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Chapter 32:

  • Position of the armies around Richmond, June 1, 1864.
  • -- maneuvers for position. -- battle of Cold Harbour. -- easy repulse of the enemy. -- Grant decides to cross the river, and attempt the south side of Richmond. -- why Gen. Lee did not attempt to attack him in the movement. -- battles of Petersburg. -- two attacks of the enemy repulsed. -- Butler advances his position, and is driven back. -- Grant turns his attention from the fortifications to the railroads. -- demonstrations on the Weldon and Danville Roads. -- defeat of Sheridan's expedition on the railroads North of Richmond. -- operations west of the Blue Ridge. -- Hunter's movement. -- he captures Staunton. -- he advances upon Lynchburg. -- he is defeated, and driven into Western Virginia. -- Gen. John Morgan's expedition into Kentucky. -- its disastrous conclusion. -- particulars of the murder of Gen. Morgan in East Tennessee. -- Early's invasion of Maryland. -- daring of Gen. Lee. -- what he proposed by sending Early's column into the North. -- Grant's preparations against this movement. -- battle of Monocacy Bridge. -- defeat of “LewWallace's command. -- Early advances upon Washington. -- skirmish in front of Fort Stevens. -- Early declines to attack the Federal capital and retreats. -- questions as to the strength of Washington. -- results of Early's expedition. -- its effect on the armies operating around Richmond. -- the mine fiasco at Petersburg. -- three elements in the plan of attack. -- description of the mine. -- the explosion and a “feu d'enfer.” -- the assaulting column pauses in the crater. -- terrible scenes of carnage. -- the miserable failure. -- commentary of the New York times.

The first of June, 1864, found the position of the two armies around Richmond as follows: Grant was between the Chickahominy and the Pamunkey, with his left thrown forward to Mechanicsville, his right withdrawn to White House, and his reserve massed in rear of his left, and Richmond somewhat behind his left flank. Lee was posted from Atlee's Station, extending on his left to Gaines' Mill, with outposts as far as Coal Harbour. His position conformed to that of 1862; and, indeed, the whole Confederate line of battle was on ground occupied by both the armies at that time.

On falling back to Richmond it had been the first concern of Gen. Lee to secure positions he knew, from the battles of 1862, to be good ones. [527] He, accordingly, sent forward to the right Kershaw's and Hoke's divisions of Anderson's corps, with orders to occupy the eminences around Gaines' Mill and Cold Harbour. This position had been previously carried by some Federal cavalry. But on arrival of Bloke's division, shortly afterwards reinforced by McLaws', the Confederates obtained possession of the desired posts. At the same time Breckinridge and Mahone, of Hill's corps, were equally successful in gaining certain advanced positions.

On the 2d June, as Grant continued to develop his left flank, the Confederates were put in motion on a parallel line, while Early, commanding Ewell's corps, swung round, late in the afternoon, and took the enemy in flank, drove him from two lines of entrenchments, and inflicted great loss. Meanwhile Breckinridge, supported by Wilcox, proceeded, under orders from Lee, to attack the advanced Federals, now on the extreme right at Turkey Hill, and there succeeded in driving them away. Thus another important position was obtained by Lee; this hill commanding the approaches from the north and east to the line of the Chickahominy. Meanwhile Grant was getting his troops into position for a decisive action. Early in the morning of June the 3d, his army, now extending from Totopatomy Creek, across the road from Cold Harbour to the Chickahominy, advanced in full line of battle, upon the Confederates.

Battle of Cold Harbour.

