Preparing for the campaigns of 1864.1
My commission as lieutenant-general was given to me on the 9th of March, 1864.
On the following day I visited General Meade
, commanding the Army of the Potomac, at his headquarters, Brandy Station
, north of the Rapidan
I had known General Meade
slightly in the Mexican
war, but had not met him since until this visit.
I was a stranger to most of the Army of the Potomac; I might say to all except the officers of the regular army who had served in the Mexican
war. There had been some changes ordered in the organization of that army before my promotion.
One was the consolidation of five corps into three, thus throwing some officers of rank out of important commands.
evidently thought that I might want to make still one more change not yet ordered.
He said to me that I might want an officer who had served with me in the West
, mentioning Sherman
especially, to take his place; if so, he begged me not to hesitate about making the change.
He urged that the work before us was of such vast importance to the whole nation that the feeling or wishes of no one person should stand in the way of selecting the right men for all positions.
For himself, he would serve to the best of his ability wherever placed.
I assured him that I had no thought of substituting any one for him. As to Sherman
, he could not be spared from the West
General Meade adopted solferino as the color of his headquarters flag, and a golden eagle in a silver wreath as the emblem, the latter having been in use as a badge for headquarters aides.
It was a showy standard, and A. R. Waud, the war artist, remembers that General Grant, when he first saw it unfurled, as they broke camp for the Wilderness campaign, exclaimed: “what's this!--is Imperial Caesar anywhere about here?”--editors. |
This incident gave me even a more favorable opinion of Meade
than did his great victory at Gettysburg
the July before.
It is men who wait to be selected,
and not those who seek, from whom we may always expect the most efficient service.
's position afterward proved embarrassing to me if not to him. For nearly a year previous to my taking command of all the armies he had been at the head of the Army of the Potomac, commanding an army independently.
All other general officers occupying similar positions were independent in their commands so far as any one present with them was concerned.
I tried to make General Meade
's position as nearly as possible what it would have been if I had been in Washington
Bealton Station, Orange and Alexandria railway.
From a War-time sketch. |
any other place away from his command.
I therefore gave all orders for the movements of the Army of the Potomac to Meade
to have them executed.
To avoid the necessity of having to give orders direct, I established my
Brandy Station, Orange and Alexandria railway.
From a War-time sketch. |
headquarters near his, unless there were reasons for locating them elsewhere.
This sometimes happened, and I had on occasions to give orders direct to the troops affected.
On the 11th of March I returned to Washington
, and on the day after orders were published by the War Department placing me in command of all the armies.
I had left Washington
the night before to return to my old command in the West
and to meet Sherman
, whom I had telegraphed to join me in Nashville
assumed command of the Military Division of the Mississippi on the 18th of March, and we left Nashville
together for Cincinnati
I had Sherman
accompany me that far on my way back to Washington
, so that we could talk over the matters about which I wanted to see him, without losing any more time from my new command than was necessary.
The first point which I wished to discuss particularly was about the cooperation of his command with mine when the spring campaign should commence.
There were also other and minor points,--minor as compared with the great importance of the question to be decided by sanguinary war,--the restoration to duty of
officers who had been relieved from important commands, namely, McClellan
, and Fremont
in the East
, and Buell
, and Crittenden
in the West
Some time in the winter of 1863-64: I had been invited by the general-in-chief
to give my views of the campaign I thought advisable for the command under me — now Sherman
's. General J. E. Johnston
was defending Atlanta
and the interior of Georgia
with an army, the largest part of which was stationed at Dalton
, about 38 miles south of Chattanooga
is at the junction of the railroad from Cleveland
with the one from Chattanooga
There could have been no difference of opinion as to the first duty of the armies of the Military Division of the Mississippi.
's army was the first objective, and that important railroad center, Atlanta
, the second.
At the time I wrote General Halleck
giving my views of the approaching campaign, and at the time I met General Sherman
, it; was expected that General Banks
would be through with the campaign upon which he had been ordered2
before my appointment to the command of all the armies, and would be ready to cooperate with the armies east of the Mississippi
; his part in the programme being to move upon Mobile
by land, while the navy would close the harbor and assist to the best of its ability.
