professional though
unpretentious ability, that it is to be regretted he felt obliged a
few months later to quit the service before the close of the war.

Gregg's fight fully satisfied me that we could not get the trains up
to the pontoon-bridge, for of course Hampton would now throw all his
cavalry in my front, on the river road, where it could be backed up
by Lee's infantry. Meanwhile, General Meade had become assured of
the same thing, and as he was now growing anxious about the fate of
Wilson's division--which, during my absence, had been sent out to
break the enemy's communications south of Petersburg, by destroying
the Southside and Danville railroads--he sent ferryboats to cross me
over the James. During the night of the 24th, and next morning, the
immense train--which ought never to have been left for the cavalry to
escort, after a fatiguing expedition of three weeks--was moved back
through Charles City Court House to Douthard's landing, and there
ferried over the river, followed by my troops in like manner. When
General Hampton discovered this, he moved to Drury's Bluff, and
there, on the morning of the 27th, crossed the James by the
Confederate pontoon-bridge.



While I was absent on the expedition to Trevillian, the movement of
the Army of the Potomac across the James River was effected, and
Wilson, whom I had left behind for the purpose, was engaged in the
duty of covering its front and rear. Late on the night of June 12
he, with Chapman's brigade, crossed the Chickahominy at Long Bridge,
in advance of the Fifth Corps, and by 7 o'clock next morning had
driven the enemy's pickets up to White Oak bridge, where he waited
for our infantry. When that came up, he pushed on as far as Riddle's
Shop, but late that evening the Confederate infantry forced him to
withdraw to St. Mary's Church; for early in the morning General Lee
had discovered the movement of our army, and promptly threw this
column of infantry south of the Chickahominy to White Oak Swamp, with
the design of covering Richmond. From St. Mary's Church Wilson
guarded all the roads toward White Oak Swamp and Riddle's Shop,
McIntosh's brigade joining him on the 14th, by way of Long Bridge, as
the rear of the Army of the Potomac passed the Chickahominy. In the
performance of this duty Wilson did not have to fight any engagement
of magnitude, for the bulk of the enemy's cavalry had followed me to
Trevillian. During the 15th and 16th Wilson drew his troops in
toward the James River, and next day crossed it on the pontoon-bridge
and camped on the Blackwater, near Mt. Sinai Church. Here he
remained till the 22d of June--the same day I reached the White House
with Gregg and Torbert--when, under orders from General Meade, he set
out to cut the enemy's communications to the south and southwest of

His instructions implied that the breaking up of the Petersburg and
Lynchburg, and Richmond and Danville railroads at Burkeville was the
most important part of his mission, and that when the work of
destruction began, it should be continued till he was driven off by
the enemy. Wilson's force consisted of about 5,500 men, General A.
V. Kautz, with the cavalry of the Army of the James, having joined
him for the expedition. In moving out Wilson crossed the Weldon road
near Ream's Station, first destroying it effectually at that point.
About fourteen miles west of Petersburg he struck the Southside
railroad, and broke it up clear to Burkeville, a distance of thirty
miles. Having destroyed everything at Burkeville Junction, he moved
along the Danville road to Staunton River, completely wrecking about
thirty miles of that line also. At Staunton River he found the
railroad bridge strongly guarded, and seeing that he could not burn
it, he began his return march that night, and reached Nottoway River,
some thirty miles south of Petersburg, at noon of the next day--the

In this expedition Wilson was closely followed from the start by
Barringer's brigade of W. H. F. Lee's cavalry, but the operations
were not interfered with materially, his success being signal till he
reached the vicinity of Stony Creek depot on his return. At this
point General Hampton, with his own and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry, got
between Wilson and the Army of the Potomac, there being behind them
at Ream's Station, at the same time, two brigades of infantry under
General Mahone. A severe battle ensued, resulting in Wilson's
defeat, with the loss of twelve guns and all his wagons. In
consequence of this discomfiture he was obliged to fall back across
the Nottoway River with his own division, and rejoined the army by
way of Peter's bridge on that stream, while Kautz's division, unable
to unite with Wilson after the two commands had become separated in
the fight, made a circuit of the enemy's left, and reached the lines
of our army in the night of the 28th.

Neither the presence of Hampton's cavalry at Stony Creek depot, nor
the possession of Ream's Station by the Confederate infantry, seems
to have been anticipated by Wilson, for in the report of the
expedition he states:

"Foreseeing the probability of having to return northward, I wrote to
General Meade the evening before starting that I anticipated no
serious difficulty in executing his orders; but unless General
Sheridan was required to keep Hampton's cavalry engaged, and our
infantry to prevent Lee from making detachments, we should probably
experience great difficulty in rejoining the army. In reply to this
note, General Humphreys, chief-of-staff, informed me it was intended
the Army of the Potomac should cover the Weldon road the next day,
the Southside road the day after, and that Hampton having followed
Sheridan toward Gordonsville, I need not fear any trouble from him."

I doubt that General Meade's letter of instructions and Wilson's note
of the same evening, warrant what General Wilson here says. It is
true that the Weldon railroad near Ream's Station was not covered by
our infantry, as General Humphreys informed him it would be, but
Wilson is in error when he intimates that he was assured that I would
look after Hampton. I do not think General Meade's instructions are
susceptible of this interpretation. I received no orders requiring
me to detain Hampton. On the contrary, when I arrived at the White
House my instructions required me to break up the depot there, and
then bring the train across the Peninsula as soon as practicable, nor
were these instructions ever modified. I began the duty imposed on
me on the morning of the 23d, totally in the dark as to what was
expected of Wilson, though it seems, from some correspondence between
Generals Grant and Meade, which I never saw till after the war, that
Grant thought Wilson could rely on Hampton's absence from his field
of operations throughout the expedition.

"June 21, 1864. 9:20 A. M.

"Commanding Third Division Cavalry Corps.

"The major-general commanding directs that you move your command at
2 A. M. to-morrow, the 22d instant, in execution of the duty assigned
you of destroying certain railroads. Despatches received from the
White House state that Hampton's cavalry was before that place
yesterday evening, and that General Sheridan had also reached there,
hence it is desirable that you should march at the earliest moment.
In passing Petersburg you will endeavor to avoid the observation of
the enemy, and then move by the shortest routes to the intersection
of the Petersburg and Lynchburg, and the Richmond and Danville
railroads, and destroy both these roads to the greatest extent
possible, continuing their destruction until driven from it by such
attacks of the enemy as you can no longer resist. The destruction of
those roads to such an extent that they cannot be used by the enemy
in connection with Richmond during the remainder of the campaign is
an important part of the plan of campaign. The latest information
from Major-General Hunter represents him to be a few miles west of
Lynchburg. He may endeavor to form a junction with this army; you
will communicate with him if practicable, and have delivered to him
verbally the contents of the following copy of a communication from
Lieutenant-General Grant to the major-general commanding this army.
Lieutenant Brooks, who will accompany your expedition part of the
way, should be informed where General Hunter will probably be found.

