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[541]

Chapter 52:

  • Siege of Petersburg
  • -- violent assault upon our position -- a cavalry expedition -- contest near Reams's Station -- the city invested with earthworks -- position of the forces -- the Mine exploded, and an assault made -- attacks on our lines -- object of the enemy -- our strength -- assault on Fort Fisher -- evacuation of Wilmington -- purpose of Grant's campaign -- Lee's conference with the President -- plans -- sortie against Fort Steadman -- movements of Grant further to Lee's right -- army Retires from Petersburg -- the capitulation -- letters of Lee.


After the battle of Cold Harbor, the geography of the country no longer enabled General Grant, by a flank movement to his left, to keep himself covered by a stream, and yet draw nearer to his objective point, Richmond. He had now reached the Chickahominy, and to move down the east bank of that stream would be to depart further from the prize he sought, the capital of the Confederacy. His overland march had cost him the loss of more men than Lee's army contained at the beginning of the campaign. He now, from considerations which may fairly be assumed to have been the result of his many unsuccessful assaults on Lee's army, or from other considerations which I am not in a position to suggest, decided to seek a new base on the James River, and to attempt the capture of our capital by a movement from the south. With this view, on the night of June 12th he commenced a movement by the lower crossings of the Chickahominy toward the James River. General Lee learned of the withdrawal on the next morning, and moved to our pontoon bridge above Drewry's Bluff. While Grant's army was making this march to James River, General Smith, with his division which had arrived at Bermuda Hundred, was on the night of the 14th directed to move against Petersburg, with an additional force of two divisions, it being supposed that this column would be sufficient to effect what General Butler's previous attempts had failed utterly to accomplish, the capture of Petersburg and the destruction of the Southern Railroad. On the morning of the 15th the attack was made, the exterior redoubts and rifle-pits were carried, and the column advanced toward the inner works, but the artillery was used so effectively as to impress the commander of the assailants with the idea that there must be a large supporting force of infantry, and the attack was suspended so as to allow the columns in rear to come up.

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Stephen D. Lee (6)
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