Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

With a view of cutting the enemy’s railroad from near Richmond
to the Anna rivers, and making him wary of the situation of his
army in the Shenandoah, and, in the event of failure in this, to
take advantage of his necessary withdrawal of troops from
Petersburg, to explode a mine that had been prepared in front of
the 9th corps and assault the enemy’s lines at that place, on the
night of the 26th of July the 2d corps and two divisions of the
cavalry corps and Kautz’s cavalry were crossed to the north bank
of the James River and joined the force General Butler had
there. On the 27th the enemy was driven from his intrenched
position, with the loss of four pieces of artillery. On the
28th our lines were extended from Deep Bottom to New Market
Road, but in getting this position were attacked by the enemy in
heavy force. The fighting lasted for several hours, resulting in
considerable loss to both sides. The first object of this move
having failed, by reason of the very large force thrown there by
the enemy, I determined to take advantage of the diversion made,
by assaulting Petersburg before he could get his force back
there. One division of the 2d corps was withdrawn on the night
of the 28th, and moved during the night to the rear of the 18th
corps, to relieve that corps in the line, that it might be
foot-loose in the assault to be made. The other two divisions
of the 2d corps and Sheridan’s cavalry were crossed over on the
night of the 29th and moved in front of Petersburg. On the
morning of the 30th, between four and five o’clock, the mine was
sprung, blowing up a battery and most of a regiment, and the
advance of the assaulting column, formed of the 9th corps,
immediately took possession of the crater made by the explosion,
and the line for some distance to the right and left of it, and a
detached line in front of it, but for some cause failed to
advance promptly to the ridge beyond. Had they done this, I
have every reason to believe that Petersburg would have
fallen. Other troops were immediately pushed forward, but the
time consumed in getting them up enabled the enemy to rally from
his surprise (which had been complete), and get forces to this
point for its defence. The captured line thus held being
untenable, and of no advantage to us, the troops were withdrawn,
but not without heavy loss. Thus terminated in disaster what
promised to be the most successful assault of the campaign.

Immediately upon the enemy’s ascertaining that General Hunter
was retreating from Lynchburg by way of the Kanawha River, thus
laying the Shenandoah Valley open for raid into Maryland and
Pennsylvania, he returned northward and moved down that
valley. As soon as this movement of the enemy was ascertained,
General Hunter, who had reached the Kanawha River, was directed
to move his troops without delay, by river and railroad, to
Harper’s Ferry; but owing to the difficulty of navigation by
reason of low water and breaks in the railroad, great delay was
experienced in getting there. It became necessary, therefore,
to find other troops to check this movement of the enemy. For
this purpose the 6th corps was taken from the armies operating
against Richmond, to which was added the 19th corps, then
fortunately beginning to arrive in Hampton Roads from the Gulf
Department, under orders issued immediately after the
ascertainment of the result of the Red River expedition. The
garrisons of Baltimore and Washington were at this time made up
of heavy-artillery regiments, hundred days’ men, and detachments
from the invalid corps. One division under command of General
Ricketts, of the 6th corps, was sent to Baltimore, and the
remaining two divisions of the 6th corps, under General Wright,
were subsequently sent to Washington. On the 3d of July the
enemy approached Martinsburg. General Sigel, who was in command
of our forces there, retreated across the Potomac at
Shepherdtown; and General Weber, commanding at Harper’s Ferry,
crossed the occupied Hagerstown, moving a strong column towards
Frederick City. General Wallace, with Rickett’s division and
his own command, the latter mostly new and undisciplined troops,
pushed out from Baltimore with great promptness, and met the
enemy in force on the Monocacy, near the crossing of the
railroad bridge. His force was not sufficient to insure
success, but he fought the enemy nevertheless, and although it
resulted in a defeat to our arms, yet it detained the enemy, and
thereby served to enable General Wright to reach Washington with
two division of the 6th corps, and the advance of the 19th
corps, before him. From Monocacy the enemy moved on Washington,
his cavalry advance reaching Rockville on the evening of the
10th. On the 12th a reconnoissance was thrown out in front of
Fort Stevens, to ascertain the enemy’s position and force. A
severe skirmish ensued, in which we lost about two hundred and
eighty in killed and wounded. The enemy’s loss was probably
greater. He commenced retreating during the night. Learning
the exact condition of affairs at Washington, I requested by
telegraph, at forty-five minutes past eleven P.M., on the 12th,
the assignment of Major-General H. G. Wright to the command of
all the troops that could be made available to operate in the
field against the enemy, and directed that he should get outside
of the trenches with all the force he could, and push Early to
the last moment. General Wright commenced the pursuit on the
13th; on the 18th the enemy was overtaken at Snicker’s Ferry, on
the Shenandoah, when a sharp skirmish occurred; and on the 20th,
General Averell encountered and defeated a portion of the rebel
army at Winchester, capturing four pieces of artillery and
several hundred prisoners.

