By Henry J. Raymond
MILITARY EVENTS OF THE SPRING AND SUMMER OF 1864.
THE position of the two great armies of the United States at the opening of the year 1864 plainly indicated that the main interest of the military movements of the year was to be with the Army of the Potomac, which lay around Culpepper Court-House, still looking towards Richmond with unfaltering determination; and with the great Army of the West, which was gathering around Chattanooga for its long and perilous southward march. During the month of January little was done anywhere except to prepare for the coming campaign. Neither of the grand armies made any movement during February or March, but some smaller expeditions were set on foot.
As early as the 15th of December, 1863, General Gillmore, commanding the Department of the South, had applied to the Government for permission to send an expedition into Florida, for the purpose of cutting off supplies of the enemy; and in January, in urging the matter still further upon the attention of General Halleck, he suggested that measures might be also inaugurated for restoring the State of Florida to her allegiance under the terms of the President's Proclamation. General Gillmore was authorized to take such action in the matter as he should deem proper; and he accordingly organized an expedition, which left Port Royal on the 5th of February, under General Seymour, and was followed soon afterwards by General Gillmore himself--to whom, on the 13th of January, the President had addressed the following letter:
The advance portion of the expedition reached Jacksonville on the 8th of February. General Gillmore returned to Port Royal on the 16th, leaving the command of the expedition to General Seymour. The first operations were successful. Near Jacksonville one hundred prisoners, with eight pieces of serviceable artillery, fell into our hands, and expeditions were pushed forward into the interior, by which large amounts of stores and supplies were destroyed. On the 17th, General Seymour, with five thousand men, was on the Florida Central Railroad, about forty-five miles from Jacksonville. Here they remained until the 20th, when the preparations for a movement towards Lake City were completed. The enemy was found in force, a little before reaching Lake City, at Olustee, a small station on the railroad. The engagement was commenced between the enemy's skirmishers and our advance. The fire. directed against our men was so hot that they were compelled to fall back; then we brought two batteries to bear on the enemy, and our whole force became engaged with more than twice their number of the rebels, who occupied a strong position, flanked by a marsh. Again we retreated, taking another position; but it was impossible to contend with a force so greatly superior, and, after a battle of three hours and a half, General Seymour retired, leaving his dead and severely wounded on the field. Five guns were lost, and about a thousand men killed, wounded, and missing.
On the 3d of February, General Sherman, with a strong force, set out from Vicksburg, in light marching order, and moved eastward. Shortly after, a cavalry expedition, under General Smith, set out from Memphis, to work its way southeastward, and join Sherman somewhere on the borders of Mississippi and Alabama. By the 18th, Smith had accomplished nearly one-half of his proposed march, but soon after found the enemy concentrated in superior force in his front. Finding it impossible to proceed, he fell back, destroying the bridges on the Memphis and Ohio Railroad in his retreat. There was continual skirmishing, but no decisive battle, during the retreat, which lasted until the 25th, when the expedition accomplished its return to Memphis. Much damage was done to the enemy by the destruction of property, but the main object of making a junction with Sherman failed. Sherman went as far east as Meridian, almost on the borders of Mississippi and Alabama, and after destroying large quantities of rebel stores, and breaking their lines of communication, he returned to Vicksburg.
Another enterprise was a raid upon Richmond, made by a large cavalry force under General Kilpatrick. Leaving his camp on the 28th of February, he crossed the Rapidan, gained the rear of Lee's army without being discovered, and pushed rapidly on in the direction of Richmond. A detachment under Colonel Dahlgren was sent from the main body to Frederick's Hall, on the Virginia Central Railroad. The road was torn up for some distance; then the James River Canal was struck, and six grist-mills, which formed one of the main sources of supply for the Confederate army, were destroyed. Several locks on the canal were blown up, and other damage done. Dahlgren's main body then pressed onward to wards Richmond, and came within three miles of the city, when, encountering a Confederate force, it was compelled to withdraw, Dahlgren himself being killed, and a large part of his force captured. Kilpatrick, meanwhile, pressed onward to Spottsylvania Court-House, and thence to Beaver Dam, near where the two lines of railway from Richmond, those running to Gordonsville and Fredericksburg, cross. Here the railway was torn up, and the telegraph line cut, and the cavalry pushed straight on towards Richmond. They reached the outer line of fortifications at a little past ten on the morning of the 1st of March, about three and a half miles from the city. These were fairly passed, and the second line, a Mile nearer, was reached, and a desultory fire was kept up for some hours. Towards evening Kilpatrick withdrew, and encamped six miles from the city. In the night an artillery attack was made upon the camp, and our troops retired still farther, and on the following morning took up their line of march down the Peninsula towards Williamsburg. Several miles of railway connection of great importance to the enemy were interrupted, stores to the value of several millions of dollars were destroyed, and some hundreds of prisoners were captured, as the result of this expedition.
