Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

Sheridan moved to the north side of the North Anna to get out
west, and learned of the movement of these troops to the south
side of the same stream almost as soon as they had started. He
pushed on to get to Trevilian Station to commence his
destruction at that point. On the night of the 10th he
bivouacked some six or seven miles east of Trevilian, while
Fitz-Hugh Lee was the same night at Trevilian Station and
Hampton but a few miles away.

During the night Hampton ordered an advance on Sheridan, hoping,
no doubt, to surprise and very badly cripple him. Sheridan,
however, by a counter move sent Custer on a rapid march to get
between the two divisions of the enemy and into their rear. This
he did successfully, so that at daylight, when the assault was
made, the enemy found himself at the same time resisted in front
and attacked in rear, and broke in some confusion. The losses
were probably very light on both sides in killed and wounded,
but Sheridan got away with some five hundred prisoners and sent
them to City Point.

During that day, the 11th, Sheridan moved into Trevilian
Station, and the following day proceeded to tear up the road
east and west. There was considerable fighting during the whole
of the day, but the work of destruction went on. In the
meantime, at night, the enemy had taken possession of the
crossing which Sheridan had proposed to take to go north when he
left Trevilian. Sheridan learned, however, from some of the
prisoners he had captured here, that General Hunter was about
Lynchburg, and therefore that there was no use of his going on
to Charlottesville with a view to meet him.

Sheridan started back during the night of the 12th, and made his
way north and farther east, coming around by the north side of
White House, and arriving there on the 21st. Here he found an
abundance of forage for his animals, food for his men, and
security while resting. He had been obliged to leave about
ninety of his own men in the field-hospital which he had
established near Trevilian, and these necessarily fell into the
hands of the enemy.

White House up to this time had been a depot; but now that our
troops were all on the James River, it was no longer wanted as a
store of supplies. Sheridan was, therefore, directed to break it
up; which he did on the 22d of June, bringing the garrison and an
immense wagon train with him. All these were over the James
River by the 26th of the month, and Sheridan ready to follow.

In the meantime Meade had sent Wilson’s division on a raid to
destroy the Weldon and South Side roads. Now that Sheridan was
safe and Hampton free to return to Richmond with his cavalry,
Wilson’s position became precarious. Meade therefore, on the
27th, ordered Sheridan over the river to make a demonstration in
favor of Wilson. Wilson got back, though not without severe
loss, having struck both roads, but the damage done was soon

After these events comparative quiet reigned about Petersburg
until late in July. The time, however, was spent in
strengthening the intrenchments and making our position
generally more secure against a sudden attack. In the meantime
I had to look after other portions of my command, where things
had not been going on so favorably, always, as I could have

General Hunter who had been appointed to succeed Sigel in the
Shenandoah Valley immediately took up the offensive. He met the
enemy on the 5th of June at Piedmont, and defeated him. On the
8th he formed a junction with Crook and Averell at Staunton,
from which place he moved direct on Lynchburg, via Lexington,
which he reached and invested on the 16th. Up to this time he
was very successful; and but for the difficulty of taking with
him sufficient ordnance stores over so long a march, through a
hostile country, he would, no doubt, have captured Lynchburg.
The destruction of the enemy’s supplies and manufactories had
been very great. To meet this movement under General Hunter,
General Lee sent Early with his corps, a part of which reached
Lynchburg before Hunter. After some skirmishing on the 17th and
18th, General Hunter, owing to a want of ammunition to give
battle, retired from before the place. Unfortunately, this want
of ammunition left him no choice of route for his return but by
the way of the Gauley and Kanawha rivers, thence up the Ohio
River, returning to Harper’s Ferry by way of the Baltimore and
Ohio Railroad. A long time was consumed in making this
movement. Meantime the valley was left open to Early’s troops,
and others in that quarter; and Washington also was uncovered.
Early took advantage of this condition of affairs and moved on