The plan, therefore, was for Sherman
to attack Johnston
and destroy his army if possible, to capture Atlanta
and hold it, and with his troops and those of Banks
to hold a line through to Mobile
, or at least to hold Atlanta
and command the railroad running east and west, and the troops from one or other of the armies to hold important points on the southern road, the only east-and-west road that would be left in the possession of the enemy.
This would cut the Confederacy
in two again, as our gaining possession of the Mississippi River
had done before.
was not ready in time for the part assigned to him, and circumstances that could not be foreseen determined the campaign which was afterward made, the success and grandeur of which has resounded throughout all lands.
In regard to restoring to duty officers who had been relieved from important commands, I left Sherman
to look after those who had been removed in the West
, while I looked out for the rest.
I directed, however, that he should make no assignment until I could speak to the Secretary of War
about the matter.
I shortly after recommended to the Secretary
the assignment of General Buell
I received the assurance that duty would be offered to him, and afterward the Secretary
told me that he had offered Buell
an assignment and that the latter declined it, saying that it would be a degradation to accept the assignment offered.
I understood afterward that he refused to serve under either Sherman
because he had ranked them both.
Both were graduated before him, and ranked him in the old army.
ranked him as brigadier-general.
All of them ranked me in the old army, and Sherman
did as brigadiers.
The worst excuse a soldier can make for declining service is that he once ranked the commander he is ordered to report to.
On the 23d of March I was back in Washington
, and on the 26th took up my headquarters at Culpeper Court House, a few miles south of the Headquarters of the Army of the Potomac.
Although hailing from Illinois
myself, the State
of the President
, I never met Mr. Lincoln
until called to the capital to receive my commission as lieutenant-general.
I knew him, however, very well and favorably from the accounts given by officers under me at the West
who had known him all their lives.
I had also read the remarkable series of debates between Lincoln
a few years before, when they were rival candidates for the United States Senate.
I was then a resident of Missouri
, and by no means a “Lincoln
man” in that contest; but I recognized then his great ability.
In my first interview with Mr. Lincoln
alone he stated to me that he had never professed to be a military man or to know how campaigns should be conducted, and never wanted to interfere in them; but that procrastination on the part of commanders, and the pressure from the people at the North
and from Congress, which was always with him
forced him into issuing his series of “Military orders”--No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, etc. He did not know that they were not all wrong, and did know that some of them were.
All he wanted, or had ever wanted, was some one who would take the responsibility and act, and call on him for all the assistance needed; he would pledge himself to use all the power of the Government
in rendering such assistance.
Assuring him that I would do the best I could with the means at hand, and avoid as far as possible annoying him or the War Department, our first interview ended.
The Secretary of War
I had met once before only, but felt that I knew him better.
While I had been commanding in west Tennessee
we had held conversations over the wires at night.
He and Halleck
both cautioned me against giving the President
my plans of campaign, saying that he was so kind-hearted, so averse to refusing anything asked of him, that some friend would be sure to get from him all he knew.
I should have said that in our interview the President
told me that he did not want to know what I proposed to do. But he submitted a plan of campaign of his own which he wanted me to hear and then dispose of as I pleased.
He brought out a map of Virginia
, on which he had evidently marked every position occupied by the Federal
and Confederate armies up to that time.
He pointed out on the map two streams which empty into the Potomac
, and suggested that the army might be moved on boats and landed between the mouths of these streams.
We would then have the Potomac
to bring supplies, and the tributaries would protect our flanks while we moved out. I listened respectfully, but did not suggest that the same streams would protect Lee
's flanks while he was shutting us up. I did not communicate my plans to the President
or to the Secretary
or to General Halleck
On the 26th of March, with my headquarters at Culpeper
, the work of preparing for an early campaign commenced.
When I assumed command of all the armies the situation was about this: The Mississippi was guarded from St. Louis
to its mouth; the line of the Arkansas
was held, thus giving us all the North-west north of that river.