In the early part of March, General Banks organized an expedition with all the available force of the army and navy in his department, to move up the Red River as far as Shreveport, where the rebels had large supplies, and where it was intended that he should be joined by General Steele, with the forces which he could collect in Arkansas, when the combined armies would be powerful enough to sweep away all rebel opposition in that part of the State, if not in Texas.
A force of about ten thousand men, under command of General A. J. Smith, left Vicksburg on the 10th of March in twenty transports, and, having joined the fleet, proceeded up the Red River. This portion of the expedition met with a decided success in the capture of Fort De Russey by storm, with but little loss, by which capture the river was opened to the. fleet as far as Alexandria, where the whole expedition was united under command of General Banks. On the 26th of March they moved forward, meeting with uninterrupted success, as far as Natchitoches, some eighty miles above Alexandria. But at Sabine Cross-Roads, about twenty miles farther up, they found the rebel army posted, under the command of General Dick Taylor. This resistance had not been anticipated: the army was not marching compactly, nor could the gunboats be of any assistance, on account of the distance of the river from the road.
The consequence was, that the Thirteenth Corps of our army, being too far in advance to receive proper support, was attacked by the rebels in superior force and driven back upon the Nineteenth Corps, which had formed in line of battle, and which repulsed the advancing enemy with great slaughter. This battle was fought on the 8th of April. That night General Banks determined to fall back to Pleasant Hill, at which point two other divisions, under General A. J. Smith, had arrived. Here our forces were attacked, about five o'clock in the afternoon of the next day. The rebels at first gained some advantage, pressing the Nineteenth Corps back up a hill, behind the crest of which lay General Smith's troops, by whose unexpected and destructive fire the rebel lines of battle, as they came over the crest, were suddenly arrested. A rapid charge of the Union troops put the rebels entirely to flight, with a loss of several thousand killed and wounded, many hundred prisoners, and some guns, most of which, however, had been taken from us by the rebels the day before.
Our own army, however, was so shattered in the two battles, that General Banks ordered a retreat of the entire force to Grand Ecore, some forty miles below. The water in the Red River being unusually low, and falling, it was found necessary to remove the fleet, and with it the army, still farther down the river to Alexandria. On the way down, the gunboat Eastport having got aground, had to be abandoned, and was blown up.
General Steele, in consequence of the retreat of General Banks, was himself compelled to fall back to Little Rock, which he reached without much fighting, but with the loss of a good deal of material.
The water in the Red River continued to fall until it was found that there was not water enough on the falls at Alexandria to allow the gunboats to pass over. The rebels were enabled to throw forces below, so as to impede the communication with the army by the river, and as it became evident that the army must retreat still farther, the gravest apprehensions were felt lest the whole fleet of twelve gunboats should be of necessity, abandoned to the rebels, or blown up. In this extremity, a plan was devised by Lieutenant-Colonel Bailey, of the Fourth Wisconsin Cavalry, Acting Engineer of the Nineteenth Corps, of building a series of dams on the falls, by which to raise the water sufficiently to allow the gunboats to pass over. The plan was ridiculed by some of the best engineers; but under the approval of Commodore Porter, who commanded the fleet, and General Banks, it was tried with perfect success. The dams were built within ten days, and all the gunboats brought safely over. Commodore Porter, in his report, says, "Words are inadequate to express the admiration I feel for Colonel Bailey. * * * Leaving out his ability as an engineer and the credit he has conferred upon the country, he has saved the Union a valuable fleet, worth nearly $2,000,000, and has deprived the enemy of a triumph which would have emboldened them to carry on this war a year or two longer." Colonel Bailey was at once appointed by the President a brigadier-general for these distinguished services.
After this escape, the fleet and the army retreated down the river. The fleet lost two small gunboats by rebel batteries on the way down; but the army, though attacked several times, repulsed the rebels with considerable loss, and crossed the Atchafalaya in safety, on the 19th of May.
About the time of the check which General Banks received at Sabine Cross-Roads, the arms of the Union met with reverses in two other quarters. One of these was the capture of Fort Pillow, on the Mississippi, on the 12th of April, by a rebel force under General Forrest, a capture marked in the history of the war by the atrocious butchery of the garrison after the surrender of the place. The garrison was composed of about six hundred men under command of Major Boyd, who was killed near the close of the light. Of these six hundred about three hundred and fifty were colored troops. The attack was commenced in the early morning, and the garrison were driven from some outworks into the fort itself, which they defended with the assistance of a gunboat, till about four P. M., when the rebels made a final charge upon the fort from positions which they had occupied by taking advantage of a flag of truce sent to the fort to demand its surrender, and carried its defences by storm. The garrison thereupon threw down their arms and surrendered, but were shot down in cold blood until but few were left alive. Some were forced to stand up in line and were then shot. Some were shot when lying wounded on the ground. Women and children were shot or cut to pieces. The huts in which the sick and wounded had taken refuge were fired over their heads, and there were stories of even darker cruelties than these. Of the white officers who commanded the colored troops, but two were left alive, and these were wounded. Of the garrison there were left thirty-six white men and twenty-one negroes, and forty were carried off as prisoners. Some of the negroes saved their lives by feigning death and digging out from the thin covering of earth which the rebels had thrown over their victims.