"The success of your expedition will depend upon the secrecy with
which it is commenced, and the celerity with which its movements are
conducted; your command will, therefore, have with it the lightest
supplies and smallest number of wheels consistent with the thorough
execution of the duty, the supplies of the section of country you
will operate in being taken into account. Upon the completion of the
work assigned you, you will rejoin this army.

"The chief quartermaster was directed yesterday to supply you with
the implements and material for the destruction of railroads obtained
for General Sheridan.

"[Signed] "A. A. HUMPHREYS,
"Major-General, Chief-of-Staff."

Mount Sinai Church, June 21, 1864--6 P.M.

"The instructions of the major-general commanding, of this date, are
received. I shall march in obedience thereto at 2 A. M. to-morrow.
Before starting I would like to know if our infantry forces cover the
Weldon road.

"I propose striking the Southside road first at Sutherland Station,
or some point in that vicinity, tearing up the track sufficiently to
delay railroad communication ten or twelve hours. At this place I
shall detach a force to strike the Richmond and Danville road, by a
rapid march, at the nearest point, tearing up the track at every
practicable point between there and Burkeville.

"From Sutherlands I shall move the main body of my command by the
Great road (breaking the railroad at every convenient point) directly
to Burkeville, which, if we succeed in capturing, will afford us the
opportunity of prosecuting our work with great advantage. As soon as
I have made dispositions for communicating with Hunter and done all
the damage possible, I shall move with all possible rapidity for
Danville and Grenboro'.

"Circumstances must, however, is a great degree control our movements
after leaving Burkeville.

"If Sheridan will look after Hampton, I apprehend no difficulty, and
hope to be able to do the enemy great damage. The ammunition issued
to my command is very defective. The implements for destroying roads
have not yet arrived, but I learn from General Ingalls that they will
certainly be here early to-morrow.

"[Signed] J. H. WILSON,
"Brigadier-General Commanding."

The moment I received orders from General Meade to go to the relief
of Wilson, I hastened with Torbert and Gregg by way of Prince George
Court House and Lee's Mills to Ream's Station. Here I found the
Sixth Corps, which Meade had pushed out on his left flank immediately
on hearing of Wilson's mishap, but I was too late to render any
material assistance, Wilson having already disappeared, followed by
the enemy. However, I at once sent out parties to gather
information, and soon learned that Wilson had got safe across the
Nottoway at Peter's bridge and was making for the army by way of
Blunt's bridge, on the Blackwater.

The benefits derived from this expedition, in the destruction of the
Southside and Danville railroads, were considered by General Grant as
equivalent for the losses sustained in Wilson's defeat, for the
wrecking of the railroads and cars was most complete, occasioning at
this, time serious embarrassment to the Confederate Government; but I
doubt if all this compensated for the artillery and prisoners that
fell into the hands of the enemy in the swamps of Hatcher's Run and
Rowanty Creek. Wilson's retreat from the perilous situation at
Ream's station was a most creditable performance--in the face of two
brigades of infantry and three divisions of cavalry--and in the
conduct of the whole expedition the only criticism that can hold
against him is that he placed too much reliance on meeting our
infantry at Ream's station, seeing that uncontrollable circumstances
might, and did, prevent its being there. He ought to have marched on
the 28th by Jarrett's Station to Peter's bridge, on the Nottoway, and
Blunts bridge on the Blackwater, to the rear of the Army of the

When the safety of Wilson's command was assured, I was ordered back
to Light House Point, where I had gone into camp after crossing the
James River to rest and recruit my command, now very much reduced in
numbers by reason of casualties to both horses and men. It had been
marching and fighting for fifty consecutive days, and the fatiguing
service had told so fearfully on my animals that the number of
dismounted men in the corps was very large. With the exception of
about four hundred horses that I received at the White House, no
animals were furnished to supply the deficiencies which had arisen
from the wearing marches of the past two months until I got to this
camp at Light House Point; here my needs were so obvious that they
could no longer be neglected.

I remained at Light House Point from the 2d to the 26th of July,
recuperating the cavalry, the intensely warm weather necessitating
almost an entire suspension of hostilities on the part of the Army of
the Potomac. Meanwhile fifteen hundred horses were sent me here, and
these, with the four hundred already mentioned, were all that my
troops received while I held the personal command of the Cavalry
Corps, from April 6 to August 1, 1864. This was not near enough to
mount the whole command, so I disposed the men who could not be
supplied in a dismounted camp.

By the 26th of July our strength was pretty well restored, and as
General Grant was now contemplating offensive operations for the
purpose of keeping Lee's army occupied around Richmond, and also of
carrying Petersburg by assault if possible, I was directed to move to
the north side of the James River in conjunction with General
Hancock's corps, and, if opportunity offered, to make a second
expedition against the Virginia Central railroad, and again destroy
the bridges on the North Anna, the Little and the South Anna rivers.

I started out on the afternoon of the 26th and crossed the Appomattox
at Broadway landing. At Deep Bottom I was joined by Kautz's small
division from the Army of the James, and here massed the whole
command, to allow Hancock's corps to take the lead, it crossing to
the north bank of the James River by the bridge below the mouth of
Bailey's Creek. I moved late in the afternoon, so as not to come
within the enemy's view before dark, and after night-fall Hancock's
corps passed me and began crossing the pontoon-bridge about 2 o'clock
in the morning.

By daylight Hancock was across, the cavalry following. Soon a
portion of his corps attacked the enemy's works on the east side of
Bailey's Creek, and, aided by the cavalry moving on its right,
captured four pieces of artillery. This opened the way for Hancock
to push out his whole corps, and as he advanced by a wheel, with his
left as a pivot, the cavalry joined in the movement, pressing forward
on the New Market and Central or Charles City roads.

