« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
was becoming depressed at the long delay of the decisive victories so eagerly hoped.
These advantages were vigorously followed up, by a coöperating land force under Gen. Granger, until Fort Morgan was surrendered on the 23d of August, leaving the entrance to the bay completely within the control of our navy. These successes utterly closed one more port against all hope of blockade-running, and accomplished what was really the main object in view in fitting out the fleet under the Rear-Admiral.
In the Shenandoah Valley, active operations were speedily resumed, after Sheridan had taken the command. Early's rearguard withdrew from Martinsburg, up the Valley, on the 9th, and at 4 o'clock, in the afternoon of the 10th, the advance of Sheridan's forces, moving out in pursuit at sunrise that day, began skirmishing with the enemy, within ten miles of Winchester. The infantry bivouacked near Berryville, having marched fifteen miles. Advancing on the 11th, Custer's cavalry brigade fell in with the enemy in considerable force near Sulphur Springs bridge, three miles from Winchester. An engagement followed, lasting nearly two hours, Custer having one battery, and the enemy no artillery. Our forces were driven back with slight loss. Another cavalry force, under Devin, moved by a circuitous route by White Post, toward Newtown, with the purpose of flanking the Rebel column. retreating by the Strasburg pike. The advance regiment soon. became engaged with a Rebel skirmishing party, near White Post, and a general action followed, on the part of Devin's command, lasting about three hours, the enemy retiring some. distance in the direction of Newtown. Crook's infantry at length came up, and the further pursuit of the enemy by the cavalry brigade of Gibbs, led to further fighting before Newtown, which Early succeeded in holding. Our infantry encamped for the night about six miles beyond (and south-east of) Winchester.
On the next day (the 12th), our forces advanced, the enemy continuing his retreat. About noon, a force of the enemy was discovered on a hill before Strasburg, from which our cavalry skirmishers were shelled and driven back. The infantry now
came up, and both armies formed their line of battle, with Cedar Creek between them, about three miles north of Strasburg. There was lively skirmishing through the day. No general engagement followed. During the night, Early had decamped, retiring beyond the town, which our skirmishers entered on the morning of the 13th. They soon after withdrew, however, the enemy re-appearing, and our main army, which had begun to advance, was recalled to Cedar Creek, remaining mostly inactive there until the 15th, while the enemy retained possession of Strasburg, his works on Fisher's Hill, beyond, commanding the town.
In going up the Valley, Sheridan's army had passed the several gaps on its left, so well known in guerrilla operations, and before so successfully used by the enemy in his operations in that region. These gaps had been incautiously left unguarded. On the 13th, an inconsiderable partisan force under Mosby passed through Snicker's Gap, and surprised Sheridan's supply train at Berryville, putting the guard to flight in a panic, destroying a large number of wagons and capturing several hundred horses and mules, with many beef cattle and other supplies. These disasters led to the report that Longstreet's corps was coming up in the rear to cut off Sheridan's army. Late in the evening, of Monday, the 15th, a retreat was commenced, and the whole army fell back to Charlestown.
After the affair of July 30th the army before Petersburg was comparatively quiet for several days. On Friday evening, the 5th of August, the enemy exploded a mine in front of the Eighteenth Corps, without inflicting any serious injury, the work having failed to reach the point intended. Considerable fighting followed, without severe losses or important results on either side.
There was some activity on the north side of the James, on the 14th and 15th of August, and skirmishing with the enemy. On the 16th, there was a considerable engagement near Deep Bottom. The forces moved out for the apparent purpose of turning the left of the Rebel fortifications before Richmond,
encountered superior numbers, and were obliged to retire, though without heavy losses.
On the 18th of August, an advance was made on the Weldon railroad, to a point near the Yellow Tavern. The enemy stoutly resisted the movement, and temporarily drove back our forces, but the ground lost was retaken, fortified and held during the night. On the 19th, the Rebels renewed the attack, and succeeded in breaking the Union lines, both on the right and on the left, and formed in the rear of Meade's position. In this battle there was a loss of 3,000 men, a large proportion of whom were taken prisoners. Another vigorous effort to dislodge our forces from the Weldon road, at this point, was made on the 21st of August, but the enemy was repulsed, with severe loss. Our men, now fighting behind strong intrenchments, suffered but slightly in comparison. The Rebel forces were now withdrawn from before the Fifth and Ninth Corps, on the Weldon road, to their lines within two or three miles of Petersburg. Hancock's corps now occupied Ream's Station, a few miles south of the scene of the late engagements. This position was furiously assailed by the enemy in heavy force, on the 25th of August, with a persistent purpose of turning the Union left. A severe and prolonged contest followed, both sides fighting desperately. Hancock finally withdrew from Reams' Station, with a loss of 3,000 in killed, wounded and prisoners, and of nine guns. The Rebel loss in killed and wounded alone was 1,500. Considering the number of men engaged, this was one of the severest battles of the campaign. The result was to give the enemy possession of the railroad from Yellow Tavern, six miles from Petersburg, southward. The road had, however, been thoroughly destroyed from a point three or four miles beyond Ream's Station to within three miles of Petersburg.
