Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

These two armies, and the cities covered and defended by them,
were the main objective points of the campaign.

Major-General W. T. Sherman, who was appointed to the command of
the Military Division of the Mississippi, embracing all the
armies and territory east of the Mississippi River to the
Alleghanies and the Department of Arkansas, west of the
Mississippi, had the immediate command of the armies operating
against Johnston.

Major-General George G. Meade had the immediate command of the
Army of the Potomac, from where I exercised general supervision
of the movements of all our armies.

General Sherman was instructed to move against Johnston’s army,
to break it up, and to go into the interior of the enemy’s
country as far as he could, inflicting all the damage he could
upon their war resources. If the enemy in his front showed
signs of joining Lee, to follow him up to the full extent of his
ability, while I would prevent the concentration of Lee upon him,
if it was in the power of the Army of the Potomac to do so. More
specific written instructions were not given, for the reason that
I had talked over with him the plans of the campaign, and was
satisfied that he understood them and would execute them to the
fullest extent possible.

Major-General N. P. Banks, then on an expedition up Red River
against Shreveport, Louisiana (which had been organized previous
to my appointment to command), was notified by me on the 15th of
March, of the importance it was that Shreveport should be taken
at the earliest possible day, and that if he found that the
taking of it would occupy from ten to fifteen days’ more time
than General Sherman had given his troops to be absent from
their command, he would send them back at the time specified by
General Sherman, even if it led to the abandonment of the main
object of the Red River expedition, for this force was necessary
to movements east of the Mississippi; that should his expedition
prove successful, he would hold Shreveport and the Red River
with such force as he might deem necessary, and return the
balance of his troops to the neighborhood of New Orleans,
commencing no move for the further acquisition of territory,
unless it was to make that then held by him more easily held;
that it might be a part of the spring campaign to move against
Mobile; that it certainly would be, if troops enough could be
obtained to make it without embarrassing other movements; that
New Orleans would be the point of departure for such an
expedition; also, that I had directed General Steele to make a
real move from Arkansas, as suggested by him (General Banks),
instead of a demonstration, as Steele thought advisable.

On the 31st of March, in addition to the foregoing notification
and directions, he was instructed as follows:

“1st. If successful in your expedition against Shreveport, that
you turn over the defence of the Red River to General Steele and
the navy.

“2d. That you abandon Texas entirely, with the exception of
your hold upon the Rio Grande. This can be held with four
thousand men, if they will turn their attention immediately to
fortifying their positions. At least one-half of the force
required for this service might be taken from the colored troops.

“3d. By properly fortifying on the Mississippi River, the force
to guard it from Port Hudson to New Orleans can be reduced to ten
thousand men, if not to a less number. Six thousand more would
then hold all the rest of the territory necessary to hold until
active operations can again be resumed west of the river.
According to your last return, this would give you a force of
over thirty thousand effective men with which to move against
Mobile. To this I expect to add five thousand men from
Missouri. If however, you think the force here stated too small
to hold the territory regarded as necessary to hold possession
of, I would say concentrate at least twenty-five thousand men of
your present command for operations against Mobile. With these
and such additions as I can give you from elsewhere, lose no
time in making a demonstration, to be followed by an attack upon
Mobile. Two or more iron-clads will be ordered to report to
Admiral Farragut. This gives him a strong naval fleet with
which to co-operate. You can make your own arrangements with
the admiral for his co-operation, and select your own line of
approach. My own idea of the matter is that Pascagoula should
be your base; but, from your long service in the Gulf
Department, you will know best about the matter. It is intended
that your movements shall be co-operative with movements
elsewhere, and you cannot now start too soon. All I would now
add is, that you commence the concentration of your forces at
once. Preserve a profound secrecy of what you intend doing, and
start at the earliest possible moment.

“U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
“MAJOR-GENERAL N. P. BANKS.”