We did not go far before we found the enemy's infantry posted across
these two roads behind a strong line of intrenchments on the west
bank of Bailey's Creek. His videttes in front of Ruffin's house on
the New Market road were soon driven in on their main line, and the
high ground before the house was immediately occupied by Torbert and
Gregg, supported by Kautz's division. By the time the cavalry line
was formed the Confederate General Kershaw, with his own division of
infantry and those of Wilcox and Heath, advanced to attack us.
Directing the most of his troops against the cavalry, which was still
mounted, Kershaw drove it back some distance over the high ground.
When it reached the eastern face of the ridge, however, it was
quickly dismounted, and the men directed to lie down in line of
battle about fifteen yards from the crest, and here the onset of the
enemy was awaited. When Kershaw's men reached the crest such a
severe fire was opened on them, and at such close quarters, that they
could not withstand it, and gave way in disorder. They were followed
across the plain by the cavalry, and lost about two hundred and fifty
prisoners and two battle-flags. The counter attack against the
infantry by Torbert and Gregg re-established our line and gave us the
victory of Darbytown, but it also demonstrated the fact that General
Lee had anticipated the movement around his left flank by
transferring to the north side of the James a large portion of his
infantry and W. H. F. Lee's division of cavalry.

This development rendered useless any further effort on Hancock's
part or mine to carry out the plan of the expedition, for General
Grant did not intend Hancock to assault the enemy's works unless
there should be found in them but a very thin line of infantry which
could be surprised. In such event, Hancock was to operate so that
the cavalry might turn the Confederates on the Central or Charles
City road, but the continually increasing force of the enemy showed
this to be impracticable. The long front presented by Hancock's
corps and the cavalry deceived General Lee, and he undoubtedly
thought that nearly all of Grant's army had been moved to the north
side of the James River; and to meet the danger he transferred the
most of his own strength to the same side to confront his adversary,
thinning the lines around Petersburg to reinforce those opposing us
on the Central and New Market roads. This was what Grant hoped Lee
would do in case the operations of Hancock and myself became
impracticable, for Grant had an alternative plan for carrying
Petersburg by assault in conjunction with the explosion of a mine
that had been driven under the enemy's works from the front of
Burnside's corps.

Now that there was no longer a chance for the cavalry to turn the
enemy's left, our attention was directed to keeping up the deception
of Lee, and on the afternoon of the 28th Hancock's corps withdrew to
a line nearer the head of the bridge, the cavalry drawing back to a
position on his right. From now on, all sorts of devices and
stratagems were practiced--anything that would tend to make the
Confederates believe we were being reinforced, while Hancock was
preparing for a rapid return to Petersburg at the proper time. In
order to delude the enemy still more after night-fall of the 28th I
sent one of my divisions to the south side of the James, first
covering the bridgeway with refuse hay to keep the tramp of the horses
from being heard. After daylight the next morning, I marched this
division back again on foot, in full view of the enemy, to create the
impression of a continuous movement large bodies of infantry to the
north side, while the same time Kautz was made to skirmish with the
enemy on our extreme right. These various artifices had the effect
intended, for by the evening of the 29th Lee had transferred all his
infantry to the north bank of the James, except three divisions, and
all his cavalry save one.

The morning of the 30th had been fixed upon to explode the mine and
assault the enemy's works, so after dark on the evening of the 29th
Hancock hastily but quietly withdrew his corps to the south side to
take part in the engagement which was to succeed the explosion, and I
was directed to follow Hancock. This left me on the north side of
the river confronting two-thirds of Lee's army in a perilous
position, where I could easily be driven into Curl's Neck and my
whole command annihilated. The situation, therefore, was not a
pleasant one to contemplate, but it could not be avoided. Luckily
the enemy did not see fit to attack, and my anxiety was greatly
relieved by getting the whole command safely across the bridge
shortly after daylight, having drawn in the different brigades
successively from my right. By 10 o'clock on the morning of the 3oth
my leading division was well over toward the left of our army in
front of Petersburg, marching with the purpose to get around the
enemy's right flank during the operations that were to succeed the
mine explosion, but when I reached General Meade's headquarters I
found that lamentable failure had attended the assault made when the
enemy's works were blown up in the morning. Blunder after blunder
had rendered the assault abortive, and all the opportunities opened
by our expedition to the north side were irretrievably lost, so
General Meade at once arrested the movement of the cavalry.

In the expedition to Deep Bottom I was under the command of
Major-General Hancock, who, by seniority, was to control my corps as
well as his own until the way was opened for me to get out on the
Virginia Central railroad. If this opportunity was gained, I was to
cut loose and damage Lee's communications with the Shenandoah Valley
in such manner as best suited the conditions, but my return was not to
be jeopardized nor long delayed. This necessitated that Hancock's
line should extend to Bottom's bridge on the Chickahominy. The
enemy's early discovery of the movement and his concentration of
troops on the north side prevented Hancock from accomplishing the
programme laid out for him. Its impracticability was demonstrated
early on the 27th, and Hancock's soldierly instincts told him this the
moment he unexpectedly discovered Kershaw blocking the New Market and
Charles City roads. To Hancock the temptation to assault Kershaw's
position was strong indeed, but if he carried it there would still
remain the dubious problem of holding the line necessary for my safe
return, so with rare judgment he desisted zealously turning to the
alternative proposition--the assault on Petersburg--for more
significant results. This was the only occasion during the war in
which I was associated with Hancock in campaign. Up till then we had
seldom met, and that was the first opportunity I had to observe his
quick apprehension, his physical courage, and the soldierly
personality which had long before established his high reputation.

On the 1st of August, two days after the mine explosion, I was.
relieved from the personal command of the Cavalry Corps, and ordered
to the Shenandoah Valley, where at a later date Torbert's and
Wilson's divisions joined me. Practically, after I went to the
valley, my command of the Cavalry Corps became supervisory merely.
During the period of my immediate control of the corps, I tried to
carry into effect, as far as possible, the views I had advanced
before and during the opening of the Wilderness campaign, i.e., "that
our cavalry ought to fight the enemy's cavalry, and our infantry the
enemy's infantry"; for there was great danger of breaking the spirit
of the corps if it was to be pitted against the enemy's compact
masses of foot-troops posted behind intrenchments, and unless there
was some adequate tactical or strategical advantage to be gained,
such a use of it would not be justified. Immediately succeeding the
battles of the Wilderness, opportunity offered to put this plan into
execution to some extent, and from that time forward--from the battle
of Yellow Tavern--our success was almost continuous, resulting
finally, before the close of the war, in the nearly total
annihilation of the enemy's cavalry.

