Page:Southern Historical Society Papers volume 29.djvu/108

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92 Southern Historical Society Papers.

spring when Grant came southward of the river. Here again, in- stead of retiring behind the North Anna as his antagonist presumed, Lee barred the path of invasion in the old battlefields of the Wil- derness, and on the 6th of May became the assailant after a vigorous fashion. Thereafter our commander proved the subordination of his temperament to his judgment by compelling battle from time to time on his own ground, giving his troops the advantage also of entrench- ments. From time to time, 'tis true, he would thrust a sudden wedp-e of fire or steel into some interval in the opposing lines, or fall upon some isolated force with the hammer of a Vulcan. But his policy now was to delay the advance of the invading army and to make it pay a price in blood for every step of progress made.

If his military reputation should rest on this campaign alone, from the initial gun at the Wilderness to the passage of Grant's army to the south side of the James, Lee would deserve to rank among the few past-masters in the art of war. From day to day he pre-divined the movements of the enemy with an accuracy which was never at fault. At every successive point Spotsylvania, Hanover Court- house, Cold Harbor Grant found his pathway barred by the grim veterans in gray. Time and time again, exasperated by the con- summate skill with which prompt check was given to his every ma- neuver, the Federal commander threw his bare-breasted divisions against the works of Lee. As often the brave fellows recoiled with torn ranks from the desperate work, until at last, after the bloodiest of all bloody days, that at Cold Harbor, the bugles sounded the advance, the officers bared their swords and pointed the way, but the men with one accord stood motionless in their ranks a silent, but effective protest against a further application of the ' ' policy of attrition."

On the i4th of June the advance corps of the Army of the Poto- mac reached the pontoon bridge which was to bear them to the new scene of action at Petersburg. Since the 5th of May their losses in killed, wounded and missing, according to the official returns of the Federal Surgeon-General, had been 67,000 or 3,000 more than the number of men with which Lee had entered upon the campaign. Up to this time, including Smith's corps, Grant had received in rein- forcements 51,000 muskets, Lee 14,000. These statistics are preg- nant with testimony as to the skill of our commander and the effi- cient valor of his troops.

But the end was not yet. Once in front of the historic town on