The Federal line of battle ran in the following order, from right to left: Burnside, Warren, Smith, Wright, and Hancock. The latter was opposed by Breckinridge's command on Lee's extreme right; Ewell's corps held the extreme left opposite Burnside; and Hill's corps was in reserve. The attack was led by Hancock, who momentarily carried the position held by Breckinridge's troops, but was severely repulsed, as this part of the line was reinforced by Milligan's Florida brigade, and the Maryland battalion. This was the only corps of the enemy that came in contact with the Confederate works. The two corps on the right of Hancock were repulsed; and Warren and Burnside staggered on the line of the rifle-pits. The fact was that Grant, in testing the question, whether Lee's army had or had not been demoralized by its experience from the Rapidan to the James, found his own army so incapable, that he was compelled to withdraw it in sheer despair. He “mounted his horse and rode along the lines to ascertain from the different commanders the actual state of things in their immediate front. He returned leisurely, absorbed in thought, and it was evident that the attempt would not be renewed.” Of the results of the day, he wrote: “Our loss was heavy, while that of the enemy, I have reason to believe, was comparatively light.” The fact was that the report of [528] the adjutant-general at Washington showed a loss of seven thousand five hundred men in three days operations on the Chickahominy, the greater portion of which occurred, of course, in the general action of the 3d of June.

For several days after the battle of Cold Harbour there was comparative quiet, and some unimportant skirmishes. During the night of the 5th Grant withdrew his right wing about two miles, and placed it behind a swamp, which protected both the flank and front of that portion of his army. The severe experience of the 3d satisfied him that Richmond could not be carried by a coup de main, and could no longer be approached with advantage from the north. On this side lay a difficult river and five miles of earthworks, stretched to the Confederate capital. Here, too, the enemy had to hold the Fredericksburg railroad, a long, vulnerable line, which would exhaust much of his strength to guard, and which would have to be protected to supply his army — a situation which would have left open to the Confederates all their lines of communication on the south side of the James. A full survey of all the ground satisfied Grant that he could not operate with advantage north and east of Richmond; he determined to make another movement by Lee's left flank, throw his army over James River, and seize Petersburg, hoping thus to cut off all the Confederate supplies, except by the canal; while his cavalry could be sent to Charlottesville and Gordonsville, to break up the railroad connection between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley and Lynchburg.

On the 12th June, Grant completed his preparations to abandon the late field of operations about the Chickahominy, cross the James River, and occupy the south side towards Petersburg. To do this he had to make another movement round Lee's right, extending as far as Bottom's Bridge, and march down the Chickahominy as far as the next crossings at Long's and Jones' bridges. The movement was effected with skill. On June 13, the advance had reached Wilcox's landing on the James, near Charles' City Court-house, and the next day Grant's whole army was safely transferred to the opposite shore.

Gen. Lee did not attack Grant on his movement to the James. He was probably unable to do so. Richmond and Petersburg had both to be guarded, not only against the Army of the Potomac, but also that of Butler, who had come up the river in heavy force to co-operate with Grant; while an important detachment of Confederate force, as we shall see, had to be ready to move towards Lynchburg to meet the advance of a third army in that direction. It had been the expectation of Grant to make an easy capture of Petersburg, which Butler had previously failed to take, laying the blame of defeat on his subordinate, Gillmore. But he found that Lee had anticipated him in this new plan of operations; that Petersburg was well able to withstand a siege; that additional fortifications had [529] been promptly erected around it and on the banks of the Appomattox, while Drewry's Bluff, also, afforded a good and strong point of defence.

Battles of Petersburg.

Grant found it now necessary to “hammer” at Petersburg, which, properly regarded, was then a mere outpost of the Confederate capital, for even if he took the first, or rather the line of works that commanded it, similar works, around Richmond, twenty miles off, confronted him. Smith's corps, of Butler's command, having disembarked at Bermuda Hundred on the 14th June, moved rapidly upon Petersburg, and made an assault on the batteries covering the approaches to the town on the northeast. He got possession of this line of works, but was too timid to push his advantage, and waited the coming up of the Second Corps, under Hancock, two divisions of which arrived during the night, and relieved a part of Smith's line in the captured works. An attack was ordered in the evening of the next day, Burnside's corps having also come up and gone into position on the left. Three assaults were made with disastrous result; the Confederates assuming the aggressive, driving the enemy from his breastworks at Howlett's House, and opening upon him an enfilading fire, in which a large portion of a brigade that had sought shelter in a ravine was captured by a Georgia regiment.

The next day the Fifth Corps was got up, and a third attack was made by the enemy four corps strong. It was repulsed at all parts of the line; and, again assuming the offensive, the Confederates made an attack on Burnside's line of advanced rifle-pits, drove the enemy back upon his supports, and remained in possession until day-light, when they retired to their own works.