In the absence of Hunter, General Lew Wallace, with headquarters
at Baltimore, commanded the department in which the Shenandoah
lay. His surplus of troops with which to move against the enemy
was small in number. Most of these were raw and, consequently,
very much inferior to our veterans and to the veterans which
Early had with him; but the situation of Washington was
precarious, and Wallace moved with commendable promptitude to
meet the enemy at the Monocacy. He could hardly have expected
to defeat him badly, but he hoped to cripple and delay him until
Washington could be put into a state of preparation for his
reception. I had previously ordered General Meade to send a
division to Baltimore for the purpose of adding to the defences
of Washington, and he had sent Ricketts’s division of the 6th
corps (Wright’s), which arrived in Baltimore on the 8th of
July. Finding that Wallace had gone to the front with his
command, Ricketts immediately took the cars and followed him to
the Monocacy with his entire division. They met the enemy and,
as might have been expected, were defeated; but they succeeded
in stopping him for the day on which the battle took place. The
next morning Early started on his march to the capital of the
Nation, arriving before it on the 11th.

Learning of the gravity of the situation I had directed General
Meade to also order Wright with the rest of his corps directly
to Washington for the relief of that place, and the latter
reached there the very day that Early arrived before it. The
19th corps, which had been stationed in Louisiana, having been
ordered up to reinforce the armies about Richmond, had about
this time arrived at Fortress Monroe, on their way to join us. I
diverted them from that point to Washington, which place they
reached, almost simultaneously with Wright, on the 11th. The
19th corps was commanded by Major-General Emory.

Early made his reconnoissance with a view of attacking on the
following morning, the 12th; but the next morning he found our
intrenchments, which were very strong, fully manned. He at once
commenced to retreat, Wright following. There is no telling how
much this result was contributed to by General Lew Wallace’s
leading what might well be considered almost a forlorn hope. If
Early had been but one day earlier he might have entered the
capital before the arrival of the reinforcements I had sent.
Whether the delay caused by the battle amounted to a day or not,
General Wallace contributed on this occasion, by the defeat of
the troops under him a greater benefit to the cause than often
falls to the lot of a commander of an equal force to render by
means of a victory.

Farther west also the troubles were threatening. Some time
before, Forrest had met Sturgis in command of some of our
cavalry in Mississippi and handled him very roughly, gaining a
very great victory over him. This left Forrest free to go
almost where he pleased, and to cut the roads in rear of Sherman
who was then advancing. Sherman was abundantly able to look
after the army that he was immediately with, and all of his
military division so long as he could communicate with it; but
it was my place to see that he had the means with which to hold
his rear. Two divisions under A. J. Smith had been sent to
Banks in Louisiana some months before. Sherman ordered these
back, with directions to attack Forrest. Smith met and defeated
him very badly. I then directed that Smith should hang to
Forrest and not let him go; and to prevent by all means his
getting upon the Memphis and Nashville Railroad. Sherman had
anticipated me in this matter, and given the same orders in
substance; but receiving my directions for this order to Smith,
he repeated it.

On the 25th of June General Burnside had commenced running a
mine from about the centre of his front under the Confederate
works confronting him. He was induced to do this by Colonel
Pleasants, of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, whose regiment was
mostly composed of miners, and who was himself a practical
miner. Burnside had submitted the scheme to Meade and myself,
and we both approved of it, as a means of keeping the men
occupied. His position was very favorable for carrying on this
work, but not so favorable for the operations to follow its
completion. The position of the two lines at that point were
only about a hundred yards apart with a comparatively deep
ravine intervening. In the bottom of this ravine the work
commenced. The position was unfavorable in this particular:
that the enemy’s line at that point was re-entering, so that its
front was commanded by their own lines both to the right and
left. Then, too, the ground was sloping upward back of the
Confederate line for a considerable distance, and it was
presumable that the enemy had, at least, a detached work on this
highest point. The work progressed, and on the 23d of July the
mine was finished ready for charging; but I had this work of
charging deferred until we were ready for it.