The news of this atrocity excited the deepest horror throughout the country, and there was a general call for retaliation. In order to have an authentic statement of the facts, Congress passed resolutions directing the Committee on the Conduct of the War to investigate the mat ter. The committee sent two of its members, Senator Wade and Mr. Gooch, to the spot. They examined many witnesses, and on the 5th of May made their report, with the testimony which they had taken. The report showed that this proceeding of the rebels was in pursuance of a policy deliberately adopted, in the expectation of driving from the ranks of the Union armies not only the negroes, but also the "home-made Yankees," as they termed the loyal Southerners.
The massacre was referred to by the President in his speech at the opening of the Sanitary Commission Fair, in Baltimore, while it was still under investigation, and he then said that if the massacre was proved to have been committed, retribution should surely come; nor was this the first time that the question of retaliation had been brought to his attention. In fact, as early as July, 1863, the subject had been considered, and the conclusion which was then arrived at was announced in the following General Order:--
But whether from the President's tenderness of heart, which made it very hard for him to order the execution of a rebel soldier who had himself done no special wrong, even in retaliation for such barbarities as this at Fort Pillow, or from some other cause, the first part of this order was never executed. The latter part of it was once carried into effect with excellent results by General Buffer during the siege of Petersburg. Having learned that some of our colored troops, who had been taken prisoners, were not treated as prisoners of war, but were made to work by the rebels on their fortifications, he at once took a number of rebel officers and set them at work upon the canal, Which he was digging at Dutch Gap, where they were constantly exposed to the heavy fire which the rebels kept up to check the progress of the work. This treatment proved speedily effectual. Our colored soldiers were relieved from their work on the fortifications, and the rebel officers were withdrawn from their exposed position and their weary labors.
Another similar action led to a similar result. The rebels at Charleston, desirous of checking the fire of the "swamp angel" and other guns, which were making the city uninhabitable, placed some of our officers within reach of the shells, and notified our forces that they had done so. On our part a number of rebel officers of equal rank were immediately taken thither and also placed under fire. The only result was the exchange of the officers, and the rebels did not undertake again to defend themselves in that way.
Fort Pillow was not the only case of such atrocities on the part of the rebels. A somewhat similar affair took place on the 20th of April in North Carolina, on the capture of Plymouth on the Roanoke River, where a company of loyal North Carolinians and some negro troops were also murdered in cold blood after the surrender. The capture was mainly effected by the success of a rebel iron-clad, the Albemarle, which was able to destroy some of our gunboats, and drive others down the river, the commander of the Miami, Lieutenant Flusser, being killed by the rebound of a shell, which he had himself fired against the iron sides of the rebel vessel. Our fleet being driven down the river, communication with our garrison in Plymouth was cut off, and the place, being attacked by a heavy rebel force, was surrendered, after a gallant defence for four days, by its commander, General Wessels, with its garrison of fifteen hundred men and twenty-five guns. The effect of this success was to render the withdrawal of our troops from other places in North Carolina inevitable. The Albemarle had for a time complete control of the river, but coming down into the Sound, she was attacked by three of our wooden gunboats, and in a gallant fight was so injured as to be compelled to betake herself up the river again to Plymouth, which she never left afterwards, being sunk at her moorings, on the night of the 27th of October following, by a torpedo-boat, commanded by Lieutenant Cushing.
In these smaller affairs, the rebels had been able to gain some successes, Owing to the policy adopted by General Grant, of concentrating our forces from all quarters to strengthen the two great armies whose movements were to grind the Confederacy to powder.
General Grant, having been appointed to the command of the armies of the United States, went to Nashville, where he issued an order announcing his assumption of the command. After making what arrangements were necessary with reference to the Western army, which he left under the command of General Sherman, he came eastward, to conduct in person the campaign against General Lee. The preparations for the coming campaign took time, and it was not till the third day of May that all things were ready for the forward movement. The Army of the Potomac remained under the special command of General Meade, and lay about Culpepper Court-House. General Burnside had been collecting a strong force, in good part colored troops, at Annapolis. Another strong force was under the command of General Butler and General Smith, at Yorktown, and yet another, not so strong, under General Sigel, at Winchester. Burnside's troops were put in motion, and passed through Washington on the 23d of April to a position whence they could follow the Army of the Potomac at a short distance- and all things were thus now ready for the great advance. At this time the following correspondence passed between the President and General Grant:--
The interest and anxiety with which the people watched for the approaching movement of the army was very deep. Nor did it content itself with mere watchfulness. It took the right direction of work, and from every quarter the hands of the Government were stayed up by the willing hearts of the people.
As one instance of the desire to help, which was universally felt, we may mention the offer of Colonel F. B. Loomis, of New London, to garrison Fort Trumbull with citizen soldiers for one hundred days, at his own expense, thus releasing the veterans, by whom it was garrisoned, to go to the front.
