- Inactivity of the army of Northern Virginia -- expeditions of Custer, Kilpatrick, and Dahlgren for the destruction of railroads, the burning of Richmond, and killing the officers of the government -- repelled by government clerks -- Papers on Dahlgren's body -- repulse of Butler's raid from Bermuda hundred -- advance of Sheridan repulsed at Richmond -- Stuart Resists Sheridan -- Stuart's death -- remarks on Grant's plan of campaign -- movement of General Butler -- Drewry's Bluff -- battle there -- campaign of Grant in Virginia.
Both the Army of Northern Virginia and the army under General Meade remained in a state of comparative inaction during the months of January and February, 1864. On February 26, 1864, while General Lee's headquarters were at Orange Court House, two corps of the army of the enemy left their camp for Madison Court House. The object was, by a formidable feint, to engage the attention of General Lee, and conceal from him their plans for a surprise and, if possible, capture of the city of Richmond. This was to be a concerted movement in which General Butler, in command of the forces on the Peninsula, was to move up and make a demonstration upon Richmond on the east, while Generals Custer and Kilpatrick and Colonel Dahlgren were to attack it and enter on the west and north. Two days later another army corps left for Madison Court House, and other forces subsequently followed. At the same time General Custer, with two ten-inch Parrott guns and fifteen hundred picked men, marched for Charlottesville by the James City road. His purpose was to destroy the Orange and Alexandria Railroad, running by Charlottesville to Gordonsville, where the junction was made of the railroad running north from Lynchburg, with the Central running to Richmond. The capture of the army stores there, the destruction of the tracks running south, west, and east, and cutting the telegraph, would have severed the communication between Lee's army and Richmond by that route. This movement, with the destruction of railroads by General Kilpatrick, and of the Central Railroad and the James River and Kanawha Canal by Colonel Dahlgren, would have isolated that army from its base of supplies. Three hours later, on the same day on which General Custer started,