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346. The Battles of the Wilderness. - South and east of the Rapidan is a desolate region known as "the Wilderness." Much of it is covered with a scraggy growth of oak, pine, and tangled underbrush. Into the Wilderness Grant's army began to advance for the conquest of Richmond (May 4, 1864), and sitting on a log in that wilderness Grant telegraphed to Sherman at Chattanooga to begin his march into Georgia. From that time until June, or about a month in all, Grant was "hammering" at Longstreet and other noted fighters of the Confederate army, first in the thick of the Wilderness itself, then at Spottsylvania Court-House (May 8-18, 1864), then at Cold Harbor (June 3, 1864), on the edge of the fortifications of Richmond, where, it is said, ten thousand of the "men in blue" fell in twenty minutes. It was a terrible series of battles, costing the Union army a loss in killed and wounded of over sixty thousand men, and Lee about half that number. Grant had vowed that he would not turn back, but would fight it out on that line if it took all summer. He did not turn back; but he had to give up his direct line of advance, and take another. Lee had retreated, and entrenched himself inside the fortifications of Richmond; in order to draw him out to a battle in the open field, or to find a more favorable point of attack, Grant now moved round to Petersburg on the south of the Confederate capital.
SINKING OF THE ALABAMA.
347. Captain Winslow sinks the Alabama; Early's Raid. Petersburg was strongly fortified, and Grant had to lay siege to it with shot and shell as he did to Vicksburg. While he was busy in this way, Captain Winslow of the United States war-ship Kearsarge attacked the Alabama,' commanded by Captain Semmes. The fight took place off the northern coast of France (June 19, 1864). Captain Winslow gained the victory and sunk the vessel that had destroyed so many Northern merchant ships.
About the beginning of July (1864), Lee despatched General Early with twenty thousand cavalry to make a dash on Washing1 See Paragraph 326.
ton. He succeeded in getting within half a dozen miles of that fort-girdled city, and then had to retreat up the Shenandoah Valley. He carried off with him about five thousand horses and two thousand cattle to gladden the hearts of the men in "Dixie's land." Later in the same month Early's cavalry made a raid into Pennsylvania, and burned Chambersburg.
348. Sheridan's Raid in the Shenandoah Valley. - Grant now (August 7, 1864) sent General Sheridan 2 with a strong force of Union cavalry to lay waste the Shenandoah Valley. This valley was one of the chief strongholds of the Confederates, and Grant
1 "For Dixie's land we take our stand,
This was one of the most famous of the Southern war-songs. It was a great favorite with President Lincoln.
2 General Sheridan was of Irish descent, and was born in Albany, New York, in 1831; died 1888. He graduated at West Point in 1853. In 1864 he was appointed commander of all the cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, and after his famous "ride" to Winchester he was made a major-general.
was determined to destroy everything in it which could support their men. Sheridan went to work with a will, and in the course of a few weeks he had burned so many barns and mills filled with grain, and driven off so many sheep and cattle, that it was said, "If a crow wants to fly down the valley, he must carry his provisions with him." Could "Stonewall" Jackson have re-visited that beautiful country, the pride of his heart, he would have wept fierce tears over its heaps of desolate ashes, as the women and children of Chambersburg had wept and wrung their hands at the sight of their blazing homes.
349. The Petersburg Mine; Sheridan's Ride.- Meanwhile (July 30, 1864) General Burnside had undermined the Confederate fortifications at Petersburg, and placed eight thousand pounds of powder in the mine. When it was exploded, it made a deep chasm or 66 crater" nearly two hundred feet long. The Union soldiers rushed into the breach, hoping to enter the city; but the Confederate fire made it a "slaughter-pen" and a gigantic grave for hundreds of brave fellows, while those who got out found themselves prisoners in the hands of Lee's army.
In September (1864) there was fighting in the Shenandoah Valley between Sheridan and Early, in which Sheridan gained the day. Later, Early took advantage of Sheridan's absence from his army to surprise the Union force at Cedar Creek in the Valley. They retreated, and the retreat soon became a panic. Sheridan was then at Winchester, about twenty miles away. He heard the cannon with their
"terrible grumble, and rumble, and roar, Telling the battle was on once more.'
Mounting his horse, he hurried to the scene of disaster. As he came up, a great cheer greeted him from the Union cavalry. "We must face the other way," shouted Sheridan to the retreat
1 See Read's poem of "Sheridan's Ride" in Ginn & Co.'s" Heroic Ballads"; then read Sheridan's own modest account of the "ride" in his "Personal Memoirs," II. 66-92. See map showing the Shenandoah Valley on page 312.
ing men. They did face the other way, and so effectually that they speedily drove the Confederates "flying" out of that part of the Valley.
350. The War in the West; Sherman's Advance to Atlanta. According to agreement Sherman began his advance from Chattanooga to Atlanta the same day (May, 1864) that Grant marched forward into the Wilderness. Atlanta was not only a great railroad centre, but it was "the chief seat of the machine-shops, foundries, and factories of the Confederacy." For this reason its capture would be one of the severest blows to the Southern armies that the Union forces could strike.
Sherman advanced slowly. His march was through a rough, mountainous country, and there were sharp battles fought at Resaca (May 14-15, 1864), at Dallas (May 25–28, 1864), and at Kenesaw Mountain (June 27, 1864); but the Confederates could not check him in his march. Of the two the soldiers would much rather have fought more battles and had less rain. For three weeks it poured most of the time night and day; while he was marching, every man had a rivulet streaming down his back, and, as the army carried no tents, he was fortunate when night came if he did not have to sleep in a puddle.
As fast as the Confederates fell back they tore up the railroad track and burned the bridges; but Sherman's men rebuilt them so rapidly that "the whistle of the locomotives was always following close on the heels of Johnston's soldiers."
351. Sherman takes Atlanta; Farragut enters Mobile Bay. After a series of battles with Hood, to whom Jefferson Davis had now given the command in place of Johnston, Sherman took Atlanta (September 2, 1864). He had advanced a hundred miles from Chattanooga, and in that short distance each side had lost about thirty thousand men: that meant that every mile had cost the two armies six hundred killed and wounded. Sherman applied the torch to Atlanta, burning the foundries, mills, and machine-shops, but sparing dwelling-houses and churches. The