Report of Lieut. Gen. U.S. Grant, U.S. Army,
commanding Armies of the United States, of operations March, 1864-May, 1865.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXXIV/1 [S# 61]
Grant did not write a detailed report for his actions at Cold Harbor. The following is extracted from his report detailing his tenure as Commander of the Armies of the United States.
HEADQUARTERS ARMIES OF THE UNITED STATES,
Washington, D.C., July 22, 1865
Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
.....The army sent to operate against Richmond having hermetically sealed itself up at Bermuda Hundred, the enemy was enabled to bring the most, if not all, the re-enforcements brought from the south by Beauregard against the Army of the Potomac. In addition to this re-enforcement, a very considerable one, probably not less than 15,000 men, was obtained by calling in the scattered troops under Breckinridge from the western part of Virginia. The position at Bermuda Hundred was as easy to defend as it was difficult to operate from against the enemy. I determined, therefore, to bring from it all available forces, leaving enough only to secure what had been gained, and accordingly, on the 22d, I directed that they be sent forward, under command of Maj. Gen. W. F. Smith, to join the Army of the Potomac. On the 24th of May, the Ninth Army Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. A. E. Burnside, was assigned to the Army of the Potomac, and from this time forward constituted a portion of Major-General Meade's command.
Finding the enemy's position on the North Anna stronger than either of his previous ones, I withdrew on the night of the 26th to the north bank of the North Anna, and moved via Hanovertown to turn the enemy's position by his right. Generals Torbert and Merritt's divisions of cavalry, under Sheridan, and the Sixth Corps led the advance; crossed the Pamunkey River at Hanovertown after considerable fighting, and on the 28th the two divisions of cavalry had a severe but successful engagement with the enemy at Haw's Shop. On the 29th and 30th, we advanced, with heavy skirmishing, to the Hanover Court-House and Cold Harbor road, and developed the enemy's position north of the Chickahominy. Late on the evening of the last day the enemy came out and attacked our left, but was repulsed with very considerable loss. An attack was immediately ordered by General Meade along his whole line, which resulted in driving the enemy from a part of his intrenched skirmish line. On the 31st, General Wilson's division of cavalry destroyed the railroad bridges over the South Anna River, after defeating the enemy's cavalry. General Sheridan, on the same day, reached Cold Harbor, and held it until relieved by the Sixth Corps and General Smith's command, which had just arrived, via White House, from General Butler's army.
On the 1st day of June an attack was made at 5 p.m. by the Sixth Corps and the troops under General Smith, the other corps being held in readiness to advance on the receipt of orders. This resulted in our carrying and holding the enemy's first line of works in front of the right of the Sixth Corps and in front of General Smith. During the attack the enemy made repeated assaults on each of the corps not engaged in the main attack, but were repulsed with heavy loss in every instance. That night he made several assaults to regain what he had lost in the day, but failed. The 2d was spent in getting troops into position for an attack on the 3d. On the 3d of June we again assaulted the enemy's works in the hope of driving him from his position. In this attempt our loss was heavy, while that of the enemy, I have reason to believe, was comparatively light. It was the only general attack made from the Rapidan to the James which did not inflict upon the enemy losses to compensate for our own losses. I would not be understood as saying that all previous attacks resulted in victories to our arms, or accomplished as much as I had hoped from them, but they inflicted upon the enemy severe losses, which tended in the end to the complete overthrow of the rebellion.
From the proximity of the enemy to his defenses around Richmond it was impossible by any flank movement to interpose between him and the city. I was still in a condition to either move by his left flank and invest Richmond from the north side or continue my move by his right flank to the south side of the James. While the former might have been better as a covering for Washington, yet a full survey of all the ground satisfied me that it would be impracticable to hold a line north and east of Richmond that would protect the Fredericksburg railroad--a long, vulnerable line which would exhaust much of our strength to guard, and that would have to be protected to supply the army, and would leave open to the enemy all his lines of communication on the south side of the James. My idea, from the start, had been to beat Lee's army north of Richmond if possible; then, after destroying his lines of communication north of the James River, to transfer the army to the south side and besiege Lee in Richmond or follow him south if he should retreat. After the battle of the Wilderness it was evident that the enemy deemed it of the first importance to run no risks with the army he then had. He acted purely on the defensive behind breast-works, or feebly on the offensive immediately in front of them, and where in case of repulse he could easily retire behind them. Without a greater sacrifice of life than I was willing to make, all could not be accomplished that I had designed north of Richmond. I therefore determined to continue to hold substantially the ground we then occupied, taking advantage of any favorable circumstances that might present themselves, until the cavalry could be sent to Charlottesville and Gordonsville to effectually break up the railroad connection between Richmond and the Shenandoah Valley and Lynchburg; and when the cavalry got well off to move the army to the south side of the James River, by the enemy's right flank, where I felt I could cut off all his sources of supply except by the canal.
On the 7th, two divisions of cavalry, under General Sheridan, got off on the expedition against the Virginia Central Railroad, with instructions to Hunter, whom I hoped he would meet near Charlottesville, to join his forces to Sheridan's, and after the work laid out for them was thoroughly done to join the Army of the Potomac by the route laid down in Sheridan's instructions. On the 10th [9th] of June General Butler sent a force of infantry under General Gillmore, and of cavalry under General Kautz, to capture Petersburg if possible, and destroy the railroad and common bridges across the Appomattox. The cavalry carried the works on the south side, and penetrated well in toward the town, but were forced to retire. General Gillmore, finding the works which he approached very strong, and deeming an assault impracticable, returned to Bermuda Hundred without attempting one. Attaching great importance to the possession of Petersburg, I sent back to Bermuda Hundred and City Point General Smith's command by water, via the White House, to reach there in advance of the Army of the Potomac. This was for the express purpose of securing Petersburg before the enemy, becoming aware of our intention, could re-enforce the place. The movement from Cold Harbor commenced after dark on the evening of the 12th; one division of cavalry, under General Wilson, and the Fifth Corps crossed the Chickahominy at Long Bridge, and moved out to White Oak Swamp, to cover the crossings of the other corps. The advance corps reached James River, at Wilcox's Landing and Charles City Court-House, on the night of the 13th. .......
U. S. GRANT,
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