| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
LINCOLN—GRANT'S CAMPAIGN—SHERIDAN'S RIDE
 THE victory of Gettysburg which had been so dearly bought was
not very great. But hard upon it came the news that on the 4th of
July Vicksburg had surrendered to General Grant. And taking both
victories together the people of the North felt that now they had
cause to hope.
After the capture of New Orleans in April, 1862, Farragut had sailed
up the Mississippi, and except for Vicksburg the whole valley was
in the control of the Federals. Farragut would have attacked Vicksburg
also but his land force was not strong enough, and Halleck, who
was then commander-in-chief, did not see the great importance of
Vicksburg, and refused to send soldiers to aid him.
The Confederates, however, knew the importance of holding the city,
for it was the connecting link between the revolted states which
lay east and those which lay west of the great river. Through it
passed enormous supplies of food from the West, and great quantities
also of arms and ammunition, and other war stores, which came from
Europe by way of Mexico.
So while the Federals neglected to take Vicksburg the Confederates
improved its fortifications until they were so strong that it seemed
almost impossible that it should ever be taken.
At length Grant was given supreme command of the western army,
and he, well knowing the importance of Vicksburg, became intent
on taking it. Again and yet
 again he tried and failed. Indeed he
failed so often that people began to clamour for his recall. But
President Lincoln turned a deaf ear to the clamour and decided
always to "try him a little longer" and still a little longer. And
Grant justified his trust.
Finding it impossible to take Vicksburg by assault he determined
to besiege it. In a brilliant campaign of less than a fortnight he
marched a hundred and fifty miles, and fought four battles. Then he
sat down with his victorious army before Vicksburg, and a regular
Vicksburg was now completely surrounded. On the river the fleet
kept watch, so that no boats carrying food, ammunition, or relief
of any kind could reach the fated city. On land Grant's army dug
itself in, daily bringing the ring of trenches closer and closer
to the Confederate fortifications. They were so close at last that
the soldiers on either side could hear each other talking, and
often friendly chat passed between the "Yanks" and the "Johnnies"
"When are you coming into town, Yank?" the Confederates would ask.
"Well, Johnnie, we are thinking of celebrating the 4th of July
there," the Northerners would reply.
And at this the Johnnies would laugh as at a huge joke. No 4th of
July would the Yanks celebrate in their city.
Regularly, too, the Confederates would pass over the little Vicksburg
paper, the Daily Citizen, to their enemies. This paper appeared
daily to the last, although paper grew so scarce that it sometimes
consisted only of one sheet eighteen inches long and six inches
wide. At length printing paper gave out altogether, and the journal
appeared printed on the plain side of wall paper.
Day was added to day, and week to week, and still the siege of
Vicksburg lasted. All day cannon roared, shells screamed and whistled,
and the city seemed enveloped in
 flame and noise. The streets
were places of death and danger, and the people took refuge in the
cellars of the houses, or in caves which they dug out of the clayey
soil. In these caves whole families lived for weeks together, only
creeping out to breathe the air during the short intervals, night
and morning, when the guns ceased firing.
Food grew scarcer and scarcer until at length there was nothing
left but salt bacon, the flesh of mules, rats, and mouldy pea flour.
The soldiers became no longer fit to man the guns, their rations
being no more than a quarter of a pound of bacon and the same of
flour each day. Water too ran short, and they were obliged to drink
the muddy water of the Mississippi.
Like pale specters the people crept about, and many, both soldiers
and citizens, died from starvation and disease brought on by
starvation. At length Vicksburg seemed little more than one great
hospital, encircled by fire, made hideous by noise. Human nature
could endure no longer, and on the morning of the 3rd of July white
flags appeared upon the ramparts.
Immediately the roar of cannon ceased, and silence fell on city and
camp. After the six weeks' inferno it seemed to the racked nerves
and aching ears of the inhabitants as if the silence might be felt,
as if the peace wrapped them about like a soft robe. The relief was
so great that many who had endured the weeks of torture dry-eyed
now burst into tears. But they were healing tears.
Under a lonely tree, a few hundred yards beyond the Confederate lines,
Grant met General John C. Pemberton, the defender of Vicksburg. The
two men had fought side by side in the Mexican War, and had been
friends. Now although divided by cruel strife they shook hand as
of old. But memories of bygone days did not soften Grant's heart.
His terms were hard. Once more he demanded
 unconditional surrender.
And Pemberton, knowing that resistance was impossible, yielded.