Meanwhile Butler, taking advantage of the Confederates in his front having been withdrawn to Petersburg, sallied from behind his entrenchments and advanced towards the railroad, intending to tear it up. Lee promptly prepared for him. The lines necessarily vacated by Beauregard, when he had to fall back and defend Petersburg, had already been taken possession of by the Federals; but directly Butler made his attempt, Anderson was despatched with his corps from Richmond to repulse him. This was done most effectively-Pickett's division, the heroes of Gettysburg, again making here an impetuous charge, capturing the breastworks of the enemy. We may imagine how unfortunate Butler was in his official announcement of great victories, for on the very day that he despatched that he had destroyed the communication with Richmond, Gen. Lee was sending, by the railroad, troops from the capital for the defence of Petersburg. [530]

The result of all these engagements, which had cost Grant, by an official calculation, 9,665 men, was that the Confederates were still in firm possession of their works covering Petersburg, and that Grant was left no other resource than to proceed to envelop the town as far as possible without attacking fortifications.

The immediate operations of his army appear now to have degenerated to an attempt upon the railroads. On the 22d an attempt was made by two divisions of cavalry to get possession of the Weldon railroad; but when a portion of the command had reached the Jerusalem plank-road, A. P. Hill's corps and Anderson's successfully encountered them, and drove them back with severe loss. Gen. Wilson, however, succeeded in reaching the railroad at Ream's station, below where the combatants were engaged, and tore up some of the track. Wilson, joined by Kautz, then struck across to the Southside railroad, doing some damage, and finally came upon the Danville track, having had a sharp engagement with a small Confederate force near Nottoway Court-house. Continuing along the Danville railroad to the southwest, they arrived at the covered bridge over the Staunton river, in the evening of the 24th. Here a body of Virginia and North Carolina militia met them, and after a brisk encounter Wilson and Kautz had to retire. This was the limit of their raid. They returned as rapidly as they could, but at Ream's station one thousand prisoners and all the enemy's artillery and trains were captured by a Confederate force under Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee. Kautz's knowledge of the country enabled him to escape. He, with his shattered command, reached camp on the 30th June, while Wilson, with his men in wretched condition, did not arrive till next day.

North of Richmond, Grant's designs on the railroads were no more successful, and the expedition of Sheridan already noticed as sent out to destroy the railroads between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley and Lynchburg, had met with disaster, without accomplishing a single important result. He had been intercepted at Trevillian station while moving on the Gordonsville road; and reaching the latter place by a circuit, was twice repulsed by the infantry in the rifle-pits there, and pleading the “want of ammunition” was compelled to withdraw his command across the North Anna and retreat to the White House.

The month of June thus closed with Lee master of the situation around Richmond and Petersburg. In the same month there were other notable successes to strengthen the capital, and public attention was turned to events occurring in other parts of Virginia, the result of which was to open the Shenandoah Valley, that famous avenue into the territory of the North, and to afford Gen. Lee the opportunity of an important diversion. We shall see, indeed, that this ready and resourceful commander, with Grant fully occupied in the south of Virginia, was yet enabled quietly [531] and skilfully to send another army of invasion into the Northern States.

Operations West of the Blue Ridge.

At the last reference to operations west of the Blue Ridge, Gen. Hunter--the same who had made himself famous by his negrophilism in the department of Beaufort, South Carolina-had taken command of the Federal forces there, and was about to enter upon an enlarged campaign. That campaign was dictated by Grant. It indicated the extension of the auxiliary movement against Richmond to as many points as Staunton, Lynchburg, Charlottesville and Gordonsville — the general design being to cut the communications of Richmond, in view of which Hunter was to move on the point that best invited attack.

West of the Blue Ridge the Confederate force was small, disarranged, and altogether unequal to meet these formidable enterprises of the enemy. It consisted of a few small brigades of inferiour cavalry, about two regiments of infantry, and a small brigade (Vaughan's) of dismounted troops acting as infantry. To supply the place of Breckinridge, who had gone to the Richmond arid Petersburg lines, McCausland's little force, from Dublin, was sent to the front of Staunton, and Gen. William E. Jones was ordered to take all the troops he could move from Southwestern Virginia to the same position in the lower valley. Accordingly, Gen. Jones not only got together all the infantry west of the New River, but having dismounted Vaughan's brigade of cavalry also, took all to Staunton, leaving nothing in the extreme southwest but a few disjointed bodies of cavalry and Morgan's command to meet Burbridge, coming in from Kentucky.

