Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
To get a full appreciation of the rapid character of the work which General GRANT has lately performed, the reader should trace back the course of events during the preceding three days. On Sunday evening General GRANT and the army were on the Chickahominy, with LEE’S Army in their front, protected by that river and with five successive lines of defenses to fall back upon between it and Richmond. The defenses mentioned were known to be very formidable works, and the character of the intervening country, alternate swamps and rolling hills, made them exceedingly difficult to approach. General GRANT was therefore apparently brought to a standstill. It seemed out of the question for him to make another movement by the left flank to avoid these strong works of the enemy, for such a manoeuvre would uncover Washington. At the same time General BUTLER’S column was confined almost entirely to the defensive, and was just so much unavailable force, greatly wanted for co-operation but not in hand for use.
That was the state of affairs on Sunday last, and most people, even some of the impatient ones, had made up their minds that some considerable time must elapse before there could be any decisive action. But see how General GRANT’S grand genius for moving large armies and for overcoming difficulties has changed all that. From Sunday to Wednesday is but three days, but in that brief time the columns under HUNTER, CROOK and AVERILL are placed in position to cover Washington from any enterprise LEE might be desperate enough to attempt. GRANT once more moves by the left flank beyond LEE’S (illegible) obstructions; General BUTLER’S column is liberated so as to take the offensive; SMITH and HANCOCK are battering down the defenses of Petersburg, and General GRANT’S whole army is moving against Richmond, on the south side of the James River, and on its weakest side!
If the scribes of the American press had not made a strong word feeble by their abuse of it, we should be tempted to call such far-reaching combinations, such rapid movements and such brilliant results, truly Napoleonic.
It has been observed that some people thought General GRANT had come to a stand-still on the Chickahominy for a considerable part of the summer; but those who had studied his other campaigns felt well assured that he would halt but a very short time there or anywhere else.
He is operating now very much as he did in his Vicksburg campaign, not only with regard to his frequent change of base, but with respect to his persistence in seeking the right point of attack. When the direct attack upon Chickasaw Bluffs failed under SHERMAN, GRANT tried the canal opposite the city. When it was found that that would not work he tried successively Yazoo Pass, Sunflower River, Lake Providence and Steele’s Bayou. After the failure of all these, he ran his transports through the gauntlet of the Vicksburg batteries, marching his troops overland through Louisiana, crossed the Mississippi at Bruinsburg, and headed once more for Vicksburg by the SOUTHERN route, the only one not previously tried. He fought several battles, and won several victories on the way, just as he has now commenced doing after crossing the James. His Generals, while EN ROUTE, gobbled up considerable losses of the enemy and large numbers of guns, just as SMITH did on Wednesday. He deflected from a straight line to capture Jackson and cripple JOHNSTON, just as he did the other day to capture Petersburg and whip BEAUREGARD.
How suggestive is all this! The same bold and brilliant strategy; the same continuous and discomfiture to the enemy; The same indomitable purpose to discover the right point for his attack; who can doubt the same ultimate success! GRANT will try all ways and hold fast to that which is good. Tenacity is the very essence of his composition.
Let it be borne in mind that HUNTER’S column is in just THE position, either to cover Washington, or to cut LEE off from the Southwest, and that GRANT having united BUTLER’S column to his own, is moving upon Richmond in great force on its weakest side, and in position to cut LEE off upon the south.
When the reader has done this, he will have admiration of the glorious change made in the situation by the movements of the first four days of the present week.1
- “Grant’s Movements.” Philadelphia Inquirer. June 18, 1864, p. 4 col. 2 ↩