Next day the surrender was accomplished, and thirty thousand men
became prisoners of war. Before noon the Union flag was flying over
the Court House. Thus the "Yanks" celebrated the "glorious Fourth"
in Vicksburg, as they had said they would do. But there was no
noisy rejoicing. The Federals took possession almost in silence,
for they had too much admiration for their gallant foe to wish to
give them pain. One cheer indeed rent the air, but it was given
for the glorious defenders of Vicksburg.
The whole North was now united in passionate admiration for Grant.
Cheering crowds followed him in the streets. Fools and wise men
alike were eager to know him, to boast that they had spoken to him
or touched his hand. Yet at first sight Grant seemed to have little
of the hero about him. He was an "ordinary, scrubby looking man,
with a slightly seedy look," said one who saw him in those days.
"He did not march nor quite walk, but pitched along as if the next
step would bring him to his nose." But his eye was clear and blue,
he had a determined look, and seemed like a man it would be bad to
This shambling, scrubby looking man, with the clear blue eyes, was
now the idol of the people. Lincoln too saw his genius as a leader,
and willingly yielding to the popular demand made him commander-in-chief
of all the United States armies.
Before long Grant had made his plans for the next campaign. It was
a twofold one. He himself with one army determined by blow after
blow to hammer Lee into submission while Sherman was to tackle the
other great Confederate army under Johnston.
In the beginning of May, Grant set out, and on the 5th and 6th the
battle of the Wilderness was fought not far from
 where the battle
of Chancellorsville had been fought the year before. Grant had not
meant to fight here, but Lee, who knew every inch of the ground,
forced the fight on him.
In the tangled underwood of the Wilderness artillery and cavalry
were of little use, and the battle became a fierce struggle between
the foot soldiers of either army. The forest was so thick that
officers could only see a small part of their men, and could only
guess at what was going on by the sound of the firing, and the
shouts exultant or despairing, of the men who were driven to and
fro in the dark and dreary thickets. In the end neither side gained
anything except an increased respect for the foe.
Grant's aim was to take Richmond, the Confederate capital, and
after the battle of the Wilderness with that aim still before him
he moved his army to Spottsylvania. He was hotly pursued by Lee and
here on the 10th and 12th of May another stern struggle took place.
The fighting on the 10th was so terrible that on the 11th both
armies rested as by common consent. Next day the battle began again
and lasted until midnight. It was a hand-to-hand struggle. The tide
of victory swung this way and that. Positions were taken and lost,
and taken again and after twenty-four hours of fighting neither
side had won. Only thousands of brave men lay dead upon the field.
Still intent on Richmond Grant moved southwards after this
terrible battle, followed closely by Lee. Every day almost there were
skirmishes between the two armies, but still Grant pressed onward
and arrived at length within a few miles of Richmond. Here at Cold
Harbor Lee took up a strongly entrenched position from which it
seemed impossible to oust him, except by a grand assault. Grant
determined to make that assault.
Both officers and men knew that it could not succeed, but Grant
commanded it and they obeyed. Yet so sure
 were many of the men that
they were going to certain death that it is said they wrote their
names and addresses on slips of paper which they tacked to the backs
of their coats, so that when their bodies were found it might be
easily known who they were, and news be sent to their friends.
At half-past four in the grey morning light eighty thousand men
rushed upon the foe. They were met with a blinding fire and swept
away. In half an hour the attack was over. It was the deadliest
half hour in all American history, and eight thousand Union men
lay dead upon the field.
"Some one had blundered." Grant had blundered. He knew it, and all
his life after regretted it. "No advantage whatever was gained,"
he said, "to make up for the heavy loss we suffered."
In this terrible campaign he had lost sixty thousand men. He had
not taken Richmond. He had neither destroyed nor dispersed Lee's
army. Still he hammered on, hoping in the long run to wear out Lee.
For the Confederates had lost heavily, too, and they had no more
men with which to make good their losses. On the other hand the
gaps in the Federal army were filled up almost as soon as made.
"It's no use killing these fellows," said the Confederates, "a half
dozen take the place of every one we kill."
But the people of the North could not look on calmly at these
terrible doings. They cast their idol down, and cried out against
Grant as a "butcher." They demanded his removal. But Lincoln refused
again to listen to the clamour as he had refused before. "I cannot
spare that man," he said, "at least he fights."