The President replied to this offer as follows:--
It was on Monday, the 2d of May, that the forward march of the army began, and the Rapidan was crossed without opposition on Tuesday and Wednesday, by the fords lying to the east of Lee's position. General Grant, recognizing the fact that the strength of the rebellion lay not in the fortifications of Richmond, but in the ranks of Lee's army, aimed to place himself upon the southern communications of that army, and by heavy blows to destroy it. And with the very commencement of this movement he forced Lee to leave the intrenched line behind which he had so long faced the gathering storm, and make haste to attack his foe before he had reached his rear. This he at once did, and on Thursday the battles of the Wilderness began. The character of the ground gave every advantage to the rebels, It was all overgrown with scrub pines, with but few roads leading through it.
They knew the ground thoroughly, and their movements could be made unseen, while the dense woods made cavalry and artillery almost useless. Lee's first effort was to break through our lines between our centre under Warren and our left under Hancock, but by great exertions this was prevented, and night came without any substantial result. With the morning of Friday, General Grant assumed the offensive, and the tide of battle ebbed and flowed throughout the day. On our left, Hancock's successes in the morning were lost again by noon, but a heavy attack of the rebels upon him in the afternoon was successfully repulsed. On our right no material advantage of position was gained during the day; but the death of General Wadsworth, who fell at the head of his men, was a heavy loss to us, and by a furious assault, just before night, the rebels succeeded in breaking our lines, capturing General Thomas Seymour, and many of his men. The lines were, however, speedily re-established. The result was on the whole favorable to General Grant, as the rebels had failed to thoroughly break his lines or disable him for the forward movement which, on Saturday night, after a day of skirmishing without any general engagement, he undertook, aiming at Spottsylvania Court-House. The rebels, however, becoming aware of his movement, moved likewise, and, having the shorter line, gained the position first, and held it against our attack during the hours of Sunday, our lines being formed about two miles and a half north of Spottsylvania. Monday was a day of skirmishing, sadly marked for us, however, by the death of General Sedgwick, who was in command of the Sixth Corps. Night found the two armies facing each other, each behind temporary breastworks, each watchful, each determined.
The news of the movement of the army was not made public until Friday morning. The vital importance of its results was everywhere felt. All eyes were at once intent upon those bloody fields, all ears eager for information of what was going on there; and the prayers of the whole people of the North went up to God, earnest, fervent, full of faith, that He would bless the righteous cease.
Official bulletins were given to the public of the results of the different days' operations as they slowly became known. And on Tuesday morning all hearts were thrilled with joy by the following official announcement from the President:--
Accompanying this recommendation were published bulletins of the results up to Saturday, the retiring of the rebels from General Grant's front, and the march of our army towards Spottsylvania. The news spread great joy everywhere, and that night a crowd of several thousand people marched to the White House to serenade the President, who, being called for, came out and spoke as follows:--
While the movement of the Army of the Potomac was the chief point of interest, it was not the only one. On Wednesday, May 4th, General Butler having put his troops on board a fleet of transports, made a rapid move up the James River and occupied City Point and Bermuda Hundred, on both sides of the Appomattox River, across which pontoons were thrown--while General Kautz, at the head of a strong force of cavalry, left Suffolk upon a raid on the Petersburg and Weldon Railroad--which he succeeded in cutting by destroying some bridges. General Butler also succeeded in cutting the railroad between Petersburg and Richmond, so as to prevent for a time the sending of re-enforcements to General Lee from the forces that were south of Richmond under Beauregard.
General Grant, meantime, had not been content with merely pounding against Lee's front with men and with guns, of which he was now able to employ more than in the battles of the Wilderness. He also dispatched his cavalry under General Sheridan round the right flank of the rebels, on the 10th of May, which, reaching the railroads, made an immense destruction of supplies prepared for Lee's army, and of locomotives and cars for their transportation, and which, on the 11th, routed the rebel carairy under General Stuart, at Yellow Tavern, in which engagement Stuart was killed; and, pressing on yet nearer Richmond and over the first line of the works around the city, turned off to the east, and crossing the Chickahominy, reached Fortress Monroe with little loss, having inflicted great damage on the enemy.
The 10th and 11th of May were days of hard fighting for the Army of the Potomac, of heavy losses and partial successes for both sides, and of attacks met and repulsed, with the employment of all the resources of both armies; and the dispatches which General Grant sent to Washington on the night of the 11th summed up the results as follows:--
The early light of the next morning brought results yet more in our favor; for with the break of day, Hancock, now on our right, fell like a thunderbolt upon the rebel intrenchments, and stormed over them, capturing several thousand prisoners, including two generals, together with thirty or forty cannon, only eighteen of which, however, he was able to hold. For Lee, stung to the quick by this deadly blow, gathered all his forces to retake the position, and five desperate charges upon it during the day covered the ground with dead and wounded, until, when the battle was over, nearly a thousand rebel dead lay within an acre or two of ground in front of the works. The utmost exertions of the rebels were in vain, however, and they sullenly withdrew to another position. A storm now set in and enforced quiet on both armies for several days. During this time General Butler moved forward towards Fort Darling, but on the 16th day of May he met with a heavy blow from the rebels, who took advantage of a fog to make a successful attack, driving him from the railroad and forcing him to return to his lines at Bermuda Hundred. General Sigel, too, who had marched down the Shenandoah Valley, was met by a superior force under General Imbden, and driven back with a loss of five guns. General Kautz, however, with his cavalry, having returned from his first successful raid, set out upon a second one towards the Danville road, which he also succeeded in injuring to some extent.
