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Montly Record of Current Events

Region of the Red River

OUR Record closes on the 20th of May. The military operations of the preceding month have been of such decided importance as almost entirely to engross public attention.

In the extreme South and South-west the results have been decidedly unfavorable to the Union arms. The accompanying Map shows the region of the Red River, the scene of the disastrous failure of the expedition under General Banks. As noted in our previous Records, General A. J. Smith left Vicksburg on the 10th of March, entered the Red River, and captured Fort De Russey. Admiral Porter followed with a strong naval force, and took possession of Alexandria. Banks, with a strong force, proceeded by land. Then followed the actions at Cane River and Pleasant Hill, and the retreat of our forces to Grand Ecore, as noted in our last Record. The river was now falling rapidly, and the water was lower than has been known at that season for years. The gun-boats were detained by low-water above the rapids at Alexandria, several transports having been destroyed on the passage down to that point, where at the last accounts a large force was engaged in damming the river, so as to give sufficient depth to suffer the boats to pass the obstruction and regain the Mississippi. The army in the mean while continued its retreat from Grand Ecore to Alexandria, where it was at the latest date, May 4. While these operations were going on upon the Red River, a strong auxiliary expedition, under General Steele, had set out from Little Rock, Arkansas, with the design of uniting with Banks's column at Shreveport. About half the distance had been accomplished when intelligence reached him, at Camden, Arkansas, of the failure of Banks to reach Shreveport. He at once commenced his retreat, which was greatly harassed by the enemy, and his main column was compelled to destroy his trains and every bridge behind him. On the 30th of April, while crossing the Saline River, he was attacked by a body of the enemy under General Fagan; but the assault was repulsed. A portion of the enemy's cavalry, however, crossed the river above, and hurried on toward Little Rock, hoping to take it by surprise while the Union forces were at a distance; the movement was, however, unsuccessful. A train returning to Pine Bluff, under command of Colonel Drake, with an escort of three regiments, was attacked by a superior force of the enemy and captured. We lost nearly 2000 prisoners, four guns, and 240 wagons. — General Canby, lately in command of the fortifications at New York, has been appointed to the command of all the forces west of the Mississippi.

Another disaster has occurred to our arms in North Carolina. On the 17th of April a large body of the Confederates marched upon Plymouth, upon Albemarle Sound, near the mouth of the Roanoke River, which was held by our forces under General Wessels. A furious attack was made upon Fort Gray, its principal defense, which was repelled by the garrison, aided by the gun-boats. On the 18th four of the enemy's gun-boats and an iron-clad ram came down the Roanoke, passed the fort in the night, and attacked our fleet. Two of our boats, the South-field and the Bombshell, were lost. The shots fired at the ram apparently inflicted no serious damage, The attack upon Plymouth was then resumed; the town itself was abandoned, the troops retiring into Fort Williams, which was assailed by storm, and captured after a desperate contest. The captures were about 1500 men. Among the garrison were two companies of North Carolina Volunteers, and a number of colored troops. It is said that the volunteers and the negroes were shot after surrender. This statement is, however, not confirmed with the same certainty as is the similar transaction at Fort Pillow, noted in our last Record.

Several minor engagements of no great importance have taken place in various quarters. But the main interest of the month has been concentrated upon the operations of the Army of the Potomac, which, under the immediate direction of Lieutenant-General Grant, has undertaken a forward movement against the Confederate army under General Lee, and toward Richmond.

The Union army had been concentrated near Culpepper Court House, about ten miles from the northern bank of the Rapidan; the Confederate army was mainly at Orange Court House, about twenty miles south, ten miles from the south bank of the Rapidan: the outposts and pickets of both armies reaching that stream, on either side. The


oder for the advance of our army was given on the morning of Tuesday, May 3. The crossing was effected during the day and the following night, mainly at Germanna and Ely's Fords, twelve and eighteen miles cast of Culpepper. Instead of marching directly south upon Lee's strong position at Orange, and the intrenchments on Mine River a few miles distant, which Meade had found in November too strong to be assailed, and which were now doubtless still stronger, Grant's plan was to turn them upon their right; that is, to the east, and thus throw himself between these positions and Richmond. The effect of this movement would be that Lee must either come out of his intrenchments and defeat this advance upon open ground, or fall back toward Richmond. This line of advance would compel Grant to traverse the region locally known as the "Wilderness."