The constant activity of the corps from May 5 till August 1 gave
little opportunity for the various division and brigade commanders to
record its work in detail; so there exists but meagre accounts of the
numerous skirmishes and graver conflicts in which, in addition to the
fights mentioned in this narrative, it engaged. A detailed history
of its performances is not within the province of a work of this
nature; but in review, it can be said, without trespassing on the
reader's time, that the Cavalry Corps led the advance of the Army of
the Potomac into the Wilderness in the memorable campaign of 1864;
that on the expedition by way of Richmond to Haxall's it marked out
the army's line of march to the North Anna; that it again led the
advance to the Tolopotomy, and also to Cold Harbor, holding that
important strategic point at great hazard; and that by the Trevillian
expedition it drew away the enemy's cavalry from the south side of
the Chickahominy, and thereby assisted General Grant materially in
successfully marching to the James River and Petersburg.
Subsequently, Wilson made his march to Staunton bridge, destroying
railroads and supplies of inestimable value, and though this was
neutralized by his disaster near Ream's Station, the temporary
set-back there to one division was soon redeemed by victory over
the Confederate infantry at the battle of Darbytown.

In the campaign we were almost always on the march, night and day,
often unable to care properly for our wounded, and obliged to bury
our dead where they fell; and innumerable combats attest the part the
cavalry played in Grant's march from the Rapidan to Petersburg. In
nearly all of these our casualties were heavy, particularly so when,
as was often the case, we had to engage the Confederate infantry; but
the enemy returned such a full equivalent in dead and wounded in
every instance, that finally his mounted power, which from the
beginning of the war had been nurtured with a wise appreciation of
its value, was utterly broken.



When the attempt to take Petersburg in conjunction with the mine
explosion resulted in such a dismal failure, all the operations
contemplated in connection with that project came to a standstill,
and there was every prospect that the intensely hot and sultry
weather would prevent further activity in the Army of the Potomac
till a more propitious season. Just now, however, the conditions
existing in the Shenandoah Valley and along the upper Potomac
demanded the special attention of General Grant, for, notwithstanding
the successful march that Major-General David Hunter had made toward
Lynchburg early in the summer, what he had first gained was
subsequently lost by strategical mistakes, that culminated in
disaster during the retreat he was obliged to make from the vicinity
of Lynchburg to the Kanawha Valley. This route of march uncovered
the lower portion of the Valley of the Shenandoah, and with the
exception of a small force of Union troops under General Franz Sigel
posted aft Martinsburg for the purpose of covering the Baltimore and
Ohio railroad, there was nothing at hand to defend the lower valley.

The different bodies of Confederates which compelled Hunter's retreat
were under command of General Jubal A. Early, who had been sent to
Lynchburg with Ewell's corps after the defeat of the Confederate
General W. C. Jones near Staunton on the 5th of June, to take command
of the Valley District. When Early had forced Hunter into the
Kanawha region far enough to feel assured that Lynchburg could not
again be threatened from that direction, he united to his own corps
General John C. Breckenridge's infantry division and the cavalry of
Generals J. H. Vaughn, John McCausland. B. T. Johnson, and J. D.
Imboden, which heretofore had been operating in southwest and western
Virginia under General Robert Ransom, Jr., and with the column thus
formed, was ready to turn his attention to the lower Shenandoah
Valley. At Early's suggestion General Lee authorized him to move
north at an opportune moment, cross the upper Potomac into Maryland
and threaten Washington. Indeed, General Lee had foreshadowed such a
course when Early started toward Lynchburg for the purpose of
relieving the pressure in front of Petersburg, but was in some doubt
as to the practicability of the movement later, till persuaded to it
by the representations of Early after that general had driven Hunter
beyond the mountains and found little or nothing opposing except the
small force of Sigel, which he thought he could readily overcome by
celerity of movement.

By rapid marching Early reached Winchester on the 2d of July, and on
the 4th occupied Martinsburg, driving General Sigel out of that place
the same day that Hunter's troops, after their fatiguing retreat
through the mountains, reached Charlestown, West Virginia. Early was
thus enabled to cross the Potomac without difficulty, when, moving
around Harper's Ferry, through the gaps of the South Mountain, he
found his path unobstructed till he reached the Monocacy, where
Ricketts's division of the Sixth Corps, and some raw troops that had
been collected by General Lew Wallace, met and held the Confederates
till the other reinforcements that had been ordered to the capital
from Petersburg could be brought up. Wallace contested the line of
the Monocacy with obstinacy, but had to retire finally toward
Baltimore. The road was then open to Washington, and Early marched
to the outskirts and began against the capital the demonstrations
which were designed to divert the Army of the Potomac from its main
purpose in front of Petersburg.

Early's audacity in thus threatening Washington had caused some
concern to the officials in the city, but as the movement was looked
upon by General Grant as a mere foray which could have no decisive
issue, the Administration was not much disturbed till the
Confederates came in close proximity. Then was repeated the alarm
and consternation of two years before, fears for the safety of the
capital being magnified by the confusion and discord existing among
the different generals in Washington and Baltimore; and the imaginary
dangers vanished only with the appearance of General Wright, who,
with the Sixth Corps and one division of the Nineteenth Corps, pushed
out to attack Early as soon as he could get his arriving troops in
hand, but under circumstances that precluded celerity of movement;
and as a consequence the Confederates escaped with little injury,
retiring across the Potomac to Leesburg, unharassed save by some
Union cavalry that had been sent out into Loudoun County by Hunter,
who in the meantime had arrived at Harper's Ferry by the Baltimore
and Ohio railroad. From Leesburg Early retired through Winchester
toward Strasburg, but when the head of his column reached this place
he found that he was being followed by General Crook with the
combined troops of Hunter and Sigel only, Wright having returned to
Washington under orders to rejoin Meade at Petersburg. This
reduction of the pursuing force tempting Early to resume the
offensive, he attacked Crook at Kernstown, and succeeded in
administering such a check as to necessitate this general's retreat
to Martinsburg, and finally to Harper's Ferry. Crook's withdrawal
restored to Early the line of the upper Potomac, so, recrossing this
stream, he advanced again into Maryland, and sending McCausland on to
Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, laid that town in ashes, leaving three
thousand non-combatants without shelter or food.

When Early fell back from the vicinity of Washington toward
Strasburg, General Grant believed that he would rejoin Lee, but later
manoeuvres of the enemy indicated that Early had given up this idea,
if he ever, entertained it, and intended to remain in the valley,
since it would furnish Lee and himself with subsistence, and also
afford renewed opportunities for threatening Washington. Indeed, the
possession of the Valley of the Shenandoah at this time was of vast
importance to Lee's army, and on every hand there were indications
that the Confederate Government wished to hold it at least until
after the crops could be gathered in to their depots at Lynchburg and
Richmond. Its retention, besides being of great advantage in the
matter of supplies, would also be a menace to the North difficult for
General Grant to explain, and thereby add an element of considerable
benefit to the Confederate cause; so when Early's troops again
appeared at Martinsburg it was necessary for General Grant to
confront them with a force strong enough to put an end to incursions
north of the Potomac, which hitherto had always led to National
discomfiture at some critical juncture, by turning our army in
eastern Virginia from its chief purpose--the destruction of Lee and
the capture of the Confederate capital.

