General Smith's command by water, via the White House, to reach there in advance of the Army of the Potomac. This was for the express purpose of securing Petersburg before the enemy, becoming aware of our intention, could re-enforce the place. The movement from Could Harbor commenced after dark on the evening of the 12th; one division of cavalry, under General Wilson, and the Fifth Corps crossed the Chickahominy at Long Bridge, and moved out to White Oak Swamp, to cover the crossings of the other corps. The advance corps reached James River, at Wilcox's Landing and Charles City Court-House, on the night of the 13th.
During three long years the Armies of the Potomac and Northern Virginia had been confronting each other. In that time they had fought more desperate battles than it probably ever before fell to the lot of two armies to fight, without materially changing the vantage ground of either. The Southern press and people, with more shrewdness than was displayed in the North, finding that they had failed to capture Washington and march on to New York, as they had boasted the would do, assumed that they only defended their capital and Southern territory. Hence, Antietam, Gettysburg, and all other battles that had been fought were by them set down as failures on our part and victories for them. Their army believed this. it produced a morale which could only be overcome by desperate and continuous had fighting. The battles of the Wilderness, Sposylvania, North Anna, and Cold Harbor, bloody and terrible as they were on our side, were more damaging to the enemy,and so crippled him as to make him wary ever after of taking the offensive. His losses in men were probably not so great, owing to the fact that we were, save in the Wilderness, almost invariably the attacking party, and when he did attack it was in the open field. The details of these battles, which for endurance and bravery on the part of the soldiery have rarely been surpassed, are given in the report of Major-General Meade, and the subordinate reports accompanying it.* During the campaign of forty-three days, from the Rapidan to James River, the army had to be supplied from an ever-shifting base by wagons, over narrow roads, through a densely wooded country, with a lack of wharves at each new base from which to conveniently discharge vessels. Too much credit cannot, therefore, be awarded to the quartermaster and commissary departments for the zeal and efficiency displayed by them. Under the general supervision of the chief quartermaster, Brigadier General R. Ingalls, the trains made to occupy all the available roads between the army and our water base, and but little difficulty was experienced in protecting them.
The movement in the Kanawha and Shenandoah Valleys, under General Sigle, commenced on the 1st of May. General Crook, who had the immediate command of the Kanawha expedition, divided his forces into two columns, giving one, composed of cavalry, to General Averell. They crossed the mountains by separate routes. Averell struck the Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, near Wytheville, on the 10th, and proceeding to New River and Christiansburg, destroyed the road, several important bridges and depots, including New River bridge, forming a junction with Crook at Union on the 15th. General Sigel moved up the Shenandoah Valley, met the enemy at New Market on the 15th, and after a severe engagement was defeated with heavy loss, and retired behind Cedar Creek. Not regarding
*See Vol. XXXVI, Part I.