A few points in Louisiana
, not remote from the river, were held by the Federal
troops, as was also the mouth of the Rio Grande
East of the Mississippi
we held substantially all north of the Memphis and Charleston railroad as far east as Chattanooga
, thence along the line of the Tennessee
and Holston rivers
, taking in nearly all of the State of Tennessee
. West Virginia
was in our hands, and also that part of old Virginia
north of the Rapidan
and east of the Blue Ridge
On the sea-coast we had Fort Monroe
, and New Berne in North Carolina
and Morris islands
, Hilton Head
, and Port Royal, in South Carolina
, and Fort Pulaski
, St. Augustine
, Key West
, and Pensacola
The remainder of the Southern
territory, an empire in extent, was still in the hands of the enemy.
, who had succeeded me in the command of the Military Division of the Mississippi, commanded all the troops in the territory west of the Alleghanies
and north of Natchez
, with a large movable force about Chattanooga
His command was subdivided into four departments, but the commanders all reported to Sherman
, and were subject to his orders.
This arrangement, however, insured the better protection of all lines of communication through the acquired territory, for the reason that these different department commanders could act promptly in case of a sudden or unexpected raid within their respective jurisdictions, without waiting the orders of the division commander.
In the east the opposing forces stood in substantially the same relations toward each other as three years before, or when the war began; they were
both between the Federal
and Confederate capitals.
It is true footholds had been secured by us on the sea-coast, in Virginia
and North Carolina
, but beyond that no substantial advantage had been gained by either side.
Battles had been fought of as great severity as had ever been known in war, over ground from the James River
and the Chickahominy
, near Richmond
, to Gettysburg
and Chambersburg, in Pennsylvania
, with indecisive results, sometimes favorable to the National
army, sometimes to the Confederate army, but in every instance, I believe, claimed as victories for the South
by the Southern
press if not by the Southern
The Northern press, as a whole, did not discourage a their claims; a portion of it always magnified rebel success and belittled ours, while another portion, most sincerely earnest in their desire for the preservation of the Union
and the overwhelming success of the Federal
arms, would nevertheless generally express dissatisfaction with whatever victories were gained because they were not more complete.
That portion of the Army of the Potomac not engaged in guarding lines communication was on the northern bank of the Rapidan
The Army of Northern Virginia, confronting it on the opposite bank of the same river, was strongly intrenched and was commanded by the acknowledged ablest general in the Confederate army.
The country back to the James River
is cut up with many streams, generally narrow, deep, and difficult to cross except where bridged.
The region is heavily timbered, and the roads are narrow and very bad after the least rain.
Such an enemy was not, of course, unprepared with adequate fortifications at convenient intervals all the way back to Richmond
, so that, when driven from one fortified position, they would always have another farther to the rear to fall back into.
To provision an army, campaigning against so formidable a foe through such a country, from wagons alone, seemed almost impossible.
System and discipline were both essential to its accomplishment.
The Union armies were now divided into nineteen departments, though four of them in the West
had been concentrated into a single military division.
The Army of the Potomac was a separate command, and had no territorial limits.
There were thus seventeen distinct commanders.
Before this time these various armies had acted separately and independently of each other, giving the enemy an opportunity, often, of depleting one command, not pressed, to reenforce another more actively engaged.
I determined to stop this.
To this end I regarded the Army of the Potomac as the center,
and all west to Memphis
, along the line described as our position at the time, and north of it, the right wing; the Army of the James, under General Butler
as the left wing, and all the troops south as a force in rear of the enemy.
Some of these last were occupying positions from which they could not render service proportionate to their numerical strength.
All such were depleted to the minimum necessary to hold their positions as a guard against blockade-runners; when they could not do this, their positions were abandoned altogether.
