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CHAPTER XV.

THE NORTH ANNA.

GR

RANT'S greatest fear was now, and had been for some

days, that the defeat of Sigel and Butler would enable the enemy to detach reinforcements from in front of these officers to Lee. We shall see how well he counted.

The Fredericksburg railroad runs from Aquia creek landing on the Potomac, through Fredericksburg, to Richmond. Two miles south of the North Anna river it crosses the Virginia Central, also running to Richmond. The point of crossing is Hanover Junction, one full of strategy, for it commanded the line of Confederate supplies from the West and South. Lee could reach this point by the telegraph road in twenty-two miles. Grant would have to deflect eastward till he reached the Fredericksburg railroad, and march by it to the North Anna, a distance of thirty-three miles. Lee's line of march would therefore again be an inner one, and the shorter by ten to fifteen miles.

The orders for the morning of the 20th were reissued for the morning of the 21st of May. The Ninth and Sixth were to hold hard to Lee's front, while Hancock's Second and Warren's Fifth swung to the left and got far enough to the south to interpose between the enemy and the North Anna. Hancock was to strike the railroad at Guinea Station and march to Bowling Green, then to Milford, and take a position south of the Mattapony, fighting his way, if need be. He started at daylight and arrived at Milford before night. Here he met a brigade of Beauregard's command on its way from

Richmond to join Lee. The defeat of Butler at Drury's Bluff liad made this possible. The brigade was quickly driven back and the bridge across the Mattapony secured. Warren followed as closely as possible. Lee was on the alert, but was not bold to take advantage of this daring movement. He knew the value of his inner lines and of a studied defensive, and on these the Wilderness and Spottsylvania had taught him to rely as his only means of safety—these and a Fabian policy.

On the night of the 21st Grant's headquarters were at Guinea Station. At this exposed point, with no corps near except Warren's, in danger of being cut off by Confederate cavalry, he read Lee's signals, which told him that his movements had been discovered, and that even now steps were being taken to circumvent them. The utmost skill and precision were therefore necessary on Grant's part, for of all army movements that of a flanking operation in the presence of an enemy is the most hazardous.

Where were his other two corps ? Burnside had been ordered to leave the Spottsylvania front as soon after Warren as he could, and to march directly south to Thornburg on the Ta. But if the enemy opposed his crossing of the Po at Stannard's Mill, as was expected, he was to deflect to the left and follow Hancock and Warren. Burnside found a strong Confederate force at Stannard's, and so turned to the left on the route taken by the Second and Fifth. It was now evident that Lee was making the most of his inner line of march, and would in all probability reach the North Anna first.

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GEN. HANCOCK.

Meanwhile, at Spottsylvania, an attack had been made on the Sixth Corps, which remained to hold the old Federal lines. It was doubtless a trial of their front by the enemy to see what force yet opposed them there, for it was not a determined attack, and was easily repulsed by Russell's division. On the morning of the 22d, Burnside reported at Guinea Station, and Wright's Sixth was following as the rear guard of the army.

Hancock had been halted at Milford till all the corps could get up. Once within supporting distance, Warren's Fifth was thrown off to the right toward the direct telegraph road, which it struck and found free from the enemy, Lee having already passed along it. Burnside was thrown out to the left. On this date Lee telegraphed to Richmond that he was at Hanover Junction and had heard nothing of the enemy east of the Mattapony. The enemy were already south and west of that stream and close on his rear. He was evidently massing to dispute a passage of the Pamunkey, whereas Grant was striking for the North Anna. He (Lee) was also now in receipt of valuable reinforcements both from the Shenandoah Valley and Richmond

On the 23d the Federal army moved for the river. There were three known crossings, one at the telegraph road, half a mile west of the Fredericksburg railroad, one at Oxford three miles above, and one at Jericho, three miles above Oxford. Warren was to cross at Jericho ford; Hancock at the telegraph road bridge and extend his line east to the Fredericksburg railroad, while Burnside was to take the Oxford crossing. Wright was to follow and support Warren. It was known that Lee was south of the river, and a battle for the crossing was expected. But Lee had massed below, expecting Grant to strike the Pamunkey, which is formed by the junction of the North and South Anna below Hanover Junction. He therefore barely got up in time to dispute the passage of the North Anna.

At noon Warren crossed, partly on a pontoon and partly fording, at Jericho. The opposition was brisk but soon overcome. By 5 P. M. he was well into position on the south bank, with Crawford on his left and Griffin in the centre. But as Cutler was taking position on the right, he was furiously assailed by Hill's entire corps. Meredith's brigade broke, and a general rout was threatened. But the broken columns were rallied and the attack was returned with such vigor as to repulse the Confederates with heavy losses in killed and wounded, and several hundred prisoners. The Fifth was then let alone.

As soon as the firing of the Fifth was heard, Hancock was ordered to advance and cross the telegraph road, or County, bridge. The Confederates had covered the bridge with a heavy line of breastworks. But the road and field in front were open. Birney was directed to clear the way. A splendid charge by Pierce's and Eagan's brigades, under cover of a heavy fire from the artillery of the corps, carried the entrenchments and sent the enemy pell-mell across the bridge. Many of them were drowned and hundreds taken prisoners. But it was now dark and Hancock did not force a crossing.

Burnside got tediously to Oxford crossing, but did not go over. He entrenched so as to hold the fording, and remained under orders to go either to Hancock or cross in the morning. Wright found his way to Jericho during the night and was prepared to support Warren. That night Grant telegraphed: “In the face of the enemy it is doubtful whether troops can be crossed, except where the Fifth and Sixth Corps now are.”

But on the morning of the 24th there was a better outlook.

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GEN. BIRNEY.

The Confederates had withdrawn from Hancock's front and he crossed the bridge without opposition, taking his designated position with his left on the railroad, a half-mile below. Burnside could not cross owing to a heavy and advantageously posted force on the opposite side. Warren was directed to send Crawford's division down the southern side, and Hancock a force upward, to drive the enemy from Burnside's front. But these two forces could not effect a junction. Lee had assumed an exceedingly strong position, shaped like the letter V, with one side toward Warren, the other toward Hancock, and the apex toward Burnside and the Oxford fording.

Here another ford was discovered half way between Oxford and Jericho called Quarle's. Burnside was ordered to send Crittenden's division across it, which was to move down, in conjunction with Crawford of the Fifth, and drive back Lee's centre. Potter was to co-operate from Hancock's side. They found Hill's corps strongly entrenched at the apex of the V, and made a terrific assault upon it, but were repulsed with heavy loss, Leslie's brigade alone losing six hundred and fifty men, killed, wounded or captured But the Confederates declined to pursue. Grant's position was now precarious. He could not bring his wings together, and either might be attacked. He therefore did not hesitate to throw away the results of the passage of the river, thus far, and issued orders to withdraw to the north side for a move in another direction. Just here, Lee played a poor part in what had hitherto been a magnificent game between the ablest generals of the respective armies. He had Grant's forces divided and on the hostile side of a difficult river. Not only this, but those divided forces were about to withdraw, and recross in retreat, the most difficult of all war operations, with an unbeaten foe lying behind breastworks close in their rear. Could it be? The withdrawal took place, and the recrossing, under the very eyes of Lee and his army, and they were not disturbed. The Federal losses

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