The Virginia in the Civil War Message Board

Grant's First Offensive Part II

The Herald Despatches

Mr. S. Caddwalader's Despatch

Charles City Court House, June 15 - 8 a.m.

The activity of the army has been unparalled, for three days past. It marched from Coal Harbor to this point over narrow and torturous that needed much repairing and is now fully half over the James River, and moving towards City Point, below the mouth of the Appomattox. The general headquarters of the army are breaking up as I write, and the trains will proceed to that point by night.

General Grant visited Bermuda Hundred yesterday, had a long conference with General Butler in regard to military affairs, and returned in the evening, apparently well pleased with the condition of affairs on the south side. The work in that quarter will probably be sharp for a few
days, and decisive in securing certain strategical points from which to conduct the work of the succeeding week or month.

The Enemy Puzzled

The army is in fine health, and spirits, and seems to be well fed and well clothed. The enemy appear to have been completely mystified by our last movement, and were twenty-four hours in occupying the ground we left at Coal Harbor. He has since made a forced march toward Malvern Hill, in
expectation of our attempting to occupy it but it now transpires that this was no part of General Grant's plan. General Warren was thrown out in that direction to cover the flank of the main army on its march, but has been since drawn in to this point, and will transport his corps
across the river to-day.

The weather continues pleasant and the roads good. The days are warm with the nights cool and often very chilly.

The Second Corps

Mr. Francis C. Long's Despatch

Second Army Corps, In the Field
Near Charles City C.H., June 13, 1864

Again on the March

All the necessary arrangements having been made for another rapid movement beyond the right of Lee's army, the Second Corps left its position near Coal Harbor, where it has faced the enemy so heroically since the 3d inst., and at nightfall on Sunday evening, 12th, took up a line of march towards Long Bridge, on the Chickahominy. The corps
followed a narrow and winding road which doubled and twisted among the swamps, forests and hills between Coal Harbor and Despatch Station, on the Richmond and York River Railroad. The evening was remarkably cold for the climate and season and the chilly damp daws that settle in vapory
masses on the low, swampy regions of the Chickahominy dampened our clothing and made us shudder with an ague-like chilliness.

Were Was the Enemy

The enemy in front of us yesterday was remarkably, and had it not been for an occasional shell he threw from his batteries we would hardly have been aware of his presence. An opinion prevailed among intelligent officers that Lee had removed the bulk of his army from the vicinity of
Coal Harbor and Mechanicsville to a point further down the river, anticipating another flank movement by Grant. Had there been any considerable body of the enemy in the earthworks in front of our late position, they would most certainly have attacked our rear, since our withdrawal could not have failed to attract their attention.

General Hancock marched his column all night, with as much rapidity as the nature of the country and the disordered condition of the roads would admit, only halting for a few brief moments at long intervals.

The Order Came to Move Forward

In a long dense column the Second Corps wound its way, while the steady tramp of thousands of feet stirred up clouds of reddish dust, which floated away on the sultry atmosphere, showing at a distance the course the column pursued.

The Country Around

In the low ground and morasses, thickets of swamp magnolias in full bloom perfuled the air with with their soft-breathing fragrance, while the bright emerald ? of their leaves ? to lend a purer whiteness of their snowy blossoms.

The forest trees growing about us were primarily yellow pines,although there are many species of oaks, but they do not florish in such abundance as the pine. There are plenty of persimmon, holly, amber trees growing in all the wooded districts in this part of Virginia. There is
comparatively little undergrowth, however, in the forests, what there is being principally dwarf oak, laurel and shinquapin shrubs. The further south we proceed the richer the soil, as the immense size of the forest trees attest. The soil is not only darker in color, but freer of stones,
sand and clay than it is around Spottsylvania Court House and the Mattapony, and cereal crops of every description grow with greater luxuriance.

The Inhabitants

The citizens we encounter claimed to be "of the matter born" and have always associated with the "prime mess A No. !'s" of the State. But as far as our observation extends the F.F.V's as a class are not to be compared with the farmers and machinists of some of the Northern states
in point of intelligence and general information. The truth obliges us to state that we occasionally meet an educated man or woman; but for one that can boast of any amount of intellectual acquirement we find a score
that cannot decipher the English alphabet or tell the difference between an almanac and a child's primer.

