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
He wisely chose the latter; following and destroying the canal to Columbia
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
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.
--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
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.
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,