Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

As stated before, Banks failed to accomplish what he had been
sent to do on the Red River, and eliminated the use of forty
thousand veterans whose cooperation in the grand campaign had
been expected–ten thousand with Sherman and thirty thousand
against Mobile.

Sigel’s record is almost equally brief. He moved out, it is
true, according to programme; but just when I was hoping to hear
of good work being done in the valley I received instead the
following announcement from Halleck: “Sigel is in full retreat
on Strasburg. He will do nothing but run; never did anything
else.” The enemy had intercepted him about New Market and
handled him roughly, leaving him short six guns, and some nine
hundred men out of his six thousand.

The plan had been for an advance of Sigel’s forces in two
columns. Though the one under his immediate command failed
ingloriously the other proved more fortunate. Under Crook and
Averell his western column advanced from the Gauley in West
Virginia at the appointed time, and with more happy results.
They reached the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad at Dublin and
destroyed a depot of supplies, besides tearing up several miles
of road and burning the bridge over New River. Having
accomplished this they recrossed the Alleghanies to Meadow
Bluffs and there awaited further orders.

Butler embarked at Fort Monroe with all his command, except the
cavalry and some artillery which moved up the south bank of the
James River. His steamers moved first up Chesapeake Bay and
York River as if threatening the rear of Lee’s army. At
midnight they turned back, and Butler by daylight was far up the
James River. He seized City Point and Bermuda Hundred early in
the day, without loss and, no doubt, very much to the surprise
of the enemy.

This was the accomplishment of the first step contemplated in my
instructions to Butler. He was to act from here, looking to
Richmond as his objective point. I had given him to understand
that I should aim to fight Lee between the Rapidan and Richmond
if he would stand; but should Lee fall back into Richmond I
would follow up and make a junction of the armies of the Potomac
and the James on the James River. He was directed to secure a
footing as far up the south side of the river as he could at as
early a date as possible.

Butler was in position by the 6th of May and had begun
intrenching, and on the 7th he sent out his cavalry from Suffolk
to cut the Weldon Railroad. He also sent out detachments to
destroy the railroad between Petersburg and Richmond, but no
great success attended these latter efforts. He made no great
effort to establish himself on that road and neglected to attack
Petersburg, which was almost defenceless. About the 11th he
advanced slowly until he reached the works at Drury’s Bluff,
about half way between Bermuda Hundred and Richmond. In the
mean time Beauregard had been gathering reinforcements. On the
16th he attacked Butler with great vigor, and with such success
as to limit very materially the further usefulness of the Army
of the James as a distinct factor in the campaign. I afterward
ordered a portion of it to join the Army of the Potomac, leaving
a sufficient force with Butler to man his works, hold securely
the footing he had already gained and maintain a threatening
front toward the rear of the Confederate capital.

The position which General Butler had chosen between the two
rivers, the James and Appomattox, was one of great natural
strength, one where a large area of ground might be thoroughly
inclosed by means of a single intrenched line, and that a very
short one in comparison with the extent of territory which it
thoroughly protected. His right was protected by the James
River, his left by the Appomattox, and his rear by their
junction–the two streams uniting near by. The bends of the two
streams shortened the line that had been chosen for
intrenchments, while it increased the area which the line

Previous to ordering any troops from Butler I sent my chief
engineer, General Barnard, from the Army of the Potomac to that
of the James to inspect Butler’s position and ascertain whether
I could again safely make an order for General Butler’s movement
in co-operation with mine, now that I was getting so near
Richmond; or, if I could not, whether his position was strong
enough to justify me in withdrawing some of his troops and
having them brought round by water to White House to join me and
reinforce the Army of the Potomac. General Barnard reported the
position very strong for defensive purposes, and that I could do
the latter with great security; but that General Butler could not
move from where he was, in co-operation, to produce any effect.
He said that the general occupied a place between the James and
Appomattox rivers which was of great strength, and where with an
inferior force he could hold it for an indefinite length of time
against a superior; but that he could do nothing offensively. I
then asked him why Butler could not move out from his lines and
push across the Richmond and Petersburg Railroad to the rear and
on the south side of Richmond. He replied that it was
impracticable, because the enemy had substantially the same line
across the neck of land that General Butler had. He then took
out his pencil and drew a sketch of the locality, remarking that
the position was like a bottle and that Butler’s line of
intrenchments across the neck represented the cork; that the
enemy had built an equally strong line immediately in front of
him across the neck; and it was therefore as if Butler was in a
bottle. He was perfectly safe against an attack; but, as
Barnard expressed it, the enemy had corked the bottle and with a
small force could hold the cork in its place. This struck me as
being very expressive of his position, particularly when I saw
the hasty sketch which General Barnard had drawn; and in making
my subsequent report I used that expression without adding
quotation marks, never thinking that anything had been said that
would attract attention–as this did, very much to the annoyance,
no doubt, of General Butler and, I know, very much to my own. I
found afterwards that this was mentioned in the notes of General
Badeau’s book, which, when they were shown to me, I asked to have
stricken out; yet it was retained there, though against my