Learning that Early was retreating south towards Lynchburg or
Richmond, I directed that the 6th and 19th corps be got back to
the armies operating against Richmond, so that they might be
used in a movement against Lee before the return of the troops
sent by him into the valley; and that Hunter should remain in
the Shenandoah Valley, keeping between any force of the enemy
and Washington, acting on the defensive as much as possible. I
felt that if the enemy had any notion of returning, the fact
would be developed before the 6th and 19th corps could leave
Washington. Subsequently, the 19th corps was excepted form the
order to return to the James.

About the 25th it became evident that the enemy was again
advancing upon Maryland and Pennsylvania, and the 6th corps,
then at Washington, was ordered back to the vicinity of Harper’s
Ferry. The rebel force moved down the valley, and sent a raiding
party into Pennsylvania which on the 30th burned Chambersburg,
and then retreated, pursued by our cavalry, towards
Cumberland. They were met and defeated by General Kelley, and
with diminished numbers escaped into the mountains of West
Virginia. From the time of the first raid the telegraph wires
were frequently down between Washington and City Point, making
it necessary to transmit messages a part of the way by boat. It
took from twenty-four to thirty-six hours to get dispatches
through and return answers would be received showing a
difference state of facts from those on which they were based,
causing confusion and apparent contradiction of orders that must
have considerably embarrassed those who had to execute them, and
rendered operations against the enemy less effective than they
otherwise would have been. To remedy this evil, it was evident
to my mind that some person should have the supreme command of
all the forces in the Department of West Virginia, Washington,
Susquehanna, and the Middle Department, and I so recommended.

On the 2d of August, I ordered General Sheridan to report in
person to Major-General Halleck, chief of staff, at Washington,
with a view to his assignment to the command of all the forces
against Early. At this time the enemy was concentrated in the
neighborhood of Winchester, while our forces, under General
Hunter, were concentrated on the Monocacy, at the crossing of
the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, leaving open to the enemy
Western Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania. From where I was, I
hesitated to give positive orders for the movement of our forces
at Monocacy, lest by so doing I should expose Washington.
Therefore, on the 4th, I left City Point to visit Hunter’s
command, and determine for myself what was best to be done. On
arrival there, and after consultation with General Hunter, I
issued to him the following instructions:

August 5, 1864–8 P.M.

“GENERAL:–Concentrate all your available force without delay in
the vicinity of Harper’s Ferry, leaving only such railroad guards
and garrisons for public property as may be necessary. Use, in
this concentrating, the railroad, if by so doing time can be
saved. From Harper’s Ferry, if it is found that the enemy has
moved north of the Potomac in large force, push north, following
him and attacking him wherever found; follow him, if driven south
of the Potomac, as long as it is safe to do so. If it is
ascertained that the enemy has but a small force north of the
Potomac, then push south with the main force, detaching under a
competent commander, a sufficient force to look after the
raiders, and drive them to their homes. In detaching such a
force,the brigade of the cavalry now en route from Washington
via Rockville may be taken into account.

“There are now on their way to join you three other brigades of
the best cavalry, numbering at least five thousand men and
horses. These will be instructed, in the absence of further
orders, to join you by the south side of the Potomac. One
brigade will probably start to-morrow. In pushing up the
Shenandoah Valley, where it is expected you will have to go
first or last, it is desirable that nothing should be left to
invite the enemy to return. Take all provisions, forage, and
stock wanted for the use of your command; such as cannot be
consumed, destroy. It is not desirable that the buildings
should be destroyed–they should rather be protected; but the
people should be informed that, so long as an army can subsist
among them, recurrence of theses raids must be expected, and we
are determined to stop them at all hazards.

“Bear in mind, the object is to drive the enemy south; and to do
this you want to keep him always in sight. Be guided in your
course by the course he takes.

“Make your own arrangements for supplies of all kinds, giving
regular vouchers for such as may be taken from loyal citizens in
the country through which you march.

“U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

The troops were immediately put in motion, and the advance
reached Halltown that night.

