Part 3 out of 4
The movement in the Kanawha and Shenandoah valleys, under General Sigel,
commenced on the 1st of May. General Crook, who had the immediate
command of the Kanawha expedition, divided his forces into two columns,
giving one, composed of cavalry, to General Averell. They crossed the
mountains by separate routes. Averell struck the Tennessee and Virginia
Railroad, near Wytheville, on the 10th, and proceeding to New River and
Christiansburg, destroyed the road, several important bridges and
depots, including New River Bridge, forming a junction with Crook at
Union on the 15th. General Sigel moved up the Shenandoah Valley, met
the enemy at New Market on the 15th, and, after a severe engagement, was
defeated with heavy loss, and retired behind Cedar Creek. Not regarding
the operations of General Sigel as satisfactory, I asked his removal
from command, and Major-General Hunter appointed to supersede him. His
instructions were embraced in the following dispatches to Major-General
H. W. Halleck, chief of staff of the army:
"NEAR SPOTTSYLVANIA COURT HOUSE, VA. "May 20, 1864.
* * * * * * * "The enemy are
evidently relying for supplies greatly on such as are brought over the
branch road running through Staunton. On the whole, therefore, I think
it would be better for General Hunter to move in that direction; reach
Staunton and Gordonsville or Charlottesville, if he does not meet too
much opposition. If he can hold at bay a force equal to his own, he
will be doing good service. * * *
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL H. W. HALLECK."
"JERICHO FORD, VA., May 25, 1864.
"If Hunter can possibly get to Charlottesville and Lynchburg, he should
do so, living on the country. The railroads and canal should be
destroyed beyond possibility of repairs for weeks. Completing this, he
could find his way back to his original base, or from about Gordonsville
join this army.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL H. W. HALLECK."
General Hunter immediately took up the offensive, and, moving up the
Shenandoah Valley, met the enemy on the 5th of June at Piedmont, and,
after a battle of ten hours, routed and defeated him, capturing on the
field of battle one thousand five hundred men, three pieces of
artillery, and three hundred stand of small arms. On the 8th of the
same month he formed a junction with Crook and Averell at Staunton, from
which place he moved direct on Lynchburg, via Lexington, which place he
reached and invested on the 16th day of June. Up to this time he was
very successful; and but for the difficulty of taking with him
sufficient ordnance stores over so long a march, through a hostile
country, he would, no doubt, have captured that, to the enemy important,
point. The destruction of the enemy's supplies and manufactories was
very great. To meet this movement under General Hunter, General Lee
sent a force, perhaps equal to a corps, a part of which reached
Lynchburg a short time before Hunter. After some skirmishing on the
17th and 18th, General Hunter, owing to a want of ammunition to give
battle, retired from before the place. Unfortunately, this want of
ammunition left him no choice of route for his return but by way of
Kanawha. This lost to us the use of his troops for several weeks from
the defence of the North.
Had General Hunter moved by way of Charlottesville, instead of
Lexington, as his instructions contemplated, he would have been in a
position to have covered the Shenandoah Valley against the enemy, should
the force he met have seemed to endanger it. If it did not, he would
have been within easy distance of the James River Canal, on the main
line of communication between Lynchburg and the force sent for its
defence. I have never taken exception to the operations of General
Hunter, and am not now disposed to find fault with him, for I have no
doubt he acted within what he conceived to be the spirit of his
instructions and the interests of the service. The promptitude of his
movements and his gallantry should entitle him to the commendation of
To return to the Army of the Potomac: The 2d corps commenced crossing
the James River on the morning of the 14th by ferry-boats at Wilcox's
Landing. The laying of the pontoon-bridge was completed about midnight
of the 14th, and the crossing of the balance of the army was rapidly
pushed forward by both bridge and ferry.
After the crossing had commenced, I proceeded by steamer to Bermuda
Hundred to give the necessary orders for the immediate capture of
The instructions to General Butler were verbal, and were for him to send
General Smith immediately, that night, with all the troops he could give
him without sacrificing the position he then held. I told him that I
would return at once to the Army of the Potomac, hasten its crossing and
throw it forward to Petersburg by divisions as rapidly as it could be
done, that we could reinforce our armies more rapidly there than the
enemy could bring troops against us. General Smith got off as directed,
and confronted the enemy's pickets near Petersburg before daylight next
morning, but for some reason that I have never been able to
satisfactorily understand, did not get ready to assault his main lines
until near sundown. Then, with a part of his command only, he made the
assault, and carried the lines north-east of Petersburg from the
Appomattox River, for a distance of over two and a half miles, capturing
fifteen pieces of artillery and three hundred prisoners. This was about
seven P.M. Between the line thus captured and Petersburg there were no
other works, and there was no evidence that the enemy had reinforced
Petersburg with a single brigade from any source. The night was clear
the moon shining brightly and favorable to further operations. General
Hancock, with two divisions of the 2d corps, reached General Smith just
after dark, and offered the service of these troops as he (Smith) might
wish, waiving rank to the named commander, who he naturally supposed
knew best the position of affairs, and what to do with the troops. But
instead of taking these troops and pushing at once into Petersburg, he
requested General Hancock to relieve a part of his line in the captured
works, which was done before midnight.
By the time I arrived the next morning the enemy was in force. An attack
was ordered to be made at six o'clock that evening by the troops under
Smith and the 2d and 9th corps. It required until that time for the 9th
corps to get up and into position. The attack was made as ordered, and
the fighting continued with but little intermission until six o'clock
the next morning, and resulted in our carrying the advance and some of
the main works of the enemy to the right (our left) of those previously
captured by General Smith, several pieces of artillery, and over four
The 5th corps having got up, the attacks were renewed and persisted in
with great vigor on the 17th and 18th, but only resulted in forcing the
enemy into an interior line, from which he could not be dislodged. The
advantages of position gained by us were very great. The army then
proceeded to envelop Petersburg towards the South Side Railroad as far
as possible without attacking fortifications.
On the 16th the enemy, to reinforce Petersburg, withdrew from a part of
his intrenchment in front of Bermuda Hundred, expecting, no doubt, to
get troops from north of the James to take the place of those withdrawn
before we could discover it. General Butler, taking advantage of this,
at once moved a force on the railroad between Petersburg and Richmond.
As soon as I was apprised of the advantage thus gained, to retain it I
ordered two divisions of the 6th corps, General Wright commanding, that
were embarking at Wilcox's Landing, under orders for City Point, to
report to General Butler at Bermuda Hundred, of which General Butler was
notified, and the importance of holding a position in advance of his
present line urged upon him.
About two o'clock in the afternoon General Butler was forced back to the
line the enemy had withdrawn from in the morning. General Wright, with
his two divisions, joined General Butler on the forenoon of the 17th,
the latter still holding with a strong picket-line the enemy's works.
But instead of putting these divisions into the enemy's works to hold
them, he permitted them to halt and rest some distance in the rear of
his own line. Between four and five o'clock in the afternoon the enemy
attacked and drove in his pickets and re-occupied his old line.
On the night of the 20th and morning of the 21st a lodgment was effected
by General Butler, with one brigade of infantry, on the north bank of
the James, at Deep Bottom, and connected by pontoon-bridge with Bermuda
On the 19th, General Sheridan, on his return from his expedition against
the Virginia Central Railroad, arrived at the White House just as the
enemy's cavalry was about to attack it, and compelled it to retire. The
result of this expedition was, that General Sheridan met the enemy's
cavalry near Trevilian Station, on the morning of the 11th of June, whom
he attacked, and after an obstinate contest drove from the field in
complete rout. He left his dead and nearly all his wounded in our
hands, and about four hundred prisoners and several hundred horses. On
the 12th he destroyed the railroad from Trevilian Station to Louisa
Court House. This occupied until three o'clock P.M., when he advanced
in the direction of Gordonsville. He found the enemy reinforced by
infantry, behind well-constructed rifle-pits, about five miles from the
latter place and too strong to successfully assault. On the extreme
right, however, his reserve brigade carried the enemy's works twice, and
was twice driven therefrom by infantry. Night closed the contest. Not
having sufficient ammunition to continue the engagement, and his animals
being without forage (the country furnishing but inferior grazing), and
hearing nothing from General Hunter, he withdrew his command to the
north side of the North Anna, and commenced his return march, reaching
White House at the time before stated. After breaking up the depot at
that place, he moved to the James River, which he reached safely after
heavy fighting. He commenced crossing on the 25th, near Fort Powhatan,
without further molestation, and rejoined the Army of the Potomac.
On the 22d, General Wilson, with his own division of cavalry of the Army
of the Potomac, and General Kautz's division of cavalry of the Army of
the James moved against the enemy's railroads south of Richmond.
Striking the Weldon Railroad at Reams's Station, destroying the depot
and several miles of the road, and the South Side road about fifteen
miles from Petersburg, to near Nottoway Station, where he met and
defeated a force of the enemy's cavalry. He reached Burkesville Station
on the afternoon of the 23d, and from there destroyed the Danville
Railroad to Roanoke Bridge, a distance of twenty-five miles, where he
found the enemy in force, and in a position from which he could not
dislodge him. He then commenced his return march, and on the 28th met
the enemy's cavalry in force at the Weldon Railroad crossing of Stony
Creek, where he had a severe but not decisive engagement. Thence he
made a detour from his left with a view of reaching Reams's Station
(supposing it to be in our possession). At this place he was met by the
enemy's cavalry, supported by infantry, and forced to retire, with the
loss of his artillery and trains. In this last encounter, General
Kautz, with a part of his command, became separated, and made his way
into our lines. General Wilson, with the remainder of his force,
succeeded in crossing the Nottoway River and coming in safely on our
left and rear. The damage to the enemy in this expedition more than
compensated for the losses we sustained. It severed all connection by
railroad with Richmond for several weeks.
With a view of cutting the enemy's railroad from near Richmond to the
Anna rivers, and making him wary of the situation of his army in the
Shenandoah, and, in the event of failure in this, to take advantage of
his necessary withdrawal of troops from Petersburg, to explode a mine
that had been prepared in front of the 9th corps and assault the enemy's
lines at that place, on the night of the 26th of July the 2d corps and
two divisions of the cavalry corps and Kautz's cavalry were crossed to
the north bank of the James River and joined the force General Butler
had there. On the 27th the enemy was driven from his intrenched
position, with the loss of four pieces of artillery. On the 28th our
lines were extended from Deep Bottom to New Market Road, but in getting
this position were attacked by the enemy in heavy force. The fighting
lasted for several hours, resulting in considerable loss to both sides.
The first object of this move having failed, by reason of the very large
force thrown there by the enemy, I determined to take advantage of the
diversion made, by assaulting Petersburg before he could get his force
back there. One division of the 2d corps was withdrawn on the night of
the 28th, and moved during the night to the rear of the 18th corps, to
relieve that corps in the line, that it might be foot-loose in the
assault to be made. The other two divisions of the 2d corps and
Sheridan's cavalry were crossed over on the night of the 29th and moved
in front of Petersburg. On the morning of the 30th, between four and
five o'clock, the mine was sprung, blowing up a battery and most of a
regiment, and the advance of the assaulting column, formed of the 9th
corps, immediately took possession of the crater made by the explosion,
and the line for some distance to the right and left of it, and a
detached line in front of it, but for some cause failed to advance
promptly to the ridge beyond. Had they done this, I have every reason
to believe that Petersburg would have fallen. Other troops were
immediately pushed forward, but the time consumed in getting them up
enabled the enemy to rally from his surprise (which had been complete),
and get forces to this point for its defence. The captured line thus
held being untenable, and of no advantage to us, the troops were
withdrawn, but not without heavy loss. Thus terminated in disaster what
promised to be the most successful assault of the campaign.