In this way ten thousand men were added to the Army of the James from South Carolina
alone, with General Gillmore
It was not contemplated that Gillmore
should leave his department; but as most of his troops were taken, presumably for active service, he asked to accompany them, and was permitted to do so. Officers and soldiers on furlough, of whom there were many thousands, were ordered to their proper commands; concentration was the order of the day, and the problem was to accomplish it in time to advance at the earliest moment the roads would permit.
As a reenforcement to the Army of the Potomac, or to act in support of it, the Ninth Army Corps, over twenty thousand strong, under General Burnside
, had been rendezvoused at Annapolis, Maryland
This was an admirable position for such a reenforcement.
The corps could be brought at the last moment as a reenforcement to the Army of the Potomac, or it could be thrown on the sea-coast, south of Norfolk
, to operate against Richmond
from that direction.
In fact, up to the last moment Burnside
and the War Department both thought the Ninth Corps was intended for such an expedition.
My general plan now was to concentrate all the force possible against the Confederate armies in the field.
There were but two such, as we have seen, east of the Mississippi River
and facing north: the Army of Northern Virginia, General Robert E. Lee
commanding, was on the south bank of the Rapidan
, confronting the Army of the Potomac; the second, under General Joseph E. Johnston
was at Dalton, Georgia
, opposed to Sherman
, who was still at Chattanooga
Besides these main armies, the Confederates
had to guard the Shenandoah Valley--a great storehouse to feed their armies from — and their line of communications from Richmond
, a brave and intrepid cavalry general, was in the West
, with a large force, making a larger command necessary to hold what we had gained in middle
and west Tennessee
We could not abandon any territory north of the line held by the enemy, because it would lay the Northern States
open to invasion.
as the Army of the Potomac was the principal garrison for the protection of Washington
, even while it was moving on to Lee
, so all the forces to the West
, and the Army of the James, guarded their special trusts when advancing from them as well as when remaining at them — better, indeed, for they forced the enemy to guard his own lines and resources, at a greater distance from ours and with a greater force, since small expeditions could not so well be sent out to destroy a bridge or tear up a few miles of railroad track, burn a storehouse, or inflict other little annoyances.
Accordingly I arranged for a simultaneous movement all along the line.
was to move from Chattanooga
's army and Atlanta
being his objective points.
General George Crook
, commanding in West Virginia
was to move from the mouth of the Gauley River
with a cavalry force and some artillery, the Virginia and Tennessee railroad to be his objective.
Either the enemy would have to keep a large force to protect their communications or see them destroyed, and a large amount of forage and provisions, which they so much needed, would fall into our hands.
who was in command in the valley of Virginia
, was to advance up the valley, covering the North
from an invasion through that channel as well while advancing as by remaining near Harper's Ferry
Every mile he advanced also gave us possession of stores on which Lee
was to advance by the James River
, having Richmond
as his objective.
Before the advance commenced I visited Butler
at Fort Monroe
This was the first time I had ever met him. Before giving him any order as to the part he was to play in the approaching campaign I invited his views.
They were very much such as I intended to direct, and as I did direct, in writing, before leaving.
General W. F. Smith
, who had been promoted to the rank of major-general shortly after the battle of Chattanooga
on my recommendation, had not yet been confirmed.
I found a decided prejudice against his confirmation by a majority of the Senate, but I insisted that his services had been such that he should be rewarded.
My wishes were now reluctantly complied with, and I assigned him to the command of one of the corps under General Butler
I was not long in finding out that the objections to Smith
's promotion were well founded.9
From A photograph. |
In one of my early interviews with the President
I expressed my dissatisfaction with the little that had been accomplished by the cavalry so far in the war and the belief that it was capable of accomplishing much more than it had done if under a thorough leader.
I said I wanted the very best man in the army for that command.
was present and spoke up, saying: “How would Sheridan
I replied “The very man I want.”
The President said I could have anybody I wanted.
was telegraphed for that day, and on his arrival was assigned to the command of the with the Army of the Potomac.
This relieved General Alfred Pleasonton
It w as not a reflection on that officer, however, for as far as I knew he had been as efficient as any other cavalry commander.
in the Department of the Gulf was ordered to assemble all his troops at New Orleans in time to join in the general move, Mobile
to be his objective.
