- General Grant assumes command in Virginia -- positions of the armies -- plans of campaign open to Grant's choice -- the Rapidan crossed -- battle of the Wilderness -- danger of Lee -- the enemy driven back -- Longstreet wounded -- results of the contest -- rapid flank movement of Grant -- another contest -- Grant's Reenforcements -- Hanover Junction -- the enemy Moves in direction of Bowling Green -- battle at Cold harbor -- Frightful slaughter -- the enemy's soldiers decline to renew the assault when ordered -- strength of respective armies -- General Pemberton -- the enemy crosses the James -- siege of Petersburg begun.
It was in March, 1864, that Major General Ulysses S. Grant, having been appointed lieutenant general, assumed command of the armies of the United States. He subsequently proceeded to Culpeper and assumed personal command of the Army of the Potomac, although nominally that army remained under the command of General Meade. Reenforcements were gathered from every military department of the United States and sent to that army. On May 3d General Lee held the south bank of the Rapidan River, with his right resting near the mouth of Mine Run and his left extending to Liberty Mills, on the road from Gordonsville to the Shenandoah Valley. Ewell's corps was on the right, Hill's on the left, and two divisions of Longstreet's corps, having returned from East Tennessee, were encamped in the rear near Gordonsville. The army of General Grant had occupied the north bank of the Rapidan, with the main body encamped in Culpeper County and on the Rappahannock River. While Grant with his immense and increasing army was thus posted, Lee, with a comparatively small force, to which few reenforcements could be furnished, confronted him on a line stretching from near Somerville Ford to Gordonsville. To Grant was left the choice of moving directly on Lee and attempting to defeat his army, the only obstacle to the capture of Richmond, and which his vast means rendered supposable, or crossing the Rapidan above or below Lee's position. The second would fulfill the condition, so imperatively imposed on McClellan, of covering the United States capital; the third would be in the more direct line toward Richmond. Of the three he chose the last, and so felicitated himself on his unopposed passage of the river as to