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- A Brief History of the United States - 50/72 -
Sherman, thereupon re-enacting his favorite flank movement, filled his wagons with fifteen-days rations, dexterously shifted his whole army on Hood's line of supplies, and thus compelled the evacuation of the city.
[Footnote: During this campaign, Sherman's supplies were brought up by a single line of railroad from Nashville, a distance of three hundred miles, and exposed throughout to the attacks of the enemy. Yet so carefully was it garrisoned and so rapidly were bridges built and breaks repaired, that the damages were often mended before the news of the accident had reached camp. Sherman said that the whistle of the locomotive was quite frequently heard on the camp-ground before the echoes of the skirmish-fire had died away.]
_The Effect_.--This campaign during four months of fighting and marching, day and night, in its ten pitched battles and scores of lesser engagements, cost the Union army thirty thousand men, and the Confederate, thirty-five thousand. Georgia was the workshop, storehouse, granary and arsenal of the Confederacy. At Atlanta, Rome, and the neighboring towns were manufactories, foundries, and mills, where clothing, wagons, harnesses, powder, balls, and cannon were furnished to all its armies. The South was henceforth cut off from these supplies.
HOOD'S INVASION OF TENNESSEE.--Sherman now longed to sweep through the Atlantic States. But this was impossible as long as Hood, with an army of forty thousand, was in front, while the cavalry under Forrest was raiding along his railroad communications toward Chattanooga and Nashville. With unconcealed joy, therefore, Sherman learned that Hood was to invade Tennessee.
[Footnote: Hood's expectation was that Sherman would follow him into Tennessee, and thus Georgia be saved from invasion. Sherman had no such idea. "If Hood will go there," said he, "I will give him rations to go with." Now was presented the singular spectacle of these two armies, which had been so lately engaged in deadly combat, marching from each other as fast as they could go.]
Relieved of this anxiety, he at once prepared his army for its celebrated "March to the Sea."
_Battle of Nashville_ (December 15, 16)--Hood crossed the Tennessee, and after severe fighting, driving Schofield's army before him, shut up General Thomas within the fortifications at Nashville. For two weeks little was done.
[Footnote: Great disappointment was felt at the North over the retreat to Nashville, and still more at Thomas's delay in that city. Grant ordered him to move, and had actually started to take charge of his troops in person, when he learned of the splendid victory his slow but sure general had achieved.]
When Thomas was fully ready, he suddenly sallied out on Hood, and in a terrible two-days battle drove the Confederate forces out of their intrenchments into headlong flight. The Union cavalry thundered upon their heels with remorseless energy. The infantry followed closely behind. The entire Confederate army, except the rear-guard, which fought bravely to the last, was dissolved into a rabble of demoralized fugitives, who at last escaped across the Tennessee.
_The Effect_.--For the first time in the war an army was destroyed. The object which Sherman hoped to obtain when he moved on Atlanta was accomplished by Thomas, three hundred miles away. Sherman could now go where he pleased with little danger of meeting a foe. The war at the West, so far as any great movements were concerned, was finished.
SHERMAN'S MARCH TO THE SEA.--Breaking loose from his communications with Nashville, and burning the city of Atlanta, Sherman started (Nov. 16), with sixty thousand men, for the Atlantic coast (map opp. p. 222). The army moved in four columns, with a cloud of cavalry under Kilpatrick, and skirmishers in front to disguise its route, stormed Fort McAlister, and captured Savannah.
[Footnote: The ubiquity of the cavalry movements of the war is remarkable. In February preceding, Kilpatrick, who now opened up the way for Sherman's march through Georgia, made a dash with the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac to rescue the Union prisoners at Richmond. He got within the defences of the city, but not fully appreciating his success, withdrew, while Colonel Ulric Dahlgren, who headed a cooperating force, through the ignorance or treachery of his guide, lost his route, was surrounded by the enemy, and fell in an attempt to cut his way out. Great damage was done to railroads and canals near Richmond. These various raids had little effect, however, upon the issue of the contest, though they served to provoke the bitter enmity of both sides.]
[Footnote: A feint which Sherman made toward Augusta led to a concentration at that city of all the cavalry and militia called out to dispute his progress. The real direction of his march was not discovered until he had entered the peninsula between the Savannah and Ogeechee rivers.]
[Footnote: The first news received at the North from Sherman was brought by three scouts, who left the Union army just as it was closing in on Savannah. They hid in the rice swamps by day and paddled down the river by night. Creeping past Fort McAlister undiscovered, they were picked up by the Federal gunboats.]
