Editor’s Note: This article was transcribed by Brett Schulte.
FROM GRANT’S ARMY.
THE RECENT MOVEMENT.
Its Object Accomplished.
TOPOGRPHY OF THE COUNTRY.
The Movement of the Fifth Corps.
DETAILS OF THE BATTLE OF DABNEY’S MILLS.
Stubborn Resistance of the Rebels.
GALLANT CONDUCT OF OUR SOLDIERS.
The Fifth Corps Earns New Laurels.
THEY DRIVE THE REBELS BEFORE THEM.
The Line to Hatcher’s Run Gained.
FULL LIST OF THE CASUALTIES.
A Review of the Whole Movement.
[MR. EDWARD CRAPSEY’S LETTER.]
Correspondence of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
HEAD-QUARTERS ARMY OF THE POTOMAC,
Wednesday, Feb. 8, 10 P. M.
The movement of this army being to-night completed by the attainment of the object to which it was undertaken, and the mist having partially cleared from the events of the last three days [February 5-7, 1865], a succinct review of the whole affair and a particular account of yesterday is required.
The country well understands the geographical difficulties under which we have always labored south of Petersburg. The James River is our land of bondage, the Southside Railroad our land of promise, and the wilderness lies between. In plain language, our base being at City Point, and our immediate objective point the South Side Road, with the enemy occupying a line impregnable to assault, whose flank extends south and west of Petersburg for miles, we have been compelled to gain our foothold by degrees. Step by step we have lengthened the line by which we have threatened, and by which we will finally destroy the tenability of the Rebel position at Petersburg. Thus much being promised, it can readily be perceived, when its history is thoroughly understood, how important is the advantage we have gained. That we have paid for it with the blood of hundreds of brave men but makes it the more highly prized.
The Objective Point.
Of our operations [near that?] point on Hatcher’s Run where it is crossed by the Vaughn road, to make this portion of the story intelligible it becomes necessary to deal a little in local geography. The two main roads between our left are, or rather were, the Boydton plank road and the Vaughn road. This last has been of little value to the Rebels, except that our obtaining a permanent foothold upon it or west of it would multiply by so much the chances of our gaining the Boydton plank, and the line of works defending won, the South Side Railroad would be an easy prey; hence the stubbornness with which the enemy disputed our advance yesterday and the day before.
The two roads mentioned both cross Hatcher’s Run at about seven miles west of south of Petersburg, and the Boydton from three to four miles west of the Vaughn. About a mile or probably something more south of Hatcher’s Run, a wood road branches directly westward from the Vaughn road, and with but little deviation from a direct west course continues to an intersection with the Boydton plank road. Midway on this road is a steam saw mill called Dabney Mill, and its immediate neighborhood being the scene of the terrible conflict of the Fifth Corps on Monday [February 6, 1865] and Tuesday [February 7, 1865], it has given name to the battle.
These courses and distances have been given with the aid of a map, whose imperfections have long been a source of vexation, but it being far superior to the ordinary maps, the public can get up a distant acquaintance with the facts by what has been written.
The Route of the Fifth Corps
To reach the spot indicated as our objective point was circuitous in the extreme, but it had its object. Moving on Sunday from our old line by the Halifax road we proceeded miles to the eastward and southward of the Vaughn road and Hatcher’s Run, and the majority of the officers and men thought when it changed direction to the northward in the afternoon that the expedition had come to a sudden termination and that they were on the road to their old camp. This circuitous march can [?] be explained by
The Enemy’s Movements
Prior to Sunday, the 5th instant. It was well known that two divisions of the Second Rebel Corps had moved South on the Boydton plank road, and were on Saturday between Dinwiddie Court House and Hatcher’s Run. Where these two divisions were intended to go is of course, a matter of conjecture, but General Grant could see no necessity for their going to South Carolina to oppose Sherman, or to Wilmington to disturb Terry, and hence General Meade moved the Fifth Corps so far to the south, and the cavalry still further on the flank. It was doubtless hoped, too, that Hoke1 and Pegram would stay south of Hatcher’s Run long enough to be ground between Gregg and Warren but when Gregg arrived at Dinwiddie he found that the bird had flown, and a reconnoitring party on the Boydton road developed the fact that both divisions had crossed the Run, going north, early Sunday morning. Their espionage of our camps is so perfect that they apparently knew at daylight on Sunday [February 5, 1865] what many legitimately entitled to the knowledge were in ignorance of the direction of our march. Knowing that they could infer its object, as it may be inferred from what has been said that this part of the movement was a failure, it is well to remark that the occasions when the Rebels have been caught napping are so very few that it is not probable that General Meade was sanguine of their being found in that condition on Sunday [February 5, 1865]. The movement of the cavalry to Dinwiddie, with the Fifth Corps on its flank, would, as it did, prevent these divisions from going South if it prevented their return across Hatcher’s Run, so much the better; if not, the situation was still our own.