Immediately upon the enemy's ascertaining that General Hunter was
retreating from Lynchburg by way of the Kanawha River, thus laying the
Shenandoah Valley open for raid into Maryland and Pennsylvania, he
returned northward and moved down that valley. As soon as this movement
of the enemy was ascertained, General Hunter, who had reached the
Kanawha River, was directed to move his troops without delay, by river
and railroad, to Harper's Ferry; but owing to the difficulty of
navigation by reason of low water and breaks in the railroad, great
delay was experienced in getting there. It became necessary, therefore,
to find other troops to check this movement of the enemy. For this
purpose the 6th corps was taken from the armies operating against
Richmond, to which was added the 19th corps, then fortunately beginning
to arrive in Hampton Roads from the Gulf Department, under orders issued
immediately after the ascertainment of the result of the Red River
expedition. The garrisons of Baltimore and Washington were at this time
made up of heavy-artillery regiments, hundred days' men, and detachments
from the invalid corps. One division under command of General Ricketts,
of the 6th corps, was sent to Baltimore, and the remaining two divisions
of the 6th corps, under General Wright, were subsequently sent to
Washington. On the 3d of July the enemy approached Martinsburg.
General Sigel, who was in command of our forces there, retreated across
the Potomac at Shepherdtown; and General Weber, commanding at Harper's
Ferry, crossed the occupied Hagerstown, moving a strong column towards
Frederick City. General Wallace, with Rickett's division and his own
command, the latter mostly new and undisciplined troops, pushed out from
Baltimore with great promptness, and met the enemy in force on the
Monocacy, near the crossing of the railroad bridge. His force was not
sufficient to insure success, but he fought the enemy nevertheless, and
although it resulted in a defeat to our arms, yet it detained the enemy,
and thereby served to enable General Wright to reach Washington with two
division of the 6th corps, and the advance of the 19th corps, before
him. From Monocacy the enemy moved on Washington, his cavalry advance
reaching Rockville on the evening of the 10th. On the 12th a
reconnoissance was thrown out in front of Fort Stevens, to ascertain the
enemy's position and force. A severe skirmish ensued, in which we lost
about two hundred and eighty in killed and wounded. The enemy's loss
was probably greater. He commenced retreating during the night.
Learning the exact condition of affairs at Washington, I requested by
telegraph, at forty-five minutes past eleven P.M., on the 12th, the
assignment of Major-General H. G. Wright to the command of all the
troops that could be made available to operate in the field against the
enemy, and directed that he should get outside of the trenches with all
the force he could, and push Early to the last moment. General Wright
commenced the pursuit on the 13th; on the 18th the enemy was overtaken
at Snicker's Ferry, on the Shenandoah, when a sharp skirmish occurred;
and on the 20th, General Averell encountered and defeated a portion of
the rebel army at Winchester, capturing four pieces of artillery and
several hundred prisoners.
Learning that Early was retreating south towards Lynchburg or Richmond,
I directed that the 6th and 19th corps be got back to the armies
operating against Richmond, so that they might be used in a movement
against Lee before the return of the troops sent by him into the valley;
and that Hunter should remain in the Shenandoah Valley, keeping between
any force of the enemy and Washington, acting on the defensive as much
as possible. I felt that if the enemy had any notion of returning, the
fact would be developed before the 6th and 19th corps could leave
Washington. Subsequently, the 19th corps was excepted form the order to
return to the James.
About the 25th it became evident that the enemy was again advancing upon
Maryland and Pennsylvania, and the 6th corps, then at Washington, was
ordered back to the vicinity of Harper's Ferry. The rebel force moved
down the valley, and sent a raiding party into Pennsylvania which on the
30th burned Chambersburg, and then retreated, pursued by our cavalry,
towards Cumberland. They were met and defeated by General Kelley, and
with diminished numbers escaped into the mountains of West Virginia.
From the time of the first raid the telegraph wires were frequently down
between Washington and City Point, making it necessary to transmit
messages a part of the way by boat. It took from twenty-four to
thirty-six hours to get dispatches through and return answers would be
received showing a different state of facts from those on which they
were based, causing confusion and apparent contradiction of orders that
must have considerably embarrassed those who had to execute them, and
rendered operations against the enemy less effective than they otherwise
would have been. To remedy this evil, it was evident to my mind that
some person should have the supreme command of all the forces in the
Department of West Virginia, Washington, Susquehanna, and the Middle
Department, and I so recommended.
On the 2d of August, I ordered General Sheridan to report in person to
Major-General Halleck, chief of staff, at Washington, with a view to his
assignment to the command of all the forces against Early. At this time
the enemy was concentrated in the neighborhood of Winchester, while our
forces, under General Hunter, were concentrated on the Monocacy, at the
crossing of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, leaving open to the enemy
Western Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania. From where I was, I
hesitated to give positive orders for the movement of our forces at
Monocacy, lest by so doing I should expose Washington. Therefore, on the
4th, I left City Point to visit Hunter's command, and determine for
myself what was best to be done. On arrival there, and after
consultation with General Hunter, I issued to him the following
"MONOCACY BRIDGE, MARYLAND, August 5, 1864--8 P.M.
"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
concentrating, 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 him and attacking him
wherever found; follow 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 with 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 the cavalry now en route from Washington via Rockville
may be taken into account.
"There are now on their way to join you three other brigades of the best
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, where 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, recurrence of theses raids must be expected, and
we are determined to stop them at all hazards.
"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.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL D. HUNTER."
The troops were immediately put in motion, and the advance reached
Halltown that night.
General Hunter having, in our conversation, expressed a willingness to
be relieved from command, I telegraphed to have General Sheridan, then
at Washington, sent to Harper's Ferry by the morning train, with orders
to take general command of all the troops in the field, and to call on
General Hunter at Monocacy, who would turn over to him my letter of
instructions. I remained at Monocacy until General Sheridan arrived, on
the morning of the 6th, and, after a conference with him in relation to
military affairs in that vicinity, I returned to City Point by way of
On the 7th of August, the Middle Department, and the Departments of West
Virginia, Washington, and Susquehanna, were constituted into the "Middle
Military Division," and Major-General Sheridan was assigned to
temporary command of the same.
Two divisions of cavalry, commanded by Generals Torbert and Wilson, were
sent to Sheridan from the Army of the Potomac. The first reached him at
Harper's Ferry about the 11th of August.
His operations during the month of August and the fore part of September
were both of an offensive and defensive character, resulting in many
severe skirmishes, principally by the cavalry, in which we were
generally successful, but no general engagement took place. The two
armies lay in such a position--the enemy on the west bank of the Opequon
Creek covering Winchester, and our forces in front of Berryville--that
either could bring on a battle at any time. Defeat to us would lay open
to the enemy the States of Maryland and Pennsylvania for long distances
before another army could be interposed to check him. Under these
circumstances I hesitated about allowing the initiative to be taken.
Finally, the use of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and the Chesapeake
and Ohio Canal, which were both obstructed by the enemy, became so
indispensably necessary to us, and the importance of relieving
Pennsylvania and Maryland from continuously threatened invasion so
great, that I determined the risk should be taken. But fearing to
telegraph the order for an attack without knowing more than I did of
General Sheridan's feelings as to what would be the probable result, I
left City Point on the 15th of September to visit him at his
headquarters, to decide, after conference with him, what should be done.
I met him at Charlestown, and he pointed out so distinctly how each army
lay; what he could do the moment he was authorized, and expressed such
confidence of success, that I saw there were but two words of
instructions necessary--Go in! For the conveniences of forage, the
teams for supplying the army were kept at Harper's Ferry. I asked him
if he could get out his teams and supplies in time to make an attack on
the ensuing Tuesday morning. His reply was, that he could before
daylight on Monday. He was off promptly to time, and I may here add,
that the result was such that I have never since deemed it necessary to
visit General Sheridan before giving him orders.
Early on the morning of the 19th, General Sheridan attacked General
Early at the crossing on the Opequon Creek, and after a most sanguinary
and bloody battle, lasting until five o'clock in the evening, defeated
him with heavy loss, carrying his entire position from Opequon Creek to
Winchester, capturing several thousand prisoners and five pieces of
artillery. The enemy rallied, and made a stand in a strong position at
Fisher's Hill, where he was attacked, and again defeated with heavy loss
on the 20th [22d]. Sheridan pursued him with great energy through
Harrisonburg, Staunton, and the gaps of the Blue Ridge. After stripping
the upper valley of most of the supplies and provisions for the rebel
army, he returned to Strasburg, and took position on the north side of
Having received considerable reinforcements, General Early again
returned to the valley, and, on the 9th of October, his cavalry
encountered ours near Strasburg, where the rebels were defeated, with
the loss of eleven pieces of artillery and three hundred and fifty
prisoners. On the night of the 18th, the enemy crossed the mountains
which separate the branches of the Shenandoah, forded the North Fork,
and early on the morning of the 19th, under cover of the darkness and
the fog, surprised and turned our left flank, and captured the batteries
which enfiladed our whole line. Our troops fell back with heavy loss
and in much confusion, but were finally rallied between Middletown and
Newtown. At this juncture, General Sheridan, who was at Winchester when
the battle commenced arrived on the field, arranged his lines just in
time to repulse a heavy attack of the enemy, and immediately assuming
the offensive, he attacked in turn with great vigor. The enemy was
defeated with great slaughter, and the loss of most of his artillery and
trains, and the trophies he had captured in the morning. The wreck of
his army escaped during the night, and fled in the direction of Staunton
and Lynchburg. Pursuit was made to Mount Jackson. Thus ended this, the
enemy's last attempt to invade the North via the Shenandoah Valley. I
was now enabled to return the 6th corps to the Army of the Potomac, and
to send one division from Sheridan's army to the Army of the James, and
another to Savannah, Georgia, to hold Sherman's new acquisitions on the
sea-coast, and thus enable him to move without detaching from his force
for that purpose.
Reports from various sources led me to believe that the enemy had
detached three divisions from Petersburg to reinforce Early in the
Shenandoah Valley. I therefore sent the 2d corps and Gregg's division
of cavalry, of the Army of the Potomac, and a force of General Butler's
army, on the night of the 13th of August, to threaten Richmond from the
north side of the James, to prevent him from sending troops away, and,
if possible, to draw back those sent. In this move we captured six
pieces of artillery and several hundred prisoners, detained troops that
were under marching orders, and ascertained that but one division
(Kershaw's), of the three reputed detached, had gone.
The enemy having withdrawn heavily from Petersburg to resist this
movement, the 5th corps, General Warren commanding, was moved out on the
18th, and took possession of the Weldon Railroad. During the day he had
considerable fighting. To regain possession of the road, the enemy made
repeated and desperate assaults, but was each time repulsed with great
loss. On the night of the 20th, the troops on the north side of the
James were withdrawn, and Hancock and Gregg returned to the front at
Petersburg. On the 25th, the 2d corps and Gregg's division of cavalry,
while at Reams's Station destroying the railroad, were attacked, and
after desperate fighting, a part of our line gave way, and five pieces
of artillery fell into the hands of the enemy.
By the 12th of September, a branch railroad was completed from the City
Point and Petersburg Railroad to the Weldon Railroad, enabling us to
supply, without difficulty, in all weather, the army in front of
The extension of our lines across the Weldon Railroad compelled the
enemy to so extend his, that it seemed he could have but few troops
north of the James for the defence of Richmond. On the night of the
28th, the 10th corps, Major-General Birney, and the 18th corps,
Major-General Ord commanding, of General Butler's army, were crossed to
the north side of the James, and advanced on the morning of the 29th,
carrying the very strong fortifications and intrenchments below
Chaffin's Farm, known as Fort Harrison, capturing fifteen pieces of
artillery, and the New Market Road and intrenchments. This success was
followed up by a gallant assault upon Fort Gilmer, immediately in front
of the Chaffin Farm fortifications, in which we were repulsed with heavy
loss. Kautz's cavalry was pushed forward on the road to the right of
this, supported by infantry, and reached the enemy's inner line, but was
unable to get further. The position captured from the enemy was so
threatening to Richmond, that I determined to hold it. The enemy made
several desperate attempts to dislodge us, all of which were
unsuccessful, and for which he paid dearly. On the morning of the 30th,
General Meade sent out a reconnoissance with a view to attacking the
enemy's line, if it was found sufficiently weakened by withdrawal of
troops to the north side. In this reconnoissance we captured and held
the enemy's works near Poplar Spring Church. In the afternoon, troops
moving to get to the left of the point gained were attacked by the enemy
in heavy force, and compelled to fall back until supported by the forces
holding the captured works. Our cavalry under Gregg was also attacked,
but repulsed the enemy with great loss.
