Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant

“CITY POINT, VA., February 14, 1865.

“General Canby is preparing a movement from Mobile Bay against
Mobile and the interior of Alabama. His force will consist of
about twenty thousand men, besides A. J. Smith’s command. The
cavalry you have sent to Canby will be debarked at Vicksburg.
It, with the available cavalry already in that section, will
move from there eastward, in co-operation. Hood’s army has been
terribly reduced by the severe punishment you gave it in
Tennessee, by desertion consequent upon their defeat, and now by
the withdrawal of many of them to oppose Sherman. (I take it a
large portion of the infantry has been so withdrawn. It is so
asserted in the Richmond papers, and a member of the rebel
Congress said a few days since in a speech, that one-half of it
had been brought to South Carolina to oppose Sherman.) This
being true, or even if it is not true, Canby’s movement will
attract all the attention of the enemy, and leave the advance
from your standpoint easy. I think it advisable, therefore,
that you prepare as much of a cavalry force as you can spare,
and hold it in readiness to go south. The object would be
threefold: first, to attract as much of the enemy’s force as
possible, to insure success to Canby; second, to destroy the
enemy’s line of communications and military resources; third, to
destroy or capture their forces brought into the field.
Tuscaloosa and Selma would probably be the points to direct the
expedition against. This, however, would not be so important as
the mere fact of penetrating deep into Alabama. Discretion
should be left to the officer commanding the expedition to go
where, according to the information he may receive, he will best
secure the objects named above.

“Now that your force has been so much depleted, I do not know
what number of men you can put into the field. If not more than
five thousand men, however, all cavalry, I think it will be
sufficient. It is not desirable that you should start this
expedition until the one leaving Vicksburg has been three or
four days out, or even a week. I do not know when it will
start, but will inform you by telegraph as soon as I learn. If
you should hear through other sources before hearing from me,
you can act on the information received.

“To insure success your cavalry should go with as little
wagon-train as possible, relying upon the country for
supplies. I would also reduce the number of guns to a battery,
or the number of batteries, and put the extra teams to the guns
taken. No guns or caissons should be taken with less than eight

“Please inform me by telegraph, on receipt of this, what force
you think you will be able to send under these directions.

“U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

On the 15th, he was directed to start the expedition as soon
after the 20th as he could get it off.

I deemed it of the utmost importance, before a general movement
of the armies operating against Richmond, that all
communications with the city, north of James River, should be
cut off. The enemy having withdrawn the bulk of his force from
the Shenandoah Valley and sent it south, or replaced troops sent
from Richmond, and desiring to reinforce Sherman, if practicable,
whose cavalry was greatly inferior in numbers to that of the
enemy, I determined to make a move from the Shenandoah, which,
if successful. would accomplish the first at least, and possibly
the latter of the objects. I therefore telegraphed General
Sheridan as follows:

“CITY POINT, VA., February 20, 1865–1 P.M.

“GENERAL:–As soon as it is possible to travel, I think you will
have no difficulty about reaching Lychburg with a cavalry force
alone. From there you could destroy the railroad and canal in
every direction, so as to be of no further use to the
rebellion. Sufficient cavalry should be left behind to look
after Mosby’s gang. From Lynchburg, if information you might
get there would justify it, you will strike south, heading the
streams in Virgina to the westward of Danville, and push on and
join General Sherman. This additional raid, with one now about
starting from East Tennessee under Stoneman, numbering four or
give thousand cavalry, one from Vicksburg, numbering seven or
eight thousand cavalry, one from Eastport, Mississippi, then
thousand cavalry, Canby from Mobile Bay, with about thirty-eight
thousand mixed troops, these three latter pushing for Tuscaloosa,
Selma, and Montgomery, and Sherman with a large army eating out
the vitals of South Carolina, is all that will be wanted to
leave mothing for the rebellion to stand upon. I would advise
you to overcome great obstacles to accomplish this. Charleston
was evacuated on Tuesday 1st.

“U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

On the 25th I received a dispatch from General Sheridan,
inquiring where Sherman was aiming for, and if I could give him
definite information as to the points he might be expected to
move on, this side of Charlotte, North Carolina. In answer, the
following telegram was sent him:

“CITY POINT, VA., February 25, 1865.