The "Wilderness" is a broken, sterile tract of country in Spottsylvania County, commencing not far from the south bank of the Rapidan, and stretching ten or fifteen miles in each direction. The region is intersected in every direction by gullies and ravines of no great depth, but with steep sides, interspersed here and there with swamps. The low hills and swells are covered with a thick growth of stunted pines, dwarf oaks, and underbrush, hardly reaching the height of a man, but so dense as to be almost impenetrable. The roads which straggle here and there, crossing and recrossing, are, with one or two exceptions, mere paths, impassable for the rudest vehicle even in good weather, and converted into quagmires by a few hours rain. Here and there, at the intersection of these roads, is a tavern or store, with half a dozen rude dwellings grouped around it. Besides these, and here and there a solitary dwelling, the whole tract is almost bare of inhabitants. Chancellorsville, where the Army of the Potomac under Hooker suffered defeat in May, 1863, is near the eastern edge of this tract. The main action in that series of encounters is called by the Confederates "the Battle of the Wilderness." Across this desolate region Grant's army must pass in order to carry out the design of turning the works at Mine Run. That it would be attacked by the Confederates, whose intimate knowledge of the region would give them a decided advantage, was a probability which had to be taken into consideration in venturing upon the movement.

The army under the immediate lead of General Meade, Major-General Commanding — Lieutenant- General Grant, who accompanied it, taking the general direction of the whole series of combined movements — crossed the Rapidan in the course of Wednesday, May 4. The passage was made mainly in pontoon bridges, which had been thrown across during the previous night. It was effected without opposition, apparently before the enemy, some miles distant, were aware of the intention. The Fifth Corps, under Warren, and the Sixth, under Sedgwick, crossed at Germanna Ford; the Second, under Hancock, crossed at Ely's Ford; the Ninth, under Burnside, being held in reserve on the north bank. The army moved in light marching order, carrying six days rations, leaving its train to follow after. That night the army encamped beyond the south bank of the Rapidan.

Early on Thursday morning, May 5, the line of march was taken up through the Wilderness. Lee being within striking distance, it was necessary to assume and maintain a line of battle fronting toward him — that is, toward the west — while the army at the same time pressed slowly southward. The line thus would have assumed a northwest and southeast direction, and according to the dispositions ordered, Sedgwick would have held the right, toward the northwest, Hancock the left, and Warren the centre. The movement had hardly begun, and the corps had only partly assumed their positions — the gap between Sedgwick and Hancock not having been filled by Warren — when it became evident that the enemy were approaching in force. Lee had chosen to dispute the turning rather than fall back. It is impossible, without the aid of maps and plans, to give a complete idea of the battles fought on that intricate field. The general scope and result may be readily apprehended. Lee repeated his favorite movement of hurling his troops in masses upon what appeared the weakest part of our lines. In this case it was at the outset clearly the centre. The attack was made by Ewell's and Hill's corps, first upon one point, and then in succession upon others. Several of these assaults were successful at the outset; in one, nearly a thousand prisoners and two guns were captured; but, the Confederates were in the end foiled in each, and utterly failed in their purpose to break our lines or drive us back upon the Rapidan. The battle extended far into the night. The loss was heavy, probably about equal, on both sides; but the enemy took about 1000 prisoners, and lost about 300. Both armies lay on their arms upon their own part of the field. The result was indecisive; but Grant had gained a little in position, and in discovering the position of the enemy, and thus knowing in what direction to call the reserve under Burnside.