The Government strained every nerve to send forward re-enforcements to General Grant, and on the 18th the fighting in front of Spottsylvania was renewed. On the 19th the rebels inflicted a heavy loss upon our right by making an unexpected attack, in which some of our newly arrived regiments suffered severely. Tiffs was an attempt of the rebels to cut our communications, but they failed entirely in doing so.
They had, however, by this time thrown up intrenchments of so formidable a character that General Grant determined again to make a flanking movement by the left.
The movement was at once perceived by General Lee, and when our forces arrived at the North Anna river, the rebels were already there. They were not, however, able to prevent our forces from crossing the river, and inflicting a severe blow upon the enemy in the crossing. After crossing, however, the main body of Lee's army was discovered to have taken so strong a position between the North and South Anna rivers, that General Grant again deemed it wise not to make a direct attack, but to repeat his flanking movement.
The army was accordingly withdrawn without loss from Lee's front on the night of Thursday, May 96th, and, moving again by the left, crossed the Pamunkey, but was again confronted by the rebel army, which, after some severe fighting, again made a stand at Coal Harbor. While here, one corps of General Butler's army, under General Smith, was transferred to the Army of the Potomac. Thus re-enforced, a violent but unsuccessful attack was made upon the rebel intrenchments on the 3d of June, and, after heavy losses, the attack was abandoned. Repeated efforts, however, on the part of the rebels, to turn our left, and to break up the communication which had been formed with the White House, on the Pamunkey river, also failed as signally. And both armies thus remained for several days, watching each other sleeplessly, and each preferring to receive rather than to make an attack.
Other co-operative movements went on during all this time. In Western Virginia, General Averill had made quite a successful raid upon the railroads. In the Shenandoah Valley, where General Hunter had taken command in place of General Sigel, our forces won a brilliant victory at Piedmont over the rebels under Generals Jones and Imboden, the former of whom was killed. Hunter captured one thousand five hundred prisoners and three guns; and, forming a junction with Crook and Averill, pushed on towards Lynchburg, which however he was unable to reach. An unsuccessful attack was made by General Buffer's forces upon Petersburg on the 10th of June.
On the 12th of June, General Grant, having become convinced that nothing could be gained by a direct attack upon General Lee, followed up his plan of aiming to strike Lee's southern communications by leaving his front and again marching by the left to the James river, which he crossed upon a pontoon bridge below City Point, and immediately moved forward to the attack upon Petersburg. Again, however, General Lee, having the inside lines to move upon, was a few hours in advance of our troops, and, while several forts were taken on the outer lines of defences, with thirteen cannon and some prisoners, in which the colored troops especially distinguished themselves, the inner lines were found to be too strong, and our army settled itself down to the siege of Petersburg.
General Sherman's movement upon Atlanta was made at the same time as that of the Army of the Potomac. His army was superior in numbers to that which was opposed to it, but the rocky heights which were held by General Johnston were so strong that General Sherman did not waste its strength by attacking them in front, but by a series of masterly flank movements he compelled the rebel army ú to retreat successively from Buzzard's Roost, from Dalton, and from Resaca, at which latter place there were, however, two days of heavy fighting on the 14th and 15th of May, resulting in the capture of both guns and prisoners by our troops, the retreat of Johnston across the Oostenaula river, and the capture without serious opposition of Rome and Kingston, some sixty miles further on towards Atlanta. At Rome, large quantities of provisions were captured, and large machine-shops were destroyed. Johnston's retreat had been too rapid to allow of his doing much damage to the railroad along which his army was falling back towards Atlanta; and whatever damage he was enabled to do was at once repaired, and the railroad was put in use to supply our armies in their advance.
The Altoona Mountains were the scene of the next stand made by the rebels. General Sherman continued the flanking system, and moved towards Dallas, where, however, he was met by the rebels, who attacked McPherson's Corps on the 28th of May, and met a disastrous repulse, losing some two thousand five hundred killed and wounded and eight hundred prisoners This movement having drawn the rebels from their position at the pass of the Altoona Mountains, it was occupied and held by our cavalry, becoming at once, as General Sherman said, "as useful to us as it was to the enemy," and the rebels took up a new position at Kenesaw and Lost Mountain. Efforts were made by them, while Sherman was advancing towards this position, to interfere with his communications, and some damage was done to the railroad by rebel cavalry, which was, however, speedily driven off. A more discouraging affair, however, was the defeat of a heavy expedition, which set out from Memphis under command of General Sturges, by the rebel General Forrest, on the 10th of June. The requirements of General Sherman's position were not, however, so great but that he was able at once to make arrangements to repair this disaster. Like General Grant, he was not "jostled from his plans" by these outside manœuvres any more than by the direct blows of the rebel army, and by the 18th of June, when Grant stationed himself before the works of Petersburg after his march of a hundred miles and his many battles, Sherman had arrived before the rebel works at Kenesaw Mountain after a similar march of fighting and flanking the enemy over something more than a hundred miles of territory.
