General Hunter immediately took up the offensive, and moving up the Shenandoah Valley, met the enemy on the fifth of June at Piedmont, and after a battle of ten hours routed and defeated him, capturing on the field of battle fifteen hundred men, three pieces of artillery, and three hundred stand of small-arms. On the eighth of the same month he formed a junction with Crook and Averell at Staunton, from which place he moved direct on Lynchburg, via Lexington, which place he reached and invested on the sixteenth day of June. Up to this time he was very successful, and but for the difficulty of taking with him sufficient ordnance stores over so long a march, through a hostile country, he would no doubt have captured that, to the enemy an important point. The destruction of the enemy's supplies and manufactories was very great. To meet this movement under General Hunter, General Lee sent a force, perhaps equal to a corps, a part of which reached Lynchburg a short time before Hunter. After some skirmishing on the seventeenth and eighteenth, General Hunter, owing to a want of ammunition to give battle, retired from before the place. Unfortunately, this want of ammunition left him no choice of route for his return but by way of Kanawha. This lost to us the use of his troops for several weeks from the defence of the North. Had General Hunter moved by way of Charlottesville, instead of Lexington, as his instructions contemplated, he would have been in a position to have covered the Shenandoah Valley against the enemy, should the force he met have seemed to endanger it. If it did not, he would have been within easy distance of the James River Canal, on the main line of communication between Lynchburgh and the force sent for its defence. I have never taken exceptions to the operations of General Hunter, and am not now disposed to find fault with him, for I have no doubt he acted within what he conceived to be the spirit of his instructions and the interests of the service. The promptitude of his movements and his gallantry should entitle him to the commendation of his country. To return to the Army of the Potomac: The Second corps commenced crossing the James river on the morning of the fourteenth, by ferry-boats, at Wilcox's landing. The laying of the pontoon bridge was completed about midnight of the fourteenth, and the crossing of the balance of the army was rapidly pushed forward by both bridge and ferry. After the crossing had commenced, I proceeded by steamer to Bermuda Hundred, to give the necessary orders for the immediate capture of Petersburg. The instructions to General Butler were verbal, and were for him to send General Smith immediately, that night, with all the troops he could give him, without sacrificing the position he then held. I told him that I would return at once to the Army of the Potomac, hasten its crossing, and throw it forward to Petersburg by divisions as rapidly as it could be done; that we could reinforce our armies more rapidly there than the enemy could bring troops against us. General Smith got off as directed, and confronted the enemy's pickets near Petersburg before daylight next morning, but for some reason that I have never been able to satisfactorily understand, did not get ready to assault his main lines until near sundown. Then, with a part of his command only, he made the assault, and carried the lines north-east of Petersburg, from the Appomattox river, for a distance of over two and a half miles, capturing fifteen pieces of artillery and three hundred prisoners. This was about seven P. M. Between the line thus captured and Petersburg there were no other works, and there was no evidence that the enemy had reinforced Petersburg with a single brigade from any source. The night was clear — the moon shining brightly — and favorable to further operations. General Hancock, with two divisions of the Second corps, reached General Smith just after dark, and offered the services of these troops as he (Smith) might wish, waving rank to the named commander, whom he naturally supposed knew best the position of affairs, and what to do with the troops. But instead of taking these troops, and pushing at once into Petersburg, he requested General Hancock to relieve a part of his line in the captured works, which was done before midnight. By the time I arrived the next morning, the enemy was in force. An attack was ordered to be made at six o'clock that evening by the troops under Smith and the Second and Ninth corps. It required until that time for the Ninth corps to get up and into position. The attack was made as ordered, and the fighting continued with but little intermission until six o'clock the next morning, and resulted in our carrying the advance and some of the main works of the enemy to the right (cur left) of those previously captured by General Smith, several pieces of artillery, and over four hundred prisoners. The Fifth corps having got up, the attacks were renewed and persisted in with great vigor if he does not meet too much opposition. If he can hold at bay a force equal to his own, he will be doing good service. * *
Jericho ford, Va., May 25, 1864.If Hunter can possibly get to Charlottesville and Lynchburg, he should do so, living on the country. The railroads and canal should be destroyed beyond possibility of repairs for weeks. Completing this, he could find his way back to his original base, or from about Gordonsville join this army.
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Table of Contents:
Doc . 16 . operations in Tennessee .
Doc . 19 . the siege of Suffolk, Virginia .
Doc . 36 . General Rousseau 's expedition.
Doc . 59 . battles of Spottsylvania , Va: battle of Sunday , May 8 , 1864 .
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