On Friday, the 6th, both commanders had resolved upon taking the offensive. The Confederates, who were now strengthened by Longstreet's corps, however, were a little the earlier, and repeated their tactics of the preceding day, with even more determination. On our part, also, the offensive was tried; and the lines of battle, irregularly formed among the dense thickets, swayed back and forward during the whole day — now at one point, and now at another. More than once it seemed that the enemy had succeeded in their purpose of breaking through our lines, but in each case they were finally repelled. The last and the most nearly successful of these attacks was made just at nightfall, when a furious dash was made upon our extreme right, which had remained for hours almost unassailed. Seymour's and Shaler's brigades, who were posted here, were swept away, and both generals captured. Seymour, who commanded at the disastrous battle of Olustee, in Florida, had shown the utmost gallantry during the day. The whole right wing was in fearful peril. If this had been crushed the entire army would have been severed from its supplies across the Rapidan, and unless the enemy had been checked by the artillery which had been posted in the rear, a ruinous defeat would have been almost inevitable. Sedgwick, however, rallied his forces and checked the enemy. In the gathering gloom they were probably unaware of the extent of their success; they were, moreover, exhausted by the terrible efforts which they had put forth during the day, and they withdrew under the cover of darkness. The whole battle had been a series of desperate assaults upon different parts of our line, successful at first, because, owing to his better knowledge of the intricacies of the ground, the enemy could in the outset bring a superior force upon the point of attack, and finally repelled when we could bring our forces to


the defense. Night closed in, as the preceding one had done, upon an almost drawn battle. Still Grant had gained a little in position, inasmuch as he had edged a little out of the Wilderness into ground sufficiently open to allow his artillery to be brought somewhat into action on the succeeding day. The two days ’ battles had been fought wholly with musketry, and under such conditions of ground that they were something like a series of Indian bush-fights on a gigantic scale.

At daybreak on Saturday, the 7th, the battle was opened by a sharp fire of artillery from our right, which had been drawn back somewhat and strengthened. No response was elicited; skirmishers were thrown out, and then a general advance was ordered; and though there was sharp skirmishing, the lack of regular opposition showed that Lee had abandoned his attempt at forcing our lines, and was falling back. Grant found that they were retiring in perfect order, ready to halt and give battle at any favorable point if hardly pressed. The bulk of both armies commenced their march southward, by roads nearly, parallel, the immediate object of both being Spottsvlvania Court House. The Confederates reached the point first, and took up a strong position, which had apparently been previously fortified.

On Sunday, the 8th, there was sharp fighting, though no general battle.

Monday, the 9th, opened comparatively quietly. The rations carried by the men were exhausted, and they were replenished from the trains which had come up. Meanwhile some changes had been made in the Union lines. Early in the afternoon the enemy made an unsuccessful assault on Wilcox's division, and there was sharp skirmishing at various points along the line. During the day the Union army suffered a severe loss in the death of General Sedgwick, who was killed by a sharp-shooter as he was directing the mounting of the artillery of his corps. Toward dusk Grant ordered an advance of a portion of his line, throwing several divisions across one of the branches of the Mattapony. There were, as before, alternate charges and repulses; at the close of which the Confederates held firmly their strong position around Spottsylvania Court House, their general line being almost a semi-circle, and ours opposite to it, presenting a similar form, of larger circumference.

Early on Tuesday morning, the 10th, the action was opened by a sharp cannonade, preparatory to a general attack, which was to be made along the whole line, especially on the centre. The contest on this day was more furious than on any previous one, and the results were equally indecisive, although they were upon the whole strongly in our favor.

Wednesday, the 11th, opened quietly, and on that morning Grant sent his first official dispatch to the Secretary of War. He said: "We have now ended the sixth day of very heavy fighting. The result to this time is very much in our favor. Our losses have been heavy, as well as those of the enemy. I think the loss of the enemy must be greater. We have taken over 5000 prisoners in battle, while he has taken from us but few except stragglers. I propose to fight it out on this line, if it takes all summer." Toward noon skirmishing was again resumed, and during the night the positions of the corps were changed, Hancock finding himself in front of the Confederate division under General Edward Johnson, who were strongly intrenched.

