Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

There was no fighting on the 13th, further than a little
skirmishing between Mott’s division and the enemy. I was afraid
that Lee might be moving out, and I did not want him to go
without my knowing it. The indications were that he was moving,
but it was found that he was only taking his new position back
from the salient that had been captured. Our dead were buried
this day. Mott’s division was reduced to a brigade, and
assigned to Birney’s division.

During this day I wrote to Washington recommending Sherman and
Meade (*31) for promotion to the grade of Major-General in the
regular army; Hancock for Brigadier-General; Wright, Gibbon and
Humphreys to be Major-Generals of Volunteers; and Upton and
Carroll to be Brigadiers. Upton had already been named as such,
but the appointment had to be confirmed by the Senate on the
nomination of the President.

The night of the 13th Warren and Wright were moved by the rear
to the left of Burnside. The night was very dark and it rained
heavily, the roads were so bad that the troops had to cut trees
and corduroy the road a part of the way, to get through. It was
midnight before they got to the point where they were to halt,
and daylight before the troops could be organized to advance to
their position in line. They gained their position in line,
however, without any fighting, except a little in Wright’s
front. Here Upton had to contend for an elevation which we
wanted and which the enemy was not disposed to yield. Upton
first drove the enemy, and was then repulsed in turn. Ayres
coming to his support with his brigade (of Griffin’s division,
Warren’s corps), the position was secured and fortified. There
was no more battle during the 14th. This brought our line cast
of the Court House and running north and south and facing west.

During the night of the 14th-15th Lee moved to cover this new
front. This left Hancock without an enemy confronting him. He
was brought to the rear of our new centre, ready to be moved in
any direction he might be wanted.

On the 15th news came from Butler and Averill. The former
reported the capture of the outer works at Drury’s Bluff, on the
James River, and that his cavalry had cut the railroad and
telegraph south of Richmond on the Danville road: and the
latter, the destruction of a depot of supplies at Dublin, West
Virginia, and the breaking of New River Bridge on the Virginia
and Tennessee Railroad. The next day news came from Sherman and
Sheridan. Sherman had forced Johnston out of Dalton, Georgia,
and was following him south. The report from Sheridan embraced
his operations up to his passing the outer defences of
Richmond. The prospect must now have been dismal in Richmond.
The road and telegraph were cut between the capital and Lee. The
roads and wires were cut in every direction from the rebel
capital. Temporarily that city was cut off from all
communication with the outside except by courier. This
condition of affairs, however, was of but short duration.

I wrote Halleck:

May 16, 1864, 8 A.M.

Washington, D. C.:

We have had five days almost constant rain without any prospect
yet of it clearing up. The roads have now become so impassable
that ambulances with wounded men can no longer run between here
and Fredericksburg. All offensive operations necessarily cease
until we can have twenty-four hours of dry weather. The army is
in the best of spirits, and feel the greatest confidence of
ultimate success.
* * * * * * You can
assure the President and Secretary of War that the elements
alone have suspended hostilities, and that it is in no manner
due to weakness or exhaustion on our part.


The condition of the roads was such that nothing was done on the
17th. But that night Hancock and Wright were to make a night
march back to their old positions, and to make an assault at
four o’clock in the morning. Lee got troops back in time to
protect his old line, so the assault was unsuccessful. On this
day (18th) the news was almost as discouraging to us as it had
been two days before in the rebel capital. As stated above,
Hancock’s and Wright’s corps had made an unsuccessful assault.
News came that Sigel had been defeated at New Market, badly, and
was retreating down the valley. Not two hours before, I had sent
the inquiry to Halleck whether Sigel could not get to Staunton to
stop supplies coming from there to Lee. I asked at once that
Sigel might be relieved, and some one else put in his place.
Hunter’s name was suggested, and I heartily approved. Further
news from Butler reported him driven from Drury’s Bluff, but
still in possession of the Petersburg road. Banks had been
defeated in Louisiana, relieved, and Canby put in his place.
This change of commander was not on my suggestion. All this
news was very discouraging. All of it must have been known by
the enemy before it was by me. In fact, the good news (for the
enemy) must have been known to him at the moment I thought he
was in despair, and his anguish had been already relieved when
we were enjoying his supposed discomfiture, But this was no time
for repining. I immediately gave orders for a movement by the
left flank, on towards Richmond, to commence on the night of the
19th. I also asked Halleck to secure the cooperation of the navy
in changing our base of supplies from Fredericksburg to Port
Royal, on the Rappahannock.

