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[518]

Grant's first movement was to cut the road leading south to Weldon, that he might extend the strong arm of his fortifications westward, across that road, and hold it from Lee's use. On the 21st of June, he sent his Second and Sixth corps southward, across the Jerusalem plank road, which ran from Petersburg south, between the Norfolk and the Weldon railroads, and directed these to take position on the left of his Fifth corps, thus, by a great wheel of his left, hoping to flank Lee's right south of Petersburg. The battle line, when formed, was composed of the Fifth corps on the right, the Second in the center, and the Sixth on the left. This formidable line of attack was extended still farther to the left, by 6,000 cavalry, under Wilson, designed to strike the railway still farther to the south and then sweep up to the northward. Lee, in person, was at his right, on the morning of the 22d, when the Federal columns advanced to his front. Three of A. P. Hill's brigades were moved southward to meet the Federal columns, the movement of which was not in concert, and the Confederates discovered a wide gap between the Sixth and the Second corps. Into this, Mahone led Hill's brigades, through the pine forests, and fell, in fierce assault, on the left flank of the Second corps, driving it back in confusion, behind defensive works, with a loss of 1,700 men and four guns.

The next day the Sixth corps renewed the attempt to reach the railroad, when it was driven back with a loss of 500. Wilson's cavalry reached the railroad, at Reams' Station, nine miles south of Petersburg, on the 22d, and, after breaking the track, moved westward to the Southside railroad, where, on the 23d, after a vigorous attack on the division of W. H. F. Lee, it was driven back, and on the 24th, retreated toward Petersburg, having been turned back from Staunton river bridge by the local militia, closely followed by Lee. Hampton, who had hurried southward from his victory over Sheridan at Trevilian's, joined Lee in the pursuit. Reaching Reams' Station; Wilson found Mahone across his track, with two brigades of infantry, while Lee was closely pressing his rear. Thus assailed, his troops were routed, leaving behind them, not only a long supply train and thirteen guns, but loads of plunder robbed from private houses, and a thousand negro slaves taken from Virginia plantations.

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