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[584] its immense stores of every warlike material, or compel that division and dispersion of our forces whereof McClellan had so persistently, and with some justice, complained. Lee at Richmond, with the country northward to the Potomac thoroughly exhausted and devastated, could not reach Washington at all without abandoning Richmond to its fate; and corps after corps of our army could be transferred to the Potomac in less than half the time required for a march of the Rebel forces to Centerville. Of course, Grant set out expecting to defeat Lee decisively between the Rapidan and the Chickahominy, and was disappointed; but it is difficult to see how he could have evaded obstacles at least as serious as those he encountered. As he pertinently observed, the Rebel army was his true objective; and this must be encountered, whichever route he might take. Had he attempted, as Lee evidently anticipated, to advance by Gordonsville or Louisa C. H., flanking Lee's left instead of his right, he would have been starved into a retreat before he came in sight of the James.

Petersburg, at the head of sloop navigation on the Appomattox, 22 miles south of Richmond, is the focus of all the railroads but the Danville which connected the Confederate capital with the South and South-west. Petersburg taken and firmly held by our forces, the stay of the Rebel Government and Army at Richmond must be of short duration. But merely to take it, without the ability to hold it against the force which Lee, near at hand, could easily send against it, would be worse than useless.

The moment it was decided that Meade's army must cross the James below Richmond and threaten that city from the south, Grant hastened to Butler's headquarters to impel against Petersburg whatever force might there be disposable, so soon as it should be certain that that attempt could be seasonably supported by the legions of Meade.

Butler, after the dispatch of the best part of his force, under W. F. Smith, to Meade, had been inclined to keep quiet within his intrenchments; but that was not permitted. His northern outpost at Wilson's wharf, north of the James, held by Gen. Wild with two Black regiments, had already been summoned and charged1 by Fitz-Hugh Lee's cavalry, who, after a fight of some hours, were beaten off with loss: and now Gen. Gillmore, with 3,500 men, was thrown across2 the Appomattox, to approach Petersburg by the turnpike on the north, while Gen. Kautz, with 1,500 cavalry, should charge into it from the south or south-west. Two gunboats and a battery were simultaneously to bombard Fort Clinton, defending the approach up the river.

The combination failed, though it should have succeeded. Gillmore advanced3 unresisted to within two miles of the city, where he drove in the enemy's skirmishers and halted — or rather, recoiled — deeming his force altogether too weak for the task before him, and understanding that he was free to exercise his discretion in the premises. Kautz, on the other hand, made his way not only up to but into the city — the Confederates' attention having been concentrated on Gillmore — but, now that they

1 May 24.

2 June 8.

3 June 10.

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