| American History Stories, Volume IV|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Stories of the great conflict from the time Lincoln became president and the southern states seceded, through the battles of Bull Run, Shiloh, Antietam, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Chickamauga, until the close of the war. Includes poems, songs, and illustrations commemorating the events. Ages 8-12 |
ON TO RICHMOND!
This was the war-cry for 1864. On to Richmond! had
been the cry of the Army of the Potomac ever since the
war began; but, as we know, that army had never
succeeded in getting there.
Now the Army of the West, having swept the enemy all out
of Kentucky and Tennessee over into Georgia, set up as
their cry, "On to Atlanta!"
Grant, during this time had come to be spoken of in the
papers as "that General in the West who talks little, but
 "I should like to talk with that little Western General,"
said Lincoln. "He seems to be the sort of a man to DO."
And so it came about that in the spring of 1864 Grant was
made Lieutenant-general of the United States armies, and
called to take command of the Army of the Potomac.
Grant came. He knew that it was no easy task he had
before him; but he knew, also, that this wretched war
could be brought to an end speedily if only some one was
wise enough to know the way.
After looking over the ground, Grant said, "Our armies
have been acting like balky horses—never pulling together.
Now I propose to keep close at Lee's heels. I'll hammer
and hammer at him until he is all worn out."
Having visited all the armies to know just what sort of
soldiers, and what sort of officers he had to deal with, on
the 3d of May, 1864, Grant started out to "hammer" Lee.
At nearly the same, time Lee started out. The armies met
at a place called "The Wilderness." A terrible battle
followed,—one of the bloodiest of the war. Grant had begun
his "hammering." All day long the armies fought, and
when darkness came, fell back, tired indeed; still neither
side was ready to yield. During the night aid came to Lee;
but, at the same time, Burnside came to the aid of Grant.
Lee planned to make an attack upon Grant's army at two
o'clock in the morning; Grant also had planned to make
an attack upon Lee's army at two o'clock in the morning.
 Another day of terrible slaughter followed. Again night
fell, leaving two bruised and broken armies, neither willing
to admit itself defeated.
After such a battle as this had been the Army of the
Potomac had been in the habit of falling back; so, when the
order came from Grant to break up camp, the army
supposed they were to fall back as usual. But that was not
Grant's way. Although he had not defeated Lee, Grant
knew that he had greatly shattered his forces. He therefore
proposed to go on—the quicker the better.
When it was understood that Grant intended to go on,
the soldiers, tired as they were from the long battle, sent up
such a chorus of shouts, that you would have thought the
very skies would have fallen.
I wonder what Lee thought when he heard those cheers.
Surely it didn't sound as if the army was preparing to slink
away like whipped dogs.
On the army went, with faces toward Richmond. "Richmond,
Richmond, Richmond," was all Grant seemed
to think of. If an officer asked, "What for tomorrow,
general?" he said, "Richmond." If an officer came to him
full of hope and eager to go on, Grant gave him a
good hearty handshake, and said, "Richmond, my man!"
If an officer came discouraged and doubting, Grant still said,
It was at this time that Grant sent the telegram to
Lin-  coln which became so famous: "I propose to fight it out on
this line if it takes all summer."
On the 2d of June another terrible battle was fought at
Cold Harbor. Lee, who was now no longer strong enough
to make an attack, fell back towards Richmond.
After this battle, Grant decided to take his army across
the river, and find the weakest point for attack upon the
He formed a plan of attack on Petersburg, a place only a
few miles from Richmond. As soon as Lee knew what his plans
were to be, he poured his army into the city to defend
it, and made the fortifications doubly strong.
Grant made one attack upon it, but it was a sad failure.
He did not, however, retreat, but settled down before the
city, determined to wait for another chance.
Meantime Burnside's soldiers set to work digging out
an underground tunnel to one of the strongest forts of the
city. For a whole month they worked, planning to
undermine it and blow it up with gunpowder. On the 30th
of July the mine was exploded. A terrible roar was the
first warning to the people in the city. Stones, guns, and
pieces of cannon were thrown high in the air. The earth
shook as from an earthquake.
When it was over, a great hole like the crater of a
volcano was seen in the very middle of the defences. Now
came the order to "charge!" But so slowly could they
 advance over the ruins and heaps of rubbish, that before
they were upon the defences the Confederates had rallied
from the shock, and were ready to fight like madmen.
The crater became to the Union soldiers a "pit of death."
The great pit was filled with human bodies, black and white;
men, trying to climb from the pit, were driven back with
muskets and clubs. It was a scene of horror; and, as
Grant himself said, "a needlessly miserable affair."
After this, Grant did little more during the fall and early
winter than to hold what he had gained. All this time
Sherman had been steadily "marching through Georgia,"
and on towards Richmond from the South. Everywhere
the enemy had retreated before his brave army, and Grant
was holding Lee firmly in his grasp at Petersburg.
When January of 1865 dawned, the Southern
Confederates knew their end was at hand. Grant, with his
persistent "hammering," and Sherman, with his brilliant marching,
had indeed drawn their snares close around the Confederate Army.
In March, Lee resolved to make one more attack upon
Grant's forces. He hoped to get through Grant's lines and join
Johnston's forces in North Carolina. Accordingly, a sudden
attack was made, and Fort Steadman, the principal
point in all Grant's defences fell into Lee's hands.
Grant was indeed surprised. But soon the Union soldiers
rallied, and the Confederates were driven back with great
loss of men.
 Grant, now that the weather was growing warm, and the
muddy bogs and roads were becoming firm and dry, sent
word to Sheridan that he had now made up his mind to end
this matter. Sheridan, always full of hope and bravery.
and quick to move, hastened to Grant's quarters with fresh
troops from West Virginia.
Lee's forces were stretched in a circle forty miles around
Richmond; but the lines were very thin, and Grant made
up his mind that it was time to attack them. Sending
Sheridan with horsemen to a place called "Five Forks,"
where Lee's force was especially weak, he himself began
his "hammering," as he still called it, on Petersburg.
Lee was in a fix! He needed all his forces at Petersburg.
and he needed them all at Five Forks. At four o'clock in
the afternoon of April Fool's Day, the charge was made.
The Confederates fought bravely enough. Had their
cause been a just one, they had certainly deserved to win.
But there was no hope! Soon they were in full flight,
Sheridan's cavalry at their heels.
Lee was a brave, wise general. He was a hard man to
conquer, but he knew when he was conquered. "Leave
Richmond at once," he telegraphed to Jefferson Davis, when
his soldiers came flying into Petersburg with the news of
The telegram reached Davis the following morning, Sunday,
and was carried to him at church. Davis rose and
 quietly left the church. No one knew what the telegram
had told him; nor did he intend they should until he had
satisfied himself there was no help. Not until afternoon
did he allow it to be generally known that the city was lost.
The people knew a battle had been going on; but battles as
near as Richmond had gone on before when McClellan was
in command, and no harm had come to their city from it.
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