Gen. Hunter, having received his instructions from Grant, immediately took up the offensive, and moving up the Shenandoah Valley, met Jones' little command, on the 5th June, at Piedmont. Here the Confederates were overpowered with the loss of more than one thousand prisoners, and of their commander, who, with hat in hand, was cheering his men when he fell, pierced through his head by a minie ball. On the 8th, Hunter formed a junction with Crook and Averill at Staunton, from which place he moved, by way of Lexington, direct on Lynchburg. He reached this place on the 16th June.

It now became necessary for Gen. Lee to detach a considerable portion of his force to meet this distant demonstration of the enemy, and to select a commander, the decision, energy and rapidity of whose movements might overthrow Hunter, and possibly make an opportunity to pass a column, however small, through the Valley of Virginia to threaten the Federal capital. For this work Gen. Early was selected. He had latterly commanded [532] Ewell's corps, and with the great portion of this, he moved rapidly iy the Orange and Alexandria railroad to Lynchburg.

On the 18th June Hunter made an attack on the south side of Lynchburg, which was easily repulsed. The next day the Confederates attacked, drove him in confusion, took thirteen of his guns, pursued him to Salem, and forced him to a line of retreat into the mountains of Western Virginia. Gen. Grant wrote: “Had Gen. Hunter moved by way of Charlottesville, instead of Lexington, as his instructions contemplated, he would leave been in a position to have covered the Shenandoah Valley against the enemy, should the force he met have seemed to endanger it. If it did not, he would have been within easy distance of the James River canal, on the main line of communication between Lynchburg and the forces sent for its defence.” As it was, no sooner did Gen. Early ascertain that Hunter was retreating by the way of the Kanawha River, thus laying the Shenandoah Valley open for an expedition into Maryland and Pennsylvania, than he returned northward and moved down that valley.

While the Shenandoah Valley was thus opened, Gen. John Morgan had done his part in breaking up the enemy's combination in Western Virginia. This adventurous cavalier — who had escaped from the Ohio Penitentiary, and returned to active service — was operating in Southwestern Virginia, when Gen. Jones, commanding there, was ordered, with all the troops he could transport, to Staunton, at the very time that Southwestern Virginia was about to be invaded by Burbridge. Having no force to meet Burbridge in front, it was resolved by Morgan to dash boldly into the heart of Kentucky, and thus draw the Federal commander away. This plan succeeded, but at the cost of the defeat of Morgan's command.

With a force of little more than two thousand cavalry, Gen. Morgan entered the State of Kentucky through Pound Gap. On the 11th June he attacked and captured Cynthiana, with its entire garrison. On the 12th he was overtaken by Burbridge, with a largely superiour force, and his command effectually dispersed, and finally driven front the State.

This was the last important expedition ever commanded by John Morgan; and we may add here some account of the tragical circumstances which suddenly and unexpectedly brought to a close the career of this extraordinary man, and which constitute a case of atrocious murder, unparalleled in the records of any events which assume the title of civilized war. Driven from Kentucky, Gen. Morgan attempted a smaller scale of operations in East Tennessee, and was next heard of near Greenville. He was here on the 3d September; the place lying on the great line of railroad from Virginia to Georgia by the way of Knoxville, and nineteen miles distant from Bull's Gap, where Gen. Gillem was encamped with a brigade of Federal cavalry. What now occurred, it is necessary to state with more particularity of detail than we have usually bestowed on the [533] relation of single events, as the manner of Gen. Morgan's death has been variously questioned, the enemy claiming that lie was killed in honourable combat.

