Gloucester Point and Fortress Monroe; their passage up the James; their landing at Bermuda Hundred; their advance to a position some six miles beyond that place, and intrenching themselves there; their pushing on some three miles further, fighting their way to the railroad, and their thorough, though temporary, disablement of the road for several miles ;--all this, accomplished within the brief space of six days, was full of encouragement, and the wisest tongues among us were fluent in praise of it. The enterprise seemed both judicious in the conception, and swift and strong in the execution. “A superb piece of work,” was the thought uppermost in the minds of all. General Butler received ample credit for the operation; his popularity among the troops was very great; wherever he made his appearance, cheers and benedictions greeted him full and free. What made all this still better was, that while the troops had been thus fighting successfully with the rebels directly in front, General Kautz, with his cavalry, had executed a grand raid round to the south of Petersburg, playing the mischief with the railroads leading from that place to Suffolk and Weldon. Nor did our success stop there. On the morning of Thursday the twelfth, the army, after a rest of twenty-four hours, began another advance in full force ; General Kautz setting forth about the same time on another raid, to break up the railroad between Richmond and Danville. This advance of the army was crowded with still more important success. General Smith, with the Eighteenth corps, held our right, toward the river, and General Gillmore, with two divisions of the Tenth corps, Terry's and Turner's, held our left; his third division, under General Ames, being left in the rear of the main body, to act as a corps of observation against any approaches of the enemy from Petersburg. Slowly and steadily the army fought its way onward toward Richmond, though not a little impeded, meanwhile, by a drenching rain. Before Friday night, Gillmore had succeeded in turning the right of the enemy's outermost line of defences on the hither side of Richmond. This is a strong line of earthworks, its east end abutting on the river, where it connects with the system of fortifications on what is called Drury's Bluff. Westward the line extends upward of three miles, crossing the railroad, and of course commanding both that and also the fine Macadam turnpike, which runs about midway between the railroad and river. Before Saturday night, the whole western portion of the line, for nearly three miles, had been carried and was firmly held by Gillmore, the enemy charging fiercely upon him, but meeting with a decisive repulse. General Smith, meanwhile, had approached to within a few hundred yards of the eastern portion of the line, which being too strong to be carried by assault, preparations were forthwith set on foot for carrying it by siege. To this end, the engineers of the Tenth corps, the veterans of old Wagner and Gregg, and known as Serrell's New York Volunteer Engineers, were immediately ordered to the front with their tools, and the siege train was started forward. Monday morning the siege work was to begin in good earnest. Gillmore, having thus firmly planted himself within the enemy's works, was clear and decided in the opinion that the army should go right to intrenching its position. The line, which had been captured, of course, needed a little engineering, to give it a practicable front the other way, and thus make it available as a base against the enemy's other works. He sent an earnest recommendation to General Butler in that behalf. General Butler, who was present, and commanding the army in person, would not listen to it. When it was urged upon him, with not a little persistency of argument, he set it aside peremptorily, saying that the movement was purely an offensive one, and that he would not stop for any defensive work. Yet it was clear enough that the proposal did not necessarily involve any loss of time; it only required that a portion of the troops should be at work, who would otherwise have a time of rest. General Butler seems to have had an odd sort of fear, lest the offensive character of the movement should be somehow compromised by stooping to defensive measures. I suppose it is not too much to say that this was a fatal mistake. And it was, surely, a most unmilitary proceeding. For the life of the enterprise manifestly depended on our keeping the advantages we had gained. And the obstinacy with which the rebels had disputed our progress, showed what a high value they set upon the ground whence we had driven them. So that the whole military reason of the case clearly indicates that no pains should be spared, no possible precautions omitted, for strengthening and securing our position. Monday morning found both armies enveloped in a fog so thick that you could scarce distinguish a man five yards off. Under cover of this fog the rebels, at a very early hour, came upon us in strong force, and were almost literally in our midst before we knew it, their first attack being on our left, which, however, was quickly repulsed, and was probably intended as a feint. Soon after, they came with prodigious force against our right. Heckman's brigade, which held our extreme right, was quickly driven back, thrown into confusion, and a large part of it captured, including the gallant Heckman himself. Following up his success, the enemy completely turned us in that quarter, doubled up a portion of our line on itself, and even penetrated so far as to command the turnpike in our rear, over which a part of our army had advanced. On the whole, matters were drawing into a pretty critical shape. By this time, however, the fog had begun to lift, and General Smith had succeeded in restoring order among his troops and getting them in trim for good work. Still our left, under Gillmore, stuck fast to its
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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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