Arrival at Long Bridge - The Chickahominy and Surroundings

We reached Long Bridge at about ten o'clock this morning (the 13th) and found the Fifth Corps was already across the river. We had to halt for a short time before crossing; the wagon trains of the general army headquarters being in front of us and in possession of the pontoon bridge and the road leading to it. Long Bridge is situated about eighteen miles from Coal Harbor and it is rather less than half that distance below Bottom's bridge.

The Chickahominy, as it has frequently been stated, is a sluggish and muddy stream, resembling a Louisiana bayou more than a river. Its width at the point we crossed is about thirty yards. It runs in the midst of a morass almost as dense as an Indian jungle. It is a very unhealthy
neighborhood, owing to the poisonous miasma it constantly exhales.

The swamp and river are infested with venemous reptiles, particularly water moccassins, several of which went hissing and writhing across the road as we passed.

About three-fourths of a mile from the river the ground gradually grows higher and cultivated fields can at times be seen. Still the most of the land for some distance is wet and marshy, not improving much before we reached St. Mary's Church, which stands some six miles from Charles City Court House.

The Crops and Soil

A rural New Yorker or Vermonter will scarcely believe that the cherry trees that were in bloom on the 10th of May have ripened their fruit by the 10th of June. Nevertheless such is the case. The cherry season is almost over, as well as the strawberry. We also saw a field of wheat today that had been harvested. This looks rather like rushing the

As we approach Charles City Court House the quality of the soil improves

very much: the land becomes dryer and less uneven. Some of the finest wheat fields I have seen in the State are growing around our present temporary headquarters.

Will our march be disputed?

There is no doubt that our ultimate destination will be James River, but I hardly think Lee will leave the way undisputed. The fact that he has withdrawn his pickets this morning as soon as we did ours proves conclusively that he has an inkling of the movement now on foot, and he
will doubtless strain every nerve to head us off. Whether he is outgeneraled or not a few days will tell.

Operations of the Fifth Corps

Headquarters, Fifth Army Corps,
Charles City Court House, June 13, 1864

I give our present locality, as before this can reach you, the position of the army will be wholly changed. Where the next change will take us and where is to be the next move in the programme, are facts, of course,

I cannot make known. As I write the shrill whistles of our gunboats and transports in the James River break the quiet of the still night air.

For six weeks cut off from railroads and steamboats, these sounds are agreeable, not only as momentoes of civilization, but proof of the presence near of another and important auxiliary power to aid in further carrying out the grand object of the present campaign - the taking of
Richmond. Our nearest point to the James is two miles and a hill near us commands a fine view of a portion of the river and the moving flotilla of gunboats and steamers and sloops filling its waters.

When We Started - the Employment of Two Days

Forty-eight hours ago, the time of sending my last despatch, left the Fifth Corps in readiness to move. These forty-eight hours have been important ones - not that we have performed miracles of marching, not that we have undergone any unusual hardships, not that any great battles
have been fought or great victories won - but in the results gained, in the entire success of our third great flank movement and in the complete bewilderment of the enemy by the boldness and audacity of its conception
and execution, in this time we have crossed the Chickahominy, thrown ourselves aloof from the base we had occupied, and established a new one.

The enemy has not molested us to any extent; for he has not known how to do it.

The Fifth Corps in Advance

To the Fifth Corps has belonged the honor of the advance. This corps was the first of our infantry to cross the Chickahominy, as it was the first to cross the Rapidan and the North Anna. In crossing the Chickahominy,
which we did at Long Bridge, General Crawford's division had the advance.

The division crossed at midnight, following Chapman's brigade of the cavalry. He at once pushed forward to the heights this side, by the Mattox House, two miles to the right, firmly establishing himself, and there remained until daylight, when the other divisions took position
near by.