Both of these movements are now recognized as having been splendid successes. But it is not to be denied that from the time of the commencement of the siege of Petersburg there was a growing feeling of doubt and anxiety in the country in reference to the operations of the army of the Potomac. It had been often announced that Lee's army was cut to pieces and fleeing in disorder, and yet that army had thus far, by repeated stands, been able to prevent Grant from breaking through its lines. Even Petersburg was declared to have been taken by assault on the first attack; and yet it was found that, instead of this, our army was not able at once to draw its lines around the place far enough to cut off the Weldon Railroad. The losses of the army were greatly exaggerated by the opposition, the difficulties of its position magnified, the lack of water and the dust and heat were dilated upon, and even the visit which the President paid to the army on the 22d of June was dwelt upon as an event showing that the difficulties of the situation were great, if not insuperable.
The army, however, did not look at it in that light. The President's visit was for them a gratification, not a cause for anxiety, and they cheered him, as he rode along the lines, with a heartiness which expressed their confidence in him and in the leaders whom he had given them. The President's confident expressions as to the state of affairs on his return went far to encourage the country; for the people had already come in great measure to have that abounding confidence in Mr. Lincoln which displayed itself so wonderfully during the rest of his life. He appreciated in his turn the confidence which the people felt in him. "I do my best to deserve this," said he to a friend, "but I tremble at the responsibility that devolves upon me, a weak, mortal man, to serve such a great and generous people in such a place as I hold, in such an awful crisis as this. It is a terrible responsibility; but it has been imposed upon me without my seeking, and I trust Providence has a wise purpose for me to fulfil by appointing me to this charge, which is almost too much for a weak mortal to hold."
He appreciated not only this confidence in him, but the whole character of the people. "Such a people," said he, "can never fail; and they deserve, and will receive, the proudest place in the history of nations." It seems sad to think that he could not have lived to see how speedily the fulfilment of his prophecy approached.
General Grant's purpose was to extend his lines southward, cutting off as speedily as possible the railroads which led from Petersburg to the south; and by the cavalry arm destroying the other railroads leading to Richmond, thus isolating it from the South. In pursaance of this plan Sheridan' with his cavalry destroyed a large portion of the railroads between Richmond and Gordonsville, returning to the White House, and there. opening communications again with General Grant; and Wilson, on the south, cut the Weldon Railroad, and, reaching Burkerville, did serious damage also to the Danville road. The first move of the army, however, towards the Weldon road resulted disastrously; and Wilson, on his return from his raid, was set upon at Ream's Station, and had to cut his way through with heavy loss, by the aid of a diversion effected by the Sixth Corps, which was sent to his relief. General Hunter, too, was unable to capture Lynchburg, and, falling short of ammunition, was compelled to retreat into Western Virginia by the Valley of the Kanawha.
Amid these various movements, Congress adjourned on the 4th of July.
The feeling at its adjournment was not buoyant, but tending to depression; and, just before it separated, a resolution was passed, requesting the President to appoint a day of fasting and prayer. Accordingly, on the 7th of July, he issued the following proclamation:--
The depressing effect of the apparent check in the onward movement of the work of suppressing the rebellion was, however, much alleviated by the news which arrived on the 6th of July, of the sinking of the rebel cruiser Alabama, on the 19th of June, off Cherbourg, by the Kearsarge, under the command of Captain Winslow. Opportunities for our navy to distinguish itself in battle, except with forts, had been rare, and great rejoicing was felt that Semmes, the commander of the Alabama, had at last given to the Kearsarge an opportunity to prove, in sight of France and England, that Yankee ships and guns and men were, as of old, dangerous enemies in an encounter.
