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1864 June 4: Battle of North Anna, Plus News from Other Fronts

June 4, 2014

A very brief summary of the week’s war news from both of our local newspapers for June 4, 1864, is followed by the “very latest” news from The Polk County Press.

The Overland Campaign consisted of several battles after Spotsylvania, including the Battle of North Anna on May 23-26.  It was a series of small engagements near the North Anna River in central Virginia.  After two days of skirmishing, the inconclusive battle ended when Union General Ulysses S. Grant ordered a movement to the southeast in the direction of the crossroads at Cold Harbor.

From The Prescott Journal:


The news from Gen. Grant is interesting as it shows his continued progress towards Richmond, and Lee’s [Robert E. Lee] movements for its defence, but as yet no great battle has taken place, although the armies must be in close proximity to each other.  Lee’s right is represented at Shady Grove, only three or four miles from Richmond, and a late dispatch says General Grant’s advance is only seven miles distant.  Grant says there is a prospect that Lee will make a stand north of the Chichahominy.  The crisis draws near, and we feel confident of continued and complete success.

From The Polk County Press:

The News.

The News still continues to be very cheering from the seat of war.  Gen. GRANT still wins. SHERMAN [William T. Sherman] has thus far been successful.  In another column will be found the important dispatches of the week, up to Thursday, which are the latest we are able to lay before our readers this week.

[Those dispatches follow:]

The Very Latest.

NEW YORK, May 30.— “Time’s” special says Ledley’s [sic]¹ brigade of the 10th regulars, 35th, 56th, 57th and 59th Massachusetts, and 14th regulars met with a repulse on crossing the North Anna.  They had crossed the river and were driving in the rebel skirmishers when a charge was made instantly from a concealed battery of four or six guns, and the battery opened a terrible fire of grape and cannister.  The brigade fell back to a cover in a piece of woods, when in the height of a thunder storm the rebels charged and drove our men towards the river, just as another brigade came up and checked the advance of the enemy.  Four hundred and fifty of the brigade were killed, wounded and missing.

Gen. Kilpatrick [Judson Kilpatrick], in a dispatch to his family at Buttermilk Falls, N. Y., says that, although his wounds are slight, they will compel him to give up his command, and his is, therefore, on his way home.  He was wounded near Summerville, Ga., while leading a cavalry charge in the rear of Johnston’s army.

Hunter [David Hunter] vice Sigel [Franz Sigel], has stripped himself for a fight.  Sigel’s apology for being beaten by Breckenridge [sic: John C. Breckinridge], was his train, which it took half his force to guard, while the other half was being licked.  Hunter, like Sherman, has disencumbered his army of these impediments, and tells his army they must live upon the enemy’s country—all which means rapid marches—where is not so obvious—perhaps to Lynchburg, to cooperate with Crook [George R. Crook] and Averill [sic: William W. Averell] in the capture of that place.

NEW YORK, May 30.

The “Times” special says :  Grant’s reconnaissance Wednesday showed the rebels in full force, and holding a powerful position in our immediate front, somewhat in advance of Little River.  The ground was also very favorable to him, and he had occupied every hour in fortifying.  If driven back from here even, he had the elaborately prepared line of South Anna to fall back upon.

Grant therefore determined to recross the North Anna, swing round to the left, over the Pamunky [sic], and leave Lee to enjoy his position.  A cavalry demonstration made strong diversion on the enemy while Grant’s movement took place, which proved successful—when it was accomplished the rebels were completely taken by surprise.

A “Herald” correspondent says a wounded rebel officer says their loss in the late battles reach thirty thousand.

NEW YORK, May 30.

The “Herald’s” special says there was considerable skirmishing Friday but no heavy fighting near Hanover Court House.  Grant’s movements are progressing well and rapidly.—Most of the causalities were among New England Regiments.

WASHINGTON, May 30, 9 A. M.

To Major-General Dix :

No official dispatches have been received from the army of the Potomac since my telegram of Saturday evening.

A telegram from Sherman, near Dallas, the 29th, reports that on Saturday an engagement occurred between the enemy and McPherson’s corps [James B. McPherson].  The enemy were driven back with a loss of 2,500 killed and wounded left in our hands, and about 200 prisoners.  Our loss is not over 300.

(Signed) E. M. STANTON [Edwin M. Stanton].
Secretary of War.

WASHINGTON, May 30, 3 P. M.

To Major-General Dix, N. Y.

A dispatch from General Grant has just been received, dated yesterday, (29th) at Hanovertown, which states that the army has successfully crossed over the Pamunkey, and now occupies a front about three miles south of the River.

Yesterday two divisions of our cavalry had an engagement with the enemy south of Howe’s store, driving him about a mile upon what appears to be his new line, and we will find out all about it to-day.  Our loss in the cavalry engagement was 300 killed and wounded, of whom but 44 are asserted to have been killed.

We have been driving the enemy, most of their killed and many of their wounded fell into our hands.

Another official dispatch dated yesterday P. M. at 2 o’clock, details the movements of the several corps then in progress, but up to that time there was no engagement.  Earlier dispatches from Headquarters had been sent but failed to reach Washington.

(Signed) E. M. STANTON.

ST. LOUIS, June 1.—A telegram to headquarters from Rolla, Mo., 30th, says a train of Union refugees from Jacksonport, Ark., under escort of seventy men from the 2d Missouri cavalry, was attacked at Salem, Ark., by 300 guerrillas, the entire train burnt, and about 80 men and some women killed.