The General established his headquarters at the house of a Mrs. Williams, in the town of Greenville. His own brigade was sent on the road leading to Rodgersville, for the purpose of getting forage, and a detachment of Tennessee cavalry, six hundred strong, was ordered under Col. Brad ford, to encamp on the road leading to Bull's Gap, and to picket the road leading towards the enemy. The country between Greenville and the Gap is hilly, and wild, and very poor. Gen. Morgan's betrayal was at land from a quarter he had least expected. lie had no sooner retired to rest than a woman, the daughter-in-law of Mrs. Williams, mounted a horse, and, unnoticed, rode to the Federal commander, and informed him of the prize within his reach. Gillem immediately moved his command in the direction of Greenville; when about five miles from town he halted and sent a detachment through the woods, and succeeded in getting on the flank of Bradford's command, and driving him back from the road, leaving it open to Greenville. A detachment of four companies of the 13th Tennessee Cavalry was then sent forward to charge the town. They met with no resistance. The square on which Mrs. W.'s house was situated was surrounded immediately. The officers of Morgan's staff being aroused by the couriers, of whom there were three or four at the front gate, rushed out and were captured one by one. Gen. Morgan attempted to escape through the garden ; finding exit in that direction cut off, lie concealed himself among some grape vines. He had no weapon at all, Captain Rogers having one of his pistols, and one of his clerks the other. While the officers of his staff and couriers were together under guard within twenty yards of his concealment, he necessarily heard the questions asked them and the threats made against them.

Seeing that there was no hope of successful concealment, lie came out and surrendered to Capt. Wilcox, of the 13th Tennessee Cavalry, who had already both of Morgan's pistols in his possession. This captain sat on his horse and conversed with the General for some time, and then rode off. A few minutes after lie left, a man named Andrew Campbell, belonging to the Federal cavalry referred to, rode up and presented his gun at Gen. Morgan The General said: “For God's sake don't shoot me — I am a prisoner.” The gun was fired and the General fell. The muzzle of the gun, a Colt's army rifle, was within two feet of Gen. Morgan's breast when it was discharged ; his clothing and his body were blackened with powder. His murderer then dismounted and threw the General's body across ]his horse, in front of the saddle, and rode about town shouting, “Here's your horse thief.” When permission was given to sonic of Gen. Morgan's officers to take possession of the body, they found it lying in the road. [534] about one mile from the place where he had been shot. It was so covered with mud that they could scarcely recognize it. The ball struck the centre of the breast, about three or four inches below its junction with the neck, and came out behind the hip bone. The brave commander met his death as he met his foes a thousand times before; there was no shrinking — not a quiver of a nerve-though he saw murder in the brawny felon's eye. He fell, leaving to his countrymen a testimony of Kentucky chivalry-the record of a gallant, dashing life and a fearless death.

Early's invasion of Maryland.

We left the situation in Virginia with Lee covering Richmond and Petersburg, and meditating a menace upon the Federal capital. No sooner was the defeat of Hunter known, than the rapidity of a new movement became imperative, and not a moment was lost in pushing Early's column towards Maryland. In spite of the prostrating heat, the troops made twenty miles a day, and the rumour of this determined advance came to the Federal authorities, at the time when Grant was supposed to be carrying everything before him. It was another illustration of Gen. Lee's wonderful enterprise, and showed this commander to be one of the most daring as well as the most skilful Generals of the age. That popular opinion which regarded Lee as a good slow, prudent commander without dash is one of the lowest and most imperfect estimates of his character. We see now that when Grant was hoping to suffocate him with numbers, he dared to detach a considerable portion of his army to threaten the capital of the enemy. He was left at Petersburg with only the corps of A. P. Hill, two divisions of Ewell's corps, and one division of Longstreet's. But Lee had rightly calculated that the diversion towards Washington, coupled with the panic it would occasion, would weaken Grant to a greater extent than himself, besides impressing him and the Northern public with the extent and activity of his resources, and obtaining an important moral

It became necessary for Grant at once to find troops to meet the new movement. For this purpose the Sixth Corps was taken from the armies operating against Richmond and sent up the Chesapeake Bay to man the fortifications around Washington, while orders were sent to hurry forward the forces of Gen. Hunter from the Ohio. To the Sixth Corps was added the Nineteenth, which was under orders to proceed from the Gulf Department to the lines of Virginia, and which was already debarking in Hampton Roads. The garrisons of Baltimore and Washington were at this time made up of heavy artillery regiments, hundred-days' men, and detachments [535] from the invalid corps; and the rapidity of reinforcements was the important and critical concern.

