The Campaign Of 1864 Begins In May.

       At the beginning of the campaign of 1864 the forces with which General Lee was preparing to meet Grant were, in round numbers, infantry 50,000, cavalry 8,700, artillery 4,850--the total of all arms present for duty not exceeding 64,000. These numbers had been reached since the official return of April 20th, by the arrival of the divisions of Longstreet. The army then numbering 64,000 of all arms was composed of the First corps, Longstreet; Second corps, A. P. Hill; Third corps, Ewell; cavalry corps, J. E. B. Stuart, containing the divisions of Hampton and Fitzhugh Lee; and the Maryland Line, Gen. Bradley T. Johnson. This force was called the army of Northern Virginia.
       The army of the Potomac under General Grant, as reported by the secretary of war, had on May 1st present, for duty 120,380 of all arms, which number was increased by the arrival of the Ninth corps, 27,780 strong, to the great force of 141,160 men of all arms--a few more than double the army of Lee. This general statement that at the outset of the campaign the military strength of Grant's army doubled that of the army under Lee, has been given by many investigators who made their calculations from all authoritative sources. Taking into the computation all of the men whom Grant could readily make available for an immediate advance without endangering Washington or weakening other important positions, in comparison with the force which Lee could employ to resist his advance in May, 1864, it is ascertained that the disparity in numbers was two to one. But the difference in equipment was much greater. The army of Grant moved with resources of the ordnance, quartermaster, commissary and medical departments very greatly exceeding those of the army of Lee. It must be taken into the general consideration of General Grant's campaign that he employed the force of other columns collaterally with his own. Butler, with 30,000 men, entered the James when Grant moved across the Rapidan, and landed at Bermuda Hundred and City Point, which he fortified after one timid attempt to capture Petersburg. His operations afterward availed Grant nothing except the employment of Confederate forces under Beauregard to defeat his expeditions and finally to "bottle him up." General Sigel invaded the valley with about 10,000 men, where he was defeated by Breckinridge on May 15th at New Market. Hunter, relieving Sigel, achieved such considerable success as to require the detaching of Early, in June, to drive him from the valley. Generals Crook and Averell advanced through southwestern Virginia, but were compelled to retire before Gen. Sam Jones to the valley. Sheridan's splendid cavalry were constantly employed to the embarrassment of the Confederates from the beginning to the close of the general movement. These troops will be considered in the progress of the campaign as they increase Grant's army and consequently enlarge the disparity between his force and Lee's.
       Almost simultaneously the armies of Sherman and Grant moved out on their respective lines of advance--Sherman to penetrate Georgia and Grant to take Richmond. General Grant, on May 4th, crossed the Rapidan to place his army between Lee and Richmond, but on the 5th and 6th found himself in sudden battle in the Wilderness. Checked in the first move, Grant turned toward Spotsylvania Court House, designing to reach that vantage ground before Lee discovered his purpose. But the Confederate commander anticipated the movement by marching Longstreet's corps to the same point, where the two armies again faced each other and fought for position on the 9th and 10th. General Sheridan, in co-operation with this infantry movement to Spotsylvania, had been sent by Grant with a fine corps of about 10,000 cavalry to ride to the rear of Lee's army and cut the communications with Richmond. Stuart, following after him, fought the battle of Yellow Tavern and rescued Richmond, but lost his own life. Sheridan's raid did not succeed and he returned to Grant.
       The fighting at Spotsylvania, nearly continuous, culminated on this line on the 12th, when a salient left without proper artillery protection was carried at dawn by a Federal assault which swept over Gen. Edward Johnson's division and greatly imperiled Lee's army. A most remarkable infantry struggle took place during the day of this assault, at the end of which the Federal advance was checked. For a week afterward Grant awaited the arrival of reinforcements from Washington, which were sent, and then moving behind the cover of the rivers toward Bowling Green, found Lee in line offering battle at Hanover Junction. Shifting his army eastward without having ventured to attack Lee in this new position, he maneuvered to deceive Lee, but the two great armies again met on the battlefield of Cold Harbor, where the Federals were placed at disadvantage. It was at this point that General Grant, on the 3d of June, made those unavailing assaults on the lines of the army of Northern Virginia which were so destructive to his divisions that at last they silently declined to advance. "The immobile lines pronounced a verdict," writes Swinton in his "Army of the Potomac," "silent, yet emphatic, against further slaughter. The loss on the Union side in this sanguinary action was over 13,000, while on the part of the Confederates it is doubtful whether it reached as many hundreds."
       After this victory Lee detached Early to check Hunter's ravages in the valley, and from the same bloody field the persistent Federal general moved his army to the south side of James river and sought retrieval by a movement to take Petersburg by surprise, in which he was foiled by Beauregard's small command. As the general result of the entire campaign, the army of the Potomac was concentrated south of the Appomattox river to begin the siege of Petersburg, and the opinion was held and expressed with some vehemence at the North that Grant had slaughtered an army without gaining one decisive victory.

This Page last updated 06/01/02