Grant was terrible only for a good end. He was ruthless so that
the war might be brought the more speedily to a close. And Lincoln,
the most tender hearted of all
 men, knew it. Undismayed therefore
Grant fought on. But his army was weary of much fighting, disheartened
by ill success, weakened by many losses. New recruits indeed had
been poured into. But they were all unused to discipline. Months of
drill were needed before they could become good soldiers. In June
then Grant settled down to besiege Petersburg, and drill his new
men the while, and not till the spring of 1865 did the army of the
Potomac again take the field.
Meanwhile there was fighting elsewhere.
On the part of the Confederates there was a constant endeavour
to take Washington, and in July of this year the Confederate army
actually came within a few miles of the city. There was great alarm
in the capital, for it was defended chiefly by citizen soldiers
and fresh recruits who had little knowledge of warfare. But just in
time Grant sent strong reinforcements from the army of the Potomac,
and the Confederates marched away without making an attack. They only
retired, however, into the Shenandoah Valley, and their presence
there was a constant menace to Washington. Early in August therefore
General Sheridan was sent to clear the enemy out of the valley,
and relieve Washington from the constant fear of attack.
He began his work vigorously, and soon had command of most of the
roads leading to Washington. But he knew that General Jubal A.
Early who commanded the Confederate troops was a skilful and tried
soldier, and, to begin with, he moved with caution. For some weeks
indeed both commanders played as it were a game of chess, maneuvering
for advantage of position. But at length a great battle was fought
at Winchester in which the Confederates were defeated and driven from
the field. Three days later another battle was fought at Fisher's
Hill, and once again in spite of gallant fighting the Confederates
After this battle Sheridan marched back through the
destroying and carrying away everything which might be of use to
the foe. Houses were left untouched, but barns and mills with all
their stores of food and forage were burned to the ground. Thousands
of horses and cattle were driven off, and the rich and smiling
valley made a desolation, with nothing left in it, as Grant said,
to invite the enemy to return.
Having finished this work Sheridan dashed off to Washington, to
consult with the Secretary of war about his future movements. The
Confederate army had meanwhile encamped again near Fisher's Hill.
And Early, hearing of Sheridan's absence, determined to make a
surprise attack on the Federal army.
In the darkness of the night they set out, and stealthily crept
towards the Federal camp at Cedar Creek. Every care was taken so
that no sound should be made. The men were even ordered to leave
their canteens behind, lest they should rattle against their rifles.
Not a word was spoken as the great column crept onward, climbing
up and down steep hillsides, fording streams, pushing through
thickly growing brushwood. At length before sunrise, without alarm
or hindrance of any kind the Confederates reached the camp of the
Each man was soon in his appointed place, and in the cold grey
dawn stood waiting the signal. At length a shot rang out, and with
their well-known yell the Confederates threw themselves into the
As quickly as might be the Federals sprang up and seized their
arms. But they had been taken utterly by surprise, and before they
could form in battle array they were scattered in flight.
Before the sun was well up the Federals were defeated, and their
camp and cannon were in the hands of the enemy. Meanwhile Sheridan
had reached Winchester on his return journey from Washington. He
had slept the night there,
 and had been awakened by the sound of
firing. At first he thought little of it, but as the roar continued
he became sure that a great battle was being fought—and he was
twenty miles away! He set spurs to his horse, and through the cool
"A steed as black as steeds of night,
Was seen to pass, as with eagle flight.
As if he knew the terrible need,
He stretched away with his utmost speed."
Mile after mile the great black horse ate up the roads. The sound
of firing grew louder and louder, and at length men fleeing in rout
and confusion came in sight. There was every sign of a complete
defeat. Wounded, unwounded, baggage waggons, mule teams, all were
fleeing in confusion.
It was a grievous sight for Sheridan. But he refused to accept
defeat. Rising high in his stirrups he waved his hat in the air,
and shouted cheerily, "Face the other way, boys. We are going back
to our camp. We are going to lick them into their boots."
At the sound of his voice the fleeing soldiers paused, and
with a mighty shout they faced about. Even the wounded joined in
the cheering. The beaten, disheartened army took heart again, the
scattered, disorganised groups were gathered, a compact line of
battle was formed, and at the end of two hours the men were not
only ready but eager once more to grapple with the foe.
Then the second battle of Cedar Creek was fought. At ten o'clock in
the morning the Federals had been defeated. By five in the afternoon
the Confederates were not only defeated, but utterly routed. Their
army was shattered and the war swept out of the Shenandoah Valley
for good and all. Then Sheridan marched his victorious troops to
join Grant before Petersburg.
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