These works were charged at dawn of Thursday, the 12th, and carried with a rush, the whole division, with its commander, being made prisoners. During the day there was hard fighting along the lines, and at its close General Grant forwarded this dispatch: "The eighth day of battle closes, leaving between three and four thousand prisoners in our hands for the day's work, including two general officers, and over thirty pieces of artillery. The enemy are obstinate, and seem to have found the last ditch. We have lost no organization, not even a company, while we have destroyed and captured one division (Johnson's), one brigade (Dobbs's), and one regiment entire of the enemy."

On the 11th the weather, which had been fine, began to change, and soon settled into a storm, which rendered the roads almost impassable, and put a temporary stop to active operations in this quarter. The interval was improved by both commanders to strengthen their position by throwing up works, massing their forces, and hurrying forward reinforcements. These additions to the Union army are quite equal to the losses sustained in the whole series of actions; and there is every reason to believe that the Confederates have not been less strongly reinforced. The latest accounts, which are dated on the 18th, report that the battle had just been renewed, near Spottsylvania Court House; but as we close our Record on the morning of the 20th of May, no definite intelligence of the result has appeared.

Of the forces engaged in this series of battles, and of the losses upon each side, it is impossible to speak with any approach to accuracy. All that can be said is that each army numbered from 100,000 to 200,000 men, and that the losses are great on both sides. From the nature of the fighting, it is probable that the killed and wounded on each side are not far from equal, while we have by far the greater number of prisoners.

While these operations were going on near the Rapidan an important auxiliary movement was made from Fortress Monroe. General Butler, embarking a strong force, went up the York River to West Point, in order to induce the enemy to suppose that he intended to land there, and assail Richmond by marching across the Peninsula. The attention of the forces at Richmond having been drawn to that direction, Butler descended the York and sailed up the James, and disembarked his whole force at and near City Point, about fifteen miles in a direct line from Richmond, upon the opposite bank of the river. This was on the 5th of May, Beauregard at this time was supposed to be near Petersburg with a strong force. One object of this movement of Butler was to prevent him from joining Lee, by cutting the railroad. On the 9th of May Butler announced to the Secretary of War that General Kautz, with 3000 cavalry from Suffolk, had "burned the railroad bridge at Stony Creek, below Petersburg, cutting in two Beauregard's forces at that point;" that he had intrenched himself, destroyed many miles of railroad, and got a position which, with proper supplies, he could hold against the whole of Lee's army; that Beauregard with a large portion of his command, had been left south by the cutting of the railroad by General Kautz; that he had beaten the portion which had reached Petersburg, after a severe fight; and that "Lieutenant-General Grant will not be troubled by any further reinforcements to Lee from Beauregard's forces." This dispatch appears to have been too sanguine. Since its date there has been seven fighting on the James River, and Butler appeared


before Fort Darling, which commands the approach by water to Richmond, ostensibly with the purpose of laying regular siege to it. On the 16th the Confederates made a sortie from the fort, and after a severe contest forced Butler back to his intrenchments, with considerable loss in killed, wounded, and prisoners. It is stated that this demonstration on Fort Darling was a feint to detain the Confederate forces near Richmond from reinforcing Lee. But the late reports from this quarter lack official sanction.

In the mean time the cavalry of Grant's army, under General Sheridan, made a bold diversion. Setting out from the position near the Wilderness on the 9th of May, they rode around the right flank of the enemy, and reached the North Anna River in the evening. At Beaver Dam three trains of cars and a large amount of stores were destroyed, and the railroad torn up for several miles. Sheridan then dashed toward Richmond, crossed the Chickahominy, and penetrated the exterior defenses of the Confederate capital. Near Yellow Tavern he encountered a strong body of cavalry, commanded by General J. E. B. Stuart, the most dashing of the Confederate leaders: in the action which ensued Stuart was killed. He then recrossed the Chickahominy, and after destroying the bridges, and inflicting serious damage, joined Butler's command. This is the most extensive cavalry raid of the war.

A portion of our army in Western Virginia, under General Sigel met with a severe repulse on the 10th of May, at Rood's Hill, near Mount Jackson, in the Valley of the Shenandoah. He appears to have rashly marched to attack the enemy under Imboden, who fell back until Sigel found himself opposed to a superior force, who drove him back with considerable loss.