On the 3d July, Gen. Early approached Martinsburg, accompanied by a cavalry force under Ransom. Gen. Sigel, who was in command of the Federal forces there, retreated across the Potomac at Shephardstown; and Gen. Weber, commanding at Harper's Ferry, crossed the river, and occupied Hagerstown, moving a strong column towards Frederick City. Meanwhile Gen.Lew.” Wallace, a commander much akin in character to “Beast” Butler, and who had distinguished himself in Baltimore by a cowardly ferocity and an easy prowess in the arrest and persecution of citizens, pushed out from that city with Ricketts' division and his own command, and took a position at Monocacy Bridge.

Battle of Monocacy Bridge.

Gen. Early had pressed on, crossed the Potomac, and, advancing to Frederick City, found it evacuated by the Federal troops, and that the enemy had concentrated his forces at Monocacy Bridge, four miles distant. The Federals held the east bank of the river, which runs due north and south, and were drawn up along the railroad. Early, having crossed the river south of the bridge, sent forward Evans' brigade across an open field to develop the strength of the enemy. It moved steadily under a heavy fire of musketry until within fifty yards of the enemy's position, when another body of Federals emerged from the woods on its right, and took it in flank. The other forces of Early were rapidly moved to the critical point; a simultaneous charge was made; and the enemy broke in shameful confusion, leaving the railroad and national pike, and retreating in the direction of Gettysburg. His losses were more than a thousand killed and wounded, and seven hundred prisoners.

From Monocacy Gen. Early moved on Washington, his cavalry advance reaching. Rockville on the evening of the 10th July. He was now within sight of Washington, and the fire of the skirmishers was heard at the “White House,” and in the department buildings of the capital. The enormous march, however, had diminished his army. The five hundred miles of incessant advance, at twenty miles a day, left him only eight thousand infantry, about forty field pieces and two thousand cavalry with which to assault the works around Washington.

The most important of these works was Fort Stevens. On the 12th a severe skirmish, resulting from a reconnoissance, occurred in front of this fort; but Gen. Early declined to follow it up, and, by a decisive blow, attempt the capture of Washington. Reflecting that he was in the heart of the enemy's country, and not knowing what force defended the capital, [536] he abandoned his design upon it, and in the night of the 12th commenced his retreat.

There has been much question as to the extent of the danger to which Washington was at this time exposed, and as to the merit of Early's declination of attack. Northern writers declare that if Early had made a vigorous attack when he first came up, and not lost a day in a fruitless reconnoissance, it would have resulted in the capture of the city, so feebly was it then defended. Fortunately we have some distinct evidence on this point. Gen. Grant has testified that two divisions of the Sixth Corps, and the advance of the Nineteenth Corps had reached Washington before Early got there. Whether it would have been prudent for Early to match this force, while Hunter was hastening from the West to strike his rear, and cut him off from his only avenue of retreat across the Potomac, is a question for the military critic to decide.

Gen. Early, having broke up his camp before Washington, retreated, and with little molestation recrossed the Potomac, and finally stood at bay on the Opequon to protect the Shenandoah Valley. The results of the expedition fell below public expectation at the South, where again had been indulged the fond imagination of the capture of Washington. But the movement was, on the whole, a success; Early brought off fire thousand horses and twenty-five hundred beef cattle; and the primary object of the march had been accomplished when he retreated and posted himself in the Shenandoah Valley--a standing threat to repeat the enterprise upon Washington --for we shall see that it was no longer a mere detached column that opposed him, but an army of forty or fifty thousand men. To that extent Gen. Grant had been weakened, and the heavy weight upon Gen. Lee's shoulders lightened.

The mine fiasco at Petersburg.

While Early was detached from Lee's lines, Gen. Grant made what may be described as his last attempt to take Petersburg by a coup de main. There were three parts of the enterprise: an assault on the Federal position on Burnside's front; the explosion of a mine under an angle of the Confederate works, to open the way to the attack; and a feint of operations on the north side of the James, to deceive Lee into sending away a portion of his troops.