On the 7th of October, the enemy attacked Kautz's cavalry north of the
James, and drove it back with heavy loss in killed, wounded, and
prisoners, and the loss of all the artillery eight or nine pieces. This
he followed up by an attack on our intrenched infantry line, but was
repulsed with severe slaughter. On the 13th, a reconnoissance was sent
out by General Butler, with a view to drive the enemy from some new
works he was constructing, which resulted in very heavy loss to us.
On the 27th, the Army of the Potomac, leaving only sufficient men to
hold its fortified line, moved by the enemy's right flank. The 2d
corps, followed by two divisions of the 5th corps, with the cavalry in
advance and covering our left flank, forced a passage of Hatcher's Run,
and moved up the south side of it towards the South Side Railroad, until
the 2d corps and part of the cavalry reached the Boydton Plank Road
where it crosses Hatcher's Run. At this point we were six miles distant
from the South Side Railroad, which I had hoped by this movement to
reach and hold. But finding that we had not reached the end of the
enemy's fortifications, and no place presenting itself for a successful
assault by which he might be doubled up and shortened, I determined to
withdraw to within our fortified line. Orders were given accordingly.
Immediately upon receiving a report that General Warren had connected
with General Hancock, I returned to my headquarters. Soon after I left
the enemy moved out across Hatcher's Run, in the gap between Generals
Hancock and Warren, which was not closed as reported, and made a
desperate attack on General Hancock's right and rear. General Hancock
immediately faced his corps to meet it, and after a bloody combat drove
the enemy within his works, and withdrew that night to his old position.
In support of this movement, General Butler made a demonstration on the
north side of the James, and attacked the enemy on the Williamsburg
Road, and also on the York River Railroad. In the former he was
unsuccessful; in the latter he succeeded in carrying a work which was
afterwards abandoned, and his forces withdrawn to their former
From this time forward the operations in front of Petersburg and
Richmond, until the spring campaign of 1865, were confined to the
defence and extension of our lines, and to offensive movements for
crippling the enemy's lines of communication, and to prevent his
detaching any considerable force to send south. By the 7th of February,
our lines were extended to Hatcher's Run, and the Weldon Railroad had
been destroyed to Hicksford.
General Sherman moved from Chattanooga on the 6th of May, with the
Armies of the Cumberland, Tennessee, and Ohio, commanded, respectively,
by Generals Thomas McPherson, and Schofield, upon Johnston's army at
Dalton; but finding the enemy's position at Buzzard's Roost, covering
Dalton, too strong to be assaulted, General McPherson was sent through
Snake Gap to turn it, while Generals Thomas and Schofield threatened it
in front and on the north. This movement was successful. Johnston,
finding his retreat likely to be cut off, fell back to his fortified
position at Resaca, where he was attacked on the afternoon of May 15th.
A heavy battle ensued. During the night the enemy retreated south.
Late on the 17th, his rear-guard was overtaken near Adairsville, and
heavy skirmishing followed. The next morning, however, he had again
disappeared. He was vigorously pursued, and was overtaken at Cassville
on the 19th, but during the ensuing night retreated across the Etowah.
While these operations were going on, General Jefferson C. Davis's
division of Thomas's army was sent to Rome, capturing it with its forts
and artillery, and its valuable mills and foundries. General Sherman,
having give his army a few days' rest at this point, again put it in
motion on the 23d, for Dallas, with a view of turning the difficult pass
at Allatoona. On the afternoon of the 25th, the advance, under General
Hooker, had a severe battle with the enemy, driving him back to New Hope
Church, near Dallas. Several sharp encounters occurred at this point.
The most important was on the 28th, when the enemy assaulted General
McPherson at Dallas, but received a terrible and bloody repulse.
On the 4th of June, Johnston abandoned his intrenched position at New
Hope Church, and retreated to the strong positions of Kenesaw, Pine, and
Lost mountains. He was forced to yield the two last-named places, and
concentrate his army on Kenesaw, where, on the 27th, Generals Thomas and
McPherson made a determined but unsuccessful assault. On the night of
the 2d of July, Sherman commenced moving his army by the right flank,
and on the morning of the 3d, found that the enemy, in consequence of
this movement, had abandoned Kenesaw and retreated across the
General Sherman remained on the Chattahoochee to give his men rest and
get up stores until the 17th of July, when he resumed his operations,
crossed the Chattahoochee, destroyed a large portion of the railroad to
Augusta, and drove the enemy back to Atlanta. At this place General Hood
succeeded General Johnston in command of the rebel army, and assuming
the offensive-defensive policy, made several severe attacks upon Sherman
in the vicinity of Atlanta, the most desperate and determined of which
was on the 22d of July. About one P.M. of this day the brave,
accomplished, and noble-hearted McPherson was killed. General Logan
succeeded him, and commanded the Army of the Tennessee through this
desperate battle, and until he was superseded by Major-General Howard,
on the 26th, with the same success and ability that had characterized
him in the command of a corps or division.
In all these attacks the enemy was repulsed with great loss. Finding it
impossible to entirely invest the place, General Sherman, after securing
his line of communications across the Chattahoochee, moved his main
force round by the enemy's left flank upon the Montgomery and Macon
roads, to draw the enemy from his fortifications. In this he succeeded,
and after defeating the enemy near Rough-and-Ready, Jonesboro, and
Lovejoy's, forcing him to retreat to the south, on the 2d of September
occupied Atlanta, the objective point of his campaign.
About the time of this move, the rebel cavalry, under Wheeler, attempted
to cut his communications in the rear, but was repulsed at Dalton, and
driven into East Tennessee, whence it proceeded west to McMinnville,
Murfreesboro, and Franklin, and was finally driven south of the
Tennessee. The damage done by this raid was repaired in a few days.
During the partial investment of Atlanta, General Rousseau joined
General Sherman with a force of cavalry from Decatur, having made a
successful raid upon the Atlanta and Montgomery Railroad, and its
branches near Opelika. Cavalry raids were also made by Generals McCook,
Garrard, and Stoneman, to cut the remaining Railroad communication with
Atlanta. The first two were successful the latter, disastrous.
General Sherman's movement from Chattanooga to Atlanta was prompt,
skilful, and brilliant. The history of his flank movements and battles
during that memorable campaign will ever be read with an interest
unsurpassed by anything in history.
His own report, and those of his subordinate commanders, accompanying
it, give the details of that most successful campaign.
He was dependent for the supply of his armies upon a single-track
railroad from Nashville to the point where he was operating. This
passed the entire distance through a hostile country, and every foot of
it had to be protected by troops. The cavalry force of the enemy under
Forrest, in Northern Mississippi, was evidently waiting for Sherman to
advance far enough into the mountains of Georgia, to make a retreat
disastrous, to get upon this line and destroy it beyond the possibility
of further use. To guard against this danger, Sherman left what he
supposed to be a sufficient force to operate against Forrest in West
Tennessee. He directed General Washburn, who commanded there, to send
Brigadier-General S. D. Sturgis in command of this force to attack him.
On the morning of the 10th of June, General Sturgis met the enemy near
Guntown, Mississippi, was badly beaten, and driven back in utter rout
and confusion to Memphis, a distance of about one hundred miles, hotly
pursued by the enemy. By this, however, the enemy was defeated in his
designs upon Sherman's line of communications. The persistency with
which he followed up this success exhausted him, and made a season for
rest and repairs necessary. In the meantime, Major-General A. J. Smith,
with the troops of the Army of the Tennessee that had been sent by
General Sherman to General Banks, arrived at Memphis on their return
from Red River, where they had done most excellent service. He was
directed by General Sherman to immediately take the offensive against
Forrest. This he did with the promptness and effect which has
characterized his whole military career. On the 14th of July, he met
the enemy at Tupelo, Mississippi, and whipped him badly. The fighting
continued through three days. Our loss was small compared with that of
the enemy. Having accomplished the object of his expedition, General
Smith returned to Memphis.
During the months of March and April this same force under Forrest
annoyed us considerably. On the 24th of March it captured Union City,
Kentucky, and its garrison, and on the 24th attacked Paducah, commanded
by Colonel S. G. Hicks, 40th Illinois Volunteers. Colonel H., having
but a small force, withdrew to the forts near the river, from where he
repulsed the enemy and drove him from the place.
On the 13th of April, part of this force, under the rebel General
Buford, summoned the garrison of Columbus, Kentucky, to surrender, but
received for reply from Colonel Lawrence, 34th New Jersey Volunteers,
that being placed there by his Government with adequate force to hold
his post and repel all enemies from it, surrender was out of the
On the morning of the same day Forrest attacked Fort Pillow, Tennessee,
garrisoned by a detachment of Tennessee cavalry and the 1st Regiment
Alabama colored troops, commanded by Major Booth. The garrison fought
bravely until about three o'clock in the afternoon, when the enemy
carried the works by assault; and, after our men threw down their arms,
proceeded to an inhuman and merciless massacre of the garrison.
On the 14th, General Buford, having failed at Columbus, appeared before
Paducah, but was again driven off.
Guerillas and raiders, seemingly emboldened by Forrest's operations,
were also very active in Kentucky. The most noted of these was Morgan.
With a force of from two to three thousand cavalry, he entered the State
through Pound Gap in the latter part of May. On the 11th of June they
attacked and captured Cynthiana, with its entire garrison. On the 12th
he was overtaken by General Burbridge, and completely routed with heavy
loss, and was finally driven out of the State. This notorious guerilla
was afterwards surprised and killed near Greenville, Tennessee, and his
command captured and dispersed by General Gillem.
In the absence of official reports of the commencement of the Red River
expedition, except so far as relates to the movements of the troops sent
by General Sherman under General A. J. Smith, I am unable to give the
date of its starting. The troops under General Smith, comprising two
divisions of the 16th and a detachment of the 17th army corps, left
Vicksburg on the 10th of March, and reached the designated point on Red
River one day earlier than that appointed by General Banks. The rebel
forces at Fort de Russy, thinking to defeat him, left the fort on the
14th to give him battle in the open field; but, while occupying the
enemy with skirmishing and demonstrations, Smith pushed forward to Fort
de Russy, which had been left with a weak garrison, and captured it with
its garrison about three hundred and fifty men, eleven pieces of
artillery, and many small-arms. Our loss was but slight. On the 15th
he pushed forward to Alexandria, which place he reached on the 18th. On
the 21st he had an engagement with the enemy at Henderson's Hill, in
which he defeated him, capturing two hundred and ten prisoners and four
pieces of artillery.
On the 28th, he again attacked and defeated the enemy under the rebel
General Taylor, at Cane River. By the 26th, General Banks had assembled
his whole army at Alexandria, and pushed forward to Grand Ecore. On the
morning of April 6th he moved from Grand Ecore. On the afternoon of the
7th, he advanced and met the enemy near Pleasant Hill, and drove him
from the field. On the same afternoon the enemy made a stand eight
miles beyond Pleasant Hill, but was again compelled to retreat. On the
8th, at Sabine Cross Roads and Peach Hill, the enemy attacked and
defeated his advance, capturing nineteen pieces of artillery and an
immense amount of transportation and stores. During the night, General
Banks fell back to Pleasant Hill, where another battle was fought on the
9th, and the enemy repulsed with great loss. During the night, General
Banks continued his retrograde movement to Grand Ecore, and thence to
Alexandria, which he reached on the 27th of April. Here a serious
difficulty arose in getting Admiral Porter's fleet which accompanied the
expedition, over the rapids, the water having fallen so much since they
passed up as to prevent their return. At the suggestion of Colonel (now
Brigadier-General) Bailey, and under his superintendence, wing-dams were
constructed, by which the channel was contracted so that the fleet
passed down the rapids in safety.
