Part 8- Chapter 7

 

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 Up | Part 1- Chapter 1 | Part 1- Chapter 2 | Part 1- Chapter 3 | Part 1- Chapter 4 | Part 1- Chapter 5 | Part 1- Chapter 6 | Part 1- Chapter 7 | Part 1- Chapter 8 | Part 1- Chapter 9 | Part 1- Chapter 10 | Part 1- Chapter 11 | Part 1- Chapter 12 | Part 2- Chapter 1 | Part 2- Chapter 2 | Part 2- Chapter 3 | Part 2- Chapter 4 | Part 2- Chapter 5 | Part 3- Chapter 1 | Part 3- Chapter 2 | Part 3- Chapter 3 | Part 3- Chapter 4 | Part 3- Chapter 5 | Part 3- Chapter 6 | Part 4- Chapter 1 | Part 4- Chapter 2 | Part 4- Chapter 3 | Part 4- Chapter 4 | Part 4- Chapter 5 | Part 4- Chapter 6 | Part 5- Chapter 1 | Part 5- Chapter 2 | Part 5- Chapter 3 | Part 5- Chapter 4 | Part 5- Chapter 5 | Part 5- Chapter 6 | Part 5- Chapter 7 | Part 5- Chapter 8 | Part 5- Chapter 9 | Part 5- Chapter 10 | Part 5- Chapter 11 | Part 5- Chapter 12 | Part 5- Chapter 13 | Part 6- Chapter 1 | Part 6- Chapter 2 | Part 6- Chapter 3 | Part 6- Chapter 4 | Part 6- Chapter 5 | Part 6- Chapter 6 | Part 6- Chapter 7 | Part 6- Chapter 8 | Part 6- Chapter 9 | Part 6- Chapter 10 | Part 6- Chapter 11 | Part 6- Chapter 12 | Part 6- Chapter 13 | Part 6- Chapter 14 | Part 6- Chapter 15 | Part 6- Chapter 16 | Part 6- Chapter 17 | Part 6- Chapter 18 | Part 6- Chapter 19 | Part 6- Chapter 20 | Part 6- Chapter 21 | Part 7- Chapter 1 | Part 7- Chapter 2 | Part 7- Chapter 3 | Part 7- Chapter 4 | Part 7- Chapter 5 | Part 7- Chapter 6 | Part 8- Chapter 1 | Part 8- Chapter 2 | Part 8- Chapter 3 | Part 8- Chapter 4 | Part 8- Chapter 5 | Part 8- Chapter 6 | Part 8- Chapter 7 | Part 8- Chapter 8 | Part 8- Chapter 9 | Part 8- Chapter 10 | Part 8- Chapter 11 | Part 8- Chapter 12 | Part 8- Chapter 13 | Part 8- Chapter 14 | Part 8- Chapter 15 | Part 8- Chapter 16 | Part 8- Chapter 17 | Part 8- Chapter 18 | Part 8- Chapter 19 | Appendix I | Appendix II

A LIFE OF GEN. ROBERT E. LEE.

BY JOHN ESTEN COOKE.

 "Duty is the sublimest word in our language."  

 "Human virtue should be equal to human calamity."  LEE. 1876

 PART VIII.

LEE'S LAST CAMPAIGNS AND LAST DAYS.

VII.   The Siege of Richmond begun

 The first days of July, 1864, witnessed, at Petersburg, the commencement of a series of military manoeuvres, for which few, if any, precedents existed in all the annals of war. An army of forty or fifty thousand men, intrenched along a line extending finally over a distance of nearly forty miles, was defending, against a force of about thrice its numbers, a capital more than twenty miles in its rear; and, from July of one year to April of the next, there never was a moment when, to have broken through this line, would not have terminated the war, and resulted in the destruction of the Confederacy.

