previous next
[728] while the other tore up the Lynch-burg railroad so far.west as Amherst C. H.; thence crossing the country to Newmarket and uniting with the former.

Attempts to surprise and seize bridges over the James at Duguidsville; Hardwicksville, &c., so as to cross and come in on Grant's left, were all baffled by the vigilance of the enemy; while heavy rains had so swollen that river that Sherman's pontoons would not reach across it: so he was compelled to choose between returning to Winchester and passing behind Lee's army to White House and thence to Grant's right. He wisely chose the latter; following and destroying the canal to Columbia,1 where he rested a day, sending scouts with advices to Grant; thence moving easterly, destroying bridges and railroads, across the Annas to the Pamunkey, and down the right bank of that stream to White House;2 where four days were given to most needed rest and recuperation; when he moved down to the James, crossed it at Jones's landing, and reported to Grant in front of Petersburg on the 27th--just in time.

Gen. Lee--foreseeing clearly the speedy downfall of the Confederate cause unless averted by a prompt concentration of its remaining forces and a telling blow delivered thereby on some one of our encircling armies, which were now palpably crushing out the life of the Rebellion — resolved to anticipate Grant's initiative by an attack on his lines before Petersburg and Richmond. This attack was made on Fort Steedman, nearly east of Petersburg, where its success would have cut our army in two, and probably compelled a hasty concentration to recover our lines and works; thereby opening a door for the unassailed withdrawal of the Rebel army southward by the most direct route, to unite with that of Johnston and thus overpower Sherman. It was delivered by Gordon with two divisions: all that was disposable of the Rebel Army of Virginia being collected just behind the assaulting column and held in hand as a support.

Gordon charged at daybreak;3 his men rushing instantly across the narrow space that here separated the confronting lines, and pouring into Fort Steedman, which was held by the 14th N. Y. artillery, who were completely surprised and overwhelmed; part of them fleeing for their lives, while the residue were made prisoners. The guns were deserted without a struggle, and immediately turned by their captors on the adjacent works, whereof three batteries were abandoned by the Union troops and seized by the enemy.

Here their triumph ended. Their assault on Fort Haskell, next to Fort Steedman on the left, was but feebly made and easily repulsed; they failed to press forward and seize the crest of the ridge behind the forts, thus cutting our army in two; the 20,000 men whom Lee had massed in their rear to support the assault either were not promptly ordered forward or failed to respond: so that their initial success had only isolated them, a comparative handful in the midst of an army of foes. In short, it was the Mine explosion repeated with the parts reversed. For, when our soldiers had recovered from their astonishment,

1 March 10.

2 March 19.

3 March 25.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
U. S. Grant (5)
Robert E. Lee (3)
William T. Sherman (2)
J. B. Gordon (2)
D. R. Jones (1)
Joseph Johnston (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
March 25th (1)
March 19th (1)
March 10th (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: