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[575] pushed forward to possess and secure the peninsula between the James and the Appomattox, known as Bermuda Hundreds. Next day, Gen. Smith moved out toward the railroad from Richmond to Petersburg, but failed to strike it. On the 7th, Gen. Smith, with his own and part of Gillmore's corps, struck the railroad near Port Walthall junction, and commenced destroying it; having to fight D. H. Hill, but with advantage to our side; while Col. West's cavalry, having forded the Chickahominy, arrived opposite City Point. After breaking up the railroad for some distance, Gen. Butler, misled by advices from Washington that Gen. Lee was beaten and in full retreat on Richmond — which would have brought him down suddenly in overwhelming force on this army-drew back within his intrenchments, which he was engaged in strengthening for the apprehended emergency. The fact that his two corps commanders did not cordially cooperate, while Gillmore did not execute his orders so promptly and vigorously as he deemed fit, somewhat increased the inevitable perplexities of the commander's critical position.

Had Butler been directed to move at once on Petersburg, he could hardly have failed to capture that city — there being no considerable Rebel force then in lower Virginia--and might have been enabled to hold it; separating, for a time, the Rebel capital and Lee's army from the South proper. But, the first astounding news of his movement up the James summoned Beauregard by telegraph from Charleston, with all the forces that could be scraped from that region — now relieved of all apprehension by Gillmore's withdrawal. When, therefore, the first resolute effort was made1 to cut the railroad, some portion either of the North or South Carolina forces had already arrived; and, when it was renewed,2 the enemy had been materially strengthened. Still, the advantage of numbers was clearly on our side; and the enemy was forced to uncover the railroad, which was destroyed for some distance; our troops pressing southward to Swift creek, three miles from Petersburg. But now, deceived by fresh, joyful, but hardly truthful, Washington advices, Butler turned his face northward, to participate in the expected speedy capture of Richmond; pushing his lines gradually up to Proctor's creek, whence the enemy withdrew3 to an intrenched line behind it, which Gen. Gillmore flanked, and which was to have been assaulted; but our troops had been so dispersed that the requisite force was not at hand; so the attack was deferred till next morning.4

But Beauregard — whom Butler supposed still at or below Petersburg, unable to get up — was on hand, with a formidable force, and intent on making himself disagreeable. A dense fog shrouded every thing, when, before daylight, our sleeping soldiers on the front were startled by a grand crash of artillery and musketry. Our forces had been so disposed that there was over a mile of open country between our right and the James, merely picketed by 150 cavalry; and Beauregard, having made careful observations before dark, attempted at once to assault in front, to turn this flank, and to strike heavily our left with a division

1 May 7.

2 May 9.

3 May 13.

4 May 16.

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