[Footnote: Sherman sent the news of its capture with twenty-five thousand bales of cotton and one hundred and fifty cannon, to President Lincoln, as a Christmas present to the nation.]
_The Effect_ of this march can hardly be over-estimated. A fertile region, sixty miles wide and three hundred long, was desolated; three hundred miles of railroad were destroyed; the eastern portion of the already-sundered Confederacy was cut in twain; immense supplies of provisions were captured, and the hardships of war brought home to those who had hitherto been exempt from its actual contact.
THE WAR IN VIRGINIA.
BATTLE OF THE WILDERNESS (May 5, 6).--After crossing the Rapidan, the Union army plunged into the Wilderness. While the columns were toiling along the narrow roads, they were suddenly attacked by the Confederate army.
[Footnote: This was near the old battle-ground of Chancellorsville, and just a year and two days after that fierce fight.]
The dense forest forbade all strategy. There was none of the pomp or glory of war, only its horrible butchery. The ranks simply dashed into the woods. Soon came the patter of shots, the heavy rattle of musketry, and then there streamed back the wreck of the battle--bleeding, mangled forms, borne on stretchers. In those gloomy shades, dense with smoke, this strangest of battles, which no eye could follow, marked only by the shouts and volleys, now advancing, now receding, as either side gained or lost, surged to and fro. The third day, both armies, worn out by this desperate struggle, remained in their intrenchments. Neither side had been conquered. Grant had lost twenty thousand men, and Lee ten thousand. It was generally supposed that the Federals would retire back of the Rapidan. Grant thought differently. He quietly gathered up his army and pushed it by the Confederate right flank toward Spottsylvania Court House.
BATTLE OF SPOTTSYLVANIA (May 8-12).--Lee detected the movement, and hurried a division to head off the Union advance. When Grant reached the spot, he found the Confederate army planted right across the road, barring his progress. Five days of continuous manoeuvring and fighting, having given little advantage, Grant concluded to try the favorite movement of the year, and turn Lee's right flank again.
[Footnote: During this time the sharpshooters on both sides, hidden in the trees, were busy picking off officers. On the 9th, General Sedgwick was superintending the placing of a battery in the front. Seeing a man dodging a ball, he rebuked him, saying, "Pooh! they can't hit an elephant at this distance." At that moment he was himself struck, and fell dead.]
[Footnote: On the morning of the 12th, Hancock's corps, hidden by a dense fog, charged upon the Confederate line, broke the abattis, surrounded a division, and took three thousand prisoners, including two generals. So complete was the surprise, that the officers were captured at breakfast. Lee, however, rallied, and the fighting was so fierce to regain this lost position, that "a tree eighteen inches in diameter was cut in two by the bullets which struck it. Ten thousand men fell on each side. Men in hundreds, killed and wounded together, were piled in hideous heaps, some bodies, which had lain for hours under the concentric fire of the battle, being perforated with wounds. The writhing of the wounded beneath the dead moved these masses at times; while often a lifted arm or a quivering limb told of an agony not quenched by the Lethe of death around."]
[Footnote: It was during this terrible battle that Grant sent his famous despatch, "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."]
BATTLE OF COLD HARBOR (June 3).--Lee, however, moving on the inner and shorter line, reached the _North Anna_ first. Here some severe fighting occurred, when, Grant moving to flank again, Lee slipped into the intrenchments of Cold Harbor. At daybreak a general assault was made. "Twenty minutes after the first shot was fired, ten thousand Union men were stretched writhing on the sod or still and calm in death, while the enemy's loss was little over one thousand." The army, weary of this useless slaughter, refused to continue the attack.
[Footnote: Grant had arranged, in the general plan of the campaign, for three co-operative movements to attract the attention and divide the strength of the Confederate army before Richmond: 1. General Sigel, with ten thousand men, was to advance up the Shenandoah Valley and threaten the railroad communication with Richmond. He was, however, totally routed at _New Market_ (May 15). General Hunter, who superseded him, defeated the Confederates at _Piedmont_ (June 5), but pushing on to Lynchburg with about twenty thousand men, he found it too strong, and prudently retired into West Virginia. 2. On the night that the Army of the Potomac crossed the Rapidan, General Butler, with thirty thousand men, ascended the James River, under the protection of gunboats, and landed at Bermuda Hundred. After some trifling successes, he was surprised in a dense fog by Beauregard, and driven back into his defences with considerable loss. Beauregard then threw intrenchments across the narrow strip which connects Bermuda Hundred with the main land, and, as Grant tersely said,
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