This second irruption of Early, and his ruthless destruction of
Chambersburg led to many recommendations on the part of General Grant
looking to a speedy elimination of the confusion then existing among
the Union forces along the upper Potomac, but for a time the
authorities at Washington would approve none of his propositions.
The President and Secretary Stanton seemed unwilling to adopt his
suggestions, and one measure which he deemed very important--the
consolidation into a single command of the four geographical
districts into which, to relieve political pressure no doubt, the
territory had been divided--met with serious opposition. Despite
Grant's representations, he could not prevail on the Administration
to approve this measure, but finally the manoeuvres of Early and the
raid to Chambersburg compelled a partial compliance, though Grant had
somewhat circumvented the difficulty already by deciding to appoint a
commander for the forces in the field that were to operate against

On the 31st of July General Grant selected me as this commander, and
in obedience to his telegraphic summons I repaired to his
headquarters at City Point. In the interview that followed, he
detailed to me the situation of affairs on the upper Potomac, telling
me that I was to command in the field the troops that were to operate
against Early, but that General Hunter, who was at the head of the
geographical department, would be continued in his position for the
reason that the Administration was reluctant to reconstruct or
consolidate the different districts. After informing me that one
division of the Cavalry Corps would be sent to my new command, he
went on to say that he wanted me to push the enemy as soon as this
division arrived, and if Early retired up the Shenandoah Valley I was
to pursue, but if he crossed the Potomac I was to put myself south of
him and try to compass his destruction. The interview having ended,
I returned to Hancock Station to prepare for my departure, and on the
evening of August 1 I was relieved from immediate duty with the Army
of the Potomac, but not from command of the cavalry as a corps

I arrived at Washington on the 4th of August, and the next day
received instructions from General Halleck to report to General Grant
at Monocacy Junction, whither he had gone direct from City Point, in
consequence of a characteristic despatch from the President
indicating his disgust with the confusion, disorder, and helplessness
prevailing along the upper Potomac, and intimating that Grant's
presence there was necessary.

In company with the Secretary of War I called on the President before
leaving Washington, and during a short conversation Mr. Lincoln
candidly told me that Mr. Stanton had objected to my assignment to
General Hunter's command, because he thought me too young, and that
he himself had concurred with the Secretary; but now, since General
Grant had "ploughed round" the difficulties of the situation by
picking me out to command the "boys in the field," he felt satisfied
with what had been done, and "hoped for the best." Mr. Stanton
remained silent during these remarks, never once indicating whether
he, too, had become reconciled to my selection or not; and although,
after we left the White House, he conversed with me freely in regard
to the campaign I was expected to make, seeking to impress on me the
necessity for success from the political as well as from the military
point of view, yet he utterly ignored the fact that he had taken any
part in disapproving the recommendation of the general-in-chief.

August 6, I reported to General Grant at the Monocacy, and he there
turned over to me the following instructions, which he had previously
prepared for General Hunter in the expectation that general would
continue to command the department:

"Monocacy Bridge, Md., Aug. 5, 1864.

"GENERAL: Concentrate all your available force without delay in the
vicinity of Harper's Ferry, leaving only such railroad guards and
garrisons for public property as may be necessary.

"Use in this concentration the railroad, if by so doing time can be
saved. From Harper's Ferry, if it is found that the enemy has moved
north of the Potomac in large force, push north, following and
attacking him wherever found; following him, if driven south of the
Potomac, as long as it is safe to do so. If it is ascertained that
the enemy has but a small force north of the Potomac, then push south
the main force, detaching, under a competent commander, a sufficient
force to look after the raiders and drive them to their homes. In
detaching such a force, the brigade of cavalry now en route from
Washington via Rockville may be taken into account.

"There are now on the way to join you three other brigades of the
best of cavalry, numbering at least five thousand men and horses.
These will be instructed, in the absence of further orders, to join
you by the south side of the Potomac. One brigade will probably
start to-morrow.

"In pushing up the Shenandoah Valley, as it is expected you will have
to go first or last, it is desirable that nothing should be left to
invite the enemy to return. Take all provisions, forage, and stock
wanted for the use of your command. Such as cannot be consumed,
destroy. It is not desirable that the buildings should be destroyed
--they should, rather, be protected; but the people should be informed
that so long as an army can subsist among them recurrences of these
raids must be expected, and we are determined to stop them at all

"Bear in mind, the object is to drive the enemy south; and to do this
you want to keep him always in sight. Be guided in your course by
the course he takes.

"Make your own arrangements for supplies of all kinds, giving regular
vouchers for such as may be taken from loyal citizens in the country
through which you march.

"Very respectfully,
"U. S. GRANT, Lieut.-General."

"Major-General D. HUNTER,
"Commanding Department of West Virginia."

When I had read the letter addressed to Hunter, General Grant said I
would be expected to report directly to him, as Hunter had asked that
day to be wholly relieved, not from any chagrin at my assignment to
the control of the active forces of his command, but because he
thought that his fitness for the position he was filling was
distrusted by General Halleck, and he had no wish to cause
embarrassment by remaining where he could but remove me one degree
from the headquarters of the army. The next day Hunter's unselfish
request was complied with, and an order was issued by the President,
consolidating the Middle Department, the Department of Washington,
the Department of the Susquehanna, and the Department of West

Under this order these four geographical districts constituted the
Middle Military Division, and I was temporarily assigned to command
it. Hunter's men had been bivouacking for some days past in the
vicinity of Monocacy Junction and Frederick, but before General
Grant's instructions were written out, Hunter had conformed to them
by directing the concentration at Halltown, about four miles in front
of Harper's Ferry, of all his force available for field service.
Therefore the different bodies of troops, with the exception of
Averell's cavalry, which had followed McCausland toward Moorefield
after the burning of Chambersburg, were all in motion toward Halltown
on August 6.

Affairs at Monocacy kept me but an hour or two, and these disposed
of, I continued on to Harper's Ferry by the special train which had
brought me from Washington, that point being intended as my
headquarters while making preparations to advance. The enemy was
occupying Martinsburg, Williamsport, and Shepherdstown at the time;
sending occasional raiding parties into Maryland as far as
Hagerstown. The concentration of my troops at Halltown being an
indication to Early that we intended to renew the offensive, however,
he immediately began counter preparations by drawing in all his
detached columns from the north side of the Potomac, abandoning a
contemplated raid into Maryland, which his success against Crook at
Kernstown had prompted him to project, and otherwise disposing
himself for defense.