The army evacuated Alexandria on the 14th of May, after considerable
skirmishing with the enemy's advance, and reached Morganzia and Point
Coupee near the end of the month. The disastrous termination of this
expedition, and the lateness of the season, rendered impracticable the
carrying out of my plans of a movement in force sufficient to insure the
capture of Mobile.
On the 23d of March, Major-General Steele left Little Rock with the 7th
army corps, to cooperate with General Banks's expedition on the Red
River, and reached Arkadelphia on the 28th. On the 16th of April, after
driving the enemy before him, he was joined, near Elkin's Ferry, in
Washita County, by General Thayer, who had marched from Fort Smith.
After several severe skirmishes, in which the enemy was defeated,
General Steele reached Camden, which he occupied about the middle of
On learning the defeat and consequent retreat of General Banks on Red
River, and the loss of one of his own trains at Mark's Mill, in Dallas
County, General Steele determined to fall back to the Arkansas River.
He left Camden on the 26th of April, and reached Little Rock on the 2d
of May. On the 30th of April, the enemy attacked him while crossing
Saline River at Jenkins's Ferry, but was repulsed with considerable
loss. Our loss was about six hundred in killed, wounded and prisoners.
Major-General Canby, who had been assigned to the command of the
"Military Division of the West Mississippi," was therefore directed to
send the 19th army corps to join the armies operating against Richmond,
and to limit the remainder of his command to such operations as might be
necessary to hold the positions and lines of communications he then
Before starting General A. J. Smith's troops back to Sherman, General
Canby sent a part of it to disperse a force of the enemy that was
collecting near the Mississippi River. General Smith met and defeated
this force near Lake Chicot on the 5th of June. Our loss was about
forty killed and seventy wounded.
In the latter part of July, General Canby sent Major-General Gordon
Granger, with such forces as he could collect, to co-operate with
Admiral Farragut against the defences of Mobile Bay. On the 8th of
August, Fort Gaines surrendered to the combined naval and land forces.
Fort Powell was blown up and abandoned.
On the 9th, Fort Morgan was invested, and, after a severe bombardment,
surrendered on the 23d. The total captures amounted to one thousand
four hundred and sixty-four prisoners, and one hundred and four pieces
About the last of August, it being reported that the rebel General
Price, with a force of about ten thousand men, had reached Jacksonport,
on his way to invade Missouri, General A. J. Smith's command, then en
route from Memphis to join Sherman, was ordered to Missouri. A cavalry
force was also, at the same time, sent from Memphis, under command of
Colonel Winslow. This made General Rosecrans's forces superior to those
of Price, and no doubt was entertained he would be able to check Price
and drive him back; while the forces under General Steele, in Arkansas,
would cut off his retreat. On the 26th day of September, Price attacked
Pilot Knob and forced the garrison to retreat, and thence moved north to
the Missouri River, and continued up that river towards Kansas. General
Curtis, commanding Department of Kansas, immediately collected such
forces as he could to repel the invasion of Kansas, while General
Rosecrans's cavalry was operating in his rear.
The enemy was brought to battle on the Big Blue and defeated, with the
loss of nearly all his artillery and trains and a large number of
prisoners. He made a precipitate retreat to Northern Arkansas. The
impunity with which Price was enabled to roam over the State of Missouri
for a long time, and the incalculable mischief done by him, show to how
little purpose a superior force may be used. There is no reason why
General Rosecrans should not have concentrated his forces, and beaten
and driven Price before the latter reached Pilot Knob.
September 20th, the enemy's cavalry, under Forrest, crossed the
Tennessee near Waterloo, Alabama, and on the 23d attacked the garrison
at Athens, consisting of six hundred men, which capitulated on the 24th.
Soon after the surrender two regiments of reinforcements arrived, and
after a severe fight were compelled to surrender. Forrest destroyed the
railroad westward, captured the garrison at Sulphur Branch trestle,
skirmished with the garrison at Pulaski on the 27th, and on the same day
cut the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad near Tullahoma and Dechard.
On the morning of the 30th, one column of Forrest's command, under
Buford, appeared before Huntsville, and summoned the surrender of the
garrison. Receiving an answer in the negative, he remained in the
vicinity of the place until next morning, when he again summoned its
surrender, and received the same reply as on the night before. He
withdrew in the direction of Athens which place had been regarrisoned,
and attacked it on the afternoon of the 1st of October, but without
success. On the morning of the 2d he renewed his attack, but was
Another column under Forrest appeared before Columbia on the morning of
the 1st, but did not make an attack. On the morning of the 3d he moved
towards Mount Pleasant. While these operations were going on, every
exertion was made by General Thomas to destroy the forces under Forrest
before he could recross the Tennessee, but was unable to prevent his
escape to Corinth, Mississippi.
In September, an expedition under General Burbridge was sent to destroy
the saltworks at Saltville, Virginia. He met the enemy on the 2d of
October, about three miles and a half from Saltville, and drove him into
his strongly intrenched position around the salt-works, from which he
was unable to dislodge him. During the night he withdrew his command
and returned to Kentucky.
General Sherman, immediately after the fall of Atlanta, put his armies
in camp in and about the place, and made all preparations for refitting
and supplying them for future service. The great length of road from
Atlanta to the Cumberland River, however, which had to be guarded,
allowed the troops but little rest.
During this time Jefferson Davis made a speech in Macon, Georgia, which
was reported in the papers of the South, and soon became known to the
whole country, disclosing the plans of the enemy, thus enabling General
Sherman to fully meet them. He exhibited the weakness of supposing that
an army that had been beaten and fearfully decimated in a vain attempt
at the defensive, could successfully undertake the offensive against the
army that had so often defeated it.
In execution of this plan, Hood, with this army, was soon reported to
the south-west of Atlanta. Moving far to Sherman's right, he succeeded
in reaching the railroad about Big Shanty, and moved north on it.
General Sherman, leaving a force to hold Atlanta, with the remainder of
his army fell upon him and drove him to Gadsden, Alabama. Seeing the
constant annoyance he would have with the roads to his rear if he
attempted to hold Atlanta, General Sherman proposed the abandonment and
destruction of that place, with all the railroads leading to it, and
telegraphed me as follows:
"CENTREVILLE, GEORGIA", October 10--noon.
"Dispatch about Wilson just received. Hood is now crossing Coosa River,
twelve miles below Rome, bound west. If he passes over the Mobile and
Ohio road, had I not better execute the plan of my letter sent by
Colonel Porter, and leave General Thomas with the troops now in
Tennessee to defend the State? He will have an ample force when the
reinforcements ordered reach Nashville.
"W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
For a full understanding of the plan referred to in this dispatch, I
quote from the letter sent by Colonel Porter:
"I will therefore give my opinion, that your army and Canby's should be
reinforced to the maximum; that after you get Wilmington, you strike for
Savannah and the river; that Canby be instructed to hold the Mississippi
River, and send a force to get Columbus, Georgia, either by the way of
the Alabama or the Appalachicola, and that I keep Hood employed and put
my army in final order for a march on Augusta, Columbia, and Charleston,
to be ready as soon as Wilmington is sealed as to commerce and the city
of Savannah is in our possession." This was in reply to a letter of
mine of date September 12th, in answer to a dispatch of his containing
substantially the same proposition, and in which I informed him of a
proposed movement against Wilmington, and of the situation in Virginia,
"CITY POINT, VIRGINIA,
"October 11, 1864--11 A.M.
"Your dispatch of October 10th received. Does it not look as if Hood
was going to attempt the invasion of Middle Tennessee, using the Mobile
and Ohio and Memphis and Charleston roads to supply his base on the
Tennessee River, about Florence or Decatur? If he does this, he ought
to be met and prevented from getting north of the Tennessee River. If
you were to cut loose, I do not believe you would meet Hood's army, but
would be bushwhacked by all the old men and little boys, and such
railroad guards as are still left at home. Hood would probably strike
for Nashville, thinking that by going north he could inflict greater
damage upon us than we could upon the rebels by going south. If there
is any way of getting at Hood's army, I would prefer that, but I must
trust to your own judgment. I find I shall not be able to send a force
from here to act with you on Savannah. Your movements, therefore, will
be independent of mine; at least until the fall of Richmond takes place.
I am afraid Thomas, with such lines of road as he has to protect, could
not prevent Hood from going north. With Wilson turned loose, with all
your cavalry, you will find the rebels put much more on the defensive
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL W. T. SHERMAN."
"KINGSTON, GEORGIA, "October 11--11 A.M.
"Hood moved his army from Palmetto Station across by Dallas and
Cedartown, and is now on the Coosa River, south of Rome. He threw one
corps on my road at Acworth, and I was forced to follow. I hold Atlanta
with the 20th corps, and have strong detachments along my line. This
reduces my active force to a comparatively small army. We cannot remain
here on the defensive. With the twenty-five thousand men, and the bold
cavalry he has, he can constantly break my roads. I would infinitely
prefer to make a wreck of the road, and of the country from Chattanooga
to Atlanta including the latter city send back all my wounded and
worthless, and with my effective army, move through Georgia, smashing
things, to the sea. Hood may turn into Tennessee and Kentucky, but I
believe he will be forced to follow me. Instead of my being on the
defensive, I would be on the offensive; instead of guessing at what he
means to do, he would have to guess at my plans. The difference in war
is full twenty-five per cent. I can make Savannah, Charleston, or the
mouth of the Chattahoochee.
"Answer quick, as I know we will not have the telegraph long.
"W. T. SHERMAN, Major-General.
"CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, "October 11,1864--11.30 P.M.
"Your dispatch of to-day received. If you are satisfied the trip to the
sea-coast can be made, holding the line of the Tennessee River firmly,
you may make it, destroying all the railroad south of Dalton or
Chattanooga, as you think best.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL W. T. SHERMAN."
It was the original design to hold Atlanta, and by getting through to
the coast, with a garrison left on the southern railroads, leading east
and west, through Georgia, to effectually sever the east from the west.
In other words, cut the would-be Confederacy in two again, as it had
been cut once by our gaining possession of the Mississippi River.
General Sherman's plan virtually effected this object.
General Sherman commenced at once his preparations for his proposed
movement, keeping his army in position in the meantime to watch Hood.
Becoming satisfied that Hood had moved westward from Gadsden across Sand
Mountain, General Sherman sent the 4th corps, Major-General Stanley
commanding, and the 23d corps, Major-General Schofield commanding, back
to Chattanooga to report to Major-General Thomas, at Nashville, whom he
had placed in command of all the troops of his military division, save
the four army corps and cavalry division he designed to move with
through Georgia. With the troops thus left at his disposal, there was
little doubt that General Thomas could hold the line of the Tennessee,
or, in the event Hood should force it, would be able to concentrate and
beat him in battle. It was therefore readily consented to that Sherman
should start for the sea-coast.
Having concentrated his troops at Atlanta by the 14th of November, he
commenced his march, threatening both Augusta and Macon. His coming-out
point could not be definitely fixed. Having to gather his subsistence as
he marched through the country, it was not impossible that a force
inferior to his own might compel him to head for such point as he could
reach, instead of such as he might prefer. The blindness of the enemy,
however, in ignoring his movement, and sending Hood's army, the only
considerable force he had west of Richmond and east of the Mississippi
River, northward on an offensive campaign, left the whole country open,
and Sherman's route to his own choice.