At this time I was not entirely decided as to whether I should move the Army of the Potomac by the right flank of the enemy or by his left.
plan presented advantages.
If by his right — my left — the Potomac
, Chesapeake Bay
, and tributaries would furnish us an easy line over which to bring all supplies to within easy hauling distance of every position the army could occupy from the Rapidan
to the James River
, if he chose, could detach, or move his whole army north on a line rather interior to the one I would have to take in following.
A movement by his left — our right — would obviate this; but all that was done would have to be done with the supplies and ammunition we started with.
All idea of adopting this latter plan was abandoned when the limited quantity of supplies possible to take with us was considered.
The country over which we would have to pass was so exhausted of all food or forage that we would be obliged to carry everything with us.
While these preparations were going on the enemy was not entirely idle.
In the West
made a raid in west Tennessee
up to the northern border, capturing the garrison of four or five hundred men at Union City
, and followed it up by an attack on Paducah, Kentucky
, on the banks of the Ohio
While he was able to enter the city, he failed to capture the forts or any part of the garrison.
On the first intelligence of Forrest
's raid I telegraphed Sherman
to send all his cavalry against him, and not to let him get out of the trap he had put himself into.
had anticipated me by sending troops against him before he got my order.
, however, fell back rapidly, and attacked the troops at Fort Pillow
, a station for the protection of the navigation of the Mississippi River
The garrison consisted of a regiment of colored infantry and a detachment of Tennessee
These troops fought bravely, but were overpowered.
I will leave Forrest
in his dispatches to tell what he did with them.
“ The river was dyed,” he says, “with the blood of the slaughtered for two hundred yards. The approximate loss was upward of five hundred killed; but few of the officers escaped.
My loss was about twenty killed. It is
hoped that these facts will demonstrate to the Northern
people that negro soldiers cannot cope with Southerners.”
made a report in which he left out the part which shocks humanity to read.
At the East
, also, the rebels were busy.
I had said to Halleck
and Washington, North Carolina
, were unnecessary to us, that it would be better to have the garrisons engaged there added to Butler
If success should attend our arms, both places, and others, would fall into our hands naturally.
These places had been occupied by Federal troops before I took command of the armies, and I knew that the executive would be reluctant to abandon them, and therefore explained my views; but before my views were carried out, the rebels captured the garrison at Plymouth
I then ordered the abandonment of Washington
, but directed the holding of New Berne at all hazards.
This was essential, because New Berne was a port into which blockade-runners could enter.
had gone on an expedition up the Red River
long before my promotion to general command.
I had opposed the movement strenuously, but acquiesced because it was the order of my superior at the time.11
By direction of Halleck
I had reenforced Banks
with a corps of about ten thousand men from Sherman
This reenforcement was wanted back badly before the forward movement commenced.
had got so far that it seemed best that he should take Shreveport
, on the Red River
, and turn over the line of that river to Steele
, who commanded in Arkansas
, to hold instead of the line of the Arkansas
Orders were given accordingly, and with the expectation that the campaign would be ended in time for Banks
to return A. J. Smith
's command to where it belonged,12
and get back to New Orleans himself in time to execute his part in the general plan.
But the expedition was a failure.
did not get back in time to take part in the programme as laid down; nor was Smith
returned until long after the movements of May, 1864, had been begun.
The services of forty thousand veteran troops over and above the number required to hold all that was necessary in the Department of the Gulf were thus paralyzed.
It is but just to Banks
, however, to say that his expedition was ordered from Washington
, and he was in no way responsible except for the conduct of it. I make no criticism on this point.
He opposed the expedition.
By the 27th of April spring had so far advanced as to justify me in fixing a day for the great move.
On that day Burnside
to occupy Meade
's position between Bull Run
and the Rappahannock
was notified and directed to bring his troops forward to his advance; on the following
From A photograph. |
was notified of my intended advance on the 4th of May, and he was directed to move, the night of the same day, and get as far up the James River
as possible by daylight, and push on from there to accomplish the task given him. He was also notified that reenforcements were being collected in Washington
, which would be forwarded to him should the enemy fall back into the trenches at Richmond
The same day Sherman
was directed to get his forces up ready to advance on the 5th.
