James Ford Rhodes (18481927). History of the Civil War, 18611865 1917.
WE left the Army of the Potomac on the James river. Grant had hoped to destroy or inflict a decisive defeat on Lees army north of Richmond and, having failed to do either, he now decided to transfer his troops to the south side of the James with a view to besieging the Confederates in their capital. This movement, which began on June 12 and ended on the 16th, was very successfully accomplished. The precision of the march, the skilful work of the engineers in bridging the river, the orderly crossing showed how like a fine machine the Army of the Potomac, even in its crippled state, responded to efficient direction. Lee divined Grants movement but did nothing to impede it.1 Yet the capture of Petersburg, the possession of which would undoubtedly within a brief period compel the fall of the Confederate capital, was included in the Union generals plan and was within his grasp; and if everything had been properly ordered and carried out, the city might have been taken and the Appomattox river reached.
But this golden opportunity was allowed to slip. When Grant and Meade arrived upon the ground the Confederate works were pretty well manned. They ordered successive assaults2 which failed to take Petersburg and resulted in a loss of about 10,000 men. The sequel of this rebuff is told in Grants and Danas despatches. Dana: General Grant has directed that no more assaults shall be made. He will
Note 1. See Lees Confidential Dispatches to Davis, 186265 (1915), 227. [back]