I make this statement here because, although I have often made
it before, it has never been in my power until now to place it
where it will correct history; and I desire to rectify all
injustice that I may have done to individuals, particularly to
officers who were gallantly serving their country during the
trying period of the war for the preservation of the Union.
General Butler certainly gave his very earnest support to the
war; and he gave his own best efforts personally to the
suppression of the rebellion.

The further operations of the Army of the James can best be
treated of in connection with those of the Army of the Potomac,
the two being so intimately associated and connected as to be
substantially one body in which the individuality of the
supporting wing is merged.

Before giving the reader a summary of Sherman’s great Atlanta
campaign, which must conclude my description of the various
co-operative movements preparatory to proceeding with that of
the operations of the centre, I will briefly mention Sheridan’s
first raid upon Lee’s communications which, though an incident
of the operations on the main line and not specifically marked
out in the original plan, attained in its brilliant execution
and results all the proportions of an independent campaign. By
thus anticipating, in point of time, I will be able to more
perfectly observe the continuity of events occurring in my
immediate front when I shall have undertaken to describe our
advance from the Rapidan.

On the 8th of May, just after the battle of the Wilderness and
when we were moving on Spottsylvania I directed Sheridan
verbally to cut loose from the Army of the Potomac, pass around
the left of Lee’s army and attack his cavalry: to cut the two
roads–one running west through Gordonsville, Charlottesville
and Lynchburg, the other to Richmond, and, when compelled to do
so for want of forage and rations, to move on to the James River
and draw these from Butler’s supplies. This move took him past
the entire rear of Lee’s army. These orders were also given in
writing through Meade.

The object of this move was three-fold. First, if successfully
executed, and it was, he would annoy the enemy by cutting his
line of supplies and telegraphic communications, and destroy or
get for his own use supplies in store in the rear and coming
up. Second, he would draw the enemy’s cavalry after him, and
thus better protect our flanks, rear and trains than by
remaining with the army. Third, his absence would save the
trains drawing his forage and other supplies from
Fredericksburg, which had now become our base. He started at
daylight the next morning, and accomplished more than was
expected. It was sixteen days before he got back to the Army of
the Potomac.

The course Sheridan took was directly to Richmond. Before night
Stuart, commanding the Confederate cavalry, came on to the rear
of his command. But the advance kept on, crossed the North
Anna, and at Beaver Dam, a station on the Virginia Central
Railroad, recaptured four hundred Union prisoners on their way
to Richmond, destroyed the road and used and destroyed a large
amount of subsistence and medical stores.

Stuart, seeing that our cavalry was pushing towards Richmond,
abandoned the pursuit on the morning of the 10th and, by a
detour and an exhausting march, interposed between Sheridan and
Richmond at Yellow Tavern, only about six miles north of the
city. Sheridan destroyed the railroad and more supplies at
Ashland, and on the 11th arrived in Stuart’s front. A severe
engagement ensued in which the losses were heavy on both sides,
but the rebels were beaten, their leader mortally wounded, and
some guns and many prisoners were captured.

Sheridan passed through the outer defences of Richmond, and
could, no doubt, have passed through the inner ones. But having
no supports near he could not have remained. After caring for
his wounded he struck for the James River below the city, to
communicate with Butler and to rest his men and horses as well
as to get food and forage for them.