Major-General Meade was instructed that Lee’s army would be his
objective point; that wherever Lee went he would go also. For
his movement two plans presented themselves: One to cross the
Rapidan below Lee, moving by his right flank; the other above,
moving by his left. Each presented advantages over the other,
with corresponding objections. By crossing above, Lee would be
cut off from all chance of ignoring Richmond or going north on a
raid. But if we took this route, all we did would have to be
done whilst the rations we started with held out; besides, it
separated us from Butler, so that he could not be directed how
to cooperate. If we took the other route, Brandy Station could
be used as a base of supplies until another was secured on the
York or James rivers. Of these, however, it was decided to take
the lower route.

The following letter of instruction was addressed to
Major-General B. F. Butler:

“FORT MONROE, VIRGINIA, April 2, 1864.

“GENERAL:-In the spring campaign, which it is desirable shall
commence at as early a day as practicable, it is proposed to
have cooperative action of all the armies in the field, as far
as this object can be accomplished.

“It will not be possible to unite our armies into two or three
large ones to act as so many units, owing to the absolute
necessity of holding on to the territory already taken from the
enemy. But, generally speaking, concentration can be
practically effected by armies moving to the interior of the
enemy’s country from the territory they have to guard. By such
movement, they interpose themselves between the enemy and the
country to be guarded, thereby reducing the number necessary to
guard important points, or at least occupy the attention of a
part of the enemy’s force, if no greater object is gained. Lee’s
army and Richmond being the greater objects towards which our
attention must be directed in the next campaign, it is desirable
to unite all the force we can against them. The necessity of
covering Washington with the Army of the Potomac, and of
covering your department with your army, makes it impossible to
unite these forces at the beginning of any move. I propose,
therefore, what comes nearest this of anything that seems
practicable: The Army of the Potomac will act from its present
base, Lee’s army being the objective point. You will collect
all the forces from your command that can be spared from
garrison duty–I should say not less than twenty thousand
effective men–to operate on the south side of James River,
Richmond being your objective point. To the force you already
have will be added about ten thousand men from South Carolina,
under Major-General Gillmore, who will command them in person.
Major-General W. F. Smith is ordered to report to you, to
command the troops sent into the field from your own department.

“General Gillmore will be ordered to report to you at Fortress
Monroe, with all the troops on transports, by the 18th instant,
or as soon thereafter as practicable. Should you not receive
notice by that time to move, you will make such disposition of
them and your other forces as you may deem best calculated to
deceive the enemy as to the real move to be made.

“When you are notified to move, take City Point with as much
force as possible. Fortify, or rather intrench, at once, and
concentrate all your troops for the field there as rapidly as
you can. From City Point directions cannot be given at this
time for your further movements.

“The fact that has already been stated–that is, that Richmond
is to be your objective point, and that there is to be
co-operation between your force and the Army of the
Potomac–must be your guide. This indicates the necessity of
your holding close to the south bank of the James River as you
advance. Then, should the enemy be forced into his
intrenchments in Richmond, the Army of the Potomac would follow,
and by means of transports the two armies would become a unit.

“All the minor details of your advance are left entirely to your
direction. If, however, you think it practicable to use your
cavalry south of you, so as to cut the railroad about Hicksford,
about the time of the general advance, it would be of immense
advantage.

“You will please forward for my information, at the earliest
practicable day, all orders, details, and instructions you may
give for the execution of this order.

“U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.
“MAJOR-GENERAL B. F. BUTLER.”

On the 16th these instructions were substantially reiterated. On
the 19th, in order to secure full co-operation between his army
and that of General Meade, he was informed that I expected him
to move from Fort Monroe the same day that General Meade moved
from Culpeper. The exact time I was to telegraph him as soon as
it was fixed, and that it would not be earlier than the 27th of
April; that it was my intention to fight Lee between Culpeper
and Richmond, if he would stand. Should he, however, fall back
into Richmond, I would follow up and make a junction with his
(General Butler’s) army on the James River; that, could I be
certain he would be able to invest Richmond on the south side,
so as to have his left resting on the James, above the city, I
would form the junction there; that circumstances might make
this course advisable anyhow; that he should use every exertion
to secure footing as far up the south side of the river as he
could, and as soon as possible after the receipt of orders to
move; that if he could not carry the city, he should at least
detain as large a force there as possible.

In co-operation with the main movements against Lee and
Johnston, I was desirous of using all other troops necessarily
kept in departments remote from the fields of immediate
operations, and also those kept in the background for the
protection of our extended lines between the loyal States and
the armies operating against them.