At Harper's Ferry I made my headquarters in the second story of a
small and very dilapidated hotel, and as soon as settled sent for
Lieutenant John R. Meigs, the chief engineer officer of the command,
to study with him the maps of my geographical division. It always
came rather easy to me to learn the geography of a new section, and
its important topographical features as well; therefore I found that,
with the aid of Meigs, who was most intelligent in his profession,
the region in which I was to operate would soon be well fixed in my
mind. Meigs was familiar with every important road and stream, and
with all points worthy of note west of the Blue Ridge, and was
particularly well equipped with knowledge regarding the Shenandoah
Valley, even down to the farmhouses. He imparted with great
readiness what he knew of this, clearly pointing out its
configuration and indicating the strongest points for Confederate
defense, at the same time illustrating scientifically and forcibly
the peculiar disadvantages under which the Union army had hitherto

The section that received my closest attention has its northern limit
along the Potomac between McCoy's ferry at the eastern base of the
North Mountain, and Harper's Ferry at the western base of the Blue
Ridge. The southern limit is south of Staunton, on the divide which
separates the waters flowing into the Potomac from those that run to
the James. The western boundary is the eastern slope of the
Alleghany Mountains, the eastern, the Blue Ridge; these two distinct
mountain ranges trending about southwest inclose a stretch of quite
open, undulating country varying in width from the northern to the
southern extremity, and dotted at frequent intervals with patches of
heavy woods: At Martinsburg the valley is about sixty miles broad,
and on an east and west line drawn through Winchester about
forty-five, while at Strasburg it narrows down to about twenty-five.
Just southeast of Strasburg, which is nearly midway between the
eastern and western walls of the valley, rises an abrupt range of
mountains called Massanutten, consisting of several ridges which
extend southward between the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah
River until, losing their identity, they merge into lower but broken
ground between New Market and Harrisonburg. The Massanutten ranges,
with their spurs and hills, divide the Shenandoah Valley into two
valleys, the one next the Blue Ridge being called the Luray, while
that next the North Mountain retains the name of Shenandoah.

A broad macadamized road, leading south from Williamsport, Maryland,
to Lexington, Virginia, was built at an early day to connect the
interior of the latter State with the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, and
along this road are situated the principal towns and villages of the
Shenandoah Valley, with lateral lines of communication extending to
the mountain ranges on the east and west. The roads running toward
the Blue Ridge are nearly all macadamized, and the principal ones
lead to the railroad system of eastern Virginia through Snicker's,
Ashby's Manassas, Chester, Thornton's Swift Run, Brown's and
Rock-fish gaps, tending to an ultimate centre at Richmond. These gaps
are low and easy, offering little obstruction to the march of an army
coming from eastern Virginia, and thus the Union troops operating west
of the Blue Ridge were always subjected to the perils of a flank
attack; for the Confederates could readily be brought by rail to
Gordonsville and Charlottesville, from which points they could move
with such celerity through the Blue Ridge that, on more than one
occasion, the Shenandoah Valley had been the theatre of Confederate
success, due greatly to the advantage of possessing these interior

Nature had been very kind to the valley, making it rich and
productive to an exceptional degree, and though for three years
contending armies had been marching up and down it, the fertile soil
still yielded ample subsistence for Early's men, with a large surplus
for the army of Lee. The ground had long been well cleared of
timber, and the rolling surface presented so few obstacles to the
movement of armies that they could march over the country in any
direction almost as well as on the roads, the creeks and rivers being
everywhere fordable, with little or no difficulty beyond that of
leveling the approaches.

I had opposing me an army largely composed of troops that had
operated in this region hitherto under "Stonewall" Jackson with
marked success, inflicting defeat on the Union forces almost every
time the two armies had come in contact. These men were now commanded
by a veteran officer of the Confederacy-General Jubal A. Early--whose
past services had so signalized his ability that General Lee
specially selected him to take charge of the Valley District, and,
notwithstanding the misfortunes that befell him later, clung to him
till the end, of the war. The Confederate army at this date was
about twenty thousand strong, and consisted of Early's own corps,
with Generals Rodes, Ramseur, and Gordon commanding its divisions;
the infantry of Breckenridge from southwestern Virginia; three
battalions of artillery; and the cavalry brigades of Vaughn, Johnson,
McCausland, and Imboden. This cavalry was a short time afterward
organized into a division under the command of General Lomax.

After discovering that my troops were massing in front of Harper's
Ferry, Early lost not a moment in concentrating his in the vicinity
of Martinsburg, in positions from which he could continue to obstruct
the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and yet be enabled to retire up the
valley under conditions of safety when I should begin an offensive

When I took command of the Army of the Shenandoah its infantry force
comprised the Sixth Corps, one division of the Nineteenth Corps, and
two divisions from West Virginia. The Sixth Corps was commanded
by Major-General Horatio G. Wright; its three divisions by
Brigadier-Generals David A. Russell, Geo. W. Getty, and James B.
Ricketts. The single division of the Nineteenth Corps had for its
immediate chief Brigadier-General William Dwight, the corps being
commanded by Brigadier-General Wm. H. Emory. The troops from West
Virginia were under Brigadier-General George Crook, with Colonels
Joseph Thoburn and Isaac H. Duval as division commanders, and though
in all not more than one fair-sized division, they had been
designated, on account of the department they belonged to, the Army of
West Virginia. General Torbert's division, then arriving from the
Cavalry Corps of the Army of the Potomac, represented the mounted arm
of the service, and in the expectation that Averell would soon join me
with his troopers, I assigned General Torbert as chief of cavalry, and
General Wesley Merritt succeeded to the command of Torbert's division.

General Wright, the commander of the Sixth Corps, was an officer of
high standing in the Corps of Engineers, and had seen much active
service during the preceding three years. He commanded the
Department of the Ohio throughout the very trying period of the
summer and fall of 1862, and while in that position he, with other
prominent officers, recommended my appointment as a
brigadier-general. In 1863 he rendered valuable service at the battle
of Gettysburg, following which he was assigned to the Sixth Corps, and
commanded it at the capture of the Confederate works at Rappahannock
Station and in the operations at Mine Run. He ranked me as a
major-general of volunteers by nearly a year in date of commission,
but my assignment by the President to the command of the army in the
valley met with Wright's approbation, and, so far as I have ever
known, he never questioned the propriety of the President's action.
The Sixth Corps division commanders, Getty, Russell, and Ricketts,
were all educated soldiers, whose records, beginning with the Mexican
War, had already been illustrated in the war of the rebellion by
distinguished service in the Army of the Potomac.

