Slike strani

Humphreys in support. The sixth and Ninth Corps held the lines in front of Petersburg, and portions of the Army of the James were brought from the north side of the river to aid in the contemplated attack. It is not needful to follow the magnificent manœuvres and brilliant fighting which, for the next few days, proved to General Lee that the hour of his defeat had come. Still, until the last moment, he tenaciously held upon his fortified positions at Petersburg and Richmond. General Grant found it necessary to attack in front as well as on the flank.

The enemy's line, from the Appomattox to the front of Fort Sedgwick, was the old interior line which had been so often attacked in vain. The line held by the Ninth Corps extended as far as Fort Davis, and fronted the enemy's strong position. On the 30th of March, General Parke received orders to assault on the next morning at four o'clock. The point of attack was left to his discretion. The front of Fort Sedgwick was thought to be the most available for the attempt. The divisions of Generals Potter and Hartranft were concentrated in rear of the fort, ready for the movement. The assault, however, was suspended, by order of General Meade. The operations on the left had not been developed sufficiently to insure success. The troops were therefore ordered back to their old position. At last the time came. On the 1st of April, orders were again issued for attack. About ten o'clock that night our artillery opened and our skirmishers were sent forward. General S. G. Griffin found a weak place in front of his brigade, between Forts Hayes and Howard, rushed in, carried the picket line, and captured two hundred and fifty prisoners; but, finding the enemy's main line fully armed, again withdrew. During the night, the troops were concentrated. General Hartranft's division was massed in front of Fort Sedgwick. Colonel Samuel Harriman's brigade of General Willcox's division, was formed on General Hartranft's right. The 51st Pennsylvania held the brigade line in the works. General Potter's division

was massed on General Hartranft's left, to the left of the Jeru

salem plank road. At three o'clock on the morning of the 2d of April, Geral Parke established his headquarters at Fort Rice. At the same time, Generals Hartranft and Potter formed their assaulting columns. General Hartranft put the 207th Pennsylvania in advance, and in its immediate rear the 205th, 211th and 208th Pennsylania. The 200th and 209th Pennsylvania were held in reserve. Colonel Harriman's brigade was posted on the right. General Potter formed his column with General Griffin's brigade in advance, immediately supported by General Curtin's. The attacking forces were very skilfully arranged. Storming parties, pioneers with axes, and troops equipped as engineers, and details of artillerists to work any guns that might be captured, accompanied each column. The plan of attack was for General Willcox to make a feint in front of Fort Stedman, while Generals Potter and Hartranft assaulted the enemy's works.

At four o'clock, our artillery opened along the entire line. General Willcox promptly and vigorously pushed out his skirmishers, and was everywhere successful. The 51st Pennsylvania, under Colonel Bolton, captured the enemy's line near the crater. Colonel Ely's brigade carried the picket line and two hundred yards of the main works near the Appomattox. The enemy concentrated a considerable force upon these troops, as was anticipated, and gave an opportunity for the columns. on the left. At half-past four, the signal was given, and the troops designed for the main attack sprung away from their place of formation with the greatest alacrity and enthusiasm. Eager to avenge the repulse which they had experienced on almost the same ground, eight months before, they charged the enemy's line with the utmost vigor and resolution. They were received with a storm of grape, canister and musketry, but through the deadly tempest they advanced with an intrepidity which showed that the Ninth had not lost the ancient daring. They plunged through the ditch, tore away the abatis, scaled the walls, swept over the parapets and carried the works. Hartranft's column was successful in capturing

twelve guns, a number of colors, and eight hundred prisoners. Harriman's column made a gallant charge upon the right, and carried all that part of the enemy's line which was known as Miller's salient.

General Potter's division advanced upon the left, in the face of a terrific fire, which made dreadful rents in the attacking column. The enemy's line in the part which General Potter assailed was heavily fortified, and it was necessary to drive him from traverse to traverse in a hand to hand conflict. The 6th New Hampshire captured a battery of four guns, and turned them on the enemy. The 56th Massachusetts, assisted by the 5th Massachusetts battery, took and held the line of rebel works on the Jerusalem plank road. The enemy was very tenacious, and fought with great resolution, but was finally obliged to yield before the progress of our troops. For a quarter of a mile, he was borne back into an interior line of works, where he was strongly reënforced, and was enabled to check the advancing columns. A very daring but unsuccessful attempt was made to carry this inner position, in the midst of which General Potter fell, very severely wounded. General Griffin succeeded to the command of the division, and very ably directed its movements for the remainder of its term of service. For his brave and faithful conduct on this day, he was brevetted Major General.

