Say What Special: To fight or not to fight

luinrina

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During the night, the Confederates opposing the Union V Corps at Jericho Mills pulled back. Likewise, the troops at Chesterfield Bridge moved to a new position further south. From top to bottom, the Federals believed Lee had retreated, as Assistant Secretary of War Charles A. Dana remembered: "The general opinion of every prominent officer in the army on the morning of the 24th was that the enemy had fallen back, either to take up a position beyond the South Anna or to go to Richmond." Grant therefore pushed his troops across the river to take up the chase.

Lee, however, had gone nowhere. During the night, he had merely pulled in his troops to reform on good ground and prepare for Grant’s attack. His new line resembled an inverted V, leaving the crossings at Jericho Mills and Chesterfield Bridge open precisely to invite Grant to cross. It would divide the larger Union army, leaving the corps to protect themselves without hope of quick reinforcements. Lee had the shorter inner lines and could move troops quickly to where they were needed the most.

The only thing stopping the Confederates from a full-on attack of the isolated corps was Lee himself. He lay in his tent, too ill for the front. Not trusting his corps commanders to take over for him and successfully lead such an attack, he was unwilling to relinquish command. Thus, the opportunity to cripple at least one corps passed away unused.

After crossing the North Anna and moving south, Hancock’s II Corps got engaged with Ewell’s and Anderson’s troops. For several hours, the Federals still believed they were facing only a rearguard. At Jericho Mills, Warren approached the western leg of Lee’s defenses to feel for where the Confederates were positioned. Eventually, Grant realized that he had ventured into a trap and ordered the men to dig in. Lee’s window of opportunity to start a surprise attack was gone.


To be continued…


Sources:
- To the North Anna River by Gordon C. Rhea
- Recollections of the Civil War by Charles A. Dana – available at archive.org
- Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant by Ulysses S. Grant – available at archive.org
 

Ole Miss

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Lee's health was such a determing factor for the Army of Northern Virginia! His heart health was poor and such a hard campaign had to be wearing on him as well.
This is a really good quote to use for this thread. Good catch
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David
 
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Excellent point David. Here's a quote I used in my latest book General Robert E. Lee's Warhorses ------

“In no previous operations did the Army of Northern Virginia display higher soldierly qualities. Regardless of numbers, every breach

was filled, and with unapparelled stubbornness, its lines were maintained. The soldiers of that army not only gratified their countrymen,

but by their gallantry and vigor won the admiration of their enemies. Whenever the men in blue appeared, they were met by those in

gray, and muzzle to muzzle and point to point they measured their foeman’s strength. When we learned that General Lee was ill-con-

fined to his tent, at the time he was confronting Grant on the North Anna—this terrible thought forced itself upon us: Suppose disease

should disable him, even worse, should take him forever from the front of his men! It could not be! It was too awful to consider! And

we saw him out again, on the lines, riding Traveller as usual, it was as if some great crushing weight had been lifted from our hearts.


1904, 1927 p. 126. 42 A. L. Long, Memoirs of Robert E. Lee
 
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