In June a plan had been suggested by one of Burnside's officers to excavate a tunnel under an angle of the Confederate works that was covered by a six-gun battery. On the 25th July the work was completed. Its length was about five hundred feet, and at the end of the tunnel the mine was formed, running parallel with and directly under the fort that was to [537] be destroyed. On the 27th, the enormous quantity of 12,000 lbs. of powder was placed in the mine, fuses were constructed and connected with the magazine, and everything was in readiness for the grand explosion.

The mine was exploded between four and five o'clock in the morning of the 30th July. An immense mass of dull, red earth was thrown two hundred feet in the air; human forms, gun-carriages, and small arms were mingled in what appeared to be a bank of clouds blazing with lightning; a great shock smote the ear, and the ground trembled as if by an appalling convulsion of nature. Instantly, before the rumble of the explosion had died away, every piece of siege artillery on the enemy's line, and all the field artillery that could be brought into position opened as with the grand chorus of death. With such an infernal display to strike terrour into the Confederates and to demoralize men suddenly awakened from sleep, the Ninth Corps, fifteen thousand strong, marched out to attack, and complete what was thought to be an easy and certain victory.

But Lee's soldiers were not men who could be fought after the Chinese fashion of assailing the ears with terrible sounds. They were quickly prepared to meet the enemy. The assaulting column, on reaching the scene of explosion, found that there had been opened here a huge crater, one hundred and fifty feet long, sixty feet wide, and from twenty-five to thirty deep. It did not advance beyond it; instead of rushing forward and crowning the crest, the assailants made the most shameful exhibition of timidity; they huddled into the crater, they sought shelter there, and no commands or persuasions could move them further. A division of negro troops was thrown into the crater-this maw of death; and for two hours the mingled mass of white and black troops, utterly demoralized, unable to pluck up courage to make a determined charge upon the crest, swayed to and fro in the hollow of the exploded earthworks, while the Confederates were rapidly bringing up their artillery on the right and left of the crater to destroy the enemy before he could extricate himself from the disgraceful coil. Once a feeble charge, in which the black troops were put in advance was made towards the crest. It was encountered by Mahone's brigade. His men were ordered not to fire until they could see the whites of the negroes' eyes. At the first volley delivered at this distance, the blacks broke; they were panic-stricken and past control; they rushed through the troops in the crater back to the original lines, while into this slaughter-pen the Confederates now poured an incessant storm of bombs and shells. Retreat across the open space in rear of it was to run the gauntlet of death. The ground all around was dotted with the fallen; while the sides and bottom of the crater were literally lined with dead, the bodies lying in every conceivable position. Some had evidently been killed with the butts of muskets, as their crushed skulls and badly smashed faces too plainly indicated; while the greater portion were shot, great pools of blood having [538] flowed from their wounds and stained the ground. In a few short hours of morning the enemy had lost between four and five thousand men, and had accomplished nothing.

“This miserable affair,” as Gen. Grant himself was forced to entitle it appears to have been sufficient to satisfy him that he could not hope for the capture of Petersburg from expedients, partial efforts and coups de main, and that the task was one of magnitude far beyond his original comprehension. His last spasmodic effort went far to persuade the Northern public that his whole campaign was a failure, and that they had miscalculated the importance of his mere vicinity to the Confederate capital, when Gen. Lee had been able to hold Petersburg against an attack combining so many elements of success, and that too after he had detached an important column into the valley of Virginia, and sent five of his divisions to the north side of the James. The commentary of the New York Times was logical and significant. It said: “Under the most favourable circumstances, with the rebel force reduced by two great detachments, we failed to carry their lines. Will they not conclude that the twenty-five thousand men that held Grant in check are sufficient to garrison the works of Petersburg Will they not conclude that, if they were able thus to hold their own with the force of from eighteen to twenty thousand men sent to the north side of the James River neutralized, this force is available for active operations elsewhere”

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Beaufort, S. C. (South Carolina, United States) (1)
Appomattox (Virginia, United States) (1)

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