the rebel reveille was heard to beat, and the head of Longstreet's column, which was assigned the advance in the retreat, filed southward. Here, then, begins a grand race of the two armies, similar to that they ran from the Wilderness to Spottsylvania. A glance at the map will show us which has the better chance. It will be observed, if the examination be made with an adequate topographical map in hand, that the rebel front at Spottsylvania covers the direct and best route leading southward, namely, the telegraph road, with the roads converging on and radiating from this main line. On the other hand, it was a necessity of the proposed operation that we should beat well to the eastward. It is a recognized maxim that the party executing a flanking movement exposes his own flank. Such a manoeuvre in face of a vigilant and vigorous opponent is always a dangerous one. It had, therefore, to be done both cautiously and by a route somewhat circuitous. Lee, as we know by experience, is both vigilant and vigorous. The former quality was proved by the promptitude with which he met the advance of our flanking column by a corresponding movement to the rear; the latter was made manifest in another way the next day. Hancock (Second corps), as we have seen, had withdrawn during the night of Friday. Warren, (Fifth corps), set out early on Saturday morning, following for some distance over the same route as that pursued by Hancock. About the same time Ewell's corps of the rebel army appears to have followed Longstreet. In the meantime our old position near Spottsylvania Court-house, was still held by such portions of our front as the corps of Burnside (Ninth) and Wright (Sixth) covered. At four P. M. of Saturday, Burnside, who held position on the left of the Sixth, withdrew, and the remaining force of the rebels (Hill's corps) fancying that the Sixth also was retiring, left the works, came up directly in Wright's front and attacked. They succeeded in breaking his skirmish line in one place; but Wright opened a heavy artillery fire upon them, which checked their advance. Hill committed an error in making the attack in front, for had he crossed the river a little above, he would have struck the right flank of the Sixth corps, uncovered by the withdrawal of Warren, and would have had an enfilading fire on Wright, which it would have been difficult to withstand. In addition to this the assault was not made with much persistence, and was probably designed simply to develop our actual force left. During the night Wright withdrew; Hill did the same, and the works of Spottsylvania ceased to be the objects of either attack or defence. They remain now as parts of the series of parallels that, from the Rapidan up to our present front, stand as monuments of the most desperate campaign in history. The two armies once fairly on the march, their operations belong to the domain of strategy, which deals with the movements of armies out of sight of each other. The first obvious goal is the North Anna, north of which it was not deemed at all probable Lee would attempt to make a stand. From the first, however, it was a matter of certainty that the enemy would reach it in advance of us, for having possession of the telegraph road, he moved on an interior line. On Saturday night Hancock bivouacked at Milford. The Fifth followed the Second over the same road until striking Guinea station, when it diverged to the right (that is westward), crossed the Mattapony at Guinea bridge, and at nine P. M. bivouacked near the Old Academy, having made a march of fifteen miles. The Ninth and Sixth followed over the same general lines. The next day, Sunday, the twenty-second, the march was resumed — Warren crossing the Ta, and striking into the telegraph road, down which the rear of the columns of Longstreet and Ewell had a short time before disappeared. Here he had a skirmish with the enemy's rear guard of cavalry, consisting of Rosser's brigade, which was repulsed. Hancock advancing due westward from Milford, five miles, struck the telegraph road at Harris' store. Sunday's march brought our army forward an additional fourteen miles, and within a few miles of the North Anna. The region between Spottsylvania and the North Anna, through which the advance of Saturday and Sunday carried us, is both fair and fertile. The face of the country is beautifully undulating, nowhere bold,and the river bottoms have many large and fine plantations, all under cultivation. It was virgin ground over which we marched, showing none of those desolating traces of war that mark all Virginia north of the Rapidan. Here are fields sprouting wheat, and growing corn, and luxuriant clover; here are lowing herds, and the perfume of blossoms and the song of summer birds; here are homesteads of the Virginia planter, everything on a large and generous scale, and great ancestral English elms, dating back to the times before our fore-fathers learned to be rebels. Coming so lately from where the tread of armies for three years has made the country bare and barren as a threshing floor, the region through which we passed seemed a very Araby the Blest, and presented such a transition as is pictured by those who, having traversed the desert of Lahore, suddenly emerge upon the smiling vales of Cashmere. Resuming the advance on Monday morning, May twenty-third, a march of a few hours brought the heads of our columns so near to the North Anna, that operations passed from the domain of strategy into the tactical question of effecting the passage of the river, always a delicate and difficult one when vigorously resisted. And that it would be so resisted was natural to suppose, for the reason that if the enemy proposed making a stand on the South Anna he would wish to gain all the time possible, in order to establish himself well in his position, and also for the reason that the North Anna covers the Virginia Central railroad, which here runs
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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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