, at Winchester
, was notified to move in conjunction with the others.
The criticism has been made by writers on the campaign from the Rapidan
to the James River
that all the loss of life could have been obviated by moving the army there on transports.
was fortified and intrenched so perfectly that one man inside to defend was more than equal to five outside besieging or assaulting.
To get possession of Lee
's army was the first great object.
With the capture of his Army Richmond
would necessarily follow.
It was better to fight him outside of his stronghold than in it. If the Army of the Potomac had been moved bodily to the James River
by water, Lee
could have moved a part of his forces back to Richmond
, called Beauregard
from the South
to reenforce it, and with the remainder moved on to Washington
Then, too, I ordered a move simultaneous with that of the Army of the Potomac up the James River
, by a formidable army already collected at the mouth of the river.
While my headquarters were at Culpeper
, from the 26th of March to the 4th of May, I generally visited Washington
once a week to confer with the Secretary of War
and the President
. . On the last occasion, a few days before moving, a circumstance occurred which came near postponing my part in the campaign altogether.
Colonel John S. Mosby
had for a long time been commanding a partisan corps, or regiment, which operated in the rear of the Army of the Potomac.
On my return to the field on this occasion, as the train approached Warrenton Junction, a heavy cloud of dust was seen to the east of the road, as if made by a body of cavalry on a charge.
Arriving at the junction, the train was stopped and inquiries were made as to the cause of the dust.
There was but one man at the station, and he informed us that Mosby
had crossed a few minutes before at full speed in pursuit of Federal cavalry.
Had he seen our train coming, no doubt he would have let his prisoners escape to capture the train.
I was on a special train, if I remember correctly, without any guard.
Since the close of the war I have come to know Colonel Mosby
personally, and somewhat intimately.
He is a different man entirely from what I had supposed.
He is slender, not tall, wiry, and looks as if he could endure any amount of physical exercise., He is able, and thoroughly honest and truthful.
There were probably but few men in the South
who could have commanded successfully a separate detachment, in the rear of an opposing army and so near the border of hostilities, as long as he did without losing his entire command.
On this same visit to Washington
I had my last interview with the President
before reaching the James River
He had, of course, become acquainted with the fact that a general movement had been ordered all along the line,
From A photograph. |
and seemed to think it a new feature in war. I explained to him that it was necessary to have a great number of troops to guard and to hold the territory we had captured, and to prevent incursions into the Northern States
These troops could perform this service just as well by advancing as by remaining still; and by advancing they would compel the enemy to keep detachments to hold them back or else lay his own territory open to invasion.
“Oh! Yes, I see that,” he said.
“As we say out West
, If a man can't skin he must hold a leg while somebody else does.”
The following correspondence closed the first chapter of my personal acquaintance with President Lincoln
The armies were now all ready to move for the accomplishment of a single object.
They were acting as a unit so far as such a thing was possible over such a vast field.
, with the capital of the Confederacy
, was the main end to which all were working.
, with Atlanta
, was an important obstacle in the way of our accomplishing the result aimed at, and was therefore almost an independent objective.
It was of less importance only because the capture of Johnston
and his army would not produce so immediate and decisive a result in closing the rebellion as would the possession of Richmond
and his army.
All other troops were employed exclusively in support of these two movements.
This was the plan; and I will now endeavor to give, as concisely as I can, the method of its execution, outlining first the operations of minor detached but cooperative columns.
As stated before, Banks
failed to accomplish what he had been sent to do on the Red River
, and eliminated the use of 40,000 veterans whose cooperation
Lincoln's God-speed to Grant.
(Fac-Simile of the original, slightly reduced in scale.)
[This remarkable letter was received by General Grant on the 1st of May, three days before the Wilderness campaign began.