Up to this time I had received no reinforcements, except six
thousand raw troops under Brigadier General Robert O. Tyler,
just arrived. They had not yet joined their command, Hancock’s
corps, but were on our right. This corps had been brought to
the rear of the centre, ready to move in any direction. Lee,
probably suspecting some move on my part, and seeing our right
entirely abandoned, moved Ewell’s corps about five o’clock in
the afternoon, with Early’s as a reserve, to attack us in that
quarter. Tyler had come up from Fredericksburg, and had been
halted on the road to the right of our line, near Kitching’s
brigade of Warren’s corps. Tyler received the attack with his
raw troops, and they maintained their position, until
reinforced, in a manner worthy of veterans.

Hancock was in a position to reinforce speedily, and was the
soldier to do it without waiting to make dispositions. Birney
was thrown to Tyler’s right and Crawford to his left, with
Gibbon as a reserve; and Ewell was whirled back speedily and
with heavy loss.

Warren had been ordered to get on Ewell’s flank and in his rear,
to cut him off from his intrenchments. But his efforts were so
feeble that under the cover of night Ewell got back with only
the loss of a few hundred prisoners, besides his killed and
wounded. The army being engaged until after dark, I rescinded
the order for the march by our left flank that night.

As soon as it was discovered that the enemy were coming out to
attack, I naturally supposed they would detach a force to
destroy our trains. The withdrawal of Hancock from the right
uncovered one road from Spottsylvania to Fredericksburg over
which trains drew our supplies. This was guarded by a division
of colored troops, commanded by General Ferrero, belonging to
Burnside’s corps. Ferrero was therefore promptly notified, and
ordered to throw his cavalry pickets out to the south and be
prepared to meet the enemy if he should come; if he had to
retreat to do so towards Fredericksburg. The enemy did detach
as expected, and captured twenty-five or thirty wagons which,
however, were soon retaken.

In consequence of the disasters that had befallen us in the past
few days, Lee could be reinforced largely, and I had no doubt he
would be. Beauregard had come up from the south with troops to
guard the Confederate capital when it was in danger. Butler
being driven back, most of the troops could be sent to Lee. Hoke
was no longer needed in North Carolina; and Sigel’s troops having
gone back to Cedar Creek, whipped, many troops could be spared
from the valley.

The Wilderness and Spottsylvania battles convinced me that we
had more artillery than could ever be brought into action at any
one time. It occupied much of the road in marching, and taxed
the trains in bringing up forage. Artillery is very useful when
it can be brought into action, but it is a very burdensome luxury
where it cannot be used. Before leaving Spottsylvania,
therefore, I sent back to the defences of Washington over one
hundred pieces of artillery, with the horses and caissons. This
relieved the roads over which we were to march of more than two
hundred six-horse teams, and still left us more artillery than
could be advantageously used. In fact, before reaching the
James River I again reduced the artillery with the army largely.

I believed that, if one corps of the army was exposed on the
road to Richmond, and at a distance from the main army, Lee
would endeavor to attack the exposed corps before reinforcements
could come up; in which case the main army could follow Lee up
and attack him before he had time to intrench. So I issued the
following orders:

May 18, 1864.

Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Before daylight to-morrow morning I propose to draw Hancock and
Burnside from the position they now hold, and put Burnside to
the left of Wright. Wright and Burnside should then force their
way up as close to the enemy as they can get without a general
engagement, or with a general engagement if the enemy will come
out of their works to fight, and intrench. Hancock should march
and take up a position as if in support of the two left corps.
To-morrow night, at twelve or one o’clock, he will be moved
south-east with all his force and as much cavalry as can be
given to him, to get as far towards Richmond on the line of the
Fredericksburg Railroad as he can make, fighting the enemy in
whatever force he can find him. If the enemy make a general
move to meet this, they will be followed by the other three
corps of the army, and attacked, if possible, before time is
given to intrench.

Suitable directions will at once be given for all trains and
surplus artillery to conform to this movement.