“GENERAL:–Sherman’s movements will depend on the amount of
opposition he meets with from the enemy. If strongly opposed,
he may possibly have to fall back to Georgetown, S. C., and fit
out for a new start. I think, however, all danger for the
necessity of going to that point has passed. I believe he has
passed Charlotte. He may take Fayetteville on his way to
Goldsboro’. If you reach Lynchburg, you will have to be guided
in your after movements by the information you obtain. Before
you could possibly reach Sherman, I think you would find him
moving from Goldsboro’ towards Raleigh, or engaging the enemy
strongly posted at one or the other of these places, with
railroad communications opened from his army to Wilmington or
New Bern.

“U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

General Sheridan moved from Winchester on the 27th of February,
with two divisions of cavalry, numbering about five thousand
each. On the 1st of March he secured the bridge, which the
enemy attempted to destroy, across the middle fork of the
Shenandoah, at Mount Crawford, and entered Staunton on the 2d,
the enemy having retreated to Waynesboro’. Thence he pushed on
to Waynesboro’, where he found the enemy in force in an
intrenched position, under General Early. Without stopping to
make a reconnoissance, an immediate attack was made, the
position was carried, and sixteen hundred prisoners, eleven
pieces of artillery, with horses and caissons complete, two
hundred wagons and teams loaded with subsistence, and seventeen
battle-flags, were captured. The prisoners, under an escort of
fifteen hundred men, were sent back to Winchester. Thence he
marched on Charlottesville, destroying effectually the railroad
and bridges as he went, which place he reached on the 3d. Here
he remained two days, destroying the railroad towards Richmond
and Lynchburg, including the large iron bridges over the north
and south forks of the Rivanna River and awaited the arrival of
his trains. This necessary delay caused him to abandon the idea
of capturing Lynchburg. On the morning of the 6th, dividing his
force into two columns, he sent one to Scottsville, whence it
marched up the James River Canal to New Market, destroying every
lock, and in many places the bank of the canal. From here a
force was pushed out from this column to Duiguidsville, to
obtain possession of the bridge across the James River at that
place, but failed. The enemy burned it on our approach. The
enemy also burned the bridge across the river at
Hardwicksville. The other column moved down the railroad
towards Lynchburg, destroying it as far as Amherst Court House,
sixteen miles from Lynchburg; thence across the country, uniting
with the column at New Market. The river being very high, his
pontoons would not reach across it; and the enemy having
destroyed the bridges by which he had hoped to cross the river
and get on the South Side Railroad about Farmville, and destroy
it to Appomattox Court House, the only thing left for him was to
return to Winchester or strike a base at the White House.
Fortunately, he chose the latter. From New Market he took up
his line of march, following the canal towards Richmond,
destroying every lock upon it and cutting the banks wherever
practicable, to a point eight miles east of Goochland,
concentrating the whole force at Columbia on the 10th. Here he
rested one day, and sent through by scouts information of his
whereabouts and purposes, and a request for supplies to meet him
at White House, which reached me on the night of the 12th. An
infantry force was immediately sent to get possession of White
House, and supplies were forwarded. Moving from Columbia in a
direction to threaten Richmond, to near Ashland Station, he
crossed the Annas, and after having destroyed all the bridges
and many miles of the railroad, proceeded down the north bank of
the Pamunkey to White House, which place he reached on the 19th.

Previous to this the following communication was sent to General

March 7, 1865–9.30 A.M.

“GENERAL:–I think it will be advisable now for you to repair
the railroad in East Tennessee, and throw a good force up to
Bull’s Gap and fortify there. Supplies at Knoxville could
always be got forward as required. With Bull’s Gap fortified,
you can occupy as outposts about all of East Tennessee, and be
prepared, if it should be required of you in the spring, to make
a campaign towards Lynchburg, or into North Carolina. I do not
think Stoneman should break the road until he gets into
Virginia, unless it should be to cut off rolling-stock that may
be caught west of that.

“U. S. GRANT, Lieutenant-General.

Thus it will be seen that in March, 1865, General Canby was
moving an adequate force against Mobile and the army defending
it under General Dick Taylor; Thomas was pushing out two large
and well-appointed cavalry expeditions–one from Middle
Tennessee under Brevet Major-General Wilson against the enemy’s
vital points in Alabama, the other from East Tennessee, under
Major-General Stoneman, towards Lynchburg–and assembling the
remainder of his available forces, preparatory to commence
offensive operations from East Tennessee; General Sheridan’s
cavalry was at White House; the armies of the Potomac and James
were confronting the enemy, under Lee, in his defences of
Richmond and Petersburg; General Sherman with his armies,
reinforced by that of General Schofield, was at Goldsboro’;
General Pope was making preparations for a spring campaign
against the enemy under Kirby Smith and Price, west of the
Mississippi; and General Hancock was concentrating a force in
the vicinity of Winchester, Virginia, to guard against invasion
or to operate offensively, as might prove necessary.

