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corresponding promptitude and perfection. It may, in fact, be said, in view of the results now known, that the crisis in the fate of the rebellion was reached, and the fatal blows given during the month of May, 1864. Grant had fought out the issue on his chosen line, and the final victory is a decisive demonstration of the mistake of those who maintained that his present position might have been equally as well gained without loss, by water transportation-involving, first, a great diminution of his strength, by leaving a defensive force of 60,000 for the defense of Washington, which he had steadily covered during every step of his course; and, secondly, the full, unimpaired, concentrated strength of Lee's army, had he chosen to rush to Richmond, foregoing an almost invited invasion of Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, or even Ohio.
Rapid as was the execution of this last movement by the left flank, Lee, having the inner line, was apprised of it in season to prevent any serious interruption of his retreat upon the lines about Richmond. He hastily abandoned his formidable works on and before the South Anna, from which he had apparently expected so much, and fell back, with little intermediate skirmishing, Grant's movement having for the moment widely separated the main portions of the two armies, toward his last defenses. At the same time, he saw his communications seriously impaired or imminently endangered. Hunter was moving on Lynchburg. Kautz had already cut the Danville road. The Gordonsville and Fredericksburg roads were now rendered entirely useless, and whether they should so continue through the season depended on events which he could hardly hope to control. He had still, however, the James river canal, extending westward, and the Richmond and Petersburg road, continued by the Weldon and other roads southward. It became of the last importance to him to maintain these lines of trans portation intact, and to reopen the Danville and other routes with the utmost possible expedition, preventing the close siege at which the Union general appeared to be aiming.
Hanovertown, on the south bank of the Pamunkey, is twelve miles distant from Meadow Bridge across the Chickahominy, as also from Mechanicsville, east of that locality, a little dis
tant from the river, and about twenty miles from the new base of supplies, White House-places already made familiar by the campaign of 1862. In order to carry out what seems to have been part of his original purpose, it was now necessary for Grant to cross the Chickahominy at or near Meadow Bridge, or further up the stream, and to proceed across the two railroads leading northward from Richmond, to the left bank of the James, above the city. How far the details of his plan had come to be modified by the delays interposed by the enemy's obstinate resistance, and by the results of subsidiary movements elsewhere, need not be conjectured here. The first operations, however, after reaching the Pamunkey, appear to have looked toward the cutting of the Gordonsville and Fredericksburg railroads, just north of Richmond, and its close investment by the aid of the Army of the James.
On Friday, the 27th, Meade's headquarters were at Mongohick Church, ten miles north of Hanovertown. The cavalry advance which had crossed the Pamunkey in the morning, was pressing forward, and the entire force under Sheridan, which had rejoined the army on the 25th, was busily occupied in its appropriate work. Before night, on Saturday, the whole army was across the Pamunkey, elated with the prospect before them, and in good condition for immediate action. It was soon apparent, from the cavalry reconnoissances, that Lee had promptly occupied Hanover Court House, five miles south of the South Anna, and fifteen miles north-west of Hanovertown, and was swinging around to confront the forces of Grant. Breckinridge's command, fresh from its victory over Sigel, was in the van, with the support of the cavalry of Lomax and Wickham. To ascertain more definitely whether the enemy was extending his line from Hanover Court House, or abandoning that place. to move on Richmond in full force, the cavalry divisions of Torbert and Gregg were sent out by the road on the north of Tolopotamoy creek. They became briskly engaged with Rebel cavalry under Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee, about noon of Saturday, near Hawes' store, six or eight miles south-west of Hanovertown. After a conflict of over two hours, the enemy was defeated, and retired, leaving the field in possession of our
forces, with part of his killed and wounded. The total casualties on each side numbered about four hundred. Wilson's division of cavalry was meanwhile continuing the destruction of the railroads west and north of Sexton's Junction.
On the 29th, the main army was in position about three miles from Hanovertown, looking south-westward. Its movements were now deliberate, a possible attack from Lee being regarded as imminent. By careful reconnoissances it was at length found that the main rebel force was lying a few miles distant beyond Tolopotamoy creek, the right resting on Mechanicsville and Shady Grove Church, the right center near Atlee's Station, on the Gordonsville Railroad, and the left still covering Hanover Court House. Tolopotamoy creek is a small sluggish stream, first running south-east, passing nearly opposite Atlee's Station, for a distance of about five miles, then turning at right angles and running north-eastwardly, falling into the Pamunkey four or five miles below Hanovertown. Atlee's Station is six miles from Mechanicsville, by a road running nearly parallel with the first named portion of the creek and with the Gordonsville Railroad, intermediate between them. Hanover Court House is eight miles further north. It it will thus be seen that the line was long, and, with Lee's force, rather attenuated-there being an apparent anxiety to protect the railroads, and to prevent a flanking movement around the Rebel left. This position was somewhat modified on the 30th, as officially stated, though the extremes were still Shady Grove Church as its right, and Hanover Court House as its left.