A very considerable force, under command of Major-General Sigel,
was so held for the protection of West Virginia, and the
frontiers of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Whilst these troops
could not be withdrawn to distant fields without exposing the
North to invasion by comparatively small bodies of the enemy,
they could act directly to their front, and give better
protection than if lying idle in garrison. By such a movement
they would either compel the enemy to detach largely for the
protection of his supplies and lines of communication, or he
would lose them. General Sigel was therefore directed to
organize all his available force into two expeditions, to move
from Beverly and Charleston, under command of Generals Ord and
Crook, against the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad.
Subsequently, General Ord having been relieved at his own
request, General Sigel was instructed at his own suggestion, to
give up the expedition by Beverly, and to form two columns, one
under General Crook, on the Kanawha, numbering about ten
thousand men, and one on the Shenandoah, numbering about seven
thousand men. The one on the Shenandoah to assemble between
Cumberland and the Shenandoah, and the infantry and artillery
advanced to Cedar Creek with such cavalry as could be made
available at the moment, to threaten the enemy in the Shenandoah
Valley, and advance as far as possible; while General Crook would
take possession of Lewisburg with part of his force and move down
the Tennessee Railroad, doing as much damage as he could,
destroying the New River Bridge and the salt-works, at
Saltville, Va.

Owing to the weather and bad condition of the roads, operations
were delayed until the 1st of May, when, everything being in
readiness and the roads favorable, orders were given for a
general movement of all the armies not later than the 4th of May.

My first object being to break the military power of the
rebellion, and capture the enemy’s important strongholds, made
me desirous that General Butler should succeed in his movement
against Richmond, as that would tend more than anything else,
unless it were the capture of Lee’s army, to accomplish this
desired result in the East. If he failed, it was my
determination, by hard fighting, either to compel Lee to
retreat, or to so cripple him that he could not detach a large
force to go north, and still retain enough for the defence of
Richmond. It was well understood, by both Generals Butler and
Meade, before starting en the campaign, that it was my intention
to put both their armies south of the James River, in case of
failure to destroy Lee without it.

Before giving General Butler his instructions, I visited him at
Fort Monroe, and in conversation pointed out the apparent
importance of getting possession of Petersburg, and destroying
railroad communication as far south as possible. Believing,
however, in the practicability of capturing Richmond unless it
was reinforced, I made that the objective point of his
operations. As the Army of the Potomac was to move
simultaneously with him, Lee could not detach from his army with
safety, and the enemy did not have troops elsewhere to bring to
the defence of the city in time to meet a rapid movement from
the north of James River.

I may here state that, commanding all the armies as I did, I
tried, as far as possible, to leave General Meade in independent
command of the Army of the Potomac. My instructions for that
army were all through him, and were general in their nature,
leaving all the details and the execution to him. The campaigns
that followed proved him to be the right man in the right
place. His commanding always in the presence of an officer
superior to him in rank, has drawn from him much of that public
attention that his zeal and ability entitle him to, and which he
would otherwise have received.

The movement of the Army of the Potomac commenced early on the
morning of the 4th of May, under the immediate direction and
orders of Major-General Meade, pursuant to instructions. Before
night, the whole army was across the Rapidan (the fifth and sixth
corps crossing at Germania Ford, and the second corps at Ely’s
Ford, the cavalry, under Major-General Sheridan, moving in
advance,) with the greater part of its trains, numbering about
four thousand wagons, meeting with but slight opposition. The
average distance travelled by the troops that day was about
twelve miles. This I regarded as a great success, and it
removed from my mind the most serious apprehensions I had
entertained, that of crossing the river in the face of an
active, large, well-appointed, and ably commanded army, and how
so large a train was to be carried through a hostile country,
and protected. Early on the 5th, the advance corps (the fifth,
Major-General G. K. Warren commanding) met and engaged the enemy
outside his intrenchments near Mine Run. The battle raged
furiously all day, the whole army being brought into the fight
as fast as the corps could be got upon the field, which,
considering the density of the forest and narrowness of the
roads, was done with commendable promptness.

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