General Hunter having, in our conversation, expressed a
willingness to be relieved from command, I telegraphed to have
General Sheridan, then at Washington, sent to Harper’s Ferry by
the morning train, with orders to take general command of all
the troops in the field, and to call on General Hunter at
Monocacy, who would turn over to him my letter of
instructions. I remained at Monocacy until General Sheridan
arrived, on the morning of the 6th, and, after a conference with
him in relation to military affairs in that vicinity, I returned
to City Point by way of Washington.

On the 7th of August, the Middle Department, and the Departments
of West Virginia, Washington, and Susquehanna, were constituted
into the “Middle Military Division,” and Major-General Sheridan
was assigned to temporary command of the same.

Two divisions of cavalry, commanded by Generals Torbert and
Wilson, were sent to Sheridan from the Army of the Potomac. The
first reached him at Harper’s Ferry about the 11th of August.

His operations during the month of August and the fore part of
September were both of an offensive and defensive character,
resulting in many severe skirmishes, principally by the cavalry,
in which we were generally successful, but no general engagement
took place. The two armies lay in such a position–the enemy on
the west bank of the Opequon Creek covering Winchester, and our
forces in front of Berryville–that either could bring on a
battle at any time. Defeat to us would lay open to the enemy
the States of Maryland and Pennsylvania for long distances
before another army could be interposed to check him. Under
these circumstances I hesitated about allowing the initiative to
be taken. Finally, the use of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad,
and the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which were both obstructed by
the enemy, became so indispensably necessary to us, and the
importance of relieving Pennsylvania and Maryland from
continuously threatened invasion so great, that I determined the
risk should be taken. But fearing to telegraph the order for an
attack without knowing more than I did of General Sheridan’s
feelings as to what would be the probable result, I left City
Point on the 15th of September to visit him at his headquarters,
to decide, after conference with him, what should be done. I met
him at Charlestown, and he pointed out so distinctly how each
army lay; what he could do the moment he was authorized, and
expressed such confidence of success, that I saw there were but
two words of instructions necessary–Go in! For the
conveniences of forage, the teams for supplying the army were
kept at Harper’s Ferry. I asked him if he could get out his
teams and supplies in time to make an attack on the ensuing
Tuesday morning. His reply was, that he could before daylight
on Monday. He was off promptly to time, and I may here add,
that the result was such that I have never since deemed it
necessary to visit General Sheridan before giving him orders.

Early on the morning of the 19th, General Sheridan attacked
General Early at the crossing on the Opequon Creek, and after a
most sanguinary and bloody battle, lasting until five o’clock in
the evening, defeated him with heavy loss, carrying his entire
position from Opequon Creek to Winchester, capturing several
thousand prisoners and five pieces of artillery. The enemy
rallied, and made a stand in a strong position at Fisher’s Hill,
where he was attacked, and again defeated with heavy loss on the
20th [22d]. Sheridan pursued him with great energy through
Harrisonburg, Staunton, and the gaps of the Blue Ridge. After
stripping the upper valley of most of the supplies and
provisions for the rebel army, he returned to Strasburg, and
took position on the north side of Cedar Creek.

Having received considerable reinforcements, General Early again
returned to the valley, and, on the 9th of October, his cavalry
encountered ours near Strasburg, where the rebels were defeated,
with the loss of eleven pieces of artillery and three hundred and
fifty prisoners. On the night of the 18th, the enemy crossed the
mountains which separate the branches of the Shenandoah, forded
the North Fork, and early on the morning of the 19th, under
cover of the darkness and the fog, surprised and turned our left
flank, and captured the batteries which enfiladed our whole
line. Our troops fell back with heavy loss and in much
confusion, but were finally rallied between Middletown and
Newtown. At this juncture, General Sheridan, who was at
Winchester when the battle commenced arrived on the field,
arranged his lines just in time to repulse a heavy attack of the
enemy, and immediately assuming the offensive, he attacked in
turn with great vigor. The enemy was defeated with great
slaughter, and the loss of most of his artillery and trains, and
the trophies he had captured in the morning. The wreck of his
army escaped during the night, and fled in the direction of
Staunton and Lynchburg. Pursuit was made to Mount Jackson. Thus
ended this, the enemy’s last attempt to invade the North via the
Shenandoah Valley. I was now enabled to return the 6th corps to
the Army of the Potomac, and to send one division from Sheridan’s
army to the Army of the James, and another to Savannah, Georgia,
to hold Sherman’s new acquisitions on the sea-coast, and thus
enable him to move without detaching from his force for that

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