General Emory was a veteran, having graduated at the Military Academy
in 1831, the year I was born. In early life he had seen much service
in the Artillery, the Topographical Engineers, and the Cavalry, and
in the war of the rebellion had exhibited the most soldierly
characteristics at Port Hudson and on the Red River campaign. At
this time he had but one division of the Nineteenth Corps present,
which division was well commanded by General Dwight, a volunteer
officer who had risen to the grade of brigadier-general through
constant hard work. Crook was a classmate of mine--at least, we
entered the Military Academy the same year, though he graduated a
year ahead of me. We had known each other as boys before we entered
the army, and later as men, and I placed implicit faith in his
experience and qualifications as a general.

The transfer of Torbert to the position of chief of cavalry left
Merritt, as I have already said, in command of the First Cavalry
Division. He had been tried in the place before, and from the day he
was selected as one of a number of young men to be appointed general
officers, with the object of giving life to the Cavalry Corps, he
filled the measure of expectation. Custer was one of these young men
too, and though as yet commanding a brigade under Merritt, his
gallant fight at Trevillian Station, as well as a dozen others during
the summer, indicated that he would be equal to the work that was to
fall to him when in a few weeks he should succeed Wilson. But to go
on down the scale of rank, describing the officers who commanded in
the Army of the Shenandoah, would carry me beyond all limit, so I
refrain from the digression with regret that I cannot pay to each his
well-earned tribute.

The force that I could take with me into the field at this time
numbered about 26,000 men. Within the limits of the geographical
division there was a much greater number of troops than this.
Baltimore, Washington, Harper's Ferry, Hagerstown, Frederick,
Cumberland, and a score of other points; besides the strong
detachments that it took to keep the Baltimore and Ohio railroad open
through the mountains of West Virginia, and escorts for my trains,
absorbed so many men that the column which could be made available
for field operations was small when compared with the showing on
paper. Indeed, it was much less than it ought to have been, but for
me, in the face of the opposition made by different interests
involved, to detach troops from any of the points to which they had
been distributed before I took charge was next to impossible.

In a few days after my arrival preparations were completed, and I was
ready to make the first move for the possession of the Shenandoah
Valley. For the next five weeks the operations on my part consisted
almost wholly of offensive and defensive manoeuvring for certain
advantages, the enemy confining himself meanwhile to measures
intended to counteract my designs. Upon the advent of Torbert, Early
immediately grew suspicious, and fell back twelve miles south of
Martinsburg, to Bunker Hill and vicinity, where his right flank would
be less exposed, but from which position he could continue to
maintain the break in the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, and push
reconnoitring parties through Smithfield to Charlestown. These
reconnoitring parties exhibited considerable boldness at times, but
since they had no purpose in view save to discover whether or not we
were moving, I did not contest any ground with them except about our
outposts. Indeed, I desired that Early might remain at some point
well to the north till I was fully prepared to throw my army on his
right and rear and force a battle, and hence I abstained from
disturbing him by premature activity, for I thought that if I could
beat him at Winchester, or north of it, there would be far greater
chances of weighty results. I therefore determined to bring my
troops, if it were at all possible to do so, into such a position
near that town as to oblige Early to fight. The sequel proved,
however, that he was accurately informed of all my movements. To
anticipate them, therefore, he began his retreat up the valley the
day that I moved out from Halltown, and consequently was able to
place himself south of Winchester before I could get there.



For a clear understanding of the operations which preceded the
victories that resulted in almost annihilating General Early's army
in the Shenandoah Valley, it is necessary to describe in considerable
detail the events that took place prior to the 19th of September. My
army marched from Harper's Ferry on the 10th of August, 1864, General
Torbert with Merritt's division of cavalry moving in advance through
Berryville, going into position near White Post. The Sixth Corps,
under General Wright, moved by way of Charlestown and Summit Point to
Clifton; General Emory, with Dwight's division of the Nineteenth
Corps, marched along the Berryville pike through Berryville to the
left of the position of the Sixth Corps at Clifton; General Crook's
command, moving on the Kabletown road, passed through Kabletown to
the vicinity of Berryville, and went into position on the left of
Dwight's division, while Colonel Lowell, with a detached force of two
small regiments of cavalry, marched to Summit Point; so that on the
night of August 10 my infantry occupied a line stretching from
Clifton to Berryville, with Merritt's cavalry at White Post and
Lowell's at Summit Point. The enemy, as stated before, moved at the
same time from Bunker Hill and vicinity, and stretched his line from
where the Winchester and Potomac railroad crosses Opequon Creek to
the point at which the Berryville and Winchester pike crosses the
same stream, thus occupying the west bank to cover Winchester.

On the morning of the 11th the Sixth Corps was ordered to move across
the country toward the junction of the Berryville-Winchester pike and
the Opequon, and to take the crossing and hold it, Dwight's division
being directed to move through Berryville on the White Post road for
a mile, then file to the right by heads of regiments at deploying
distances, and carry the crossing of Opequon Creek at a ford about
three-fourths of a mile from the left of the Sixth Corps, while Crook
was instructed to move out on the White Post road, a mile and a half
beyond Berryville, then head to the right and secure the ford about a
mile to the left of Dwight; Torbert's orders were to push Merritt's
division up the Millwood pike toward Winchester, attack any force he
might run against, and ascertain the movements of the Confederate
army; and lastly, Lowell received instructions to close in from
Summit Point on the right of the Sixth Corps.

My object in securing the fords was to further my march on Winchester
from the southeast, since, from all the information gathered during
the 10th, I still thought Early could be brought to a stand at that
point; but in this I was mistaken, as Torbert's reconnoissance
proved, for on the morning of the 11th, when Merritt had driven the
Confederate cavalry, then covering the Millwood pike west of the
Opequon, off toward Kernstown, he found that their infantry and
artillery were retreating south, up the Valley pike.

As soon as this information was obtained Torbert moved quickly
through the toll-gate on the Front Royal and Winchester road to
Newtown, to strike the enemy's flank and harass him in his retreat,
Lowell following up through Winchester, on the Valley pike; Crook was
turned to the left and ordered to Stony Point, while Emory and
Wright, marching to the left also, were directed to take post on the
night of the 11th between the Millwood and Front Royal roads, within
supporting distance of Crook. Merritt meeting some of the enemy's
cavalry at the tollgate, drove it in the direction of Newtown till it
got inside the line of Gordon's division of infantry, which had been
thrown out and posted behind barricades to cover the flank of the
main force in its retreat. A portion of Merritt's cavalry attacked
this infantry and drove in its skirmish-line, and though not able to
dislodge Gordon, Merritt held the ground gained till night-fall, when
the Confederate infantry moved off under cover of darkness to Hupp's
Hill, between Strasburg and Cedar Creek.