On Friday last ten men of the detachment of the Second Wisconsin cavalry out on a scout from Rolla, becoming separated from the main body were surrounded by guerrillas and five were killed, the others making their escape.  The bodies of those killed were found stripped and their throats cut.

A gentleman just arrived from Little Rock represents all quiet in that direction.  Joe Shelby [Joseph O. Shelby] had left Brownsville about two weeks ago with a force estimated at from 1,500 to 3,000 for southwest Missouri.

Gen. West,² with several companies of cavalry, had been sent against him.  Shelby is represented as being well mounted, and had been joined with 500 cavalry in addition.

WASHINGTON, May 31, 8 P. M.

To Governor Lewis :

The department has received dispatches from Gen. Grant dated 6 o’clock this morning.

Yesterday morning his advanced corps was attacked by the enemy, who, after a sharp, short and decisive contest were repulsed.

Gen. Warren [Gouverneur K. Warren], at the date of the dispatch, held a position within seven miles of Richmond.

(Signed) E. M. STANTON

A portion of Gen. Butler’s [Benjamin F. Butler] forces at Bermuda Hundreds, not required for defensive operations, had been transferred, under command of Gen. Smith [William F. Smith], to the Army of the Potomac, and is supposed by this time to have formed a junction.

WASHINGTON, June 1— 7:30 A. M.

To Gen. Dix :

Have nothing from General Grant later than yesterday at 6 A. M.

An unofficial dispatch received here at four this morning, dated yesterday at Kingston, represents that Major Hopkins, of Gen. Stoneman’s staff [George Stoneman], came from the front this P. M., says rebels attacked at 7:30 this morning, and at 10 o’clock the affair was over.  The enemy was repulsed, and our line reached to the railroad at Marietta.  To accomplish this object has been for several days the purpose of General Sherman’s movements.  Additional forces and ample supplies can reach him.

Secretary of War.

Dispatches from Gen. Canby [Edward R.S. Canby] have been received to-day.  He is actively engaged in resupplying the troops brought back by Generals Steele [Frederick Steele] and Banks [Nathaniel P. Banks] and organizing the forces of the West Mississippi Division, which now comprises the departments of Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Gens. Rosecrans [William S. Rosecrans], Steele and Banks remain in command of their respective departments under the orders of Gen. Canby as division commander, his military relation being the same as formerly exercised by Gen. Grant, and now exercised by Gen. Sherman over the departments of the Ohio and Cumberland.

(Signed) E. M. STANTON.

FORTRESS MONROE, May 31.— Lieut. Gen Grant’s communication with the White House is complete and all works well.

Richmond papers of the 30th have been received here.  They have changed their views with regard to the military ability of General Grant and say they have been underrating him.  They say he is smarter than they had dreamed of, and manifest some fears in regard to the safety of Lee or rather as to his success in repelling the Yankee army.

1.  James Hewett Ledlie (1832-1882) worked as a civil engineer on the Erie Canal and in railroad construction before the Civil War. After the War started, he was appointed major of the 19th New York Infantry, which became the 3rd New York Artillery, and in December 1861 he was promoted to colonel. In December, 1862, he was promoted to brigadier general in command of the Artillery Brigade of the Department of North Carolina and served primarily in garrison positions with North Carolina coastal artillery. Just after the start of the Overland Campaign in 1864, Ledlie transferred to the Army of the Potomac and assumed command of a brigade in General Ambrose Burnside’s IX Corps. At the Battle of North Anna, a brigade under the drunken Ledlie was repulsed from an ill-conceived assault against a strong position at Ox Ford on May 24. During the Siege of Petersburg, Ledlie and his division drew the short straw to replace troops that had been trained to enter a crater to attack Confederate troops; his untrained troops were slaughtered while he stayed behind the lines drinking. He was dismissed from the army after a court of inquiry and formally resigned on January 23, 1865. After the War, Ledlie resumed his civil engineering career working for the Union Pacific’s construction of the transcontinental railroad.
2.  Joseph Rodman West (1822-1898) was born in New Orleans, grew up in Pennsylvania, was a captain attached to Maryland and District of Columbia Volunteers in the Mexican War, and then engaged in newspaper work in San Francisco, California. During the Civil War West jointed the 1st California Infantry as a lieutenant and was later promoted to colonel. He then was promoted to brigadier general of Volunteers. He spent much of his service in New Mexico and Arizona territories. In April 1864, West was ordered to Arkansas to take command of the 2nd Division, VII Corps, which he led through the Red River Campaign. In the fall of 1864, West fought against Confederate General Sterling Price. He next commanded the cavalry in the Department of the Gulf (May-June 1865). He commanded the 1st Division of Cavalry in the Military Division of the Southwest, composed of two small brigades (six regiments) of volunteer cavalry exempted from mustering out. He led the division from Shreveport, Louisiana, to San Antonio, Texas, in July 1865, for Reconstruction duty and as a counter to Mexican forces along the Rio Grande. West was mustered out of volunteer service as a brevetted major general in San Antonio on January 4, 1866. After the War, West was deputy United States marshal and auditor for customs in New Orleans (1867-1871) and a U.S. senator from Louisiana (1871-1877).

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