The Shenandoah Valley had been laid open by Hunter's movement into West Virginia, and the rebels took advantage of it to make a' push northward. They crossed the Potomac in considerable force, commanded by General Early, and on the 9th of July defeated our troops under General Wallace, at Monocacy. The President called for twelve thousand militia from each of the States of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York, to meet this invasion, from which both Baltimore and Washington were felt to be in some danger. A bold company of raiders even burned the house of Governor Bradford, only four miles from Baltimore, and, passing north of Baltimore, cut the Philadelphia and Baltimore Railroad, capturing two trains of cars. One of the passengers on the cars was Major-General Franklin, Who was taken prisoner, but afterwards succeeded in making his escape near Reisterstown. The raiders met little opposition through the country, one striking exception being the conduct of old Ishmael Day, a man of eighty-three years, who, when a couple of rebels undertook to pull down a flag which was flying over his gate, shot one of them and forced the other to retreat. A larger company of them, however, came and burned the old man's house, but did not succeed in finding him. Extensive preparations were made at Baltimore to resist an attack, and the general loyalty of the city was in marked contrast with its attitude at the outset of the rebellion. The militia gathered fast from the loyal States. General Grant had also sent up the Sixth Corps of the Army of the Potomac to aid in the defence of Washington. The Nineteenth Corps, which had just arrived from New Orleans, was also sent thither; and on the 13th of July, the rebel forces, which had for the two days previous skirmished smartly in front of Fort Stevens, near Washington, determined to retreat; and by the end of that week they were all south of the Potomac, having carried off great quantities of plunder and spread great consternation through Maryland and the lower part of Pennsylvania, but not having succeeded at all in compelling General Grant to loosen his hold upon Petersburg.
Nor was this the only raid which the rebels undertook. In Kentucky they had made great disturbances under John Morgan, which, though checked by his rout by General Burbridge, at Cynthiana, continued, and were receiving so much countenance from rebel sympathizers in the State, that the President deemed it wise to declare martial law throughout the State, which was done by the following proclamation:--
While the loyal States were thus engaged in repelling rebel raids and strengthening the armies, General Sherman continued his victorious campaign. His assault upon Kenesaw was a failure, because of the strength of the rebel works; but a repetition of the flanking system drove Johnston out of them across the Chattahoochee, which our army crossed on the 11th of July. By a movement of his left wing, General Sherman at once seized Decatur, only six miles from Atlanta, and severed the railroad between Atlanta and Augusta, by which time the dissatisfaction, which had been felt in rebeldom with Johnston's continued falling back, culminated in his removal on the 17th of July, and the appointment of General Hood in his place. Hood signalized his appointment by attacking Sherman instead of remaining on the defensive, and was defeated with heavy loss on the 20th of July, and again on the 22d, when our army, though victorious, met with a very severe loss in the death of Major-General McPherson, one of the choicest of the gallant leaders who had stood around Sherman through all that long, laborious, and bloody march. A raid of our cavalry, under General Rousseau, had destroyed the railroad between Atlanta and Montgomery, for thirty miles, with but little loss. Another, under General Stoneman, though partially successful in what it accomplished on the Macon road, was cut off on its return, and General Stoneman and most of his command were captured, on the 30th of July. Still, the month closed prosperously upon Sherman's operations. Another rebel attack was bloodily repulsed on the 28th, and his lines were drawn closely around Atlanta, while the rebel strength had been more weakened by Hood's assaults than by Johnston's successive retreats.
At the North the month did not close so favorably. The hundred-days men offered by the Northwestern States had come promptly forward and been assigned to the posts where they were needed. On the 11th of June the President made the following brief speech to a regiment of them from Ohio, which passed through Washington:--
But notwithstanding the aid which they furnished in order to make up the re-enforcements needed for Sherman to keep up his line of communication, for Grant to make the necessary extension of his lines, and for the meeting of rebel raids in various parts of the country, the President had deemed it wise, on the 18th of July, to issue the following Proclamation, ordering a draft of five hundred thousand men:--
Towards the last of the month the rebels made another raid into Maryland and Pennsylvania, and on the 30th of July the town of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, was occupied by their cavalry under General McCausland. A written demand, signed by General Early, was presented for $100,000 in gold, or $500,000 in currency, with a threat of burning the town if the demand was not complied with. As it was not complied with, they fulfilled their threat and laid the town in ashes, without giving the citizens time to remove their property.
The rebel forces remained north of the Potomac till about the 7th of August, but accomplished nothing else of importance. On that day several of our commands which had been acting against them somewhat independently of each other were consolidated into one, at the head of which was placed General Sheridan. The benefit of this change was speedily seen. The rebels fell back south of the Potomac, and were so pressed by Sheridan that General Lee deemed it advisable to re-enforce Early from his own lines, when Sheridan in his turn fell back, and for some weeks there was active manœuvring on both sides and several small battles were fought, in which we gained more than the rebels, who were never able to cross the Potomac in force again.
Two days before the burning of Chambersburg, General Grant had made a movement on the north side of the James River, across which, by means of pontoon bridges, he threw a force which was attacked before it had time to strengthen its position, but repulsed the rebels with a loss of four guns. This movement, though only a feint, was heavy enough to induce General Lee to throw a strong force to the north side also, when our men were in the night drawn back for an attack on the Petersburg works, which was made on the 30th. The attack was begun in front of General Burnside's lines, by the explosion of a mine under one of the rebel forts, destroying it at once. Instantly every gun in our ranks opened upon Petersburg and its defences, and an assault was made upon the gap in the rebel lines caused by the explosion of the mine. The attack was successful in piercing the lines, but not in carrying a height just within them, called Cemetery Hill, from which, if we had succeeded in carrying it, our guns would have commanded Petersburg and its defences. The rebels gathered here in force, and poured so heavy a fire upon our forces that the assault could not be maintained, and while part of our troops were driven back, a large number of them, who had entered the blown-up fort, were unable to return and were compelled to surrender. Our loss in the whole affair was between two and three thousand men. Charges were made that the colored troops, who formed a part of the assaulting column, had failed to do their duty; but the evidence did not sustain this charge, but showed that the failure was due mainly to that lack of cordial co-operation among the generals in command, which has so often defeated the most skilful and promising plans.