General Crawford's Fight

Here the corps remained all day, but not without an independent and most brilliant fight by Crawford's division. The cavalry were still in his advance. A portion was sent in the direction of Turner's Ford, across
the Chickahominy, and some towards the White Oak Swamp crossing. At the latter crossing the cavalry came upon the First and Second South Carolina Regiments of Hampton's Brigade and, being inferior in numbers, sent back
for infantry supports. General Crawford sent General Bates' Brigade consisting of the Twelth Massachusetts, Major Cook; Ninety-Seventh New York, Colonel Wheelock; Eleventh Pennsylvania, Captain Barris; Eighty-Seventh Pennsylvania, Captain Phaedes; and Ninth New York,
Lieutenant Colonel Mollats, with instructions to aid the cavalry, get possession of the road and intrench. Very shortly after Lyle's Brigade, comprising the Thirty-Ninth Massachusetts, Colonel Davis; One Hundred and Seventh New York, Colonel McCoy; Nintieth Pennsylvania, Captain Davis;
Sixteenth Maine, Colonel Tilden; One hundred and Fourth New York, Colonel Frey; and Eleventh Massachusetts, Colonel Pierce.went to the assistance of the first brigade, followed by Colonel Carl's brigade of the first and
second veteran Pennsylvania Reserve Regiments. General Crawford accompanied the two latter brigades, and directed subsequent movements in person. In some redoubts thrown up by McClellan in his campaign, the enemy had placed three cannon, from which they kept up a vigorous shelling of our troops. Three objects were to be gained: Holding the
Long Bridge Road, upon which were all our trains, silencing the guns in these redoubts, and keeping possession of the White Oak Swamp bridge. Captain Barnes' Battery, First New York, was located so as to command the bridge and prevent the enemy from crossing over in that direction. In holding the bridge some sharpshooters in Bates' Brigade did excellent service.

Meanwhile other batteries directed their fire on those redoubts and the counter-cannonading was heavy and furious for a while. Our cavalry got out of ammunition and at this time were heavily pressed and compelled to fall back, which they did in considerable confusion, working through the
infantry lines. The infantry, notwithstanding this cavalry panic, stood their ground and punished the pursuing cavalry severely as they came up within musket range. The enemy's cavalry, numbering at least three thousand, fell back full well, and did not show themselves again. From this time the fighting was between Crawford's division and the enemy's infantry, which, we discovered, from prisoners captured, to consist of Wilson's, McGowan's and Scales' brigades of A.P. Hill's Corps, on the right, and Anderson's division, on the Long Bridge or New Market Road. It was half past three p.m. when the enemy's infantry arrived. Brisk skirmishing ensued and the enemy made an attack, but he was so decisively repulsed that he did not venture to repeat it.

General Crawford,

by his skillfull handling of the troops, completely deceived the enemy as to the number he had, and to give them to believe that he designed attacking them. That they were deceived was shown by them making only one attack and by their acting on the defensive and throwing up arthworks, which they did with astonishing rapidity.

The Casualties

The following is a list of the casualties in General Crawford's Division:

88th Pennsylvania - 1 killed 2 wounded
27th NY - 1 killed 4 wounded
94th NY - 1 killed 10 wounded
22nd NY - 1 killed 0 wounded
16th Maine - 0 killed 2 wounded
107th Pa. - 0 killed 1 wounded
11th Pennsylvania - 0 killed 5 wounded
1st Pa. VV - 0 killed 5 wounded
2nd Pa. VV - 0 killed 2 wounded
Baty. E, 4th US Ar.- 0 killed 1 wounded
1st NH Cav. - 0 killed 2 wounded

Total: 4 killed 31 wounded - 35

Sketch of Captain Rhoades - Compliment to General Crawford

Captain Rhoades entered the service as a private, and achieved the position he occupied by his merit and courage alone. He lived in Philadelphia. He was killed by a piece of shell.

General Crawford has been highly complimented for the handsome manner in which he checked the enemy in the above affair.