How that campaign was conducted, how little opposition was met with, the
condition of the country through which the armies passed, the capture of
Fort McAllister, on the Savannah River, and the occupation of Savannah
on the 21st of December, are all clearly set forth in General Sherman's
Soon after General Sherman commenced his march from Atlanta, two
expeditions, one from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and one from Vicksburg,
Mississippi, were started by General Canby to cut the enemy's lines of
communication with Mobile and detain troops in that field. General
Foster, commanding Department of the South, also sent an expedition, via
Broad River, to destroy the railroad between Charleston and Savannah.
The expedition from Vicksburg, under command of Brevet Brigadier-General
E. D. Osband (colonel 3d United States colored cavalry), captured, on
the 27th of November, and destroyed the Mississippi Central Railroad
bridge and trestle-work over Big Black River, near Canton, thirty miles
of the road, and two locomotives, besides large amounts of stores. The
expedition from Baton Rouge was without favorable results. The
expedition from the Department of the South, under the immediate command
of Brigadier-General John P. Hatch, consisting of about five thousand
men of all arms, including a brigade from the navy, proceeded up Broad
River and debarked at Boyd's Neck on the 29th of November, from where it
moved to strike the railroad at Grahamsville. At Honey Hill, about
three miles from Grahamsville, the enemy was found and attacked in a
strongly fortified position, which resulted, after severe fighting, in
our repulse with a loss of seven hundred and forty-six in killed,
wounded, and missing. During the night General Hatch withdrew. On the
6th of December General Foster obtained a position covering the
Charleston and Savannah Railroad, between the Coosawhatchie and
Hood, instead of following Sherman, continued his move northward, which
seemed to me to be leading to his certain doom. At all events, had I
had the power to command both armies, I should not have changed the
orders under which he seemed to be acting. On the 26th of October, the
advance of Hood's army attacked the garrison at Decatur, Alabama, but
failing to carry the place, withdrew towards Courtland, and succeeded,
in the face of our cavalry, in effecting a lodgment on the north side of
the Tennessee River, near Florence. On the 28th, Forrest reached the
Tennessee, at Fort Heiman, and captured a gunboat and three transports.
On the 2d of November he planted batteries above and below Johnsonville,
on the opposite side of the river, isolating three gunboats and eight
transports. On the 4th the enemy opened his batteries upon the place,
and was replied to from the gunboats and the garrison. The gunboats
becoming disabled were set on fire, as also were the transports, to
prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. About a million and
a half dollars' worth of store and property on the levee and in
storehouses was consumed by fire. On the 5th the enemy disappeared and
crossed to the north side of the Tennessee River, above Johnsonville,
moving towards Clifton, and subsequently joined Hood. On the night of
the 5th, General Schofield, with the advance of the 23d corps, reached
Johnsonville, but finding the enemy gone, was ordered to Pulaski, and
was put in command of all the troopers there, with instruction to watch
the movements of Hood and retard his advance, but not to risk a general
engagement until the arrival of General A. J. Smith's command from
Missouri, and until General Wilson could get his cavalry remounted.
On the 19th, General Hood continued his advance. General Thomas,
retarding him as much as possible, fell back towards Nashville for the
purpose of concentrating his command and gaining time for the arrival of
reinforcements. The enemy coming up with our main force, commanded by
General Schofield, at Franklin, on the 30th, assaulted our works
repeatedly during the afternoon until late at night, but were in every
instance repulsed. His loss in this battle was one thousand seven
hundred and fifty killed, seven hundred and two prisoners, and three
thousand eight hundred wounded. Among his losses were six general
officers killed, six wounded, and one captured. Our entire loss was two
thousand three hundred. This was the first serious opposition the enemy
met with, and I am satisfied was the fatal blow to all his expectations.
During the night, General Schofield fell back towards Nashville. This
left the field to the enemy--not lost by battle, but voluntarily
abandoned--so that General Thomas's whole force might be brought
together. The enemy followed up and commenced the establishment of his
line in front of Nashville on the 2d of December.
As soon as it was ascertained that Hood was crossing the Tennessee
River, and that Price was going out of Missouri, General Rosecrans was
ordered to send to General Thomas the troops of General A. J. Smith's
command, and such other troops as he could spare. The advance of this
reinforcement reached Nashville on the 30th of November.
On the morning of the 15th December, General Thomas attacked Hood in
position, and, in a battle lasting two days, defeated and drove him from
the field in the utmost confusion, leaving in our hand most of his
artillery and many thousand prisoners, including four general officers.
Before the battle of Nashville I grew very impatient over, as it
appeared to me, the unnecessary delay. This impatience was increased
upon learning that the enemy had sent a force of cavalry across the
Cumberland into Kentucky. I feared Hood would cross his whole army and
give us great trouble there. After urging upon General Thomas the
necessity of immediately assuming the offensive, I started West to
superintend matters there in person. Reaching Washington City, I
received General Thomas's dispatch announcing his attack upon the enemy,
and the result as far as the battle had progressed. I was delighted.
All fears and apprehensions were dispelled. I am not yet satisfied but
that General Thomas, immediately upon the appearance of Hood before
Nashville, and before he had time to fortify, should have moved out with
his whole force and given him battle, instead of waiting to remount his
cavalry, which delayed him until the inclemency of the weather made it
impracticable to attack earlier than he did. But his final defeat of
Hood was so complete, that it will be accepted as a vindication of that
distinguished officer's judgment.
After Hood's defeat at Nashville he retreated, closely pursued by
cavalry and infantry, to the Tennessee River, being forced to abandon
many pieces of artillery and most of his transportation. On the 28th of
December our advanced forces ascertained that he had made good his
escape to the south side of the river.
About this time, the rains having set in heavily in Tennessee and North
Alabama, making it difficult to move army transportation and artillery,
General Thomas stopped the pursuit by his main force at the Tennessee
River. A small force of cavalry, under Colonel W. J. Palmer, 15th
Pennsylvania Volunteers, continued to follow Hood for some distance,
capturing considerable transportation and all the enemy's
pontoon-bridge. The details of these operations will be found
clearly set forth in General Thomas's report.
A cavalry expedition, under Brevet Major-General Grierson, started from
Memphis on the 21st of December. On the 25th he surprised and captured
Forrest's dismounted camp at Verona, Mississippi, on the Mobile and Ohio
Railroad, destroyed the railroad, sixteen cars loaded with wagons and
pontoons for Hood's army, four thousand new English carbines, and large
amounts of public stores. On the morning of the 28th he attacked and
captured a force of the enemy at Egypt, and destroyed a train of
fourteen cars; thence turning to the south-west, he struck the
Mississippi Central Railroad at Winona, destroyed the factories and
large amounts of stores at Bankston, and the machine-shops and public
property at Grenada, arriving at Vicksburg January 5th.
During the operations in Middle Tennessee, the enemy, with a force under
General Breckinridge, entered East Tennessee. On the 13th of November
he attacked General Gillem, near Morristown, capturing his artillery and
several hundred prisoners. Gillem, with what was left of his command,
retreated to Knoxville. Following up his success, Breckinridge moved to
near Knoxville, but withdrew on the 18th, followed by General Ammen.
Under the directions of General Thomas, General Stoneman concentrated
the commands of Generals Burbridge and Gillem near Bean's Station to
operate against Breckinridge, and destroy or drive him into Virginia
--destroy the salt-works at Saltville, and the railroad into Virginia
as far as he could go without endangering his command. On the 12th of
December he commenced his movement, capturing and dispersing the enemy's
forces wherever he met them. On the 16th he struck the enemy, under
Vaughn, at Marion, completely routing and pursuing him to Wytheville,
capturing all his artillery, trains, and one hundred and ninety-eight
prisoners; and destroyed Wytheville, with its stores and supplies, and
the extensive lead-works near there. Returning to Marion, he met a force
under Breckinridge, consisting, among other troops, of the garrison of
Saltville, that had started in pursuit. He at once made arrangements to
attack it the next morning; but morning found Breckinridge gone. He
then moved directly to Saltville, and destroyed the extensive salt-works
at that place, a large amount of stores, and captured eight pieces of
artillery. Having thus successfully executed his instructions, he
returned General Burbridge to Lexington and General Gillem to Knoxville.
Wilmington, North Carolina, was the most important sea-coast port left
to the enemy through which to get supplies from abroad, and send cotton
and other products out by blockade-runners, besides being a place of
great strategic value. The navy had been making strenuous exertions to
seal the harbor of Wilmington, but with only partial effect. The nature
of the outlet of Cape Fear River was such, that it required watching for
so great a distance that, without possession of the land north of New
Inlet, or Fort Fisher, it was impossible for the navy to entirely close
the harbor against the entrance of blockade-runners.
To secure the possession of this land required the co-operation of a
land force, which I agreed to furnish. Immediately commenced the
assemblage in Hampton Roads, under Admiral D. D. Porter, of the most
formidable armada ever collected for concentration upon one given point.
This necessarily attracted the attention of the enemy, as well as that
of the loyal North; and through the imprudence of the public press, and
very likely of officers of both branches of service, the exact object of
the expedition became a subject of common discussion in the newspapers
both North and South. The enemy, thus warned, prepared to meet it.
This caused a postponement of the expedition until the later part of
November, when, being again called upon by Hon. G. V. Fox, Assistant
Secretary of the Navy, I agreed to furnish the men required at once, and
went myself, in company with Major-General Butler, to Hampton Roads,
where we had a conference with Admiral Porter as to the force required
and the time of starting. A force of six thousand five hundred men was
regarded as sufficient. The time of starting was not definitely
arranged, but it was thought all would be ready by the 6th of December,
if not before. Learning, on the 30th of November, that Bragg had gone
to Georgia, taking with him most of the forces about Wilmington, I
deemed it of the utmost importance that the expedition should reach its
destination before the return of Bragg, and directed General Butler to
make all arrangements for the departure of Major-General Weitzel, who
had been designated to command the land forces, so that the navy might
not be detained one moment.
On the 6th of December, the following instructions were given:
"CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, December 6, 1864.
"GENERAL: The first object of the expedition under General Weitzel is
to close to the enemy the port of Wilmington. If successful in this,
the second will be to capture Wilmington itself. There are reasonable
grounds to hope for success, if advantage can be taken of the absence of
the greater part of the enemy's forces now looking after Sherman in
Georgia. The directions you have given for the numbers and equipment of
the expedition are all right, except in the unimportant matter of where
they embark and the amount of intrenching tools to be taken. The object
of the expedition will be gained by effecting a landing on the main land
between Cape Fear River and the Atlantic, north of the north entrance to
the river. Should such landing be effected while the enemy still holds
Fort Fisher and the batteries guarding the entrance to the river, then
the troops should intrench themselves, and, by co-operating with the
navy, effect the reduction and capture of those places. These in our
hands, the navy could enter the harbor, and the port of Wilmington would
be sealed. Should Fort Fisher and the point of land on which it is
built fall into the hands of our troops immediately on landing, then it
will be worth the attempt to capture Wilmington by a forced march and
surprise. If time is consumed in gaining the first object of the
expedition, the second will become a matter of after consideration.
"The details for execution are intrusted to you and the officer
immediately in command of the troops.
"Should the troops under General Weitzel fail to effect a landing at or
near Fort Fisher, they will be returned to the armies operating against
Richmond without delay.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL B. F. BUTLER."
General Butler commanding the army from which the troops were taken for
this enterprise, and the territory within which they were to operate,
military courtesy required that all orders and instructions should go
through him. They were so sent, but General Weitzel has since
officially informed me that he never received the foregoing
instructions, nor was he aware of their existence, until he read General
Butler's published official report of the Fort Fisher failure, with my
indorsement and papers accompanying it. I had no idea of General
Butler's accompanying the expedition until the evening before it got off
from Bermuda Hundred, and then did not dream but that General Weitzel
had received all the instructions, and would be in command. I rather
formed the idea that General Butler was actuated by a desire to witness
the effect of the explosion of the powder-boat. The expedition was
detained several days at Hampton Roads, awaiting the loading of the
The importance of getting the Wilmington expedition off without any
delay, with or without the powder-boat, had been urged upon General
Butler, and he advised to so notify Admiral Porter.
