General Butler moved his main force up the James River, in pursuance of instructions, on the 4th of May, General Gillmore having joined him with the tenth corps. At the same time he sent a force of one thousand eight hundred cavalry, by way of West Point, to form a junction with him wherever he might get a foothold, and a force of three thousand cavalry, under General Kautz, from Suffolk, to operate against the road south of Petersburg and Richmond. On the 5th, he occupied, without opposition, both City Point and Bermuda Hundred, his movement being a complete surprise. On the 6th, he was in position with his main army, and commenced intrenching. On the 7th he made a reconnoissance against the Petersburg and Richmond Railroad, destroying a portion of it after some fighting. On the 9th he telegraphed as follows:
"HEADQUARTERS, NEAR BERMUDA LANDING,
May 9, 1864.
"HON. E. M. STANTON, Secretary of War.
"Our operations may be summed up in a few words. With one thousand seven hundred cavalry we have advanced up the Peninsula, forced the Chickahominy, and have safely, brought them to their present position. These were colored cavalry, and are now holding our advance pickets towards Richmond.
"General Kautz, with three thousand cavalry from Suffolk, on the same day with our movement up James River, forced the Black Water, burned the railroad bridge at Stony Creek, below Petersburg, cutting into Beauregard's force at that point.
"We have landed here, intrenched ourselves, destroyed many miles of railroad, and got a position which, with proper supplies, we can hold out against the whole of Lee's army. I have ordered up the supplies.
"Beauregard, with a large portion of his force, was left south by the cutting of the railroads by Kautz. That portion which reached Petersburg under Hill I have whipped to-day, killing and wounding many, and taking many prisoners, after a severe and well-contested fight.
"General Grant will not be troubled with any further reinforcements to Lee from Beauregard's force.
"BENJ. F. BUTLER, Major-General."
On the evening of the 13th and morning of the 14th he carried a portion of the enemy's first line of defences at Drury's Bluff, or Fort Darling, with small loss. The time thus consumed from the 6th lost to us the benefit of the surprise and capture of Richmond and Petersburg, enabling, as it did, Beauregard to collect his loose forces in North and South Carolina, and bring them to the defence of those places. On the 16th, the enemy attacked General Butler in his position in front of Drury's Bluff. He was forced back, or drew back, into his intrenchments between the forks of the James and Appomattox rivers, the enemy intrenching strongly in his front, thus covering his railroads, the city, and all that was valuable to him. His army, therefore, though in a position of great security, was as completely shut off from further operations directly against Richmond as if it had been in a bottle strongly corked. It required but a comparatively small force of the enemy to hold it there.
On the 12th, General Kautz, with his cavalry, was started on a raid against the Danville Railroad, which he struck at Coalfield, Powhatan, and Chula Stations, destroying them, the railroad-track, two freight trains, and one locomotive, together with large quantities of commissary and other stores; thence, crossing to the South Side Road, struck it at Wilson's, Wellsville, and Black's and White's Stations, destroying the road and station-houses; thence he proceeded to City Point, which he reached on the 18th.
On the 19th of April, and prior to the movement of General Butler, the enemy, with a land force under General Hoke and an iron-clad ram, attacked Plymouth, N. C., commanded by General H. W. Wessells, and our gunboats there, and, after severe fighting, the place was carried by assault, and the entire garrison and armament captured. The gunboat Smithfield was sunk, and the Miami disabled.
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 reinforcements brought from the south by Beauregard against the Army of the Potomac. In addition to this reinforcement, a very considerable one, probably not less than fifteen thousand men, was obtained by calling in the scattered troops under Breckinridge from the western part of Virginia.
The position of 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 Major-General W. Smith, to join the Army of the Potomac.
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