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NP: June 17, 1864 New York Herald: Grant The Movement Across The James

Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Ken Perdue.


The Movement Across the James River a Complete Success.

Interesting Details and Incidents.

Lieutenant General Grant and General Butler in Consultation.


A Battle in Progress Near That Place,

&c., &c., &c.


Mr. S. Cadwallader’s Despatches.


But little of general interest has transpired here for a week. Our skirmish line and rifle pits were gradually pushed up to the enemy’s front, and his strength and position revealed along the entire line. The fighting was mainly confined to skirmishing, with an occasional artillery duel to enliven the monotony of life in the trenches, and the casualties of the week are consequently much smaller than for any corresponding period since we crossed the Rapidan.


But the period for inaction ended day before yesterday. In the afternoon General Warren’s corps moved from its position, one mile in the rear of Coal Harbor, and marched southward, across the Richmond and York River Rail road, taking the road to Long Bridge, over the Chickahominy. A short pontoon of thirty paces in length was sufficient to span the main branch of the river. An old structure was still in existence across the muddy arm or branch of the river beyond the little island in the centre. The troops commenced crossing about ten o’clock last evening. No enemy was in front to oppose our progress, and the whole corps was soon over and ready to defend the passage of the balance of the army if necessary.

A number of rebel soldiers, left in trifling rifle pits to observe the approach of our army, should the movement be made, were surprised and captured at their post.


Hancock’s corps left its intrenchments yesterday and followed in the rear of Warren. The head of the column began crossing early this morning, and at noon the whole of the corps was over. The men of this particular command are in fine spirits and condition, notwithstanding the immense amount of work and exposure they have been subjected to since the beginning of this campaign.

Wright’s corps moved at the same time Hancock’s did, on a parallel road leading to Jones’ Bridge, four miles below Long Bridge, and was nearly, if not entirely, across at noon. He neither fired a gun nor saw a rebel, I believe, on the march or at the bridge.


Burnside’s corps follows Wright, and if no extraordinary detention occurs will be on the right bank of the Chickahominy at daylight to-morrow. Smith’s corps marched to the White House at the same time, and are embarking on transports to day. They are said to be ordered to Bermuda Hundred again. There is no longer any reason for concealing that the Army of the Potomac is executing another flank movement similar to those that have preceded it. These movements have distinguished this campaign from all others in history, and it will be the most brilliant, because the most difficult and dangerous one of the war. The army is also changing its base of supplies, and before this reaches your readers will be on the James river, occupying the heights of Malvern Hill and vicinity, and drawing supplies from Charles City landing, a few miles below.


Although the enemy is vigilant at all points and in close proximity everywhere, he has manifested no disposition to attempt the gaining of doubtful advantages by counter movements that might precipitate a general engagement outside of his intrenchments. His former experiences with this army in open field fighting are not forgotten so soon. He confines himself to the shelter of his well constructed defences, and hazards nothing in battle on equal terms.


Like the classic heroes of old, Gen. Grant has said to Lee, by his movements for a month past, “If you are the general you claim to be, come out and fight me.” Lee has in like manner replied, “If you are the general you are represented to be, compel me to come out and fight you.” If I can read the signs of the times aright, Lee will soon be surprised by the literal acceptance of the challenge.


The rebels keep well advised of our real and expected movements. The Richmond Dispatch of the 8th inst. says —

A reconnoissance over the York River Railroad yesterday developed the enemy in some force at the lower end of the trestlework over the Chickahominy, beyond Meadow station. They have constructed a mask of bushes to conceal their movements, and whether they are planting a battery on the road or proceeding on down the Chickahominy is not known. The latest intelligence from the front represents that Grant is still moving towards our right, and the impression still prevails that he is endeavoring to make his way to the James river. Others think he is moving towards James river in order to go to the south side. Besides this, nothing of interest has transpired to day.

From this it may be inferred that the rebel authorities are keenly alive to the importance of events, and study the significance of every trifling change in the disposition of our troops. Their conjectures as to our future operations are now proved true in part, and may be wholly so within another week. Our flank movements have thus far compelled the evacuation of every rebel stronghold we have deemed it unadvisable to attack. The reasons and necessities for this will remain in the future as they have in the past. Richmond can be flanked as Spottsylvania was, and will be attended with precisely the same results — the evacuation of the place and the falling back to new lines of defence by Lee’s entire army. This would involve the transfer of the army to the south bank of the James river, and camp rumor already proclaims that step resolved upon by General Grant. In advance of the actual movement all speculations are useless, if not forbidden. But one or two important advantages have already been alluded to, we should occupy Petersburg and the railroad running through it southward, besides menacing the Danville Railroad and seriously threatening all communication southward.


When, in addition to this, we take into account the fact that the railroad from the rebel capital through Hanover Junction and Gordonsville to the west is irreparably destroyed, and that Hunter is already reinforced by Averill and Crook, who are hovering on the flank and rear to the westward, some idea may be formed of the consternation that would seize their stoutest hearts. The Richmond Sentinel of the 11th instant was in camp on the 12th, and contained a telegram from Mountain Top, under date of June 8, announcing that Crook and Averill had that day joined Hunter at Staunton, which agrees with official expectation here. A portion of their forces were said to be on the Greenville and Middlebrook road. Five hundred cavalry made a demonstration on Waynesboro, and were repulsed, according to the same account, and retreated to Staunton. Pope is represented as hastening to join Hunter, with four thousand additional troops. Hunter’s entire command travel light, and subsist upon the country where-ever it goes. The Sentinel admits that this command marched along the railroad in two columns as far as Fishersville, and destroyed the railroad track at that place.1

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  1. New York Herald, June 17, 1864
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