The expedition finally got off on the 13th of December, and arrived at
the place of rendezvous, off New Inlet, near Fort Fisher, on the evening
of the 15th. Admiral Porter arrived on the evening of the 18th, having
put in at Beaufort to get ammunition for the monitors. The sea becoming
rough, making it difficult to land troops, and the supply of water and
coal being about exhausted, the transport fleet put back to Beaufort to
replenish; this, with the state of the weather, delayed the return to
the place of rendezvous until the 24th. The powder-boat was exploded on
the morning of the 24th, before the return of General Butler from
Beaufort; but it would seem, from the notice taken of it in the Southern
newspapers, that the enemy were never enlightened as to the object of
the explosion until they were informed by the Northern press.
On the 25th a landing was effected without opposition, and a
reconnoissance, under Brevet Brigadier-General Curtis, pushed up towards
the fort. But before receiving a full report of the result of this
reconnoissance, General Butler, in direct violation of the instructions
given, ordered the re-embarkation of the troops and the return of the
expedition. The re-embarkation was accomplished by the morning of the
On the return of the expedition officers and men among them Brevet
Major-General (then Brevet Brigadier-General) N. M. Curtis,
First-Lieutenant G. W. Ross, 117th Regiment New York Volunteers,
First-Lieutenant William H. Walling, and Second-Lieutenant George
Simpson, 142d New York Volunteers voluntarily reported to me that when
recalled they were nearly into the fort, and, in their opinion, it could
have been taken without much loss.
Soon after the return of the expedition, I received a dispatch from the
Secretary of the Navy, and a letter from Admiral Porter, informing me
that the fleet was still off Fort Fisher, and expressing the conviction
that, under a proper leader, the place could be taken. The natural
supposition with me was, that when the troops abandoned the expedition,
the navy would do so also. Finding it had not, however, I answered on
the 30th of December, advising Admiral Porter to hold on, and that I
would send a force and make another attempt to take the place. This
time I selected Brevet Major-General (now Major-General) A. H. Terry to
command the expedition. The troops composing it consisted of the same
that composed the former, with the addition of a small brigade,
numbering about one thousand five hundred, and a small siege train. The
latter it was never found necessary to land. I communicated direct to
the commander of the expedition the following instructions:
"CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, January 3, 1865.
"GENERAL: The expedition intrusted to your command has been fitted out
to renew the attempt to capture Fort Fisher, N. C., and Wilmington
ultimately, if the fort falls. You will then proceed with as little
delay as possible to the naval fleet lying off Cape Fear River, and
report the arrival of yourself and command to Admiral D. D. Porter,
commanding North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
"It is exceedingly desirable that the most complete understanding should
exist between yourself and the naval commander. I suggest, therefore,
that you consult with Admiral Porter freely, and get from him the part
to be performed by each branch of the public service, so that there may
be unity of action. It would be well to have the whole programme laid
down in writing. I have served with Admiral Porter, and know that you
can rely on his judgment and his nerve to undertake what he proposes. I
would, therefore, defer to him as much as is consistent with your own
responsibilities. The first object to be attained is to get a firm
position on the spit of land on which Fort Fisher is built, from which
you can operate against that fort. You want to look to the
practicability of receiving your supplies, and to defending yourself
against superior forces sent against you by any of the avenues left open
to the enemy. If such a position can be obtained, the siege of Fort
Fisher will not be abandoned until its reduction is accomplished, or
another plan of campaign is ordered from these headquarters.
"My own views are, that if you effect a landing, the navy ought to run a
portion of their fleet into Cape Fear River, while the balance of it
operates on the outside. Land forces cannot invest Fort Fisher, or cut
it off from supplies or reinforcements, while the river is in possession
of the enemy.
"A siege-train will be loaded on vessels and sent to Fort Monroe, in
readiness to be sent to you if required. All other supplies can be
drawn from Beaufort as you need them.
"Keep the fleet of vessels with you until your position is assured.
When you find they can be spared, order them back, or such of them as
you can spare, to Fort Monroe, to report for orders.
"In case of failure to effect a landing, bring your command back to
Beaufort, and report to these headquarters for further instructions.
You will not debark at Beaufort until so directed.
"General Sheridan has been ordered to send a division of troops to
Baltimore and place them on sea-going vessels. These troops will be
brought to Fort Monroe and kept there on the vessels until you are heard
from. Should you require them, they will be sent to you.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"BREVET MAJOR-GENERAL A. H. TERRY."
Lieutenant-Colonel C. B. Comstock, aide-de-camp (now brevet
brigadier-general), who accompanied the former expedition,
was assigned, in orders, as chief-engineer to this.
It will be seen that these instructions did not differ materially from
those given for the first expedition, and that in neither instance was
there an order to assault Fort Fisher. This was a matter left entirely
to the discretion of the commanding officer.
The expedition sailed from Fort Monroe on the morning of the 6th,
arriving at the rendezvous, off Beaufort, on the 8th, where, owing to
the difficulties of the weather, it lay until the morning of the 12th,
when it got under way and reached its destination that evening. Under
cover of the fleet, the disembarkation of the troops commenced on the
morning of the 13th, and by three o'clock P.M. was completed without
loss. On the 14th a reconnoissance was pushed to within five hundred
yards of Fort Fisher, and a small advance work taken possession of and
turned into a defensive line against any attempt that might be made from
the fort. This reconnoissance disclosed the fact that the front of the
work had been seriously injured by the navy fire. In the afternoon of
the 15th the fort was assaulted, and after most desperate fighting was
captured, with its entire garrison and armament. Thus was secured, by
the combined efforts of the navy and army, one of the most important
successes of the war. Our loss was: killed, one hundred and ten;
wounded, five hundred and thirty-six. On the 16th and the 17th the
enemy abandoned and blew up Fort Caswell and the works on Smith's
Island, which were immediately occupied by us. This gave us entire
control of the mouth of the Cape Fear River.
At my request, Mayor-General B. F. Butler was relieved, and
Major-General E. O. C. Ord assigned to the Department of Virginia and
The defence of the line of the Tennessee no longer requiring the force
which had beaten and nearly destroyed the only army now threatening it,
I determined to find other fields of operation for General Thomas's
surplus troops--fields from which they would co-operate with other
movements. General Thomas was therefore directed to collect all troops,
not essential to hold his communications at Eastport, in readiness for
orders. On the 7th of January, General Thomas was directed, if he was
assured of the departure of Hood south from Corinth, to send General
Schofield with his corps east with as little delay as possible. This
direction was promptly complied with, and the advance of the corps
reached Washington on the 23d of the same month, whence it was sent to
Fort Fisher and New Bern. On the 26th he was directed to send General
A. J. Smith's command and a division of cavalry to report to General
Canby. By the 7th of February the whole force was en route for its
The State of North Carolina was constituted into a military department,
and General Schofield assigned to command, and placed under the orders
of Major-General Sherman. The following instructions were given him:
"CITY POINT, VA., January 31, 1865.
"GENERAL:-- * * * Your movements are intended as co-operative
with Sherman's through the States of South and North Carolina. The
first point to be attained is to secure Wilmington. Goldsboro' will
then be your objective point, moving either from Wilmington or New Bern,
or both, as you deem best. Should you not be able to reach Goldsboro',
you will advance on the line or lines of railway connecting that place
with the sea-coast--as near to it as you can, building the road behind
you. The enterprise under you has two objects: the first is to give
General Sherman material aid, if needed, in his march north; the second,
to open a base of supplies for him on his line of march. As soon,
therefore, as you can determine which of the two points, Wilmington or
New Bern, you can best use for throwing supplies from, to the interior,
you will commence the accumulation of twenty days' rations and forage
for sixty thousand men and twenty thousand animals. You will get of
these as many as you can house and protect to such point in the interior
as you may be able to occupy. I believe General Palmer has received
some instructions direct from General Sherman on the subject of securing
supplies for his army. You will learn what steps he has taken, and be
governed in your requisitions accordingly. A supply of ordnance stores
will also be necessary.
"Make all requisitions upon the chiefs of their respective departments
in the field with me at City Point. Communicate with me by every
opportunity, and should you deem it necessary at any time, send a
special boat to Fortress Monroe, from which point you can communicate by
"The supplies referred to in these instructions are exclusive of those
required for your own command.
"The movements of the enemy may justify, or even make it your imperative
duty, to cut loose from your base, and strike for the interior to aid
Sherman. In such case you will act on your own judgment without waiting
for instructions. You will report, however, what you purpose doing.
The details for carrying out these instructions are necessarily left to
you. I would urge, however, if I did not know that you are already
fully alive to the importance of it, prompt action. Sherman may be
looked for in the neighborhood of Goldsboro' any time from the 22d to
the 28th of February; this limits your time very materially.
"If rolling-stock is not secured in the capture of Wilmington, it can be
supplied from Washington. A large force of railroad men have already
been sent to Beaufort, and other mechanics will go to Fort Fisher in a
day or two. On this point I have informed you by telegraph.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL J. M. SCHOFIELD."
Previous to giving these instructions I had visited Fort Fisher,
accompanied by General Schofield, for the purpose of seeing for myself
the condition of things, and personally conferring with General Terry
and Admiral Porter as to what was best to be done.
Anticipating the arrival of General Sherman at Savannah his army
entirely foot-loose, Hood being then before Nashville, Tennessee, the
Southern railroads destroyed, so that it would take several months to
re-establish a through line from west to east, and regarding the capture
of Lee's army as the most important operation towards closing the
rebellion--I sent orders to General Sherman on the 6th of December, that
after establishing a base on the sea-coast, with necessary garrison, to
include all his artillery and cavalry, to come by water to City Point
with the balance of his command.
On the 18th of December, having received information of the defeat and
utter rout of Hood's army by General Thomas, and that, owing to the
great difficulty of procuring ocean transportation, it would take over
two months to transport Sherman's army, and doubting whether he might
not contribute as much towards the desired result by operating from
where he was, I wrote to him to that effect, and asked him for his views
as to what would be best to do. A few days after this I received a
communication from General Sherman, of date 16th December, acknowledging
the receipt of my order of the 6th, and informing me of his preparations
to carry it into effect as soon as he could get transportation. Also
that he had expected, upon reducing Savannah, instantly to march to
Columbia, South Carolina, thence to Raleigh, and thence to report to me;
but that this would consume about six weeks' time after the fall of
Savannah, whereas by sea he could probably reach me by the middle of
January. The confidence he manifested in this letter of being able to
march up and join me pleased me, and, without waiting for a reply to my
letter of the 18th, I directed him, on the 28th of December, to make
preparations to start as he proposed, without delay, to break up the
railroads in North and South Carolina, and join the armies operating
against Richmond as soon as he could.
On the 21st of January I informed General Sherman that I had ordered the
23d corps, Major-General Schofield commanding, east; that it numbered
about twenty-one thousand men; that we had at Fort Fisher, about eight
thousand men; at New Bern, about four thousand; that if Wilmington was
captured, General Schofield would go there; if not, he would be sent to
New Bern; that, in either event, all the surplus force at both points
would move to the interior towards Goldsboro', in co-operation with his
movement; that from either point railroad communication could be run
out; and that all these troops would be subject to his orders as he came
into communication with them.
In obedience to his instructions, General Schofield proceeded to reduce
Wilmington, North Carolina, in co-operation with the navy under Admiral
Porter, moving his forces up both sides of the Cape Fear River. Fort
Anderson, the enemy's main defence on the west bank of the river, was
occupied on the morning of the 19th, the enemy having evacuated it after
our appearance before it.