The next morning Crook marched from Stony Point to Cedar Creek, Emory
followed with Dwight, and the cavalry moved to the same point by way
of Newtown and the Valley pike, the Sixth Corps following the
cavalry. That night Crook was in position at Cedar Creek, on the
left of the Valley pike, Emory on the right of the pike, the Sixth
Corps on the right of Emory, and the cavalry on the flanks. In the
afternoon a heavy skirmish-line had been thrown forward to the
heights on the south side of Cedar Creek, and a brisk affair with the
enemy's pickets took place, the Confederates occupying with their
main force the heights north of Strasburg. On the morning of the
13th my cavalry went out to reconnoitre toward Strasburg, on the
middle road, about two and a half miles west of the Valley pike, and
discovered that Early's infantry was at Fisher's Hill, where he had
thrown up behind Tumbling Run earthworks extending clear across the
narrow valley between the Massanutten and North mountains. On the
left of these works he had Vaughan's, McCausland's, and Johnson's
brigades of cavalry under General Lomax, who at this time relieved
General Ramseur from the command of the Confederate mounted forces.

Within the past day or two I had received information that a column
of the enemy was moving up from Culpeper Court House and approaching
Front Royal through Chester Gap, and although the intelligence was
unconfirmed, it caused me much solicitude; for there was strong
probability that such a movement would be made, and any considerable
force advancing through Front Royal toward Winchester could fall upon
my rear and destroy my communication with Harper's Ferry, or, moving
along the base of Massanutten Mountain, could attack my flank in
conjunction with the force at Fisher's Hill without a possibility of
my preventing it.

Neither Wilson's cavalry nor Grower's infantry had yet joined me, and
the necessities, already explained, which obliged me to hold with
string garrisons Winchester and other points heretofore mentioned.
had so depleted my line of battle strength that I knew the enemy
would outnumber me when Anderson's corps should arrive in the valley.
I deemed it advisable, therefore, to act with extreme caution, so,
with the exception of a cavalry reconnoissance on the 13th, I
remained on the defensive, quietly awaiting developments. In the
evening of that day the enemy's skirmishers withdrew to Tumbling Run,
his main force remaining inactive behind the intrenchments at
Fisher's Hill waiting for the arrival of Anderson.

The rumors in regard to the force advancing from Culpeper kept
increasing every hour, so on the morning of the 14th I concluded to
send a brigade of cavalry to Front Royal to ascertain definitely what
was up. At the same time I crossed the Sixth Corps to the south side
of Cedar Creek, and occupied the heights near Strasburg. That day I
received from the hands of Colonel Chipman, of the Adjutant-General's
Department, the following despatch, to deliver which he had ridden in
great haste from Washington through Snicker's Gap, escorted by a
regiment of cavalry:

"CITY POINT, August 12, 1864--9 A. M.


"Inform General Sheridan that it is now certain two (2) divisions of
infantry have gone to Early, and some cavalry and twenty (20) pieces
of artillery. This movement commenced last Saturday night. He must
be cautious, and act now on the defensive until movements here force
them to detach to send this way. Early's force, with this increase,
cannot exceed forty thousand men, but this is too much for General
Sheridan to attack. Send General Sheridan the remaining brigade of
the Nineteenth Corps.

"I have ordered to Washington all the one-hundred-day men. Their
time will soon be out, but for the present they will do to serve in
the defenses.

"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General."

The despatch explained the movement from Culpeper, and on the morning
of the 15th Merritt's two remaining brigades were sent to Front Royal
to oppose Anderson, and the Sixth Corps withdrawn to the north side
of Cedar Creek, where it would be in a position enabling me either to
confront Anderson or to act defensively, as desired by General Grant.

To meet the requirements of his instructions I examined the map of
the valley for a defensive line--a position where a smaller number of
troops could hold a larger number--for this information led me to
suppose that Early's force would greatly exceed mine when Anderson's
two divisions of infantry and Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry had joined him.
I could see but one such position, and that was at Halltown, in front
of Harper's Ferry. Subsequent experience convinced me that there was
no other really defensive line in the Shenandoah Valley, for at
almost any other point the open country and its peculiar topography
invites rather than forbids flanking operations.

This retrograde movement would also enable me to strengthen my
command by Grower's division of the Nineteenth Corps and Wilson's
cavalry, both of which divisions were marching from Washington by way
of Snicker's Gap.

After fully considering the matter, I determined to move back to
Halltown, carrying out, as I retired, my instructions to destroy all
the forage and subsistence the country afforded. So Emory was
ordered to retire to Winchester on the night of the 15th, and Wright
and Crook to follow through Winchester to Clifton the next night.

For the cavalry, in this move to the rear, I gave the following

"....In pushing up the Shenandoah Valley, as it is expected you will
have to go first or last, it is desirable that nothing should be left
to invite the enemy to return. Take all provisions, forage, and
stock wanted for the use of your command. Such as cannot be
consumed, destroy. It is not desirable that buildings should be
destroyed--they should, rather, be protected; but the people should
be informed that so long as an army can subsist among them,
recurrences of these raids must be expected, and we are determined to
stop them at all hazards...." [Grant's letter of instructions.]

"Cedar Creek, Va., August 16, 1864.

"GENERAL: In compliance with instructions of the Lieutenant-General
commanding, you will make the necessary arrangements and give the
necessary orders for the destruction of the wheat and hay south of a
line from Millwood to Winchester and Petticoat Gap. You will seize
all mules, horses, and cattle that may be useful to our army. Loyal
citizens can bring in their claims against the Government for this
necessary destruction. No houses will be burned, and officers in
charge of this delicate but necessary duty must inform the people
that the object is to make this valley untenable for the raiding
parties of the rebel army.

"Very respectfully,

"Major-General Commanding.

"Chief of Cavalry, Middle Military Division."

During his visit to General Hunter at the Monocacy, General Grant had
not only decided to retain in the Shenandoah Valley a large force
sufficient to defeat Early's army or drive it back to Lee, but he had
furthermore determined to make that sections by the destruction of
its supplies, untenable for continued occupancy by the Confederates.
This would cut off one of Lee's main-stays in the way of subsistence,
and at the same time diminish the number of recruits and conscripts
he received; the valley district while under his control not only
supplying Lee with an abundance of food, but also furnishing him many
men for his regular and irregular forces. Grant's instructions to
destroy the valley began with the letter of August 5 to Hunter, which
was turned over to me, and this was followed at intervals by more
specific directions, all showing the earnestness of his purpose.

"CITY POINT, Va., Aug. 16--3:30 P. M., 1864.

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