A few words in reference to the topography of the country and the situation will show this. Petersburg is twenty-two miles south of Richmond, and is connected with the South and West by the Weldon and Southside Railroads, which latter road crosses the Danville Railroad, the main line of communication between the capital and the Gulf States. With the enemy once holding these roads and those north of the city, as they were preparing to do, the capital would be isolated, and the Confederate Government must evacuate Virginia. In that event the Army of Northern Virginia had also nothing left to it but retreat. Virginia must be abandoned; the Federal authority would be extended over the oldest and one of the largest and most important members of the Confederacy; and, under circumstances so adverse, it might well be a question whether, disheartened as they would be by the loss of so powerful an ally, the other States of the Confederacy would have sufficient resolution to continue the contest.

These considerations are said to have been fully weighed by General Lee, whose far-reaching military sagacity divined the exact situation of affairs, and the probable results of a conflict so unequal as that which General Grant now forced upon him. We have noticed, on a preceding page, his opinions upon this subject, expressed to a confidential friend as far back as 1862. He then declared that the true line of assault upon Richmond was that now adopted by General Grant. As long as the capital was assailed from the north or the east, he might hope with some reason, by hard fighting, to repulse the assault, and hold Richmond. But, with an enemy at Petersburg, threatening with a large force the Southern railroads, it was obviously only a question of time when Richmond, and consequently Virginia, must be abandoned.

General Lee, we repeat, fully realized the facts here stated, when his adversary, giving up all other lines, crossed James River to Petersburg. Lee is said, we know not with what truth, to have coolly recommended an evacuation of Richmond. But this met with no favor. A powerful party, including both the friends and enemies of the Executive, spoke of the movement as a "pernicious idea." If recommended by Lee, it was speedily abandoned, and all the energies of the Government were concentrated upon the difficult task of holding the enemy at arm's length south of the Appomattox and in Charles City.

In a few weeks after the appearance of the adversaries opposite each other at Petersburg, the lines of leaguer and defence were drawn, and the long struggle began. General Grant had crossed a force into Charles City, on the north bank of James River, and thus menaced Richmond with an assault from that quarter. His line extended thence across the neck of the Peninsula of Bermuda Hundred, and east and south of Petersburg, where, day by day, it gradually reached westward, approaching nearer and nearer to the railroads feeding the Southern army and capital. Lee's line conformed itself to that of his adversary. In addition to the works east and southeast of Richmond, an exterior chain of defences had been drawn, facing the hostile force near Deep Bottom; and the river at Drury's Bluff, a fortification of some strength, had been guarded, by sunken obstructions, against the approach of the Federal gunboats. The Southern lines then continued, facing those of the enemy north of the Appomattox, and, crossing that stream, extended around the city of Petersburg, gradually moving westward in conformity with the works of General Grant. A glance at the accompanying diagram will clearly indicate the positions and relations to each other of the Federal and Confederate works. These will show that the real struggle was anticipated, by both commanders, west of Petersburg; and, as the days wore on, it was more and more apparent that somewhere in the vicinity of Dinwiddie Court-House the last great wrestle of the opposing armies must take place.

To that conclusive trial of strength we shall advance with as few interruptions as possible. The operations of the two armies at Petersburg do not possess, for the general reader, that dramatic interest which is found in battles such as those of Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, deciding for the time the fates of great campaigns. At Petersburg the fighting seemed to decide little, and the bloody collisions had no names. The day of pitched battles, indeed, seemed past. It was one long battle, day and night, week after week, and month after month--during the heat of summer, the sad hours of autumn, and the cold days and nights of winter. It was, in fact, the siege of Richmond which General Grant had undertaken, and the fighting consisted less of battles, in the ordinary acceptation of that word, than of attempts to break through the lines of his adversary--now north of James River, now east of Petersburg, now at some point in the long chain of redans which guarded the approaches to the coveted Southside Railroad, which, once in possession of the Federal commander, would give him victory.

Of this long, obstinate, and bloody struggle we shall describe only those prominent incidents which rose above the rest with a species of dramatic splendor. For the full narrative the reader must have recourse to military histories aiming to chronicle the operations of each corps, division, and brigade in the two armies--a minuteness of detail beyond our scope, and probably not desired by those who will peruse these pages.

 

 

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