After fighting on 20th and 21st, our troops entered Wilmington on the
morning of the 22d, the enemy having retreated towards Goldsboro' during
the night. Preparations were at once made for a movement on Goldsboro'
in two columns--one from Wilmington, and the other from New Bern--and to
repair the railroad leading there from each place, as well as to supply
General Sherman by Cape Fear River, towards Fayetteville, if it became
necessary. The column from New Bern was attacked on the 8th of March,
at Wise's Forks, and driven back with the loss of several hundred
prisoners. On the 11th the enemy renewed his attack upon our intrenched
position, but was repulsed with severe loss, and fell back during the
night. On the 14th the Neuse River was crossed and Kinston occupied,
and on the 21st Goldsboro' was entered. The column from Wilmington
reached Cox's Bridge, on the Neuse River, ten miles above Goldsboro', on
By the 1st of February, General Sherman's whole army was in motion from
Savannah. He captured Columbia, South Carolina, on the 17th; thence
moved on Goldsboro', North Carolina, via Fayetteville, reaching the
latter place on the 12th of March, opening up communication with General
Schofield by way of Cape Fear River. On the 15th he resumed his march
on Goldsboro'. He met a force of the enemy at Averysboro', and after a
severe fight defeated and compelled it to retreat. Our loss in this
engagement was about six hundred. The enemy's loss was much greater.
On the 18th the combined forces of the enemy, under Joe Johnston,
attacked his advance at Bentonville, capturing three guns and driving it
back upon the main body. General Slocum, who was in the advance
ascertaining that the whole of Johnston's army was in the front,
arranged his troops on the defensive, intrenched himself and awaited
reinforcements, which were pushed forward. On the night of the 21st the
enemy retreated to Smithfield, leaving his dead and wounded in our
hands. From there Sherman continued to Goldsboro', which place had been
occupied by General Schofield on the 21st (crossing the Neuse River ten
miles above there, at Cox's Bridge, where General Terry had got
possession and thrown a pontoon-bridge on the 22d), thus forming a
junction with the columns from New Bern and Wilmington.
Among the important fruits of this campaign was the fall of Charleston,
South Carolina. It was evacuated by the enemy on the night of the 17th
of February, and occupied by our forces on the 18th.
On the morning of the 31st of January, General Thomas was directed to
send a cavalry expedition, under General Stoneman, from East Tennessee,
to penetrate South Carolina well down towards Columbia, to destroy the
railroads and military resources of the country, and return, if he was
able, to East Tennessee by way of Salisbury, North Carolina, releasing
our prisoners there, if possible. Of the feasibility of this latter,
however, General Stoneman was to judge. Sherman's movements, I had no
doubt, would attract the attention of all the force the enemy could
collect, and facilitate the execution of this. General Stoneman was so
late in making his start on this expedition (and Sherman having passed
out of the State of South Carolina), on the 27th of February I directed
General Thomas to change his course, and order him to repeat his raid of
last fall, destroying the railroad towards Lynchburg as far as he could.
This would keep him between our garrisons in East Tennessee and the
enemy. I regarded it not impossible that in the event of the enemy
being driven from Richmond, he might fall back to Lynchburg and attempt
a raid north through East Tennessee. On the 14th of February the
following communication was sent to General Thomas:
"CITY POINT, VA., February 14, 1865.
"General Canby is preparing a movement from Mobile Bay against Mobile
and the interior of Alabama. His force will consist of about twenty
thousand men, besides A. J. Smith's command. The cavalry you have sent
to Canby will be debarked at Vicksburg. It, with the available cavalry
already in that section, will move from there eastward, in co-operation.
Hood's army has been terribly reduced by the severe punishment you gave
it in Tennessee, by desertion consequent upon their defeat, and now by
the withdrawal of many of them to oppose Sherman. (I take it a large
portion of the infantry has been so withdrawn. It is so asserted in the
Richmond papers, and a member of the rebel Congress said a few days
since in a speech, that one-half of it had been brought to South
Carolina to oppose Sherman.) This being true, or even if it is not
true, Canby's movement will attract all the attention of the enemy, and
leave the advance from your standpoint easy. I think it advisable,
therefore, that you prepare as much of a cavalry force as you can spare,
and hold it in readiness to go south. The object would be threefold:
first, to attract as much of the enemy's force as possible, to insure
success to Canby; second, to destroy the enemy's line of communications
and military resources; third, to destroy or capture their forces
brought into the field. Tuscaloosa and Selma would probably be the
points to direct the expedition against. This, however, would not be so
important as the mere fact of penetrating deep into Alabama. Discretion
should be left to the officer commanding the expedition to go where,
according to the information he may receive, he will best secure the
objects named above.
"Now that your force has been so much depleted, I do not know what
number of men you can put into the field. If not more than five
thousand men, however, all cavalry, I think it will be sufficient. It
is not desirable that you should start this expedition until the one
leaving Vicksburg has been three or four days out, or even a week. I do
not know when it will start, but will inform you by telegraph as soon as
I learn. If you should hear through other sources before hearing from
me, you can act on the information received.
"To insure success your cavalry should go with as little wagon-train as
possible, relying upon the country for supplies. I would also reduce
the number of guns to a battery, or the number of batteries, and put the
extra teams to the guns taken. No guns or caissons should be taken with
less than eight horses.
"Please inform me by telegraph, on receipt of this, what force you think
you will be able to send under these directions.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL G. H. THOMAS."
On the 15th, he was directed to start the expedition as soon after the
20th as he could get it off.
I deemed it of the utmost importance, before a general movement of the
armies operating against Richmond, that all communications with the
city, north of James River, should be cut off. The enemy having
withdrawn the bulk of his force from the Shenandoah Valley and sent it
south, or replaced troops sent from Richmond, and desiring to reinforce
Sherman, if practicable, whose cavalry was greatly inferior in numbers
to that of the enemy, I determined to make a move from the Shenandoah,
which, if successful, would accomplish the first at least, and possibly
the latter of the objects. I therefore telegraphed General Sheridan as
"CITY POINT, VA., February 20, 1865--1 P.M.
"GENERAL:--As soon as it is possible to travel, I think you will have no
difficulty about reaching Lynchburg with a cavalry force alone. From
there you could destroy the railroad and canal in every direction, so as
to be of no further use to the rebellion. Sufficient cavalry should be
left behind to look after Mosby's gang. From Lynchburg, if information
you might get there would justify it, you will strike south, heading the
streams in Virgina to the westward of Danville, and push on and join
General Sherman. This additional raid, with one now about starting from
East Tennessee under Stoneman, numbering four or give thousand cavalry,
one from Vicksburg, numbering seven or eight thousand cavalry, one from
Eastport, Mississippi, then thousand cavalry, Canby from Mobile Bay,
with about thirty-eight thousand mixed troops, these three latter
pushing for Tuscaloosa, Selma, and Montgomery, and Sherman with a large
army eating out the vitals of South Carolina, is all that will be wanted
to leave nothing for the rebellion to stand upon. I would advise you to
overcome great obstacles to accomplish this. Charleston was evacuated
on Tuesday 1st.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL P. H. SHERIDAN."
On the 25th I received a dispatch from General Sheridan, inquiring where
Sherman was aiming for, and if I could give him definite information as
to the points he might be expected to move on, this side of Charlotte,
North Carolina. In answer, the following telegram was sent him:
"CITY POINT, VA., February 25, 1865.
"GENERAL:--Sherman's movements will depend on the amount of opposition
he meets with from the enemy. If strongly opposed, he may possibly have
to fall back to Georgetown, S. C., and fit out for a new start. I
think, however, all danger for the necessity of going to that point has
passed. I believe he has passed Charlotte. He may take Fayetteville on
his way to Goldsboro'. If you reach Lynchburg, you will have to be
guided in your after movements by the information you obtain. Before
you could possibly reach Sherman, I think you would find him moving from
Goldsboro' towards Raleigh, or engaging the enemy strongly posted at one
or the other of these places, with railroad communications opened from
his army to Wilmington or New Bern.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL P. H. SHERIDAN."
General Sheridan moved from Winchester on the 27th of February, with two
divisions of cavalry, numbering about five thousand each. On the 1st of
March he secured the bridge, which the enemy attempted to destroy,
across the middle fork of the Shenandoah, at Mount Crawford, and entered
Staunton on the 2d, the enemy having retreated to Waynesboro'. Thence
he pushed on to Waynesboro', where he found the enemy in force in an
intrenched position, under General Early. Without stopping to make a
reconnoissance, an immediate attack was made, the position was carried,
and sixteen hundred prisoners, eleven pieces of artillery, with horses
and caissons complete, two hundred wagons and teams loaded with
subsistence, and seventeen battle-flags, were captured. The prisoners,
under an escort of fifteen hundred men, were sent back to Winchester.
Thence he marched on Charlottesville, destroying effectually the
railroad and bridges as he went, which place he reached on the 3d. Here
he remained two days, destroying the railroad towards Richmond and
Lynchburg, including the large iron bridges over the north and south
forks of the Rivanna River and awaited the arrival of his trains. This
necessary delay caused him to abandon the idea of capturing Lynchburg.
On the morning of the 6th, dividing his force into two columns, he sent
one to Scottsville, whence it marched up the James River Canal to New
Market, destroying every lock, and in many places the bank of the canal.
From here a force was pushed out from this column to Duiguidsville, to
obtain possession of the bridge across the James River at that place,
but failed. The enemy burned it on our approach. The enemy also burned
the bridge across the river at Hardwicksville. The other column moved
down the railroad towards Lynchburg, destroying it as far as Amherst
Court House, sixteen miles from Lynchburg; thence across the country,
uniting with the column at New Market. The river being very high, his
pontoons would not reach across it; and the enemy having destroyed the
bridges by which he had hoped to cross the river and get on the South
Side Railroad about Farmville, and destroy it to Appomattox Court House,
the only thing left for him was to return to Winchester or strike a base
at the White House. Fortunately, he chose the latter. From New Market
he took up his line of march, following the canal towards Richmond,
destroying every lock upon it and cutting the banks wherever
practicable, to a point eight miles east of Goochland, concentrating the
whole force at Columbia on the 10th. Here he rested one day, and sent
through by scouts information of his whereabouts and purposes, and a
request for supplies to meet him at White House, which reached me on the
night of the 12th. An infantry force was immediately sent to get
possession of White House, and supplies were forwarded. Moving from
Columbia in a direction to threaten Richmond, to near Ashland Station,
he crossed the Annas, and after having destroyed all the bridges and
many miles of the railroad, proceeded down the north bank of the
Pamunkey to White House, which place he reached on the 19th.
Previous to this the following communication was sent to General Thomas:
"CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, March 7, 1865--9.30 A.M.
"GENERAL:--I think it will be advisable now for you to repair the
railroad in East Tennessee, and throw a good force up to Bull's Gap and
fortify there. Supplies at Knoxville could always be got forward as
required. With Bull's Gap fortified, you can occupy as outposts about
all of East Tennessee, and be prepared, if it should be required of you
in the spring, to make a campaign towards Lynchburg, or into North
Carolina. I do not think Stoneman should break the road until he gets
into Virginia, unless it should be to cut off rolling-stock that may be
caught west of that.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL G. H. THOMAS."
Thus it will be seen that in March, 1865, General Canby was moving an
adequate force against Mobile and the army defending it under General
Dick Taylor; Thomas was pushing out two large and well-appointed cavalry
expeditions--one from Middle Tennessee under Brevet Major-General Wilson
against the enemy's vital points in Alabama, the other from East
Tennessee, under Major-General Stoneman, towards Lynchburg--and
assembling the remainder of his available forces, preparatory to
commence offensive operations from East Tennessee; General Sheridan's
cavalry was at White House; the armies of the Potomac and James were
confronting the enemy, under Lee, in his defences of Richmond and
Petersburg; General Sherman with his armies, reinforced by that of
General Schofield, was at Goldsboro'; General Pope was making
preparations for a spring campaign against the enemy under Kirby Smith
and Price, west of the Mississippi; and General Hancock was
concentrating a force in the vicinity of Winchester, Virginia, to guard
against invasion or to operate offensively, as might prove necessary.