During the whole of these operations the movements of the enemy have been of the stereotyped order. It has been shown where Hoke [sic] and Pegram were on Sunday morning [February 5, 1865]. At four in the afternoon they attacked the extreme right of our lines, north of Hatcher’s Run, at the Armstrong Mill, held by Smyth, and were thoroughly beaten. Nothing daunted by this, aided and abetted by Mahone’s Divisions, they next fell upon Ayres and Crawford, holding our left, with, in the end, a precisely similar result. These preliminaries stated, next comes
The Battle of Dabney’s Mills.
And here the journalist’s real difficulty begins. Probably no engagement of the war had so many lies told concerning it in so short a space of time. Monday night thousands of men were ready to swear that the Fifth Corps had fled, panic-stricken, from an imaginary foe, and the conviction was general that the glory of the Maltese cross, sanctioned by so many bloody fields, had been tarnished. These stories having either very little foundation, or none at all, in fact, have done the corps this injury, that of the thousands who believed them on Monday night [February 6, 1865], hundreds will never believe otherwise, no matter what proof may be brought to the contrary.
Continued on the Eighth Page.
LATEST FROM GEN. GRANT.
Continued from the First Page.
Even now only a few general and leading facts can be stated, but they sufficiently dispose of these charges.
During all of Monday [February 6, 1865] the advance of the Fifth Corps had been stubbornly contested, and as stubbornly maintained. By noon General Warren had got to the west side of the Vaughn Road by dint of some hard fighting, in which his corps had well preserved its hard won reputation. After crossing the Vaughn Road he reformed his line with General Crawford’s Third Division on the right, and General Ayres Second Division on the left, the centre of this line being near the Dabney Mill Road, and the line itself covering the road. In this order, with the First Division under General Griffin, being held in reserve, General Warren again advanced, driving the enemy steadily before him until he had almost reached the line of the enemy’s works at Dabney’s Mills. Here the Rebels made a most desperate resistance. The musketry fire on both sides was for a time as terrible as any of the war. The enemy succeeded in checking our advance, and, some of our men getting out of ammunition, created some little confusion by withdrawing from the line. At this time the Rebels, having massed three divisions on our front—Hoke’s [sic, Evans’], Pegram’s and Mahone’s—made a furious assault upon our line. That it retired cannot be denied; that it fled the losses of Ayres and Crawford sufficiently disprove; and the fact that we brought the most of our wounded off the field is overwhelming testimony to the same effect. Both divisions fought, and fought well, General Meade, as well as General Warren, signifying their approbation of the conduct of the troops.
There was a stampede, a sort of panic, but it was confined to men who had not been in the line of battle at all, to men who had wandered from their regiments, to hospital attendants, teamsters, and the other adjuncts, who, hearing the Rebel yell apparently getting nearer, started betimes. In the line itself there was not, could not have been, any such scene, or all our wounded would have been left in the enemy’s hands, and we would have lost thousands of prisoners. It was especially charged that Crawford’s Division broke, but the one fact that his casualty list is much larger than any other, and that the most of them were brought off the field, is all that needs to be stated.
