[from our own Correspondent.]
Army of Northern Virginia, Slashes of Hanover
, May 27, 1864.
At an early hour this morning it was ascertained that Grant
had withdrawn his army under cover of darkness last night to the north bank of the North Anna
, and was moving down the east side of that river in the direction of West Point
As intimated in a former letter, Gen Lee
's lines extended along the range of hills on the south side of the North Anna
, except on his flanks, where they took such a direction as to protect his position against any attempt that might be made against either wing of his army.
This disposition of his forces left Grant
room to throw the greater part of his own army across to the south bank.
The latter had exacted formidable works in his front a short distance from the river, and behind which his troops could rally in case of disaster, and at least hold us in check until they could regain the north bank.
These works he has now abandoned, whether because he found the Confederate
position too strong to encourage any hope be might indulge of being able to carry it by storm, or because they had accomplished the object of their construction in holding us at Hanover Junction
until he could establish his base at West Point
, and put his army well in motion for the lower Pamunkey
, it is impossible yet to say. I only know it is a cause of universal regret in the army that he did not attack us in our late position, which was stronger and better in every respect than that at the Wilderness
Unfortunately for the Confederates
the late battles have taught Grent a wholesome lesson.
For the first ten days after crossing the Rapidan
he evinced a disposition to fight us wherever he met us. Since the 18th instant, however, the day on which he made his last effort to bring his dispirited troops up to the bloody work, he has shown quite as strong a desire to avoid battle.
That he has found it necessary to change his whole plan of operations there can be but little doubt.
If it had been a part of his original design to make West Point
or the lower James
his base of operations, then he has committed a great blunder in marching across the country from Culpeper
at a cost of forty or fifty thousand men, when by following McClellan
's route he could have reached the same destination without the loss of a single men.--Grent is a hard headed man, however, as well as a hard fighter, and, like most hard headed men, he has come very near having his head broken.
It remains in be seen whether he will make a demonstration towards crossing the Pamunkey
at Hanover Court House, or will move up to the Chickahominy
or form a junction with Butler
, and seek to throw himself on the south side of Richmond
across our lines of communication, as he did at Vicksburg
It only remains to be added that Gen Lee
has made such a disposition of his own forces as to completely checkmate this last move of the enemy.
You have already been advised of the movement of Grant
's army down the east bank of the Pamunkey
This change of front made it necessary for Gen Lee
to abandon his very strong position behind the North Anna
, and to march down the south side of the Pamunkey
Grent had twelve hours the start of him, however, having taken advantage of the darkness on the night of the 26th and put his whole army in motion.
He had the advantage also of a shorter and more direct road to Hanover Town and New Castle
, the points at which he has thrown a considerable force across the river.
It is not known whether his entire army has crossed to the south bank, but the cavalry report two corps at lost, and probably more, on this side, nor is it known how far he has advanced out from the river.
But whatever his position, or plans, or numbers, it is believed that he has been completely checkmated by Gen Lee
's last move upon the military chessboard.
It would be obviously improper to be more particular, but I may venture to say that the army, including officers and men, was never more satisfied with the situation, never more resolute, and never more confident of success.
But will Grant
move against Richmond
by the route taken by McClellan
Can he expect, after his experience at Spotsylvania Court House, to be able to cross the Chickahominy
and carry the works by which the capital is defended?
Prisoners say he has promised his men that he will not require them to attack Confederate breastworks any more, nor will he expect them hereafter to do any but the most necessary work on the Sabbath.
If this be true then he will find it necessary to attack Richmond
from some other point than the Chickahominy
What route will he take?
Will be move upon Atlee
's station, on the Virginia Central railway, as some imagined or will be march over the crimson fields of Mechanicsville
, Gaines's mill
, and Fraser
or will he try to reach the James river
, form a junction with Butler
, and then throw his whole army across the Richmond
and the Richmond
railroads, and thus cut our communications with the more Southern States?
This last plan would be in accordance with the movement by which he enveloped Vicksburg
, and destroyed all hope of the ear. Butler
is already firmly fixed on the narrow neck of land at Bermuda Hundreds, his flanks and rear protected by the James
and Appomattox rivers
, and his front by a formidable line of entrenchments.
once succeed in forming a junction with him, and especially in transferring his army to the south side of the James river
, he might take position behind the Appomattox
, occupy Petersburg
, and cut the only two railroad lines by which our supplies are drawn.
I say he might do this — It should be added, provided
he did not have Lee
to contend with.
With these masters of the art of war before him, he will find it, let us hope, an impossible undertaking.
But that he has some such scheme in his daring brain is not at all improbable.
I rode along the lines to-day, and found the men resting after their many marches and hard battles.
Some were reading their well thumbed Bibles; some were indicting letters to the loved ones at home, to assure them of their safety; some were sleeping — perchance dreaming of the bloody work still remaining to be done; others were enjoying the music of the brigade bands, as they rehearsed those solemn and touching airs which the grand old masters of the art divine, in their most holy and impassioned moods, have given to the world; and others again were sitting under the tress, with their arms stacked near at hand, listening to the Word of Life, as preached by those faithful servants of God, the hardy, jealous, self-denying chaplains of the army.
As the army thus rested — its great heart quiet, its huge arms unstrung, its fleet feet still — I could but reflect, and wonder as I reflected, that this vast machine, this mighty giant, this great, unmeasured, and immeasurable power, should be so terrible in battle, and yet so calm and gentle and devout in the hour of peace.
It has been unusually quiet to day; not a gun has been fired along the lines.
Nor is it probable that there will be a battle very soon.
Yesterday evening there was a severe engagement between portions of Hampton
's and Fitzhugh Lee
's cavalry commands and the Federal
cavalry, but I am not informed of the details, and shall not attempt to go into details.
I only know that it is reported that the Fifth South Carolina, Colonel Dannovant
, and the Twentieth Georgia Battalion, Maj. Miller
, a portion of the new cavalry forces that come on recently from the South
, were engaged, behaved very handsomely, and suffered considerably.
They repulsed the enemy's cavalry and drove them back upon Warren
's corps, which they also attacked.
It was here that they suffered most.
It is said that Major Miller
was killed, with many others, and that Colonel Dunnovant
lost an arm.