In the Union line, Wright's Corps held the extreme right, extending toward Hanover Court House (part of Getty's division having moved on that place on the 29th, and to Pease Station on the 30th), Hancock's corps the right center, on the Shady Grove road, Warren's the left center, on the Mechanicsville road, and Burnside's the extreme left, a little to the rear, and threatening an advance on Richmond. The right and rear were covered by the Third Cavalry Division, under Wilson, while the Divisions of Gregg and Torbert were moved out beyond the left. The latter held the cross roads at
Bethesda Church, six miles north of Cold Harbor, two squadrons doing picket duty on the road leading from the former place to the latter. About noon on the 30th, these pickets were driven in, when a spirited engagement followed, the brigades of Devins, Merritt and Custer coming into action before the enemy was finally driven back toward Cold Harbor, averting his intended raid around our left. The loss hardly reached one hundred men on the Union side.
The Fifth corps, also, while moving to the left by the Mechanicsville road, was attacked by Ewell, about five o'clock on the same day, Rhodes' division being supported in this assault by two brigades of cavalry. Crawford's division, holding the advance, was forced back, and this success of the enemy was so vigorously followed up, that the corps of WarReënforcements averted ren was in danger of being flanked. this disaster, and the enemy was compelled, after a brisk contest, to fall back in the direction of Cold Harbor, on a road nearly parallel with that down which Torbert had driven his assailants. While the engagement of Warren with Ewell was going on, General Meade ordered an attack along the entire line. Only Hancock received the order in time to execute it before dark. Dashing upon the skirmish line of his adversary, he captured the Rebel rifle pits, and kept them through the night, despite a midnight attempt to dislodge him. Warren meanwhile held his ground near Mechanicsville, seven or eight miles from Richmond, while the enemy was hurrying troops in that direction to save his right. Burnside, at the same time, moved forward to the support of Warren.
On Tuesday afternoon, the 31st, at five o'clock, Sheridan attacked a force of Rebel cavalry, under Fitzhugh Lee, near Cold Harbor, and, after a sharp battle, routed Lee, together with a brigade of infantry that had come to his support, and carried the position assailed. Sheridan was directed to hold his ground, and Wright's corps withdrawn from the extreme right, was sent to occupy the place. Wilson, the same evening, encountered and routed a brigade of Rebel cavalry near Hanover Court House.
Cold Harbor, as the place of junction of several roads, and
from its proximity to the Chickahominy, was a place of great. military importance, in the movements now going on. The attempt to make this a sallying point for the interruption of our communication with the White House, or for cutting off reënforcements from the army of the James, had thus far been foiled. Meanwhile it was not actually in our possession, and the enemy was moving large forces in that direction, on the 1st of June, as if determined to prevent its permanent occupation. by our troops. A corresponding movement on our side showed that an important battle was soon to be fought in that neighborhood.
In obedience to an order of the Lieutenant-General, a force of seventeen thousand men, under command of Gen. W. F. Smith, was withdrawn from Butler's command at Bermuda Hundred, to reënforce the army of the Potomac. Setting out on the 29th of May, Smith effected a junction with Wright's corps, now moving to the left, on the 1st of June, in good season to take part in the impending engagement. The aid thus brought was most opportune.
The Sixth Corps, instead of finding Cold Harbor merely awaiting occupation, as appears to have been first anticipated by the commanding general, from the report he had received, soon learned that the position was to be contended for with desperation by the enemy. Wright attacked the enemy's works there, as ordered, at five o'clock in the afternoon of June 1st, while the forces under Smith, Hancock, Burnside and Warren, were prepared to advance on their respective fronts at the word of command. The enemy's works on the right of the Sixth Corps, were carried, and the first line in front of Smith's, after severe fighting, which lasted until dark. Smith, however, found the position he had gained untenable. While these operations were going on, the enemy repeatedly attacked each corps not engaged in the assault at the left, but was constantly repulsed with loss. Several hundred prisoners were taken from the Rebels, and their loss in killed and wounded must have been very considerable. During the night, they lost still further by several ineffectual attempts to regain what the Sixth Corps had taken from them.