After the long march by General Sheridan’s cavalry over winter
roads, it was necessary to rest and refit at White House. At
this time the greatest source of uneasiness to me was the fear
that the enemy would leave his strong lines about Petersburg and
Richmond for the purpose of uniting with Johnston, and before he
was driven from them by battle, or I was prepared to make an
effectual pursuit. On the 24th of March, General Sheridan moved
from White House, crossed the James River at Jones’s Landing, and
formed a junction with the Army of the Potomac in front of
Petersburg on the 27th. During this move, General Ord sent
forces to cover the crossings of the Chickahominy.

On the 24th of March the following instructions for a general
movement of the armies operating against Richmond were issued:

March 24, 1865.

“GENERAL: On the 29th instant the armies operating against
Richmond will be moved by our left, for the double purpose of
turning the enemy out of his present position around Petersburg,
and to insure the success of the cavalry under General Sheridan,
which will start at the same time, in its efforts to reach and
destroy the South Side and Danville railroads. Two corps of the
Army of the Potomac will be moved at first in two columns, taking
the two roads crossing Hatcher’s Run, nearest where the present
line held by us strikes that stream, both moving towards
Dinwiddie Court House.

“The cavalry under General Sheridan, joined by the division now
under General Davies, will move at the same time by the Weldon
Road and the Jerusalem Plank Road, turning west from the latter
before crossing the Nottoway, and west with the whole column
before reaching Stony Creek. General Sheridan will then move
independently, under other instructions which will be given
him. All dismounted cavalry belonging to the Army of the
Potomac, and the dismounted cavalry from the Middle Military
Division not required for guarding property belonging to their
arm of service, will report to Brigadier-General Benham, to be
added to the defences of City Point. Major-General Parke will
be left in command of all the army left for holding the lines
about Petersburg and City Point, subject of course to orders
from the commander of the Army of the Potomac. The 9th army
corps will be left intact, to hold the present line of works so
long as the whole line now occupied by us is held. If, however,
the troops to the left of the 9th corps are withdrawn, then the
left of the corps may be thrown back so as to occupy the
position held by the army prior to the capture of the Weldon
Road. All troops to the left of the 9th corps will be held in
readiness to move at the shortest notice by such route as may be
designated when the order is given.

“General Ord will detach three divisions, two white and one
colored, or so much of them as he can, and hold his present
lines, and march for the present left of the Army of the
Potomac. In the absence of further orders, or until further
orders are given, the white divisions will follow the left
column of the Army of the Potomac, and the colored division the
right column. During the movement Major-General Weitzel will be
left in command of all the forces remaining behind from the Army
of the James.

“The movement of troops from the Army of the James will commence
on the night of the 27th instant. General Ord will leave behind
the minimum number of cavalry necessary for picket duty, in the
absence of the main army. A cavalry expedition, from General
Ord’s command, will also be started from Suffolk, to leave there
on Saturday, the 1st of April, under Colonel Sumner, for the
purpose of cutting the railroad about Hicksford. This, if
accomplished, will have to be a surprise, and therefore from
three to five hundred men will be sufficient. They should,
however, be supported by all the infantry that can be spared
from Norfolk and Portsmouth, as far out as to where the cavalry
crosses the Blackwater. The crossing should probably be at
Uniten. Should Colonel Sumner succeed in reaching the Weldon
Road, he will be instructed to do all the damage possible to the
triangle of roads between Hicksford, Weldon, and Gaston. The
railroad bridge at Weldon being fitted up for the passage of
carriages, it might be practicable to destroy any accumulation
of supplies the enemy may have collected south of the Roanoke.
All the troops will move with four days’ rations in haversacks
and eight days’ in wagons. To avoid as much hauling as
possible, and to give the Army of the James the same number of
days’ supplies with the Army of the Potomac, General Ord will
direct his commissary and quartermaster to have sufficient
supplies delivered at the terminus of the road to fill up in
passing. Sixty rounds of ammunition per man will be taken in
wagons, and as much grain as the transportation on hand will
carry, after taking the specified amount of other supplies. The
densely wooded country in which the army has to operate making
the use of much artillery impracticable, the amount taken with
the army will be reduced to six or eight guns to each division,
at the option of the army commanders.

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