Our guns were now continually sending shell into Petersburg, while skirmishing was kept up along the lines. On the 2d of September, Gen. Gregg, who had succeeded Sheridan in command of the cavalry corps, made a reconnoissance toward the Boydtown plank road, by which route it was ascertained that the enemy was hauling his supplies, after reaching the break
in the railroad beyond Ream's Station. He found the enemy well fortified, and had some skirmishing with his cavalry, but. no important engagement. Our picket line was extended across the plank road on the 10th of September, and the main lines advanced half a mile in the same direction. During the next two or three weeks, the position of affairs on the Appomattox and the James remained without material change. On the 28th, the Rebels made a night assault on our lines in front of Hancock, on the Jerusalem plank road, and were repulsed. On the 30th, Warren, advanced two miles to Poplar Grove Church, attacked and carried the first line of the enemy's works, at Preble's Farm. Following up this success, a charge was made upon the second line of Rebel defenses, and the position carried. The Ninth Corps had in the mean time, advanced beyond the Fifth, and, encountering a heavy force, in strong works, was driven back in confusion, losing 1,500 prisoners, and 500 killed and wounded. Griffin's division of the Fifth Corps came to the support of the Ninth, now heavily pressed, and the combined forces repelled the enemy, who suffered a serious loss. The new position gained by the Fifth Corps was maintained and fortified. On the 2d of October, the Rebels again fell back from Warren's front, to their main lines, from the Petersburg Lead Works to the Southside railroad. No further important change of position took place in this vicinity, until near the close of the month.
A new movement to the left was commenced by Grant on the 26th of October, toward Hatcher's Run, the object of which, apparently, was to extend our lines to the Southside railroad. The enemy was prepared for this advance, and was encountered in strong force, on the 27th, near the Boydton plank road. A severe engagement followed, in which the Union losses are stated as amounting to 3,000, while those of the Rebels were considerably less. The forces engaged in this movement returned on the next day, resuming nearly their former position. The two armies remained comparatively quiet until, on the 5th of November (three days before the Presidential election), the Rebels made an attack on Fort Sedgwick, near the Jerusalem plank road, being handsomely repulsed. These
attempts were renewed elsewhere, a purpose being manifested of piercing the center of the Union lines, with the hope of gaining a substantial advantage that would damage the Government at this special juncture, and weaken its cause in the loyal States. All these efforts were fortunately foiled.
While affairs were thus indecisive around Petersburg, attention had been directed, at first anxiously-for misfortune had there followed misfortune-to the Shenandoah Valley. The first movement under the new commander, Sheridan, had seemingly terminated little better than previous operations in that quarter. He had assumed command on the 7th of August, with an army formidable in numbers and tried in the service; had advanced to Strasburg, and had hastily retreated to Charlestown. Here he still remained, at the beginning of September. On the 3d day of that month, Sheridan's army was again put in motion, and marched about ten miles, encamping near Berryville. Here a line of battle was formed, and intrenchments thrown up. Before the entire army had reached this point, Gen. Crook's command repulsed a spirited attack of the enemy. It was not until the 19th that the movement was resumed, and a new position taken up, three or four miles east of Winchester. On the day previous, Gen. Averill had driven a Rebel force from Martinsburg up the Valley. The enemy was found in position at Winchester, skirmishers were advanced about 10 o'clock, on the 19th, and at noon, the action became general, lasting until 5 o'clock, when the enemy was forced to retreat, and was sent "whirling up the Valley" by Sheridan's vigorous pursuit. Early lost seriously in killed and wounded, and 5,000 prisoners, and five guns were captured from him.
On the 20th, Sheridan's infantry marched sixteen miles, to the vicinity of Strasburg. On the 21st, the army remained quiet on Cedar Creek, the enemy occupying a strong position on Fisher's Hill. Before daylight on the 22d, the Union troops were in motion, and a flanking column speedily appeared in the rear of the enemy, and a general charge along his lines drove him in great confusion from his works, securing another. brilliant victory. Among the Rebel losses on this memorable day were 1,100 prisoners, and sixteen guns. Pursuit was con