North Anna to the south side of the Pamunkey, accomplished by daybreak this morning, deserves to be called the most remarkable and creditable performance of this campaign. The following embodies a concise narrative of the details of Thursday and Friday. Not having clearly established whether the whole or only a part of Lee's army confronted us south of the North Anna, and it being possible that a portion of the enemy was moving for the south bank of the Pamunkey, in anticipation of another flanking movement by our forces, it was deemed necessary to march a sufficiently strong body from the North Anna with the utmost rapidity down its left bank, for the purpose of seizing the upper crossings of the Pamunkey, and thus securing us the means of another direct advance on Richmond. For this important duty the First and Second divisions of cavalry, under command of General Sheridan himself, together with the First division of the Sixth corps, commanded by General Russell, were selected. The latter was quickly withdrawn from its position on the right of our line, south of the North Anna, and recrossed the river at Jericho ford in the afternoon of the twenty-seventh. It took up the line of march, immediately followed by the cavalry and a pontoon train. The column marched continually, save short intervals of rest, making about thirty-five miles, and the cavalry, which passed to the head during the night, reached Hanover ferry at day-break on the morning of the twenty-eighth. About one hundred rebel cavalry were found guarding the ford. Our cavalry at once dashed across, chasing them over the bottom, and up the hills bordering it. A whole mounted brigade of the enemy was encamped on the latter, and fell back precipitately before our cavalry could come up with it. We captured a few prisoners. Russell's division was across by nine A. M., and intrenched itself on the hills. Meantime the main body of the army had also recrossed the North Anna, and was marching over the road toward the Pamunkey. All the corps had orders to recross after nightfall, leaving our pickets in front of the line until midnight. The three brigades of Crittenden's division, commanded by General Leslie and Colonels Marshall and Robinson, were ordered to take a stand on the north bank at Oxford, Quarles,and Jericho fords, respectively, and hold them until our pickets came on and take up and destroy the bridges. This they did successfully. It was a dark and rainy night, but no confusion prevailed, nevertheless, and at midnight all the infantry, artillery, and the headquarters trains were across. The pickets were then called in, but in the darkness some lost their way and fell into the hands of the enemy. The Fifth and Sixth corps, immediately after crossing, pushed on upon their line of march The Second, which was to follow the route of the Sixth, and the Ninth, which was to march after the Second, did not leave the banks of the river until daylight, owing to the delay in getting the trains of the preceding corps into the roads. The enemy's pickets had discovered the withdrawal of ours, and followed them to the south bank, and fired across at Crittenden's division and Hancock's corps, killing and wounding several of our men. Generals Grant's and Meade's headquarters trains also received a volley before they could be moved off. Our line of march ran northwardly for some miles over the roads the army had moved on in its march from Spottsylvania Court-house, the eastwardly and south-eastwardly. The two columns composed respectively of the Sixth and Second, and the Fifth and Ninth corps, moved on almost parallel roads. The third division of cavalry, under General Wilson, covered the rear and trains. The heads of the two columns bivouacked on Friday night about ten miles from the Pamunkey. Great trouble had been found in laying out  the lines of march, owing to the difficulty of getting intelligible information as to the roads and crossings in this comparatively unknown region. It was at first determined to make the passage of the Pamunkey with the Sixth and Second corps at Hanover, and the Fifth and Ninth at Newcastle ferries, but engineer officers accompanying General Sheridan, reported two good crossings a short distance above and below Hanovertown, and the orders of march were accordingly modified, and double pontoon bridges were thrown across at Hanovertown, and the Fifth, Sixth, and Second corps passed over them in the course of yesterday. The Ninth did not get across until early this morning. The first mentioned corps were immediately put in position as they got over on the range of hills almost east and west, about half a mile from the river, and intrenched themselves. As soon as the Ninth corps was over, an advance of the whole line was ordered. It was pushed forward about three miles to the right and left of the two roads running in a south-eastwardly direction, one via Meadow bridge, and the other through Mechanicsville toward Richmond. It rests to-night within twelve miles of the rebel capital. Wilson's division of cavalry protects our right flank, covering the roads toward Hanover Court-house. and Torbert's and Gregg's our left, covering the roads from Richmond east of Tolopotomy creek. The trains are all safely parked on both banks of the Pamunkey. The movement from the North Anna to the Pamunkey occupied only about forty hours. In that time the army marched a distance of nearly forty miles, over good but dusty and unknown roads, effected the passage of two large rivers, and was brought within an easy day's march of Richmond. Of all our immense transportation not a wagon was lost. Of men, only the pickets already alluded to were lost — a few stragglers who were captured by the enemy. The weather on Friday and yesterday was very warm, and men and animals became very weary. The comparative rest of to-day, however, has refreshed them both. Headquarters remain on the south bank of the Pamunkey for to-night. Prisoners and contrabands brought in to-day render it certain that Lee's whole army left the South Anna during Friday, and marched via Hanover Court-house again to our front, and took up a position north of the Chickahominy, to the right and left of the Mechanicsville road. Officers familiar with the ground claim that he will be able to form a very strong defensive line in that locality. No signs of the enemy appeared in our front to-day. The encounter of our cavalry with Fitz Hugh Lee's and Hampton's commands on Friday afternoon was most creditable to our arms. On our side the three brigades of Gregg's division and Merritt's brigade of Torbert's division and two light batteries were engaged. The fight occurred on the ground held by our main line to day, and the right and left of the Hanovertown and Richmond road. The enemy, it seems, were fighting to retain possession of a cross-road about half a mile beyond, leading to the Hanover Court-house and Richmond road, over which it is now known that the rear of Lee's army was moving at the time of the engagement. The enemy were posted in thick woods bordering on an open field, and fortified on their right by a swamp. .Gregg's brigade dismounted, formed in line, and attacked them on the front, covered by the fire of our batteries, but they were found so well covered by the woods and swamp that they could not be dislodged until Merritt's brigade was sent to flank them on their left, when they beat a precipitate retreat, leaving Fitz Hugh Lee's headquarters tents and nearly two hundred killed and one hundred wounded, besides fifty prisoners, in our hands. Our own loss will be about four hundred, including about forty killed.
This text is part of:
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 .
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.
An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.