On the 17th of July several deserters came in and said that
there was great consternation in Richmond, and that Lee was
coming out to make an attack upon us the object being to put us
on the defensive so that he might detach troops to go to Georgia
where the army Sherman was operating against was said to be in
great trouble. I put the army commanders, Meade and Butler, on
the lookout, but the attack was not made.

I concluded, then, a few days later, to do something in the way
of offensive movement myself, having in view something of the
same object that Lee had had. Wright’s and Emory’s corps were
in Washington, and with this reduction of my force Lee might
very readily have spared some troops from the defences to send
West. I had other objects in view, however, besides keeping Lee
where he was. The mine was constructed and ready to be exploded,
and I wanted to take that occasion to carry Petersburg if I
could. It was the object, therefore, to get as many of Lee’s
troops away from the south side of the James River as
possible. Accordingly, on the 26th, we commenced a movement
with Hancock’s corps and Sheridan’s cavalry to the north side by
the way of Deep Bottom, where Butler had a pontoon bridge laid.
The plan, in the main, was to let the cavalry cut loose and,
joining with Kautz’s cavalry of the Army of the James, get by
Lee’s lines and destroy as much as they could of the Virginia
Central Railroad, while, in the mean time, the infantry was to
move out so as to protect their rear and cover their retreat
back when they should have got through with their work. We were
successful in drawing the enemy’s troops to the north side of the
James as I expected. The mine was ordered to be charged, and the
morning of the 30th of July was the time fixed for its
explosion. I gave Meade minute orders (*38) on the 24th
directing how I wanted the assault conducted, which orders he
amplified into general instructions for the guidance of the
troops that were to be engaged.

Meade’s instructions, which I, of course, approved most
heartily, were all that I can see now was necessary. The only
further precaution which he could have taken, and which he could
not foresee, would have been to have different men to execute

The gallery to the mine was over five hundred feet long from
where it entered the ground to the point where it was under the
enemy’s works, and with a cross gallery of something over eighty
feet running under their lines. Eight chambers had been left,
requiring a ton of powder each to charge them. All was ready by
the time I had prescribed; and on the 29th Hancock and Sheridan
were brought back near the James River with their troops. Under
cover of night they started to recross the bridge at Deep Bottom,
and to march directly for that part of our lines in front of the

Warren was to hold his line of intrenchments with a sufficient
number of men and concentrate the balance on the right next to
Burnside’s corps, while Ord, now commanding the 18th corps,
temporarily under Meade, was to form in the rear of Burnside to
support him when he went in. All were to clear off the parapets
and the _abatis_ in their front so as to leave the space as open
as possible, and be able to charge the moment the mine had been
sprung and Burnside had taken possession. Burnside’s corps was
not to stop in the crater at all but push on to the top of the
hill, supported on the right and left by Ord’s and Warren’s

Warren and Ord fulfilled their instructions perfectly so far as
making ready was concerned. Burnside seemed to have paid no
attention whatever to the instructions, and left all the
obstruction in his own front for his troops to get over in the
best way they could. The four divisions of his corps were
commanded by Generals Potter, Willcox, Ledlie and Ferrero. The
last was a colored division; and Burnside selected it to make
the assault. Meade interfered with this. Burnside then took
Ledlie’s division–a worse selection than the first could have
been. In fact, Potter and Willcox were the only division
commanders Burnside had who were equal to the occasion. Ledlie
besides being otherwise inefficient, proved also to possess
disqualification less common among soldiers.

There was some delay about the explosion of the mine so that it
did not go off until about five o’clock in the morning. When it
did explode it was very successful, making a crater twenty feet
deep and something like a hundred feet in length. Instantly one
hundred and ten cannon and fifty mortars, which had been placed
in the most commanding positions covering the ground to the
right and left of where the troops were to enter the enemy’s
lines, commenced playing. Ledlie’s division marched into the
crater immediately on the explosion, but most of the men stopped
there in the absence of any one to give directions; their
commander having found some safe retreat to get into before they
started. There was some delay on the left and right in
advancing, but some of the troops did get in and turn to the
right and left, carrying the rifle-pits as I expected they would

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