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headquarters Army of the Potomac, in the field, near Hanovertown, Va. Tuesday, May 31.
By one of those odd coincidences, of which the history of the Virginia campaigns is so full, General Grant's headquarters are this morning at the very point which formed the extreme right wing of the Army of the Potomac in the Peninsular campaign two years ago. Hawes' Shop, near which we now are, four or five miles south-west of Hanover Court-house, was then occupied by the Fifth Regular cavalry, as an outpost, and it was here, just two years ago, that Stuart, moving from Hanover Court-house, to make a raid around McClellan's lines, struck our right flank.

Draw a line of five or six miles in length, from the Pamunkey near Hanover Court-house, where our right now rests, almost due south to the Tolopotomy creek, three miles south of Hanovertown, and you will have our line of battle as it now stands. Five miles west of our line runs the famous stream Chickahominy. Along that river in front of, and covering the Virginia Central railroad, from Atlee's station to Shady Grove, five miles north of Richmond, the rebel front is formed, midway in the interval that divides these two points. The skirmish lines of the two armies meet, and to our ears the morning air brings the crackle of musketry, like the sputtering of a caldron, while now and then comes the boom of guns, whose reverberations are easily heard in the capital of rebellion.

Gaines' Mill and Mechanicsville are within an hour's ride. Fair Oaks you can reach in a two hours stroll. Richmond is ten miles off. It is there that history repeats itself. The present position of this army is the result of that fine turning movement, which, commencing on Thursday last, in two days planted our corps across the Pamunkey river, rendered useless the elaborate rebel defences of the South Anna, and secured us communication with York river, the Chesapeake, and the ample resources which those waters float.

It appears to be conceived that this movement is understood to be a following up of the enemy, who is supposed to have fallen back from his lines between the North and South Anna, a conception which does injustice to the generalship of our commander. It was not Lee but Grant who took the initiative, Lee would gladly have remained in his line along the South Anna, and would willingly have awaited battle there, but was forced out of his cherished position, just as he was compelled to evacuate the lines of Spottsylvania, by an offensive movement, threatening his communications, a movement bold in conception and masterly in execution. There are, says the Archduke Charles, battles which are already won by the mere direction of the strategy of advance. In a like sense it can fairly be claimed that by a couple of days' marching this army has gained a victory more substantial than a week's hard pounding could in the situation have won, and that we are entitled to regard this great flank manoeuvre, as confirmed by the tone of mingled mortification and braggadocio in which the Richmond press treats it. “Grant,” says the Examiner of Saturday, the twenty-eighth, “has definitely declined battle at Hanover Junction. Perhaps we should say that his army has saved him the trouble of declining it. It is certain that both armies are moving. Two stories have lately prevailed of the direction which Grant is going. One account represented a large [555] body of Yankees at Negro Foot in the upper part of Havana, but it has not been confirmed, and is unlikely. The more probable statement is that Grant put fortifications along his line before the Junction to prevent an attack from General Lee, and then returning to the northern bank of the North Anna, passed down the Pamunkey to Hanovertown, a few miles above the Piping Tree, the point to which boats can come. Here he is said to have crossed the river with the greater part of his force. If Grant has really landed there, he may be said to have already reached the destination predicted for him since his check at Spottsylvania — the York and Peninsula. His next base will be the Pamunkey and York, and White House and West Point. Unable to remove the obstacle on the threshold of his campaign, nothing was left but to abandon it, and make his way down the Rappahannock to the head-waters of the York, a monstrous circle, to reach a point where he might have landed on the first of May, had not his head been addled by his victories over Pemberton and Bragg.”

This is the tone of men who, knowing the prodigious labor expended in fortifying a chosen position, themselves compelled to forfeit its advantages and seek elsewhere and ominously nearer their capital, a new line of defence. Certainly, if the Richmond journalists find any satisfaction in the monstrous circuit the army has made, the point at which it has aimed, this army is in condition to share the sentiment.

Recrossing the North Anna on Thursday night and Friday morning, the corps were directed on parallel roads down the course of the Pamunkey to the town of Hanover, in the vicinity of which two divisions of cavalry crossed the river at six in the morning. Three hours afterward Russell's division of the Sixth corps, after a beautiful march of twenty-two miles, made the passage. The enemy, apparently not expecting the crossing to be made so far down the river, had only a cavalry force in observation at this point. The party was easily driven off, sixty being captured. The fords were uncovered for the passage of the army, which was effected during the day. It is certain that it was not till this movement was fairly under way, that Lee commenced the manoeuvring necessary to meet it. “Grant” says the correspondent of the Richmond papers, writing on Friday, “last night commenced moving rapidly toward our right with his whole force, and corresponding movements are now on foot on our side to meet those of Grant.”

The movement necessary on the part of the rebels was a simple change of front, and a retrograde march due south along the railroad, and ten miles would bring them to the Chickahominy. For us, on the contrary, it was necessary to give a great development to our left, so that to reach the same point which the enemy could make in a ten-mile march, it was necessary for us to march something like thirty miles. That is, we had to march in a south-east direction to effect the passage of the river, and then move westward for the purpose of striking the enemy or meeting his advance.