Of scareely less importance than the operations of the Army of the Potomac are those simultaneously undertaken by the Army of the West under General Sherman. The army advanced from Chattanooga upon the Confederates under J. E. Johnston, who were posted at Dalton, Georgia, about 40 miles, and at Resaca, some 15 miles further, to the south. On the 7th of May General Thomas occupied Tunnel Hill, 10 miles north of Dalton; while Sherman struck by a flank movement at Resaca. On the 16th he attacked Johnston, who was strongly fortified at Resaca, and after a severe battle drove him out, with the loss of 1200 prisoners and 10 guns. The loss of Resaca compelled the evacuation of Dalton, and the whole army of Johnston fell into a rapid retreat southward toward Rome. Johnston, being still pressed, continued his retreat, abandoning Rome and Kingston, where he was expected to make a stand. He appears to be falling back to Atlanta, the most important point in Central Georgia, and the seat of large manufactories of arms and munitions. Although the accounts from this quarter are bare outlines, they indicate that thus far the movement of Sherman has been decidedly successful.

For some time past there has been a dispute between Spain and Peru. It was asserted that outrages had been committed upon Spanish subjects residing in Peru. At length, on the 14th of April, the Spanish Admiral commanding on the coast took formal possession of the Chincha guano islands, in the name of the Queen of Spain. This action is of special importance, from its being accompanied, by an intimation that the Spanish Government was reasserting its ancient claims, which had not been invalidated by the years during which they had been in abeyance. This claim, if persisted in, amounts to a declaration that the recognition of the independence not only of Peru, but, by implication, that of all the South American States formerly subject to Spain, is invalid; and that Spain is at liberty, if she sees fit, to re-establish her sovereignty.

The Danes have met with another disaster in the capture of Duppel, which fell into the hands of the Prussians on the 18th of April. The Diplomatic Conference, the object of which is to settle the Dano-German difficulty, has assembled in London, all the great Powers being represented. Little hope is entertained that any satisfactory result will be attained.

In the British House of Lords a sharp debate took place on the 29th of April in relation to the measures of the Government in seizing the rams alleged to have been built for the Confederate Government. The Earl of Derby, in a long and elaborate speech, condemned the entire action of the Government in this matter. Earl Russell replied at length, defending the course of the Government. He said that it was every way desirable to maintain relations of amity with the United States. That the Messrs. Laird, the builders of these vessels, had it in their power to commit Great Britain in hostilities with the Northern States, and that it was only the vigilance of the Government which prevented this from having been done. These men and some others, he said, in continuation, "have done every thing in their power, by fitting out ships, by engaging in contracts for supplying vessels of war to the other belligerent, to give to the United States a just cause of war against this country. What I have been apprehensive of is giving the United States just cause of war; that we should commit such acts that the United States can truly say, You, professing to be neutral, are in fact at war with this country, and are carrying on hostilities with us under the guise of friendship and peace. The only thing with which I should be disposed to reproach myself in the present case is the degree of credulity with which I received the assurances that were made that the iron-clads were not intended for the Confederate States." Earl Russell closed by expressing the hope that the result of the contest in America would be that "that sin, that crime, that detestable state of slavery would be forever abolislied from among civilized nations."

It is announced that the iron-clad Alexandra is to he given up to her owners; and almost simultaneously the Confederate cruiser Georgia appears at Liverpool, her crew are ostensibly discharged, and it is reported that the vessel is to be sold. It is strongly suspected that the crew are to be re-enlisted for the Alexandra, and that this powerful vessel will slip out to sea, to prey upon our commerce.

Garibaldi, after having been received in England with the utmost enthusiasm by all classes, and having accepted invitations to visit many of the principal towns, suddenly left the country. The reason publicly assigned was that his physician thought his health would be endangered by the fatigue and excitement of these receptions. But it is more than suspected that his departure was in consequence of the request of the Government, made on the representations, or rather demands, of the French Emperor, who saw in this visit a revolutionary purpose.