After the long march by General Sheridan's cavalry over winter roads, it
was necessary to rest and refit at White House. At this time the
greatest source of uneasiness to me was the fear that the enemy would
leave his strong lines about Petersburg and Richmond for the purpose of
uniting with Johnston, and before he was driven from them by battle, or
I was prepared to make an effectual pursuit. On the 24th of March,
General Sheridan moved from White House, crossed the James River at
Jones's Landing, and formed a junction with the Army of the Potomac in
front of Petersburg on the 27th. During this move, General Ord sent
forces to cover the crossings of the Chickahominy.
On the 24th of March the following instructions for a general movement
of the armies operating against Richmond were issued:
"CITY POINT, VIRGINIA, March 24, 1865.
"GENERAL: On the 29th instant the armies operating against Richmond
will be moved by our left, for the double purpose of turning the enemy
out of his present position around Petersburg, and to insure the success
of the cavalry under General Sheridan, which will start at the same
time, in its efforts to reach and destroy the South Side and Danville
railroads. Two corps of the Army of the Potomac will be moved at first
in two columns, taking the two roads crossing Hatcher's Run, nearest
where the present line held by us strikes that stream, both moving
towards Dinwiddie Court House.
"The cavalry under General Sheridan, joined by the division now under
General Davies, will move at the same time by the Weldon Road and the
Jerusalem Plank Road, turning west from the latter before crossing the
Nottoway, and west with the whole column before reaching Stony Creek.
General Sheridan will then move independently, under other instructions
which will be given him. All dismounted cavalry belonging to the Army
of the Potomac, and the dismounted cavalry from the Middle Military
Division not required for guarding property belonging to their arm of
service, will report to Brigadier-General Benham, to be added to the
defences of City Point. Major-General Parke will be left in command of
all the army left for holding the lines about Petersburg and City Point,
subject of course to orders from the commander of the Army of the
Potomac. The 9th army corps will be left intact, to hold the present
line of works so long as the whole line now occupied by us is held. If,
however, the troops to the left of the 9th corps are withdrawn, then the
left of the corps may be thrown back so as to occupy the position held
by the army prior to the capture of the Weldon Road. All troops to the
left of the 9th corps will be held in readiness to move at the shortest
notice by such route as may be designated when the order is given.
"General Ord will detach three divisions, two white and one colored, or
so much of them as he can, and hold his present lines, and march for the
present left of the Army of the Potomac. In the absence of further
orders, or until further orders are given, the white divisions will
follow the left column of the Army of the Potomac, and the colored
division the right column. During the movement Major-General Weitzel
will be left in command of all the forces remaining behind from the Army
of the James.
"The movement of troops from the Army of the James will commence on the
night of the 27th instant. General Ord will leave behind the minimum
number of cavalry necessary for picket duty, in the absence of the main
army. A cavalry expedition, from General Ord's command, will also be
started from Suffolk, to leave there on Saturday, the 1st of April,
under Colonel Sumner, for the purpose of cutting the railroad about
Hicksford. This, if accomplished, will have to be a surprise, and
therefore from three to five hundred men will be sufficient. They
should, however, be supported by all the infantry that can be spared
from Norfolk and Portsmouth, as far out as to where the cavalry crosses
the Blackwater. The crossing should probably be at Uniten. Should
Colonel Sumner succeed in reaching the Weldon Road, he will be
instructed to do all the damage possible to the triangle of roads
between Hicksford, Weldon, and Gaston. The railroad bridge at Weldon
being fitted up for the passage of carriages, it might be practicable to
destroy any accumulation of supplies the enemy may have collected south
of the Roanoke. All the troops will move with four days' rations in
haversacks and eight days' in wagons. To avoid as much hauling as
possible, and to give the Army of the James the same number of days'
supplies with the Army of the Potomac, General Ord will direct his
commissary and quartermaster to have sufficient supplies delivered at
the terminus of the road to fill up in passing. Sixty rounds of
ammunition per man will be taken in wagons, and as much grain as the
transportation on hand will carry, after taking the specified amount of
other supplies. The densely wooded country in which the army has to
operate making the use of much artillery impracticable, the amount taken
with the army will be reduced to six or eight guns to each division, at
the option of the army commanders.
"All necessary preparations for carrying these directions into operation
may be commenced at once. The reserves of the 9th corps should be
massed as much as possible. While I would not now order an
unconditional attack on the enemy's line by them, they should be ready
and should make the attack if the enemy weakens his line in their front,
without waiting for orders. In case they carry the line, then the whole
of the 9th corps could follow up so as to join or co-operate with the
balance of the army. To prepare for this, the 9th corps will have
rations issued to them, same as the balance of the army. General
Weitzel will keep vigilant watch upon his front, and if found at all
practicable to break through at any point, he will do so. A success
north of the James should be followed up with great promptness. An
attack will not be feasible unless it is found that the enemy has
detached largely. In that case it may be regarded as evident that the
enemy are relying upon their local reserves principally for the defence
of Richmond. Preparations may be made for abandoning all the line north
of the James, except inclosed works only to be abandoned, however, after
a break is made in the lines of the enemy.
"By these instructions a large part of the armies operating against
Richmond is left behind. The enemy, knowing this, may, as an only
chance, strip their lines to the merest skeleton, in the hope of
advantage not being taken of it, while they hurl everything against the
moving column, and return. It cannot be impressed too strongly upon
commanders of troops left in the trenches not to allow this to occur
without taking advantage of it. The very fact of the enemy coming out
to attack, if he does so, might be regarded as almost conclusive
evidence of such a weakening of his lines. I would have it particularly
enjoined upon corps commanders that, in case of an attack from the
enemy, those not attacked are not to wait for orders from the commanding
officer of the army to which they belong, but that they will move
promptly, and notify the commander of their action. I would also enjoin
the same action on the part of division commanders when other parts of
their corps are engaged. In like manner, I would urge the importance of
following up a repulse of the enemy.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERALS MEADE, ORD, AND SHERIDAN."
Early on the morning of the 25th the enemy assaulted our lines in front
of the 9th corps (which held from the Appomattox River towards our
left), and carried Fort Stedman, and a part of the line to the right and
left of it, established themselves and turned the guns of the fort
against us, but our troops on either flank held their ground until the
reserves were brought up, when the enemy was driven back with a heavy
loss in killed and wounded, and one thousand nine hundred prisoners.
Our loss was sixty-eight killed, three hundred and thirty-seven wounded,
and five hundred and six missing. General Meade at once ordered the
other corps to advance and feel the enemy in their respective fronts.
Pushing forward, they captured and held the enemy's strongly intrenched
picket-line in front of the 2d and 6th corps, and eight hundred and
thirty-four prisoners. The enemy made desperate attempts to retake this
line, but without success. Our loss in front of these was fifty-two
killed, eight hundred and sixty-four wounded, and two hundred and seven
missing. The enemy's loss in killed and wounded was far greater.
General Sherman having got his troops all quietly in camp about
Goldsboro', and his preparations for furnishing supplies to them
perfected, visited me at City Point on the 27th of March, and stated
that he would be ready to move, as he had previously written me, by the
10th of April, fully equipped and rationed for twenty days, if it should
become necessary to bring his command to bear against Lee's army, in
co-operation with our forces in front of Richmond and Petersburg.
General Sherman proposed in this movement to threaten Raleigh, and then,
by turning suddenly to the right, reach the Roanoke at Gaston or
thereabouts, whence he could move on to the Richmond and Danville
Railroad, striking it in the vicinity of Burkesville, or join the armies
operating against Richmond, as might be deemed best. This plan he was
directed to carry into execution, if he received no further directions
in the meantime. I explained to him the movement I had ordered to
commence on the 29th of March. That if it should not prove as entirely
successful as I hoped, I would cut the cavalry loose to destroy the
Danville and South Side railroads, and thus deprive the enemy of further
supplies, and also to prevent the rapid concentration of Lee's and
I had spent days of anxiety lest each morning should bring the report
that the enemy had retreated the night before. I was firmly convinced
that Sherman's crossing the Roanoke would be the signal for Lee to
leave. With Johnston and him combined, a long, tedious, and expensive
campaign, consuming most of the summer, might become necessary. By
moving out I would put the army in better condition for pursuit, and
would at least, by the destruction of the Danville Road, retard the
concentration of the two armies of Lee and Johnston, and cause the enemy
to abandon much material that he might otherwise save. I therefore
determined not to delay the movement ordered.
On the night of the 27th, Major-General Ord, with two divisions of the
24th corps, Major-General Gibbon commanding, and one division of the
25th corps, Brigadier-General Birney commanding, and MacKenzie's
cavalry, took up his line of march in pursuance of the foregoing
instructions, and reached the position assigned him near Hatcher's Run
on the morning of the 29th. On the 28th the following instructions were
given to General Sheridan:
"CITY POINT, VA., March 28, 1865.
"GENERAL:--The 5th army corps will move by the Vaughn Road at three A.M.
to-morrow morning. The 2d moves at about nine A.M., having but about
three miles to march to reach the point designated for it to take on the
right of the 5th corps, after the latter reaching Dinwiddie Court House.
Move your cavalry at as early an hour as you can, and without being
confined to any particular road or roads. You may go out by the nearest
roads in rear of the 5th corps, pass by its left, and passing near to or
through Dinwiddie, reach the right and rear of the enemy as soon as you
can. It is not the intention to attack the enemy in his intrenched
position, but to force him out, if possible. Should he come out and
attack us, or get himself where he can be attacked, move in with your
entire force in your own way, and with the full reliance that the army
will engage or follow, as circumstances will dictate. I shall be on the
field, and will probably be able to communicate with you. Should I not
do so, and you find that the enemy keeps within his main intrenched
line, you may cut loose and push for the Danville Road. If you find it
practicable, I would like you to cross the South Side Road, between
Petersburg and Burkesville, and destroy it to some extent. I would not
advise much detention, however, until you reach the Danville Road, which
I would like you to strike as near to the Appomattox as possible. Make
your destruction on that road as complete as possible. You can then
pass on to the South Side Road, west of Burkesville, and destroy that in
"After having accomplished the destruction of the two railroads, which
are now the only avenues of supply to Lee's army, you may return to this
army, selecting your road further south, or you may go on into North
Carolina and join General Sherman. Should you select the latter course,
get the information to me as early as possible, so that I may send
orders to meet you at Goldsboro'.
"U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
"MAJOR-GENERAL P. H. SHERIDAN."
On the morning of the 29th the movement commenced. At night the cavalry
was at Dinwiddie Court House, and the left of our infantry line extended
to the Quaker Road, near its intersection with the Boydton Plank Road.
The position of the troops from left to right was as follows: Sheridan,
Warren, Humphreys, Ord, Wright, Parke.
Everything looked favorable to the defeat of the enemy and the capture
of Petersburg and Richmond, if the proper effort was made. I therefore
addressed the following communication to General Sheridan, having
previously informed him verbally not to cut loose for the raid
contemplated in his orders until he received notice from me to do so:
"GRAVELLY CREEK, March 29, 1865.
"GENERAL:--Our line is now unbroken from the Appomattox to Dinwiddie.
We are all ready, however, to give up all, from the Jerusalem Plank Road
to Hatcher's Run, whenever the forces can be used advantageously. After
getting into line south of Hatcher's, we pushed forward to find the
enemy's position. General Griffin was attacked near where the Quaker
Road intersects the Boydton Road, but repulsed it easily, capturing
about one hundred men. Humphreys reached Dabney's Mill, and was pushing