already made, was begun promptly. Soon after the shades of evening closed over the camping-ground, the last tent was struck and the troops were all on board. General Butler's order to his subordinate Generals made it incumbent for them to repair to Hampton Roads as quickly as possible after dark, where they were to anchor for the night. At daybreak the order commanded an advance of the troops up the James river, convoyed by three army gunboats, under Brigadier-General Graham, and a naval force, consisting of five monitors and eleven gunboats, under Rear-Admiral Lee. The cavalry branch of the expedition is commanded by Brigadier-General A. V. Kautz, who, with a fine body of several thousand white troopers, left Suffolk, Va., also, at daylight yesterday morning. The point at which he aims primarily to strike is Hickford, a town orr the Petersburg, Richmond and Weldon railroad. A ride of about eighty miles, by the Surrey and Sussex roads, allowing him time to pay his compliments to the people as he passes along, would bring him to Hickford to-morrow evening. The railroad bridge there, which is a strong one, about three hundred feet long, will be destroyed if possible; and then the dashing horsemen will do other damage to the enemy's means of supply as far as they can find opportunity. General Kautz has received a roving commission, and if not too hardly pressed by the rebels, he may penetrate as far south as Weldon, N. C., returning when it suits his convenience. Starting up the Peninsula from Williamsburg, another cavalry force, somewhat smaller, commanded by Colonel West, also set out at daybreak. Their object was to create a diversion in our favor by keeping the rebels excited and attacking guerrillas and the garrisons of the outposts. Colonel West would try to cross the Chickahominy at Bottom's bridge and make his way to the main body on the James. As on every occasion when a large piece of machinery is put in operation, there is certain to be more or less friction of the parts, so this complex machine of a gallant and mighty army did not move smoothly according to the programme. The Eighteenth corps (General Smith's), having the advance, was promptly up to time, dawn finding all the steamers used in its transportation steaming by Newport News into the mouth of the James river. But the steamers of the Tenth (General Gillmore's) corps were still quietly at anchor off Fortress Monroe. Here was an unexpected source of detention. General Butler had every reason to suppose that the sailing orders were perfectly understood, and would be implicitly followed by his corps commanders. It was easy to perceive that he was both distressed and annoyed at the delay. He had hoped to reach his intended point of debarkation (City Point, fifteen miles below Richmond), at three o'clock in the afternoon. This he expected to accomplish, even in case that the possession of two points on the way up the river, viz., Wilson's wharf and Fort Powhatan, should be contested by the enemy, as it was very likely would be done. There was nothing for it, then, but to learn the cause of this dilatoriness of the Tenth corps, and to hasten the vessels forward. This was done. The fleet new steamer Grayhound, the flag-float of the expedition, on board which General Butler, with his staff, had come at midnight, went back from Newport News to Fortress Monroe. General Gillmore was sent for, and made satisfactory explanations to General Butler. This accomplished, off we started at eight o'clock up the river. The scene in the hazy light of the beautiful spring morning was picturesque and animated. Crowded steamboats labored heavily through the still water, pontoon trains and lumbering canal barges, to be used in disembarking, were in tow of the swifter transports. The long, low lines and wedge-like shapes of those naval nondescripts, the monitors, with their high cylindrical turrets amidships, gave variety to the scene. The swift Grayhound flits among the slowmoving craft and slackens her speed an instant as she comes abreast each vessel, allowing General Butler from the hurricane deck to order them to advance with all the celerity possible. “Give her all the steam you can, Captain,” shouts the General, with upraised cap, and as the crowds of blue-coats recognize him they burst out vociferously in cheers. The scene, as we pass up the river, is charming in the extreme. The high wooded banks of the stream present us every variety of delicate foliage with which the spring delights to clothe the earth in vernal beauty. Occasionally a house is visible over the bluffs, and a man appears, beyond doubt very much amazed at the sudden appearance of so large a fleet of invading Yankees. The trip up the river is unbroken by any sign of war. Taking the advance, General Butler's boat reaches Wilson's wharf, a point about thirty-five miles below Richmond. Here a regiment of General Wilde's negro brigade have effected a landing, and are busily engaged in making preparations to hold the place. From this point up the river to Fort Powhatan is a clear straight reach of seven miles, which it would never do to leave in command of the enemy, who could fortify the bluffs and play the mischief with our water communications. So General Butler takes possession of both these strong positions. The stalwart Africans gaily run up the bluffs, and are soon at work swinging axes with a will, and the giant trees fall with a mournful crash under their sturdy strokes. Soon a wide space of woods on the high banks are cleared away, and rebels approaching from toward Richmond must come within the sweep of our batteries. There can be nothing mentioned which better shows the perfect surprise of this movement to the rebels, than the fact that, according
This text is part of:
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 .
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.