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Chapter 40:

From the time General Grant fixed his headquarters at City Point, the naval vessels in that vicinity, under Captain Melancton Smith, were employed in guarding the river or in co-operating with the Army in raids upon the enemy along the shores of the James and adjacent rivers.

It was sufficiently evident that it was Grant's intention to envelop the enemy's works, destroy his communications, and cut off supplies. Military and naval expeditions were sent to destroy all grain-fields and other sources of supply within reach, and to pick up deserters from the enemy's ranks. Among the latter were workmen who had been employed on board the Merrimac, from whom interesting information was obtained in regard to that and other Confederate vessels. Signal stations were destroyed, their operators captured, and instruments brought away.

In these expeditions the gun-boats were constantly exposed to the attacks of Confederate artillery, which was continually on the alert to get a shot at them. So active were the enemy, that, about the middle of July, they constructed a battery mounting 20-pounder Sawyer guns on Malvern Hill, and for a time interrupted the navigation of the James River.

The Confederates were, in fact, untiring in their efforts to make the Federal troops and gun-boats uncomfortable. On the 28th of July the enemy commenced the erection of batteries at Four Mile Creek, where they had assembled a large force for the purpose of covering the men at work in the trenches, and making a demonstration against General Foster's front. The gun-boats were brought into requisition. and the Agawam, Commander A. C. Rhind, and the Mendota, Commander E. T. Nichols, shelled the enemy's works for some time, rendering very effective service in connection with General Hancock's military operations.

The following night, in view of the military movements ordered by General Grant, all the troops, except General Foster's original command, were ordered to move from Deep Bottom, under cover of the gun-boats. Here, again, General Grant had an opportunity of utilizing the Navy.

As an instance of the activity of the Confederates in presence of the strong forces [481] of the Federals, which almost enveloped them, on August 3d they established a 6-gun rifled 12-pounder battery at Wilcox's Wharf, and opened fire on passing transports. The firing being heard on board the Miami, Acting-Volunteer-Lieutenant G. W. Graves, that vessel pushed ahead and engaged the battery, which was driven away after a spirited resistance, the Miami losing but one man killed and one wounded.

On the 4th of August another battery opened on the transports near Harrison's Landing, which was driven away, after a sharp action, by the Miami and Osceola.

On the same day, the Pequot and the Commodore Morris were engaged during a greater part of the time in shelling sharpshooters out of the woods, who were engaged in picking off the men on board passing transports. These Confederate artillervmen were remarkably active and energetic, but they found the people in the gun-boats equally so; and the light artillery and bushwhackers soon came to the conclusion that attacking gun-boats was a losing business. The gun-boats now so rigidly patrolled the James River that they were in close proximity to all transports passing up or down. So seldom did the enemy get a chance to fire unmolested on a transport, that they even took occasion to attack a hospital steamer. without regard to her sacred character, killing one man and mortally wounding two others; but they were soon driven away by the watchful Pequot, Lieutenant-Commander S. P. Quackenbush, and the Commodore Morris, Acting-Master R. G. Lee.

At this time operations were going on at Dutch Gap for the purpose of opening a new route from below Howlett's Battery to the upper reach of the James River. This scheme was not favorably regarded by army engineers, and was not a success. The enemy planted mortars not far away, which in the course of the work killed one hundred and forty laborers, and wounded many more. It also brought on a conflict with the Confederate iron-clads.which came down the river and opened upon the laborers. A long-range battle then ensued between the Union and Confederate ironclads, which inflicted little or no injury to either side, but showed that the Dutch Gap Canal, although never likely to be of any use to the Army or Navy, would be continually inviting attacks from the enemy, which would tend to divert the attention of the Army from its main object — the capture of Richmond.

It was evidently General Grant's design to avoid any great military movement until he heard of Sherman's arrival near the Southern coast. Although Grant had no faith in Butler's project to open the way to Richmond by Dutch Gap, he was willing that Butler should amuse himself, and thereby be kept from interfering in more important matters.

On the 2d of September Sherman entered Atlanta, Georgia, as a conqueror.

General Lee had made such a persistent defence against all the attacks on his lines, and had succeeded so well in keeping the railroads south of Richmond open, that Grant saw that to push him too heavily at this time would result in great loss to the Federal Army, while Lee would be ultimately forced to evacuate Richmond.

Up to the 17th of July, General J. E. Johnston had severely hampered Sherman in his advance through the South; but, on the above date, this able Confederate general was displaced from his command owing to intrigues in Richmond, and J. B. Hood, who was considered a fighting general par excellence, succeeded him. This circumstance, though it threw a damper on the army which Johnston had so ably commanded, gave Sherman fresh spirits, and he moved upon Atlanta quite certain of success.

Hood had now under his command an effective force of 40,000 infantry and artillery and 10,000 cavalry, not to mention other Confederate forces in the field; but, in spite of all his forces.

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J. J. Allen (1)
W. H. Alger (1)
James Addison (1)
George W. Adams (1)
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