Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Ken Perdue.
Mr. W. H. Stimer’s Despatch.
FORTRESS MONROE, June 15, 1864.
It being now generally known that General Grant has changed his base, it cannot be contraband in my giving further particulars regarding the movements of the Army of the Potomac. I learn at this late hour (seven P. M. — the mail boat from Bermuda Hundred just being in, and the Baltimore boat having been detained), that Generals Burnside and W. F. Smith have commenced an attack on Petersburg at an early hour this morning, but what progress they have made was not known when our messenger left.
What General Gillmore might have accomplished with a few thousand men and few casualties will now, in all probability, cost a great sacrifice of life; but General Grant is determined to capture Petersburg, and he will have it at any cost. His way then to Fort Darling is clear, and that hornet’s nest once removed there will be no difficulty for our iron-clads to work their way to Richmond, in spite of the rebel rams.
The change of base of the Army of the Potomac appears from all accounts to have been none of necessity, but rather of General Grant’s own choosing. He had the fears of the Chickahominy swamp maleria before his eyes, which experience has taught us to regard with more fear than rebel bullets. The movement was successfully accomplished, and the Army of the Potomac and Major General Butler’s command have now joined forces, and in combined strength can move on the enemy’s works as soon as Grant finds it expedient.
In the meantime our cavalry is not idle. Sheridan and Kautz — two of the greatest Union raiders — will find sufficient work to keep the rebel communications severed, which causes them more inconvenience, while it cuts off their supplies, than the slaughter of their men.
Grant is evidently intent on besieging Richmond on a large scale and treating Lee a la Pemberton, and seems to have given up the idea of carrying the intrenchments by assault.
The capture of Petersburg places us in possession of the key to all the railroads connecting Richmond with the South, and prevents not only rations and supplies of all kinds from reaching the rebel capital, but prevents the large number of men now conscripted all through the South from joining Lee. The only railroad this point does not include is the Lynchburg and Danville road, but this line of travel we leave to Generals Hunter and Sheridan’s cavalry to take care of.
For two days the Army of the Potomac has been crossing at Powhatan Point, between Wilson’s wharf and Harrison’s landing, and as far as we can learn here not one life has been lost in the movement. The occupancy of Bermuda Hundred by Gen. Butler, on the 6th inst., now demonstrates its vital importance, as Gen. Grant has now an established base of supplies capable of providing for his immense command.
It now behooves the Navy Department to co operate cordially with Grant, and send more gunboats up the James river to keep the rebels from annoying our transportation or obstructing the river. Our iron clads are able to take care of the rebel rams, and our officers are only too anxious to meet them.
Altogether, our present position is all that can be desired.1
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- New York Herald, June 17, 1864 ↩