He was always careless about his papers, and private or semi-official ones were often thrust into his pockets, where they remained for months.
In some such way Mr. Lincoln's letter was mislaid.
General Grant had forgotten its existence, until in 1866 I came across it in my researches for my history of his campaigns.
He was so pleased at the discovery, or recovery, that he gave me the original letter at the time.
It is my intention eventually to present it either to the Government or to the family of General Grant.
New York, November 10, 1885.]|
in the grand campaign had been expected-10,000 with Sherman
and 30,000 against Mobile
's record is almost equally brief.
He moved out, it is true, according to programme; but just when I was hoping to hear of good work being done in the Valley
I received instead the following announcement from Halleck
is in full retreat on Strasburg
He will do nothing but run; never did anything else.”
The enemy had intercepted him about New Market
and handled him roughly, capturing 6 guns and some 900 men out of 6000.13
The plan had been for an advance of Sigel
's forces in columns.
Though the one under his immediate command failed ingloriously, the other proved more fortunate.
, his western column advanced from the Gauley
in West Virginia
at the appointed time, and with more happy results.
They reached the Virginia and Tennessee railroad at Dublin
, and destroyed a depot of supplies besides tearing up several miles of road and burning the bridge over New River
Having accomplished this, they recrossed the Alleghanies
to Meadow Bluffs, and there awaited further orders.
embarked at Fort Monroe
with all his command, except the cavalry and some artillery which moved up the south bank of the James River
His steamers moved first up Chesapeake Bay
and York River
as if threatening the rear of Lee
At midnight they turned back, and by daylight Butler
was far up the James River
He seized City Point
and Bermuda Hundred
early in the day, without loss, and no doubt very much to the surprise of the enemy.
This was the accomplishment of the first step contemplated in my instructions to Butler
He was to act from here, looking to Richmond
as his objective point.
I had given him to understand that I should aim to fight Lee
between the Rapidan
if he would stand; but should Lee
fall back into Richmond
, I would follow up and make a junction of the armies of the Potomac
and the James
on the James River
He was directed to secure a footing as far up the south side of the river as he could at as early a date as possible.
By the 6th of May Butler
was in position and had begun intrenching, and on the 7th he sent out his cavalry from Suffolk
to cut the Weldon railroad.
He also sent out detachments to destroy the railroads between Petersburg
, but no great success attended these latter efforts.
He made no great effort to establish himself on that road, and neglected to attack Petersburg
, which was almost defenseless.
About the 11th he advanced slowly until he reached the works at Drewry's Bluff
, about half-way between Bermuda Hundred
In the meantime Beauregard14
had been gathering reenforcements.
On the 16th he attacked Butler
with great vigor, and with such success as to limit very materially the further usefulness of the Army of the James as a distinct factor in the campaign.
I afterward ordered a portion of it15
to join the Army of the Potomac, leaving a sufficient
force with Butler
to man his works, hold securely the footing he had already gained, and maintain a threatening front toward the rear of the Confederate
The position which General Butler
had chosen between the two rivers,16
, was one of great natural strength, and where a large area of ground might be thoroughly inclosed by means of a single intrenched line, and that a very short one in comparison with the extent of territory which it thoroughly protected.
His right was protected by the James River
, his left by the Appomattox
, and his rear by their junction — the two streams uniting near by. The bend of the two streams shortened the line that had been chosen for intrenchment, while it increased the area which the line inclosed.
Previous to ordering any troops from Butler
I sent my chief engineer, General Barnard
, from the Army of the Potomac to that of the James
, to inspect Butler
's position and ascertain whether I could again safely make an order for General Butler
's movement in cooperation with mine, now that I was getting so near Richmond
; or, if I could not, whether his position was strong enough to justify me in withdrawing some of his troops and having them brought round by water to White House
to join me and reenforce the Army of the Potomac. General Barnard
reported the position very strong for defensive purposes, and that I could do the latter with great security; but that General Butler
could not move from where he was in cooperation, to produce any effect.
