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[498] of the batteries slackened; there was some talk of an assault, and other talk of no demonstration of so warlike a nature; and then General Butler returned to his headquarters at the house of Dr. Cheatham. The military gentlemen who thoroughly understand the art of war wish everything done on profoundly scientific principles, while the Commanding-General cares not how, so that the thrashing of the rebels be accomplished. He knows the importance of keeping this force here, be it large or small, employed, and he intends to do it. He can afford to be defeated for the sake of making Grant's victory thoroughly complete, and the rebels will find that he will give them all they want to do. Prisoners already talk of short rations and a limited supply of ammunition, and if the juncture indicated by the arrival at Bermuda Hundred of General Sheridan with ten thousand cavalry from the Army of the Potomac means anything, the traitors may be prepared to meet their doom.

On Friday morning General Butler despatched Major Ludlow of his staff back to Bermuda Hundred to communicate with Admiral Lee, inform him of the intended attack, and to urge upon him to co-operate with the monitors and gunboats. To this statement the Admiral replied, in substance, that owing to shoal water in Trent Reach, as shown by coast-survey chart, the draft of the monitors, and rebel torpedoes, it would be very difficult, if not impracticable, at present, to get up as high as Dr. Howlett's farm. In order to thoroughly remove obstructions, it would be necessary to control the left bank. The enemy now occupy, in considerable force, the high ground on the left bank, around Jones' Neck, and the same difficulty will be found at Dutch Gap. This occupancy would interrupt the supply of coal for the monitors. The Admiral, however, promised all possible aid and support, and would at least protect the river line below where the fleet now lies (Four Mile Creek). A despatch has since been received that he has started to move up, and will come as far as possible.

in camp, Tuesday Morning, May 17, 1864.
The hardest fighting of the campaign on the south side of the James river occurred yesterday. In the early morning, under cover of a fog so dense as to limit vision to the distance of a few yards, the enemy fell upon the right of our line of battle with the force of an avalanche, completely crushing it backward, and turning our flank, as two days before we had turned theirs. Their advantage, however, was but temporary, for our veterans quickly recovered from the sudden shock, and drove their assailants back beyond the line of the attack. The fighting, thus unceremoniously inaugurated, continued with more or less briskness throughout the day, and the losses on both sides were severe. The impression is, however, that the rebels in this respect were the greater sufferers, but our loss is estimated at not less than fifteen hundred to two thousand in killed, wounded and missing. The day's operations resulted in our entire army being ordered to return from its advanced position, within ten miles of Richmond, to the line of defence known as Bermuda Hundred, between the James and Appomattox rivers. Here the troops were securely encamped before ten o'clock last night, having buried their dead, and brought from the battle-field in perfect order their wounded and all their supplies.

The five days campaign which has been thus unexpectedly closed, can in no wise be designated a defeat. General Butler has accomplished all, and more than all that he intended. When, on Thursday morning last, the army left its intrenchments, and faced toward Richmond, its object, primarily, was to engage the attention of the strong rebel force garrisoning the outer defences of the city, and thus permit General Kautz, with his cavalry, to emerge from our lines, with the object of pushing forward to the Danville and Richmond railroad This road being cut, every line of travel radiating from Richmond, by which Lee could receive supplies for his army, would be closed. To accomplish an end of such advantage to Grant as the crippling of his antagonist in this regard, General Butler considered, would be cheaply gained, comparatively speaking, even by the sacrifice of his entire command.

Kautz has been heard from. The damage he set out to do has been fully inflicted, and by our stubborn fighting of the enemy in our front, a force which we have reason to believe is greatly superior to our own, has been kept constantly busy south of Richmond, instead of passing northward to reinforce the exhausted and demoralized hordes opposed to Grant.

It may well be supposed that the troops were greatly fatigued after the four days hard fighting prior to yesterday, coupled, as the warfare was, with the discomforting incidents of a persistent rain, which kept every shred of clothing almost constantly drenched, and liquefied the clayey soil into a pasty mud. In this condition the troops lay down to rest on Sunday night, along the line of intrenchments which we had taken two days before. The heavens were black, and the atmosphere damp and heavy. At daybreak, Monday morning, a thick fog shut out everything from view. A horse was completely enveloped from sight a dozen yards away. In these bewildering circumstances, the massed enemy came up on the right of our line, which was the thinnest place in our position. General Heckman's brigade of Weitzel's division, in the Eighteenth corps, whose bravery on many a hard-fought field has won for them the title of “the invincibles,” was posted here. The surprise was, however, so complete, that these gallant fellows were for once and for a moment helpless. The first they knew of the enemy upon them, was when his fierce yell awoke them as he dashed across the earthworks and turned the flank of their line of battle. General Heckman's voice was speedily heard calling upon his

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Benjamin F. Butler (4)
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