The Enemy Confounded By Grant's Movements

It seems from prisoners that the enemy was taken wholly by surprise by our withdrawal from the other side of the Chickahominy and crossing the river at the points we did. They hurried on, and their intention was to occupy the line from White Oak Swamp to Jones' Neck, west of Malvern Hill, and which is the narrowest point on the Peninsula this side of Richmond and the most defensible line against an advance on their capital. As it is they are completely nonplussed and will have to revise some new plan to resist our to onward march to Richmond.

The Incidents of Our March

from Mattox House to this place can be summed up in a few words. We started at seven p.m. and marched till after midnight, going through woods and every imaginable sort of road, with pioneers in advance to cut down trees and clear the way and not knowing but at any moment we might stumble upon the enemy and have the excitement of a midnight battle. But we were not interrupted in this way. A brief sleep and rest at St. Mary's Church and our march was resumed, which terminated in our arrival here at ten o'clock this morning.

Cavalry Skirmishing - Headquarters Movements

There has been some cavalry skirmishing, but otherwise it has been quiet all day. Our corps headquarters are at Oakland, the former country residence of Judge Evans(?). The headquarters of the army are near us. The aspects of the country has not changed materially since our army
marched down here, nearly two years ago, en route to join the army under General Pope.

Mr. S.T. Bulkley's Despatch

Fortress Monroe, Va., June 16, 1864

Grant's Army

From arrivals from Bermuda Hundred we learn that the bulk of Grant's army successfully crossed the James river yesterday and that the balance, together with the trains, would be on the south side to-day. The crossing was ? at several different points below Turkey Bend and the
whole movement has been a grand success. . . . .

Five O'Clock p.m.

News From Petersburg Before the Capture

The Keyport has just arrived, having left Wilson's Landing on the James River at eleven o'clock this morning. . .

The Second and Sixth Corps were on the south side of the James River, and the Fifth Corps was then crossing. . . .

Our Army Correspondence

Charles City Court House, June 15, 1864

The Chickahominy has been safely crossed. Griffin's division of the Third Corps, preceded by a brigade of cavalry, advanced from Providence Church to Long Bridge on Sunday night. After a brief skirmish our advance guard drove all the few rebel pickets guarding this place. The
bridge had been destroyed by the rebels but we laid pontoons across the river. A column moved up the south side of the river towards Bottom's Bridge and drove every rebel out of sight.

On the margin of White Oak Swamp our cavalry ran against a considerable number of the enemy. For a few minutes there was a sharp skirmish in which a number of cannon were freely used on both sides and two regiments of infantry were deployed as skirmishers. About twenty men were killed
and wounded in this short affair. Some of the rebels were made prisoners. They report that Lee was massing his troops at Bottom's Bridge. But he was too slow. Our advance on the road to Bottom's Bridge kept the enemy back, and gave the Second Corps ample opportunity to pass
over the Chickahominy.

The Sixth and Second Corps crossed lower down at Jones' Bridge. On Sunday the Eighteenth Corps embarked on transports at White House and have since moved past this place on the James River, going towards Bermuda Hundred.

The Second Corps is now being ferried to day from Wilcox's Wharf to Windmill Point.

Our present position on the banks of the James is much healthier than that in the Chickahominy swamps, where many of our men commenced to suffer from fever and ague and are now rapidly recovering.

The Fortress Monroe Despatch
Fortress Monroe, June 16, 1864

Yesterday morning at four o'clock the Eighteenth Corps under the command of General W.F. Smith left City Point and marched into Petersburg.

General Kautz's cavalry, composing the Fifth and Eleventh Pennsylvania and District of Columbia regiment, attacked the entrenchments of the rebels outside of Petersburg and at eleven a.m. yesterday succeeded in capturing them and entering the city.

They were supported by the advance guard of General Smith's forces.

The troops were at last accounts marching in the direction of Petersburg as fast as they landed.

The crossing of the James by the army is described by those who had the good fortunate at viewing it as one of the most brilliant scenes of the war.

An endless stream of transports, barges, and scooners has been making its way up the James River to the new base of supplies all to-day. NY Herald, June 18, 1864 p. 1 col. 1-6