He moved first between the Chickahominy and the James, but in
the morning (the 12th) he was stopped by batteries at
Mechanicsville. He then turned to cross to the north side of
the Chickahominy by Meadow Bridge. He found this barred, and
the defeated Confederate cavalry, reorganized, occupying the
opposite side. The panic created by his first entrance within
the outer works of Richmond having subsided troops were sent out
to attack his rear.

He was now in a perilous position, one from which but few
generals could have extricated themselves. The defences of
Richmond, manned, were to the right, the Chickahominy was to the
left with no bridge remaining and the opposite bank guarded, to
the rear was a force from Richmond. This force was attacked and
beaten by Wilson’s and Gregg’s divisions, while Sheridan turned
to the left with the remaining division and hastily built a
bridge over the Chickahominy under the fire of the enemy, forced
a crossing and soon dispersed the Confederates he found there.
The enemy was held back from the stream by the fire of the
troops not engaged in bridge building.

On the 13th Sheridan was at Bottom’s Bridge, over the
Chickahominy. On the 14th he crossed this stream and on that
day went into camp on the James River at Haxall’s Landing. He
at once put himself into communication with General Butler, who
directed all the supplies he wanted to be furnished.

Sheridan had left the Army of the Potomac at Spottsylvania, but
did not know where either this or Lee’s army was now. Great
caution therefore had to be exercised in getting back. On the
17th, after resting his command for three days, he started on
his return. He moved by the way of White House. The bridge
over the Pamunkey had been burned by the enemy, but a new one
was speedily improvised and the cavalry crossed over it. On the
22d he was at Aylett’s on the Matapony, where he learned the
position of the two armies. On the 24th he joined us on the
march from North Anna to Cold Harbor, in the vicinity of

Sheridan in this memorable raid passed entirely around Lee’s
army: encountered his cavalry in four engagements, and defeated
them in all; recaptured four hundred Union prisoners and killed
and captured many of the enemy; destroyed and used many supplies
and munitions of war; destroyed miles of railroad and telegraph,
and freed us from annoyance by the cavalry of the enemy for more
than two weeks.



After separating from Sherman in Cincinnati I went on to
Washington, as already stated, while he returned to Nashville to
assume the duties of his new command. His military division was
now composed of four departments and embraced all the territory
west of the Alleghany Mountains and east of the Mississippi
River, together with the State of Arkansas in the
trans-Mississippi. The most easterly of these was the
Department of the Ohio, General Schofield commanding; the next
was the Department of the Cumberland, General Thomas commanding;
the third the Department of the Tennessee, General McPherson
commanding; and General Steele still commanded the
trans-Mississippi, or Department of Arkansas. The last-named
department was so far away that Sherman could not communicate
with it very readily after starting on his spring campaign, and
it was therefore soon transferred from his military division to
that of the Gulf, where General Canby, who had relieved General
Banks, was in command.

The movements of the armies, as I have stated in a former
chapter, were to be simultaneous, I fixing the day to start when
the season should be far enough advanced, it was hoped, for the
roads to be in a condition for the troops to march.

General Sherman at once set himself to work preparing for the
task which was assigned him to accomplish in the spring
campaign. McPherson lay at Huntsville with about twenty-four
thousand men, guarding those points of Tennessee which were
regarded as most worth holding; Thomas, with over sixty thousand
men of the Army of the Cumberland, was at Chattanooga; and
Schofield, with about fourteen thousand men, was at Knoxville.
With these three armies, numbering about one hundred thousand
men in all, Sherman was to move on the day fixed for the general
advance, with a view of destroying Johnston’s army and capturing
Atlanta. He visited each of these commands to inform himself as
to their condition, and it was found to be, speaking generally,

One of the first matters to turn his attention to was that of
getting, before the time arrived for starting, an accumulation
of supplies forward to Chattanooga, sufficiently large to
warrant a movement. He found, when he got to that place, that
the trains over the single-track railroad, which was frequently
interrupted for a day or two at a time, were only sufficient to
meet the daily wants of the troops without bringing forward any
surplus of any kind. He found, however, that trains were being
used to transport all the beef cattle, horses for the cavalry,
and even teams that were being brought to the front. He at once
changed all this, and required beef cattle, teams, cavalry
horses, and everything that could travel, even the troops, to be
marched, and used the road exclusively for transporting
supplies. In this way he was able to accumulate an abundance
before the time finally fixed upon for the move, the 4th of May.

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