Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Ken Perdue.
GENERAL GRANT’S CHANGE OF BASE.
The announcement of Secretary Stanton that General Grant’s army is crossing to the south bank of the James river will excite no surprise throughout the country, as it has been very evident since the failure to defeat Lee at Spottsylvania that such has been the purpose of the Lieutenant General. That the enemy were aware of the design of the Union General is proved by the speculations of the Richmond press and the successful manœuvres of Lee to prevent Gen. Grant from reaching the James river by the route which Gen. McClellan passed over by way of Gaines’s Mills and the White Oak Swamp roads. The battle of Cold Harbor was fought to get possession of these roads, but Gen. Grant failed to carry his point, and has been compelled to cross the Peninsula below Bottom’s Bridge. Lee’s apparent inability to take advantage of this perilous movement to fall upon the Union flank and rear, shows that his army must be weaker than has been supposed, or else he is strangely lacking in enterprise.
It is difficult to perceive why Lee should have permitted, if he was aware of it, the unmolested execution of a plan which must be fraught with so great disaster to his army and the capital he is required to defend. If the withdrawal of our troops from his front on the north side of Richmond, and the entire change of base was effected while Lee was entirely ignorant of it, the movement shines forth in all the more brilliant hues. If he knew of its progress, and did not attempt to prevent it, it is a tacit confession of weakness and of fear that if he did attack our army he would be defeated. Under these circumstances it is barely possible that Lee has no future hope of defending Richmond, and has resolved to abandon it, and retreat with his army to some more favorable locality.
It does not follow that because Gen. Grant has reached the south side of the James that Richmond will fall into his hands at the first demand for its surrender. It is still capable of defence even at this point, but its speedy investment is now rendered a matter of not the slightest question. Gen. Grant will undoubtedly assail Fort Darling. Then he will move on Petersburg, and commence the investment of Richmond by occupying the railroads leading directly south from the rebel capital. These things accomplished, the time required to effect the capture of the city, with the entire garrison defending it, may be computed by days.
Gen. Grant now has an army consisting of six corps — Smith’s, Hancock’s, Warren’s, Wright’s, Burnside’s, and Gillmore’s. He has a powerful fleet co-operating with him. He has an ample base of supply. He has every element necessary to insure his success, and all sincerely hope that he will achieve it. Lee is powerless to harm him to any extent. He may, if he abandons the rebel capital to its fate, hurl his columns against Gen. Hunter, but Gen. Sheridan has probably warned that General of the possible danger of such a movement, and that our troops in the valley are by this time so strongly entrenched that Lee will not be able, with the inadequate means of transportation at his command, to inflict much damage even upon him.
Further developments of Gen. Grant’s movements and those of the rebel army will be looked for with considerable anxiety, and the next few days will probably bring tidings of brilliant and decisive results. — N. Y. World.1
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- Washington Daily National Intelligencer, June 17, 1864 ↩