On the 20th, Lee showing no signs of coming out of his lines,
orders were renewed for a left-flank movement, to commence after



We were now to operate in a different country from any we had
before seen in Virginia. The roads were wide and good, and the
country well cultivated. No men were seen except those bearing
arms, even the black man having been sent away. The country,
however, was new to us, and we had neither guides nor maps to
tell us where the roads were, or where they led to. Engineer
and staff officers were put to the dangerous duty of supplying
the place of both maps and guides. By reconnoitring they were
enabled to locate the roads in the vicinity of each army
corps. Our course was south, and we took all roads leading in
that direction which would not separate the army too widely.

Hancock who had the lead had marched easterly to Guiney’s
Station, on the Fredericksburg Railroad, thence southerly to
Bowling Green and Milford. He was at Milford by the night of
the 21st. Here he met a detachment of Pickett’s division coming
from Richmond to reinforce Lee. They were speedily driven away,
and several hundred captured. Warren followed on the morning of
the 21st, and reached Guiney’s Station that night without
molestation. Burnside and Wright were retained at Spottsylvania
to keep up the appearance of an intended assault, and to hold
Lee, if possible, while Hancock and Warren should get start
enough to interpose between him and Richmond.

Lee had now a superb opportunity to take the initiative either
by attacking Wright and Burnside alone, or by following by the
Telegraph Road and striking Hancock’s and Warren’s corps, or
even Hancock’s alone, before reinforcements could come up. But
he did not avail himself of either opportunity. He seemed
really to be misled as to my designs; but moved by his interior
line–the Telegraph Road–to make sure of keeping between his
capital and the Army of the Potomac. He never again had such an
opportunity of dealing a heavy blow.

The evening of the 21st Burnside, 9th corps, moved out followed
by Wright, 6th corps. Burnside was to take the Telegraph Road;
but finding Stanard’s Ford, over the Po, fortified and guarded,
he turned east to the road taken by Hancock and Warren without
an attempt to dislodge the enemy. The night of the 21st I had
my headquarters near the 6th corps, at Guiney’s Station, and the
enemy’s cavalry was between us and Hancock. There was a slight
attack on Burnside’s and Wright’s corps as they moved out of
their lines; but it was easily repulsed. The object probably
was only to make sure that we were not leaving a force to follow
upon the rear of the Confederates.

By the morning of the 22d Burnside and Wright were at Guiney’s
Station. Hancock’s corps had now been marching and fighting
continuously for several days, not having had rest even at night
much of the time. They were, therefore, permitted to rest during
the 22d. But Warren was pushed to Harris’s Store, directly west
of Milford, and connected with it by a good road, and Burnside
was sent to New Bethel Church. Wright’s corps was still back at
Guiney’s Station.

I issued the following order for the movement of the troops the
next day:

NEW BETHEL, VA., May 22, 1864

Commanding Army of the Potomac.

Direct corps commanders to hold their troops in readiness to
march at five A.M. to-morrow. At that hour each command will
send out cavalry and infantry on all roads to their front
leading south, and ascertain, if possible, where the enemy is.
If beyond the South Anna, the 5th and 6th corps will march to
the forks of the road, where one branch leads to Beaver Dam
Station, the other to Jericho Bridge, then south by roads
reaching the Anna, as near to and east of Hawkins Creek as they
can be found.

The 2d corps will move to Chesterfield Ford. The 9th corps will
be directed to move at the same time to Jericho Bridge. The map
only shows two roads or the four corps to march upon, but, no
doubt, by the use of plantation roads, and pressing in guides,
others can be found, to give one for each corps.

The troops will follow their respective reconnoitring parties.
The trains will be moved at the same time to Milford Station.

Headquarters will follow the 9th corps.


Warren’s corps was moved from Harris’s Store to Jericho Ford,
Wright’s following. Warren arrived at the ford early in the
afternoon, and by five o’clock effected a crossing under the
protection of sharpshooters. The men had to wade in water up to
their waists. As soon as enough troops were over to guard the
ford, pontoons were laid and the artillery and the rest of the
troops crossed. The line formed was almost perpendicular to the
course of the river–Crawford on the left, next to the river,
Griffin in the centre, and Cutler on the right. Lee was found
intrenched along the front of their line. The whole of Hill’s
corps was sent against Warren’s right before it had got in
position. A brigade of Cutler’s division was driven back, the
enemy following, but assistance coming up the enemy was in turn
driven back into his trenches with heavy loss in killed and
wounded, with about five hundred prisoners left in our hands. By
night Wright’s corps was up ready to reinforce Warren.

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