It was now full daylight. The operations thus far had been very successful. The enemy's line, to the distance of four hundred yards on each side of the Jerusalem plank road, including several forts and redans, had been taken by our troops. Meanwhile, the sixth, second, and portions of the twentyfourth and twenty-fifth corps had attacked from the left, and succeeded in carrying a part of the opposing lines in their front, with two thousand prisoners and at least fifteen pieces of artillery. The enemy resisted strenuously, but, after an obstinate struggle, was compelled to give way, with the loss of his commanding General A. P. Hill. The sixth corps particularly distinguished itself in this day's battle. Trained under Sheri

dan in the Shenandoah Valley, it had caught the fearless enthusiasm of its leader. It now proved what brave men could do when moving dauntlessly upon a fortified enemy. Before the day had passed, it reached the banks of the Appomattox, on the southwest side of Petersburg. The other assaulting corps were equally fortunate, and, by their courage and perseverance, the city of Petersburg was, for the first time during the siege, effectually invested.

The Ninth Corps, after its first successful assault, received orders to hold on to what it had already gained. General Parke had attacked the enemy's main line, while the other corps had attacked another line, which might be occupied without securing possession of the city. At eight o'clock, General Parke was directed not to advance, unless he saw the way clear to success. He therefore strengthened his position, with a view to holding it against any assaulting force. The enemy seemed disposed to recapture, if possible, the works which he had lost. Just before eleven o'clock, he made a very determined attack, but was repulsed with heavy losses. He continued to attack at intervals until afternoon, gaining some slight advantage. But General Lee evidently considered that his case was hopeless. He telegraphed to Mr. Davis at Richmond, that an evacuation of Petersburg was inevitable.

It was useless to contend against fate. General Lee, beaten on the flank and front, prepared to abandon the position which he had so long and skilfully defended. He still, however, kept up a show of resistance. So threatening at one time were the demonstrations in front of the Ninth Corps, that General Parke was obliged to call for reënforcements. Two brigades were sent up from City Point, and Colonel Hamblin's brigade was ordered down from the sixth corps. At three o'clock in the afternoon, the troops arrived from City Point, and, under the direction of General Griffin, made a spirited attack and forced the enemy back from the immediate froht. Between four and five o'clock, Colonel Hamblin arrived upon the ground, and General Parke desired to renew the assault. But

upon ascer

taining the condition of the men, who were exhausted by twelve hours of hard fighting, he decided simply to make his position entirely secure. He removed the abatis to the front of the reversed line and connected with a cross line to that which he originally held. Some skirmishing occurred until a late hour of the night. The troops were enjoined to exercise the utmost vigilance, that the slightest movement of the enemy might be observed, and advantage taken of any inclination which he might evince to evacuate the position.

At two o'clock on the morning of the 3d the enemy's pickets were still out. They were doubtless withdrawn very soon afterwards, for at four o'clock when our skirmishers advanced they met with no resistance. The troops were immediately put in motion and entered the city at all points. Of the Ninth Corps, Colonel Ely's brigade was the first to pass the enemy's works, and Colonel Ely himself received the formal surrender of the city. At half-past four the 1st Michigan sharpshooters raised their flag upon the Court House and Petersburg at last was ours! General Willcox announced the surrender, and at five o'clock the gratifying intelligence was communicated to General Meade. The enemy in his retreat set fire to the bridge across the Appomattox, but our troops succeeded in saving a portion of the structure. General Willcox at once threw skirmishers.over the river, and a few straggling soldiers were captured. General Willcox was placed in command of the city with his division for garrison. General Parke, with the two remaining divisions, was ordered, in connection with the sixth corps, to pursue the retreating foe. The command on the 3rd marched out as far as Sutherland's Station on the Southside railroad, where it encamped for the night. The troops moved at daylight on the next morning, following the sixth corps, pressing on until late in the afternoon, when orders came to move over to the Coxe road, to guard the rear of the pursuing army.

From that time until the surrender of General Lee on the 9th, General Parke was engaged in scouting, and picketing

[ocr errors]
« PrejšnjaNaprej »