It was supposed that this repulse would put an end to active operations in front of Petersburg for along time; but this was not giving due credit to Grant's unyielding pertinacity. An important position on the north side of the James was captured on the 15th of August, by a ruse, Hancock's Corps having been shipped on transports down the river, as if on their way to Washington, but returning under cover of night to join the Tenth Corps in taking and holding a position only ten miles from Richmond, capturing some five hundred prisoners and ten guns. This position was important to cover the work of our men in digging the Dutch Gap Canal, through which it was hoped our iron-clads might go up the river to flank the rebel defences.
Not satisfied with this success, but taking advantage of the fact that Lee, encouraged by the ill success of our assault on the 30th of July, had sent a portion of his troops to re-enforce Early, General Grant, on the 17th, struck a blow at the other end of his lines, upon the Weldon Railroad, which was seized by our forces. A furious attack was made upon them by the rebels, which at one time met with a partial success, but our lines were re-established, and a subsequent attack was repulsed with heavy loss. Two rebel generals were killed and three wounded. Another and more determined assault was made on the 26th, but, after tremendous fighting, was also repulsed. Our loss was severe, but that of the rebels was far more so. The substantial prize of the struggle, the railroad, remained in our possession, and thus another of the sources of supply for the army of General Lee was cut off.
Thus the month of August gave us a decided advantage in Virginia. In the South it gave us brilliant success. In the early part of the month the preparations were completed for an attack upon Mobile, by the fleet under Commodore Farragut, aided by a small land force under General Granger. The passage of the fleet into the bay past the rebel forts, and the destruction of the rebel fleet, were accomplished in about three hours, on the morning of the 5th of August. Our fleet consisted of fourteen gunboats and three monitors. The gunboats were lashed together, two by two, that one might help the other, and the monitors were on the starboard side of the fleet. The Brooklyn led the way, followed by the flagship Hartford and the rest. One of our monitors, the Tecumseh, commanded by the gallant Craven, was struck by a torpedo and sunk with all on board, except her pilot and eight or ten of her crew. This disaster momentarily checked the advance, when Farragut, in the flag-ship, rushed forward to the head of the fleet and led the way past the forts, followed by the rest of the gunboats, each one as she went by pouring her broadsides into the rebel forts. Within the harbor the rebel ironclad Tennessee made desperate battle. The rest of the rebel fleet, except one vessel, having been captured or destroyed, she was attacked by several of our vessels at once, who rammed her severely whenever they could get a chance at her, and, seeing the rest of the fleet and the monitors bearing down upon her, she surrendered. She was commanded by Buchanan, who commanded the Merrimac in her famous battle with the Monitor.
The conquest of the rebel fleet was followed by the immediate surrender of Forts Gaines and Powell. Fort Morgan still held out, but was immediately invested by General Granger. On the 22d an assault of the fort was commenced, and on the 23d, after a bombardment of twelve hours, in which about three thousand shells were thrown into it, this last of the rebel defences of the harbor of Mobile was surrendered unconditionally to our forces.
Nor was this the only success. General Sherman had been drawing his lines more closely around Atlanta, and Hood having made the mistake of sending off all his cavalry upon a fruitless effort to destroy the communications between our army and Chattanooga, General Sherman took advantage of it to make a movement on the west of Atlanta towards the rear of Hood's army. Leaving one corps to defend our intrenched lines in front of the city, he threw the rest of his army upon the railroad to Macon, near West Point, upon the 30th of August, and thus cut Hood's army in two and defeated one portion of it at Jonesboro. Hood, finding that he was in danger of being cut off, blew up his magazines in Atlanta on the night of the 1st of September and retreated to the southeast, and on the 2d the Twentieth Corps, which had been left in our intrenchments, marched into the city and took possession, and General Sherman sent the message to Washington-Atlanta is ours and fairly won." Before receiving General Sherman's official report, the War Department had received news of the fall of Atlanta, and on the 2d, at eight P. M., Mr. Stanton telegraphed to General Dix, at New York, as follows:--
This close of General Sherman's campaign was greeted with the greatest exultation by all the people, and they heartily responded to the recommendations of the Thanksgiving Proclamation, which the President at once issued, and joined heartily in the thanks which he gave in the name of the nation to officers and men, and rejoiced in the salutes of one hundred guns which he ordered to be fired everywhere.
This proclamation and the orders issued were as follows:--