Our line retired probably near a mile before it finally halted, and having by this time regained the slight breastworks we had thrown up, the Rebels halted, and it now being night, the contest ceased. Although we had retired, we had given up no ground we had intended to permanently hold, the Fifth Corps being still south of Hatcher’s Run. Many officers greatly distinguished themselves during the day. General Warren, himself, was in the thickest of the fray. General Crawford was during all the fight, on his line, Major Baird, of his staff, having his horse killed under him, and all who know General Ayres, know that when his division is fighting, he is with them. Of the brigade commanders, Brevet Brigadier-General Morrow, commanding one of Crawford’s Brigades, and Brevet Brigadier-General Winthrop, heading one of Ayres’, are specially noticed for gallantry and skill. General Morrow was severely wounded, and compelled to leave the field, but he fortunately remained unhurt long enough to render his country signal service.
Of our losses during the day it is yet impossible to speak with accuracy. The Third Division sent four hundred and fifty to the hospital and the Second Division about two hundred. Many were killed, of course, and some few captured. There is no reason to doubt but that the enemy’s loss was equally heavy, as there is none to lead to the belief that it was any greater.
Tuesday, the 6th [sic, 7th].
Was a gala-day for the Fifth corps. Whatever Monday [February 6, 1865] might have been, as seen through misconception of facts, meteorologically speaking, it was the most miserable day of the winter. A cold driving rain, that froze as it fell, began falling at daybreak and continued without intermission until nightfall. This rain doubtless interfered somewhat with operations, as the lines continued quiet until the middle of the afternoon [Tuesday, February 6, 1865]. It was discovered, however, that Mahone was impudently near our lines, and it was determined to drive him off. General Crawford was selected to do the work, and gallantly he did it, having as a support a brigade of the Sixth Corps, which, however, was not called on, so thoroughly did the Third Division enter into the work. The brigades of General Baxter, Bragg, and the Third, commanded to-day by Colonel McCoy, of the One-hundred-and-seventh Pennsylvania, by reason of the wounding of General Morrow, entered simultaneously and vied with each other as to who should do most. The Rebel skirmish line was driven back pell mell, and Malone’s main line was slowly forced back, by dint of hard fighting, for some distance and beyond his line of rifle-pits, when the object being attained, Crawford was halted by the orders of General Warren, but still maintained his position. How severe this fight was can be seen from the fact that Crawford’s loss was forty-three killed and over one hundred and fifty wounded. It should be remembered, too, that in all our fighting very little artillery has been used on either side, the densely wooded nature of the country rendering it unavailable.
The Rebels, in their retreat, left on the field wounded Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas P. Manlove, Forty-eighth Mississippi, and he is now in our hospital.
There has been no fighting unless a heavy cannonading audible directly in front of Petersburg, while this letter is being written, should prove to be such, of which there is not much probability. The army has been busy in building the new line from Fort Cummings, the old southwest angle of our works, to Hatcher’s Run, and in corduroying in every direction the swampy roads we will be called on to use, and especially the Vaughn road, which is being put in condition its entire length to Hatcher’s Run.
Of cotton and tobacco was made to-day at the Armstrong House, near General Smyth’s head-quarters; eighteen bales of the former and twenty-four boxes of the latter. It was turned over to Captain Meade, Quartermaster of the Third Brigade, Second Division, Second Corps, to be transferred to Government account. Should the owner prove his loyalty, it will be delivered up to him. He will prove his loyalty, of course. All these gentlemen who store cotton in their cellars somehow make it appear that they are of the upright.
Thus we stand to-night. We have gained the line to Hatcher’s Run, and we propose to hold it. We have suffered some loss, it is true, but our advantages of position are considered to be doubly worth them.
Wounded in carrying the Rebel line, Feb. 7, P. M.
[SOPO Editor’s Note: A long list of wounded is here omitted. Look at the original article below to see the full list.]2
- SOPO Editor’s Note: Hoke was no longer present. He and his division had gone to Wilmington earlier in an effort to help defend Fort Fisher. Gordon’s former division, now led by Evans, was the other division south of Hatcher’s Run, I think. It is possible it might also have been Bryan Grimes’ Division. William T. Sherman, of course, was moving through South Carolina. Terry had taken a portion of the Army of the James to Wilmington, North Carolina, to reduce Fort Fisher in the Second Battle of Fort Fisher. ↩
- “From Grant’s Army.” Philadelphia Inquirer. February 11, 1865, p. 1, col. 4 and p. 8, col. 1-2 ↩