He said that the general occupied a place between the James
and Appomattox rivers
which was of great strength, and where with an inferior force he could hold it for an indefinite length of time against a superior; but that he could do nothing offensively.
I then asked him why Butler
could not move out from his lines and push across the Richmond and Petersburg railroad to the rear and on the south side of Richmond
He replied that it was impracticable because the enemy had substantially the same line across the neck of land that General Butler
had. He then took out his pencil and drew a sketch of the locality, remarking that the position was like a bottle, and that Butler
's line of intrenchments across the neck represented the cork; that the enemy had built an equally strong line immediately in front of him across the neck; and it was, therefore, as if Butler
was in a bottle.
He was perfectly safe against an attack; but, as Barnard
expressed it, the
enemy had corked the bottle, and with a small force could hold the cork in its place.
This struck me as being very expressive of his position, particularly when I saw the hasty sketch which General Barnard
had drawn; and in making my subsequent report I used that expression without adding quotation marks, never thinking that anything had been said that would attract attention, as this did, very much to the annoyance, no doubt, of General Butler
, and I know very much to my own. I found afterward that this was mentioned in the notes of General Badeau
's book, which, when they were shown to me, I asked to have stricken out; yet it was retained there, though against my wishes.17
I make this statement here because, although I have often made it before, it has never been in my power until now to place it where it will correct history; and I desire to rectify all injustice that I may have done to individuals, particularly to officers who were gallantly serving their country during the trying period of the war for the preservation of the Union
certainly gave his very earnest support to the war; and he gave his own best efforts personally toward the suppression of the rebellion.
The further operations of the Army of the James can best be treated of in connection with those of the Army of the Potomac, the two being so intimately associated and connected as to be substantially one body in which the individuality of the supporting wing is merged.
I will briefly mention Sheridan
's first raid upon Lee
's communications which, though an incident of the operations on the main line and not specifically marked out in the original plan, attained in its brilliant execution and results all the proportions of an independent campaign.
On the 8th of May, just after the battle of the Wilderness
, and when we were moving on Spotsylvania
, I directed Sheridan
, verbally, to cut loose from the Army of the Potomac, pass around the left of Lee
's army and attack his cavalry; to cut the two roads-one running west through Gordonsville
, and Lynchburg
, the other to Richmond
; and, when compelled to do so for want of forage and rations, to move on to the James River
and draw these from Butler
This move took him past the entire rear of Lee
These orders were also given in writing through Meade
The object of this move was threefold: 1.
If successfully executed — and it was — he would annoy the enemy by cutting his lines of supplies and telegraphic communications, and destroy or get for his own use supplies in store in the rear and coming up; 2.
He would draw the enemy's cavalry after him, and thus better protect our flanks, rear, and trains than by remaining with the army; 3.
His absence would save the trains drawing his forage and other supplies from Fredericksburg
, which had now become our base.
He started at daylight the next morning, and accomplished more
than was expected.
It was sixteen days before he got back to the Army of the Potomac.18
in this memorable raid passed entirely around Lee
's army; encountered his cavalry in four engagements and defeated them in all; recaptured four hundred Union prisoners and killed and captured many of the enemy; destroyed and used many supplies and munitions of war; destroyed miles of railroad and telegraph, and freed us from annoyance by the cavalry for more than two weeks.
I fixed the day for Sherman
to start when the season should be far enough advanced, it was hoped, for the roads to be in a condition for the troops to march.
at once set himself to work preparing for the task which was assigned him to accomplish in the spring campaign.
The campaign to Atlanta
was managed with the most consummate skill, the enemy being flanked out of one position after another all the way there.
It is true this was not accomplished without a good deal of fighting, some of it very hard fighting, rising to the dignity of very important battles; neither were positions gained in a single day. On the contrary, weeks were spent at some; and about Atlanta
more than a month was consumed.
Soon after midnight, May 3d-4th, the Army of the Potomac moved out from its position north of the Rapidan
, to start upon that memorable campaign destined to result in the capture of the Confederate
capital and the army defending it.
Watering horses in the Rapidan. |