Early was pursued by Sheridan with his cavalry and the troops that drove him from Washington up the Shenandoah, defeating him and his re-enforcement, and eventually annihilating his army. For this expedition Major Stewart, Captain Gillespie, and Lieutenant Meigs, of the Corps of Engineers, were assigned. In the death of Lieutenant Meigs, while reconnoitering in the neighborhood of Winchester, the corps lost one of its most meritorious and valued members. Captain Gillespie accompanied Sheridan's expedition to the James River, destroying the rebel communications on that river and all others west and north of Richmond, and finally joined the lieutenant-general before Petersburg.
With the investment of Petersburg commenced a series of laborious and difficult engineering operations by the Army of the James and the Army of the Potomac. The narratives collated from the reports of Colonel Michler and General Michie give the details of these operations.* A reference to plan Numbers 12 will explain the extent of the defenses about Petersburg and Richmond and the labors of our engineers about Petersburg and the rebel defenses on the north side of the James River.+
The rebels after being defeated by the army under Lieutenant- General Grant and driven from their entrenchments around Petersburg, extending to the Hatchie [Hatcher's Run?], evacuated that city on the 2nd of April, 1865. The evacuation of Richmond followed on the 3rd of April, when the rebel army under Lee retreated, and was closely pursued and pressed to Appomattox Court-House, where it yielded to the superior prowess and skill of the armies of the United States, on the 9th of April, 1865, thus breaking up all semblance of rebel authority, leaving Sherman to end it by the capture of Johnson on the 23rd of April. A map of this campaign is in progress, awaiting information yet to be collected to perfect it as an historical record of these ever-memorable military operations which resulted in restoring the power and union of a nation.
After a evacuation of Richmond the rebel chief and his advisers, who devised this most unjust and unwarrantable scheme to destroy a nation, sought safety in flight toward Georgia. Their movements had been foreseen, and were provided for by a brilliant campaign of a cavalry force under General James H. Wilson (captain of the Corps of Engineers), who posted his troops with great discrimination and judgment, and succeeded in capturing the leader at Irwinton [Irwinville] on the 10th of May, 1865.
From Atlanta the grand army of the West, commanded by Sherman, commenced moving for the sea-coast, while Thomas occupied Tennessee and Kentucky. The rebels under Hood on evacuating Atlanta operated on Sherman's previous line of march.
The labors of the engineers at Chattanooga under Colonel Merrill, and the volunteer engineers, had rendered this important position as well as Knoxville impregnable; and Hood retrograded toward the Tennessee River with a force so far superior to Thomas's as to cause the latter to fall back gradually upon Nashville. The labors of the engineers in fortifying Franklin, on the Harper River, did not suffice, with a single army corps under Schofield, to hold those intrenchments. Our army fell back to Nashville, where much labor and the skill of the engineers had previously been bestowed in fortifying it by General
*For reports of Michler and Michie, see Series I, Vols. XXXVI, XL, XLII, XLVI, and LI.
+ Plate C, Map 2, of the Atlas.