Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
GRANT’S LAST FLANK MOVEMENT.
The Movement from Cold Harbor—Disposition of the Several Corps—Crossing the
Chickahominy—Cavalry Skirmishing—Gallantry of the Pennsylvania Reserves—The
Movements of the Army up to Wednesday.
SPECIAL CORRESPONDENCE OF THE INQUIRER.
WILCOX’S LANDING, Tuesday, June 14.—The army was withdrawn from before the Rebel works, near Cold Harbor, on Sunday night and early on Monday morning. A strong line of intrenchments had been constructed in the rear of our line of battle, as security against an attack from the enemy as we commenced to retire, but we had no occasion for its use, the movement being effected without the slightest difficulty. Even the pickets, left out in the front until the last, withdrew in peace a short time before daylight, and, as far as I could learn all came in safe.
In this movement the favorite method of withdrawing the corps on the extreme right, and so on in consecutive order to the left, was not adhered to, the troops in this case retiring almost simultaneously along the entire line. The Sixth Corps from the centre, and the Ninth Corps from the extreme right, formed the left column on the march. The former, in advance, crossed the Chickahominy at Jones’ Bridge, which the head of the column reached early on Monday afternoon.
The Fifth Corps, followed by the Second, formed the right column and crossed at Long Bridge, which is about five miles above Jones’ Bridge and eight miles below Bottoms Bridge. CRAWFORD’S and SAYRE’S Divisions of the Fifth Corps had for several days been lying on the rear of the army near Cold Harbor, and on Saturday moved off toward the left and went into camp at Providence Church, south on the Richmond and York River Railroad and near Despatch Station.
The other two divisions (GRIFFIN’S and CUTLER’S) formed the left of our line of battle, with the Chickahominy River for their front. At 6 P. M. on the 12th, Sunday, these two divisions from Providence Church commenced the march for Long Bridge, and the other two divisions, withdrawing from the front, joined them on the way and followed in their rear.
CRAWFORD’S Division, comprising the old Second Division of the First Corps, and the veteran brigade of his own old division of Pennsylvania Reserves, was in advance, and reached the Chickahominy about midnight. A pontoon bridge was already laid, for be it remembered the Long Bridge, Jones’ Bridge, and &c., are empty names, nothing like a bridge having an existence at points so named, and CHAPMAN’S Brigade of WILSON’S Cavalry Division was crossing the river as the infantry came up.
CRAWFORD’S Division was over by half past one o’clock, and moving out a short distance took a position to cover the crossing of the remainder of the corps. Our line of march lay in the direction of Charles City Court House, but to insure against attack on the right flank it was necessary to push the force up Long Bridge road to occupy the heights at White Oak Swamp crossroads. To secure this position General CRAWFORD was ordered forward, and without waiting for the advance of the cavalry, hastened to effect the desired object, which we accomplished without opposition at about 4 30 A. M. The other divisions of the corps also came up and took position in the same vicinity. The main position being occupied, detachments of cavalry advanced on the road to White Oak swamp bridge, and on along the bridge road to Riddel’s or New Market Cross Roads.
At the former point GORDON’S Brigade of Rebel cavalry was encountered, and three guns were found in position in an old earthwork constructed in 1862. Skirmishing commenced quite briskly, accompanied by some artillery firing, and about nine A. M. General CRAWFORD advanced BATES’ Brigade of the division with BARNES’ battery of the First New York Artillery, to the support of the cavalry. SYKES’ Brigade was also sent forward, but subsequently recalled.
BARNES soon silenced the Rebel guns at the bridge. The enemy were less demonstrative at that point during the remainder of the day. CARLE’S Brigade (veteran) of the Pennsylvania Reserves was, in the meantime, sent forward to the support of the cavalry at Riddel’s Cross Roads and a detachment of it thrown forward, with cavalry, as skirmishers.
At about four P. M. these skirmishers were called in, it being considered unnecessary to keep them out longer, but almost immediately after a body of Rebel infantry came up, and attacking the cavalry, compelled them to retreat with considerable precipitation. Colonel CARLE at once formed his brigade for attack, and met the enemy with a resolute front. Their progress was at once checked, and after half an hour’s sharp firing, they desisted from the attack, and beat a retreat.
The losses of General CRAWFORD’S Division during the day amounted to about fifty, including Capt. Geo D. Rhodes commanding Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania Volunteers, killed at White Oak Swamp Bridge. Several prisoners were captured belonging to WILCOX’S and ANDERSON’S Divisions of HILL’S Corps, who stated that all of the former and part of the latter divisions were present, though not all engaged.
Soon after dark the Fifth Corps was withdrawn from the position on Long Bridge road, and resumed the march towards Charles City Court House. The Second Corps had, meantime, pushed on towards that point, and Gen. HANCOCK’S Head-quarters of the Army were established there last night.
The prisoners captured from HILL’S Corps yesterday stated that they had been for several days in the rear of the Rebel army, ready to move whenever they might be wanted, and that they did not leave their position near Gaines’ Mills until 9 A. M., on Monday, at which hour their army was moving.
DOUTHERT’S LANDING, Wednesday, June 15th, 4 P. M.—The pontoon bridge spans the James River half a mile below. Its construction is no mean triumph of engineering skill, for the river at this point is eighty feet deep in the channel and half a mile wide, and has a powerful current. It was commenced about 4 P. M., and completed by midnight.
The First Division of the Ninth Corps crossed on it this morning. A portion of the Sixth Corp Artillery, and the wagon trains of that and other corps, have been crossing over all day. The troops are still crossing on transports at Wilcox’s Landing, five miles above. The Second Corps, which is already across, is moving on the Petersburg road.
The Sixth Corps is protecting the rear. A number of steamboats from White House have arrived, and among others the JOHN BROOKS, having on board Captain PITKIN, Post Quartermaster, and Captain NELING, Post Commissary, with other officers of these two departments. A temporary depot of supplies will probably be formed here.
The head-quarters of the army were moved from Charles City Court House to this point, this morning and is now within a quarter of a mile of the river. A number of naval officers are on shore from the gun-boats, of which there are several near by. Some little cannonading was heard about noon but was soon over; it appeared to be a considerable distance up the James River, and was probably in the vicinity of Bermuda Hundred.1
- “Grant’s Last Flank Movement.” Philadelphia Inquirer. June 18, 1864, p. 1 col. 2-3 ↩