This detour or “monstrous circuit,” as the Richmond writer terms it, was necessitated by two different considerations: First, because a flank march of the kind determined upon is one which is always somewhat hazardous in the face of a vigilant and energetic opponent, and secondly, because it was a prime desideratum to open a water-base, our communications having been abandoned when this move was initiated.

This was secured yesterday, when a cavalry force was sent down to White House, and today our water transportation is reported at that point. The work of the past three days has been the steady pressing forward of forces from Hanovertown to the westward, in a line leading to the Chickahominy and the Virginia Central and Fredericksburg and Richmond railroads.

The advance of Gregg's division on Saturday, developed the enemy, with his entire cavalry force and a portion of his infantry covering those roads, and brought on an engagement which, from the losses on both sides, ranks among the heaviest cavalry fights of the war. Gregg's division lost over three hundred and fifty men and forty officers, but drove the enemy; and during Sunday and yesterday our front has been steadily advancing. Yesterday (Monday), the thirtieth, found our right in front of Hanover Court-house, while our left stretched beyond Tolopotomy creek, about ten miles from the rebel capital. The enemy showed in our front a line of battle and skirmish line, formed by part of the corps of Ewell and Hill.

During yesterday evening skirmishing took place, we feeling the enemy's line.

Early in the morning Crawford's division of Warren's corps moved in support of General Griffin's division, which was moving out on the road toward Role creek. It was directed by General Warren to support Griffin's left, as he advanced. The road to Mechanicsville ran parallel to the road upon which it was advancing, and was held firmly by the enemy's cavalry and some infantry. Crawford determined to push for this road, cross, if possible, and advance toward Mechanicsville.

Accordingly, he ordered Colonel Hardin forward with the first brigade, directing him to advance the picket-line in his front to support it closely, and moved for the Mechanicsville road. It was nearly three fourths of a mile from our left flank.

Hardin pushed in and soon found the enemy's cavalry, which he drove across the road, occupying it, forming, when the enemy advanced, his line of battle directly on his flank.

Crawford sent two regiments to his support, but the enemy attacked on both flanks, and finding the force hotly engaged, he moved to the field with his whole division. The enemy, [556] having flanked Hardee when he arrived, Crawford hastily threw Fisher's brigade to hold the right, and advanced Colonel Kitchen, with two regiments to support the line on the left, but it was too late. He ordered the line to fall back to the crest of a hill. Here he extended it, and ordered the men to throw up intrenchments.

Old rail logs, and whatever was handy, were used, and breastworks soon prepared, after which Fisher's brigade was thrown across a ravine on the right, and nine pieces of artillery planted to sweep the ravine. Hardly were the men in position, when the rebels advanced their line of battle directly upon our line. Awaiting their coming until they were within one hundred yards, the Pennsylvania Reserves opened a very heavy fire. The rebel colors were shot down, and were not raised again; whoever had them crawled away with them. Twice they rallied ; were advanced; each time they were driven back, until the men lay down, when they commenced running back, and our line marched out of their works and took seventy prisoners, among them six officers. A very large number of the enemy were killed, among them a colonel; many officers, and three hundred dead were left lying in our front, inside of the line of skirmishers. Crawford lost a considerable number of men. Brigadier-General Ramsay was left on the field and reported killed. Colonel W. H. Kent, of the Sixth regulars, was shot through the hand; Captain Worth, of the Sixth, was also wounded; Colonel Tyrel is killed; Sergeant Thompson, of the Bucktails, who captured the battle-flag of the Fifteenth Georgia, at Gettysburg, was wounded and made prisoner.

When the attack was made upon Warren, Hancock was ordered, at eight o'clock last evening, to make a diversion in his favor. The order was vigorously executed; and after a couple of hours' of heavy cannonade was kept up on the rebel position by several batteries and six mortars, this morning finds our line in much the same formation as it had yesterday. The Sixth corps (Wright's) holds the right, then the Second (Hancock's); the Fifth (Warren's); and then the Ninth (Burnside's), which holds our left. The only portion of our force thus far, engaged to-day, is Hancock's corps, from whose front I have just returned.

The divisions of Birney on the right, and Barlow on the centre, advanced about six hundred yards, carrying the enemy's first line, which was held by a strong skirmish force. Birney captured forty prisoners, who proved to belong to Breckinridge's command.

There is hardly a doubt, however, that the position now held by the rebels in our front is but an advanced line, which they will hold as long as possible, for the purpose of gaining time to perfect their defences on the Chickahominy. On that historic line it is now fully expected that we shall, ere long, deliver battle. In the relative positions of the two opposing forces, this is the only field-fight we are likely to have outside of Richmond, and that its result must decide whether the rebel capital can be carried by a coup de main, or whether it is destined to become the object of a summer's siege.

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